Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goals, Then and Now

Excuse me while I reminisce a little.

42 years ago tonight I was in my first few days of boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago. I remember sitting in my barracks on New Years Eve 1975 and thinking how a mere three weeks earlier enlisting in the Navy was in no way one of the options I was considering. I had watched nearly all of my friends leave for or enroll in college that fall while I remained behind working factory jobs with no real future plans.

I acted on my sister's suggestion and went to speak with a Navy recruiter in Brooklyn Park. Chuck Wilson would shepherd me through the process. Everything happened so quickly after our initial meeting where I took an exam to see if I qualified for any schooling after boot camp. Chuck then scheduled me for a physical examination at a facility in Minneapolis. I remember asking him about how late in the recruiting process could I still back out. He replied that once a person has had their physical he likes to think they've made a commitment. And so it was at that point that I accepted this new road I was on and vanquished any remaining doubts.

It was a pivotal point in my life but not one that I recall seeking advice from either of my parents about. They had left for Pottstown, Pennsylvania one year earlier with my two younger brothers while I was in my senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Bloomington. My dad supported me while I was still in school but probably not much after that. I can't recall for certain. It was mostly my brother and brother-in-law who encouraged me to sign up.

I've always been goal oriented in my adult life but not so much yet at the age of 18. I do think though that I realized I had to do something with my life other than what I had been doing and that was motivation enough for me to enlist. Honestly, as I look back I can't think of any goals I set for myself other than maybe trying to move up from bagboy to stockboy at Penny's Grocery in Lohman's Plaza a mile from home. My world was still quite small then as were my ambitions.

The first real goals I recall setting for myself were ones I made that involved my bike, such as riding from San Diego to Campo and back or up to Oceanside and back. Those early days on my bike were some of my first experiences where I challenged myself and pushed myself to find my limits on roads like this. The endurance athlete in me took root and gave me a confidence and belief in myself that hadn't existed before. I wasn't out there to prove anything to anyone but myself. My bike became my focus as did my fitness. In a lot of ways, I'm still the same person I was all those years ago.

I wasn't getting the book-smarts my friends were getting in college but I was progressing in my own way, and I had to be content in that. My goals would expand to saving enough money to buy a new frame and parts to go with it in addition to finishing my enlistment and finding my way to college while supporting myself. There was a lot on my horizon and I was chomping-at-the-bit to begin my next phase of life.

But that's enough of my past for this blog entry.

I enjoy reminiscing like this but it's also kinda sad when I see how fast my life is moving. I would give anything to relive the previous 42 years or at least slow time down. I love the zest and curiosity for life that I've been given and I'm thankful for it but lately, I can see where my time here is finite and that's not something I'm ready to think too much about just yet. And so I keep moving and keep challenging myself.

I'm not much for making life-altering resolutions to begin the new year, instead, I'll just put some milestones out there to try and work toward and see how I do. I'd like to bike 6000 miles (9600 km) and walk 2000 miles (3200 km) in the coming year. I think both are very doable. I'd also like to achieve a golf handicap of 8 by this time next year. And I'd like to see if I can establish my niche and gain a following at my Etsy store by steadily building my inventory and occasionally promoting my work. I've been enjoying dabbling with stained glass again and I find a lot of satisfaction in producing my art. Also, rather than volunteering time working on mountain bike trails I think I'd like to find a more meaningful volunteer opportunity. I have a friend who drives elderly people to appointments. That appeals to me.

Here's wishing you all the best in 2018.

I'll leave you with a video from this past week. We've been invaded by Star Wars characters!



Saturday, December 16, 2017

I Just Need To Be Me

I'm 22,029 days old; or said another way, I'm 60. When my father was this same age it was February 18th 1986. My mother was my same age on February 25th 1988. (You can make your own calculations with this calculator.) I sometimes find it interesting to see myself from a different perspective -- a perspective where my dad and I are on equal footing with respect to age. It's something that causes me to squint my eyes a little and think really hard to recall thoughts of my father from back in the day.

My dad and I were alike in a lot of ways but in many more ways we were complete opposites. It wasn't until I was in the Navy and working as a radarman that I learned my dad had held the same position when he was in the Canadian Navy. You would think I would've already known that. 

I can count on one hand the number of times we sat down and just chatted about life in a meaningful way. I don't think I was the exception among my siblings in this regard but perhaps I was. It wasn't that he was a quiet man because he wasn't. He and my mother used to talk for at least an hour each evening in our front room after he got home from work. She'd fix them both a drink and he'd tell her about his day while she would occasionally get up and tend to what she was making us for dinner. At least that's how I remember it.

