Sunday, February 27, 2011

Working to Slow Down

We got 15" of snow out of last Sunday's storm. This winter is reminding me of how I recall the winters from my youth in the mid-'60s. Apparently, we're close to setting a record for total winter snowfall. We may as well at this point but once we've reached it I really hope this stops abruptly. I'm past ready. In the 18+ years I've been in our home, we've never had snowbanks like this at the bottom of our driveway.

Tammy and I spent Thursday afternoon at Foci working on the glassblowing fundamentals we've learned. We were greeted by Roxanne at the back step as we arrived and fortunately for her we had a bag of sunflower seeds, suet, and dried corn-on-the-cob. She's a sweet little girl.

We'll be back in the studio both Thursday and Friday this coming week.

With a family history of chipped and cracked teeth, I suppose I should consider myself fortunate to have gone this long without the need for a crown but my luck has finally run out. I was in the dentist's chair last Friday morning for over two and a half hours having a back tooth fitted for a temporary crown. The procedure could've gone better. They shot me up with Novocain then let me sit for nearly 45 minutes while the lone dentist worked on an emergency walk-in patient. It gave me plenty of time to mess with my Droid and photo myself in various poses and change my Facebook profile pic. My last ten minutes of the procedure were the ten most difficult minutes I've ever spent in a dentist's chair. It had nothing to do with pain. I simply couldn't lay in that position any longer and wanted out. I've never experienced that.

We're in the book of Acts in our small-group at Hosanna. I've only been in one other small group and never in one where we took a book from the bible and dissected it as we are with this one. There's simply no comparison between reading scripture on your own and reading it with others while asking questions that delve into a deeper understanding. Tammy is the lead for our studies for the most part but I'll occasionally step up.

Speaking of dissection, I got a text from Rachel a couple nights ago: "Guess where I'm gonna be next monday". "where" I replied. "Cadaver lab at Mayo :)))". "I'm so excited! It'll be an experience I won't forget." I'm curious to see how it goes for her. I think she said once that a person never knows for sure ahead of time how they'll react to that experience. I think she'll do fine.

When Rachel had her dance recital this past spring with the studio she'd been with for years, we assumed it would be the last time we'd watch her dance in that sort of setting. I remember how sad it left Tammy (Actually, I was too pumped from the Dads' Dance to be sad). But we were mistaken. Because UMR is such a young campus, they lack the many activities of a more established campus; no team sports or even a campus newspaper, but they do have ballroom dancing. I remember how excited she was to see an article in the StarTribune last year about their ballroom dance team. It was around the time she'd settled on UMR as her choice of college.

This weekend her ballroom dance team competed in the Star of the North DanceSport Classic in Minneapolis. It included dancers from all over the region, as far away as Illinois. Rachel took two 1st place finishes. She and Nick won in the Cha Cha which consisted of three or four separate elimination dances to pair down the field of 23 couples to determine the winners.

It was a long day for everyone with the competition beginning at 8:30 in the morning and not finishing until nearly 11:30 at night. Rachel thoroughly enjoyed herself and although Tammy had to be in the office most of the day she was able to see a few hours of the evening performance.

I'd really hoped to have our final panel done this weekend but I simply ran out of time with all we had going on. I put in close to 15 hours on it but still came up short. It was one of those weekends where going back to the salt mine today was the only way to slow down. The story of my days off but I don't think I'd change a thing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On Second Thought

I was driving to work last Sunday afternoon to begin my week with a much-welcomed snow-melt underway. A couple of days in the upper 40s during the week made a nice dent in our accumulated snow, so much so that our sump-pumps began running later in the week. But this is Minnesota. We've got a major winter storm bearing down on us with snow totals of 10-16" expected by sometime Monday. Today's drive into work wasn't nearly as nice as last week.

Normally I'd have been out on my bike taking advantage of the mild weather but my focus was on glass for the better part of my weekend. Both blown and stained. Tammy and I had two separate sessions at Foci on Thursday and Friday which helped us a lot in becoming more comfortable about being back in the glassblowing studio again. Steve spent three hours with us on Thursday bringing us back up to speed and helping to rewire in our brains some of the necessary skills of the art. We're so thankful for his interest in seeing us learn.

Steve has been blowing glass for five years and does some beautiful work. We especially like the pet memorials he creates for holding the ashes of cremated pets. Such a great idea.

I spent a fair amount of the rest of my weekend down in the shop continuing work on the 6th of 6 panels for our entertainment center. It's possible I'll have it done next weekend. That would be nice.

Tammy is on the Sunshine committee where she works and is the go-to person when a card needs to be sent to one of the team members. But rather than buy a card, she chooses instead to personalize each one by making them herself. She's getting more creative all the time...

My Valentines Day card from Tammy: photo 1 and photo 2.

