Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Goodbye, Eva, and Just a Normal Day

Last week was a full week. My aunt Eva passed away on Monday, the 16th; her funeral service was last Friday morning. Eva was just shy of her 92nd birthday and by all accounts was ready to move on from this life, wondering why it's so hard to die and why was she still here. She was a part of every one of our summers growing up as we'd vacation near her and her family in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I can easily hear her voice in my head with her Yooper accent filling her kitchen. I had so little contact with her in the last 45 years but still, she will be missed. Visits to the U.P. won't be the same without her sweet presence there.

My aunt Maria flew in from Florida and kept me company on the 6 hour drive to Winona, near where we stayed. It had been more than 11 years since I was last in the U.P., and being there made me realize how much I miss it. We only stayed 2 nights but I was able to manage to get in 18 holes of golf at the local course where I'd spent many days as a boy. It was so nice to walk the fairways again and reminisce. It's been more than 20 years since I last golfed there. I recalled on the 5th hole how my dad hooked his drive into the woods on the left. He played his 2nd shot from more than 200 yards away, over a small rise in the fairway that blocked us from being able to see it land. We looked and looked for his ball but didn't find it until walking up to the hole and finding it in the bottom of the cup. I'll never forget that. I was maybe 12 years old.

I played two rounds of the 9 hole course and would've stayed longer but I wanted to meet with some cousins at my cousin Bobby and his wife Tina's home for dinner. We had a lot of laughs and good conversation. I was so glad to be able to make the trip for Eva's funeral and connecting with everyone there and for the time spent chatting with Maria in the car.

Today was the sort of day I envisioned my retirement days would look like when I was still employed as an air traffic controller with the FAA. It began with more than 8 hours of sleep, which is a few hours more than I'd typically get when I was a slave to my alarm and the ridiculously early wake-ups that were part of my normal work week. I made my way downstairs with the pups in tow. I let them outside while I prepared their food, tuning in to the last segment of Morning Joe to break the quiet of the day. I thawed a frozen breakfast sandwich and had it with a bowl of cereal then proceeded to pop the top on my pill box and wash Tuesday's contents down with a big swallow of orange juice. I take a daily multi vitamin; 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin to help minimize knee pain; 10 mg of claritin for seasonal allergies, and my warfarin dosage (blood thinner) for my Factor V Leiden condition and because I want to keep living.

A check of the weather showed it was going to be too windy for Frisbee golf, an idea I was kicking around last night, so I opted to go for a longish walk after taking Toby and Charlie for a 40 minute walk. I rode yesterday and was fine with giving my riding muscles a break. After completing yesterday's ride my Garmin 820 told me to give them 40 hours to recover. That sounds about right. I was pushing pretty hard trying to keep my watts and heart-rate up the last half of the ride. My riding has taken a backseat to golf this year and I'm okay with that.

I came home from my walk and chatted with Tammy for awhile before laying down for an hour-plus nap. I seldom took naps when I was employed because they nearly always made it too difficult to fall asleep at night when I needed it most. I no longer have that concern. I woke up from my nap and went out and got both my flu and shingles vaccinations. I'm good to go!

And here I sit, by the fire with the pups by my side, listening to Supertramp's Crime of the Century on my Stanton T-92 turntable. It's a vinyl kind of night. Tammy is upstairs plotting out a course for a vacation we're taking this spring to the Pacific Northwest. We'll be traveling with our pups and staying at AirBnb's along the way. We're overdue for a little get-away.

Here's video from possibly my last longish ride of the year from last week to close this entry out.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reminiscing, Flying the Flag Again and Smooth Streets

The leaves have been piling up fast in our yard and rather than wait a week between mowings to vacuum them up, I've been out there every 2 to 3 days. They're a lot more manageable that way. I love fall but not this aspect of it.

Two more metro area courses were added to the PCC membership I have for golfing, bringing the total number of courses I have available to me to 57. The two newest additions are courses I'm familiar with from when I was a boy: Hyland Greens and Dwan Golf Club, both in Bloomington. Dwan is an 18 hole course but not particularly long while Hyland has gone from an 18 hole par 3 course to 9 holes, all still par 3. They removed the inside 9 holes and turned them into a driving range. I went out to Hyland Thursday afternoon to play it for old time's sake. I remember the last time I played there -- it was 22 years ago and I was with my former stepson, Dave. I returned home to a message from my sister on my answering machine that our dad had died. It's one of those memories that stays with you.

I had to pause when I got to the 4th hole because that's where, as a boy, for a few summers I'd spend my days in the field off to the right of the hole hunting for golf balls that had been hit out of bounds into the tall prairie grass. I'd ride my bike there and bring along an egg carton to display my finds along the fence for the golfers who were teeing off. I'd earn maybe $5 for a few hours of work. It was good money for a kid of around 12 years old, plus, it was fun. I still remember the first ball I found -- it was a Dynaflyte. I'd never seen one before or since but it was a beauty -- new, shiny and with no cuts in it. I probably sold it for .75c.

I was in a discussion yesterday on Facebook about flying the flag. Two people in the thread touched on why they stopped flying theirs and affirmed for me that I wasn't alone in my feelings that there's a strain of patriotism out there that some of us would rather not be associated with -- a hardline crowd that's co-opted what it means to be patriotic. I find it very off-putting. So, about 5 years ago I quietly packed up our flag and in an unpatriotic moment I tossed it in the trash. That's not something I'm proud of because I used to love to fly our flag from our front porch. It's very much the same way I feel about the Christian fish tattoos that Tammy, Rachel and I had tattooed on our ankles 10 years ago to signify our walk with Christ.

