Thursday, December 30, 2004

I'm Still here

It seems all of my blogging time has been devoted to our basement blog. That's about to change though as the basement project is finished and so is the blog. I told Dan I'd leave it up because I'm not at all pressed for webspace and if he wanted to he could send prospective clients there to watch one of his projects come together. I really pray he's able to continue to find projects to do and that he's able to carve out a nice living for him and his family. He's such a nice guy and so deserving of all the good which may come his way.

I find myself feeling guilty at times when I look at how blessed I and my family are and I contrast that with what I see happening in Asia with the Tsunami and the tens of thousands of lives ended and ruined. There is so much death and destruction there. It's hard to comprehend from our comfortable homes as we watch and read about their horror. I pray that God comforts them and gives them the strength and determination they will need to carry on and overcome their grief. It's so sad.



Monday, December 13, 2004

Thank God

I got my medical back at 1:20 this afternoon. The whole area gave me a round of applause when they told me I had my medical back. I'm very thankful to God for this happening. I'm a bit rusty in the sector but I'm hoping that after a few days I'm back to my old level of proficiency again. Tammy will be happy to hear the news. I spoke with my union rep, Rob, about the approach we'll take when and if the headaches return. We'd like to keep from having to go through the regional flight surgeon and having my medical pulled on that level. We're hoping we can manage the issue within our facility in the future.

My uncle, Elvin, died yesterday morning at the age of 87. He left behind a trail of broken lives from the sexual abuse he visited upon so many young girls. He was always my favorite uncle before we discovered his problem. Of all the adults in my life while I was growing up I'd consider him to be the least threatening. How ironic. Fortunately for me, his fascination wasn't with young boys.

I have an older sister whose life has been a shambles the past 6 years or so. I'm a bit conflicted by the reasons why though. She never made an issue of the abuse until she was in her mid-40s when she lost her job. All of a sudden Elvin became the reason for all of her failings. I don't doubt that the fondling Elvin did leave a lasting impression on her and who am I to say that the problems she's encountering now aren't a result of what he did to her. I just don't know. The other part of me thinks he's a convenient scapegoat for her problems. I'll never know.



Thursday, December 9, 2004

Hello

I've been posting daily to our basement blog so this one sort of gets forgotten about. I lost my medical certificate at work over two weeks ago after I came forward and told them of my Cluster headache condition. I'm awaiting approval from our regional flight surgeon to give me the okay and to reinstate my medical. It should have already happened. I'm hoping this next week sees me returning to life as normal. I'm not holding my breath.




Thursday, November 25, 2004

As Expected

I got a phone call at 8:45 this morning to inform me that my medical certificate was being pulled pending a review of my condition. I was expecting that to happen but maybe not so quickly. It's a bit odd going back into the control room and having to explain to those I work with that I can't plug in and work traffic with them. Everyone is very respectful of my privacy but I know they're curious as to why I've lost my medical. I've gone into some detail with a few and expect the word will filter down to the rest.

I came into work tonight on the mid-shift. There isn't much for me to do so I put up some new nav charts which go into effect tonight. I had to laugh...as I'm putting up the charts, John is coughing so bad he can barely get his composure to give clearances to the planes on freq. And I'm the one who isn't fit to work traffic?

I came home from work and finished putting up Christmas lights outside. They look nice. As I was working on them last night Rachel came out to have a look. "Oh, pretty," she said. That's all I needed to hear to make the whole effort worthwhile.

I think I'll go find a couch and catch a couple hours of sleep. I'd like to get out on a ride tomorrow before heading over to Moms for dinner.



Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Real Waiting

I had my meeting yesterday afternoon and it went about how I thought it might. Garry couldn't say much but did say that decisions would be made outside of our facility and it is most likely out of his hands. No doubt he will have some input but just how much I have no way of knowing. He did mention that I will most likely lose my medical and will be assigned other duties until I get it back. I'm relieved but I'm still concerned about my future. The tension between management and workers is at an all-time high for the nearly 23 years I've been doing my job.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Waiting

Tomorrow is an important day for me and my family. It's the day I disclose at work my headache condition and leave myself totally exposed for whatever repercussions management may have for me. I'd first mentioned the headaches on my physical in the mid-'80s. They asked for specifics and I told them whatever I felt would help them to understand the headaches and how I coped with them. There wasn't any medication then that I was aware of (none of my doctors thought to prescribe prednisone for me). It's probably more the use of medication the past several cycles and my failure to disclose that than the failure to mention the headaches on subsequent physicals which will cause me problems. I met with my union president this afternoon and we discussed a bit about how we'll approach Garry with this news tomorrow. Garry is the number 2 man at our facility and we've known each other for nearly 20 years. I'm somewhat confident Garry will go to bat for me but I'm afraid this whole issue will quickly be elevated out of his hands and into the hands of somebody who doesn't know me.

I've been working with a Flight Surgeon out of Colorado the past few months in an attempt to try and gain immunity for me from the FAA but we've gotten nowhere. The FAA isn't interested in granting amnesty/immunity to anyone because they fear the precedent it may set. I somewhat understand that but at the same time they're in effect forcing many people like myself to remain underground and that's not a good thing.

I considered remaining underground for the remainder of my career but should my condition be found out by means other than me disclosing it I would likely be fired with no grounds for appeal. That simply isn't an option anymore—not that it ever was. It's a different FAA today than it was 5 years ago. There is no love between controllers and management and I don't think I could've picked a worse time to try and resolve this.

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind for 90% of my waking moments for the last few months. I really have to get this situation resolved and tomorrow is a big step in that direction. I lay at the mercy of the FAA courts and hope that they will find some compassion within them and direct it my way.



Sunday, November 7, 2004

Last Warm day?

I'm afraid yesterday may have been our last warm day of the year. The temp got up into the upper 60s. I started doing some yard work and then I figured that was pretty stupid with my bike begging me to ride. I had a good ride. The wind was pretty stiff out of the west so I headed out 169 south toward Shakopee. I crossed the Minnesota River a couple miles north of where I usually do on the bike path in Bloomington. I picked up Old Shakopee Rd and followed that to where it turns into Homeward Hills Rd. There's a nice hill which was registering 7-8% and had my heart rate pegged for a time. There was a car behind me not wanting to pass and I was trying to keep the speed up. It felt so good to be working so hard and feeling fine. The feeling you get when your heart is beating so hard must be an addictive thing. I have to have it and I get anxious if I haven't experienced it in a while. That's usually not a problem for me. I picked up Flying Cloud Dr and followed that past the airport and took that to whatever the road is which I took back across the river to pick up Hwy 169. As I was crossing the river I spotted another rider at least a half-mile up ahead. I worked hard and managed to catch him just before he turned off.

Dan called me on my cell while I was riding to say that neither he nor John are happy with the way the arches are looking in the basement. They want to meet with me tomorrow and discuss a different solution. Tammy and I talked about a couple of options and this morning I drew up a design which I think gives it a nice look. I talked with Tammy on the phone tonight and she likes it too. I'll show Dan tomorrow and see what he thinks.

Friday, November 5, 2004

22 Years Ago, Carla and Nate Anderson

I got on the road this morning at 8:30 and headed into Minneapolis to stop at a lighting store which I didn't know if it even existed anymore. I came up Lyndale and turned right on Lake Street but didn't find it. I circled back and headed west toward the other side of Lyndale. Sure enough, there it was just before Colfax—Moen Electric, just as I remembered it the last time I was there about 8 years ago. I needed to buy a canopy and some fixture parts for the lamp we're making which will go above the pool table in our basement. I got there at 9:00 but they didn't open till 10:00 so I took a drive and headed toward where Noy and I used to live together 22 years ago. It was a little sad to see the house again as it hasn't been kept up well. The wood trim needs paint and it looked like the front porch was sagging and in need of maintenance. I got out and stood at the fence looking into the back yard and shot a photo looking toward the back of the house and the garage. I reminisced about the days I lived there and how fast the time has gone. It wasn't until I was walking away that I noticed the house next door was gone. Carla and Nate Anderson lived there and had it looking so nice. Nate was a natural when it came to home improvement stuff and he put a lot of time into his home. They were such good, Christian people. I know it was their prayers which brought Noy and me together all those years ago. I remember going with Noy and their family to their church in South Minneapolis. I can still hear Nate's booming voice singing so clearly above all the others. They left for a home in the country up toward Duluth sometime around '83 or '84 and I never heard from them again. I was always hoping to take a trip up there and see how they were but I never did. I'm sure they would be sad to hear that Noy and I are no longer together. They had a daughter, Naomi, who would be in her late 20s. I wonder how she's doing?

