Steve’s Guide To Shopping

Do you hate the time it takes to shop?  Do long lines get you down?  Tired of sluggish numbskulls blocking the aisles with their shopping cart?

Follow these Steve tested tips for satisfied shopping —

  1.  Make a list
  2. Wait for a winter snow storm
  3. Go to the store, preferably after 8 PM

I am smugly smirking at my computer screen as I type this blog entry.  You all should be as good as yours truly.  Tonight, a week’s worth of grocery shopping done in nothing flat — left the house at 8:30, back home by 9:30.  Nothing but me and a few winos warming themselves inside the store.

Go ahead.  Scoff at me.  I dare you to try to beat that.  I should have a grocery store Strava segment.

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Time with my Dad

My dad is coming to visit me this weekend!  We get to be two swinging bachelors together for a few days.  Friday night, he is going to join me for ‘therapy night’ with my two best friends, a regular thing with my friends.  I get to share him with them and they with him, something I am really looking forward to.  I hope they are ready for it because they are going to get double Steve — I am definitely my father’s son.

This is the first time Dad is going to stay with me at my condo.  Let’s hope my illustrious downstairs neighbor behaves.  If she doesn’t, she will be sorry.  Dad is a bit mischievous!  Tonight, I spent some time making sure the second bedroom is ready, neat and tidy.  If any room in my place was a little unkept, it was that room.

Dad can relate to me a little more now, since we both are single and learning to cope with living on our own.  I can help him a little with that, the nearly two years by myself have taught me a lot.  It’s not that he is doing bad.  Dad is doing well, his life busy.  I think he is beginning to embrace the quiet, welcome the memories, accept the sadness with the new.  I am certain we will have some good conversations this weekend, talk and maybe even cry a little together.  Honestly, I am looking forward to that as well.  We both need it.

Turkey trot

Lots of things stirring around in my mind tonight.  That’s dangerous.

This is vapid — what band would you cover if you could do it?  The Cars is my choice.  My brother, Mark, is an insanely talented keyboard player who covered ‘Moving In Stereo’ when he was in high school.  Every time I hear “except for my shoes”, his favorite lyric, I go crazy.

So much happening and not happening right now.  My dad is visiting the weekend of the 15th, such a cool thing for me.  We talk a few times a day, the opportunity to text something my dad loves.  I am thinking we should visit the singles bars the weekend he visits.  Why not?  We are both single.

My daughter is visiting Budapest at the end of March, with her roommate.  The company I work for is headquartered there.  I so much want to coordinate my yearly visit with her visit.  That would be incredible!  I asked a contact at headquarters to suggest possible attractions for her and her roomie, who is visiting with her.  One was, of all things, a cat café.  My daughter LOVED it.  There is a possibility I could visit headquarters at the same time.  I am hoping for that.

So much to say, but so little focus right now.  I visited with coworkers from my job of 25 years tonight.. and I am a little bit toasty after the visit.  So much to say.  So little focus…..

No Chestnuts Required

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img_20190129_185127423This is the state of my living room fireplace as I write, the fire blazing warmth into the space I call my home.  In the next 24 hours, I am going to be very glad that I spent the money for a cord of well seasoned dry firewood.  Temperatures in the Chicago area are expected to drop below minus 20 degrees, wind chills dropping to the minus 60 mark.  Any thought of venturing outside tomorrow will be pure insanity.  When I prayed for my meal tonight, I thanked God for a warm house to live in, asked for his added protection of anyone who is not blessed in the same way.  Anyone stuck outside will quickly resemble Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.

I also prayed that any and all stinkbugs be stuck outside of my home, frozen in death and never to taunt me from my ceiling again.  The cold weather has brought them in.  I flush at least one a day.  When the fire is lit, I cackle with satisfaction as I toss the insidious brown creature on the coals, watch it pop.  There is a special place in hell for stink bugs.  Why they exist is a mystery to me.

My car is in the garage tonight.  For the past month or so, my daughter’s car has been there.  Since she won’t need the car until this June, when she comes home for two months, my VW has dibs on the warmer space for the next day or so.  Her car is parked in a guest space tonight.. I am such a scofflaw.

Most businesses around here are closed tomorrow.  Everyone in my office is working from home.  As my boss reminded me, my VW may make it to work, but it probably won’t start after sitting in the parking lot for an hour or more.  So I brought my lap top, a price book, and a writing project home with me tonight.  Yes, a writing project.  My company publishes a quarterly magazine, with success stories in each issue.  I have written a few success stories that are published, so I guess that means I am a published author.  My boss assigned another writing project to me, an application where one of our controls is operating successfully in a carbon black application.  I was the one who helped make it happen, something that is pretty cool, so I guess I have reason to proudly write the story.