Hardline Christians are changing the face of the religion I used to be proud of into something I at times want to run from. I'm considering having my tattoo removed. Tammy would like to have some other design tattooed over hers to hide it. I hate that we're even thinking like this but it's where we're at. I have to wonder -- if we're feeling this way about this faith of ours, what does that bode for anyone on the outside looking in who may be considering becoming a Christian?

But all is not lost. I'm happy to say that I'm flying the flag again, although the flag I have now is slightly different than the standard stars and stripes I used to fly. The focus of our new flag is on peace. I simply want to fly the flag while at the same time differentiating myself from those I feel have given the practice a distasteful meaning, at least to me.

The city of Lakeville replaces about 7 to 10 miles of road each year. It's quite an undertaking from all I've learned watching them working in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods this summer as they replaced our streets. McNamara Contracting wrapped up the project a few days ago. It's nice to have smooth roads for a change. We got 30 years out of the original roads so I suppose that's not bad. I was out there with my video camera at several points along the way collecting video to splice into an upload for YouTube. I sat down last night and assembled it, hoping to keep it to something less than 5 minutes. I failed miserably!

Each homeowner was assessed around $3000 for the cost of repairs, a price I think was well worth it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lacking the Will and Some Full Days

It's been more than a week since the largest modern day mass killing in the United States. Republicans were all on point in the days after the shooting, stating that now was not the time to talk about any sort of meaningful gun control legislation. They were apparently too busy organizing their thoughts and prayers. People of all political stripes were posting their favorite memes on Facebook -- memes which best aligned with their convictions about what to do, or not to do.

The meme to the left is a good example of what conservatives were posting. I couldn't help but notice that the examples used in that particular meme all resulted in stricter controls for each of the methods listed. Timothy McVeigh used a fertilizer bomb to kill hundreds, and the government responded with much tighter controls on the sale of the kind of fertilizer he used to make a bomb. The 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to commandeer aircraft and fly them into buildings, and the government responded with tighter controls on what's allowed onboard an aircraft. Richard Reid tried to blow up a passenger jet with a shoe bomb, and the government responded by requiring people to remove their shoes for inspection before boarding an airplane.

Do you see a pattern?

Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 7 were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in a mass shooting in 2012. Republicans responded that it wasn't appropriate to use the tragedy as a reason to discuss gun control legislation because it would only be politicizing it. And nothing was done in the months and years that followed to try and minimize the risk for such a tragedy ever happening again. And these sort of senseless tragedies continue to happen again and again and again and again without even a discussion among our politicians about the problem because republicans won't partake in the discussion.

I don't have any delusions that we'll ever come to some reasonable laws to drastically reduce the amount of gun violence in our country. As others have said, if we couldn't find the will to do it after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, it's not likely to happen. We spend trillions of dollars chasing a bogeyman in the Middle East while for every life lost at home or abroad to terrorism we lose 1049 lives here due to gun violence. And yet republicans won't even have a discussion about it. Where is the sense in that? And where is the sense in continuing to spend trillions on wars we'll never win? But that's for another discussion that republicans won't partake in.

Here's a link to a Wiki page detailing what other countries have done in their efforts to control gun violence. Why do we in this country have to stand in such stark contrast to every other developed nation in our number of mass shootings and deaths? My god -- can't we do better?

Switching gears...

I was at a gathering of fellow Jefferson high school alum on Saturday night where I learned that Amy Ebner passed away last March from lung cancer. She had also been suffering from MS. So sad. I always thought she was the prettiest girl in school. She lived just a couple blocks from us in Bloomington. I didn't have any contact with her from middle school on as our paths diverged. I have two lasting memories of her from some 50 years ago. I recall us chatting in front of Hubert Olson Elementary where she was on her bike and I was asking her who her teacher was for the upcoming year. We were going into 6th grade. The other memory I have of her from all those years ago was of Amy beating everyone in our class in a running race. She was taller and faster than all of the boys. Those memories have always remained with me.

I woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful blue sky and light winds. We had a full day planned but my Serotta was begging me to go riding first. And so we did. I needed that, and I felt so refreshed when I was done. I've not been spending enough time on my bikes lately because golf seems to be winning out for my attention. I can ride throughout the winter but I can't say the same for golfing so I'm trying to get my fill while I can with just a few weeks remaining in the golfing season.

Tammy and I stopped by to see Steve where he was displaying his blown glass at an art fair in Sogn Valley, about 45 minutes away. The fair had lots of talented artists but it also had lots of biting beetles. We spent most of our time there chatting with Steve before leaving to meet Rachel, Drew and Drew's mother Jenny at Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings for a wine tasting -- and to meet Jenny. We had such a nice time! We spent a couple hours there sipping the various wines and munching on an assortment of cheeses, crackers and olives while chatting our time away.

I hadn't planned to do yardwork today but I did and I'm glad because I got lots done! All of our gardens are cleared of both healthy and dying flowers and all of our hostas have been cut back. And I mowed the lawn again to vacuum up the leaves after having just done it on Saturday. It was a full day of work; I finished in the dark and the drizzle.

I think I hear my golf clubs calling me for tomorrow -- or is it my bike? I'm quite sure it's my clubs I'm hearing. Can you hear them?