Sunday, May 25, 2014

I'm Quite Sure I'm Not Within the Norms

Welcome back, heat! We've missed you!

I finally got someone to come out and perform maintenance on our underground sprinkler and reroute one of the zones that was obliterated in last year's porch and deck addition project. I went with CGT Limited in Lakeville. Out of three inquiries I made to local businesses, they were the only ones who got back to me. I put the system in 22 years ago when I had our home built but I've lost my desire to do that sort of work anymore and am happy to pay someone else to get the job done.

I've had the itch to take my Mukluk down to the river and play around on the trails but I've been reluctant to because I was lacking a way to get it down there other than ride it. I could do that and have done it a number of times but I'd been wanting to get a bike rack for my car. I researched some bike forums and Amazon before settling on a Saris Freedom rack. Erik's Bike in Burnsville had one in stock. I like it. It mounts via a trailer hitch that I had installed just for it. Here's a profile view of the bike rack.

One of the reasons I chose Saris was for their optional extra-wide tire beds to accept the fat tires of my Mukluk. My only concern is that it would be so easy for anybody with a wrench to undo the one bolt that holds it to the hitch and walk off with it while I'm out on the trails. Tammy (and a previous comment on my blog) suggested keeping it in the back of the car while I'm out. I just may.

This was our weekend to go flower shopping and get them planted. It's always a big undertaking once we get started and we definitely missed our truck but we managed. Our first stop is typically Gertens in Inver Grove Heights. They've got the best selection of flowers and shrubbery around but they're also the busiest. We got there around 10:00 Thursday morning and felt glad just to find a parking spot. It was so crowded. I can't imagine what the place is like on a Saturday and I'll never know.

We made quick work of finding the necessary 5 hanging baskets we came for then headed toward the checkouts knowing we'd have to brave the crowds once more for however many flats of flowers we could fit in the back of our Forester. Still, we always enjoy this time spent together and it was a beautiful day to be out and about. Coldplay's new release, Ghost Stories, made for nice background music throughout the day.

After our 2nd trip to Gertens we went to Terra Garden Center just to the south of us. What a relief to walk in there. They had nowhere near the crowds that we experienced at Gertens and it was so much more enjoyable—but the selection isn't as good.

I'd post photos of our flower beds here but there's really not much to see yet. Give me a month. A photo of ferns will have to suffice. The photo to the left is of some ferns I transplanted to the side of our house over the last couple of years. They're taking off nicely in their new home.

I got a chance to try out my bike rack on Friday morning. I loaded up my Mukluk and headed down to the river for a couple hours of trail riding. It was such a beautiful morning. I posted the photo (below) of my muddied Mukluk to Facebook with the caption "Somebody slap me if I ever start acting my age!" I'm not sure what the mindset of a nearly 57-year-old is supposed to be but I'm quite sure I'm not within the norms and that's okay.

Some photos from my ride...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A New-Normal and Graduation Day!

Sometimes I'm not sure where to start when I begin to jot down ideas for a blog post. Usually, a scroll through the photo gallery in my phone can yield some memories of the week gone by and that gets me off and running. And so it's where I'm going to now.

I got up late Wednesday morning from a few hours of sleep after my all-night shift the night before and took the pups with me out to the deck to soak in the (of late) unfamiliar heat of the sun. It was so nice. I was thinking back to last year at this time and how we'd just broken ground on our addition and deck project and how nice it is to have it all completed. I look around at all that Joe, Keith and the other contractors did for us and I'm simply amazed by their abilities.

I brought Mom to a follow-up appointment with her eye doctor on Friday morning. The last time we were there (a few months ago) he had told her that nothing short of a miracle would return vision to her damaged right eye. Mom believes in miracles so her doctor's words weren't necessarily removing all glimmer of hope then.