I can’t wait to crawl under the covers tonight, the weight of the multiple layers of blankets a cloth hug that surrounds and comforts me.  My thermostat is set to automatically drop to the lowest temperature setting after 10 PM, so it gets fairly frigid in my place over night.  I like that.  It makes any middle of the night trip to the potty a trip through the arctic, but it’s worth it.  My furnace becomes my alarm clock, since it comes on at six in the morning, long enough for me to take a shower without goose bumps.

This fire is wonderful.  Time to put the laptop away, get out a jigsaw puzzle, sip some wine.  Any young ladies who would care to come over for a snuggle in front of the fire, well, there’s room……

 

Frosty the Bike Man

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Once upon a time, in SHenry’s land far far away, the prince of SHenry land used to throw care to the wind.  No matter the weather, the prince would ride his trusty steed, undaunted by wind or rain or sleet or snow.

He’s beginning to rethink those days.  What in the world was he thinking?

It’s definitely winter in SHenryland.  Never one to complain too much about weather that always happens, I am OK with the single and sub zero temperatures as of late.  With the addition of a fat bike to my stable, I am downright giddy when fresh snow has fallen overnight.  However, I don’t throw on the layers of clothing required without a thought, like I used to.  My mind tells me to hold my horses, it’s cold enough out there to cause body parts to fall off.  At my age, body parts are at a premium.  Said body parts may not fall off in cold weather, but they have a tendency to remind me that it was freaking cold.

 

The sun was out today.  I had plenty of time available.  However, the temperature was barely pushing 5 degrees.  Ride, you say?  Nay, nay, said the little voice in my head, stay inside in front of the fire, take a nap, eat some popcorn.  It really took a lot to resist that little pipsqueak in my brain, pull on the cold weather gear, get my princely butt on the fat bike.

Butt I did it.

Four pairs of socks, including a Goretex pair, with my Woolie Boolies on top.

Under Armor mock tee

Padded capri bibs (yes, I call the knee length ‘capris’)

Fleece lined tights

Fleece lined long sleeved jersey

Zip up fleece

Neoprene ski vest

Helmet liner

Full face gator

Insulted head band

Booties

Gloves

I swear that one of the reasons I have second thoughts about riding in the cold is that it takes such a stinking long time to get all that crap on!

It was glorious.  After three weeks of riding my new fat bike, I am still amazed at how easy it rides.  There is so much beauty to ride right out my front door.  It’s a blessing.

Nothing fell off.

 

 

Need a fix? No problem.

There are times when I feel the need to throw my Dad a bone and give him credit for all the stuff he has done for me over the years.  More and more, as I help my own children out with various emergencies, I understand what it has been like for him to help me.  Not once did he balk when my car acted up or broke down.  When I needed his experience to replace the flooring in my house, he was there.  If my water heater sprung a leak or an appliance acted up, Dad had faced the same challenge at some time.  He was and has always been there, always found a way to fix or replace whatever ailment or home improvement challenge I have had.

There was the time I called him one winter morning from a rest stop outside of Springfield, Missouri.  I was on my way home from college.  The timing chain on my 1972 Plymouth D(R)uster had failed.  Dad tossed a tow chain in the back of his truck, drove five hours to find me, then towed the car home.  He found a way to fix the car on his own, including replace the distributor and set the timing.  What he couldn’t fix, he helped me to figure out on my own or he found a friend who could help.  There were several similar incidents with my vehicles, including a blown engine that we replaced after finding a replacement engine at a junkyard.

I would like to think that I learned to deal with the same kind of challenges in a practical way from watching my father.  Dad never showed frustration with me or anyone else when a problem occurred, at least not to my face.  Whenever I asked him for help, he always responded with a calm “let’s see what we can do”.  He still does.  He is not a mechanic, not a tech, has learned from experience what he can’t or can not do, has found a good balance between an attempt to fix and knowing when to ask for help.

21954I like to show him when I am fixing something on my own.  For instance, last night I had to replace the igniter on my gas clothes dryer.  Replacing the part is fairly simple, something I have done a few times over the years.  I had to pause, send Dad a picture of the failed part after I took it out.  He had to chuckle, reminded me of the first time that I had to diagnose the issue when the gas clothes dryer failed to heat, shortly after my wife and I had moved into our first home.  It was the first time I had to replace an igniter (and solenoid, as well).  My wife was so afraid that I was going to blow the house up that she took the kids to her mother’s while I fixed the dryer.  She had not grown up with a father who fixed things.

