Friday, April 29, 2011

Irrelevant Things

So the goggles worked even better than I had hoped!  It was so nice to be able to actually see in the water and to swim without getting a headache after the first 500 yards, or feeling nauseous after 7 or 800 yards, that I ended up swimming 2200 yards over the course of the hour that I swam!

That's right!  An entire hour!  And when I got out of the pool I felt just as good as when I got in!  The time has come to give serious consideration to a new tri bike...

In other news, we are replacing our dishwasher.  Finally.  After almost a year of the fritzing of our old one.  The last time we looked at dishwashers, it apparently upset my bowels so much that they went ahead and ruptured a diverticulum and put me in the hospital.  So it was with a little trepidation that we went out again, picked one out and set up a delivery date for it.  But all seems to be well for now.

And while we were out, the Wife and I picked out a new grill that will be delivered the same day.  It is an anniversary gift from her to me, and I couldn't be more excited!  First meal is going to be comprised of chicken and steak and grilled asparagus and maybe a kebob of veggies... and something seared, too.  As the grill has an extra stove like burner so that I can pan sear outside and not have to worry as much about the messy splatters that so plague me when I sear inside! 

Now we can cook tasty, healthy food outside and have an effective way to clean up after inside!  Upgrades, people... upgrades.  Little by little, step by step.  But it can be done!

More Later

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday's Sandwich Test

So I started a blog called Seven Days recently, and challenged myself and others to come up with seven day ideas to fill the blog... sort of week long photo essays.  Check it out HERE for more details.

Below is a test entry of sorts... My first project is seven days of sandwiches.  I started with this one, and was looking for some feedback on it. What would you like to see in a photo essay about sandwiches?  Is it too long?  Too much or too little information?  Remember there will be six other sandwiches in the mix.  Let me know what you think!  And - thanks.

"Today I wanted something filling, but not too heavy. The Wife suggested a Chicken sandwich of some sort, and I was thinking maybe a BLT. So we combined our ideas and came up with this...

Lime Grilled Chicken BLT on a multigrain Cibatta roll with Guacamole spread.

After my father had his heart attack, our whole family changed eating habits a bit. So in gathering the fixins' for this sandwich, I chose low sodium turkey bacon and low sodium Provolone cheese.

 I also used pre-grilled chicken, because we don't have a grill yet. When we do get our grill, I'm going to make this again and marinade the chicken in a lemon/lime and garlic mixture overnight before I pound them flat and grill them. Fresh chicken breasts will have less sodium than the frozen as well. Another bonus.

This sandwich as prepared scored just above 700 mg of sodium. Mostly from the frozen chicken, and surprisingly, the cibatta. Replace the frozen chicken with fresh, and the sodium drops to just under 500mg. Calorie-wise, it came in at 450 Calories! Low enough for calorie counters to enjoy and not feel like they were starving afterwards!

As for taste, in this configuration it was rather refreshing. I squeezed the lime on the chicken while it cooked which gave it a cleansing tanginess.  The guacamole has avacado, lime and garlic in it which really enhances the fresh flavor of the sandwich more than plain mayo would. I am certain that this sandwich would be even more phenomenal with smoked maple pork bacon instead of the turkey bacon, but for a little healthier alternative the turkey wasn't bad!

The best part was that it did not sit heavy in my gut after the meal. I felt like after an hour or so, I could go for a swim or bike or run without fear of seeing the meal again. But it was filling and kept me satisfied until supper!  An excellent choice for a quick, satisfying sandwich that won't make you feel bloaty afterwards."

More Later

Monday, April 25, 2011

Swim Boy, Swim

Triathlons aren't cheap.  At least, if you really wanna get the cool gear, you'll have to spend some coin.  For example, a good pair of running shoes can set you back $60 - $80.  But then you'll need the running togs as well... a couple of shirts, shorts, and sweats if you plan on running in the cold - like here in Minnesota.  So maybe $150 - $200 for running stuff.  I wanted to do my first tri using as little dinero as possible, so I got an OK pair of running shoes for $30 and used the shorts and shirts I had.  I did splurge close to race day and bought myself a couple of $16 "exercise shirts".