She's been having trouble navigating even the familiar spaces of her own home at times because her bad eye is still giving input to her brain but it's blurred and her brain is having to make sense of the contrasting images it's receiving. I've been encouraging her to put a patch over her right eye thinking it would help but she's been reluctant to.

She's had five surgeries already and her doctor explained to us that if she wanted, he would try one last time to reattach her retina but he said the chances were very slim that she would see improvement. She's in the minority of people who easily scar after such a surgery and of that minority of people, she's 1 in 100 for very excessive scarring. He said it's the scarring that is keeping the retina from adhering as it should. Her eye is stable now and another surgery would upset whatever stability she's attained. He cautioned her about using a patch for more than just short periods. He said that in time her brain will dismiss the signals it's receiving from her bad eye and she'll eventually become more accustomed to her new normal.

I think she's accepting that she won't be getting her full vision back and she's making the adjustment as well as she can.

I spent all of Friday afternoon and well into the evening working in our yard. There was a considerable amount of decaying leaves and other debris from our trees that was accumulating under the shrubbery of our rock islands. I cleared them of all of it in addition to preparing our flower gardens for planting. I was nursing a pounding headache all the while though. Each time I'd bend over my head would throb. I was hoping the fresh air would help but nothing did, not even an extra-large glass of wine and a night of sleep. It would wake me up the next morning. I was happy for all I accomplished in spite of my head. Our gardens are ready for planting which is on the top of our list for this coming weekend.

Rachel graduated from the University of Minnesota at Rochester on Saturday morning with a BSHS (Bachelor of Science in Health Science) degree. She's come a long way since this photo was taken during her move to Rochester just before the start of her freshman year. We're obviously very proud of her.

It was a nice and not too lengthy ceremony at Mayo Civic Center. I put some video together for Rachel that included most of the faces of those she graduated with for years from now when she wants to look back and reminisce.

She'll be taking the next year off from school and working as a medical scribe in Minneapolis while continuing her work as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) in Rochester. I do believe there's a Bio-Chem class she intends to take this summer too. I don't see her being able to put her feet up for very long to celebrate her graduation but I hope she'll at least feel a little less stress in her life as she too finds her new normal.

I'm not sure if Rachel would agree but those were the fastest four years of my life!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Yes, I'm Missing It and Rachel's Capstone Presentation

I'm missing my truck. My neighbor told me that he'd seen it on the lot of a used car dealer in Farmington (the city where I work) and emailed me a couple photos he took of it. My truck was resold at auction and could easily have gone anywhere within a few hundred-mile radius. That it ended up in Farmington was bittersweet in a way. I drove by G & M Select Motors after work on Monday just to have a look-see considering I never thought I'd see it again.

I parked my car in the lot of the business next-door and walked over to where it was sitting. It was actually kind of a sad moment for me. The lot it's on is a place where I'd probably never do business. It's just not. It seemed a pathetic new home from the garage that once protected it. I took a few photos of my old friend and actually talked to it while I reminisced just a bit. I told it that I missed it.

What percentage of people take a video of the last drive with their car or truck? I'm among that very small number.

Although I'm really enjoying my new Forester, I developed a definite connection with my truck that I don't yet have with my new ride. But then, I've only had my Forester for 2 months whereas I had my truck for 13 years and they were 13 of the best years of my life.

I was on my bike later in the day on Monday and went a little out of my way to have one last look. That rendezvous captured at the mid-point of this video.

Speaking of riding, I waited for 3 days after my Synvisc injection before getting on my bike and putting my knee to the test. I'm not supposed to notice much improvement for 3 to 6 weeks but there was no question that the hyaluronic acid injection was already helping me in a very noticeable way. I tried to avoid pushing it too hard but that's like taking a kid to an amusement park and telling him to have just a little fun. Yeah, right. I did the best I could to not push it. My knee was fine through the first 37 miles but then a dull ache developed and followed me the rest of the way home.