I drove back toward Moen Electric and stopped at a light on Lake St and Park ave. There were 3 brothers on the corner just as there were on nearly all the street corners. I glanced over toward them and in an instant, one of them made eye contact with me. I don't want to jump to conclusions but I'm sure they get good at picking up on people in search of what they sell. Sorry, I'm not looking. I used to walk my old dog, Sparky, along those streets at night never worrying about trouble. I'd never do that today—it's a much different world and I don't belong there.

I got the stuff for my light and headed for home. Ran downstairs to see how John and Dan were doing then I took the pups for a quick walk before work which is where I am now.



Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Election Day 2004

Tammy got us four tickets to see President Bush last Saturday at the Target Center. We began our day early as we headed out at 9:00am...trust me, that's early on a Saturday for us. We caught the light rail at the VA center and took it into Minneapolis where it dropped us off within a block of the Target Center. The train tickets were reasonable at $3 each for a round trip. I'm not sure I like the way it works though; it's on the honor system and there is absolutely nobody to check and see if you paid. By December the light rail will run all the way to the Mall of America and what's to stop anyone from jumping on the train and not paying. Maybe this would have worked 30 years ago in a different town but not today the way it's set up.

We got to the Target Center around 10:00am. Large crowds don't do much for me but I was enthused to see such a large turnout so early in the morning. The lines were over 3 blocks long outside. Theresa (Tammy's sister) noticed that there were also people waiting in the skyway above to get in. We opted for the warmth of the skyway and I think a much shorter line. After 45 minutes the lines began to move. We had to pass through security similar to what you would find at the airport. Theresa had to leave her fingernail file behind as that was a no-no. We found some nice seats just above the main floor. It was actually nice to be among so many Bush supporters. The one thing which struck me and kept coming back to me, again and again, was the diversity of the crowd. It wasn't a bunch of middle-age white guys in suits. There were so many young people who gave me a lift to see. I'd like to have seen more people of color but still, there were many. Rachel was pretty psyched to see the president.

We had to wait a few hours before he made his appearance. He wasn't expected to speak until 1:30 but we had to wait until 2:00 as he was running a bit behind. The crowd was there for him and I doubt there were many undecided voters there.

When he finally took the stage he spoke for 45 minutes. Rachel had the great idea to stop into the public services office earlier and get earplugs for us. They came in handy as it got quite loud at times. There isn't really much new being said at this late stage of the campaign and today offered nothing I hadn't already heard. Still, being there and sharing that with family is something I'll never forget. Here's a panoramic view I stitched together taken from our seats.

As we were leaving the rally there were very vocal Kerry supporters lining the street across from the Target Center. It didn't take but a moment to notice them and you could tell that they weren't happy with us or President Bush being there. We gave them the thumbs down signal and shouted back at them as they shouted at us. As it turned out we walked the wrong way for a block and had to double back in the direction of the protesters. We approached them from behind and when we got right next to them I yelled 'Hey everybody, how about a big cheer for President Bush? Four more years, four more years!' Several of them quickly converged on me and I went toe to toe with them. We were all shouting our support for our man and it went on for several minutes. One guy, in particular, got right in my face and I reached forward to blow him a kiss and decided that a photo of him would be nice for the archives...

I departed the area with a big grin on my face but that was mostly because of Rachel. As I was confronting and being confronted she went running by me yelling 'Hey everybody, I'm a right-wing nut job!' It was the funniest moment of the day and one I'll never forget. We jumped back on the light rail and headed south out of the city.

I noticed a couple Kerry supporters on the train and I felt a bit bad for them as they were surrounded by people who don't think very highly of their man. It was all friendly though and nobody had any cause for concern. We all enjoyed our little road trip and got home around 4:00pm. It's going to be an interesting Tuesday night. Let's all say a prayer that God will guide whoever is elected to do what is right and give him the wisdom to know.

I wrote the above for our family forum a few days ago. Now to today...I stopped by our church, Hosanna, to vote after getting off work this afternoon. There was no line to speak of and I was in and out in just over 5 minutes. I'm growing a bit weary of all the politics and I'll be very glad to have this election over with.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

46,466,465 and Counting

I’m appalled at the beheadings occurring in Iraq but I have to wonder; are we as a society really any better than the terrorists who would do such a barbaric thing to another person? Is a partial-birth abortion any less gruesome than you average everyday run of the mill beheading? It’s not. But hey, we need to get Bush out of office because he wants to make it illegal to do such a thing and for those who lean left I suppose that’s a bad thing. I hope I’m able to one day enter the Left’s stream of consciousness so I too can be enlightened and join in the fun and be able to say that I’m helping make the world a better place. Maybe in another life.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

What Do You Do?

Here’s a hypothetical I wrote as I ponder the situation America finds itself in today. Feedback is welcome.

You’ve been elevated to the highest office in the world and for whatever crazy reason it dawns on you that the world is sort of dependent upon oil for its very survival. You’ve seen the bumper stickers, ‘no blood for oil’ but you never really gave it much thought—I mean, it sounds good, doesn’t it? So you start to wonder—okay, let’s say that all the oil-producing countries are overthrown by some radical Islamic sects and they collectively decide they don’t need our money any longer and they turn off the spigot. What do you do? It’s not our oil after all and we really have no right to take it from them. You try to imagine an America without oil to fuel the cars which take people to their jobs. For a moment you imagine an America without jobs. You picture deserted highways void of the never-ending whine of 18-wheelers as they transport goods from manufacturers to consumers. Wow, the ramifications on our economy and the world as we know it are frightening. And you thought the lack of a flu vaccine was an outrage. It occurs to you that this is maybe just a tad bit more pressing.

As the president you have a choice: you can go about your busy schedule and pretend all is well while schmoozing your way toward a second term or you can exercise your vision and see the situation for what it is. Doing this, though, will no doubt cost you serious political capital and will most likely weaken you in the short term as there is no sanitary way to do what needs to be done. The other option is to accept the tough choices which go with the job and do what will be in everyone’s best interest years from now no matter how distasteful it may seem at the moment. Your opponent knows that you’re an easy mark in the upcoming election because there is no way that the fruits of your labor are anywhere near ready for market. All the public sees is the turmoil fed to them daily by a giant media only concerned with bringing the public sensational headlines every day to sell more papers all at your expense. Tragedy sells and there’s certainly no lack of it. There’s no lack of war-ravaged Iraqi families to turn to when they want to make their point. It’s sad that the people who are experiencing freedom for the first time aren’t being paraded out in front of the camera to show us their brilliant smiles so we can also understand that we’re doing so much good for these ever oppressed people.

But that’s just part of the story. Did I tell you that I do think that a good part of the reason we’re over there is because of the oil? I’m very upfront about that because I think it’s an acceptable reason especially given all the other humanitarian causes we can list for being there. The problem with that thinking though is that the American left in all their glorious ignorance would scream bloody murder if we actually came out and said that.

So what do you do? You’ve got your UN resolutions in hand and you’ve supposedly got the support of the entire coalition—that is until you actually say you’re going to follow through with what the resolutions have given you the authority to do. You can continue down the road of inspections all the while knowing that those have been a farce and will never amount to anything. You also have to remember that Saddam did possess the WMD at one time and never accounted for their destruction so given that little bit of information, common sense tells you that he still has them. Your intelligence also tells you that the Oil for Food program is certainly enriching Saddam and quite possibly the UN leader’s son. You remind yourself that the only people hurt by sanctions in a dictatorship are the bottom feeders. What other leverage to you apply?

Have you seen enough yet or do you need more? What do you do with the position you've been given to see to it that a small number of evil-minded people aren't allowed to wreak havoc upon the rest of us?



Extreme Basement Makeover

We're finally doing it...we're finishing our basement. We'll take this baron, cinder block lined enclave and turn it into a warm and cozy family place. I say warm because part of the plan is to build a sauna where we can melt away the cares of the world. I'd love to be able to do the work ourselves but I'm no pretender when it comes to matters such as this and I think it's best left to the pros. Keith will be doing the cabinets and bar for us while his friends, Dan and John, will do the rest of the work.