Biking is where the real money goes. After the padded diper like bike shorts to protect the "boys" and the running tights that I use for biking and a helmet, I can upgrade to clipless pedals and add accessories that will increase the value of the bike to that of a two door car.  That's without even purchasing the bike itself!  Google triathlon bikes and you'll find a dizzying array of techno-bikes for the triathlete.  Most are between $700 and $2000.  Though I did find one once for a mere $12,000.  Again I did not feel like dropping a few months worth of food budget on a bike, so I headed to Wal Mart and got a road bike for $99.  It is heavy and a little slow, but so am I, so I didn't mind too much.  It was rated as a 21 speed and is geared for it, though really it is good for around 16 or 18 and that was plenty for me.  The only upgrade it can accomodate is a different water bottle, so options are limited.  Now that I am a little better and faster, I have given some thought to upgrading this season to a Tri-specific bike that I found for $500.  That would be a lighter and therefore faster bike for triathlons and have aero bars and such.  But... well... read on.

Swimming shouldn't be too bad, right?  Just a suit and some goggles and a towel.  My racing suit cost me $30.  Goggles were $20.  And I have towels galore.  So $50 all together.  The trouble is, I wear glasses.  Right now I have a pair of Speedo Vanquisher goggles that I love.  But they are not, nor can they be, prescription.  So after about twenty minutes of wearing them I get a good headache going and develop quite a bit of nausea.  Now I like feeling pukey in the pool as much as the next guy.  But I would really like to be able to swim for an hour or so without losing my lunch.  Not to mention that there is a great deal of standing around before the start of a triathlon and after the transition area closes.  I could leave my glasses in the transition area, but spending a half hour to 45 minutes without glasses would ensure nausea and headache before I even enter the water.  Not a great way to do triathlons.  I was fortunate to be able to leave my glasses next to the water exit during my first tri, but even then I spent a good fifteen minutes without them, and had the headache and nausea when the horn blared.  I may not be so lucky at all of the triathlons.

So I looked into prescription goggles.  There are some called step diopters, but those are for people with really weak prescriptions.  Unfortunately my astigmatism is such that step diopters are not an option.  So custom prescriptions it would have to be.  The closest thing to racing goggles are made by Barracuda, and will cost me $290.  Now, for me to spend almost $300 on goggles and another $500 on a bike... well.  I just can't bring myself to drop that much in one season, especially after I've already racked up a few hundred bucks in race fees. 

I ordered the prescription goggles without a prescription in them to see if I liked them or not.  They came today and it turns out that I don't.  They have foam around the eyes, which is comfortable, but I've never had luck keeping the foam attached to the goggle.  Not only that, the goggles and the foam are so big that it looks like I have neon white glasses from the 80's on while I swim.  It would be a sure thing for my fans to see me in the water from the shore if I wear them.  I'm just not sure I want to go all Elton John while I'm swimming.

Even Elton is shocked ...SHOCKED by the whiteness.

 It was while I was adjusting the nose piece of these goggles that I had an idea.

A couple of years ago when I got my glasses, I got an extra pair for the shop made of safety plastic.  I have worn them three times since then, and they were gathering dust in the shop waiting for my next trip to the optometrist to donate them.  I decided that I had nothing to lose by popping the lenses out and grinding them to fit my well loved Vanquishers.

Well, after a little grinding and fitting and grinding and fitting and just a dab of glue... Behold -

Prescription Vanquishers!  I actually bought a brand new pair to mount the lenses in, and will use my old goggles as a back up.  Total cost - $20!  And you know what that means... I won't feel nearly as bad while I consider investing $500 on a new bike!

I'm off to the pool on Wednesday to test them out and see if they will work.  If they do, the new bike just might become a reality!

More Later

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, World.
Special thanks to the Boyo for the idea.
More Later

Monday, April 18, 2011


Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.  I can't describe it.  Not yet.  But there is a feeling in the air in our house that something is up.  A change is coming. 

In a way, I hate times like these.  The anticipation of waiting for something amorphous and ambiguous is maddening.  And I am not one for patience. 

