Saturday, May 30, 2015


We drove up to Babbitt early Tuesday morning to bring Tammy's mom back with us to live. Her dementia seems to come and go but for the most part, she's enjoying her stay. Rather than try and explain to her at the outset that she was coming to live with us, we're easing her into the idea. There's been some resistance but it soon passes and she's once again content to sit in front of her makeup mirror and primp herself. It calms her. She'll work on her makeup for the longest time, to the point where she overdoes it, but it's not something we would want to deny her, not if it brings her peace.

We had a funny moment a couple days ago. We were all in the laundry room on the way out to the car when Tammy asked me to hold on to Elaine while she gathered some things. While we were standing there Elaine noticed the large mirror attached to the bench seat. She shuffled closer to have a look and asked me for some lipstick. I looked at Tammy and she rolled her eyes before reaching in her purse. We waited patiently for her mom to finish but knew we'd have to walk her away and toward the door to the garage if we were to ever get to where we were going. We did just that as she craned her neck to continue to look. It was both cute and funny.

It's a beautiful thing to watch Tammy care for her. She's so sweet even in those moments where her mother isn't very receptive to the attention Tammy is giving her.

I noticed a hummingbird at our feeder a couple days ago. I tried to get a photo of it but I wasn't quick enough. I want to be that guy in retirement (218 days from now) who has the little hummers waiting in line to get at the ports of our feeders. Just wait!

My thoughts keep returning to the fat bike I talked about in my last post. The quieter part of me wants to hold off to make the purchase but the louder part of me says I'm gonna get it eventually anyway so why wait? I'd like to be out on the trails with it not only in the winter but now. What's that I feel? that someone twisting my arm?

Rachel has some friends lined up and a 15 foot U-Haul reserved for her move back home tomorrow. She had a couple of job opportunities present themselves to her recently that (if she takes them) will keep her busy throughout the summer and beyond. She's not one to sit around and watch the world pass by. We're looking forward to her ever-pleasant presence around our home again.

I was out riding for a few hours on Memorial Day intent on doing a 75-mile loop to Lonsdale. Somewhere around Webster I decided to venture off my planned route and instead stop and see Mom at her temporary room in Northfield. While she may not be recovering as quickly as we'd hoped to see, she is slowly getting better. Whether or not she'll ever be able to return home is still unknown. We have a family care conference set up for Wednesday where we'll sit down with a social worker to talk about where she's at in her recovery and what her options are.

How does one come to terms with trading the comfort and solitude of your home for the hospital-like feel of a much less private room and gracefully accept this new phase in life? That has to be a most difficult transition.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Riding and Reminiscing

My plan has been to buy a kayak when I retire and use it on some nearby lakes to get an upper-body workout. I'd have done it already but there's not enough time in my schedule between my riding, walking, yard work and what remains of my career. I'm glad I waited. My want for a kayak has been replaced by something more appealing: SUP (Stand Up Paddle). In the land of 10,000 lakes, I think this could be something I can enjoy for many years. I hear it's a very good core workout and that's what I need.

I also like how easy it is to lift one of these boards as they're considerably lighter than a kayak.

SUP is not new but I would guess it's new to most of those out there doing it. I found a link to this video on Wiki. Too fun! Now, where do I go to find waves like that around here?

I've also got my eye on one other toy; a newer, lighter fat-bike. There's a small shop in Rosemount called Wheelie Awesome Bike Service that offers a carbon fiber bike from Sarma called the Shaman with a Bluto front suspension that comes in at around 25 pounds. The reviews I've read about the bike are very good. My knees will appreciate the reduced weight considering how my Mukluk tips the scales at just over 40 pounds. I'd like to have this in my stable by fall if possible.

Speaking of my knees, I recently heard about a relatively new and much more refined partial knee replacement procedure called Makoplasty that uses a robotic arm in conjunction with infrared positioning of arrays that guide the surgeon for a much more precise surgery. Here's a video that describes the procedure. It doesn't guarantee any more longevity out of the new knee when compared to other knee surgical procedures but I think recovery is faster. I hope to have my right knee rebuilt someday but I figure the longer I wait the more I increase my chances for a better outcome.

I was in to see my dermatologist on Tuesday to rid my skin of any suspect areas that could become cancerous. His focus was on small, scaly areas referred to as Actinic Keratoses that he freezes off with super-cold liquid nitrogen. It leaves my face looking like I've got a skin disease but I don't mind. It's a small inconvenience for what it does for me. He wants me back in three weeks to undergo Photodynamic Therapy and again three weeks after that to repeat the process.

I was out riding on Friday morning under a blue sky with light winds. We seldom have calm wind days here of late and it reminded me a lot of a San Diego day when I used to ride while in the Navy. Those were some carefree times for me. I couldn't help but reminisce about those days because it's what I do.