Dan is a former Northwest Airlines mechanic who began his remodeling business after being laid off several years ago. John is also a laid off airplane mechanic and together they come highly recommended from Keith.

We had a garage sale a few weeks ago and were able to part with all sorts of stuff we'd been storing in the basement. It actually looks pretty nice down there now without any clutter.

Today was day one of the project. They mapped out some room dimensions on the floor then left to go shop for supplies. I think one of the first things they plan to do is to punch another sump drain in the concrete on the opposite end of the basement from the existing sump basket. That was my idea in an effort to help prevent any water damage from future heavy rains. It also affords us the protection of having an extra sump pump online should either one fail. I'll need to get a battery backup for at least one of them though for those times when you lose power during a storm. It's the nature of the beast I suppose when you finish a room below ground and the potential for water damage is there. We're investing too much to not try and do all we can to protect it.

Another big obstacle they'll tackle early is to remove the support post which is in the way but does serve a vital function. You can see it in the photo above. The post is positioned on a seam in a 26-foot beam which supports the main level. The plan is to jack up the main level and remove both the post and beam while replacing them both with one continuous 26-foot laminated beam. It will be nice to not have the post in the way.

There is so much to do to pull this whole project together. Tammy and I will be doing some stained glass for the cabinets Keith is making. We still don't have a design figured out, much less an idea of what we'd like. I began work on a stained glass lamp to hang above the bumper-pool table. We're making the same 18" Tiffany reproduction Tulip lamp we made for Don and Dorothy. Yea, I know...it's not your typical pool table lamp but I think it'll look nice.

I spent last week trying to figure out what to buy for a TV. We initially bought a 50" Sony but then Tammy got to thinking that a little bigger might be better. Keith agreed and so I canceled the order and continued shopping. I stumbled upon an online Sony forum and found that they'd organized a buying group. I was able to buy a 60" set though the group for $900 less than I would've paid at BestBuy. It was delivered today and it's a monster! I came home from work to find it sitting in some free space in our family room. I couldn't get over how big it is. For all its size though it weighs just a little over 100 lbs.



Thursday, October 14, 2004

John Kerry

I worked the all-night shift last night. I took over the sector at 3:20am just in time to vector John Kerry's Lear jet (N93LE) into Sioux City, IA. He was coming in from Glendale, AZ, having just finished the last debate with President Bush. I didn't get to see the whole debate but what I did see seemed to be a repeat of the first 2 debates.

It's anybody's guess as to who will win the election. I'm tired of the divisiveness but I don't blame the president for that. I think the left has been relentless in their attacks and have done nothing to further unity. I could go into a long list of what I'm bothered by but I don't have the stamina for that tonight.

Tammy bought the DVD, Fahrenhype 9/11 at BestBuy a couple nights ago. It debunks Michael Moore's claims against the Bush administration. Check it out if you're at all interested in hearing the other side.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Goodbye Summer

We've had a string of nice warm days but it appears they're coming to an end. I got out on my bike today and had a very good ride. There was little to no wind and I made tracks to Northfield getting down there with an average speed of just over 20mph. I headed for home and found a good rhythm until I flatted with 10 miles to go. Just as I pulled over, Keith came up behind me in his truck and stopped to see if I needed any help. We chatted while I got my tire fixed. I found my rhythm once again and pressed for homecoming in at 20.24mph over 50 miles.

I spent a good part of yesterday trying to decide if I'd made the right decision in buying a TV from BestBuy. I had a coupon which saved me 12% off the price of a 50" Sony but then a couple days later I began thinking that maybe we'd be better off with a 55 or 60" set. I went back to BestBuy on Monday night and changed our order from a Sony to a 60" Panasonic. Then yesterday I searched the net and found a buying group from a Sony online forum which had secured some very good prices on all sorts of Sony sets. I ordered one from the group and it will be shipped out on Friday. It was all a bit of a hassle and I can only hope I made the right decision.

We're still waiting to begin work on our basement. We've got it all cleared out and ready for the workers. We're supposed to meet with Dan next week to get his bid. I'm thinking he's going to be up over 50K and that doesn't include Keith's work. If we can get it done for 60K I think I'll be surprised.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

My Last Long Ride of the Season

I took today off work to go out for what may be my last long ride of the season. The temp got into the upper 70s today and for this late in October that's pretty nice. Actually, the next few days are supposed to be well above normal.

I got up early and couldn't go back to sleep I decided to get a jump on my ride and made it out the door by 8:00. It was a bit cool at 52 but I rode hard for the first 30 minutes and I was comfortable. I headed out County rd 46 and rode that west then took Hwy 5 north to Hwy 13. The traffic was pretty busy along 13 but I always get a rush from it. It also helps to have some good tunes to motivate you. I remember having the New Radicals pushing me along as I caught drafts from the passing traffic. Cruising past Valley Fair now and thinking about all the fun times we had there this summer. I remember a few years ago when I couldn't pay Rachel to ride the Corkscrew. She was maybe 10 at the time and still a bit afraid of most of the larger rides. Within a month of that visit, she went back with her friend, Camille and came home to tell me that she did all the rides...even the Power Tower! I guess she didn't want to disappoint Camille and found out they weren't so bad after all.

By the time I rolled into Shakopee the temp was in the upper 50s but the wind was pretty stiff out of the southwest. Once I left Shakopee it would become a headwind. Just outside the city, I saw the sign for Mankato—56 miles. Did I have it in me today? I briefly thought about doing that trip but in the back of my mind, I didn't think I would because of the wind. Anyway, I hadn't totally discounted the idea.

Riding the shoulder of Hwy 169 I recalled the time a few years ago I recalled the time when a dump truck pulled out slowly well ahead of me. After a short time, I was able to catch up to it as the driver cycled through the gears. I tucked in within a few feet of his rear wheels and stayed with him for a couple miles as I reached over 50 mph. It's probably not one of the smarter things I've done on my bike but definitely one of the more exhilarating. I remember thinking that if there was some roadkill to avoid, I'd never see it in time and I'd likely crash. I decided on self-preservation and backed off.

Once I saw this sign (to the left) I started doing some figuring trying to calculate what time I'd get back home if I decided to press on to Mankato. I'd pretty much decided I'd go to St. Peter and make a decision then based on how I felt.

My cellphone rang around 10:30 and it was my doctor. I decided a month ago that I wanted to be upfront with my employer about my headaches so that when they return again I can pull myself from controlling until they're gone after a month or so. It's not so easy to just come forward and admit that you have a disqualifying condition. My fear being that they may say my controlling days are over and put me behind a desk pushing papers or worse yet, they may terminate me for not divulging the condition sooner. The doctor I'm working with presents my case to the Flight Surgeon of the region I work in with hopes that I'll be granted a waiver to continue as a Controller and immunity from punitive measures for hiding my condition. The news he had for me was that my case has been sent out of the region and elevated to a higher level where it's anyone's guess what they'll decide. The higher it goes I think the less likely I am to receive a favorable decision, not to mention, it'll probably take them much longer to decide what to do. In the meantime, I have to hope my headaches don't come back and if they do I'll have to come forward then as I'm not putting myself in the position of controlling with these again. I spent about 20 minutes off my bike as we talked. I also gave Tammy a call to explain it all to her.

A few miles up the road I pulled over again and ran inside the DQ for what I was hoping would be some fast food but it was anything but that. The service was quick as they took my order right away but I had to wait over 10 minutes for my food. I just wanted to get back on my bike as quickly as I could. Another 20 minutes delayed and now I'm 40 minutes down from where I'd hoped to be. Hey, it's really hard to complain when it's such a beautiful day out. I convinced myself that I was on my bike and it was really warm and so what if I was running behind.


I pressed on past the Le Seuer exit with St. Peter about 40 minutes up the road. Hwy 169 south of Le Seuer is a very pretty ride. The wind was keeping me from fully enjoying the ride but hey, I wasn't at work. I rolled into St. Peter and decided I'd keep heading toward Mankato.

South of St. Peter the leaves are beginning to turn. Tammy was mentioning the other day that she'd like to take a drive and see some Fall colors. I think another couple weeks and they'll be peaking. So many of the leaves along the way were still green with the occasional stand of trees which were tuning sooner than the others.

