Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas 2007 Road Trip, Transitions and Bernice Norgard

We headed up north to Babbitt for the weekend to be together with some of Tammy's family. We got an early start leaving home at 6:15am Thursday. Rachel and I drove together following Tammy. We stopped along the way in Virginia to pick up her father, Morey, at the retirement home where he's been living for the past 8 months. It was an icy drive and the further north we got the more cars we saw in the ditch.

I enjoy my road trips with Rachel as it gives us time to really catch up with each other. You would think that we'd run out of things to talk about but we don't. We kick around all sorts of things from silly thoughts to the more complex social issues of our world. And there's always plenty to laugh at. We were just south of Hinkley when I spotted a billboard up in the distance with what looked to be a bird on top of it. I knew it was fake but I said "hey, look at the size of the bird on that sign" Her response was something like, "wow, is that real?" It wasn't until we got beyond the sign where she could see that it was fake before she had her answer. We managed to laugh about that throughout the day as I took a few opportunities to talk about the big bird we'd seen. Maybe you had to be there.

Here's a video from the drive up. Stay with it till the end as there's some funny footage of Allie.

It's sad to see how much Morey's health has deteriorated in the past year. What led us to have him placed in a nursing home were two falls he'd had at home. The last of those two falls required an ambulance ride to the hospital. Our other concern was that up until life in the nursing home he was still driving and he shouldn't have been. It hasn't been an easy transition for Tammy's family as there are some who feel that he should be allowed to remain at home. There are many issues associated with Morey staying home and it would be ideal if he could but it comes at great worry and stress to his wife, Elaine. The weekend before, he was home for the night and fell twice. It took two adults to get him to his feet each time. Everyone wants what's best but we don't all see it from the same perspective.

Part of Morey's routine when he lived at home was to walk across the street every morning to the senior center located in the old elementary school. He'd get together with the guys and occasional gal for coffee and conversation. I'd guess it was what he looked forward to most when he was home. We brought him there Friday morning and the guys were happy to see him. Somebody found his coffee mug and he pulled up a chair. These guys have known each other for I'd imagine 50 years, in some cases going back to their early days in the mines as that is what brought them to Babbitt. Their numbers are slowly dwindling and they know that all to well.

While we were there I was sitting across from a woman who I'd assumed was the wife of one of the men. She was very knowledgeable about life in the mines and the politics associated with environmental concerns as well as labor/management issues and unions.

As I sat talking with her I was thinking about the movie North Country. North Country was the story of a woman, Lois Jensen, who filed a sexual harassment suit against Eveleth Mines in what would be the first-ever class-action lawsuit of its kind in America. Lois resides in Babbitt today.

After a few minutes of intently listening to her, I introduced myself. Her name is Bernice Norgard. I mentioned the movie and asked her if it was an accurate depiction of what happened in the mines not realizing who I was speaking with. It turns out that Bernice is the woman responsible for women being allowed to work in the mines. She filed suit in 1974 to open up the mines to women as they hadn't been up to that point. Her case took six months to come to trial but she prevailed. She went on to say that the movie from her perspective didn't go far enough in conveying the extent of the sexual harassment the women endured.

Bernice had just finished working the all-night shift when I met her. I asked her if it would be okay to take her photo and write a bit about her in my blog. She smiled and said that would be fine. We talked some more about her work in particular. She drives a huge, I think 300-ton truck which can carry a similar amount of weight. She said that she'd be happy to give us a tour of the mine next time we're in town. She mentioned that management isn't too keen on cameras in the mine as they not too long ago had somebody take some photos in the mine and used them in such a way as to skew opinion about environmental concerns associated with the mine.

She's a very cool lady and I'm glad to have had some time to talk with her. I look forward to taking her up on the offer of a tour next time we're in town.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Unwrapping the Truth (and Gifts) and Our Annual Office Party

In one of our Christmas cards, we received there was a small pamphlet titled, Unwrapping the Truth about Christmas. The pamphlet details some interesting facts about the bible and the life of Christ. One item which stood out for me was this...

Jesus: The Focus and Fulfillment of Prophecy

There are at least 456 Old Testament prophetic references that pertain to a future person that all were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.

