Monday, August 27, 2012

Our Little Girl is Gone

My vacation days are done for the year with the exception of a few days in the fall that I have set aside to work in our gardens and rake leaves and such. It's not too often that I return to work feeling reasonably rested and ready to go back but that's how I felt Sunday afternoon.

It's been a busy few days for Tammy and me. We made our annual trip to the Minnesota State Fair and had so much fun. It was one of those days that I look back on and wish we could do it all over again. We got a mid-morning start and drove to the transit station in Burnsville where we caught a bus to the fair. It's the best way to go especially considering we had zero waiting between the time we got to the bus station and when we loaded up and took off.

We both agreed that the best deal at the fair was at a small vendor where they were selling $1 snowcones. With the temp approaching 90ยบ, they were such a deal! If I'm not mistaken we each had 3 of them.

My only regret the entire day was in not going back to purchase this dragonfly that I'd considered buying earlier in the day. We were pretty tired by the time we left and rather than go a little out of our way through the Coliseum where I'd seen it, we shuffled our way back to the bus empty-handed. Tammy is talking about going back to the fair with a friend on Wednesday so maybe all hope is not lost. I've got the perfect spot for it in our garage!

Foci (where we blow glass) was invited to set up a studio on the fairgrounds this year. It's a great opportunity for them, and with a great location right next to Sweet Martha's Cookies which pretty much every fair-goer is familiar with. It's a prime spot with so many people milling about the area. But even having a prime location didn't stop vandals from causing some real problems for them. In the late-night hours after the first day of the fair when nobody was around, someone took a fire extinguisher and threw it into the crucible where molten glass is kept, contaminating the glass. It wasn't noticed until several hours later. All of the glass had to be scooped out of the crucible and more had to be batched (cooked) which is at least a 24-hour process. Demonstrations had to be canceled for all of Friday which was too bad. Still, they're getting lots of people through and making some sales which is great!

I brought my Garmin along to see how many miles we walked throughout the day. Ten! And that doesn't include the ski-lift ride across the fairgrounds. But I'm pretty certain we didn't burn as many calories as we consumed! We were gone 12 hours from the time we left in the morning until returning home. A very full day!

Rachel turned 21 on Friday and I celebrated my 55th on Saturday. We drove down to see her on Saturday afternoon to catch up on how her birthday celebration went and to take her to dinner. She survived the night with the only causality being a lost cellphone which she was happy to learn was being safely held by the people who manage Kathy's Pub where they were partying. I didn't need to say anything—she knew she'd dodged a bullet.

Tammy had some nice gifts for us both. Me? I got 3 new cycling videos to go along with my CompuTrainer plus a map of the Twin Cities and Bloomington where I grew up dating back to around the time we moved there.

We were there nearly two hours getting lost in conversation that at times proved to be maybe a little more revealing than any of us had anticipated it becoming. I'll leave it at that.

We dropped her off at the house, said our goodbyes then drove away as she waved to us standing on the top rail of her front porch. I commented to Tammy: "Our little girl is gone". She agreed. We were both quiet for a few moments afterward lost in thought. I broke the silence by saying "but she'll always be our little girl."

Thirty minutes down the road we got a text from her: "Thanks for coming! I love you guys, your opinions are really important to me cuz i know you two see my potential. I appreciate our relationship so much!

Tammy responded: "We were just talking about how proud of you we are. We trust you and love you! Of course, we will always worry a bit as that is the nature of parents. We love your views and adventures. You are always in our prayers!"


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Countdowns and Summer Stuff

I'm now under 500 days remaining in my career. My union rep came up to me last week to see how firm I was on my date of 1/2/2014. I responded that "I'm 75% sure." I'm ticking down the days, 100 at a time at this point but you know what they say? If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

I was outside watering our Impatiens a few weeks ago when I noticed a dust flying off them as the showering water from the hose made contact. I thought it was strange as I'd never seen anything like that before. I didn't think much of it but several days later I noticed the plants were losing their petals and leaves. I thought that maybe I'd burned them when I fertilized the lawn so I waited for a little over a week to see if they'd grow new leaves and flowers but it wasn't happening. I found a video online that I think explains what I was dealing with—a death sentence for Impatiens: Impatiens Dying from Downy Mildew. I've been doing lots of watering this hot, dry summer so I suppose I'm to blame.

Tammy and I took the pups into Minneapolis for a walk around Lake of the Isles Saturday night, something we haven't done in years. We got there at dusk with the temp cooling nicely for our little guys who don't do so well on walks in the heat. They loved it and never tired during the 2.65 miles around the lake. A couple we stopped to chat with asked us how old they were. It was then that it dawned on me that it was actually Toby and Allie's 8th birthday! We lucked out! What a nice treat to take them there on their birthday considering we didn't get them anything special as we sometimes do. We love our pups! They're family.

