Saturday, March 28, 2015

33 Years Ago Today and One More Shift for Tammy

33 years ago today I began my career with the FAA. I don't know what 33 years is supposed to feel like but certainly not this. Back when I was beginning my career that would've seemed like a very long time to be a controller but that's not my perspective today. Of the 500 or so people I sat with in the auditorium that morning as we filled out the many forms, I have to wonder how many (if any) are still working traffic? Could I possibly be the last man standing out of all of us? It's entirely possible.

I spent too much time this past week trying to upgrade Tammy's phone after she'd dropped hers in the toilet. It still functioned but would occasionally go dark. She was a few months past due for an upgrade but that's not what our account's records with Verizon showed. I tried to get a resolution to the problem both in-store and over the phone but with no luck whatsoever. Each time I was assured that someone would get back to me but they never did. In my frustration I made a post to Facebook, more curious than anything about what carriers others were using as I kicked around thoughts of giving Verizon the heave-ho, all the while pretty sure I would be staying with Verizon because their coverage really is the best. Once we're retired and doing more traveling we'll want good coverage.

One of the commenters to my Facebook post was Jay, a retired controller whose son works at the Verizon store in Apple Valley. He suggested I go in and see if he could get it straightened out for us. I was feeling like this was our only hope at this point.

And we did.

We spent more than two hours with James on Thursday afternoon. He was on the phone with the corporate office for much too long it seemed but he was finally able to untangle the mess our account was in and that's all that really mattered. Tammy is the happy owner of an iPhone 6 and we also walked away with a pair of UE Boom wireless speakers. They make a lot of sense for out on our deck. Actually, I'm listening to them now as I write this. They're so full of sound.

Another thing James noticed on our account was that we weren't getting the government employee discount of 15%. He fixed that too!

I opted for indoor riding this week on my CompuTrainer. I have a love-hate relationship with that piece of equipment. It works me so hard but when I'm done I'm very thankful for the workout. The photo to the right was taken during a workout where I was riding against myself from two previous rides. The image to the left of the screen was the 'current' me during the ride. The center image was from a recent ride and the right side image was an effort I did shortly after getting out of the hospital a couple months ago. I can see my improvement based on my watts output and average speed.

Today's ride was even better averaging 195 watts over 30 miles. Nothing exceptional but I'm moving in the right direction.

Spring shows up on the calendar but you wouldn't know it by looking outside. I was expecting the snow we got last Sunday to be gone by now but it's reluctant to leave. I haven't let that stop me from taking the pups for their daily walk. They so look forward to it. Toby and Allie will be 12 this summer and I know this is something we probably won't be able to do in a couple of years. I don't want to even think about that.

Tammy has just one day of work remaining before retiring from her job as a telephone triage nurse. She's been with OptumHealth for 7 years and will be so happy to be done. It's stressful work. She'll go into the office on Monday for her last shift and to turn in all of the equipment she used in her home office. I had to laugh after she finished her last at-home shift on Tuesday, she wasted no time in tearing down all of her equipment and promising me that the office/den would soon be my domain once again.

I don't expect that she'll be putting her feet up for too long. She's already got something in the works; something that she's very excited about but I'll wait for a while to say more about it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

16 Years Together and She's Clearly No Dummy

Tammy and I celebrated the 16th anniversary of our first date last Thursday night. We considered going to Sawatdee restaurant in Minneapolis (where it all began for us) but opted for something different instead. We drove south to Northfield and with the help of Yelp we chose The Tavern for dinner. We enjoyed ourselves while reminiscing about those earlier years and looking ahead to the changes we'll be seeing in our near future.

I was in the middle of taking a selfie to upload to Facebook when the couple across from us offered to help out. That was sweet of them.

We walked in the cold night air to our car and talked of coming back to Northfield to check out the many shops one day soon. It's a beautiful older city and one we seldom visit.

I'm all caught up on my TV watching after having viewed the final season of Breaking Bad and the last episode of the most recent House of Cards series. I was a little late to Breaking Bad and got mired down in the 3rd season when it became too dark for me but I pushed through and enjoyed the rest of it. After watching Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards, I don't think I can even recall what he actually sounds like. He's so believable as Frank with his southern accent.

I've got a few shifts behind me now that I'm back to work. It seems surreal at times because I'll have moments in the sector where I feel like I never left for those two months. Selective memory of some sort I guess. All I know is it feels nice to be back.