The best part of these times are most often the doing of the Wife.  Whenever things change, whenever these times occur, it always seems that we are upgrading life in a sense.  The changes usually make living a little better.  More time with the kiddos, dreams being followed, that sort of thing.  And these times of change are always talked about, pros and cons, for days and days and sometimes weeks.  But she has a Midas touch, and things generally work out for the better.  I'm a lucky man to be paired with such a gem.

But isn't that what life is about?  Upgrading when you can to a better way of life?  Sometimes compromises have to happen.  Cut back in hours at work means less money, but more time with the kiddos.  Spend money on a vacation instead of a new appliance means living with the old appliance, but having some quality memory making times with the family.  I am thankful to live where I do and as who I am, as my day to day challenges are not that bad compared to others on the planet.  Some day to day challenges are literally a matter of life and death.  That's my job, but not my life.  And for that I am very thankful.  I want to spend most of my life enjoying my family.  And it is looking like that may be our reality.

So.  Changes are a-comin'.  Could be.  Who knows?  It will probably be upgrades.  And life is too short not to upgrade when you get the chance.

More Later

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Week in Portraits of Me

After reading a post by my friend Wendy - - I accepted her challenge to take a picture of myself every day for a week.  I had intended to start the day that I read her post, but decided to kick it off on Tartan Day instead, as I was taking a picture of myself in my Clan Wallace kilt anyway.  I finished the project a couple of days ago, but was dealing with the Hives of Doom on my Sweet Pea and sorta forgot that I was going to post them.  She is doing MUCH better by the way, and after full nights of sleep last night for both of us, I am ready to put these portraits out there.

Day 1: 4/6/11

Tartan Day!  I celebrated by wearing my kilt for a good majority of the morning, including dropping the Boyo off at school. This was also my first full day home after being at Mom and Dad's for two weeks.  Seemed a good time to start the picture project.

Day 2: 4/7/11

Home after a swim, and remembering that I needed a picture before midnight.  The smirk was because my camera is set for taking rapid pictures and I now have a series of me going from serious to smirk in just seconds!

Day 3: 4/8/11

Day 2's picture made me realize that I needed a haircut and a beard trim.  So a before shot seemed appropriate.

Day 4: 4/9/11

The day after the haircut and beard trim.  I've done my own hair since my Marine days... 19 years now.  I wonder how much I've saved on haircuts and beard trims since then?

Day 5: 4/10/11

Watching the Sweet Pea watch the Mickey Mouse Club when I realized I needed a shot.  It's hard to remember to do this some days.  Later this evening, my Sweet Pea would develop the hives that broke my heart to see.  But she's a toughie and even while all itchy and miserable still snuggled up to me and giggled sometimes.

Day 6: 4/11/11

At work in the shop.  I'm in the middle of several projects.  Stained glass, sheaths for knives, knives.  But not a lot of time to be in the shop.  In fact, this is a pretty staged shot, as I was out there to pick up a screwdriver for a project inside, and shortly after this shot I went back inside to tend to my hivey daughter.

Day 7: 4/12/11

After a good run.  Men in my family tend to sweat just standing around, so the damp brow is nothing special.  But I had just run a solid 1.5 miles and walked a half mile. And I got that first mile in 12 minutes.  Slowly working my way towards being able to actually run my 5K's in the triathlons I've entered.  With a goal of sub 10 minute miles.  I may print out this picture to put on my training calender as a reminder to not give up and not backslide!  It is so much harder getting back in shape than it is actually staying in shape!

So there you have it.  Seven days in the life of me.  I would have done this project at a time when not so much was going on, but I have been learning that as life goes on, something is ALWAYS going on.  No time like the present.

More Later

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I am Not Fond of 2011 - A Rant

2011.  Thus far I must present to you my middle finger.  I had such high hopes when you first began.  But then came the diverticulitis.  Abominable abdominal pain like I've never had.  My first hospitalization and all the fun that goes with that.  A giant suck in the first month.  OK, I thought, Worst part of the year is over.