When I was brought home by the police after getting caught drinking underage (I was 16) he made sure I got up for work the next day despite being in no shape to do anything but stay in bed. I finished my 8 hour shift at Penny's Grocery and came home expecting the worst. "Your father wants to talk with you" my mother told me. I went to where he was in the front yard. His head was down as he kneeled on the grass pulling at some weeds. I'm not even sure if we made eye contact. He told me that if I ever wanted a drink I could do it at home. That wasn't really my idea of drinking but I promised him there wouldn't be a next time and that was that. The discussion lasted less than 30 seconds, and I resumed my life without changing a thing.

Still, what I needed from him was a more meaningful relationship; someone who would both challenge and encourage me. It would be years before I'd come to realize that.

He flew into San Diego, CA in April, 1978 while I was there serving out my enlistment. We had a day and half together, swimming in the pool where he was staying at the Sheraton on Harbor Island, playing mini golf and going out to dinner. It was good, quality one on one time and I will always remember it. I brought him aboard the ship I was serving on and showed him around. And I showed him my bike. He had bought me a white radio that clamped to my bike's seat-tube that I could listen to while I was riding. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd never use it.

I stayed with my parents for a few months when I returned home from the Navy while I figured out what my next steps would be. My dad was still as busy as ever, tinkering with whatever project he had in front of him on his workbench or adding to his woodpile. He was a good provider and had he not encouraged me to take the job offer from the FAA there's no telling where I'd be today because I was determined to remain in school. There's much about him that I have to be thankful for. But as I write this I can't help but think that it's entirely possible that I live my life the way I do, engaging the boy in me because on a subconscience level I don't want to be like my father. I don't mean that in a negative way. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. I just need to be me, and that leaves little room for the guy I always imagined I'd be at my age.

Thoughts of my dad came and went this morning while I was on a ride with some guys. I was doing something that I never could've imagined him doing at age 60 but how cool would it have been if that was something we could've done together. We weren't the type to go deep in a conversation with each other but I have no doubt we could've connected on a ride where we're pushing each other, testing each other and respecting each other. Two men meeting as boys and letting the trappings of being adults and the walls we build around ourselves fall away.

A bike can do that.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hello Winter and Happy Birthday, Tammy!

I've been staying busy down in our glass shop working on building an inventory of miniature stained glass panels/sun-catchers for my Etsy account. I had one sale right away last week when I went live with my virtual storefront but nothing since then. I plan to add some lesser expensive panels to my inventory to entice people to take a chance on someone like me with no track record or reviews to recommend my work.

Expand the photo to the left to see a collection of some of my pieces. A few in that mix are copies of designs done by Frank Lloyd Wright; they're not for sale.

I'm enjoying losing myself in the art form again. I let Pandora supply the background music and can easily spend 6 hours or more at a stretch working on a project. It's relaxing.

I'm officially certified to flip Lefse unsupervised! Tammy gets together with her aunt Joyce each year around this time to make several dozen of the Norwegian flatbread. Joyce was here last week but Tammy needed to make even more for a luncheon and I offered to help. It goes better with two people. It was actually a lot of fun. We're planning to make them again in another couple weeks.

Until recently I could take them or leave them but then I discovered how good they are with ham and cheese. I'm now a big fan of them.

The pups and I had a really good week of walks but I'm afraid our walking days are going to be much less now that winter seems to have arrived and settled in. I was out walking in shorts and a t-shirt doing my Orchard Lake loop yesterday afternoon just ahead of a cold front. It pushed through last night and on the backside of it we had lots of wind with rain that eventually turned to snow but not before leaving our roads with a thick coating of ice. Our temperature dropped 20ยบ in just a few hours. I don't mind the cold and the snow; it's the ice I can do without. We had more than our fair share of it last year, so much so that I barely made it out to the trails on my fat-bike because I don't have studded tires.

Tammy and I have had a couple of full days. We finished yesterday at The Angry Inch, a brewery in Lakeville where we gathered with the faithful from 3 other local Lutheran churches to sing Christmas songs, munch on snacks and drink beer. It was a lot of fun.

Today was Tammy's 60th (can I say that?) birthday. We spent the day bumming around together. We strolled Mall of America and made a few purchases. We were going to go out for dinner later but decided to stay put and open a special bottle of wine that I'd had hidden away -- a bottle of 2013, Conundrum, a California red blend. It's so smooth and a bit more expensive than we're accustomed to. She's worth it!

Global Fat Bike Day was last Saturday. There were nearly 50 of us in the group I was riding with. I would've preferred to have had snow to ride on but I wasn't about to complain about the mild day we were blessed with.

Until next time!