Maybe in the near future, I can only ride a few days a week to keep from overstressing my knee. Perhaps my 300 to 500-mile weeks are over for this lifetime. I don't know but I'll manage somehow.

Tammy and I drove down to Rochester today to watch Rachel give her Capstone presentation. Capstone is a finishing touch that seniors at UMR put on their academic career there.

From the UMR website: Capstone experiences are a critical component of the BSHS curriculum. Students are expected to write their capstone proposals during the spring semester of their junior year. Each student will be assigned a UMR faculty sponsor, who will oversee their capstone experience, and each capstone proposal must be approved by the UMR faculty capstone committee.

Students are encouraged to customize their capstone experiences based on their career and professional goals. The capstone may include a combination of upper division required or elective courses, international or domestic travel, an internship or research experience. Students will receive academic credit based on the number of hours completed (150 hours is equivalent to 3 academic credits). Capstones may include up to 30 upper-division academic credits. Research or internship experiences with external organizations may be paid or unpaid. It is the responsibility of the student to work with the off-campus internship or research supervisor to identify learning objectives, project goals, assessment measures, and scheduling details.

She had several people in attendance, from UMR faculty to STLF co-workers, residents from the retirement home where she works as a Certified Nursing Assistant and an assortment of friends. It was a pretty full conference room that she stood before. We're proud of her! We had several people tell us during our time there that they were so impressed by Rachel and were excited about her future. So are we!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Where's the Love?

Dan Haseltine, front-man for the Christian rock group Jars of Clay made a huge mistake last week by contemplating out loud on his Twitter account the idea of same-sex couples happily coexisting among us. The backlash from Evangelical Christians was immediate. They closed ranks on social media and made it clear that he was no longer welcome among them. Some Christian-oriented radio stations even removed all of their Jars of Clay music from their song rotation.

Where's the love?

Nothing seems to bring out the ire of those who unabashedly claim to follow Jesus more than talk of same-sex relationships.

I have to wonder, if King David from the Old Testament had been gay, do you suppose God still would've used him as he did? It apparently didn't matter to God that he was a murderer and an adulterer but do you suppose it would've been a deal-breaker had David been gay?

We were in the studio twice last week—once for our regular 3-hour session and then again for a class with Michael teaching us some color application methods. We had to take a pass this week because Tammy had hand surgery a couple days ago for a condition called Trigger Finger. Hopefully, she'll be good-to-go next week.

Photo courtesy of Curt Goodrich. Thanks, Curt!

The cortisone injection I had in my knee last month did little to alleviate the pain I'm feeling. I'm worried that I did some damage to my knee during an elliptical workout a couple months ago where I went all-out trying to achieve a personal best. Yeah, I was successful but at what cost? I'll never do that again. I have an appointment with the same orthopedic doctor tomorrow to talk about a Synvisc injection. I'd rather hold off on another arthroscopic knee surgery unless absolutely necessary. If Synvisc isn't the answer, I'm leaning toward reconsidering stem cell therapy, an idea I was seriously entertaining a while ago but backed away from due to its cost and lack of clear scientific data supporting its effectiveness. Two friends have had it done for their knees and are happy with the results and would do it all over again. I'm guardedly optimistic that it too can help me.

I've been resting my knee more than I normally do but I'm not allowing it to keep me down. I got out yesterday for a nice ride into St Paul and back. I thought I had put away my cold weather riding gear for the season but I was wrong. 43ยบ f had me back in tights with shoe covers. It was nice to be out even though I couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted to be.

Video from my ride

It's been a cool, windy and rainy week here in the Minneapolis area and we could use a nice dose of heat and sun. Now that the rain has temporarily stopped, Toby has been giving me the eye which instills a sense of guilt in me until I give in to his unspoken request for a walk. The dog park is off-limits until it dries out but no worries, there's an entire neighborhood full of fire hydrants and mailbox posts that need to be marked. Again.

Video from last Friday night at the dog park which was the last time we saw the sun!