The most common objection is that the fulfillment of these prophecies was by chance. Science and mathematics professor Peter Stoner estimated a reasonable probability that one man might have fulfilled just 8 of these 456 prophecies at one chance in 10 to the 17th power.

1 chance in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000

Take that amount of silver dollars and cover the state of Texas two feet deep. Mark one and stir the whole mass thoroughly. Blindfold a man and have him pick up only one silver dollar and have it be the right one. what chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man... (Peter W. Stoner, Science Speaks, Moody Press, p. 107).

And these don't even account for the other 448 prophecies also fulfilled in the person of Jesus!

That's a lot of coins. As our senior pastor at church is fond of saying, "just let that thought rest against your mind for a moment".

This Christmas I think Rachel was secretly hoping for a car with a bow around it in the driveway but that wasn't in the budget. She knows that this spring she'll likely have something of her own once she gets her license. She actually had just a very small list of things for us to consider; nothing at all spendy. She was happy with a knockoff pair of Uggs from Maurice's for $25 rather than the real thing for at least $100 more. She had a few CD requests, one of which was Frank Sinatra. She's got a thing for his music which I don't understand but then I wouldn't expect her to understand my fondness for Supertramp.

Probably the biggest request she had was her new cellphone.

I very much respect that she isn't a needy person and is more than happy with all we do for her. If anything, it makes me want to do all that much more for her as I know she's appreciative. I never dreamed that being a stepdad could or would be so rewarding.

Tammy's main gift this year was a Cricut. It's funny—we went to buy it for her the other night and there was another guy mulling them over. He didn't think the person he was buying it for would actually use it but it's what they wanted. Rachel and I were thinking the same thing about Tammy/Mom. We bought it anyway as that's what she wanted and there will no doubt be times when she'll use it. It's not like I'm going to be flying my RC plane on a regular basis either so who am I to criticize?

Speaking of my RC plane...

Last summer I went through a phase where I sort of wanted a remote control airplane. I didn't want it bad enough to go out and buy one but I did my share of window shopping online for one. It wasn't intended to be a hint to Tammy but she took it as one and I'm now the proud owner of a Wingo. It's the perfect plane for a beginner as it's more forgiving than most others.

I'll know soon enough how forgiving it is once the weather warms a bit.

I went online looking at YouTube videos of the Wingo in action and came across an idea for my next project...attaching a video camera to the plane and getting some video of our neighborhood from a few hundred feet up. Check this out. There's a bit of a geek lurking within me and this sort of thing definitely appeals to that part of me.

We had our annual Christmas office party this past Sunday at work. We were a little disappointed with the turnout but for those of us who took the time to put the event together, we all agreed it was all worthwhile. Actually, we pride ourselves on the tackiness of the event so don't go feeling sorry for us. Roll the video.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

mr Mark

I was talking with Ron S and mr Mark at the front desk yesterday. The three of us were joking about playing hockey a dozen years earlier. I reminded Ron how I'd kicked his ass in a race on the ice back in the day but he said I had it all wrong. We were both a couple of hacks but In closing our conversation I replied that there was a labor/management war going on around here and that I couldn't be seen talking with them. A totally tongue-in-cheek remark. I didn't think anything else of it.

I was sitting in the area a couple hours later waiting to go home when mr M came up to me, leaned in and said softly, "I have never disrespected you as a controller." I didn't know what to think as I wasn't sure where he was coming from. A couple minutes later he came up to me once again and repeated what he'd just said. I asked him what he was referring to. He said that I was disrespectful when I was talking with Ron and him. He said that if I had a problem with the way things were going around here that I should write my letters and do whatever but that he wasn't to blame. Oh, I see where this is coming from. I totally disagreed with his approach and although he wasn't making sense I was able to understand how his angry mind was working.

A couple months earlier I'd had a conversation with mr Mark about the imposed work rules; management calls it a contract. What I did without realizing it at the time was committing a fundamental sin against mr Mark. You don't disagree with him. I'd heard several others say this in the past but I'd not seen it or experienced it directly. Mr. Mark had been waiting for his opportunity to try and put me back in my place. My conversation with him and Ron was apparently the moment he'd been waiting for.

