Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving, 2012 Style

What a difference a day or two can make weather-wise here in Minnesota. I took off from work early Wednesday to take advantage of some unseasonably warm temps to go walking. The weather was so nice that I was able to get by in shorts and two T-shirts. It's likely the last time the sun will see the skin of my legs until next spring. I did my west loop (14 miles) through Murphy Hanrahan and enjoyed every bit of it, listening to tunes and feeling the sun on my face. It was so nice.

A cold-front came rushing in Thanksgiving day trailing winter behind it.

Tammy and I finally made it out to see Keith and Tracee's new home. They invited us over (or maybe we invited ourselves over) for Thanksgiving. They made their move nearly two months ago but we've been slow in making a point of going to see it because I wanted to have some blown glass done for them as a housewarming gift.

We were so impressed with their home. It's going to take some time to do all of the changes they have planned for it but I think they've got a real gem on their hands. With Keith's ability to take on pretty much any of the challenges the house presents and Tracee's eye for decor, it's going to be quite the place once they've had a chance to apply their fixes.

I can foresee many family holidays being hosted there. Video from our Thanksgiving get-together is at the end of this post.

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to spend a night walking around Mall of America. I know...I'm a guy and I'm not supposed to enjoy that sort of thing but I do. In fact, I love it! We even went there on Black Friday. Not so much to make any purchases but just to kick around together, coffees in hand, window shopping. I'll often have my camera with me just in case something catches my eye that I don't think my Droid will do justice to. We were walking past one of the Starbucks when we noticed several nuns inside gathered around a table. I mentioned to Tammy what a nice photo that would make but that I didn't want to bother them. We walked away but then she urged me to go back and get it. I turned on my heels and didn't give backing out a second thought. They all smiled when I asked if they'd mind if I took their photo. They were so gracious.

Rachel has been working quite a few hours lately and couldn't be with us for Thanksgiving so we went down to be together with her yesterday. I'm not sure that any of us are James Bond fans but we went to see Skyfall anyway. I had heard some raving reviews about it. I think we all thought it was just okay: 3 out of 5 stars okay. There was a great chase scene early on which was fun but I found myself yawning quite a bit from that point on.

We left the theater on the outskirts of town and drove back into the city for some sushi and a chance for us to catch up on what's happening in Rachel's life. I made a quick glance for messages on my phone and found one that said "Kevin ~ I hope I have the right person! It's John @ Ernie's Pub and Grille...Tamara Left her "wallet" here. Please call and advise at 952-435-XXXX." We'd been there the night before and it must have slipped out when her purse fell to the floor as we were taking our seats. Ernie's Pub and Grille is a good place! John was able to find me through Facebook and my not so strict privacy settings. Sometimes that can be a good thing. We retrieved her wallet on the way home.

It was so nice to spend some time with Rachel again. It always is. Before saying goodbye we made plans to go down and pick her up so she can be with us for a couple days around Christmas. I wish it were more but this will work. Our outdoor Christmas lights will be burning brightly to welcome her home.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Scrooge to Griswold in an Afternoon

Tammy has been busy for at least the last month sewing hats and mittens that she'll give away to some of the children she works with on Tuesday nights at Hosanna. For the past 7 or 8 years, she's been volunteering there every other Tuesday painting nails of mostly young children but occasionally adults as well. She's doing such a nice job with these and putting in a lot of hours on them, I had to make mention of it here. I know she'd rather I didn't say anything but it's me tooting her horn, not her. The hats are really cute and the photo to the left is just a small sample of what she's done. I told her that I think Rachel would love a pair of the mittens she's made for Christmas.

I've mentioned before in my writings how selfless Tammy is, always giving of her time to others while expecting nothing in return. Not even a thank you. I admire her so much. I know she won't be one to sit back and put her feet up when she finally steps into retirement life. She's got a good jump on it already.

Over the weekend we were looking through a publication of adult courses being offered through the city of Lakeville. There's a painting class and a pottery class that we'd both like to take but unfortunately, our work schedules are competing for our time. The pottery class interests me most but I wouldn't mind trying my hand at watercolors too. Mostly, I'd love for Tammy to get back into it because she's already shown a natural talent for it through a class in college years ago. How nice it will be when we no longer have our work schedules to consider.

We had to cancel out of our glassblowing slot this week because Tammy needed to fit in an opportunity to make Lefse with her aunt Joyce. It's something they get together each year to do. Here's the two of them from a few years ago demonstrating how to make Lefse for me to upload to YouTube.

While Tammy was away I headed up to Foci to gather up our work from the previous week. I'd normally wait until the next time we'd be in the studio to get them but there was a vase I needed to pick up. It's a housewarming gift for Keith and Tracee along with some matching tumblers.

Instead of turning around and coming straight home, I took some time to sit down at Steve's bench and watch him work his magic. He's been so gracious with his time helping Tammy and me as we learn this most challenging art form. Steve was working on some pet memorials—smaller, paperweight size pieces of art that contain a small amount of ashes from a cremated pet. Here's a link to his site, specifically the page about his pet memorials. It's such a neat idea. He also makes urns for both pet and human cremated remains.

