Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Something When Just A Few Days Ago There Was Nothing

I can't recall a longer two weeks in my life. It's somewhat surreal at times. I began to lose my hearing in my left ear two weeks ago this afternoon but it seems like so much more time has passed than that. I've been writing in my blog more now than I typically do because it's therapeutic in helping me sort through my thoughts. For whatever reason, writing this stuff down works for me. Plus, I have some extra time on my hands now with my career in the rearview mirror.

Up until a few days ago, I was having moments, awake moments where for a few seconds I would imagine that all of this was just a bad dream and that there was nothing wrong with my hearing. There was a sinking in my heart when I would snap out of it in less than 5 seconds and realize that this was no dream. Or I would think of things I could've done or should've done that may have so easily changed this outcome for me but that's such a cruel game to play with one's mind. I can't go back so why bother even if it's only just to imagine. Still, I go there.

But then there's this other thing I do to try and help my ear to hear. I passed my FAA physical with no problems whatsoever 3 days before my hearing failed. Part of the physical is a hearing test given in a soundproof booth. Headphones are placed over your ears and you're to listen for a series of faint tones and click a clicker when you hear them. I can still hear the beeps from that exam in my imagination when I close my eyes and think of it. I try and imagine my left ear hearing the tones again as I concentrate. It's almost as if I'm willing the synapses in my brain to try and continue to make those connections they used to make. I know. Crazy. But it's how I'm coping.

I was invited out to a friend's home in Wisconsin for a get-together Saturday night. Rick lives out in the country just north of Prescott. My Garmin was encouraging me to take the freeway but I opted for a little slower route on roads I bike on. It had been a busy day and I needed this quiet time before arriving at the party.

Turning on to County Rd F with Jason Isbell filling the cab in my mono, spiritless new normal, I could sense some distortion coming through my left ear. I stuck my finger in my ear to see if the distortion stopped and it did. My finger found some moisture from the shower and I could hear it as it suctioned against my eardrum. I wondered, is there actually something getting through yet? It was encouraging if only that it meant my ear wasn't completely dead.

The party was a nice time as many people from work were there. I missed them. I struggled to hear in some of the noisier situations, mostly inside. It was difficult and made me miss being able to hear as I could so clearly just a very short time ago. Outdoors I was fine for the most part.

I left the party around 11:00 under an awesome orange moon. I pulled over a couple of times to try and photograph it while taking advantage of being far removed from city lights. I kept thinking about the distortion I had heard on the drive there and what it meant. Maybe it's nothing.

I was out mowing yesterday with a new set of safety ear muffs I purchased to help protect my right ear. Still wondering about the small amount of sound or crackling I was occasionally hearing in my bad ear I took out my mp3 player and snugged up an earbud into my left ear and placed my ear muffs over it so I could block out any ambient noise. I pressed 'play' but heard only some very faint sounds. I turned the volume up and I could definitely make out the song. I ran inside to tell Tammy. I handed her the player and asked her to shuffle through some songs to see if I could tell her what they were. I could but it had to be loud. My ear was still working! There is still something there and this fight is not over!

I was out on a ride this morning and I could actually hear the wind buffeting against the eardrum of my left ear. It's all so promising to me and I have a difficult time not getting too excited about this but it's something when just a few days ago there was nothing. Maybe we can build off of this. Maybe this is as good as it gets. I don't know.

I've got a call into my doctor's office at Mayo Clinic to see if I can be seen in the next couple of days to have another Dexamethasone injection into my inner ear. My doctor is out of town so any response is lagging and I'm more anxious by the hour.

I thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers. Please don't stop.

Continued here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saying Our Goodbyes

Keith called this morning to tell me that Mom's condition had deteriorated sharply in the last couple of days. I hadn't been to see her since Wednesday but was planning to go this afternoon. I dropped everything and hurried over to be with her. The phone really isn't much of an option with her anymore unless someone is there to handle it for her and that's not likely. I stopped calling her several weeks ago, opting to just drive to visit her instead.