Finally, 75 miles into the trip I rolled into Mankato and got off on Riverfront Dr. I got back on the other side of the road and dialed the speed up the 25-35 as I had a nice tail wind which I was very happy to have. My legs were a bit tired though so I couldn't push as hard for as long as I'd like to have.

As I passed through Belle Plaine on the way home I caught my odometer as it turned 7000 miles. That was nice to see and it got me wondering if I can make 8000 before the snow flies? I think it's a bit of a long shot but I'll see what I can do.

The rest of the trip was good and I was focusing hard to keep the negative thoughts at bay and keep my speed up. I couldn't believe the traffic jam in Shakopee and wondered if it was this way every evening during rush hour. The cars were backed up for over a half-mile standing still. I'm so glad my commute to work has none of that.

I got home around 5:30 and 151 miles later. It was a good ride. I tried to lay down and catch a couple hours sleep before tonight's all-night shift but I just laid there. I gave up after 30 minutes and came down when Tammy came home. We chatted for a bit then I headed to work. I'm so tired as I write this and can't wait to get some sleep when I get home. We've got a big day planned tomorrow.



Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Quit Claim

As of yesterday, my obligations to Noy are finished. I paid her off early so we could get our home loan processed. They couldn't give us a home equity loan as long as Noy still had a lean against the home. It was a bit of a hassle getting her to make it to her attorney's office to sign the Quit Claim but she finally did that for us yesterday. It's sort of odd but for the first time in over 20 years, I have no obligations to her. I know for certain that she would like to talk occasionally to see how I'm doing and what is new with my mom and siblings and I'd like to stay up with what's happening in Joe and David's life but I don't think that will happen. We need to go our own ways now and if fate has it we will meet again someday.

If Dave or Joe ever do make it back into town I hope they would give me a call and we could meet for lunch but I don't even see that happening. I don't think Joe and Dave are very interested in having much to do with me. I'd be surprised if Noy doesn't now move to California to be closer to her sons and grandkids. She has no family here—just some friends. Had it not been for the friends her life would be much different (in a good way) than it is today and I'm sure she knows that. It's been one of my continual prayers for her that God would bring good people into her life who would lead her in a more positive direction.

I wrote this while going through our divorce several years ago...

1-23-97

Emptiness owns my life tonight
But I'm focused on getting well
Do you know what it is to be afraid
To stop
To listen
To tell

When all I believed was important and true
Has left me broken and feeling used
My heart feels heavy
My head feels dizzy
I question what's right
I'm so confused

I try to be Strong
I try to be kind
I need my freedom
I need peace of mind

Where do I go
And when will I get there
I'm scared
It's my life
And I've lost all control

Will I be happy
I don't want to be angry
Will I find someone
To love and to hold

I'm trying not to worry
I have to keep myself busy
I'm trying to understand
What's important to me
I've spent time by myself
Too much time by myself
I'm much more lonely
Than I wanted to be

I hope Noy finds happiness
I hope she remembers
The good times
The better days
The love we once knew
I'm hurt
I'm not bitter
I'm sorry
I'm tired
I need to move on
It's what we both must do

I was going through my old writings and I found this written a couple days later...

1-25-97

I think too much
I don't sleep enough
I care too much
I never give up
I'm too organized
I need a close friend
I'm much too shy
I'm at my wits end
I could use some advice
I could use affirmation
I'd like a one way ticket
Not an explanation

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Jars of Clay

We saw Jars of Clay at Grace Church in Eden Prairie tonight. What a good show they put on. Rachel has really developed a taste for Christian rock in the past few months. I know she can't wait for The Elms to come back through town so we can go see them again. Here's a song they played tonight called, Show You Love. It's a song about stepping outside your comfort zone and reaching out to those in need around the world and giving of our overflowing abundance.

Speaking of abundance...Tammy and I went to a few homes on the Parade of Homes list to get some ideas for our basement. Some of the homes were in the million-dollar price range. It was interesting to see what you get for that price. We found a townhome we both liked very much and could probably very easily be talked into something like it after we retire.

I made my last payment to Noy yesterday. I dropped off all my canceled checks from the previous year's payments at her attorney's office so he could review them before she signs the Quit Claim on the home. I want her to be certain that I haven't short-changed her and that everything is as it should be. Her attorney called back today and said it appears I've overpaid her by $250. I told him to let it go and asked that he send me the bill for overseeing everything. He was expecting her in his office today to sign away her interest in the home but she never showed up. I'll need the Quit Claim signed before we can get our home equity loan to complete our basement. I can't help but feel that she's hoping for a different outcome which keeps money going from me to her indefinitely. I could be wrong. I have no idea if she knew this day was fast approaching. It's a significant amount of money she won't be receiving any longer and that has to be hard for her to accept.

I'm actually very sad for her. I know I shouldn't be after all she put me through but I still am. I'm sad about what has become of her life and the hopes I once had for our future. I used to be so happy to provide the lifestyle I did for her and her sons. I've only ever wanted what was best for her and I still feel that way. Every day she is in my prayers. I pray that good people will come into her life and that they will lead her in a positive direction. I pray for her well being and peace of mind. I pray for her happiness and that she is able to move forward and find love again and I pray for her protection.

It's strange how life plays out though. Had Noy and I not divorced I never would have become a part of Tammy and Rachel's life. They are such a part of who I am and my reason for living that I can't imagine life without them. There's no question that God brought us all together. I don't question why anymore...I just accept that I'm where I'm supposed to be and that I've never been more in love with both Tammy and Rachel. Thank you, Lord.



Sunday, September 12, 2004

Rachel

I can't begin to say how much I love my daughter. She is such a good person and her heart is in the right place. Tammy has helped to give her a very good foundation upon which to build her life...oh, I suppose I have helped some too. I'm worried though that she seems to be drifting apart from her father the past few months. When he has her for the weekend he seldom engages her and when he does it's usually in a critical way. I dunno, I think maybe he's a bit insecure and becoming more so as Rachel grows and matures. I think his heavy-handedness is some sort of control that he feels he needs to maintain.

Last week, Rachel put a tattoo on her arm of Jesus' name in the shape of a fish. She had it there several days and proudly displayed her devotion to Christ. She mentioned to me that she filled out a questionnaire in choir class and one of the questions had to do with what are you passionate about. She wrote down Jesus Christ. Wow...I'm so impressed at her openness and her faith. We've been trying to set aside one night a week where the three of us sit on the couch and do a devotion from a book of stories and talk about what it means to us. We'll also pray together and bring up the concerns we have. Rachel mentioned that she'd like to have the devotions two nights a week if we could...again...wow. She's got such a hunger for Christ right now and I don't want to get in the way. I simply want to be a facilitator and help her however I can. It didn't dawn on me until several days later that the tattoo of Jesus on her arm was really meant to advertise to other kids at school that she's a Christian and she's searching for Christian friends. I mentioned that to Tammy and thinks I may be right.

Rachel went with her church group back to Spencer Iowa this weekend. It's a 'recharge' weekend and picks up where the summer bible camp left off. She was very excited to go. I talked with her on the phone from work this evening and she said she had a good time. When I got home and talked to Tammy she said it was another very positive experience for her. She mentioned how she's such a happy kid...she was singing away in the shower and she mentioned that she wished I was home tonight. I won't see her till tomorrow night and that will only be for about 15 minutes before she'll have to go to bed. As I said...I sure love that kid!

Rachel and I have this elaborate handshake we do together. It's evolved over the past 18 months and last week we added two more segments to it. It's something just she and I do together—our own little thing.

Anyway, I have to run as it's getting late.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

The End of Summer

Do you ever wonder how your world would change if you lost your job? How would you react? Would you be bitter or would you strive to be better? Would you be angry at God or would you feel that everything happens for a reason and continue moving forward not knowing how you're going to manage in the weeks and months ahead. Would you crawl into a shell and withdraw from those who love and care about you?

I think I'd first do a lot of thinking about what is really important to me and begin to understand that possessions take much more of a secondary role than we realize. Houses, cars, furniture, and other material trappings can be sold or they can hold you back.

