Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Biker in the Making and Free Thinking

I'll often use my breaks at work to write in my blog but I'm finding little time for that lately. Between the increase in traffic traversing our airspace due to the Oshkosh airshow and the smallest staffing numbers I've ever worked with, I've had much less laptop time. I'm not complaining but the thought of retirement has never been more tempting. I think back to all of the false starts I've had with my plans for retirement and how I've been reluctant to call it quits because I just wasn't feeling like I was ready to be done. I always felt I'd know when the time was right and the feeling I'm getting now is that this time it's for real. I'm still focused on my January 2nd date and barring some medical issue, I think I'll make it. 161 dtg and no more.

Tammy and I had a mini date last week when Tammy's good friend Brenda offered to watch Elaine for 4 hours so we could go out and spend some time together. That was so nice of her. Brenda is also a nurse. We made the most of our time: a walk around Lake of the Isles, lunch at Chili's and a little shopping at Costco. Thanks again, Brenda!

Rachel had her first taste of long-distance cycling when she joined a volunteer group she was part of in college (STLF) for a two-day ride from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Chicago, Ilinois. They did some volunteer projects along the way similar to what they did on their spring break trips across the country. We had done some rides together over the last couple of weeks to help get her conditioned and I think it helped.

She's no stranger to the bike having gotten much use out of her own bike before getting a car but she told me a few nights ago that she wants to do even more riding now. Good for her!

In keeping with my blog being a place that I'll be returning to in years and decades from now I'd like to make mention of where my head is at with respect to my faith in God and my politics.

I grew up in a family that attended church each Sunday and I more or less continued that routine when I left home. Even while serving in the Navy I'd sometimes attend church at the small chapel on base when my ship was in port in San Diego. It felt right to do in a centering or grounding sort of way.

That's all changed now thanks to a takeover of our congregations by a conservative ideology that has absolutely no resemblance to Jesus. None! I've never been so far from the church as I am today and I see very little chance that I'll be making my way back any time soon if ever again.

I've become much more of a free-thinker who now wonders if my previous beliefs were shaped more by man in a Fox News sort of warped way rather than by what God intended.

The most disturbing thing to me though is the marrying of religion and politics. I saw where a Facebook friend and member of our former small group posted the graphic to the left on her wall the other day. It's this sort of thing that has me so disappointed in the direction my Christian brothers and sisters are moving. This kind of thing happens much more often than it should.

Former GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater once said:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.”

It's gotten to the point where I'm spending less and less time online, preferring to avoid having to see such utter nonsense and the need to feel I have to respond to it. It's not worth it. I'm much happier without it.

On a lighter note, I did a tour of our yard recently...

A stroll around our yard to check out our gardens at the end of the first week of July. I try to do this yearly so I'll have something to look back on the see how changes evolve over the years.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Disagreements and a Daunting Challenge

Keith, Tracee, Jerry, Jackie, Stephanie, and Ryan met at Mom's townhome Sunday morning to sort through her belongings and take to Goodwill anything they couldn't find a home for. It was a huge undertaking. There's still a considerable amount of stuff to go through but they made a lot of progress. Keith intends to replace some light fixtures and possibly the countertops before having her home listed.

All of this hasn't been without some family strife. My youngest brother who has lived with our mom for the past six years is insisting that it's just a matter of time before she will be returning home and that we're all jumping the gun. He's also of the belief that there was never a need for her to have left her home in the first place. I can't disagree more and every other one of my siblings feels the same way. It's been very frustrating as we try to do this in a way that is free of drama and free of stress for Mom. Tim continuing to encourage her that she'll be coming home soon is detrimental to her mental and physical health. She so wants to believe him and becomes agitated with the rest of us when his promises don't come to fruition.

I'm not violating any family trust by mentioning this here as Tim has taken to Facebook to plead his case among his friends while stating that we're all adult children of alcoholic parents and very dysfunctional. I love my brother. I just want him to stop with his agenda and offer us a hand.

I went with Rachel to an informational meeting at St Kate's in St Paul on Tuesday night. We were there for a couple hours listening to the philosophy behind the school's graduate programs. Most of the evening was spent within a smaller group going over in detail their Masters of Physician Assistant Studies program.

Just getting selected to attend the school is daunting. The application process for their MPAS program is open until the end of September and they already have nearly 500 applicants.
Who knows what the final number will be but of the hundreds of applicants, only 100 will be called in for an interview and of those 100 only 32 will be selected for a seat in their next class. This is fairly typical of any school she applies for. It's very competitive.

We strolled around the campus on our way back to the car and took in some of the sights. It's a picturesque setting.

I'm enjoying one of my riding loops much more than any of the others I do: my loop to Murphy Hanrehan and the mountain bike trails they have there. It's only 21 miles (6 miles to the trail-head with 9 miles of trails then a 6-mile return) of riding but I have so much fun out there. I'm getting more comfortable with my Shaman and that translates to quicker times through the trails. I don't know how much faster I can get without taking too many risks but I'm enjoying trying. The biggest thing to learn is when to let my speed run vs reigning it in. I actually get a little anxious before going on the ride because I know I'll be challenged in ways my road bike can't.

