Monday, October 31, 2016

Lotsa Leaves and Lotsa Golf!

I still have a vivid memory from my late morning run on October 31st, 1991—25 years ago today. I was on Nicols Rd in Eagan when the snow began to fall and in very little time, it was snowing heavily. My running journal states that we received nearly 30" (76cm) of snow before the storm ended. It's now referred to as the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 or some such name. The roads would remain a rutted, icy mess for what seemed like weeks afterward and it would make outdoor running extremely hazardous. Thankfully, we have no hint of that sort of weather in the offing for the foreseeable future here in the Twin Cities.

I'm happy to say that my battle with fallen leaves is mostly over for the season. Here's a before and after snapshot of what that looks like. It only lasts a day or two before more leaves find their way into our yard but they'll be easily vacuumed up by my John Deere rider and won't overflow my blue Dick's Sanitation compost bins. I put out 29 compost bags last Tuesday morning with our trash and that's a record for me.

I spent most of yesterday getting the rest of my outdoor projects taken care of: blowing out the underground sprinklers; cutting back some of our shrubbery; clearing out our front garden and setting out our Dracula in preparation for tonight's trick-or-treaters! It's nice to have it all done so I'm not stuck doing it either in colder weather than I'd like or on a day where I'd rather be riding or golfing.

And speaking of golfing—I played more golf during the month of October than in any month ever in my life. It was nice to be able to play without injuries holding me back. I'm still not scoring the way I know I can—I'm middle to upper 80s mostly. I hope to routinely be in the 70s and lower 80s by this time next year. I think that's a realistic goal for me. More than once in the past couple of weeks I've been the only player on the course in the late afternoon when the weather was cool and drizzly. As long as I can keep my grips dry and my hands warm I really enjoy my time out there.

Tammy has taken nicely to retirement and this time I'm pretty sure she's going to remain retired. She had a job offer for a healthcare company but decided not to pursue it. I can sense a more carefreeness about her now that she has her mother situated in a good nursing home and she no longer has any work stressors. I'm happy for her.

It's just past 8:00 and it looks like that's a wrap for Halloween, 2016. In years past, we've had upwards of 120 little tricksters ringing our doorbell but that number gets a little less each year. We've only had 45 so far tonight and I think the next little Builder Bob or Incredible Hulk may get what's left in our candy bowl.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Favorite Route and Catching Up on 33 Years!

I just dodged a bullet. A few days ago I upgraded my 6-year-old MacBook Pro's operating system to MacOS Sierra and found that I was no longer able to access the PC side of my Mac through my VMware Fusion. I didn't appreciate how much I use and depend on that side of my laptop for some of my computing until it was gone. I searched the net for solutions but wasn't able to find anything helpful. Fortunately for me, I had recently used the Time Machine backup feature on my Mac and was able to revert to where my laptop was as of very recently. Whew! I was somewhat doubtful that I'd be able to retrieve the PC side of my Mac. It was a 3-hour process for the revision to take place and I was sweating it a little but it's all intact.

Last Sunday I rode my bike down to the Minnesota River crossing at Cedar Avenue in Burnsville to check out the new pedestrian/cycling bridge that was recently completed and opened to the public. It's in the place of the old bridge that was used up until the early '80s and was closed to even foot traffic about 15 years ago.

I'll be able to make use of the bridge whenever I'm crossing the river into Bloomington and points beyond. There's also a crossing along the south side of I-494 and that's what I've been using up until now.

It was nice to see the bridge but I found a change down there that was of much more cause for excitement for me. First, a big thank you to Excel Energy and the city of Burnsville! The paved trail and the improvements spoken of in the linked article have now been completed and I can once again ride from Cedar Ave on what used to be Black Dog road (and still is but to a lesser degree) to the bike path that runs along the east side of I-35W. This is huge for me!

There was a route I used to take on my bike that I enjoyed more than just about any other—I even had a name for it: it was my Monday Morning Loop. I named it that because for years it was my preferred route on Monday mornings before working the 2 - 10 shift. I had some variations of the loop but they all involved taking Silver Bell road to the river bottoms and Black Dog Road west to I-35W and back toward home. It's been since the spring of 2010 that I've been able to do my Monday Morning Loop.

