Sunday, March 31, 2013

We Can Do So Much Better

Third Day, Thief

This is probably more personal than I'm comfortable sharing but I've always considered my blog to be a place where I can come years from now to reminisce about my life and the road I've traveled.

I'm not one who's prone to tears but as I sat down to write in my blog this morning the tears flowed freely. I was considering some music to add to the beginning of this post, something Easter related. As I did that I was reflecting on the loss of Hosanna (my former church) in my life and how sad that has been for me. Couple that with the words below from the song I've linked above describing an innocent Jesus on the cross suffering for my sins. I was overwhelmed with emotion.

I don't know where my spiritual life is headed. I'm so far from where I was not so long ago. I still believe that Jesus is my savior but I've grown so distant from the church as I struggle to understand the disconnect from too many of us who claim to follow him but lead lives that offer little resemblance to the Jesus we follow. We embrace our guns while turning our backs on those without healthcare. We require some (such as same-sex couples) to jump over hurdles before they're accepted into the church while allowing ourselves and others to bypass our own hurdles.

It's not right. We can do so much better.

Third Day, Thief

I am a thief, I am a murderer,
Walking up this lonely hill.
What have I done? I don't remember.
No one knows just how I feel;
And I know that my time is coming soon.

It's been so long, oh, such a long time,
Since I've lived with peace and rest.
Now I am here, in my destination,
I guess things work for the best;
And I know that my time is coming soon.

Who is this man? This man beside me,
That they call the King of the Jews.
No, they don't believe, that He's the Messiah,
But, somehow I know that it's true.

They laugh at Him in mockery,
They beat Him till he bleeds,
They nail Him to the rugged cross,
And they raise Him, yeah, they raise Him up next to me.

My time has come, and I'm slowly fading,
But I deserve what I receive.
Jesus, when You are in Your kingdom,
Could You please, please remember me.

Well, He looks at me still holding on,
And the tears fall from His eyes,
And He says I tell the truth,
Today, yeah, you will live with Me in paradise.

And I know that my time, my time, is coming soon.
And I know that my time, my time, is coming soon.
And I know that paradise, paradise is coming soon.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

35 Years and Where I can be Found

Rachel arrived home in Rochester last night having survived another cross-country trip with her volunteer group made up of college students on spring break. They traveled to Atlanta, Georgia doing volunteer projects along the way.

She sent me the photo to the left the other day. They'd ordered 52 pizzas for 4 buses of 160 students. I don't know for sure but I think they needed more.

She was proud to have managed to get by with just deodorant and one shower in the first five days. If she was typical of the general population on the bus, I'm not sure that even 52 pizzas could overcome their stink. But she was no doubt thriving in that bohemian environment. I'm looking forward to hearing in detail about how the trip went.

Tammy got a packet of information in the mail yesterday from Stony Brook, NY where Rachel will be attending college next year at Stony Brook University on Long Island for at least the first semester. They're planning a trip in August to move her out there. I think the plan is for them to drive a rental car there and have Tammy fly back. I'd like to go but I think I'll probably stay behind and tend to the pups. We'll see.

I received a certificate and a pin this past week for 35 years of government service. 4 years with the Navy and 31 years with the FAA. Considering that pins are given out for every 5 years of service, I can say with full confidence that this will be the last one I'll receive. Maybe I should frame both my 35-year certificate and my furlough notice and hang them side by side.

Our porch and deck project was put on hold because of the weather (read—lots more snow!) and because of our lack of a plan for our future deck. I didn't feel comfortable moving forward until we came up with something more than just a 20' x 22' square.

Karen to the rescue!

I expect that Joe will probably be able to begin work sometime in the next week or two. He figures it will be a 6-8 week project.