When I arrived in her room she was sleeping but I gently woke her to let her know I was there. Her eyes lit up like they always do whenever any of us comes into her presence. She can no longer speak. She tries so hard but she's unable to. Sometimes a whisper escapes but I could never make out what she was trying to tell me.

But she can hear.

I had some quiet time with her for a couple hours before anyone else arrived. I told her how much I loved her and thanked her for all she'd done for me in my life and I told her how beautiful she looked. I think I detected a small smile when I said that. I told her that Tammy sends her love but that she couldn't be there. I just sat next to her and stroked her arm and held her hand and sat quietly in her presence watching her breath, sometimes labored breaths. She mostly sleeps.

She's receiving regular doses of morphine now to help with the pain she's experiencing from a fall a few nights ago. She has very little strength. The nursing staff is so attentive to her as they have always been. They were stopping by every 90 minutes to turn her and check her condition. One of the helpers quietly wheeled in a cart of snacks and coffee for visitors and placed it along the far wall.

Her sister Eva called while I was there and I was able to put the phone to her ear so she could listen. She drifted off to sleep after less than a minute but I'm almost certain she knew who was on the other end.

My brother Tim stopped by to see her and I was so pleased he did. I gave him some time with her and found a quiet place to phone Tammy to give her an update. Before I left, Jackie, Jerry, Erin, Clayton, and Anja drove in from Maple Grove to say their goodbyes and be with her. Others in the family would arrive throughout the afternoon and evening to see her, maybe one last time.

We're pretty much at that point now.

She hasn't eaten in close to 3 days and she's not receiving any fluids to speak of. I tried several times to give her a sip through a straw but she only pursed her lips not wanting any.

I was so pleased to see the attention she received today and I honestly feel that she's at peace and realizes that it's okay to go. We were all abundantly clear in our love for her and I know she knows that.

It's okay to let go, Mom.

You are very loved.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Waiting on Medicine and a Miracle

Tammy had asked me a few days ago if I'd be interested in going in for prayer with Pastor Pat Moe at Hosanna. I told her that I felt God could hear my prayers just fine from where I was at but I knew when I said that, that I really didn't mean it.

I was out walking the pups yesterday morning and feeling sad about my loss of hearing. I texted Tammy, "I'd like to go for prayer if we can". I knew she had a busy day with her mother planned but I hurried home and we made our way over to the church.

Pat is a beautiful woman who embodies everything that Jesus is asking us to be to one another. She's the primary reason for the outreach to the poor that emanates from Hosanna. She's a very humble woman who gives selflessly, always. We walked back to the prayer room where Pat anointed my ear with oil and began to pray over me as we all held hands. It was a moving experience and one that left me sobbing. It was a combination of a lot of things over this past year that brought me to my knees but mostly, it was just me surrendering to God and allowing his will to be done. Pat prayed that the power of medicine and miracles would come together to provide my healing. It was a very moving experience that Tammy and I were so thankful for.

I came home and needed to go out walking to collect my thoughts. There were so many things going through my mind. I found myself down along Crystal Lake and recalled a photo I'd taken on a bench there and uploaded to Facebook a couple summers ago. I titled it something about a "practice retirement day". And now it was real. I was no longer practicing. I was no longer captive to a work schedule that had me continually watching the clock even on my days off as I tried to accomplish all I needed to before my next work-week began. Couple that overwhelming sense of freedom with the profound sadness I was feeling about my hearing loss, and I again broke down in tears. That's not like me but this hasn't been easy and with everything else I've been dealing with in the past year, I think it all had just become too much for me in that moment.

I know there are much worse things to be afflicted with but until you've lost something as important to you as your hearing or even half of it, you can't begin to appreciate what that really means. You can try but you'll never be able to fully grasp it. My world seems less colorful now. It's a profound loss that I wish I could minimize but I'm unable to. And it's not just the loss of hearing; there's the constant ring of tinnitus that hasn't let up for me since this whole thing began. I was telling Tammy it's like having a conversation with her while the TV is on in the background with the volume more than loud enough to be annoying.