My Timehop reminded me of my last double century ride I did 4 years ago today and it has me wondering if I'll ever do another. I'd like to think I will but I can't be certain. It may be a worthy goal in retirement. Until then, I'll have video from that ride 4 years ago to remind myself what I'm in for should I ever decide to get that crazy again.

This video is a little raw compared to some of my more recent offerings but I still like it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Memories and Mementoes for the Taking

Tammy and I have summer traditions that we look forward to each year: the Taste of Minnesota; the Uptown Art Fair; the Dakota County Fair, and the Minnesota State Fair to name a few. We'll be taking a pass on each of those this year as we care for Elaine. We'll make it back to all of them again someday and I think we'll enjoy them all more than ever when we do.

My mom is slowly slipping away from us. I went to see her Wednesday night and she was so confused and making very little sense. I wondered as I sat with her in her room if she would even remember the next day that I was there at all.

I brought my camera along hoping to get a nice photo of her but I never took it out. She was too stressed to smile and I didn't feel right about taking a photo of her in the condition she was in. I tried to make small-talk but I failed to piece together a conversation from what little sense she was making.

I drove home in silence, feeling sad for her situation and wondering (as I have each time I've said goodbye to her these past several weeks) if that would be the last time I'd see her. I watched a couple of balloons floating off to my left as I approached the Elko exit. I grabbed a quick shot. There's a serenity in that photo that I wish for my mom. I'm no longer praying for a miraculous recovery but instead, I pray for her to leave this life as her time here is done. But her frail, faithful heart soldiers on. It keeps on doing what it has done for nearly 88 years while the rest of her body slowly shuts down and leaves her to struggle on.

Keith will be putting her town-home on the market soon. My siblings and I have been stopping by there this past week to see if there's anything of hers we'd like to have. The only thing I was really hoping to get back was a Tiffany Peony lamp I'd made for her some 15 years ago. I wanted it for Jackie, my sister. I also found several photo albums that I brought home with me with plans to go through them this winter and digitize them and eventually put them all on DVDs to give to my siblings. I wish I'd have taken time to go over them with my mom while she was still able to give me the history of some of the less familiar photos. It's too late for that now.

Going through her things as we are feels premature but it all has to be done in order to get her home on the market and cover whatever costs she will incur once she leaves the Transitional Care Unit at Three Links. I don't see her languishing in this condition for long but it's possible that she could and we need to be prepared.

I took a few minutes to take one last look around knowing that it will probably be the last time I would see her home looking the way she had it.

There have been lots of gatherings and celebrations here over the 18 or so years that she's called this home. This may be the longest she's ever lived in one place now that I think about it.

I know my dad would have been proud of the way she carried on without him.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Retirement Hat-Trick

I had the 2nd of 2 PDT (Photodynamic Therapy) sessions done on my face Monday morning. The recovery this time is going much better than the initial treatment I had 3 weeks ago. I think that's because most of the damaged skin was removed during the first session leaving not as much for the Levulan and blue light to react with this most recent time.

Yes, that's a selfie to the left. I'm using my leg to take it. Don't believe me?

I thought I'd get more done around the house during my stay-cation but I'm okay with just having taken it easy for the most part. I'm back to work now as I write this and while I'm not excited about that, I'm feeling good about getting ever closer to my retirement date. This time away from work has me looking forward to retirement more than ever. It's taken me much longer than I thought it would to get to this point but I'm mentally ready to be done. My end goal is still January 2nd, 2016. We'll see.

Speaking of retirement: I attended a retirement party last Tuesday for a few guys I've worked with for most of my career. Grant Feest, Rob Ralston, and Dave Hanson. I can't remember the last time I was tipping back a beer at 10:35 in the morning but it was for a worthy cause. They all arrived at 10:00 when Celts in Farmington opened and began their celebration.

Grant and his wife will be purchasing an RV and doing some traveling. Grant has also been hinting just a little about a reunion with members of a rock band he played with in the early '80s, Wally Cleaver. They were quite successful in the Racine/Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and points beyond back in the day. I hope he does. Grant knows more TV commercial trivia from the '70s than anyone I know. He was always our go-to guy at work for songs we were trying to recall from our youth. We have plans to play some golf together next summer.

Rob was probably the loudest guy I've ever worked with! No kidding. At times obnoxious but at the same time, loveable. He was one of the main guys at work who (years ago) helped me to see the flaws in my conservative thinking. He was helpful in getting me to see things from a perspective other than my default mode. I'm grateful for the seeds he planted and also for the help he was to me along the way when I was in need of some guidance with respect to some medical issues at work. I'm sure our paths will cross again.

I'll miss Dave for his quiet, 'Steady Eddie' approach to working traffic. He's not a die-hard cyclist but he loves to follow the Tour de France, so much so that he and his wife were leaving the party to catch a flight to Amsterdam. Dave will be watching this year's Tour in person. I asked him if he'll be the naked guy running alongside the peloton but no, that won't be him he said. Instead, he'll be the guy with the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher's flag, waving it on the sidelines. He said to be sure to watch for him during the Prologue and the climb up Alpe d'Huez. I'll be watching.

A few photos from the get-together.

There goes nearly 10% of our staffing!

Best of wishes to the three of you and I'll see you in the land of happy before too long!