I got in some nice rides on my Mukluk over the weekend and I have some sore quads to show for it. I made my way back down to the Minnesota River bottoms where I enjoy myself most. It's simply unlike any other riding I've ever done and I love it. The panoramic photo to the left is looking down over the area I'm speaking of. Look beyond the snowline. That's where I can be found. Smiling.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Speaking of Painting

I received my furlough notice via certified mail last week. I'm happy to do my part! Not really. I have no idea what effect the furloughs will have on air travel in the US but I have a hunch it won't be good. What people don't understand is that many of the furloughs due to sequestration haven't even happened yet. That's definitely the case for air traffic controllers where our furloughs have been pushed back until April 21st at the earliest. If you're accustomed to getting your news and misinformation through talk-radio, it's quite likely that you won't be aware of that.

I expect the majority of air traffic delays will be on the east coast where staffing is most critical, where they're already working a boatload of overtime. Once the furloughs begin the overtime spigot shuts off. That in and of itself will be enough to affect their ability to handle traffic I would think. Compound that with a further reduction in staffing due to furloughs and we'll see the impact of delays out there backup across the country.

Tammy had a watercolor class with Betsi last Monday night at the Lakeville community center, complete with wine. The fruits of her labor in the photo to the left. I've been hoping for the longest time that she would get back into painting again. She took one class in college back in the mid-'90s but hasn't made the time to dabble in it anymore since. I've toyed with the idea of getting her an easel and some paints but she has to want to do it. Maybe now is the time. I can picture her set up out in our new porch once it's finished with sunlight streaming in and music filling the space while she loses herself in a painting.

Speaking of painting—a friend from high school has spent a good part of his adult life traveling the world as a travel painter. I wrote about Gregg a few months back after catching up with him at a mini-reunion. Here's a link to his biography and his blog. The biography does a nice job of explaining his life as a travel painter. It's something that especially fascinates me because I've led a life so opposite from Gregg's. I've always had the security of my government job and all of the trappings of comfort it provides. Gregg operates without a net in a way that most people can't begin to imagine and I admire that a lot, in fact, there's a part of me that is envious of his approach to life. Why can't I be more like Gregg?

I stopped in to see him last Thursday at the Valley West mall in Bloomington where he has a gallery of some of his paintings on display. I spent close to two hours taking in his works and chatting with him about life. It was a nice time. One thing that struck me about his paintings was how they seemed to come into focus at varying distances from them. I went through the gallery observing them from 3-4 feet away but then I noticed that some of them took on a much different feel when seeing them from 10-20 feet away. It was striking in some cases.

We got together with Rachel over the weekend. We drove down on Thursday evening to bring her back for a spring-break trip she's taking with the University of Minnesota Students Today Leaders Forever group and their Pay it Forward tour. (As I write this she's currently in Lexington, Kentucky bound for Atlanta, Georgia doing volunteer work along the way) She was so busy when we finally picked her up around 8:00 pm having been on the go all day. She pulled her laptop out as soon as she got in the car, still in the 'go' mode. She's assumed a regional coordinator role for this trip and that's adding considerably to her workload.

And speaking of roles: I had to laugh at her Facebook update a few days ago...

"Just realized I've been listing my leadership "rolls" on my resume for the last couple years. Nguyener!!!"

That's my daughter!

We enjoyed the drive back. She closed her laptop and the three of us chatted the rest of the way. It was a trip I'd been looking forward to. We ended up at Outback Steakhouse and for the first time, Tammy and I enjoyed dinner and a glass of wine with Rachel. She enjoys Moscato, white wine—a little sweet for my taste. It was a very nice time.

Rachel brought up our plans to try out for The Amazing Race. It's something we've talked about over the years. There's never been a step-father-step-daughter combination in the show's history and we think that may be something that would interest the producers. She intends to take a year off from college after her 4th year while she completes the required hours in the medical field she'll need before she can apply to PA school. She mentioned that it would be a perfect time for her to do the show. Hmmm. It would mean bumping up my recently pushed back retirement date but I think we could manage. Plus, if we win the million dollars! Say no more.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seeking Warmth and Less Radon

Tammy returned home Thursday night from nearly a week-long stay in Sanibel Island, Florida with Brenda. Brenda's parents rent a condominium for 6 weeks each year and invited Tammy and Brenda to stay with them. The weather could've been warmer during their stay but considering the huge snowstorm they missed out on here, they weren't complaining at all. She came back with some color so that's all that matters.