It was (my) Friday afternoon and I was on my way out the door when mr Mark laid that on me. I wasn't sure what to make of it. I contemplated his comments on my way home trying to make sense of it. Was I really disrespectful? Maybe I wasn't getting it. I picked up the phone when I got home and called Ron at work to ask him if he felt I was being disrespectful. He laughed and thought I was joking. I told him I was joking earlier when the three of us were talking but that I wasn't now. Ron said, "absolutely not, Kevin". He said there was nothing disrespectful about anything I'd said. That's what I thought. I told him not to mention the situation as I didn't want to make an issue of it.

This morning I was riding my rollers and still thinking about the comments mr Mark had made to me. I interrupted my workout and decided to call him at work and see if he could elaborate more as to how I'd disrespected him. I called the desk and he answered. I politely told him that I was troubled by what he'd said yesterday and that I disagreed with his interpretation of our discussion with Ron. His response was that he felt disrespected and that's all that mattered. I told him that there was no disrespect intended and he said it didn't matter; just that he felt disrespected. I said that it was his choice; he could believe what he wanted but that he was wrong.  I was bewildered because my comments were directed at Ron in the first place and not at mr Mark. If Ron wasn't feeling disrespected by my poking fun at him then how was it that mr Mark took it the way he did? 

I climbed back on my bike and tried my best to work off my frustration but to be honest, I wasn't very successful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dan Fogelberg and Phone Env

I was saddened to hear of the death of Dan Fogelberg on Sunday. It's been many years since I've purchased any of his music but one CD of his is in my top ten: Netherlands. I have one memory in particular of being in Hong Kong while in port during my Navy days and having his song, Netherlands, run through my head. It's odd how some memories remain with us all these years later.

Our family plan with Sprint expired this week and we took the opportunity to move over to Verizon. No particular reason other than Rachel said that most of her friends were using it and that they like it. The 3 of us also upgraded our phones to the LG Env. It's larger than I'm used to but I like it. The 2mp camera will actually get some use, unlike other phone cameras I've had.

We weren't sure which text plan to have for Rachel so I looked at our history with Sprint to get an idea what she would need. This past month she had over 1400 text messages...and that's without a boyfriend. We got her a plan with unlimited text messages between Verizon customers and 1500 texts between other providers. I told her that if she does get a boyfriend he'll need to be a Verizon customer. I got the look.

There's been a bit of a thaw in the frozen relationship I've had with my older sister for the past too many months and I'm thankful for that. Life is too short.

Happy holidays and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

House-Hop and the Holidazzle

We had our neighborhood house-hop last weekend with about 12 couples joining in. It's always a fun time and usually a late night. The hit of the party was without question, Guitar Hero, at Tom and Mary Wignall's home. Neither Tammy nor I had ever played it before but that didn't stop Tammy from trying the classic over the head and behind the back position with the guitar once she got it strapped on. We both really sucked but had a great time trying.

Little does Tammy know that I went out and purchased a Play Station 2 the other night with intentions of buying Rock Band when it arrives in stores on Wednesday. A family Christmas gift. I can see Tammy and I entertaining ourselves for hours while Rachel looks on and wonders what's becoming of us. I think the three of us could put together a tight little band with just a bit of work. I'll be on the skins.

Rachel came home from school on Thursday and wondered if we could head into Minneapolis that night for the Holidazzle parade. It was a great idea and one I'd been kicking around the past couple weeks as well. The Lakeville Now and Then Singers were going to be performing in the parade and she wanted to see them. I think it's been five years since we've taken in the Holidazzle.

We bundled up and headed out with plenty of time to spare so we could hit a coffee shop once we got on the parade route. The temp was in the single digits and a hot cup in your hands helps keep the chill at bay. We brought hand warmers too.

The parade was what it always is, a bit on the lame side but still worth the effort to go see it. Anything for an excuse to get out and do something in the dead of winter in our part of the world is good enough for me.

After the parade, we headed up to the 8th floor of Macy's to see their animated Christmas display, their 45th annual. This year's feature was the Nutcracker.

It was a fun time and I, of course, had our video camera along...