Is there a work-related connection to this? It's nothing I would pursue but I think there may be. I would advise others still in the trenches donning a headset each day to consider a headset that doesn't use an earpiece, just the foam ear covers. I spoke with a friend in my area of specialty who has total hearing loss in his left ear as well, the same ear he used to wear his earpiece in. He told me of another controller (supervisor now) who also experienced hearing loss in the same ear in which he wore his earpiece. And I received a PM last night from a controller who retired a few years ago who experienced 40% hearing loss in the ear he used for his earpiece. I think that's strong evidence for a correlation considering how we're a facility of fewer than 300 controllers yet the odds say that this condition afflicts on the order of 2-20 in 100,000.

I'd rather my blog was about something other than my health issues but I know of no better way to chronicle this stuff as it pertains to my life than to lay it out here. Perhaps others will be helped along the way. It's somewhat therapeutic as well but I'm very much looking forward to writing about my boring life and hope to be able to do that real soon.

It's been over 48 hours since the steroid injection into my middle ear and there's been no change. I just put in a call to Dr. Beatty's office out of desperation, not wanting to have to look back on this and be upset with myself for not doing all I could've done. The window of opportunity for doing whatever can be done before it's too late is quickly closing.

Continued here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A 2nd Opinion and a Request for Prayers

I called into work Monday night to let my supervisor (Steve Hanson) know that I'd be coming in and submitting my retirement papers the next day. I don't think I'd been in contact with anyone from work up until this time so this was a bit of a blindside to him as it was to me as well. He asked about whether I'd sought out a 2nd opinion and I told him I hadn't. He strongly urged me to check out Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He was right. I needed to pull out all of the stops. The doctor from my appointment Monday morning was content to see if a regimen of prednisone would suffice and to leave it at that. He mentioned a steroid injection beyond the eardrum and into the middle ear that has been beneficial for some but not at all effective for others and detrimental to at least one person. What could be more detrimental than what I was already facing I thought, especially with what seemed like poor odds if I chose to stay the course?

Bryan, my older brother, was encouraging me to seek out someone higher up on the food-chain of ENT doctors who would be able to take this to the next level. I consulted a neurologist friend, Eugene, on the east coast and he was all in favor of that. With all of the push in this direction Tammy took the lead and began looking for someone at Mayo Clinic who had the qualifications that Eugene advised us to look for. And she found him in the name of Dr. Charles W. Beatty.

We called his office early on Tuesday and were able to secure an appointment with him the following morning at 8:30. Otherwise, he was booked solid into October. There must've been a cancelation or was it a God-thing or both?

We knew this was going to be difficult on Elaine having to get up too early and traveling in the car the 75 miles to Mayo but she did so well with all of it. We couldn't leave her unattended in the waiting area while we were in with the doctor so we wheeled her in with us. She sat there as sweet as could be, quietly watching.

While we waited for the doctor I read through the medical reports I'd run around to get the previous day in order to have them for Dr. Beatty. I was disheartened to read the notes from the ENT doctor we'd seen on Monday: "The patient has a profound left sensorineural hearing loss. He is on day 3 of 50 mg of prednisone. I will have him continue this for a total of 8 days and then we'll taper off the prednisone. I would like to see him in 2-3 weeks to re-evaluate his hearing. There is no evidence of bleeding or clot in his hearing organ however this is a possibility and given his history of coagulopathy, his complete recovery will unfortunately be unlikely."

I pretty much had accepted that as a given but to read it was something else. I'd honestly be happy with a 50% recovery.

Dr. Beatty came into the room and I felt very comfortable in his presence. He described what I'd been through and what I was going through in such detail and accuracy that I knew he knew exactly what we were up against. But he didn't, because they don't really understand Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss or SSHL. They have some theories as to what's happening but nothing conclusive. Treating with steroids is one of the few options that yield results with prednisone being the main go-to drug. The other option is an intratympanic dexamethasone injection, meaning an injection of strong steroids beyond the eardrum and into the inner ear. This was Dr. Beatty's recommendation and I had no reservations about it whatsoever.

I gave a quick wink to Tammy about getting a photo of the procedure for my blog. She rolled her eyes and smiled then asked the doctor if he was okay with that, and he was.