I'm editing this post one month after I originally published it. I wanted this bit of information to be a part of my blog but for personal reasons, I didn't necessarily want our family or friends to read it as they follow my weekly updates. We paid off our mortgage this past week! Yay! That's a big piece of the puzzle for us to have fallen into place as we both prepare to retire. I've been aggressive in paying it off over the last 7 years or so and now it's done. Between taxes and insurance, I figure it will still cost a little more than $600 per month to be in our home. Much better than the $3400 we had been paying monthly. I was always the one to write out our mortgage payment each month but I let Tammy do the honors with the last one. I like her style!

I'd pretty much convinced myself that I wasn't going to do Christmas lights this year. Tammy was very insistent that I not get up on the roof considering I'm still on Coumadin (blood-thinner) for another couple months. A fall resulting in any internal bleeding could be a big problem for me. I was sort of feeling ho-hum about the whole idea anyway, even to the point of asking Tammy if we could just take a pass on all of the Christmas decorations entirely this year, inside and out. We both work Christmas Eve and I also work Christmas day and I'm not sure when we'll get together with Rachel. Simply forgoing the entire celebration crossed my mind.

Anyway, I got up Saturday morning to a beautiful day outside; a day perfect for hanging Christmas lights if a guy had that on his to-do list, which I didn't. But then I started thinking about it and thinking some more. I had no plans for the day. Before too long I was backing out the Forester to get access to the loft in the garage where I keep our strings of lights and warming up to the idea of welcoming Christmas. I made a list of what I'd need in the way of lights to do the works and headed off to Fleet Farm. I'll typically get a few seasons out of LED lights until they begin to fail but with regular lights, I often toss them out after one season because the color coating erodes away in the elements and they lose their brilliance. $89 later and I was in business!

Getting up on the roof doesn't really bother me at all. It's climbing my extension ladder to a point beyond where I can grab onto it while reaching out to try and work the string of lights into a small plastic hook about 3 feet away that can be especially unnerving. I've said more than a few prayers from that same spot over the years. I need look no further than the guys I work with to hear about more than a couple of really bad falls associated with hanging Christmas lights. I'm careful but I'm sure they were too.

Between some quick diversions into the house to play a fast round or two of SongPop (my latest online game fascination) with friends and a couple of trips to the store I had the job completed after 8 hours. Tammy wasn't too keen on me being out there on the roof and actually pleaded with me early on to not bother with the job but in the end she was happy to see the lights doing their thing. Or maybe she was simply happy that I'd survived the ordeal for another year.

A preview below. They don't officially go on until Thanksgiving night.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Water Worries

Some thoughts for me to look back on years from now.

Barack Obama was just re-elected to a 2nd term as President last Tuesday. I can't recall a president that I've ever identified with as much as I do him. I simply agree with so much of what he stands for, especially his sense of fairness. I get that many will cringe at what I just wrote but then I cringe at the thought of where I think many of you get the information you use to reach your conclusions about him.

Yeah, I was very relieved to see Obama prevail last Tuesday night, rising above the constant drumbeat of negative comments about him that's been nonstop from right-wing radio and TV over the last four years. I went to bed at 10:30 just after he was declared the winner, intent on getting to sleep as soon as I could for a 4:00 AM start the next day. I laid there thinking about the election, wondering how Fox News and right-wing radio would handle the defeat. Smiling. I tossed and turned, occasionally reaching for my Droid to check some websites hoping sleep would settle in but it wasn't happening. It was 3:05 when I last looked at the clock. Needless to say, I never made it to work the next day.

Moving on...

It's been a ridiculously dry past 5 months here in Minnesota but prior to that, we'd experienced a very wet spring. After the rains had stopped I noticed a few small blisters in our 3-year-old garage floor epoxy finish. I tried to see if there was any 'give' to them but they appeared as hard as the surrounding floor. I didn't think much of them until stumbling upon a YouTube video that talked about failures of epoxy floor finishes due to hydrostatic pressure. I'm sure that's what's at play. There's really not much I can think of to do other than to make sure I minimize the amount of water that's allowed to work its way toward and under the garage floor so that was my project this past weekend.

There's a small 3 x 3-foot section near a flower garden next to the garage floor that often gets a lot of runoff during heavy rains. The runoff is fed by a sloping grade away from the house toward the street and I'm quite sure that a lot of this water is what I'm having to contend with. Anyway, I made a simple drainage to catch most of the runoff and direct it away from the area it's been allowed to collect in up until now. Lastly, I covered the soil with a square of poly to keep water from coming in contact with the soil. Water can be so destructive and I figure that every little bit of prevention helps.

We got together with some friends Saturday night to take in a play at the Lakeville Community Center called ReGifters, a comedy about a few couples who exchange gifts each year at Christmas. These friends too often exchange less than ideal gifts or even retaliatory gifts to get even for a previous year and they almost always give re-gifted items. All is well until it's learned that a gift one of the couples re-gifted to another is actually a priceless gift and they will stop at nothing to get it back. It was a fun time and had us laughing a lot.

