Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Beauty Goes Dark and Welcoming 2015

The sun finally made an appearance a few days ago for what seemed like the first time in weeks. It was so welcome even if it did usher in some much cooler temps. It was worth the tradeoff for me.

I took advantage of the brightness to capture a few photos of the laundry room work we just completed. We're happy with it. The ceiling didn't quite go as planned because of the color. The harvest yellow we'd chosen seemed too close to natural once it was all in place. Tammy had been hinting all along that she'd like to see more of a whitewashed color and that's what we opted for in the end. It was the right choice all along. See the photo to the left.

Karen found a distressed wood bench seat with a mirror at Hom Furniture that we liked and had to have to complete our laundry room's look.

Photos of the completed project here and here.

The Glowing Tree in Bloomington has gone dark. I began this Facebook page for it 4 years ago when I noticed that it had none and was so deserving of one. This was the year that the page finally seemed to take off with over 1000 likes in the last month alone but it looks like the owners have decided to stop investing both their time and money to keep it lit.

Their home is for sale and I'd heard they were having trouble with the damp weather shorting out strings of lights on the tree. One neighbor also commented in a recent thread on the Facebook page that Bob Little (the tree's owner) was concerned about all of the vehicle traffic the tree was generating and the imposition it was creating for the neighborhood. The tree going dark came as sort of an abrupt but understandable end.

If you've driven Cedar Ave near the Minnesota River and experienced this sight between Thanksgiving and New Years the past many years you'll understand why it will surely be missed.

Rachel went with some friends to a Canvas and Chardonnay painting class this past week. She did really well! It's something Tammy and I have talked about doing as well. It's on our to-do list.

There are things about my job that I will absolutely miss when I finally decide to pack it in. I was at work last night on the overnight shift contemplating the blessing this career has been for me and my family. I can't say enough good things about it. I just can't. Any of the small complaints I could come up with are overshadowed by the freedom it's allowed me over the years. I'm continually ribbed by those I work with for being the old man in the building and I'm okay with that. I'm actually a little proud of it.

We had some ridiculous upper winds last night—winds that were abruptly changing direction in radical ways. Traffic was busier than usual and on odd routes as pilots tried to take advantage of or avoid altogether the fast-moving river of upper air known as the jet-stream.

UAL1590 was struggling into the teeth of a 130-knot jet-stream at FL280 (28,000 feet) on a route that was going to be slow going. I inquired if he'd talked to his dispatch about a more favorable, less windy northerly route. He hadn't. I suggested he may want to do that or if he didn't mind, I could suggest something better. He didn't hesitate to take me up on my offer. I proceeded to establish him on a route 40 miles north of the one he'd been flight planned for and over the course of the next 30 minutes while he was in my airspace, I watched his ground-speed increase from around 350 knots to 477 knots by the time I'd handed him off to Denver Center. And he hadn't even picked up the tailwind yet that I'd promised him was not far off!

I love providing that kind of service. The job isn't just about keeping them separated and advising pilots of where the smooth air is. It's an art in a lot of ways. Most controllers I work with will only concern themselves with the upper wind data for their sector which makes no sense at all to me. I prefer a long-range view that both helps prevent me from penalizing them and allows me to offer suggestions such as the one I described above. It's satisfying and yeah, I'll miss that.

It's New Year's Eve, 2014 as I assemble my thoughts for this post. How quickly another year has gone by. Rachel turned me on to an app she uses called Time Hop and I've been enjoying it because it plays so well into my love of reminiscing. It searches several of my social media sites each day and sends me photos from that day's date, one, two, three or however many years ago. I'm hoping they connect with Flickr at some point.

Colorful kites will be flying tomorrow afternoon at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis to celebrate the new year. I hope to be there with my new camera in hand to watch and photograph them.

Here's wishing you all a healthy, happy and peaceful 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas, 2014 Style

There's a new app to tell you which of your friends are racist: it's called Facebook—or so the joke goes.