I've been getting on my rollers several days a week trying not to lose the gains I've made. Indoor training can be a bit monotonous at times so I've got to have a diversion from the pain. I find that tapes and DVDs of bicycle races work well to distract me. I was watching some footage from the 2000 Tour de France and had it on the big screen. It was almost as though I was actually riding in the peloton...very cool...until the pack veered left to avoid a fallen rider and I veered left as well...right off my rollers. Quite funny actually but I've got to be more careful. We took some time yesterday to snap our family photo for our 2007 Christmas cards. If you're on our list you'll be seeing this photo again real soon. Notice what we put our poor pups through.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Google Maps, Street View

Have you looked on Google Maps Street View, to see if you were out and about when the Google van taking street-view photos came by? It looks as though I was just finishing mowing our yard. Either that or I'm just getting started.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bringing it Indoors, 28 Years Ago Today and The Golden Compass

Fall riding weather is nothing more than a distant memory since we got dumped on with nearly ten inches of snow in the last week. The roads out of our neighborhood are still quite snow-packed but the main roads are fine. The last few winters I've shunned my indoor trainer for whatever clear roads I could find, sometimes riding in temps as cold as zero. Winter riding in Minnesota is doable but there are two big obstacles: frozen toes and the lack of daylight.

Up until a little over a week ago, I was searching for some warmer shoes for winter riding with plans of once again riding outdoors through the winter months. That approach changed when I came across a thread on the Serotta forum and some input from a respected poster who couldn't say enough good things about TruTrainer rollers. I very much respect what this poster (who goes by the name of 11.4) has to say. I'd been kicking around the idea of bringing my training back indoors and 11.4's recommendation of these rollers was just the shove I needed.

I bought my first set of rollers in 1980 just after getting out of the Navy. They served me well until I replaced them with a Cateye Cyclosimulator 1000 which I've had for a dozen years. It too gives a good workout but rollers are different. You can actually fall off them if you're not paying attention. Not that there are all that difficult to ride because they're not but they do require some bike handling skill.

TruTrainer rollers are different than others in that the middle roller is weighted and acts as a flywheel. Unlike other rollers where you can go from zero to thirty mph in under ten seconds, you can't do that with TruTrainer rollers. The effect of having one of the rollers weighted is that it much more accurately simulates the resistance of the road. When you're pedaling along at 20mph on TruTrainer rollers you're actually using a similar amount of energy that would be required of you out on the road.

Riding indoors is never the same as being outdoors but I'll get a better workout on my rollers than if I were to be out on the road in the dead of winter with legs muscles too cold for higher reps. I still plan to do my share of winter riding but it'll take a back seat to my indoor training. The photo of me to the left was taken nearly 28 years ago. Here's me today. How does the saying go...the more things change the more they stay the same? It appears my headphones have gotten considerably smaller but I can tell you that some of the music going through them is the same.

Speaking of 28 years ago: it was 28 years ago today that I finished my enlistment and returned home to Minnesota. If I were to do it all over again I don't think I'd change a thing. Those were the most carefree days of my life and I knew it while I was living them.

Rachel is going with her youth group from Prince of Peace to see the Golden Compass tomorrow night. The movie is based on a book written by Philip Pullman, a self-described atheist and agnostic. There's been a fair amount of talk about the movie and for the most part, it's been quite critical in that the trilogy of books the movie is based on is apparently a slam at people of faith. Rachel doesn't really want to pay for a ticket to see it but she wants to attend with her group. I suggested that she pay for a ticket to see some other movie with a similar start time but use the ticket to see the Golden Compass instead. That way she wouldn't be supporting someone who is dissing our God.

I know—that's not was Jesus would do.

I think it's quite possible that the critics are making more of this than there really is. What sort of message does it send to somebody who goes to see it with a preconceived idea that it's some sort of sinister attempt to mislead them but they walk away feeling it was nothing of the sort?

Rachel mentioned her intentions to her youth leader and he expressed his dislike for the idea because it was being dishonest. She countered with, "but what about the underground railroad?" Her youth leader wasn't buying it. "But what about Schindler's list? He was being dishonest." He still wasn't agreeing with her. He said that the writer was likely only getting a few cents of every ticket sold. She said it didn't matter how much he was getting. It was the idea that he was getting any of her money at all that mattered. I love the way she thinks.

