I’m on an Airplane…Again

Later today, I will take an airplane trip. This trip will (ideally) consist of leaving Portland, Oregon and arriving in the Twin Cities.

It’s the 43rd – 43rd! – airplane trip of my life.

And here’s the real kicker: I don’t even like flying. I used to be quite terrified of it, and the only way I could get through a couple of flights (such as my 1995 trip home from Germany and my 2001 trip home from Nova Scotia) was by drinking heavily.

It would be a stretch to say I have aviophobia anymore, but I still really detest the activity. In my defense, I haven’t instigated the majority of my flights, and I haven’t paid for many of them, so it’s not like I’m inflicting this unpleasantness on myself. Usually.


This is what I imagine is taking place in the cockpit of every flight I’ve ever been on.

Nevertheless, in celebration of my 43rd trip into the upper troposphere, I thought I’d do what I do best: Provide excruciatingly detailed trivia about my history of flying…

*My first flight was at the wee age of 7 weeks old. I flew with my parents to New York.

*I’ve flown to 17 different destinations. This includes layovers and return trips.

*The place I’ve flown to most often is, obviously, the Twin Cities. Excluding home base, my most common destination has been Orlando, Florida, which I’ve flown to four times.

*The biggest gap between flights was 8 years and 7 months (I had flown home from New York at the age of 3½, and didn’t fly again until I was 12).

*The smallest gap between flights has been mere minutes (when catching a connecting flight). Excluding those, the smallest gap was 2 days, when I returned home from Texas after being there a mere 48 hours. Excluding return trips, the smallest gap was earlier this year: I flew home from Salt Lake City in April, and was back on an airplane on my way to Massachusetts just over two months later, in June.

*I’d never been on more than 4 airplane flights in a single year…until now. I’ve already been on 6 flights this year, and in a few hours, I’ll be on my 7th.

*The most frequent month of the year for plane trips has been June, with ten separate plane trips. I’ve never been on an airplane in February or July.

*The biggest group I’ve ever flown with was that trip in April, when about 40 faculty and students from Hamline University all boarded a flight together.

*The smallest group I’ve ever flown with is one: Just me. I’ve been all by myself on 18 airplane trips.

*My most frequent traveling companion is Jennifer: We’ve been on 14 plane rides together. Fifteen as of tonight.

*Despite being my youngest child, Emmett has accompanied me on more airplane trips than any of my other kids. We’ve been together 3 times, and that number is bumping up to 4 by day’s end. Owen has been with me on two plane rides and Isla, one.

*The longest plane ride I’ve been on was over 6 hours, returning from Frankfurt, Germany and landing in Detroit. The shortest ride was about 40 minutes from Dallas to Amarillo.

*I took one plane ride on my birthday: The day I turned 24, I flew to Dallas. Since I was born at 11:03 at night, I was still 23 during the plane right, though. (This was not the same trip when I went to Amarillo.)

*As noted above, I haven’t paid for most of my plane tickets. In fact, I’ve only paid for 8 of them – less than 20 percent. Well, I suppose I technically paid for 12 of them, because I did pay for my trips to and from Germany (which included layovers in Detroit). However, my Dad used his frequent flyer miles for me, which meant I merely paid the tax ($20), so as far as I’m concerned, he “paid” for the majority of the cost of those tickets. And really, I’ve paid for several of Jennifer’s flights, too (including the one later today), so I’ve paid for a lot more than 8 tickets, even though they weren’t always mine. My children – who have collectively been on 7 flights (soon-to-be 8) – have always flown free.

*The remaining 31 airplane tickets have been paid for by my employer, my university, my parents, my grandparents, the American Board of Opticianry, and Oprah Winfrey.


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4 Years in Our Home

As of this week, we’ve lived in our home for 4 years. As I’ve done semi-annually since we moved in, I will hereby provide an update on improvements we made to our home in the past six months.

By the way, if you’re interested, here’s the blog post detailing what we did during the six months prior to these most recent six months.


-Installed a window cling on the north window.

This is a full-size window cling; it takes up the whole window. We wanted to put a cling on it so that the light still comes in the room, but so that we still have privacy. The window looks out onto our neighbor’s home, and from our bathroom you can look right into Owen’s room and out that window. So, this is some nice privacy.


