Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Particular Place to Be

Rachel is quickly learning the ropes of her job at the flower shop in Bloomington. She commented on a vase of Lillis Tammy had on our kitchen table and asked: "Are those Stargazer Lilies?" She works two days a week doing odd jobs while taking orders in person and on the phone. It's a good summer gig which leaves her plenty of time to put her feet up and recharge her batteries before she begins her sophomore year of college. It sounds like the kind of job where they'll be able to use her whenever she's home on break so there's no need for her to have to beat the pavement looking for work while competing with the masses of kids all doing the same thing.

I'm fair-skinned. I typically spend way too much time outdoors in the warmer months for my own good so I see a dermatologist a couple of times each year to be checked for any suspicious spots on my body that may potentially develop into skin cancer.  The spots are frozen and after a week or two, they're healed over and gone.

In addition to the spot-treatment, my dermatologist prescribed a new procedure for me (I had it done last week) that could only be described as a chemical peel of sorts. It's called Photodynamic Therapy and its purpose is to remove developing problems before they take hold. For about two days after the treatment, you're left looking like you got a bad sunburn, then the peeling begins.

A few days after I had it done I asked Tammy if she thought I looked any younger and she thought I did; "Ten minutes younger. Maybe" she replied. Hmmm. Not what I wanted to hear.

When I was 9 years old my parents moved our family of 8 into a new home they'd had built in Bloomington, Minnesota. The area then was still very much undeveloped and for the first couple of years there was so much untouched land for a kid to explore. I spent a lot of my time in search of frogs, snakes, turtles, pollywogs, skinks, mudpuppies and whatever other small creatures caught my eye. I once hatched a mosquito larva in a fishbowl on the nightstand in my bedroom. I remember seeing it fully emerged from the water and stretching its wings on the rim of the bowl. I let it go outside.

Very few weeks went by where I wasn't bitten at least once by a garter snake. It would only sting for a few seconds and they typically wouldn't bite more than once. Getting regularly bit went with the territory and I don't think I thought twice about it.

I cobbled together holding pens for some of my finds and tended to their needs. For my snakes, that meant a diet of frogs. I not only had to find the frogs but I had to catch them too and that wasn't always so easy. Why I didn't have a net I have no idea but I had a bowl. I'd sneak up behind a frog and try to trap it under the bowl before it had a chance to jump away. It was a mostly unsuccessful method. Then one day I had a eureka moment. I wondered if it would be possible to deliver a knockout blow to a frog's head then pick it up as it lay unconscious? I proceeded to find a tree branch a few feet long that I could use to do the deed.

It worked beautifully!

One quick whack and the frog never knew what hit it. It was like shooting ducks in a barrel. A few minutes later the frog would spring back to life in the confines of whatever container I was using. I was so excited about my discovery that I had to tell my dad as soon as he got home from work that night. I remember him following me to the pond I'd been working just a few doors down from our home (and what would eventually become the site of Bloomington, Jefferson Senior High School). I raced ahead to find my next victim. I showed him how easy it was and gave him my branch to give it a try.


He splattered the frog's head wide open.

"Not so hard, Dad!" A couple more attempts and he had it down.

I can't say it was a bonding moment between my dad and me but for the first time in my life, I was teaching him something rather than the other way around.

Before long my interest in hunting frogs and other reptiles would be replaced by a hunt of a different sort—that of golfballs along the 4th hole at Highland Greens, a mile west from where we lived. Any right-handed golfer with a tendency to slice the ball brought the fenced-off field into play and added to my potential bounty. I'd display my shiny finds in egg cartons with the ball's name facing up at golfers as the perused my collection while waiting their turn to play. A ball in excellent shape could easily net me .75c. $5.00 to $7.00 for an afternoon's work was good money to a 14-year-old who never got an allowance.

What's become of that world I used to know?

Hmmm—it appears that I've gotten a little sidetracked here with no particular direction in mind for this blog post. But I'm on vacation this week and I think that's how vacations should be...no particular place to be but at that moment—at least some vacations anyway. And that's where I'm at now—no particular place to be except where my mind takes me. And so I'm reminiscing.

Thanks for joining me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What Else is New?

It was nice to take my Thursday and Friday off from work this week even though it caused me to not be able to keep my days straight. Thursday became Friday and Friday was Saturday. How will I ever manage when I'm retired? I'm sure I'll find a way. I'll be in the every-day-is-Saturday mode then so I don't suppose it will matter much.

I really struggled at Foci this week. Anybody who's been doing this any length of time will tell you that there will always be days like that. I felt tired and not all that focused. Definitely not the best mindset to have when trying to blow glass. Tammy did well so I was happy for her. We've decided to expand our knowledge base and shift our focus to making bowls. We're not going to bother with adding color until we've got a decent grasp of the steps for making them. Adding color adds considerably to the prep time which would be better spent just practicing the form. Besides, color costs extra and a good many of our early pieces will likely not make it into the annealer. I think our goal is that maybe we'll each do one tumbler and three or four bowls per session.