I think I may have let Rachel down a little without her even knowing. Let me explain. I've got more than a passing understanding of weather. It's knowledge I used while performing weather briefings for pilots when I worked in Huron, South Dakota for the FAA early in my career. It never occurred to me to share any of this wisdom with Rachel: the difference between a cold front and an occluded front or the dynamics of positive vorticity advection and how it relates to storm development, say nothing of adiabatic lapse rate or upslope but surely I could've at least talked with her about the basics of weather patterns and systems in the US. It never came up.

We had this text exchange Saturday night:

(Me) "Did you see the weather forecast? We're getting a lot of snow they say. Mom's phone is working again. :)"

(Rachel) "East coasts been hit so Im not surprised its headed our way. Knew that would happen."

"I gotta go to bed though I work tomorrow. Talk to you later! Love you"

(Me) "You goofball...we get our weather from the west not the east! ;)"

She runs circles around me in every other category when it comes to book smarts so she's clearly no dummy but this exchange was amusing to me. A topic of discussion for our next cup of coffee or glass of wine together? Maybe. Maybe not. I enjoy having at least something where I still have an edge.

About that forecast. Yes, we did get lots of snow; somewhere between 8-10 inches in Lakeville (20-25 cm for my European friends). Our bird feeders had much more activity than what is normal in the hours before the snow began. I find it interesting how they sense a change in conditions and the need to prepare.

I too have been preparing but with a focus for more springlike weather as you can see by our deck furniture in the photo. I said I wouldn't snowblow this snowfall but that was a lie. I was out there this morning making quick work of it before heading into the salt mine.

Last Thursday's ride...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again!

Finally! I was able to return to work today and resume my duties as an air traffic controller after nearly 2 months away on medical leave. It feels nice. Not that I didn't appreciate my job before being sidelined as I was but I appreciate it even more now.

I showed up at work this morning to report to the Quality Control office for some 'other duties', running short on sick-leave and intending to either get my clearance to work traffic again within the next few days or reluctantly submit my paperwork and retire at the end of the month. Fortunately for me, I received a call mid-morning telling me that I was being reinstated and that I was free to resume my work as a controller. I quickly stepped outside to text Tammy and tell her the good news but decided to call her instead. This was something we both really wanted and a text message just wouldn't do it justice. She was very happy too!

I'm not ready yet. I'm just not. The widget on my phone says 291 days until my final day. I'm good with that number as it allows us to take care of some loose ends financially and that to me is more important than the easy life. That will happen soon enough all on its own.

I'm getting a jump on this year's yardwork with the nice weather we've been having for the past week. I think this may be the earliest I've ever put fertilizer down. I even found time to transplant some hostas this afternoon. I'm too good at putting that job off until the next year or the year after that. Done!

The pups are digging this nice weather too. I'll send them out on the deck to bark their little heads off for a few minutes before giving in to their pleadings to come back in and have a bite of whatever I'm munching on.

I'm ramping up both my outdoor walks and rides. I'm struggling with some knee pain but I'm determined to find a way to make this new normal of mine work. I can't recall if I mentioned this here previously but I'm under strict doctor's orders to no longer use NSAIDS because they interfere with the anticoagulant I'm taking. They were my go-to medication to alleviate much of my knee pain. I'm allowed to use Tylenol but it does little if anything for me so I'm resorting to glucosamine/chondroitin with hopes that it will provide some needed relief. I'll report back later.

We just got a call from Rachel. I was sitting here blogging while messaging with her on Facebook when she suggested that she call instead. Great idea! That wasn't quite the highlight of my day but it was close!

Video of my Jordan Loop from a couple afternoons ago...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Still in a Holding Pattern

I'm still in a holding pattern with respect to my career as an air traffic controller. The regional Flight Surgeon who determines the fate of my medical status to perform my duties is waiting on two last reports before making his decision to reinstate me or not.

I met with Dr. Foley on Thursday morning for a follow-up and to go over the results of the event monitor I wore for 30 days for my heart. The results came back as clean as could be. He said he usually has a few pages of data to go through when analyzing 30 days of readings but in my case, there was absolutely nothing to see. He said he had to make a phone call to make sure he was looking at the full analysis.

So, based on the findings of the monitor, my clots aren't forming as a result of atrial fibrillation which leaves Dr. Foley "99.9% sure they're developing in my common iliac arteries". He told me how he's very much a binary person who's usually decisive in his decision making but in this case, he's not sure which way to go. He said there's a strong case to be made for going ahead with surgery now to remedy both the clots and aneurysms but there's an equally good case to be made for not rushing the decision.  He's hopeful that my meeting with Dr. Johnstone this coming Wednesday will give us a better idea about which way the wind is blowing and how best to proceed.