He told us that for this treatment to be effective it needs to be done preferably within the first 10 days of the onset of the hearing loss. This was day 8 3/4 for me so we were still in the optimal range. There was some pain as he applied a numbing agent to a small area on my eardrum but that was all. The injection itself wasn't noticeable. I had to remain still in the position I was in for 30 minutes after the shot was administered to allow the steroid to soak the region. I couldn't swallow, yawn, pop my ears or speak during that time because any of those activities would allow the medication to slip away through my eustachian tube and be lost.

Dr. Beatty said to give it 2 to 3 days to see if there's any improvement. If there's none by that time there really isn't anything else that can be done.

We left there a few hours after we arrived, guardedly optimistic for at least some improvement. It's been about 36 hours since the injection and I'm noticing no difference at all yet.

Please pray for me. Thank you.

Continued here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Swan Song

There's an old saying: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I may have mentioned that here before but it's worth repeating. I'm a goal setter and I believe I always will be despite God's plans for me. It's gotten me this far.

There's a chance I'll get my hearing back but the odds aren't in my favor. I saw an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor yesterday morning. His assistant did some extensive testing on my hearing. When the woman finished the test she looked at me and told me about a new device that can be helpful with spacial orientation related to sound for people with hearing loss. I thought to myself, does this mean I can forget any dreams about getting my hearing back? You can't fix this?

I was led back to a room to discuss the findings with the doctor and Tammy. He told us that 1/3 of people with my condition will get their hearing back, 1/3 will see a partial return and the other 1/3 will see no improvement. He said my Factor V Leiden condition tilts the odds even further away from my favor. Still, I'm hopeful and praying for healing.

I went out on my fatty late this afternoon aided by 60 mg of prednisone coursing through my veins (meant for my ear but doubling nicely for my knees) to work through some thoughts. I headed for the trails at Murphy. It was the right thing to do. I worked hard and elevated my heart rate beyond 160 and found a rhythm and ease that comes with a weight lifting off of you. I'm usually the one being passed by others but not tonight. I passed 5 riders; much younger riders. I still have that.

The Jason Isbell song I'm listening to now doesn't sound the same. It's flat in my right ear and infringed upon by the nonstop ringing in my left ear.

A controller can actually get a waiver to work with this condition but this has been a difficult year for me health-wise beginning with something that I'm not comfortable mentioning here just yet (very physically draining) then the recovery from my bike crash followed by my clotting issues resulting in a 4 night stay at Fairview Southdale and now this. Enough!

And so this is how it ends for me.

I didn't make it to my goal of retiring at the end of the year but 33 years and 5 months in the trenches working shift work in addition to 4 years of Navy life is a lot to be satisfied with and I am. I've had such a rewarding career. I would wake up each morning and literally thank God for the blessing this career has been. I've never, ever lost sight of that.

I will absolutely miss the work of sitting in a sector and working traffic. Oh, I know...I loved my breaks, too (but work with me on this you guys). You know what I'm saying. It's a very rewarding job we have. It was seldom work I took home and any job satisfaction was instantaneous. You could see it on the screen in front of you and you knew if what you were doing was something to feel good about. Again, I will miss that. I will forever miss that!

I'm heading into work as soon as I hit "publish" on this and I'm going to sit down with Tracee and begin the process of filling out retirement papers. I'm not a spokesperson for the 'old guard' but I have to say that I'm leaving you, the flying public, in very capable hands. The younger controllers who have been recently certified and those who are working their way through the program are going to do every bit as well or better than my generation of controllers did at guiding you on your way. Be sure of that.

My future plans aren't big. I'll catch up on some sleep and play around with this new normal I'm stepping into while listening for that still small voice that guides me but a voice I too often drown out with the hurried life I've lived for so long.

Speaking of living so long—today is my 58th birthday!

Thank you to all who have been a part of my journey and my career. You mean more to me than you know.



Continued here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Room With A View

I'm not liking this trend of mine. I was back in the emergency room at Ridges in Burnsville for most of this afternoon. That's the 3rd time in the past 11 months!