I'm enjoying my time away from my laptop more and more as I continue to break free from the shackles of the net. I do think the internet is a powerful tool and one that I don't want to be without but I'm finding that for me, less is more. My online time is now down to less than 15 minutes on a typical day. So to anybody who thinks I'm maybe ignoring them on Facebook, you'll understand that's not the case at all. I'm simply finding other things to do with my time. My Kindle is one of those "other things".

Speaking of which, I just finished reading an excellent book by Nicholas Sparks called Three Weeks With My Brother. It's a nonfiction story about an around-the-world trip he took with his older brother. The trip itself is mostly just a backdrop for him to reminisce and tell of his life. A compelling story of both dysfunction and relationships. It left me with a clearer understanding of just how lacking the relationships within my own family have been; not just myself but each and every one of us.

I remember years ago when Tammy and I bought Derek Webb's album Mockingbird. I was put off by it because for a Christian artist he seemed to not be in support of our efforts in the Middle East. How could a good Christian person not be for war and stuff? I shelved it. I rediscovered it last summer while uploading music to my MacBook.

On second thought, Derek had it right all along.

Derek Webb, King and a Kingdom

who's your brother, who's your sister
you just walked passed him
I think you missed her
as we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'cause we married into a family of immigrants

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king and a kingdom

there are two great lies that I’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Tammy signed us up for AARP memberships a couple years ago. With our membership, we get their monthly magazine which occasionally has an interesting piece that catches my eye. I noticed this month's issue sitting on our coffee table earlier in the week with a yellow post-it note marking an article titled Rekindling the Flame, It's true: Sex can get better after the kids move out. The bulk of my reading this week has been on my Kindle so I hadn't taken the time to peruse it but I figured Tammy must've bookmarked it for me to see. Hmmm—I kept meaning to ask her about it.

Mom had to go back to Southdale Fairview for another procedure on her pacemaker/defibrillator Tuesday afternoon. The 3rd lead that attaches to the defibrillator portion of her pacemaker had once again come undone and needed to be reattached. While I sat and waited I occupied my time by reading Dear John (I know, a total chick-flick-book) on my Kindle. What should have been a 45-minute operation lasted nearly 3 hours and was ultimately unsuccessful. Doctor Eskos spoke with me post-op and told me she can get by without the defibrillator but eventually there's going to come a time when her heart will need it and it won't be there for her. I could sense his frustration. He took his time detailing for me on the whiteboard in a private waiting room all the varying attempts he and his team had made. He said the only other option for her is one that's much more invasive which would require them to collapse one of her lungs and thread the lead over the exterior of the heart rather than through a vein as they've been attempting. Dr. Eskos said she could expect a 20% increase in her heart's efficiency with the procedure but at this point, she's too weak to be considered for it. Mom is disappointed. She was saying repeatedly before the surgery, "the third time's a charm". Still, she's taking this all in stride and recovering nicely once again.

Tammy and I had a full day on Thursday. We finally got ourselves back to Foci for glassblowing and instruction with Steve. Heavy emphasis on instruction. It had been late last August when we were last at the bench and it showed. Steve was very patient as he walked us through a few pieces before turning us loose to flail away on our own. There are so many things to consider when working with the glass but this much I know for certain: you always need to be thinking 3 steps ahead of what you're currently doing. If I learned nothing else on Thursday I at least learned this.

It felt right to be there and I know without any doubt that this is something I absolutely want to master. Tammy feels the same. We scheduled ourselves for some blocks of hours in the studio over the next two weeks. We're both committed to finally making this more of a priority.

We hurried home from Foci to let the pups out then cleaned up for an evening at Chanhassen Dinner Theater to see Jesus Christ Superstar. What a great show! I commented more than once how it would've been even better to have Rachel with us as I have no doubt she would've enjoyed it too. Don't go there expecting a terrific meal—it's okay, nothing more. The show made up for what the meal lacked. Tammy had been there once before but it was my first time. We'll most definitely be going back.

When Charlie first came to live with us two years ago we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Within the first five minutes of being with us, he'd found Toby and Allie's (mostly Toby's) stash of toys (the 2-minute mark of this video). It hasn't been an easy transition for Toby but he's grown to accept his obnoxious little half-brother; not nearly as quickly as Allie did but he's managing. Toby's playing with Charlie is limited to a match of tug-of-war over one of their toys but it's a start. I had to laugh on Friday morning. Tammy was cleaning her office as she got ready to begin her day of work as a telephone triage nurse. She collected all the toys Charlie had brought in there over the previous day; she counted 9 in all. He's a busy guy.

I spent Saturday working on panel 6 of 6 and made considerable progress. I can't think of many more relaxing endeavors I have than spending time down in the shop working on a project. There's a very peaceful component to doing the art that I crave.  I hope to have this final piece for our entertainment center completed in the next couple of weeks.

But as much as I enjoy working with glass there are several other projects I'd like to work on including some non-stained glass stuff such as model car building. It's been years since I've built a model car but the closer I get to completing this two-year project, the more I find myself dreaming of other distractions to fill my time. Those are welcome thoughts.