A trip to the mailbox typically yields at least one and sometimes a few insurance statements related to my hospitalization. The most recent one shows the costs to treat me are in excess of $100,000. Fortunately, my out-of-pocket expenses aren't anywhere near that. I'm extremely thankful for medical science and health insurance!

I'm definitely feeling better. For the first month of my recovery I'd easily become fatigued but I'm much more my normal self now than not. It's nice.

One thing I've realized in this sort of practice retirement I've been living is that I need some structure to my day. It's way too easy to find that the afternoon has arrived and I've got nothing to show for my morning. That's not me. I'm in a limbo of sorts though so I'm not too worried about it. I'm still mentally preparing to go back to work in the next couple of weeks which means I'm not fully embracing this retirement thing just yet.

Vineland Tree Care was here Friday afternoon to trim our two large oak trees on the side of the house. I will never, ever again use the fly-by-night people who come through the neighborhood and charge every bit as much as Vineland but don't do nearly the job. I can't say enough good things about Vineland. They're so professional!

House of Cards was playing in our home late Friday night when we heard a ridiculously loud explosion that rattled our windows and felt like it was within 100 feet of our house. I stepped outside the front door to see Alex across the street having a look around as well. There wasn't anything obviously wrong that we could see so we both stepped back inside. We'd find out the next morning that a gas explosion occurred in a home several blocks from us.

Rachel stopped by Sunday night and spent a few hours with us. I love that. Tammy was still working in her office when she arrived (9 more shifts left) so I made some coffees for us and we chatted in the sunporch before taking a walk to see the house where the explosion happened. What a mess! I'm only surprised that there weren't more windows blown out of nearby homes.

We talked a lot about so many things but much of that I really can't share here. She has a lot on her plate and a few important decisions to make in her near future. I'm so thankful for the relationship we have and the openness that goes with it. I never imagined that being a stepdad could be so rewarding.

I'm hesitant to say this but it appears we're looking at winter in the rear-view mirror. This past week started out with below zero temps but it warmed nicely to well above freezing. With a forecast calling for highs in the upper 50s this week, we'll soon be out of snow. I'm not complaining but this does bring to an end my fat-biking on snow covered trails for the season.

Please indulge me in this one last snowy trail video. I promise you won't be disappointed...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chilled and Discovering my Inner Georgia O'Keeffe

I made it out for another Fat Tuesday ride down along the river. So much fun are these rides. The trails are lacking for snow but that may soon be fixed as there's a storm heading this way.

I forgot how much the blood-thinner Coumadin leaves me chilled. I typically notice it just sitting around the house but yesterday afternoon on a ride I was having a hard time staying warm in temps (18ºf / -8ºc) that aren't usually a problem for me. I didn't do any outdoor riding when I was on the drug 3 years ago so I'm not sure if this is just an occasional thing. I seemed to do fine on other rides in the weeks since I've been back on it.

Being on coumadin means I can no longer use my go-to remedy for knee pain: NSAIDs—or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Having them in my system can exacerbate a bleed and that wouldn't be good. I checked with my doctor and he was adamant that I avoid them. I'd typically take a couple of Advil at night and my knees would feel fairly good the next morning. There would still be some pain but it was better than had I not used the drug. I do have one other option and that's another Synvisc injection.

I meet with my doctor later in the week to go over the results of my Holter monitor. I'd been wearing it for the past 30 days since being discharged from the hospital to see if my heart has any issues with atrial fibrillation. My doctor doesn't think it's a problem but he needs to be able to rule it out. It was nice to finally be able to ditch it.

Today marks my 5th week away from work. I should soon have an answer one way or the other (by the FAA's regional flight surgeon handling my case) if I'll be approved to return to work. He should have all of the necessary paperwork this coming week to make his decision.

Tammy and I drove down to Rochester on Friday afternoon to spend some time with Rachel. We went out for sushi (always something we look forward to) then kicked around the mall, killing time before our painting class at Canvas and Chardonnay. Rachel had a cold but she was a trooper for still wanting to go out with us.

The class was a nice time. I was only one of two guys there so I suppose it could be considered a chick thing to do but I didn't mind. It got really, really loud in there at times! Everyone was enjoying themselves. No experience is necessary or as they like to say: "It's not fine art, it's fun art!"

If you're unfamiliar with these kinds of classes, you're instructed step by step in how to go about painting that night's subject. The final products are all somewhat similar but yet very different. Each session lasts a little over 2 hours.

Taking the class and seeing how we both enjoyed it has Tammy thinking about signing us up for a painting class through some local community education offering. I think that would be fun. But first, we need to get back to Foci where we've been absent for over 6 months! That's not supposed to happen.

Got your lights on? Let's go for a Fat Tuesday ride!