I developed a blockage in my left ear on Monday after removing some earplugs I was wearing while mowing. Tammy checked my ears out with her otoscope and saw that there was indeed some buildup of gunk. I went to Walgreens and bought some drops to help soften any wax buildup and the next morning Tammy flushed my ears clean but the blocked ear sensation continued. I could hear through my left ear but there was a loud, persistent ringing that kept me from hearing much else from it. This continued into last night (Friday) when Tammy suggested I go to Urgent Care and have it looked at.

The UC doctor said my eustachian tube/canal was full of clear fluid (it's supposed to be just air in there) and that it was the source of my problem. She tested my hearing to determine that I did still have hearing in both ears. She was encouraged because the liquid behind my eardrum was clear and not a milky color which would've indicated an infection. She offered to write me a prescription for Prednisone saying that it's one of the best remedies for the problem. I declined, preferring to avoid using that drug unless absolutely necessary considering how much I have to depend on it during a cluster headache phase. She suggested I try Mucinex D as it will thin the mucus and act as a decongestant, then she sent me on my way with some literature about my ear's condition.

I woke up this morning with no noticeable improvement in my left ear and went about troubleshooting the failure of our front yard landscape lights. I had hoped to do a quick loop out to Murphy and back on my Shaman but there's some light-headedness with my ear problem and I figured it would be best to lay low today.

I tried to make a phone call late this morning and that's when I noticed I had absolutely no hearing in my left ear. None! I told Tammy and she insisted that I go to the ER at Ridges to have it looked at. My mother permanently lost hearing in her right ear in her early 30s due to an infection and I didn't want to bring that possibility into play although I couldn't be sure if it wasn't already too late.

The admitting attendant walked me back along a route I know too well and said she had "a room with a view" for me. Say what? Not back here you don't. She had me take off my shirt and put on a gown and lay back on the reclining bed. That's when I noticed the view. Haha! Very funny! (See photo to the left)

I figured the doctor there would take a look and quickly send me on my way with a prescription for prednisone which I would now unhesitatingly take.

Not so fast.

They inserted an IV and did a blood draw then the doctor conducted a Rinne test to determine what type of hearing loss I was experiencing, either sensorineural or conductive. The results weren't conclusive enough for the ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor that my doctor was in communication with at another facility so she sent me back to have an MRI scan done.

The scan took all of the 40 minutes the tech said it would. I was wearing headphones tuned to Pandora and the Jason Isbell channel but I could barely hear any music through the noise of the MRI machine which for some odd reason also seemed to be fed into the headphones. Disturbingly, I heard absolutely nothing on my left side. That worried me.

I was wheeled back to the room where I was happy to see Tammy and her mother who had arrived while I was away. I had told her it wasn't necessary for her to uproot Mom to be with me but she didn't mind and so neither did I.

The doctor came back after getting the results from the radiologist and said the hearing loss is idiopathic in nature. She said I need to be seen by the ENT office she was working with either Monday or Tuesday and to also begin a short course of prednisone to allow it to do whatever it does in the way of reducing inflammation and hopefully focus its healing power on my inner ear.

It's evening now and the drug has been in my body doing its thing for the past 4 hours. I'm hopeful that I'll see some improvement in the next 24 to 36 hours. If not, I may have given my last clearance at work. Yeah, I'm way past my "sell by" date as an air traffic controller it would appear but that's the least of my worries.

I'm much more concerned about getting my hearing back.

Continued here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Home Stretch and Discussing Cares

My final FAA physical is in the books. I thought I'd had my last one a year ago but you know me. Anyway, this truly was my final one because there's no turning back now. I've reached the point where I'm mentally ready to move on. I wasn't there before despite all of the previous retirement dates that came and went. I am now. I think had I left a year or even six months ago, I would've lived with some misgivings about not sticking it out and doing all I could to not sell us short financially. I think I've put all of those worries to rest.

I had an appointment with my dermatologist on Tuesday morning. He walked into the room and said: "This is the best I've see your face in the ten years you've been coming here." I think he's right. PhotoDynamic Therapy definitely helped. He wants me to do the treatment again in six months.