I've been avoiding Facebook lately, partly because I've been too busy with home improvement projects but also because of how vitriolic and heavy it's become of late with all of the discussion centering around what many feel (including me) is the heavy-handed approach by some in law enforcement toward minorities and the pass they're being given by grand juries for those actions. I sometimes feel a strong need to push back on some of what I'm reading but more often than not I don't. I quietly sigh and move on.

Our home improvement projects are nearly done. All that's left for me to do is to hang a couple of doors in the laundry room. I've got them drying in the garage and intend to install them tomorrow.

We're very happy with how both the laundry room and Tammy's sewing room (Rachel's former bedroom) turned out. We hadn't planned to do anything to either of these rooms until we're retired but for whatever reason, we decided to move them up on our to-do list. It's nice to have them done, especially Tammy's sewing/craft room. I'll post some photos in my next update. It's been so gloomy here and I'd really like some sunshine before I bother trying to get some pics.

I've mentioned here before how pleased we've been with Charter Cable. When we've had them out to our house for any issues they've always taken their time and gotten us back up and running. I was having trouble getting the TV in Tammy's sewing room connected so they sent techs out on two successive days to resolve the problem which turned out to be a cut cable in the attic from our sun-porch addition project of 18 months ago. I hear lots of people complain about Charter but unless you've had them out to your home in the last few years you probably can't appreciate how much they've stepped up their game. They're all about making sure any connectivity issues you have are resolved so you remain a customer which makes total sense.

Christmas 2014 will not be white or even brown. We've got a Kansas City winter going on here and it's more green than anything.

Rachel came into town yesterday and will be with us until Saturday. We went to Mom's last night for a couple hours while Jackie and Jerry were there. It was a nice time. Mom got lots of gifts for her comfort while she's in her chair where she spends nearly all of her awake time: a back massager from Keith and Tracee, an electric blanket from Jerry and Jackie, and an OttLite with a magnifying glass from us. I enjoyed spending time talking with Jerry. It's been too long. The funniest line of the night goes to Rachel. Mom was mentioning how Dish Network dropped her favorite channel, Fox News. Rachel made the comment, "those angry Republicans with pitchforks demanding we want our Fox back!" Haha...I'm not sure if she knew she was among Republicans in the room but she said it in such a way that I had to laugh.

We came home and revived an old tradition we used to do when Rachel was younger, reading the story of the birth of Jesus before opening gifts. Yes, I know, it makes no sense, celebrating the birth of someone who asked us to give up our material possessions by lavishing material possessions upon each other.

Tammy got me a Panasonic Lumix to replace my 4-year-old Lumix. I'm liking it although I have a lot to learn about using it. I took this photo this morning using the zoom feature which is considerably better than my other Lumix.

Our 2014 Christmas card photo was one I spliced together with Photoshop from photos taken during this past year. I think it was Rachel's idea. In fact, I think most of our Christmas card photo ideas are hers!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Getting a Big Jump

I walked in to work this morning with no jacket on. All of our snow is gone and the temp is in the mid-40s. This reprieve from what began as a cold harsh winter is welcome but it's not a friend to the trails and my fat-bike. I've been too busy working on an indoor project to have any time at all for riding so it really doesn't matter to me.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit how many hours I've been spending on our laundry room renovation. What started out as a simple paint the walls and redo the curtains project has morphed into quite a bit more. Karen suggested we consider painting the oak cabinets and trim throughout the room and adding a slatted wood ceiling. Both very nice ideas. Plus, anything to slowly chip away at the honey-oak look of our home's interior is a good thing.

I spent all of Friday night in our garage staining the boards for the slatted wood ceiling that Joe is going to do for us. Tammy isn't totally sold on the color we're going with but I am. I trust Karen's judgment. It's yellow but not at all bright; more of a muted yellow but I think it'll look nice trimmed with white crown molding. The wood for the ceiling in the photo to the left has already been stained.