Google "askew"

Rachel is enjoying her summer gig at the YMCA in Rochester working as a camp counselor with kids K - 6th grade. They went horseback riding last week. She sent me a text saying "After horse camp yesterday, quote from a 3rd grader (with a stutter): "yea trotting was fun, except i felt like it was gonna blow off my testicle!" Too funny!

She's not getting as many hours as she'd anticipated but she's enjoying the work. The photo to the right is of some of the kids she's working with.

Tammy is enjoying some much needed time off from work but she's doing anything but hanging out and taking it easy. She's been on the road quite a lot. She rendezvoused with Cindy and her mother 2 1/2 hours north last week so she could bring her mom down to stay with us for a few days. She is such a giving, serving, selfless person. I wish I was more like her. She is forever thinking about others and how to maybe bring some sunshine into their lives. Her mother and her aunt Joyce love to play the penny slots at local casinos so she took them there a few days ago and gave them each some cash to burn through. Sometimes they come back winners but not this day. Still, it was a fun time.

We took our moms out for brunch late Sunday morning before Tammy took her mom back up north. It was nice to get them together again as it had been a while.

I'm excited for Keith and Tracee. They sold their home after less than a week on the market and have found what sounds like the perfect place for them, 25 miles to the south in Northfield. It's got acreage and a pole-barn where Keith can one day set up shop. This has happened so fast for them!

One of my favorite things to do in the summer when I'm not riding is breaking down my bikes to clean them, something I haven't had the need to do this summer since I'm sitting this year out (on the road anyway). When I had my PE episode back in January I pretty much just put my Mukluk in a closet and tried not to think about it and how much I love that bike. But I'm over the mild depression of not riding outdoors and with a few days off from work this week, I set aside some time to do a thorough cleaning of both my Mukluk and my Serotta I've been using on my CompuTrainer. They were both in need of attention. It felt so nice to be out in the garage working on them like I used to. I really miss that. Ha! But the best part of all was climbing on my Mukluk and doing a few laps up and down the street out in front of our home. I had the biggest smile!

The amount of time left in my career isn't the only countdown I'm watching these days.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'm Struggling to Make Sense

We did our annual trip to the Dakota County Fair on Wednesday night. Typically we go on a night when we can take in the demolition derby but no such luck this year. We had to settle for Extreme Bull-riding. Since neither of us has ever been to anything resembling a rodeo we thought it might be fun to see what it was all about while adding a little culture to our lives. And this was to be 'extreme'! How cool would that be?

Not very.

I was half expecting a guy to come out riding two bulls at one time. We were in for nothing of the sort.

I have to say that it was actually a little sad and at times, bordering on either pathetic or cheesy; I'm not sure which. Sad because some of the bulls were clearly past their prime. One, in particular, that walked (not sprang as you might expect) out of the chute carrying its rider, then laid down in the dirt after four or five paces. I'm quite sure I could've ridden that poor guy. Pathetic or cheesy because the rodeo clown conversing with the crowd via a wireless mic had a mic that kept cutting out making it difficult for his jokes to have any chance at all.

We sat and watched for 45 minutes before bailing, opting to meet Rachel and her friend Tony who were also at the fair. The four of us spent the rest of the night together taking in the exhibits. That was much more fun.

There's going to be a same-sex marriage amendment on the ballot here in Minnesota in November. Same-sex marriage is already unrecognized in our state but apparently, that isn't good enough for some. We need an amendment to make it indisputably so. Supporters of the amendment are quick to point to the Bible and its teachings for direction in this matter and this is what troubles me. Yes, the Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman but it also gives some examples that aren't so tidy as that.

I'm not one to disrespect God's word but I am one who really wants to understand what it is I'm reading. I don't mean to offend anyone with what follows but if my blog is to be an honest assessment of my thoughts over the years, I'd be doing a disservice to it by omitting what follows.

A friend on Facebook posted the graphic to the left a few days ago. It really struck me because it's this sort of thing that I've been wrestling with so much lately.

The Old Testament verse that's given me the most difficulty over the years is Deuteronomy 22 verses 28-29. It defines marriage in this example as between a rapist and his victim. Say What? Numbers 31 verses 17-18 refers to the conquering of the Midianites by the Israelites. I can only conclude that marriage here is defined as between a conqueror and his plunder. You most certainly won't hear people lift up these verses in support of how the Bible defines marriage. How do we so easily pick and choose which scripture we're going to latch onto to make our point? I've heard the arguments/reasons for why the above-mentioned practices were acceptable at the time but I don't agree with those conclusions. The Old Testament is also full of examples of men having more than one wife in addition to many concubines. Would this too be an example of the Bible's definition of marriage?