I've been doing some thinking along these lines lately because I'm at a bit of a crossroads at work. In a worst-case scenario, I could be without the job I've had for over 22 years. I pray that I'll be able to work through all of this and come to a realistic agreement with management about how to proceed but nothing is certain.

Love Break Me by Starfield

Mark me with Your grace
Shape me in Your wisdom
Place in me a heart
Of mercy
Open up my eyes
Let me see Your glory
Lead me to the place
You want me

Love, break me now
Strip me down
May Your beauty
Deep inside of me resound
Through me be found
Come break me now

Guide me in Your truth
Mold me in Your nature
Birth in me a hope
To hold on
Show me how to wait
Teach me how to listen
Be in me the strength
To let go

Break me now…

Love, hear my plea
Rescue me, bring Your peace
I have come to You on bended knee
I’m desperate for Your breath in me
Your ears to hear, Your eyes to see
Set me free, come set me free
Like rain flowing over me...




Saturday, September 4, 2004

I'm Outa Sorts Tonight

I don't know why but I'm feeling out of sorts tonight. I think I'm preoccupied about some issues at work. I have no idea how this is going to play out and it has me worried. I went for a long ride Thursday after I woke up. I was hoping to sort through some things and I think I did that but it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered and that is the source of my anxiety.

Thursday was a hot day with the temp well into the 80s. It's been so cool the entire month of August so I really wanted to be in the hot sun. I rode out Cedar ave into a southwest wind gusting to 25 mph. I zigged and zagged until I got to Hwy 2 and took that west through New Market I continued on Hwy 2 struggling to maintain a good speed with the wind making the ride difficult. It had been years since I'd taken Hwy 2 this far and I really wasn't sure what to expect. I went through the town of Union Hill and remembered how I used to come through this area on my trips back from Huron with Noy 20 years earlier. I contemplated how fast my life was moving and wondered if I'd still be actively riding in another 20 years or would I get my clubs back out and rediscover my passion for golf.

Hwy 2 abruptly turned into a dirt road at the junction of Hwy 11 so I headed south on 11 until I picked up Hwy 19 and rode that west to Hwy 169. I took 169 south into Le Sueur and stopped to refuel at the Holiday station. Back on the road about 15 minutes later and I found myself climbing 169 with a tailwind out of Le Sueur.

It's a steady 5 percent grade, not quite a mile long and I always enjoy the challenge. It was odd when I came upon a bunch of corn stocks along the shoulder of the road. I'm guessing some grain truck must've spilled the corn last season and they sprouted there. It's amazing what can grow out of asphalt.

Along the way, my mind kept returning to my situation at work and I was working through several different scenarios in my head trying to decide what to do. Just as I got to Jordan I decided I needed to approach management and level with them about my troubles. It could cost me my medical certificate to be a controller but I had to do this for my peace of mind. I'm hoping the loss of my medical will only be temporary and that we'll be able to work out a solution where I'm able to take myself off the boards when it becomes necessary to work through the headaches. I stopped at the Burger King in Jordan and sat with a drink while I phoned Tammy and told her of my decision. She's very supportive and is in agreement that I should be upfront with management about my situation.

I pedaled home with what felt like renewed energy from the weight that was lifted after making this decision but I think it may have simply been the 10-minute rest and bottle of water. Anyway, I decided that rather than go straight home I'd stop at Mom's and visit with her and her company.
Some of my aunts and uncles are staying with her for a couple days and I really haven't had much time to visit with them. I rolled in there as they were sitting out on her back patio enjoying some drinks and conversation. I'm not sure how many times we'll all see each other again as some are getting quite old. They were all interested in my bike and its technology...my mp3 player, heart rate monitor, shoes and all the other stuff that goes into riding. They brought up the time in '81 when I rode to Michigan for the family reunion and had to do 196 miles on the last day to make it. I have one photo of myself from that day but apparently, both Maria and Eva have other photos as well. I'm hoping they can send them to me so I can scan them. That was one of my more memorable days as there was no way I was trained to do that many miles but I was able to and I was and still am very proud of that achievement. I sat around with them for 45 minutes then had to hit the road and get home for dinner. I finished with 111 miles on the day and my 20-century ride of the season completed.

After dinner I sat down and composed an email to my union rep at work—oh yea, I'm in the union now as of last Monday. There are so many problems with management now that I had to finally join. I think our membership stands at around 76%. Many of the controllers I associate with aren't in and most likely never will be but that's their decision.
Anyway, I wrote Rob, my union rep and told him of my situations with the Cluster headaches and what my intentions are. It's Saturday night and I still haven't heard back from him as to whether or not he agrees with my intended approach. I'll see him tomorrow at work and talk to him about it then.

We went to the Minnesota State Fair today and totally wore ourselves out. We got up way too early for us...6:00am and got there by 8:30. It was another hot day so it was nice to beat some of the heat. Rachel had her picture taken with the Lollipop Kid munchkin while we were there. His name is Jerry Maren and he was there with another one of the munchkins to sign autographs. Tammy asked if she could take Rachel's photo with him and he was happy to do that. Just as Rachel settled in next to him he pulled out a lollipop and presented it to her in the same way he did to Dorothy in the movie. It was very sweet.


Saturday, August 28, 2004

Jerry and Jackie

My brother-in-law, Jerry, lost his job a few months ago. It was a job he began in 1970 with Northwestern Bell as a cable splicer. It morphed over time and he spent the last few years in a supervisory position with Qwest. Qwest has been struggling for years but I don't think Jerry was overly worried about losing his job. He was always so busy with not nearly enough time in the day to do all that was expected of him. Nonetheless, he was terminated and given one year severance pay. I suppose some would say that's great but Jerry would much rather have put in another 7 years and taken his full retirement. They still have 2 kids, Kelsey and Cole, at home.

Jerry didn't sit idle very long. He decided to take the leap and begin his own company wiring new construction homes. Jackie, who has always been a stay-at-home mom has also stepped out of her comfort zone and taken a job at Cub Foods as a cashier.

Sometimes when I'm talking with Jackie I find it hard to know what to say to encourage her. I try to tell her that there will come a day when she can look back on this time and see how God saw her through it. This is a storm in her life and it will one day be over. I know it's hard to have the necessary faith but there isn't any other option. I admire them both for taking control and moving forward no matter how humbling it can be at times. I keep them in my prayers.



Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ordinary Life

I've been listening to a relatively new band from Canada named, Starfield. This song is excellent.

Ordinary Life

Take me and invade me
Make me someone new
Wake me from the dead
And break me with the truth

Move me and disturb me
Interrupt my peace
Tear open my heart
And pull me to my knees

There's a world outside
That is burning
While I'm turning blinded eyes
While I stand by

I won't survive
To live this ordinary life
I'm not alive
To live this ordinary life

And I will try
To see this world I live in
With Your eyes
To love this world You've given
With my life
To see this world I live in
With Your eyes
To love this world You've given
With my life

Tammy's Gift To Me

I knew Tammy had been working on a photo album of my bicycle ride to Babbitt in July but I had no idea how nice it would be. She gave it to me yesterday as a birthday gift. I think it's probably the nicest gift anyone has ever given me. She put so much time and thought into it. I had tears in my eyes as I was looking through it at the thought of her doing this for me.







































She used my blog entry of my ride to narrate the journey and included some photos I hadn't seen before. The little doo-dads and phrases she added to the pages gives it a very nice and thoughtful touch. I've got the best wife anyone could wish for—oh, and the best daughter, too. I love you guys so very, very much.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Happy Birthday To Me and What's That in the Sky?

Happy birthday to me! Wow...where is my life going so quickly. I turned 47 today but I still think my outlook on life is about 20 years younger. I went out for a 100-mile bike ride then came home and cooked some steaks on the grill with Tammy, Rachel, and Mom. I'd invited Tim over but he couldn't make it. I'm sitting here with a glass of wine as my day unwinds. Oh, I also reached a milestone today when I went over 6000 miles on my bike for the year. I'm thinking that 8000 miles isn't out of the question before the snow flies—we'll see. Usually, I'm glad to have 4000 miles in by my birthday so I'm running quite a bit ahead of my regular pace.