I first learned of the road when I lived less than 2 miles from it in 1985 after moving back from Huron, SD. I was an avid runner then and I logged thousands of miles down along the river there. I once did a ride-along (more than 20 years ago) with Burnsville police officer, Eric Gieseke, (he's the Burnsville chief of police now) and one of the places we patrolled that night was Black Dog road. He mentioned how it was probably the most dangerous place for police to patrol because backup help could be as much as 8 minutes away due to how remote the area is.

Anyway, I'm happy about being able to ride my Monday Morning Loop again and felt it deserved a big mention here in my blog. Here's a photo I took on a ride in October 2009. You can contrast it with the photo from this week to the left.

I had a visit last Sunday from a friend from decades ago. I first met Steve early in our FAA careers. Steve retired from Columbus, Ohio tower 5 years ago. We've been connected on Facebook for more years than that but it had been more than 33 years since we'd seen one another. Steve and his wife Penny were in Madison, Wisconsin last Saturday to watch their Ohio Buckeye football team score an overtime win against the Wisconsin Badgers to remain undefeated. Steve and Penny have season tickets to Buckeye games and are ardent supporters. They decided to do a road trip to see their team play in Wisconsin and figured that since they were kinda-sorta (4 hours away) in the area, they'd stop in to say hi. It was so nice to see Steve again and to meet Penny. We enjoyed our time with them and hope to be able to return the favor and visit them out east at some point. I only regret not having a photo of us to post here.

Here's some video from last Sunday's ride and yes, the guy in the truck at 2:37 was being a dick!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall has Arrived as has Dublin

I'm listening to Kings of Leon's new release, Walls, as I write this. I have no doubt that Tim would've been all over this if he was still with us. Perhaps he had his own pre-screen listening from wherever he's at.

I have a love-hate relationship with autumn. I love the cooler weather, fewer mosquitos and the changing colors but I hate to see the sun going down so soon when there's still so much I'd like to be doing outdoors. I cut back all of our hostas and some other perennials over the past few days and I pulled the flowers from the backyard garden today. I'll be out in the yard for much of tomorrow as I do battle with fallen leaves. I'm up to 20 bags of compost so far on my way to between 55 to 60 bags before I'm done for the season. Yes, I actually keep track.

The pups also love the cooler weather. We were out a few nights ago and Toby kept wanting to run nearly the entire 2.25-mile walk. He was so happy, passing up many of his usual pee-mail spots to keep running instead. Poor Allie, she had no choice but to run along with him as they share the same leash.

Speaking of pups—we've been caring for my sister's little Yorkie named Dublin while she's been away on vacation to (of all places) Dublin, Ireland. He's the most adorable and shy little guy with his cute little head tilt and ears that seem to sit on his head in a cockeyed way. About twice each day he'll get wound up playing with one of his toys otherwise he's content to follow Tammy wherever she goes. He's sort of imprinted on her. We're definitely going to miss him and his antics (see the video below) when Claudia returns to take him home in a few days.

Yes! We finally made it back to Foci. It had been 18 months since we were last there. We had hoped to be back sooner after we found a new home for Tammy's mother but then summer came along and too many other interests got in the way.

But we're back!

It's going to take a few sessions for us to get up to speed but we're happy to be in the studio and doing it once again—and nothing crashed on the floor! Which probably means we weren't trying hard enough. I was content to do a few tumblers as was Tammy. I've got us on the schedule again for next week.

I woke up this morning to a rafter of turkeys (did you too just learn something new?) making their way through our backyard—ten of them in all. I got a closer look a few minutes later when I had to leave for an oil change appointment. They've been hanging out in the neighborhood for at least a month. Pretty gutsy on their part with Thanksgiving just around the corner!

I'm on my 2nd time through Walls as I finish this. Tim would've approved. He's the one who first turned me on to their music although I confess it took me a while to realize the beauty of their sound. It usually takes me a few listenings of a song or an album before I warm up to it but this one is working for me right out of the gate. Thanks, Tim!

Say hello to Dublin. He wants to play!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I'm a Work in Progress

There! I did it! I finally scheduled us for some bench time at Foci next week. It's been nearly a year and a half since we stood in front of a 2300ยบ F furnace with a dollop of molten glass on the end of a pipe working it into a form. Hopefully, our limited skills will come back before too long. I'm excited to feel the heat again.

I've been getting out to the golf course more than I ever have and I'm pleased that my ribs aren't protesting. I golfed 18 holes each of the last 4 days without any issues. I played with Steve yesterday at Southern Hills in Rosemount and really enjoyed our time together. It had been more than 20 years since I'd last played the course and part of the enjoyment for me as we walked along was the nostalgic aspect of it. I remembered some of the layout but not all.