The most fun they had was when they rented kayaks and spent a few hours floating through the protected mangroves. Tammy came back all excited wanting to do some kayaking this summer. I'm in! I've been kicking around the idea of getting a kayak for a while but we'll just rent for now.

I was happy that she was able to briefly leave our frozen world behind because it's been since August 2009 that we were last on vacation. I'm fine with staying put, preferring to work on some other obligations first, knowing that for me, retirement is just around the corner and I'll have plenty of time to get away then.

She brought back an assortment of shells they collected walking the beach. She plans to give them to the kids whose nails she paints on Tuesday nights at Hosanna.

Our local paper recently ran an article about excessive levels of radon in Minnesota and more specifically, Dakota county where we live and that concerned me. Seeing Mike (a non-smoker) contract lung cancer and die was also a reason for concern about the possibility of radon exposure in our home. I purchased a detector last week and set it up in our shop down in the basement.

Our detector is an electronic unit that takes at least a couple days to determine the level of radon gas. Our level was 1.4 after two days, 1.3 on day 3 and 1.9 today, day 5. It's recommended that you have some sort of radon mitigation fix done if your level rises to 4. The detector I purchased will keep track of our weekly, monthly and overall average levels. It's also recommended that you test for radon during different times of the year because the levels change in your home depending on the season and humidity levels.

I was surprised to see that our level is as low as it is considering the article I linked to above says that Dakota Country is in a red zone for radon levels. I got to wondering if maybe having our air-exchanger on as we currently do makes a difference. I'll know in another month when I shut it down until next winter.

I suppose you could say that we technically began work on our sun-porch/deck project this past week. You can see the update here in the separate blog I started for it.

I think Charlie is spoiled. He woke me up the other night by scratching my arm. I was in his spot on the bed. I moved over and he was content. Honestly, I don't mind although I know I should.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Dam Problem and Sexual Tension

Joe came by Thursday morning and we went over some details of our porch and deck project before signing the necessary paperwork to get the ball rolling. He'd like to begin sometime in the next two to three weeks, even before the snow is gone. I suppose that works. I hadn't anticipated the project moving along this quickly but the sooner we get it done the sooner we can put the finishing touches on the landscaping around it and begin enjoying it.

There are still several things we'll need to work out, mostly stuff associated with the gas fireplace. We're considering a stacked-stone front with a wood mantel but we haven't quite figured out how we'd like it to look. We were at the Home and Garden Show over the weekend and stopped at a booth that specializes in fireplace fronts. We'll be visiting their shop sometime soon to get some ideas and maybe hire them to do the job.

Speaking of the Home and Garden Show—I found a steel palm tree there that I thought would make an excellent addition to our future deck but Tammy gave me a resounding thumbs down. It's probably a good thing considering we've got 3 pups who would love to make it the focus of their bladder relief.

I was thinking that it might be a good idea to make a separate blog for the porch and deck project the way I did with our basement project several years ago. It would be something that I'll likely update every day or two. I set it up this morning at this link.

As Joe was leaving he noticed an ice-dam above our front entrance. The area has always been prone to this problem and I've done a good job of ignoring it in the past but those days are done. I went out and purchased a roof-rake to begin to fight back. The ice-dam actually looks quite bad. The do-it-yourself fix is to clear away the snow and lay bags containing calcium chloride over the problem area and wait for them to melt the ice. I think I need a few more bags.

I spent all day Saturday watching Rachel's collegiate ballroom dance team compete in the Star of the North championship. She and her partner didn't fare so well, only advancing to the second round in their dances but she thoroughly enjoyed herself. And I learned something. I was asking her why the woman never looks at her partner in the Tango. She told me that there's supposed to be sexual tension between the two dancers and thus the reason for the look of disinterest from the woman. I had no idea!