Sunday, April 29, 2012

So Long, OJ and Heaven for Dogs

Our limited glassblowing skills are slowly making a return as we've recently been able to get back into the studio much more regularly than we've been over the last few months. Last week I was working on a 3-gather piece (as large as I'll attempt at this point) when Steve walked by and commented: "Go big or go home, Kevin!"I had to laugh. I was struggling to get the piece under control because I hadn't let the second gather set up enough before going back in for the third gather and it was all I could do to keep molten glass centered on the pipe. Tammy was a big help, seeing me struggling and lending the extra pair of hands I needed for just a few critical seconds.

I was curious to see how it turned out when we returned to the studio last Thursday. I was very pleased. I don't get to say that too often as I'm often critical of my work, always seeing where I could've done better but not so much with this piece. My largest so far standing 14" tall and 6" at its widest. It's the far left vase in the photo.

Lately, Tammy is feeling so much stress and disappointment from her job as a telephone triage nurse. She's stressed because of the demands they keep making on the nurse staff to limit call-times and the amount of time they spend documenting the call afterward. They're under the gun to hurry through each call but they're also highly scrutinized and held accountable for not gleaning the proper information from the caller and acting on it correctly. She's disappointed because she so wants to help the caller but management doesn't allow her or the others to take the necessary time to do that sufficiently.

They're continually looking for new nurses because they can't keep the ones they have. It seems to me that it's clearly mismanagement of the workforce. There are absolutely no positive strokes being offered to any of the nurses but there's no lack of criticism. It pains me to see her so stressed over it all so we decided a couple days ago that she will leave her job next April (maybe sooner) and be done with nursing for good. It came as a relief to her to know that her countdown has begun and that she's in the final stretch.

Tammy is someone who throws herself into whatever project it is she's involved in, always giving an extra effort. She's a people-pleaser. Rachel is no different. I got a text from Rachel yesterday: "today i am dying 20 pairs of shoes for the ballroom teams performance. Commitment at its finest."

We attended another retirement party for a friend of mine from work. Jimmy Johnson (OJ) retired after (I think) 28 years with the FAA. Jimmy was the kind of guy who would've made an excellent supervisor—the kind of guy you would want in that position but he knew better and was content to work in the trenches his entire career. He will be missed by many and not soon forgotten.

A few photos from the night...

There will be an ever-increasing steady drip of retiring controllers over the next few years as more and more of us who were hired just after the Patco strike of 1981 finish out our careers.

We finally made it out to Ritter Farm Park with the pups over the weekend—twice actually! Friday afternoon and again this morning after church. We figured it would be muddy from a steady rain most of yesterday but it wasn't bad at all. We did the 2.8-mile loop and they loved it.

I'm happy with the quality of the video below taken with my new Sony HDR CX700V video camera. The audio is equally impressive with its separate channels for input making it easy to tell which side of the camera the audio is coming from.

My only regret is in not purchasing the camcorder sooner considering some of the concerts we've seen recently, namely Adele. Tickets to see the BoDeans at the Minnesota Zoo in July go on sale in the morning. We'll be there and I'll have the video to prove it!

Monday, April 16, 2012


It's become obvious to us both that for our glassblowing skills to improve it's necessary that we not miss even one week of glassblowing; something we've been doing too much of lately. But what's also becoming apparent is that for us to push our abilities beyond where they're at, we're going to need more instruction and not necessarily from Foci. Anoka Technical College has a 16-week course that we've heard some very good things about and which has us both interested. It will be a bit of a hike each way (38 miles) to get there but the larger problem is finding how to fit it into our schedules. It's likely we'll have to wait a couple of years until we're both retired before we'll find the time. Until then we'll have to be content to flail away, learning what we can from our mistakes.

Between my CompuTrainer, the elliptical and my walking, I'm finally getting in some regular workouts. I noticed this past week that my lungs are no longer sore the way they'd been since my bilateral pulmonary embolism issues of nearly 3 months ago. The only soreness I'm feeling lately is in my knees and that can only mean one thing: I'm doing a lot less sitting on my butt. It's taken me a while to climb out of this funk I've been in but I'm nearly back and so glad to be.

We went out with Mom Saturday night to Teresa's in Lakeville. We offered to take her someplace nicer but she had her heart set on Mexican food—or was it the margarita? It was a nice time and we were able to keep her close to home which is what she likes. Tim was out flying his helicopter when we got there. He makes it look a lot easier than it is. Hmm...maybe something else to put on my retirement to-do list.

We've been meeting with our small group from church every other Thursday night at our home with our latest focus being the book of Ephesians. I was down in the shop Thursday afternoon when I heard Tammy running around upstairs looking for me and yelling my name. She sounded like she was in a panic so I ran upstairs to see what was the matter. "Kevin! ...we've got to cancel small group! ...the Jars of Clay concert is tonight and I totally forgot!"

Whew! And I thought something was wrong with one of the pups the way she sounded.

This is not a problem at all—nothing a few phone calls, emails, and as a last resort, a note on the front door couldn't fix.

We got downtown with plenty of time to spare and killed that by walking around a few block radius of the Fine Line Music Cafe where they were playing; coffees in hand. This is probably the 5th time we've seen them in the last 8 or 10 years. They never disappoint and this night was no exception. It was mostly an acoustic set.