We had an interesting event happen last Thursday over the Minneapolis area. Tim called me to see if I'd seen the UFO in the sky. He'd heard about it on the news. I stepped outside off the front porch to have a look and spotted it right away. It wasn't as though you were looking at an obvious spacecraft of some sort. It was a bright light in the sky, hovering motionless. Initial reports claimed it was a weather balloon but the National Weather Service said it wasn't one of theirs. I called Mark at work and had him check the upper winds for me. From the mid-levels all the way up through 60,000 ft the winds were moving from west to east at 60 knots. There's no way a balloon could have remained in the same place as this object did. I was able to observe it for several hours before the sun went down and even after dark it was still visible. Rachel and I were able to get a video of it. In the video, the object looks smaller than it did in real life. To get a better feel for the actual size, imagine taking a pea and holding it at arm's length. The pea would be about the same size as the object in the sky. Here's some video I took with Rachel's help.



Friday, August 6, 2004

500 Mile Week

I think my weekly total of 517 miles is the most I've ever done in a seven-day stretch. I sort of thought I'd get several good days of riding in during my week off but this is probably more than I'd hoped for. I rode 60 today, 111 yesterday and 108 the day before. My right knee is a bit sore so I think I'll go easy tomorrow. I think the only riding goal left for me this season is 6000 miles by my august 25th birthday. That's a reasonable goal and about 2000 miles more than I'd initially set when the season began. I'll need to average 40 miles per day to reach the 6000-mile goal. That's only 280 miles a week and well within reach.

We went to see Irobot last night. I think we all liked it even though I'm not one for sci-fi.

The media has been on my mind lately. The double standard with respect to network news programs is important for the average Joe to realize. It's one thing to tune into Rush or one of the cable programs where you have a moderator who obviously leans one way or the other but it's quite another to believe you're watching an impartial person deliver the days news only to find out that this person has his own agenda which taints the news you're watching.

Do you remember when Bob Dole was running for president 8 years ago and he fell off a stage? They replayed that incident over and over again for all to see. Do you recall a couple months ago when Kerry fell off his bicycle on a city street with news cameras all around? Why then weren't we treated to footage of him falling down the same way we were with Dole? I think the major news programs are doing all they can to cast Kerry in the best light possible and this little incident would best be ignored.

How about the time when Bush called some news reporter a 'major asshole' and again we all heard about it time and time again...we still do. Why then don't we see footage of the time just a few weeks ago when Kerry shot the finger to a protester at the Vietnam Memorial who was heckling Kerry? I mean, here's the democrats' presumed presidential candidate flipping some guy off and there are cameras all around to capture it but the whole thing is stifled. Why is that?

There was also the incident in March where Kerry took a tumble while skiing and swore at the secret service agent who he bumped into saying 'I don't fall down.' He then used an expletive to describe the officer who 'knocked me over.' Pick either of these examples and imagine if it were Bush in the place of Kerry. Do you imagine for a moment that the press wouldn't have it all over the papers and television? That's the double standard which frustrates me.

Actually, I'd like to see all of these gaffes eliminated from the evening news as I think they're best ignored. But, if the media is going to continue to fixate on them I'd like to see them spread them embarrassment around a bit more evenly. Is that too much to ask?



Thursday, August 5, 2004

Musings

I was out on my bike today and without even realizing it I had reached that surreal state where the endorphins take you where the fast-paced world is all around you but you’re really not aware of much other than some obscure thoughts and the sun on your back. I’d just finished climbing out of the Minnesota River bottom and I was coming up on the approach path for runway 29L, east of the MSP airport. Coming into view from the right I noticed a 747 with its wheels extended on final approach. At first glance it looked to be a KLM flight arriving from Amsterdam but then I noticed the American flag on the tail. As I got directly off to its side from about a quarter-mile away I could see the word ‘United’ and I thought that maybe United Airlines had a new paint scheme I wasn't aware of. I watched as it descended off in the distance and then it struck me that it was Air Force One. It did seem odd that there was very little air traffic in the area and now I understood why. President Bush was in town today and I’d just watched him pass by.

I got to thinking about an interview I’d seen earlier in the day with Laura Bush and how gracious she was when the reporter asked her to comment on Theresa Kerry’s remark about ‘four more years of hell’. I got to thinking about what a phony Kerry is and how the left has gotten so ugly in the last few years and how misled people have become. I thought about how Kerry, during the convention, said absolutely nothing about his 20 years in the Senate while he couldn’t seem to say enough about his 4 months in Vietnam. I thought it was odd that a guy who detested the war and all it stood for would now want to wrap himself in the American flag and memories of that war.

I thought about the half dozen or so men who served with him in Vietnam who dispute all he said and I wondered if they’ll be interviewed on 60 Minutes this next week as there is a book coming out titled, Unfit For Command, which details their claims. I seriously doubt they’ll get any coverage on any of the network news programs and I felt disappointed at the double standard. Is this a double standard?

I thought about Tommy Franks and his book, American Soldier, which is more supportive than critical of President Bush and I wondered if 60 Minutes will be interested to hear what he has to say…I doubted that they would. Again, I felt disappointment at the obvious double standard.

I thought about the debates which will take place and I remembered how four years ago nobody thought Bush would have a chance against such an intellect as Al Gore. I remembered how Gore made a complete ass of himself and I wondered what people saw in the man that I didn’t which would lead them to cast a vote for him. You only needed to look to his own state of Tennessee to see that they didn’t want him either. He lost there.

I think the left is again underestimating Bush and that will be their downfall as he will handily defeat Kerry in the debates and the small number of undecided votes will begin to lean right. The small bump Kerry got from the convention should have those on the left worried. We’ll see…I could be all wrong and the liberal media will bring this one home.

Just one question: is my thinking that there is a double standard unfair?



Monday, August 2, 2004

Monday, August 2nd, 2004

I found a wallet on my ride yesterday. It was a red, woman's wallet with all her important stuff but no money, a credit card but no cash. I put it in my saddlebag and continued on my ride. I gave it to Tammy when I got home and she tried to locate the owner—no luck. Her phone was disconnected and the only link we found was a card for a doctor's appointment. Tammy called the doctor's office this morning and gave them our number so they could relay it to the woman.

I found it on Hwy3, across the road from a bar out in the country. I was thinking that someone lifted it from the woman's purse while they were in the bar and threw it out once they took the money and left the bar. As it turned out, the woman's fiancé called our home shortly after Tammy called the doctors office and said it's possible that the woman's 3-year-old son threw it out the car window. Anyway, we were glad to find the owner.

When I spoke with her fiancé, Ron Collins, on the phone I mentioned that there was no money in it and he said that he would expect that as she doesn't have much extra cash now with a wedding in the near future. I got an idea and found Tammy to run it by her. I thought it would be nice to put some money in her wallet with maybe a bit of scripture. I wanted her to be able to say that not only did she lose her wallet but it was returned to her with more money than when she lost it. Tammy found a small card with some scripture on it and she wrote a short note and put it with $20 in a zippered part where she may not find it for a little while.

We went out to Hard Rock Cafe' in Minneapolis last night. It was something we've been wanting to do for a while but had never taken the time, until last night. It was fun. We came back and played a few rounds of Slap Happy Mammy.

I worked in the yard for a few hours today then got out on my bike for a lack-luster ride. The humidity was so high that I just decided to do some soft-pedaling and brought it home after a short 26 miles. I'd like to get out tomorrow for 120 but I'll see how I'm feeling in the morning.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Stop Raining

Okay, I've got stuff to do today and the rain is getting in the way. I shouldn't have slept in so late as I would have at least gotten my ride in. Mowing the lawn can wait till tomorrow but I'd really like to ride. I did manage a longish ride yesterday of 121 miles when I rode out to St. Peter along Hwy 169. I was intending to go to Mankato but I cut it short.

Tammy is working and Rachel is with her dad. She didn't sound all that happy to be going to see him yesterday. She called me around 11:00am and said her dad was picking her up around 12:30. I told her I'd see her tonight and that we'd all do something...I think that something is going to be dinner at Hard Rock Café in Minneapolis. We'll pick her up around six and head over there on the way back.

Rachel has been disappointed with her visits with her dad and step-mom for quite a while now. They speak Vietnamese around her and so she's not a part of their conversation. Her stepmom's English is very marginal and I sometimes wonder if that's maybe the way her dad wants it to be. He was very controlling with Tammy and he's in a perfect position to have total control over his new wife. Rachel is very bored at their apartment and I think she's glad her visits are only every other week. That's sad though as I can't for the life of me understand why her dad isn't more interested in Rachel's life. She's such a good kid. If I were her dad I'd be over here all the time, at the risk of being a pest to be spending time with her. I just don't see that with him.