I told him how I'm using sunscreen like I've never used it before. I never go out in the sun without it anymore. I try and work it in the best I can but I still leave the house looking a little pale. I don't mind. It's a look I wear with pride now.

I made an appointment for the follow-up PDT on the way out and had to laugh when the woman scheduling my appointment asked: "what day works well for you?" I replied, "I'll be retired by then so you pick a day!" I've been waiting to say something like that. I'm in the home stretch.

Tammy spent most of today with her good friend, Sue. They both needed some time away from their moms to commiserate a little as they walked around Como Park. Tammy is doing such a good job taking care of her mother but she needs to be able to get away more than she is. It's so much more than a full-time job and you can't fully appreciate it until you're in the middle of it. We're using a daycare facility not far from us where for $81 they'll watch your loved one between 7:00AM and 5:00PM. I think we're going to budget for a couple of days each month to give Tammy an extended break.

We had a care conference at Three Links today to discuss my mom's advance directives and how to incorporate them into a decisive plan of action for doctors and nurses in the event that her health fails so they'll know how to proceed. With the guidance of a nurse practitioner, we filled out a POLST, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. We discussed which medications should be continued and which should be stopped. E.g., we decided that because she's become a considerable fall risk, her coumadin (blood thinner) should be replaced with a baby aspirin because of concerns for her hitting her head in a fall and having a brain hemorrhage. Questions about whether or not to treat for pneumonia or a hip fracture were also discussed. As per Mom's desires, we're opting for comfort cares at this stage in her life. Had we had this discussion even a few months ago we would likely have come to different decisions.

We all stopped in after our conference to spend some time with her. She was doing very well today, probably the best I've seen her in a while. She loves the company and that's so evident. My concern is for two of my siblings who are choosing to remain absent from her at this time. I don't understand it. Whatever concerns or battles you feel are still being waged are over. Please consider her well-being and not what's in your own interest. She mentions you often.

I can't seem to get enough of Jason Isbell's new CD, especially this song. The guitar has a definite Neil Young flavor to it that works very well for me.

Friday, August 14, 2015

40th? Already? Mom and Isle Royale Bound!

I went to my 40th high school reunion last Saturday night at Poor Richards in Bloomington. I only had a limited amount of time because of an early 4:20 wake up the next morning but it was definitely worth attending. I do wish I would've had more time to talk with some others.

I like what one of my classmates posted to Facebook the next day; Terese wrote: "To those of you who weren't able to make it, please know that you were REALLY missed. Every conversation was punctuated with, "do you know what happened to ..." or "have you heard from ....". I sincerely hope no one stayed away because they were afraid old HS social structures were still in place. Everyone has SO moved on (and if they hadn't, wouldn't you just feel sorry for them anyway?). Please do yourself a favor and jump into the fun. Life is short, live it with love and gusto!"

That was so well said, Terese!

We've got our sunporch put back together! It's nice to be able to use it again considering how it's where we spend most of our time.

It's not the same as our tile floor and will take some getting used to but this was the best we could do without risking another tile failure. That wasn't worth it to us. We're quite happy with the outcome, the pups included!

I visited with Mom on Saturday after work. She was in a reclining chair by the nurse's station so they could more easily keep an eye on her. Left alone in her room she will eventually get out of her chair (opting to not wait for assistance) to use the toilet and she will likely fall. This happened the previous night and it's become a regular occurrence.

Our conversation went from her being very aware and in the moment to being bizarre. She told me that my face cleared up nicely after the treatment I had for it (Photo Dynamic Therapy) a couple months earlier. It surprised me that she would remember or even notice with her poor eyesight in her remaining eye. I was sitting with her in front of the aviary and she pointed to the birdhouses that line the top of it. She said she was invited to a party in one of the homes the previous night but she didn't enjoy herself because she didn't know anybody. She still has quite an imagination. I joked with her that Obama was elected to another 4 years and she looked at me sideways and said "nooooo!!" We both laughed.

I saw her again a few days later and she was stressed and agitated. She continually tried to get me to wheel her back to her "home" (her room) because she didn't want to be around anybody else. I tried to redirect the conversation to memories from her childhood or anything more pleasant.