I didn’t have to check the igniter for continuity, by the way.  It operates the same way the filament in a light bulb works.  When the filament burns out, there is no path for the current.  This igniter had completely burned out, with part of the igniter broken off.  If it was intact and the igniter was not clearly burned, then a volt meter would be used to check resistance.  No resistance means failed igniter.

I could tell it made Dad happy to see that I have learned to fix things on my own.  He even commented on that with a smiley face emoji.  Yes, Dad likes to text… almost too much.  Mom was dangerous with messaging when we bought her an iPad for Christmas.  Dad is just as treacherous with a smart phone.

The other night my son, Nate, called from the parking lot at a local shopping center.  He was stranded and ready to give up.  Somehow, he had pulled the shift lever out of the console on his Ford Focus.  The boy is embarrassed to ask for help — just like his mother is.  I told him I would be right there.  When I got to his car, I had to chuckle.  There he was, looking down at his phone while he sat in the driver’s seat, his mother doing the same thing next to him in the passenger seat.  The fix was easy, simply finding the shaft that had dropped out of the shifter when he had pulled it out.  I replaced the shaft, put the shifter back in, tested to make sure it worked.  Two minutes and it was fixed, much to my son’s relief.  His mother looked shocked that it was so easy.  I wish they all were that easy.

I asked my son to never be afraid to ask for help.  Since his mother and I divorced, he has needed help a few times.  Each time it has been like pulling teeth to get him to come over and get my help.  Maybe that will change.

I made sure Dad knew about the rescue I got to perform for my son.  He needs to know that he raised me the right way.

As I have said before, I can only hope that I am my father’s son, that I am just like him.  It sure looks like I have learned some things…..

 

First Love

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img_20190122_190542337What did I ride before this bike came into my life?  I don’t remember, really, but I do know that I knew how to ride.  The Royce Union three speed banana bike was my first real bike.  That I know.  I was a proud seven year old boy.  I rode that bike to an early death, beat the snot out of it.. all without a helmet.

I likely have a little brain damage due to that fact.  No helmet meant that I saw stars, as well as lost a lot of skin and blood, many times while riding that bike.  It wasn’t the most safe bike in the world to ride, something I was destined to prove over and over again.  My parents bought that bike for my birthday, June 1, ready to attack the summer months of Sacramento, California.  We lived on the outskirts of town, in a new housing development with plenty of open fields, places to ride like miniature Evil Knievels.  The neighborhood game was a modified version of chicken, played in the middle of the street with boys lined up across from each other to form a gauntlet.  Each player had to try to ride their bike successfully through that gauntlet.  My banana bike had that cool little sissy bar in the back, a perfect handle to stop me.  The speed it took to try to make it through the gauntlet was my worst enemy — I was stopped suddenly, my forward motion launched me over the handlebars, my elbows and chin out in front of me as I hit the pavement.  I still have scars on my elbows from that crash, the skin hung from my elbows as I stumbled through the front door to show my horrified mother.  She knew the emergency room techs by their first names that summer.

I am also lucky that I was able to father children.  That shifter wasn’t exactly in the best position.  Ever heard of the term ‘racked’?  Any boy who rode a bike like mine knows the term well.  Just thinking about it makes me lose my breath.  Mom kept an ice bag close at hand and an ample supply of ice in the freezer.

Thus the love began, a love that hurt me, that kept me healthy even as the injuries healed, that taught me a few things.  I will always remember my first love.

Now… where is my ice bag?

There is no such thing as meaningless

“Meaningless!  Meaningless!” says the Teacher, “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless”  Ecclesiastes 1:1

How odd for Solomon to begin his discussion regarding God and wisdom with a statement like that.  I have heard that the word that is translated as “meaningless” can also be translated as “vapor”… which kind of makes sense.  A king such as Solomon could have everything he wanted, more than anything I can ever imagine, yet he yearned for wisdom.  He wanted meaning.  He wanted to know what made his life worth living.  Solomon tried to prove that his wisdom, which was granted to him by God, was everything — wise investments in farming (reservoirs for his orchards), architecture, life itself.  Yet, he says that all is meaningless, is vapor.  He knew.

We all know that.  We have witnessed it, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of celebrities.  While the thought of winning the lottery, becoming rich and famous, sounds so appealing, we know what a curse it can be.

So what gives life meaning?  What is your experience?  I know what mine is.

People.  Family.