It won't be long though before Rachel probably won't have much time for Tammy or myself as she begins to explore her world and seek more independence. We want to have the best foundation for her that we can so she's prepared to be able to make appropriate decisions for herself. Tammy and I engage her quite a lot...certainly more than our parents ever did with us. We make a point of oftentimes including her in our conversations and getting her opinion. I don't think she has any doubts about our love for her.

Still raining.

My sister, Claudia has been making sure there's no lack of drama in our family. She's been suffering from depression for the past seven or eight years and only seems to be getting worse. Both she and my sister Jackie were molested as young girls by our uncle, Elvin. Jackie has been able to put the whole mess behind her while Claudia doesn't appear to even want to begin to look forward. I can't begin to understand the dynamics of being molested but I'm a bit confused/curious that the molestation was never an issue until she was fired from her job around the same time the depression began.

To me, it almost seems convenient that she was able to go on disability due to her depression as it was a nice segue out of the working world and onto the government doles. Maybe I'm wrong and that she really needs to be on disability.

The problem I'm having with the whole situation is that she's on all sorts of meds now and I think there may be an addiction problem as well. It's been a couple months since I've talked with her but the last time I spoke with her was at night and she was so out of it from her meds. I'm not the only one who has noticed this trend. She obviously needs help for her mental health but a part of me thinks she's comfortable in her role of not having anyone have any expectations of her because she's depressed.

I can't offer her any constructive help because she turns it around on you and tells you you're attacking her. I asked her once what sort of coping skills her therapist was giving her and she couldn't think of any. I mentioned that she may want to keep a journal and make note of good things which happen to her throughout the day so when she's feeling down she can go back and see that all is not negative. I don't think she was very interested in my idea. I'm not sure if I believe her that her doctor hasn't been giving her advice of a similar nature.

Anyway, back to the drama. She knows that she can manipulate our mom and get her to feel sorry for her. She stopped calling mom and didn't give her any reason for pulling the plug. She just clammed up. Mom was having difficulty sleeping as she was upset that Claudia was isolating her for no reason. Our mother is nearly 80 years old and she doesn't need this sort of stress in her life. Claudia's self- centeredness is getting very old.

Hey, you know what? The sun is beginning to shine and I really need to put this away and get outside on my bike. I'd like to do a quick 40 miles then get back home and mow the grass before going out with Tammy and Rachel tonight.

I think I just needed to vent more than anything.



Friday, July 30, 2004

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

For our getaway this summer we headed for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Tammy and I have been there twice together and we thought Rachel would enjoy the trip as well. We left Toby and Allie in the loving care of Jackie and Jerry’s family. I’m always a bit concerned when I pick them up after they’ve been at Jerry and Jackie’s for several days because I think they enjoy their house more. You can’t beat having a fenced-in backyard to run free in if you’re a dog. At our home, they can only sit by the back sliding door and dream of being outside. Maybe we should consider an invisible fence.

On our way out of town, we stopped by Mom’s to show her the van we rented. Her flowers are looking very beautiful this year if you haven’t had a chance to see them. We were on our way a little after 1:00pm and had a reservation at the Radisson in Sioux Falls.

Rachel makes some very cool lanyards from the array of threads she has. She’ll have us pick out a few colors and in no time she’s showing us the finished product. Here, Tammy is picking out some colors for an ankle lanyard. It’s a nice pastime for the road for Rachel.

We got into Sioux Falls around 5:30 and got ourselves situated in our hotel room and began plotting our night’s activities. Rachel discovered that our room was haunted but it was a friendly ghost so we didn’t complain.

We checked out the Empire Mall but after less than an hour, we decided to head into town and find a restaurant for dinner. To our amazement, we quickly learned that nearly every establishment in downtown Sioux Falls closes its doors by 6:00pm. Even the Quiznos Sub shop was closed. We found an open coffee shop where we each got something to drink.

Before finding a restaurant we stopped to check out the ‘falls’ of Sioux Falls. Here’s a photo looking out over the falls from an observation tower. I’m not sure if any of you are into the 3d stuff but if you are, here’s a 3d photo I took of the falls up close. Cross your eyes slightly until the two images begin to form a third image. Once the two images merge to form the third image you may begin to see the 3d effect.

A quick stop at BestBuy for a memory card for my camera and we were back at our hotel with its attached T.G.I.Friday's restaurant. Rachel ponders the menu.

We were hoping to jump in the pool for a quick swim after dinner but it was closing as we got back. It seemed we rolled into town a few hours too late to take advantage of much and we had a long day ahead of us so we decided to call it a day.

Tuesday morning we got on the road a little late but hey, we were on vacation. We called Jackie to check up on the pups and learned that Toby had destroyed an antique hat with feathers which Jackie had sitting by her bed. She assumed that it must’ve fallen for Toby to find it but I explained that he’s very good at climbing up on things to look for stuff to chew on. It was nice to know that other than that they were doing fine. We had breakfast at IHOP and were on the road a by mid-morning.

It was a beautiful day but it was going to be a hot one. We made good time across the state and found a couple talk-radio stations to carry us along. Just past Al’s Oasis on Interstate 90 in Chamberlain, you come upon the Missouri River, or Mighty Mo. We measured it at 8 tenths of a mile across. The water had an aqua color tint to it.

There wasn’t much to see between the Mighty Mo and the Badlands. Rachel kept herself occupied by making lanyards and watching movies. We arrived in the Badlands about mid-afternoon and stopped at a trail leading to the Notch. To get to the Notch you have to hike maybe 20 minutes. It gets a bit precarious at times with no railings near steep drop-offs and loose footing. There’s also a Jacob’s ladder you have to climb. The temp was in the 90s…just the way I love to see the Badlands. Tammy and Rachel got a bit overheated on the trek back. I think all my biking gave me an edge in the heat as I was okay. Here’s a video of us along the trail to the Notch.

We got back in the van and continued our drive through the Badlands. If you ever make the trip to see the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore, be sure to make the Badlands a part of your journey. I’m not sure there’s anything else on earth like it.

We didn’t bother to spend any time at Wall Drug. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me or…we won’t get fooled again as President Bush might say. The signs for Wall Drug are everywhere along the interstate beginning somewhere east of Sioux Falls…not to mention the ubiquitous bumper stickers. It’s sort of like Sven and Oley’s in Grand Marias, Mn with all the bumper stickers and billboards advertising their lousy pizza.

We got into Rapid City around 5:00pm and got checked into room 316 at the Ramada off exit 57. Rachel and I had hoped to spend some time in the pool and on their 130 ft slide but it was always so crowded in there that we sort of lost interest in the idea. We got unpacked and headed into the city with a couple stops in mind.

Our first stop was at the Prairie Edge store in downtown Rapid City. What a cool place with some very unique art. Tammy and I discovered it on our first trip to Rapid City and we’ve been coming back ever since. They sell some cheaper items and Rachel found some interesting beads for sale but be prepared to shell out some major cash for most anything else. This is a photo of a section of a paper sculpture which is priced at around $70,000. The full sculpture measures about 6 feet in length and maybe 2.5 feet high. The work is incredibly detailed. Most of the artwork in the store done in the Native American genre and many of the artists are also Native American.

From there we went next door to the Firehouse Brewing Co. restaurant. A stop there is always on our must-do list whenever we’re in the area. I ordered a hamburger but the waiter messed up the order and I got a buffalo burger instead. I don’t think I could tell the difference between it and a regular burger. We sat out on a covered patio and watched the rain fall outside while we chatted and waited for our meals to arrive.

After dinner, we took a drive out Hwy 16 to Mt. Rushmore. As you drive toward the mountain you’ll first catch a glimpse of the faces as you round a bend about a mile from the entrance. It was early evening yet but several hours before sunset. I’ve always wanted to see the mountain lit up but it was too many hours to wait. We did some sightseeing around the visitor center and watched a movie about the making of the monument. The monument was completed in 14 years by a crew of maybe a dozen or more workers. The actual time spent on the sculpting was only 6 years with the rest of the time used for fundraising. I’m always amazed at what man can do when you look at a project such as this. The vision to bring something like that to fruition is remarkable. In some places on the mountain, they had to blast through 50 feet of brittle outer rock to get to a harder surface suitable for sculpting. Plan to spend at least a couple hours and maybe more to take it all in. It’s well worth your time. We were surprised to see this wild mountain goat feeding on the grass at the visitor center on our way out.