Here's a collection of photos from the night.

The highlight of the night for me was Matthew Perryman Jones. I'd only recently heard of him from a link my brother Bryan had sent me for some free mp3 samples of some Jars of Clay music. A couple of Matthew's songs were included. Typically a CD takes a few listenings before it grows on me but not Matthew's music.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Can I Have a Cookie?

As a kid I was very persistent; just ask my mom. If I wanted a cookie I'd ask. If she said no I'd persist. "Can I have a cookie?" Like Chinese water torture, I was relentless until I got what I wanted. "Can I have a cookie?"

I grew up in a family where going to church every Sunday morning and attending Sunday school afterward was a way of life. It wasn't anything that I ever questioned; I just accepted it and what I was being taught. Unlike Hosanna where I attend now, I recall the churches I grew up in as places where the emphasis was on "God" rather than "Jesus".

Several years ago Hosanna embarked on a Bible reading lesson plan where a person would finish reading the Bible in a year with only 15-20 minutes spent reading it each day. I was all-in having already tried a few previous times to do it on my own but always coming up short, usually crashing and burning in Deuteronomy or was it Leviticus? I managed to get through Hosanna's year-long plan painlessly and started it all over again the next year. I've taken some time off since first adopting it as a part of my routine but this year finds me in my 7th reading of both the Old and New Testaments.

I'm always seeking.

I would've thought that by this point I'd have most of my questions answered. Hardly. Instead, I find myself with more questions than ever. I'm not at all skeptical that Jesus died for my countless sins but there are a few things in the Bible that I simply cannot accept or understand from my puny earthly perspective.

I began writing this piece one week ago but each time I sat down to collect my thoughts I kept coming up empty. It felt like I was forcing it and I don't like to write from that position. The only thoughts coming to the surface were negative, critical thoughts about the struggles I've been having with my faith when I contrast it against too many who wrap themselves in their Christianity but walk an entirely different walk including me. There are enough people bashing Christianity and I didn't want to be just another one of those voices.

My unrelenting quest continues as I search for answers.

Can I have a cookie?

My Enemies Are Men Like Me

i have come to give you life
and to show you how to live it
i have come to make things right
to heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

because i would rather die
i would rather die
i would rather die
than to take your life

how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me

peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Class Act

I went over 30 years with the FAA last Wednesday. I sometimes feel like I'm living in a time warp because I imagined that 30 years would feel so much longer than this. Warren Zevon's suggestion to "enjoy every sandwich" rings truer all the time.

I left work Thursday morning happy to begin my weekend but slightly stressed that I was over-scheduled going into it. I need downtime (especially now) but there was precious little of that built into the next couple days. I would manage. Driving home just south of Cub Foods on Cedar Ave an ugly sound suddenly filled the cab of my truck...whap!whap!whap!whap!whap!whap! It sounded like a flat but my truck wasn't handling like it had one.

I quickly worked my way to the shoulder to get out and have a look. It was too dark to see much but the right rear tire where the noise had been coming from appeared fine. I limped into Cub's parking lot to have a better look under the lights. Sure enough, I'd picked up some large metal thing that had punctured the tire and was still embedded in it but I couldn't hear any air escaping. I was in no mood to fix a flat after having worked the all-night shift so I gently drove the 3 miles home with hopes that my tire would hold up. It did but within minutes of getting it parked safely in my garage, the tire went flat. It could wait.

I would later find that the metal hook end of a bungee cord had punctured my tire. The sound I was hearing was that of the cord which had broken free from the metal end before becoming wrapped around the axle which caused the noise. It sounded a lot worse than it was.

We made it back to Foci Friday morning after nearly a month away since being sidelined with illnesses. It was nice to be there again getting back in the groove and catching up with some of the regulars. I've got a request from Keith and Tracee for some kitchen glasses as they work to put the finishing touches on their kitchen remodel. I need to talk with them about colors but while I wait to do that I'll practice with some various color mixes. Since our time in the studio has been so spotty lately, tumblers are about all I feel up to for now until I find my stride again.

We spent Saturday afternoon helping Rachel move out of the place she's been since late last summer and into her new residence just down the street from where she's been living. Missy also joined her in the move and they added Phillip to complete their home. They all plan to stay there during the summer working full-time jobs. Tammy and I could both sense that there's a much better vibe with this arrangement than what she's been used to. Her accumulation of stuff has begun in earnest as it's taking more and more truckloads to get the job done each time we move her. Such is life.

I stayed until the heavy lifting was completed—Philip was a big help. Tammy and I drove separately because I had a friend's retirement party to attend when I got home. Tammy stuck around several hours more and helped Rachel get her room organized. It looks nice.

Mark Zwolenski retired Friday after 26.5 years as a controller with the FAA. He had a party at the Northfield Country Club last night to celebrate. I can't imagine a nicer retirement party. It was good to see several faces I hadn't seen in a while since their own retirements. I went to pay for a glass of Cabernet at the bar and found out that Mark and his wife were hosting the entire party. Wow...what a class act. But then that would describe Mark.

Photos from the night

Edit: Fellow controller Dan Abbene wrote a song for Mark that would fit well here.