The photo to the left is of some of my efforts from the last couple of weeks.

Our neighborhood is on the move with three for-sale signs going up this week. Rick and Jene are looking to ease into townhome living. Greg and Mary are wanting to downsize now that they're empty-nesters and I'm not sure about the other family. These are all really good people so it's not good to see them go.

And speaking of moving; I spent a good part of Thursday helping Paul and Kate load up for their move to Montana. I got there just in time to help with Kate's pianoThey've been residents at the Woods apartments in Burnsville for the past 28 years and we've been blessed to have them as a really nice addition to our small group at church for the last two years. They're in for quite a change—from a large apartment complex to a home-on-the-range with mountains as a backdrop. But what a nice change for them it will be!

Tammy and I have been talking about driving out to see my brother Bryan and his wife Sue in Portland. We could easily make whatever slight diversion would be necessary along the way to visit with Paul and Kate as well.

Mom has been glued to the TV when she's at home, tuned into the Casey Anthony trial. It was funny—I was talking to her on the phone the other day and she was going on and on about the trial. After 5 minutes I finally had to interrupt her to ask her "what else is new?". I remember how my dad was so engrossed by the O.J. Simpson murder trial. I'm sure he'd have been outraged had he lived long enough to see its conclusion but he died one month too soon for that.

The Decorah eaglets have 'branched', meaning they're out of the nest but they haven't flown off yet. They're expecting that to happen anytime now but most likely closer to the end of June.

I came home Thursday afternoon to an army of workers ripping up the street in front of our house. It's gotten so bad the last few years that I actually called the city last summer to see if they had any plans for resurfacing. I was glad to see them out there not just doing more patchwork. I was talking with a city inspector overseeing the operation and she said the money to pay for the work comes from a maintenance fund and not from assessments to individual owners. That's nice to know.

Rachel is beginning to explore other career options as she prepares for her 2nd year of college. She's been talking about pursuing a degree as a physician but last night she texted me with concerns about doing that and having a family. Not that she can't do both but the additional schooling and residency requirements would cause her to put any of those desires on hold for much longer. With that in mind, she's now thinking of Physician's Assistant (rated #2 on CNN Money, Best Jobs in America 2010) which would still be a 6-year degree. The career comes with exceptional job prospects and security but also with high-stress levels.

I'm not all that worried about her ability to manage stress; I think she'll do fine. My main concern is that she's happy in life no matter what path she chooses and so far I like the direction she's headed and the choices she's making.

Monday, June 13, 2011

They're Back and Preparing for a Double

My recurring dream is back. It's been a while since I last dreamt it and I would've been quite happy if it never revisited me. It's about as disturbing as any dream I can remember. I used to have a couple of pet Cockatiels years ago and one of them was especially sweet and dear to me. In the dream, I go down into a part of our basement that's secluded from the rest of our house, a place where I seldom go. When I open the door I find the birdcage with both Coocoo and Coconut inside. I'm shocked because I've totally forgotten that they were there and it's been months since I've fed them or given them fresh water. They're so neglected although they don't appear to be. I feel terrible and I'm profoundly sad. It usually occurs to me the next morning that I had the dream again and it leaves me both disturbed and with a sense of relief that it was only a dream.

This is about as personal as I get in my blog about my former life. I'm not sure what the dream/night-scare means. I used to think it was possibly metaphoric of the relationship between myself and my former wife, Noy. When we parted, it took longer than it should have to get over the fact that I was no longer responsible for any aspect of her life. It probably took Tammy's words to help me fully grasp that. Considering the dream, I thought that maybe the birds were symbolic of some leftover feelings of responsibility I subconsciously had for Noy. I really don't think they are but I have no way of knowing for certain. But I do feel the birds in the dream represent some sort of neglect. What that is exactly I can't say.

We were back at Foci both Thursday and Friday. I think I'm getting to a point where I'm ready to move on to forms other than the tumblers I've been making. I'd mentioned that I really wanted to understand the basics well before trying to confuse my limited knowledge with lots of other variables that are inherent to different forms. But I think I'm ready to begin pushing the process again. In fact, Steve mentioned to us on Thursday in so many words the same thing—that it's time. That didn't stop me, however, from experimenting with a couple more tumblers trying to make two of similar shape, size, and coloring. They worked out well. I hope to post photos next week. I've always been a perfectionist so it takes some doing for me to accept that none of the stuff I'll be putting out for a long long time will be anywhere near perfect. We like to refer to our efforts as handmade because that's how they appear.

I took advantage of some cooler weather Saturday to spend the afternoon and early evening on my bike working on getting my legs accustomed to longer distances in preparation for possibly another 200-mile ride (referred to as a 'double', as in double century) in the next few weeks. There was a route in Wisconsin that I wanted to take as it's been a few years since I'd last done it and the winds were ideal to head that way. I got away in the early afternoon but I wasn't sure I had the determination I needed to do what I had my heart set on. Still, I pedaled off and hoped I'd find that resolve out on the road and possibly the sun as well. There's something freeing about having all of my work done at home and no commitments to have to hurry back for. I settled into a comfortable pace and began to steadily tick off the miles, my Garmin Edge 705 beeping after each set of 10. I called Tammy at 40 miles to see if she was interested in dinner at Outback later. We had a date.