I mentioned to Steve how much my life has changed in the time since I was last there. I think it's safe to say that the last time I played Southern Hills I had no idea my marriage to Noy would soon end or that I'd entirely quit the game of golf both because I could no longer afford to play and because I wasn't enjoying it anymore. It was a sudden stop and one with little time spent looking back. I even gave up watching golf on TV—something I used to love to do. Instead, I found much needed solace on my bike. But there were some big changes ahead for me as Tammy and Rachel would soon enter my world and give me the best years of my life. I didn't see that coming.

Our lives are full of unforeseen life-changing events that can set us on an entirely different path and while those changes at the time may seem like they're for the worse, I try to look for a silver lining or a lesson of some sort that I can grow from. It may be difficult to see in the moment and for some, it's clearly not there but often, if we're patient, it comes into view.

I've mentioned here before that I was a terrible student in high school, finishing in the bottom 10% of my class while doing just enough to get by. Rather than attending college after my senior year as most of my friends would do, I worked a line-job in a factory in St Louis Park making bundt pans. I knew right away that it wasn't the future I wanted and with my sister's encouragement, I enlisted in the Navy. It was never my plan to serve my country and to be honest, there was nothing patriotic on my part in making that decision. I was on the verge of flunking out on life and this was my last good option.

It would end up being one of the best decisions of my life. I've told the story here if you're interested.

The Navy didn't really prepare me all that well for life without a uniform and I struggled a little to find my way after I was discharged. I entered Inver Hills Community College in the fall of '81 to work on the general studies I'd need before settling on a major. I had dreams of becoming an architect and although my high school grades would cast a good amount of doubt on my ability to realize those dreams, I was acing everything that was put before me in college, mostly because I was actually trying for the first time in my life.

But my life was about to take another turn.

The autumn of '81 was the same time when over 13,000 air traffic controllers were fired for striking and the FAA was scrambling to find replacements. I took the aptitude test along with tens of thousands of others across the country and did well but I nearly took a pass on the offer of a seat at the academy in Oklahoma City because I was enjoying being a student at my little community college. I have my dad to thank for helping me to see the opportunity that was being put before me. I packed my bags and left for Oklahoma City with Keith accompanying me for the all-night drive in my silver Pinto station wagon.

It was a decision I'd come to question but still, I trusted in God that all things happen for a reason and I'd put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

My 14-year marriage to Noy would fall apart in 1997 in what really amounted to a blindside for me. I thought we were doing well but apparently, we weren't. My life's course was about to change direction in a most unanticipated but welcomed way when Tammy and Rachel came into my world.

It's our life experiences that hopefully result in some self-reflection along the way—reflection that molds us into who we are but not only that, it's also how we choose to respond to those unexpected obstacles which cause us to lose our footing or change direction that most defines us. There are lessons everywhere if we look for them.

The next significant turn in my life played out in the workplace in 2006 when controllers were forced to accept a contract from management that was unnecessarily heavy-handed and caused more strife than I ever imagined could exist in my workplace. It was this period of time where I finally did some serious reflection about a Republican party I had been too willing and too trusting in my support of throughout all of my adult life yet it was this same Republican party that was directly behind the unnecessary turmoil we were all experiencing.

I was an avid listener of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Fox News among other insidious voices I was subjecting myself to. I had no idea the extent to how deep-in-the-weeds I was with this hardcore, right-wing ideology I'd cozied up to but once I began to push back against it and truly question it for the first time for myself, it all came crumbling down. Every last brick. It was one of the more freeing things I've ever done. And that for me was the silver lining I'd take away from the "white book" days at work with the FAA—that my eyes were opened. Fully.

None of us are born with an innate understanding of the complexities of the world and if you find that you're never changing, always on the same path, never veering from what you've always believed or had instilled in you or felt in your core—perhaps you're not trying hard enough to see the world from another perspective and maybe you owe that to yourself.

Personally, for me, there was no shame in realizing I'd been hoodwinked. There would've been shame in not being honest with myself and holding steadfast to my faulty beliefs as I saw them.

There's an important election coming up in the US. Vote with your head and not your heart. Take some time to reflect and understand why it is you feel the way you do about the choices we have. It's important that we get this right as best we can. It's also important that we move forward and not backward. Together.

I'm grateful for the challenges in my life and for the understanding that I'm a work in progress.

And that includes my golf game!