Her face is becoming gaunt now from a lack of eating. A part of congestive heart failure is a loss of appetite. Her legs are very swollen but she doesn't appear to be in pain anywhere. I need to make more of an effort to make the 50-mile round-trip every few days for her.

I stopped by her townhome Thursday morning and weeded the gardens out front. She's always loved her flowers and even though she's not there to appreciate them, it just felt like the right thing to do. Plus, it will look nicer for when we put her home on the market. The gardens were so overgrown with weeds. Before and after.

Rachel left this afternoon on a weeklong camping trip to Isle Royale National Park with 4 other friends and all of their gear packed into her Toyota Camry. They're driving to Grand Marais where they'll spend the night and then take a ferry to the island in the morning.

She came up to me yesterday and said: "I'm just gonna put this out there and it's okay if you say no but do you think I could use your GoPro on our trip?"

I can't wait to see the video!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Let's Do It

Thursday afternoon...

I got a call from Brian (our tile guy) on Saturday wondering if he could begin the demolition of our tile floor on Monday, one week early. After checking with Tammy I called him right back and said: "let's do it." It's been stressful not knowing what he'd find underneath the tile. Would he be able to salvage the self-leveling compound with embedded heat cables beneath it or would it all have to be ripped out at considerable expense? Brian was also stressing about it and he wanted the answer as well.

I'm happy to say that the demo went as well as we could've hoped for. There are several cracks in the subfloor but nothing that concerns Brian. We tested the floor heat and it's fine as well. It's worth having the inside of our home uprooted for an extra week just to know this. Above All Hardwood Floors will be installing our new flooring on Monday. It'll be nice to get our home put back together.

And we reached a settlement that I think we're all happy with—put another way: I'd hire either Joe or Brian in a heartbeat for any future projects. They're good people!

I was out watering our hanging baskets this morning when a hummingbird flew up next to me while feeding on the flowers. It didn't at all seem skittish of my presence. Its mate was feeding on one of the other baskets. So cool! I got to wondering if they'd have little ones in tow soon. That will be quite a sight to see. I'm hoping!

I set up a bird feeder next to the window where Elaine spends her afternoons. Every day it seems to attract more and more birds. These simple pleasures appeal to me but then I'm a pretty simple guy.

Rachel is looking for housing in Rochester, intending to move back at the end of the month. She had secured a townhome with a friend from high school but they decided to keep looking, hoping for something better.

We're having our garage doors replaced with something much more insulated than the builder-grade doors we have. I like to keep the temp in our garage at around 40ºf (5ºc) in the winter but when it gets excessively cold our garage doors aren't so good at retaining the heat.

In the more than 23 years I've lived in our home I've never really payed attention to how our garage doors compare with the doors of others. I had no idea that we all have doors that are nearly identical in style. I was out walking this morning and I took photos of 9 doors to make a collage to show here. I would guess that 95% or more of the doors I passed today in my nearly 10-mile walk were just like those in the photo to the left. I toyed with the idea of calling the garage door company and ordering something different but the other choices don't do much for me. I'll have to be content with an ordinary look, but an insulated ordinary look.

Friday afternoon...

I got up this morning and walked the pups. It was humid and they all seemed to be lagging behind a little more than usual so we cut the walk short.

I suited up for my Jordan loop expecting to soft-pedal it in the humidity as it almost always has me lagging as well. In spite of the moist and thinner air, I rode well, churning out 43.2 miles in 2 hours and 23 minutes. I worked it hard the last 25 miles to try and keep my watts around 225. Last year this would've been an average ride for me but this year it's not been so easy with my knee problems.

I felt good when I got home. I soaked in the sun while sitting on some garden pavers and let my heart rate return to normal. Thoughts of having to get showered for work stealing the moment, but not for much longer.

Let's do it!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Styling, Flooring, Retiring (no, not me) and the Meaning of Words

Rachel has a camping/hiking trip with 4 other friends to Isle Royale planned for later this month. They intend to hike nearly 50 miles in the week they'll be on the island. She injured her back a few days ago at work while trying to lift a patient so I'm a little concerned that she'll be doing all those miles carrying a 30-pound pack. The last thing she or anyone in her group needs is a back injury.