I took a detour and rode out to Emerald Hills Village trailer park in Inver Grove Heights to have a look at where I lived for my first year after returning home from the Navy. The trees are a lot taller and the home I used to live in has been replaced by another but it's still the same place. I enjoyed standing there straddling my bike and thinking about how much has happened in my life since I lived there.

Yes, so much has happened but I'm still the same kid-at-heart. I hope that never changes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

We Just Want What's Best For Her

Lots has been happening this past week for our family. My mom is in the Temporary Care Unit of Three Links Care Center in Northfield where she'll hopefully be for several more days or better yet, weeks. I say hopefully because there's a strong possibility that she'll be going home sooner than she should. She's still not strong enough to get around without help but she's determined to go back home and resume her life as she left it last Saturday.

I had been trying to get a hold of her Saturday morning but her phone was off the hook. I texted Tim (he lives with her) and he told me she wasn't feeling well; he suspected food poisoning. It concerned me because her health is frail to begin with and who knows how much her heart can take?

I was able to get in touch with Tracee and she offered to go over and check on her. It's a good thing she did. She rushed her to the emergency room at Ridges Hospital in Burnsville. Her heart was beating much too hard at 145 bpm, her blood pressure was dangerously high and her temperature was elevated. She was very dehydrated and some of the other values they check for were also out of range. She was in tough shape.

She spent the next few days at Ridges before being discharged to her room in Northfield where she remains.

As much as we'd like to see her remain there until she's better, the decision to leave or stay is up to her. The facility she's at has no ability to keep her from returning home no matter how weak or unable to care for herself she is.

We talked about getting her into an assisted living facility but she would need to be considerably stronger than she is for that to be an option. The other option we have is long term care or what's often referred to as a nursing home. It's not where we'd want to see her but it's a much safer environment than her home where I envision her sitting in front of the television watching Fox News and too weak to make it to the bathroom or kitchen without a huge effort on her part, say nothing of trying to bathe herself. It's very worrisome.

When all of this began to unfold we offered to take her in rather than having her return to her home but I began to have second thoughts about our offer. With Tammy's mother coming to stay with us next week, Tammy can't afford to have her back go out on her trying to lift my mother. With Tammy's fragile back, that's a real possibility and not a risk I want her to take.

This incident has weakened her quite a lot. I'm hopeful that she'll bounce back as she has in the past but that may be asking too much this time. This may be her life for the foreseeable future—something she's going to have to adjust to.

I want to say a special thank-you to Tracee for getting her to the hospital and quite likely saving her life. I don't think it can be overstated just how important it was that she received the medical care she did without any further delay last Saturday.

Also, a special thank-you to Tammy for putting in three full days with her making sure she was comfortable and easing her fears through it all.

I'm not sure how this will all unfold. We're working with a social worker to help us navigate these waters and discuss the options available to our mom. There's so much to consider and her options change as her health improves or declines, and on the availability of rooms. We just want what's best for her.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Let the Growing Begin!

Tammy is rocking the gardening thing this year! We always take one day each spring to go shopping for flowers. It's a big undertaking considering all of the flower gardens we have so it's best done as a team, plus we always love doing it together. Our schedules weren't lining up so well so Tammy offered to go out last Friday and get most of what we needed before the hordes of weekend shoppers scarfed them up.

I came home from work Friday night and she was excited to take me out and show me what she'd picked out. I had the biggest smile on my face. She did really well! Not only that but when I came home from work Saturday afternoon she was well on her way to having them all in the ground. Wow!

We went out Monday morning to find some hanging baskets for our deck and front step. The finishing touch to our outdoor work was an herb garden I made for her as a Mother's Day gift.

Let the growing begin!

We've had some cool weather here and I've been taking advantage of it by getting the pups out walking more than I usually do with two walks a day. They're loving it but I'm worried that they're going to expect me to do this every day. I just know that once the warm weather arrives, Toby and Allie will have a difficult time doing these sort of distances. They'll be 12 this summer and I don't want to push them too hard. We've done 4 miles each of the last two days with this walk broken up into two segments.

Toby is so adorable. He pretty much leads the way and he knows which roads lead to home and which ones will add distance to the walk. He was especially happy these last two days when I gave in to his pleadings to add the Fleet Farm kicker to our walk thereby adding an additional 15 minutes. It's tough to look into those sweet, aging eyes of his and say no. Usually once during each walk he'll slow and look at me and I'll know it's his signal for me to bring my face nearer to his so he can jump up and give me a lick. I always interpret it as him saying "Thanks for the walk, Dad!" He's such a sweetheart.