But then came nearly two solid months of various illnesses, and at one point all four of us on antibiotics.  That was a new and wholly unappreciated smack in the face.  And just as we seemed to be recovering from that, you throw Dad's massive heart attack our way.  A new and crappy worst part of the year.  The very next day after that is our scare with Sweet Pea finding some of Grammy's meds, another ER visit, another hospitalization, and I can't even function because of the overwhelming emotional drain that has already occurred.

Dad lived, and Sweet Pea recovered.  Surely, I thought, we've had our fill of crapola for a while.  But no.  Still in the first quarter of this year, and my little Sweet Pea has a reaction to the meds she gets for yet ANOTHER ear infection, and will now spend several days with skin that looks worse than this from head to toe...

(not her skin, I got this from a medical website, hers has purplish blotches inside the blotches)
She is more hive than skin right now, and itchy over every inch, and feeling too miserable to sleep more than an hour or so at a time.  And you know, it's not the sleep deprivation that I mind in this, it's the fact that I can't do a damn thing to alleviate her suffering without overdosing her on antihistamines and anti-itch creams.  One of the most intolerable and gut wrenching things in existance is having to watch your child suffer.  I do not care for this.

And frankly, 2011.  You'd better lay off now.  For I am tired of this crap. And my middle finger is tired of being flown in your general direction.  We've got three quarters of a year yet to spend together, so you'd better shape up and start bringing some better memory making activities.   You have been warned.

More Later

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From the Halls of Montezuma

It was 19 years ago today that I graduated from Marine Corps boot camp.  Such an adventure that was.  Good people that I served with and amazing times that were had.  Most fun, some...not so much.  But with the passing of time, the hardships are lessened and the fond memories strengthened.  Such is the way of all adventures I think. 

I spent the better part of the 1990's in the Corps. And while I know I had a life of twenty years before it, I can't remember a time when I was not a Marine.  The influence from that has been paramount to who I have become.  I wish some of the lessons learned would have stuck a little more, but on the whole I cannot complain.

So Semper Fi to my brothers and sisters in the Corps, both past, present and future.  It was an honor to serve.

More Later

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Run Boy, Run

My Nana was quite a card.  Sometimes as we watched movies and as a chase scene ensued, she would root for the pursued by saying "Run boy! Run!"

Tomorrow my little brother is running a long, long way.  He's doing a half marathon down in St. Louis.  That's right.  13.1 miles.  Uff Da.  I can hear Nana saying Run boy! Run! although with any luck, he will not be pursued by any bad guys.

I will more than likely NEVER run that far all at once, unless there is a zombie apocalypse and that's how far the nearest car dealership or gun store is.  I am toying with the idea of doing an Olympic distance triathlon next summer.  That would be a 6.2 mile run.  After a mile swim and a 25 mile bike.  That seems possible somehow.  Perhaps I'm delusional, but if I can do all four sprint triathlons this season without injury or burning out, then I think an Oly is in the cards for next year.  Maybe bracketed by a couple of sprints.

What has me all hyped about this?  Well, as you may know, last year I did a sprint tri.  All through training and even the event itself I wasn't able to run solid for the three miles.  I trained for 9 weeks and the longest stretch I did was one mile before I stopped to walk and catch my breath.

A few nights ago I went for a swim and had planned to do some 200 yard swims to train.  On my first 200 I felt pretty good on the last 25 and decided to ignore that little voice in my head that was saying to just do a bunch of short swims and keep going.  I kept going until I did an entire 500.  I followed it up with another 1000 of 100's and 50's.  A couple nights later I did the same thing.  The 500's felt pretty good.  Tonight I went for a run.  Instead of doing the usual X minutes running and X minutes walking, I decided to just suck it up and run as far as I could.  After my warm up walk I started.  I ran out to just shy of the 0.7 mark when the thunderstorm that had been threatening gave me a final warning with an amazing lightning show and subsequent rolling thunder wave.  I took this as a warning that I should head back home before it started in earnest and ran all the way back to where I started.  That almost 1.4 mile run is no biggie to my brother, who warms up with that.  But for me it was huge.  If the lightning had not turned me around, I may have run to the 1 mile mark.  Or maybe the 1.5 mile mark.  Any way I slice it though, I think I'll be running all of the runs in my triathlons this season.