We headed back to our hotel and walked across the street to Pirate’s Cove for a round of mini-golf. Rachel came out on top…as usual. I think I may still owe her a couple dollars for the two aces she made. It was a bit slow going and we had nobody behind us so we played most of the holes twice. Heck, there was even time to enjoy some medieval punishment.

We closed out the night by catching up on the latest in the Tour de France on OLN. Go, Lance! Tammy has developed a good understanding of bicycle racing and with a bit more brainwashing I’m sure Rachel will too.

We got up early Wednesday morning for our hike to Harney Peak, which is located at Sylvan Lake. We hit the trail at 9:15am which put us ahead of most other hikers and ahead of the day’s heat. It’s a 3-mile hike which takes about 1.5 hours to navigate, one way. I suppose coming back is a bit quicker as it’s downhill for the most part. About 20 minutes into the hike you can look out over the forest and see Harney Peak in the distance. The trail is mostly dirt but oftentimes you’re walking on rocks and uneven surfaces. The trail seemed to get steeper the closer you got to the summit. We joked with other hikers along the way about the imaginary Dairy Queen at the top.

It was nice to finally reach the top and sit down with a snack. A plaque on a rock wall at the top reads, “The Harney Peak Fire Lookout, Dam, and Pumphouse were built by the CCC in 1939 and are listed in the national register of historic places. Harney Peak elevation is 2207 meters (7,242 feet) and is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe.” We had fun at the top mugging for the camera and feeding the chipmunks. I also shot this panoramic video of the view.

On our way back down the mountain, we encountered many groups of hikers making their way up. What was a fairly empty parking lot when we began our hike was now packed with the cars of those out on the trail. We headed for Hill City as I had this hunger which only an ice cream cone could satisfy. We didn’t stay long in Hill City before deciding to go back to our hotel for a quick nap so we’d have the energy to take on the rest of the day and night.

We let Rachel pick the restaurant for supper and she chose Subway. I forgot how good those sandwiches can be. Maybe I should start collecting stamps again.

After dinner, we went to Reptile Gardens, one of the major tourist traps along Hwy 16 as you head out of Rapid City toward Mt. Rushmore. They have some mirrors from the 1935 New York State Fair and we got goofy in front of them. We all thought the alligator show was very entertaining. We got to talking with the guy who did the show and were a bit surprised to find out that he’d only been doing it for a little over one month. He worked there doing odd jobs and applied when the opening became available. He did 10 days of on the job training and then was turned loose to do his own act. We also watched him do a snake show. What you don’t see in the video so well is that he is literally surrounded by alligators as he’s doing his act. The alligator he was sitting atop was very large and it took quite a bit of effort for him to get it into position by dragging it by its tail. All of the alligators know it’s feeding time when he does the show so it’s funny to watch as they begin to gather around and surround him.

We next went to Sanford’s Pub in Rapid City where Rachel taught Tammy and me how to play a card game called, Hong Kong. It’s really a fun game but we changed its name to Slap Happy Mammy…it just fits better. We ordered an appetizer tray of some ridiculously greasy but ever so good food.

Back to the hotel and another check on Lance Armstrong. Actually, I think Tammy is every bit as interested in how he was doing as I was.

Thursday morning and none of us was in a hurry to get out of bed. When we did finally get going we headed out past Custer on our way to Jewel Cave. It was a damp day so what better place to spend it than in a cave. We had to wait about 90 minutes for our tour to begin so we goofed off some out in the parking lot killing time.

Jewel Cave is possibly the largest cave in the world. They’ve mapped over 128 miles of it so far and estimate that that amounts to maybe 3 to 5% of the total. The tour runs about 90 minutes and covers about a half-mile. The tour groups are about 30 people large. There are some incredible formations down there. In the center of this photo, you can see a formation called, Bacon. The bacon strip measures about 20 ft long. Sometimes it felt like you were in the middle of a giant geode. The temperature in the cave is consistently in the mid-50s throughout the year. There are several caves in the area but from what we were told, Jewel Cave is probably the best.

We pointed ourselves in the direction of the Needles Hwy next. This is a beautiful, winding, tree-lined highway with many hairpin turns and two or three tunnels to negotiate. We pulled over a couple times to get out and take some photos and to simply take it all in without speeding by—not that you can go very fast. At times the traffic can get backed up, especially when a large RV has to pass through a tunnel as there is very little clearance. Tammy and I have a tradition now where we listen to Pink Floyd’s, Dark Side of the Moon while we’re on the Needles Hwy. The music creates a nice backdrop.

No visit to the Black Hills would be complete without a stop at the Cosmos. This place is an absolute dive but a money maker for sure. Tammy recalls going here with her parents when she was in high school. It’s obvious how some of the illusions work but for others, I’m just not sure. To start the tour they have two people stand on opposite ends of a level platform. Then they have the two people change positions and you notice a definite change in height between the two people. They place a level and a tennis ball on the platform to show you that it is indeed level. It’s a very interesting illusion and I’d be curious to know how it works. They claim that there are strange gravitational forces at work in the area but I’m not sure. The other part of the tour takes you into a house which is built at odd angles making it appear that you can nearly walk on the walls in places. The tour was a hoot and as tacky as it was I’d still have to say I recommend it and I may even go again sometime. Oh, and they have a gift shop, too.

On our way back into Rapid City we stopped off and took the tour of Bear Country USA. I think if we were going to opt-out of any of our adventures this may be the one. For $30 we got to sit in our car and watch other people sitting in their cars watching the occasional animal which happened by. But we made the most of it and enjoyed ourselves regardless. We’re living a little dangerously in this scene. We got out of our car for a look at the bear cubs and a quick trip through the gift shop and this photo op.

We saved some of the best for last and that would be dinner at the Italian restaurant, Botticelli. It’s probably one of the more spendy places in town but their food is some of the best. No Slap Happy Mammy while we wait for our food tonight but that’s okay because we’d play later that night back in our room. It was another memorable dinner for us here and the first time we had Rachel along with us.

On the way to our car, Rachel had a dance with a statue of Martin Van Buren. On many street corners in Rapid City, they have statues of past presidents and other famous people.

Back to the hotel for another Lance update. We got all of our things packed so in the morning we could get an early jump on the 600 mile drive back home. It’s always sad to see a vacation come to an end but whenever we felt that way we’d remind each other that we’d be coming home to Toby and Allie and that seemed to help.

On Friday morning after checking out of our hotel we stopped by our favorite coffee/bagel shop in town. We never once saw a Starbucks in the state and that was nice because the various coffee shops we stopped at all had their own unique style. I think we managed to get on the road a little after 8:00am.

The drive home was pretty uneventful. Rachel slept most of the way. We found an AM station which was playing oldies and as we drove along It was like hearing those old songs the way we remembered first hearing them.

We were surprised to see a bicyclist traveling the interstate. About 5 miles later we saw another one headed in the opposite direction. I don’t know if it’s legal in South Dakota to ride your bicycle on the freeway but the idea got me thinking about a possible trip on my bike out to the Black Hills sometime in the next few years. I could make it a 4 to 5-day trip and have Tammy and Rachel meet me out there. Maybe I better ease into this one because I know the idea of me biking the freeway makes Tammy uncomfortable. I haven’t researched it yet but maybe there would be some good alternatives to the freeway which wouldn’t be too far out of the way. I remember how especially in the Badlands I caught myself dreaming of riding those roads on my bike. Maybe someday.

The last photo of our journey was this contemporary barn outside of Worthington, Mn. I thought it was sort of cool looking.

We got home in less than 9 hours and Rachel and I headed up to Jackie and Jerry’s to pick up Toby and Allie while Tammy took care of unpacking. You know, it’s always nice to get away but as good as that is, it’s somehow maybe even a bit nicer to get back home. There really is no place like home. I hope you enjoyed coming along on this little digital journey and I apologize to those of you without a broadband connection that may not have been able to view the videos.

Thanks for stopping by and following along.