I met her in Minneapolis (near where she works) at Midwest Mountaineering a couple days ago and got her an early birthday gift. She did her research and with the help of one of the workers there the previous week, she chose the best backpack I've ever seen. She was showing me all of its features. It's a quality piece of gear that she'll use for years to come.

I liked that she wanted to buy the pack at the store that gave her so much help in making the selection rather than taking that information to Amazon and saving $20 or however much. And it wasn't just because we were getting it for her because our offer was something we suggested after she'd decided where to purchase it.

I mentioned a few posts ago about the tile floor in our sunporch and how it's failing. Joe is insistent that the structure hasn't moved and Brian is just as insistent that there's been no product failure of his work. Neither of them cuts corners and even though they're no longer working together because of a falling out, they're still both complimentary of the other.

It puts us in a tough spot, trying to get both of them talking with one another with hopes of coming up with a solution that will work for all of us. Brian will be at our home one week from this coming Monday to carefully remove the tile while trying to not disturb the self-leveling compound and heating element beneath it.

Joe will be doing any repairs to the trim and such. We don't want to be difficult with Joe and Brian about this but when it comes down to it, this shouldn't cost us anything to fix, yet I just paid $3600 for new flooring. We're actually willing to help with some of the costs but not this much.

I emailed Joe on Wednesday night with our concerns and he met me out at our home the next day to discuss the matter. He understands the position we're in. He said he's never had an issue of this magnitude in the nearly 3 decades he's been in business. We all hope to have a better idea of why the floor failed once the tile is removed and we can get a better look at what's underneath it. He promised me that once the job is wrapped up we'll sit down and discuss what's fair for all involved. I'm actually okay with that although I'm guessing most people wouldn't be.

Bob Claymore, Kristi Bipes and Brian Siemens all retired this week. I don't know that we'll see many more retirements before the end of the year but it's certainly possible. There are lots of eligible controllers just waiting to pick their moment to leave. Also, Joel Clay retired this past week as well. He had taken a managerial position in Hawaii a year ago with what I thought were intentions to stay out there for a few years. I was a little surprised to see him leave when he did.

I got sucked into a Facebook discussion a few days ago (after saying in my last post that I was going to avoid such foolishness) about gays and Christianity. The discussion played out on the page of a fundamentalist Christian friend. It was a very lopsided debate but I did my best to try and help others in the discussion see the world from the perspective of those they were castigating. I don't think I was the least bit successful. They all stayed on message (that being that acting on homosexual feelings is far worse than any sin in their own lives) and at one point I was referred to as the devil for planting seeds of doubt in peoples' minds. They didn't want anybody getting in the way of their disgust is all I can figure.

The discussion prompted me to post this to my wall: "This thing we call it? What happened?"

I asked that because I so often feel that the word "Christian" or "Christianity" is losing its meaning. In the 1300s the original meaning of the word "awful" meant "inspiring wonder" and was a short version of "full of awe". But now the word has a purely negative connotation. Will the word "Christian" someday reflect the opposite of what it once meant? I think it may well be on its way because to be a Christian today does not at all mean that one is acting in a Christ-like way, at least not in my view. To be a Christian today likely means you're part of a very judgemental and unbending mindset that doesn't appear to embrace any of the teachings of Jesus, namely forgiveness and love.

As I said in my Facebook post: "I can't imagine Jesus returning to earth and pointing to the average Christian and saying 'these people make me proud'. And no, I'm not saying he'd look at me and think any better. Yet, all throughout our churches today there's scorn and judgment for anybody identifying as GLBTQ who haven't turned from their special sort of "sin". I don't recall Jesus having much scorn for anyone while he was here other than for those who thought they were better than others."

I shut my computer down feeling disappointed that all of my efforts appeared to be for naught. Perhaps a few of the seeds Jesus had me plant in their hearts will take root. I can dream big, can't I?

And then I got on my bike and I rode out to Murphy feeling so glad that I was no longer a part of that ideology and that I'd broken free. So free!