-Installed a window cling on the window.

Similar story as above. This window is right above our Jacuzzi, so it’s great to have all the natural light.


-Installed door sweep.

There’s a rather large gap (~3/4″) under our front door that leads out to the porch. A couple of years ago, I installed a weather strip on the bottom of the door, but for some reason, some of it didn’t stick. About one-third of it – the part farthest from the hinges – kept falling off. So I cut that part off, but that then allowed cold air to come pouring in all winter. I wasn’t too keen on a door sweep, as it’s not the prettiest thing and I had to screw into a really cool door that’s probably older than my Dad. But what can you do?


-Installed padding underneath a portion of the carpet.

So, underneath the desk in our office, there’s a square of carpet that’s not attached to the rest of the carpet. I’m not sure why. It’s been that way since we moved in. It’s like the previous owner must’ve carpeted the room, but accidentally shorted the piece by 12 inches in both directions. So then he just cut a square and set it there. There wasn’t even any carpet pad underneath it, either, so he must’ve made the same mistake with the padding. One day this summer, as I was vacuuming that area, it dawned on me that we have some spare carpet padding. So I cut a piece. Much better.


-New thermostat.

We now have one of these models. Very sleek looking, and we can operate it from our phones.


-New microwave

-Installed window cling on north window.


-Removed some sheetrock


-Planted more seed

-Added front steps to deck.

Ever since we sold our gazebo and the decking it sat on, we haven’t had sufficient stairs coming off our deck. I set our one remaining step in front of the deck, but it was still a big drop-off, especially for the little legs living in our home. So, a few months ago, I removed that step and replaced it with two new steps.

Here’s the deck without any stairs:

Deck 2

Oh – I also added in a row of bricks at the foot of the stairs. Here, this picture shows them better:

Deck 1

…And here are the finished stairs:

Deck steps 2

-Installed bat house.

-Installed bird house.

-Installed bird feeder.


-Installed some hooks for hanging shovels, rakes.

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The Birdhouse

When I was in 8th grade, my science class focused on the life and environmental sciences. The teacher offered one opportunity for extra credit: she had packets of projects we could do at home and, once completed, we could bring in the project and (ideally) receive some extra credit points.

Thumbing through the packet, I found simple plans for a bird house. Of course, being only 13 years old, I needed some assistance. So, one spring weekend in 1989, my father and I worked in our little shed building a birdhouse.

After accruing the coveted extra credit, my dad affixed the bird house to the post, and stuck the post in our front yard, just a few feet from my bedroom window. Within a few weeks, chickadees built a nest in it. I loved watching them from my window that summer! For a few days, I even kept my blinds closed so as not to scare off the birds who hadn’t yet put down roots.

Then, that winter, we moved. A few days before we were all packed up, I asked my dad if we could take the birdhouse. Of course, he was busy with a thousand other things regarding the move, but he complied. Actually, it was tougher than you might think, because he couldn’t just pull the post out of the frozen ground. He had to saw it off near ground level.

Then we moved in with my grandparents…then we moved into a townhouse…then I moved out of the house. First, I lived in a rented duplex. Then, I lived in an apartment, then another townhome. Finally, over 14 years after moving out of the home where my birdhouse had last been set up, I was living in a place with property. Jennifer and I moved in near the end of summer, so I didn’t bother with the birdhouse that year. That winter, though, I told my mom I wanted my birdhouse. At first, she didn’t know what I meant. I assured here there was a birdhouse, affixed to a six-foot long post, laying on the floor in the back of her garage. She was surprised to discover I was correct, and she brought the birdhouse to my house the next time she visited.

I sanded the birdhouse, buffing off the blue paint, and painted it yellow. I then inserted a new perch as the original one had broken.

That spring, sparrows came and nested in it. It was the first time in 16 years that it was in use.  And they came the next year, in 2006. And again in 2007.

But then Jennifer, Owen, and I moved out of that house. In March 2008, on the day we moved out, I called my mom (who was on her way to pick up Owen) and asked her to bring a long extension cord. She did and, just as my dad had done 18 years earlier, I plugged in my saw and trudged out into the snow and sawed off the post as low to the ground as I could.