That whole Just Do It thing really does hold true.  No excuses.  No whining.  I just did it.  And it was a good start.  I could almost hear Nana saying Run boy!  Run!

More Later

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The third anniversary of the death of my very favorite animal ever happened on the 24th of March.  It was three days after my Dad had his heart event.  Bad things tend to happen on the third day after an insult like Dad took to his heart.  And after surgeries, too.  The irony of the possibility of Dad dying on the day the Shoba died did not escape me.  I spent the day nauseated and surly with the anticipation of what might be.  I was elated that they had removed his breathing tube.  But nervous that he would code again and need the tube.  His time awake was spent hallucinating that he was dreaming, that we were in his dreams.  He also had nightmares, and spoke of horrific things.  He said some things to me that I am sure he would not have if he were not drugged.  Nothing terrible or hurtful, but very raw.  I held his hand and prayed that he and Shoba would not share an expiration day.

I was awake when midnight rolled around, and I felt a wave of relief.  Followed by a wave of sadness and grief once again for Shoba.  Oh how I miss that dog.  The comforting look in her eyes and her unwavering love for me.  And I mourned again that night for that wonderful dog.  Three years.  Still hurts.

More Later

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Home Again

I'm home now.  In my own domicile.  Wondering about the fallacy of normalcy.  What is normal?  Before Dad had his death and resurrection I could define normal pretty well.  But since then I am made more aware that there really is no such thing as a "normal" day.  March 21st was a normal day.  Then it wasn't.

Perhaps following a routine is normal.  Wake up, shower, work, eat, TV, whatever.  If the routine goes as it usually has, then the day is normal.  Anything throwing that routine out of balance just ruins the "normal". 

The thing is, I don't think I want normal days anymore.  Don't get me wrong, I don't want Dad or anybody else having major medical emergencies just so my days don't get routine.  But I think I am going to be starting a new lifestyle where "routine" and "normal" become obsolete.  I'll try to have an adventure one day, then create something beautiful the next.  Throw in triathlon training, playing with the kiddos, and a new found desire to be cooking, and my days will follow no real pattern.

Of course, if every day is filled with some routine and some random things, will that become the "normal routine"? 

All I know right now, is that some things are changing.  The sky is a little different each day, but is still the sky.  The river almost always flows the same way, but is changing a little every day too. Perhaps those are the models to follow.

More Later

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One Hour

At 4:15 on Monday the twenty first of March, I heard that my father was dead. Pulseless. Not breathing. CPR in progress. Medications on board. Headed for the emergency department.  Every report was that Dad was not going to make it. My paramedic brain was recalling percentages and screaming that this was not survivable. As we packed rapidly, I couldn’t get hold of anyone but my friend Matt. He headed for the hospital to find out what he could. I spent the time knowing that as each minute passed, his chances of survival dropped. I called the hospital, but they had no information. Mom wasn’t answering her cell phone. Finally we left for Cedar Rapids. When we stopped for gas, I glanced at the time again. It was 5:15. One hour after I first heard. I finally got through to the emergency room nurse, she put me on hold to get my mother on the phone. My heart sank and I had to walk over to a wide open space with plenty of sky. I was certain that they were getting mom on the phone to tell me that he had died.

When I first heard the news of his cardiac arrest, my paramedic mind took over. With the information I was given, I knew that he was gone. It would take a miracle to even get a rhythm back. And even if they did, his brain would probably be irreparably damaged. I imagined what life without Dad would be like. Camping at the Island would be hard, as we had gone there together since I was a child. Canoeing would be a reminder of him.  So many memories of things we did.  Amazing, routine, simple, involved things that now raced through my mind.  It was like the end of a really great book where I can think of a thousand other things that could happen after that last page, but there were no more pages now.

My kiddos had birthdays approaching, and would not have their Grampa to celebrate with. The Boyo and I had been planning a rocket launch with Grampa using the rocket kit he had given us. My little Sweet Pea would have only the most vague memories of him, and they love each other so much right now. What hurt my heart the most was the thought of not being able to call him and share my latest crazy idea, or show him my latest creation. I have never questioned how my Dad feels about me. I know he loves me and is proud of me. I just couldn’t get my head around a world where he was not around to keep showing me that. His greatest gift to me was the desire to show my own children how much I love them and how proud of them I am.
While I waited for someone to speak on the other end, I thought that perhaps we should go home and get clothes for a funeral and close down the house a little better. There would be no rush if he was dead.