It's not my intention here to throw stones. I just want to understand.

In Leviticus 18 Moses gives many examples of unacceptable sexual practices but never once does he mention molestation of a daughter by her father. Why is that? It would seem to me that that would be one of the more common abuses both then and now but Moses makes no mention of it. Why?

I can only conclude (and I really dislike that this is where I'm at) that the words Moses penned were more than God's words. I sincerely believe that Moses editorialized some with God's laws and that we're not getting a true reading of what God intended.

I'm sorry but I can come to no other conclusion.

I'm struggling to make sense. I hope I'm just not getting it. I hope there's an explanation out there that will clear all of this up for me but I don't think there is. I think this is something I'm going to have to somehow learn to accept. Something that I'll never be able to understand in my lifetime but to not let it disrupt my faith-walk more than it already has.

If anyone reading this has struggled with these same thoughts and has been able to come to a personal acceptance I'd be so appreciative of your thoughts or comments.

There's an opposing campaign to the marriage amendment in Minnesota that is picking up steam. I asked Tammy if it would be okay for me to place one of their lawn-signs in our yard but she would rather I didn't. I can respect that. We'll soon be hosting our small group from church on Thursday nights and I don't want my views clouding our gathering. This is my personal struggle and I need to remember that.

But, I will most certainly be sporting an Obama/Biden lawn-sign. This lily-white neighborhood of mine cries out for it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bike Speak Teck Talk but Interesting I Promise!

I live my life on both ends of the technological spectrum. I appreciate the simple, sometimes crude tools used in glassblowing and the beauty they can bring about but I also embrace the more modern, techie stuff of our time; stuff that relies on strings of 1s and 0s to shape their end product. There was a time when I teetered on the brink of becoming a Luddite but those days are surely behind me.

We were driving through our neighborhood recently on the way back from a session of glassblowing when we happened upon the Google Street View car capturing data from ground level for the rest of the world to see. My first thought was "cool!" but then I began to wonder if the driver had mapped our street already. I parked our car in the garage, grabbed my camera and sat outside waiting for it to come by so I could once again manage to get my mug in Google's images of our neighborhood. No such luck. After waiting 10 minutes I decided to walk to where we'd seen the car but it was already gone.

Technology waits for nobody.

But sometimes we have to wait for technology to catch up with our wants. Such was the case with the latest upgrade to the software for my CompuTrainer. It had been held up in production for more than a year but wait no more! I got my copy in the mail a couple weeks ago and proceeded to cozy up to it. I'm really liking what I'm seeing so far and I haven't seen it all yet.

CompuTrainer is unlike any other indoor trainer I've used and I've used several going back to 1980, just out of the Navy in the basement of my parent's home with my first set of rollers (never one to easily give up on my hard-fought gains of a cycling season once the weather turns cold). The problem with most trainers is that they're mind-numbing and only the most dedicated cyclists seem to be able to get beyond that and find a routine that works for them.

What CompuTrainer has done is pretty much eliminate the boredom factor. I don't think in my wildest imaginations way back when that I envisioned indoor training could be so much fun and productive. But it is! The beauty of my CompuTrainer is the ability to not just put in miles with it but to be able to grind them out in a way that encourages the rider to push themselves much harder than they may have otherwise without some stimulus to urge them on. CompuTrainer has plenty of stimuli.

Racing against others either real or digitally created is where CompuTrainer sets itself apart from any other trainer I've ever used. The load generator (taking input from the computer) is what provides the resistance, simulating a real road experience. In fact, it's necessary to do a ten-minute warm-up ride before your workout to calibrate the data. This is important because of the varying amounts of tire pressure from one ride to the next plus the amount of force used to tighten the load generator against the rear wheel won't likely be the same for any given ride. The very accurate numbers of watts produced and speeds attained leave no doubt about your level of fitness on the bike.

Another fun thing is that there's really no limit to the courses you can choose to ride. You can even load classic climbs from Le Tour de France or other routes from races into the brain of CompuTrainer and test your abilities against the pros, all in the comfort of your home.

I came upstairs from a workout the other night, endorphins coursing through me on a high I haven't felt in a while. I told Tammy that if this keeps up I may not care if I ever ride outdoors again! No, I wasn't totally serious but I can't imagine a better alternative. I took some video of my workout yesterday to hopefully show in better detail what I'm so excited about.

I have some ideas of what I'd like to see in future trainers but I'm somewhat hesitant to entertain them much, not wanting to have unrealistic hopes or so I tell myself. Hah! What I'm using now would've been considered exactly that 30 years ago. But isn't that how this fantastic world of ours works? Someone has a dream and then goes about making it a reality. The rest of us clamor aboard and go along for the ride. This is one ride I'm really enjoying!