Then we moved into an apartment, so I gave the birdhouse to my sister. She and her husband owned a house, and they set it up on the side of their driveway where birds frequently nested in it, even as recently as this summer.

But then my sister moved. I forgot about the birdhouse until the last minute and, unlike previous moves, this one was in the dead of summer instead of the heart of winter. The week before she moved, she told me there might be birds nesting in there. I was worried, because I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to disturb the birds, but I also didn’t want to lose the bird house. Thankfully, she called that same evening to say the birdhouse was empty.

I picked it up from her that weekend, and here’s what it looked like…

Bird House 1Brid House SideBird House OpenNotice that the years on my sister’s property (where it lived for 6 years), weathered away almost all of the yellow paint, even to the point of revealing the original blue paint. Notice, too, that the wood is splitting in several areas. And though it’s not very apparent in the photos, the perch is broken and the nails are all either missing or rusted.

So, for the rest of July, the birdhouse spent some time on my workbench. In between other, more pressing and larger projects, I spent a little bit of time showing the 26-year-old bird house some love.
Bird House painted
Bird House side painted
Bird house open painted
Okay, so it’s not yet set up in my yard for birds to nest in (but that’s not terribly urgent in mid-August), but otherwise, it’s all set to go. I have, once again, replaced the perch with a secure, solid dowel. I removed every single nail and replaced them with stainless steel nails. I also replaced the two side screws that allow the front to be swung open (as you can see in the lowest picture). I sanded the wood to remove all old paint, then used wood putty to fill in the worst-worn sections. I used wood glue to firm up some of the split areas. Then I sanded again. Then I spray painted with the same blue color as our deck chairs – a color very similar to the original that my Dad and I used back in the spring of ’89. Finally, I applied a couple coats of polyurethane to keep the precipitation at bay.

Come on, little birds…there’ll be a nice nesting site for you this spring!

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The Unexpectedly Long Rocket Trip

Last June, Owen participated in a Star Base Camp at the military base near Fort Snelling. Each student had the opportunity to design their own rocket fins to go on their model rockets. The designs were then printed out on a 3D printer.

On the last day of class, it rained pretty heavily, so the class couldn’t launch their rockets. No worries, we launched Owen’s rocket at home at few months later…

Then, for Christmas, Jennifer gave Owen a pack of rocket fuel. Of course, December isn’t the best time to launch a rocket, so we waited until the weather was warmer.

On Sunday, June 14th, we attended a fundraising picnic at Wabun Picnic Area in Minneapolis sponsored by Camp Quest. Owen brought along his rocket set, eager to finally launch it for the first time this year. When we arrived at the picnic site, though, I told him there were too many trees around. He disagreed, and selected an open spot in the field. So, with about ten people looking on, we launched the rocket.

And it got stuck in a tree. A very, very tall tree. One of the guys standing nearby took his son’s football and threw it up at the rocket with all his might, but even he couldn’t get within 20 feet of the rocket.

I felt terrible for losing Owen’s rocket like that, especially since I was the one who had hit the trigger (Owen was having difficulty getting it to work). I apologized to him several times, but he didn’t seem to mind too much. He pointed out that he would be making another rocket later that same week, because he was enrolled in Star Base Camp again this summer.

And, yes, he was right: he and the other students did make rockets that week. But it wasn’t exactly the same. They didn’t get to custom design 3D-printed rocket fins this time. So…I still felt really bad.

That Monday, I stopped at the park after work. There was the rocket, still up in the tree. I searched online for ideas on how to get rockets out of trees, and the two main takeaway points were: 1) the ideas only work if the tree is in your yard and 2) just wait. Then I wrote to the Minneapolis Parks department and asked if they could let me know if a toy rocket found its way into their lost and found. They responded by saying they’d post it on their Facebook page, so that was nice of them, but I didn’t really hold out any hope of recovery.

The following Monday – about an hour before we had to be at the airport to fly to Massachusetts, Jennifer and I stopped at Wabun again. There had been a thunderstorm that morning, so I hoped it washed the rocket out of the tree. Well, no, it didn’t. It just washed the rocket about 5 feet lower than it had been. However, there were several larger sticks on the ground, and I whipped them up into the air (they’re actually easier to throw than footballs) and got close enough to rattle the correct branch but, still, no luck.