I stopped to refuel 52 miles into the ride at a Freedom gas station north of Hudson, Wisconsin. I chatted a little with another cyclist outside as we took in our calories. I told him I was heading toward Stillwater and he cautioned me about the hill leading to the bridge just east of the city. "It's a nasty hill," he said. I tucked the information away. It would be good information to have. I headed off again.

Seven miles later, making the turn off the main highway toward Stillwater I was finally able to turn the headwind I'd been working against most of the ride into a tailwind. I quickly found the "nasty hill". It was all I could do to get my bike stopped before the bottom where a steady stream of Saturday afternoon traffic on WI-64 had the right-of-way and I desperately needed to stop to avoid making the news. I was in serious jeopardy of losing it but managed to bale-out toward the shoulder of the oncoming lane. I definitely breathed a sigh of relief. The 1:50 point of the ride video catches the beginnings of the hill.
I pocketed my Droid as soon as I realized I had my hands full.

Leaving Stillwater I had 58 miles behind me but knew I likely had that many more miles to go. I was feeling fine and hoping that feeling wouldn't soon fade. I used our dinner-date at Outback for motivation. It worked.

Five miles from home I got a text from Rachel telling me to hurry because she was starving. "Good," I thought...not good that she was starving but good that she would be joining us. Her company is always welcome.

116 miles/187 kilometers

Monday, June 6, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day

My little-blog-that-could keeps plugging along at over 7.5 years old. I have no idea how long I'll continue to write to it but hopefully, for years to come. I sometimes see other bloggers posting apologies on their blogs for not writing more frequently and promising to do a better job. I see no need to do that, not just because I write here regularly (although not necessarily frequently) but because I do this primarily for me. That others find it interesting enough to follow along is a bonus and I'm grateful for that. Thank you.

I'm big into reminiscing and have been ever since I've been old enough to have something to reminisce about I suppose. So when you see (as you will toward the end of this piece) a video of a ride I did over the weekend it may seem like a boring video to anybody else but to me, there's going to be some significance to it in 10 or 20 years. I imagine how cool it would be to have video from some of the rides I did when I first began seriously riding in San Diego, California while in the Navy. I can't recapture those moments but I can preserve some of what's happening in my life today.

That's the main thrust behind a lot of what I do in my blog. I want an archive of moments in my life that are preserved as best I can. So when you see something that seems meaningless, there's probably something in the details that I want to be able to recall much later.

Rachel came with us to Foci on Thursday to observe our limited glassblowing skills. It was fun to have her there and explain the process. It didn't take long before she was mixing glass bits of color for us to use. She mentioned at one point that this was a hobby not many people do and that she thought Mom and I are somewhat hippie-like in our interest in the art. I'll take that as a compliment.

I was really happy for Tammy as she had a good day in the studio and I think her confidence is better than ever. Confidence is key.

Tammy is still tuning in daily to the Decorah Eagles. She was sitting at her desk the other day with her piece-of-junk Dell laptop tuned to the eagle cam but not paying attention to it. I poked my head in the door to her office and said, "Hey, one of the babies just flew out of the nest!" That caught her attention quicker than anything I can remember as she spun around in her chair to look. It was a good laugh! But it won't be long before they actually do leave the nest. I was talking to her tonight and she was so excited telling me that she was watching tonight as they were all testing their wings and momentarily getting airborne while hovering over the nest. The first of three eaglets was born 9 weeks ago and I read something somewhere that said they usually leave the nest between weeks 10 and 12.

Rachel has been putting in applications around Lakeville and neighboring cities in search of a summer job but without any success. She came home from her dad's this morning and said a friend of her dad has a flower shop across the river in Bloomington and has offered her a job taking orders over the phone and doing whatever other miscellaneous jobs they may have for her. It sounds like a great summer gig and the job is hers if she wants it. She wanted to check with us first as she'd have to use one of our vehicles. That's no problem. She's worked in the past teaching dance the last couple of years before college so it's not really her first job but it may seem like it to her simply because dance is something she loves.

Summer has arrived in a really nice way to our part of the world with temps regularly in the 80s. It's more than welcome. I got out Saturday afternoon for a long ride trying to get some much-needed miles in my legs. I'm so far behind in my cycling fitness for where I usually am at this time of year and it showed but I still managed 113 miles (182 kilometers).

Boring ride video done for my benefit but feel free to have a look.

I'm not much for country music but a very good friend of mine recently turned me on to an artist from Norway, Kurt Nilsen who sings country. This country music I like...a lot! Kurt was a plumber before becoming the winner of Idol Norway. He then went on to win World Idol in 2004 beating out competitors from ten other nations including favorite Kelly Clarkson from the US.

He's very good.