Edit: Rachel went to see the show and had a very hard time following it. It's one of those shows where you really need to read the book as there isn't enough time for the movie to develop the characters. I suppose some will say that that's part of the plan.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tammy, and Taking Shots

It is truly better to give than to receive. Tammy turned 50 today. I was ahead of the game with her birthday this year having ordered her a Dell laptop a couple weeks ago and getting all the accessories during the past week. Rachel and I gave it to her today and she was so happy that she cried. I honestly wasn't expecting that reaction but her tears brought tears to my eyes as well. She is so thankful and I'm very happy for her.

The laptop she's been using is our 7-year-old Sony Viao and while it still works fine and has plenty of hard drive space it was beginning to hang up much more often as the processor wasn't keeping up with some of her programs. Reformatting wasn't the answer.

I just spent the last couple hours getting it set up for her. It's a nice little machine. I hooked up some Creative speakers to it and they have a very nice sound. She's upstairs getting familiar with it as I blog.

Whereas I had a difficult time accepting 50, Tammy is perfectly fine with it and looking forward to her senior discount menu in another 5 years. I suppose I too should embrace it gracefully.

In my previous entry I posted a letter from the former president of the union I belong to. It was a heartfelt letter and one which I believed in and did what the writer requested by posting it in other forums for wide dissemination. I wasn't prepared for the ridicule his letter would receive from one of the forums I'd posted it to. Rather than continue to engage the people who had nothing better to do than tear John down for his approach and his beliefs I decided to back out and leave the group to their own.

Matthew 7:6

Here's the forum and the thread I'm referring to. It's from one of the stained glass message boards I frequent. To be honest, it's not much of a group anymore for that matter as the owner of the forum, Angel (the long-winded one), has done well to cause them all to leave. The thread I started is likely the most activity the board has seen in some time. I'm sorry I ever began the thread after seeing how it devolved.

Bashing Christians is one of the latest sports and takes very little talent; just a good amount of ignorance. You really can't engage these people. In some respects what they say has some truth to it in regard to how people within the church have done all sorts of damage to unsuspecting people, often children. There can be no defense or explanation for that. We've had our own disappointment with a local church a couple years ago. However, I'd love for these people to accompany Tammy, Rachel and I to Hosanna on Tuesday night and see the sort of outreach which is occurring. I'd love for them to attend any of our worship services and hear the words being spoken by our ministers. Hosanna is such a positive force and influence not only in our little corner of the world but across the globe. I look forward to when we retire and can more fully involve ourselves even more than we're doing now.

Face Lift

Please excuse me while I give my blog a facelift over the next couple days.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

John Carr...a Tip of My Hat

I began working on a post for today but then I was reading a blog I check in on daily and came across something written by my union's former president, John Carr. It's not often you see someone put themselves out there as John does with this post but when they do it's impossible not to take notice. I've never met John but I've admired his ability to convey his passion through his pen for some time.

Whatever it was I had to say today can wait.

Very Important, PLEASE Read And Forward

I cannot get the thought of her out of my mind. I cannot sleep when I think of her. Which is why I am up now, typing this.

What? What must have happened to cause two parents to beat their adorable, blond haired, blue eyed TWO YEAR OLD daughter with leather belts, hold her head under water, fling her across the room in a rage that fractured her skull in three places, place her in plastic bags and a Sterlite box, leave it in the garage for two months, then toss it into Galveston Bay? Their reasoning---that the beating was designed to get the two year old to start saying "please" and "thank you" and "yes sir"---makes me unbelievably angry. A two year old should be wearing tiaras and looking for Santa and learning to use the potty and mimicking the Wiggles and giggling at Tigger and Pooh.

This story reveals that little "Baby Grace" was actually Riley Ann Sawyers, the young child of a Mentor, Ohio woman. This other story is noteworthy because I want to salute the dedication and professionalism of the Galveston Sheriffs Department in pursuing this case with speed and vigor. The picture of Major Ray Tuttoilmondo holding up the dead child's sneaker is another image I could have done without and will never lose.