On Tuesday, June 30th, there was a beast of a thunderstorm in the early morning hours. I had to work from home that day but, during my lunch hour, I took Owen and Isla to Wabun yet again. Holding our hands up to block out the sun, all three of us stood under the trees trying to see if we could spot the rocket. Oddly, I couldn’t find it anywhere. “I guess it’s gone, buddy,” I told him. He suggested we look around on the ground, but not having seen it on our walk up to the picnic area, I wasn’t hopeful. Still, I marched due south to check out the area we hadn’t walked over yet.


11013327_10205876622453374_3035040991958877947_nThe parachute was destroyed, and the rocket’s body was a bit soggy and bent. Nevertheless, after 16 days and 2 hours, Model Rocket Kepler 4-B finally came back to Earth. It is now decommissioned and sitting on Owen’s shelf in his room.

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One House

When Owen was three years old, he began noticing that every building had a number on it. Especially while driving around in the car, he asked Jennifer and me what the numbers meant. He asked what the number on our apartment building was.

We explained that houses had unique numbers on them to help people find the house, like the mailman or other visitors.

Sometimes he commented on interesting numbers. When he saw a house with five digits on it, he found that very noteworthy. He also felt compelled to point out house number 1111 and house number 321.

It was inevitable that, eventually, he asked, “Where’s house number one?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m not exactly sure.”

He was under the impression that, somewhere in the word, there was a house numbered ‘1’, and all the other house numbers radiated out from there.

I explained that it doesn’t work that way. “They can’t do it that way, because then when new houses are built, we wouldn’t have a number to give them. Like, if there’s a house number 2 and a house number 3, and every other number up to 10 million is taken up, then when a new house is built in between house 2 and 3…what would we call it?”

This then led to an explanation of odd and even numbered houses being on opposite sides of the street, and how house numbers radiated out from a central point in a city. I told him I used to live at a house numbered 14750, because it was about 14.7 miles south of Minneapolis, and it was an even number because we were on the east side of the street. Later, I lived at 6705: even though it was just as far south from Minneapolis as the other house, it had a much lower number because it was on a north/south street, and were we 6.7 miles east of Minneapolis.

Then, of course, Owen caught my mistake when he found very low numbered homes that were quite far from either downtown, and I had to then clarify that some cities grew up at the same time as Minneapolis and St. Paul and, therefore, started their own numbering systems instead of going in tandem with the metropolises. Such cities included Hastings, Stillwater, Shakopee, and South St. Paul.

But he still wanted to know where house number one was. Jennifer and I finally figured out that the numbers radiate out north/south from Summit Avenue in St. Paul. As we drove up and down streets like Snelling, Lexington, and Hamline, we pointed out to Owen that the house numbers were getting smaller and smaller. “Look Owen,” we’d say excitedly, “There’s house 23! There house 21! There’s 16!” Owen watched, enraptured in the descending numbers…and then it would stop.

“Where’s house number one?” he’d ask again, slightly disappointed.

“Well, technically, the numbers probably radiate out from the middle of Summit Avenue, so I suppose there is no number one, since there’s no house literally on Summit Avenue. So even a house planted directly on the corner of Summit and a cross street has a number of at least…6. And 6 was the lowest we found, though we were careful to point out any other time we spotted a house with a number lower than 10, regardless of which city were we in. Still, we never found Owen’s dream home. We never found #1.

Years passed and then, one day in May, I drove down to the city of West St. Paul to rent a tool from the local Menards. As always during the summer, road construction meant I couldn’t take the best route. I ended up snaking through some residential areas, trying to find the back road that led to Menards.

“These house numbers are really low,” Owen said. “Look! There’s number 11!”

“Oh, yeah, look at that!” I said, mirroring his excitement. “And there’s 7! And there’s 3! Could it be…?” I said, slowing down. “Woa! Look! There’s number one!”


“Yay!” Owen shouted. “We finally found it! Are we close to Summit?” he asked. “No,” I said, then realized that, of course, West St. Paul is another of those old cities that has its own numbering system.

We continued on our way to rent the tool I needed that day, but several hours later, Owen and Isla accompanied me to return the tool and, this time, we stopped to celebrate the completion of long-time search; the Oneness of Owen’s goal.



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