Afterward, Tammy and I stopped at a wine bar across the street before going home. The bar was standing room only but fortunately for us, I met a friend there with his wife who offered to share their table with us. It was nice to catch up with Michel as we only ever really communicate on Facebook. We met riding out on the road a few years ago.

It was a nice finish to a busy weekend.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Leaving Home and Celebrating 84 Years

Following up on my previous post.

I exchanged a couple more emails with Bill Bohline (lead pastor at Hosanna) about Hosanna's stance toward same-sex marriage. The tone in each of his replies became progressively dismissive. Realizing that emails were a poor vehicle for voicing my concerns I emailed him asking if I could have 30 minutes of his time to discuss the matter. What I wanted was to sit down with him and together watch Greg Boyd's video.

My email to him:

Pastor Bill,

I would like 30 minutes of your time, please. I'm available Tuesday after 2:00 or anytime Friday.

Thank you,

Kevin Gilmore

His response to me:

Kevin, you have had more than 30 minutes of my time in this last week.

And that was that. Not even a "sincerely, Pastor Bill" ...just his curt response.

I was left with the overriding feeling that he has little time for anybody who dares to challenge him and I sensed absolutely none of Christ's love in his words in either his last email or those previous—just lip-service in that regard. Very disappointing to me.

One thing I never really touched on in all of this talk about Hosanna's embracing of the Marriage Amendment is that this really isn't Hosanna's place to stick their nose. Church doctrine shouldn't be influencing our public positions. I can only imagine the outcry we'd hear if Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists suddenly wanted their beliefs written into our constitution.

That's how I see it.

And with that, my time at Hosanna, more than 15 years, comes to a close. I never envisioned this playing out as it did but now that it has I really can't see myself going back there. I've been drifting further and further from feeling that I belong there for some time. So much for my dreams of being the main go-to guy for keeping the grounds mowed in my retirement but that's okay because maybe there's a more important calling for me.

I took Tuesday off from work to meet with a doctor near St Cloud to discuss stem-cell treatment for my knees. Before he can make any recommendation about the procedure and what benefits I might expect, my doctor wants me to work hard on getting my hamstrings loosened. Tight hamstrings are a very common problem for cyclists and until I get mine back to something more normal, there's really no point in considering any other fix for the pain in my knees. My tight hamstrings will only reverse whatever improvements the stem-cell therapy provides because as the doctor explained to me, the patella of both knees is having a difficult time tracking correctly so long as I've got a combination of strong quadriceps with weak/tight hamstrings. He said it's entirely possible that much of my knee pain will go away once I achieve the flexibility I need throughout my legs. I'm meeting with a therapist on Wednesday morning who specializes in cycling-related injuries.

We had such a nice time in the studio at Foci last Thursday. The furnace serving our bench was late getting turned on so while it was getting up to temperature we had some time to hang out and watch some of the other artists. We chatted with Peter Zelle and watched him work his magic with some tumblers. He has a different style than we're used to seeing so it was nice to watch and learn. Like many of the artists there, he was so helpful in answering our questions. Tammy spent most of her time working on Christmas ornaments after getting a quick demo from Liz. She's another favorite artist of ours at Foci.

I drove by Mom's last Friday afternoon to drop off some flowers and wine but she wasn't home. She turned 84 yesterday. On the way back home I stopped at KwikTrip to gas up my truck and I found her there filling her Escort. She really is the Energizer Bunny. Tammy and I were able to make it over to her house last night and spend a couple hours with her. It was a nice time and we had her laughing, ribbing her about her love of Fox News. Rachel called while we were there to wish her a happy birthday so in a sense we were all there with her.

It looks like our warm temps are done for the year. In my previous life when I was a runner, I'd run outdoors no matter how cold it got without any concerns for staying warm enough. It seemed I was always more worried about overheating on a run than anything. My walks will be a different animal entirely considering my heart-rate never gets elevated enough to generate the warmth I'll need to remain out there for very long when the real cold stuff arrives. But by that time I hope to be answering the call of my Mukluk. I can't wait!

I enjoyed a nice walk late Friday afternoon in western Lakeville on my Murphy Hanrehan loop. There wasn't much of a breeze and with a temp in the mid to upper 30's it made for nice conditions to be out there. My new battery in my Droid Bionic showed little signs of wear during the 3 hours I was out walking putting it through its paces listening to podcasts the entire time.

I'm officially declaring the War on Leaves, 2012 to be over. Now you see them, now you don't!

Craig Natvig pulled the plug last Wednesday and retired after 30+ years in the trenches as a controller. Always easy going and as competent as anybody to ever don a headset. He went out in style wearing a sport coat to work on Monday, a suit on Tuesday and a Tux on Wednesday. I went out to his place for a retirement party last Friday night. It was a nice time and it gave me a chance to chat with some other recently retired controllers and get a feel from them for what retirement life is like. I'm actually trying not to think too much about it but sometimes I just can't help it. 423 dtg!

Scenes from Friday's walk in and near Murphy Hanrehan Park Reserve...