When Mom got on the phone, she was pretty incoherent which did not give me any relief. She handed the phone to another nurse who proceeded to tell me what had happened. At some point I interrupted her and asked if he was still alive.

“Oh. Yes. He’s going to the cath lab soon.”

I didn’t hear anything else of the conversation. Dad was alive. He had literally come back from the dead. He was not out of the woods. But he was alive, and I could drive safely. He was alive and I could breathe again. He was still very, very sick, and very, very critical. But he was alive after being dead for one hour.

In the whole of my life, it was probably the worst hour I’ve ever spent. I know the day will come when that one hour will extend to the rest of my life, because in the natural order of things a child should outlive their parents. For one hour I got a taste of what that will be like. It scares me and saddens me, and I pray it will not come again for a great many years. Until it does though, I will relish every day, every week, all the time I have remaining in this, my father’s second life. I have long appreciated what I have. The people in my life. The blessings I’ve been given. I will relish the memories that will still be made. This event has given me a new drive to create and enjoy. Create new memories with those I love, and enjoy every minute I spend on this side of the grass.

For one hour I was living in a world without my Dad. It gave me new respect for my friends who have lost their fathers. I felt like I was lost in a terrible fog. Dad isn’t just my father. He’s my best friend. The one who was always up for an adventure, no matter how seemingly crazy. Blacksmithing classes, flight school, paddling the Mississippi River. Dad was always in. For one hour, I believed that all of my future adventures would not include my dad, and that loss broke my heart.
For one hour, my world was devastatingly different, and while I know I would have eventually transitioned into a new world without Dad, I am thankful that this time it was only for one hour.

Welcome Back, Dad.

More Later

The Week

They tried to extubate Dad on Wednesday. That is, he was to have the tube removed from his throat that had been keeping him breathing.  Unfortunately for that first attempt he was not following instructions well enough to take the tube out.
I had been holding his hand during that first try, and as the propofol wore off and Dad started coming around, he was frantic in that "I'm too stoned to know what is happening, but I know it's scary" mode.  He will fortunately not remember any of it.  I will never forget it.  But once, I asked him to squeeze my hand, and he did.  I was elated and so hopeful.  Then I told him to give Mom's had a squeeze on the other side and he did that!  But that was about all we could get him to do.
Nobody was around early Thursday morning when they did take the tube out.  My friend Matt walked into the room and found Dad awake but not oriented.  Nobody was in the room and nobody was in the waiting room.  Matt asked Dad how he was doing.  All Dad could do was issue a deep, guttural grunt.  Matt called me immediately.  I was in Mom and Dad's living room, explaining to my Mom that sometimes they had to try two or three times before the tube finally came out, and to try and not worry too much.  Needless to say, I was very excited to hear it was out.

Over the course of the next week, Dad slowly but surely regained his brain.  The first few days he brought everyone into his hallucinogenic world.  It was scary and trippy, and again he won't remember much or any of it.  But I will not forget.  He said a great many very funny things, and his vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds.  But he also said a great many disturbing things as his brain imagined and dreamt of nightmarish things.  Horses with no heads would have freaked me out.  But he also found the dream of coal falling into a hole terrifying, and envisioned a herd of blue horses that melted into each other from all quarters.

Pretty soon Monday rolled around again.  Just a week before Dad had died and come back.  Now he was lucid, joking with the caretakers and visitors, and getting back to just being Dad again.  During that second week, Dad continued to improve and the complaints about his sore chest and throat faded into mainly being so very tired.  With more rest and healing Dad was finally released from the hospital on Friday the 1st of April.  He is home now, enjoying his kids and grandkids.  Getting sleep in his own bed.  Gradually recovering his stamina.  His is a long road back, and with proper care he will not be too much the worse for wear.  His story is unbelievably miraculous, and I am unbelievably thankful to those who saved his life.

More Later