We watched Still Alice a couple nights ago after having read the book. It's a fictional story about a Harvard linguistics professor who is stricken with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. I know there will be a significant difference between the trials of the woman in the movie compared to Tammy's mother but I think it's important for me to learn whatever I can ahead of time about the disease and its effect on a person's mind.

Yardwork and gardening took up most of my days off. I did manage one nice ride with Hynek: a 45-mile loop out to Hampton. My knees felt much better than normal so I was happy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

New Normals

My routine in the morning is to get up and let the dogs out first thing before feeding them. Toby and Allie are pretty quick to jump out of bed but not nearly as fast as Charlie. He's on the floor spinning circles in excitement waiting for them. They race down the stairs and out into the front yard where they quickly do their business before hurrying in to be fed. The other morning, Charlie was as excited as ever to eat. He ran inside and when Toby and Allie were too slow making their way back into the house he ran out onto the front porch while I waited there with the door open. He let out a big "woof" in their direction as if to say "c'mon...hurry it up!" before running back inside. It was so funny. He's such a character.

We picked up Mom on Monday afternoon and took her out for a late lunch at Olive Garden. I should clarify; we only drove. She insisted on paying the bill with a combination of a gift card from Bryan and Sue and her own money.

She doesn't get out very much anymore it seems unless it's for a doctor's appointment. Since losing the vision in her right eye she's become so much less ambulatory. She uses a walker now but she'll still try and get by with just her cane. We insist she use her walker when we take her out—if for no other reason than to get her accustomed to using it. She simply can't afford to fall. It has to be so hard for her considering how active she used to be up until just a couple of years ago.

We had a very nice time.

Tammy made a quick trip up north to put some finishing touches on our plans to bring her mother down to live with us beginning in a few weeks. I think she pretty much has everything in order. A more giving person than Tammy I'm not aware of. She's so looking forward to having Elaine in our home and engaging her with crafts and conversation and taking her places. So am I.

Rachel spent Thursday night with us. We uncorked some wine and watched an episode of Parenthood while we chatted. There's always so much to catch up on with each other. I love our time together.

Tammy has a few weeks left in her Guardianship class through Hennepin County. It's a lot more rigorous than I think she figured it would be but she's enjoying it and learning a lot. She hopes to eventually volunteer her services to one or two people once she's certified. Having her mother come to stay with us wasn't in the plans when she signed up for the class so it may be something she'll have to put on hold while she cares for Elaine. We'll see.

I got out yesterday morning for a loop to Jordan before heading in to work. I'm still trying to adjust to my new normal with my sorer than normal knees. I'm managing. Tammy has been encouraging me to go in for another Synvisc (hyaluronic acid) injection but I'd like to hold off and see if I can get by without it for this year. Being slower than I'm used to is tough to accept but then I think about how I could easily be adjusting to life without my lower left leg and my pity-party comes to an abrupt halt.

It's all about perspective.

Friday, May 1, 2015

So Long, Rick!

We were back in the studio on Monday afternoon for a few hours. I haven't been happy with the color application of my last couple of votives so I switched to the Swedish overlay method and got much better results.

We've only been at Foci again for a few weeks but I'm feeling like I'm nearly back to where I was before we took those nine months off. I really enjoy making the candle votives I've been playing around with but I do need to do some other shapes, too. I have a request from a friend for a larger mouth vase so maybe I'll put some thought into that as well but I don't think I'll stop doing the votives anytime soon.

I'm sitting at 246 days remaining in my career as an air traffic controller. Using this nifty calendar I can count back that same number of days and get a better feel for just how long 246 days is. This was us that many days ago. It's happening quickly now but I'm feeling ready.

Speaking of retiring: Rick Melhorn has left the building after having reached the mandatory retirement age of 56. A nicer guy you will not meet. I've worked on and off with Rick for the last 30 years. A retirement party was organized for him at one of the local pubs in town. It was nice to see such a good turnout.

Jeff Boyce even made the trip from Milwaukee to celebrate Rick's retirement. Jeff used to work with us until about 25 years ago when he decided to move closer to home and took a job at Milwaukee tower from where he recently retired. Jeff was the controller who took the initial emergency call from the ill-fated United-two-thirty-two. It was nice to see him but I wish we'd have had more time to chat.

Rachel texted us tonight with a link to a site that tries to calculate the age of people in photographs. Go to and submit a photo or two. Tammy's gonna love me for this one!

I've been out on my bike just a couple of times this week and because I can, I've got some video from both rides. I made it out Tuesday morning with some (much younger!) friends from work and did my best to not let my age show. I did okay.

I was also out yesterday morning before work doing my Hampton Loop. I felt pretty good out there and was able to keep my watts well above 200 for much of it.

And that's a wrap! Enjoy your weekend.

Over and out!