I snuck (my spellcheck doesn't like that word but I do) away early Saturday morning with Toby to do some errands (it's part of our routine—he loves the one-on-one time with me—or is it the treat he knows he'll get at the Starbucks drive-up window?). I came home from Target with errands completed and walked into the kitchen with two bags of groceries. Tammy was making herself a cup of coffee and commented to me about the article I'd bookmarked in the AARP magazine. "I didn't do that...I thought you did" I told her. Grins worked their across both of our faces as we came to the realization who had. Rachel!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

32 Year Reunion, Foci and Catching up at Kami

It occurred to me that I forgot to mention in my last update a reunion I had a week ago last Monday night with a friend from my Navy days aboard the USS Fresno: Mike Milner. I'd just gotten home from work and was online checking out the day's postings on Facebook when I got an instant message from Mike. (I need to pause here for just a moment to say that I can't think of any other resource that comes anywhere near to doing what Facebook does with respect to helping people reestablish connections from their past) Mike was in town on a layover and was at Barnes and Noble at Mall of America, stuck in town because Homeland Security had yanked him from his flight back to the Philippines just as he was boarding (a whole other story that I won't go into here). It was just after 7:00pm and I told him to hang tight and that I'd be there in less than a half-hour.

It had been more than 32 years since I'd last seen Mike. He got his discharge papers while we were in the Philippines on our WestPac deployment. He remained in the P.I. several more weeks before heading to the States and home but today, the Philippines is his home as he's semi-retired there.

The one odd thing about seeing someone again after so much time is finding out that not much has really changed. You both look about the same (at least to one another) and you sort of pick up where you left off. Mike has much more hair than when I remembered him but that was about it. The smile was still there as was the voice and mannerisms. Sort of like when I recounted reunions with both Paul and Mike. It was a nice few hours we spent together.

Between my truck and my body, life is becoming more expensive the older we both get. I've had a few issues with my truck lately (ball joints, fuel regulator, tires, and rear axles totaling well over $2000) that have had me wondering if I maybe should've sold it last year and found something much newer. It'll be 10 years old in a few months but still, I suppose it's cheaper than a new vehicle payment, plus I've vowed to keep driving it while Rachel is in college—at least her first 4 years. As for my health, I'm in for some dental work in the next few weeks in the form of my first crown. I've been steadily chipping parts off one of my molars and it's time to cap it. We took out dental insurance last year knowing we'd both need it for work we'll soon be having and our year waiting period is now over. Is there any worse shot than that of Novocain?

Tammy and I finally made it back to Foci yesterday afternoon and were greeted by Roxanne as we came up the back steps. We learned that Danielle (she recently moved to the Pacific Northwest) tamed and named her. We'll be bringing her a bunch of treats (sunflower seeds and suet) when we return next week. It's been months since we've been back and that fact had been weighing on me. We sat and watched Steve and Liz do some pieces to help remind ourselves of the processes involved. We enjoy watching Steve because he's all about explaining exactly what he's doing and why. So much of the technique behind the art is very subtle and easily missed by novices like us.

We made arrangements with Steve to get together with him later next week for a few hours so he can help get us back up to where we're both comfortable practicing our few skills on our own and continuing our progression.

Rachel came back into town this afternoon and spent time on the couch studying with the pups by her side before catching what looked like a much-needed nap. We took her out to dinner to Kami in Apple Valley where we each ordered the all-you-can-eat sushi. It was nice to be able to sit down with her and have her fill us in on school and friends. Her favorite class is Ethics. She's signed up for a spring trip to Memphis as part of a leadership group she's involved with. She was hoping to be the only one from UMR attending but she just learned that a friend of hers will also be going. She wanted to use the trip to meet new people and doesn't want to feel obligated to spend time with her friend rather than mingling. I have no doubt she'll have a ton of new friends when the trip is done.

Speaking of college; we've got one year paid for. How many more remain we're not really sure but we feel blessed to be able to take this burden off of her for now.

Today is a stained glass day to be spent down in the shop making progress on panel 6 of 6 with 107.9 to keep me company and the occasional visits by the pups.

This winter has been one ripe with major snowstorms that have been crippling much of the country including even the southern-most states. It was quite dead at work toward the middle of the week as a snowstorm effectively shut down Chicago, O'hare and much of the east coast causing thousands of flights to be canceled. Rather than being at work taking advantage of that easy money, I was on the DL having had my 2nd colonoscopy in the last 3 years. It looks like I'll be going back again in another 3 years if not sooner thanks to a couple of polyps that are no more.

The snowbank at the bottom of our driveway continues to grow and we've got our snowiest months yet remaining. If I was a kid I can guarantee you that I'd have that mound hollowed out and turned into a killer snow-fort but I'm afraid my tunneling days are a few years behind me.