Jill and I have talked about this before. Most recently when one of these hit the news here. In Cleveland just a few weeks ago a woman drowned her two beautiful daughters in the bathtub in the middle of the afternoon, then called the husband---no saint, but at least he was at work---to tell him the girls were at peace. When he got home they were dead. Jill and I both had the same reaction: we would have taken them.

We have the same reaction every time. Susan Smith, convicted of the drowning of her two sons. Andrea Yates, convicted of the drowning of three of her five children. Deanna Laney, called the "rock mom," killed her young sons by beating them with a rock. Dena Schlosser chopped up her baby girl. Melissa Drexler went out on the dance floor after killing her little newborn son and asked for Metallica`s "Unforgiven." Amy Grossberg's newborn son was found bludgeoned to death in a motel trash bin.

Jill and I have wondered if there is a place parents can go when they are out of control, or out of options, or out of their mind, or if they just don't want to be parents any more. If they go to Social Services they get tagged a problem parent. If they go to the police they may or may not get help, but again, with a judgment and a price. And if they reveal their true feelings, they may need a lawyer more than they need a respite.

We actually discussed opening a storefront for just this purpose, a safe house for babies, until more rational people reminded us of how quickly we would become a drop-off babysitting service. "Yeah, I'm thinking about beating my kids between seven and nine thirty on Friday night. Fandango two tickets to "Saw IV" for me and we'll pick the little brats up at ten."

But we are haunted by the hopelessness of so many, and we feel powerless to help unless we do something.

So here's the deal: If you, or someone you know, is at the end of their rope with their kids, or can't do it anymore, or for whatever reason is contemplating drastic measures or terrible thoughts---don't. We'll take your kid, or kids. For a day, a month, or the rest of their lives. They will be raised with love and Christian values in a house full of fun and laughter and tears and chores and hurt feelings and broken toys and "he's looking at me" and "she stole my singing turn" and 'Wow, Wow Wubbzy' and a ton of laundry.


We are not in the market for a child. We are not trying to be martyrs or heroes. We simply cannot let another day go by without shouting from the rooftop---my little Internet rooftop in this case---please. Don't hurt that child. Please. We are not perfect, but we do our best and God helps us out a lot, and we want people to know there is a credible, safe alternative to putting a child in a plastic box and throwing them into the ocean.

We won't tell anyone you don't want to know. We will not stand in judgment of you. We will not ask for anything from you. We will not place you or your family in danger or scrutiny. We will not blog about you, or gossip, or brag, or complain. We will do everything in our power to respect your wishes. The child will know you if you want them to. They will not if you do not. We will love your baby. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, mixed, you name it. We will adopt them if you want us to, or not. Just don't hurt them. Please.

We're talking little kids here, really, sort of six and under, the ones that you always hear about getting hit or hurt or hurled. I know there are other ages in danger but honestly we aren't yet equipped to handle them...simply because we have not "been there and done that," and also because we don't have four closets full of pre-teen and up clothes!

What we DO have are Cereal Killers. Put a box of Lucky Charms in between them and it is dead. They are fun, hard, puzzling, cute, maddening, and more work than I would wish on anybody. And yes, they can be frustrating and difficult and incredibly complex and migraine-inducing. I go through the largest Band-Aid box Costco sells every month or two because of this owie or that boo-boo. They like to say "booty" because they know they are supposed to say "heinie." So what. I also taught them to say "succulent" when they taste something delicious, and that freaks out the pre-K teacher. But they are kids, and their happiness and anger and moods pass as quickly as their breaths sometimes, and they are the complete and utter joy of our lives.

And we wouldn't have it any other way.

This offer is completely serious, open indefinitely and you would be doing me a favor if you would cross-post it to other web sites, blog places and anywhere someone in need or desperation might see it. You can email me at or call me on my cell phone anytime at 440-986-0242. We are trustworthy, honest, sincere, and profoundly serious.

I'm going to leave this posting up until Monday morning, because the weekend traffic is lighter than normal and I would like it to get the widest possible dissemination. Please forward this message to people you know who have massive email mailing lists, and ask them to send it around.

And pray for all the little kids.

They're just little kids.