That may seem odd coming from a guy who is fairly recently divorced.  Family is not exactly the boon of many guys who have chosen to leave and divorce.  Yet, more often than not, the separation from children gives more value to what we had.  We value the relationship with our kids even more.  We wish there could be more.  We remember what it was like to invest in our children as they grew up, give them our time and resources and whatever it was we could give.  Once they are away from us, probably before, we realize what meaning they give to our lives.  I know that I remember how much sacrifice and time I gave to my children, to my family, over the years and I realize how important they are to me.  It is my children who give me meaning, especially as they become adults and prove what may or may not have been invested in them.

My children love their mother.  I both love and hate that.  Even now, I see them talk about her as their best friend and influence, wonder why they don’t remember what I did for them.  It is tough.  Fathers do what they can — coach, provide, be there as much as they can, offer whatever they have as wisdom whenever they get the chance, do the best they can to be a role model.  I know I did.  What I also did was let their mother be the best mother she could be, watched her sink every bit of her into a relationship with our children (often at the expense of her relationship with me) while I survived a job and other responsibilities.. all of which is supposed to provide meaning.  In the end, they will remember that I was there, but not respect me in the same way as they do their mother.

Where is the meaning in that?  I have two pretty terrific children who are shaping up to be even more terrific adults.

For me, it is the people who touch my life that give me meaning.  Oddly, yet not really all that odd, I think I have met through blogging.  That is a lot of people, people who have become real and true friends.  There are friends who I have met through cycling, a lot over the years, friends who see me for my skills (some years outstanding, some years pedestrian, some years lacking) and also for my willingness to share our lives.  That holds true for friends I know through church, through work, as neighbors.  It is those friendships that give me meaning.

This weekend is a good example of that.  It should have been a bit sad, a year long dating relationship ended by my choice, but in reality God has provided a quick healing through people who I know — time spent together Friday and Saturday evening with my friends Jim and John, cycling Saturday morning with my friends Greg and Ernesto, a wonderful time worshipping with a friend (and her husband) that I have know since high school, a wonderful new bicycle provided to me by another friend (and a bicycle that has already opened me up to new and beautiful adventure).

A few pictures from this weekend —

 

 

 

 

Snow is Wonderful

img_20190112_100734761_hdrI have no words.  I couldn’t stop riding this morning.  As soon as the flakes started floating down, my new fat bike was on its way to the trails.  Four hours later I still wanted to keep riding.

I am going back tomorrow.  I may play hooky this Monday.

The bike floats over the trail.  It digs in.  Climbs like a 🐐.

I am in lust.

I Roll Out My Fatty

img_20190105_101855175_hdrThis past Saturday was a gloriously clear, brisk, calm morning with low to mid thirties temperature.  For January, it was one of those gifts that any person who enjoys cycling must take advantage of.  Skipping a ride is not an option.  I didn’t.  After all, I was meeting my friend Jeremy to get the fat bike he sold to me.  That was another reason to feel the glory of the day!

I met Jeremy at his townhome around 9 AM, after stopping at Starbuck’s for a coffee and to kick back with a book.  We took a few minutes monkeying around getting the fat tires to fit the trays on my bike rack.  It was a trick to get the hold down bar on the rack over the taller 4.5″ front tire of the 9:Zero:7 fat bike.  We added straps on both wheels to stabilize the bike, so it wouldn’t roll off the rack when taking a turn.  Both bikes on the car rack, satisfied they were secure, we set off for the short trip to one of Jeremy’s favorite feel good rides, a prairie trail that meanders through the woods here and there.  It would be a nice test for the fat tired bike, as well as a good place for a easy conversational type of ride, the type of ride we seem to prefer when riding together.  My friend is gracious to me — he could tear my legs off if he wanted to, but rides to my pace.

I absolutely love the bike.  Riding a fat tired bike is a definite change from the dual suspension mountain bike that is my usual ride.  I won’t even compare it to the titanium road bike that is my road ride (harsh, but light and fast.. oops, I compared) or my steel hybrid or other rides.  Yes.  I have a few bikes.  When going up, I was astonished at how easily the bike negotiated the climb, the wider tread digging in.  Let’s just say my cheeks on my face hurt from smiling, not my other cheeks.  My other cheeks were very dirty.

Which got a comment from a random, very embarrassed woman at the restaurant we went to for lunch.  You have a very dirty butt she said to me in a very suggestive tone (seriously, she did).  Thanks, I get that all of the time was my reply, as the woman blushed from her comment.  It was true, my backside was so filthy that I had to wipe down the chair after I left, as well as my car seat after I got home.

Getting me to let loose of some money is a major miracle.  Today, there is not a bit of buyer’s remorse.  This purchase was worth it, the experience of riding unique, just as the bike is.  Buying it will mean adjusting my budget for the next few months, but the smile on my face is worth tightening my wallet for a while.