Keith was a big help in offering to spray-paint our cabinet doors at his shop. I only needed to sand them for him.

Here's where I left it as I headed out the door this morning. My work is pretty much done with the exception of a few touch-up spots that I'll knock out tomorrow. Joe is planning to come by on Wednesday to do the ceiling. He figures he'll need a day and a half.

Between the painting I did in the basement a couple months ago and the work in the laundry room, I'm getting a big jump on my retirement to-do list.

I have yet to begin my Christmas shopping! How crowded would the malls be if there was no online shopping? My plan is to take off from work early tomorrow and head over to Mall of America and see if I can take a sizable bite out of the task.

I recently read Jennifer Knapp's book Facing the Music. Jennifer is a former Contemporary Christian Music artist who fell from grace within the church when it was learned that she's gay. It was such an interesting read as it's so much more than just about her experience with CCM. She doesn't come off as bitter, just disappointed for the way she and others are marginalized and silenced by those in the church.

This is my favorite song of hers from a few years ago...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

That Gentle Nudge of God's Hand

35 years ago today I was discharged from the Navy after my four-year enlistment. Usually, this day comes and goes each year with little notice from me but today I remembered. Four years can seem like a long time to someone who's in their early 20s so it was a big deal to me then.

From my journal, 12-10-1979: The sensation of being out caught up with me this afternoon as I was driving the freeway to Chula Vista. I took full advantage and let out a scream of joy, happiness, and freedom. How fitting, Supertramp's Take the Long Way Home was playing. 

I had seriously thought about staying in San Diego when I got out but opted to head for home to maybe show my family that I'd grown up and wasn't the troubled kid I was when I'd left. It was a good decision.

I'm about to reminisce in a rambling sort of way...

I'd spent years leading up to my enlistment just barely getting by in high school. I learned years later when I requested my records that I'd finished in the bottom 10% of my class. My parents never once inquired about how I was doing in school that I can recall and I never felt any want to do more than I had to if that. I was in the middle of six siblings so it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Honestly, I learned how to type at Thomas Jefferson but not much more. What a waste!

I was working the drive-up at Penny's Grocery at Lohman's Plaza in Bloomington one afternoon in my junior year when one of my coworkers (and classmate) offered me some Whitecross, aka speed. I don't recall that I hesitated much. I liked what they did for me. Over the next few months, John would introduce me to several other drugs that I was only too willing to try; heavy stuff that I'd never consider doing again but that was where I was at. Adrift.

Low self-esteem and no direction can be a bad combination but I remember through all of it that I always felt God's hand on my life. I don't know how else to explain it. There was a plan for me even if I had no clue as to what that plan was.

It would take a bad LSD trip to convince me that I needed to stop my reckless ways. And I did, except for the alcohol. By the time my senior year was over, I'd put the drugs behind me but I still had no idea what to do after graduation.

The summer of '75 was a blur and when those I'd graduated with went off to college, I looked around and saw that I needed something more than my job fueling cars at the Holiday station on highway 55 in Golden Valley. I enrolled in a drafting course at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park but my heart wasn't in it and I left after a couple months.

Some of the best advice I'd ever receive was about to come my way from my sister Jackie when she suggested I go and talk to a Navy recruiter. My dad, my brother Bryan, and Jackie's husband Jerry had all served in the Navy so I didn't really give the other branches of military service any consideration.

And so it was. The hand of God in the form of Jackie's suggestion was prodding me forward and off into the world. I never really resisted or looked back (except to reminisce as I'm doing now). It was without question the best decision I could've made. I matured a lot over the next few years and developed some confidence along the way; something that was nonexistent before.

And I fell in love!

So when my enlistment was up 35 years ago today, I knew I needed to go home and reconnect with family again. I had no real idea where my life would take me next but I was open to that gentle nudge of God's hand in whatever direction it would lead me and that's pretty much how I still live my life, watching for clues and currently waiting on that prompting (or perhaps I'll need a shove!) into retirement and what awaits me beyond that.