February 17, 2019

Our Vacation to Miami, Florida

Our Vacation to Miami, Florida
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 17, 2019

We flew to sunny Miami, Florida this week for a vacation.  The weather has been horrible in Minnesota for the last month with snowstorm after snowstorm and temperatures staying well below zero for weeks.  Some 70 degree weather was just what we needed!

Miss Sheri and I were celebrating the 25th anniversary for our wedding on February 12.  She's put up with me for a long time.  I like telling people that she is repenting for sins from a previous life while I must have done something pretty special to receive such blessings!

We actually hijacked the vacation idea from our good friends, Karl & Tina Zitzewitz.  They came down to Miami last year for the boat show and had told us they were going down again.  We said let's do it!

We rented a condo from Air BNB together which had a pool on the roof.  Unfortunately it wasn't heated so I was the only one actually willing to get in the pool.  The rest of the condo was pretty nice, though, so it all worked out for the best.

And yes, I know I have very beautiful cleavage when I fold my arms in like this.  Note to self:  I should probably stand up straight when posing for pictures while in the pool.

Our condo was really close to Ocean Drive in South Beach so we spent almost every day down in this neighborhood.  It's kind of a crazy area.

We enjoyed taking walks down to the beach.  We were surprised when we stumbled upon an actual Beach Bunny.  I always thought those were a myth.

One day we rented bicycles to cruise around South Beach.  I was proud of my fancy looking basket, but Miss Sheri told me it wasn't making me look nearly as attractive as I believed it was.  

We saw a couple of huge iguanas during our ride.  People say these are invasive species, but they seem pretty cute and friendly to me so who wouldn't want them around?  I say let them take over and be everywhere.  

Our Lyft driver was from Cuba and he told us to visit Havana 1957 for some good authentic Cuban food.  I had a Cuban sandwich which I really enjoyed, but honestly I couldn't tell if it was authentic or not.  They could have slipped me a forged Cuban Sandwich and I'd have never know the difference.

We went to Cibo wine bar to enjoy some Italian cuisine for the night of our anniversary party.  Tina won the contest for selecting the best looking item off the menu when she bought some kind of whitefish that came complete with his original head.  Tina entertained us all at the end of the meal by performing a little ventriloquist routine using that same head to express some witty banter.  Way to go, Tina!

On Wednesday it rained which killed our plans to go kayaking with the manatees, so we had to scramble to find some indoor activities to enjoy.  We discovered the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science which boasts a planetarium, an aquarium, and a Science Museum.  Sounded good to us!

It was a really fun way to spend the day.  We saw sharks, alligators, stingrays, and a bunch of other critters.  We learned about a program the museum is supporting to replace coral reef that is being killed off and we saw an exhibit that showed how the feathers of dinosaurs somehow could be associated with the future of flight by man.  Not sure how those two were related, but I'm certain it made sense if I would have only had the patience to read more about the exhibit while I was in there.

Best of all, they had a really angry looking owl.  I'm not sure what the person did who pissed him off, but I wouldn't want to be around when he gets his vengeance.

I loved the movie we saw in the planetarium.  First of all, the screen was amazing occupying the domed roof of a sizable building attached to the museum.  Then Whoopi Goldberg started speaking and we saw how stars are born which was illustrated by the birth of our very own sun.  That universe out there is pretty big.

I've always been a fan of shark tanks and theirs is quite unique with viewing areas across multiple floors and through this amazing 31 foot Oculus lens at the bottom of the tank.  It's really a fascinating portal into the world of marine life.  

Here's a video that shows how the Oculus Lens was added to the tank:

On Thursday, we boarded a water taxi to make the journey over to the island that was hosting the Miami Boat Show.  I love traveling on the ocean because you just never know what you are going to encounter.

We weren't disappointed when about 5 minutes into the trip, the captain announced that he saw dolphins off in the distance.  We were excited to watch them for the few minutes they swam near us.

We also saw some pelicans sitting on part of the bridge.  These are fun birds to watch when they are diving into the water to catch fish with their big beaks. 

Karl made the observation to me during our trip that I'm more of a dog and he's more of a cat.  I didn't know what he meant by that so he explained I tend to be friendly and go up and talk to anybody while he remains more reserved and needs to observe people before deciding to engage.  I wasn't sure if I should believe that, but then I saw this picture and thought that maybe he does have a point.

Eventually we arrived at the Miami Boat Show and spent the day walking down piers and visiting all sorts of incredible, multi-million dollar boats.  With more than 1400 boats on display, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Jeep was there and had a massive sandcastle being made in their area.  I offered to help, but they said they had it covered.  I'm sure it was pretty incredible by the time it was completed.

All in all, we had a great time crashing the vacation of Captain Karl and Tina!

February 10, 2019

Todd & Sheri's 25 Year Anniversary Party

Todd & Sheri's 25 Year Anniversary Party
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 10, 2019

It was time to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary so Miss Sheri and I rented out a room at the American Legion in Savage, Minnesota to throw a party.

So hard to believe it's already been 25 years since we've been married.  It sure doesn't seem that long.  Well, maybe for Sheri it does.

We had a great turn-out with so many of our good friends in attendance.  We found it interesting that not a single person who came actually was at our wedding.  Of course we've been in Minnesota for more than 25 years now and were married in Iowa, but we actually had several people who were at our wedding and for different reasons, none of them were able to make it.  Interesting coincidence.  It's also interesting having a party like this because we had friends from different eras in our lives show up.  Most of this group were friends we made while the boys were in cub scouts and boy scouts.

These are friends we made while I was working at Nor-Tech.

More Nor-Tech friends.

These are a couple of our friends from my current job at Oracle.

We became tight with this group mostly from the boys adventures in the robotics program at school.

More robotics friends.

We go way back with Portia when our boys joined Cub Scouts together.

We've been friends with our neighbor, Jim, since we moved across the street from him back in 2001.

We first met Kirk and Debbie through Robotics, but Tom and Kellie go back to elementary school when the boys were playing basketball and Tom was their first coach.

We know Tom & Lynn mainly through Karaoke which makes them officially our first karaoke friends.  So we got that going for us.  Which is nice.

All in all, we had a pretty great time at our party.  Our only regret is that throughout the evening's wonderful good time and pleasant conversations, we forgot to get a picture of Miss Sheri and I together.  Oh well.  People know what we look like.

I think everyone knows how much we love the albino squirrels who come in our backyard to visit us.  However, this week one of them did something to get on Miss Sheri's naughty list.  He figured out how to get on our hanging bird feeder!  We had to let the dogs out to remind him this is a no no.


  Here's the video!

February 3, 2019

67 Below in Prior Lake, Minnesota

67 Below in Prior Lake, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 3, 2019

On January 29, 2019, I experienced a new record low temperature outside in my 48 years of being alive. I asked Alexa to tell me what the temperature was outside of my house at the time and her response really surprised me.

Despite it being dangerously cold outside, we still had to escape the warmth and safety of our igloo.  What a perfect night to visit the hot new restaurant in nearby Savage, Minnesota called Whiskey Inferno.

For some reason, the Applebees that stood here previously went out of business.  The new restaurant built off the framework of the old place, but added a lot of great amenities to make it feel like a place you want to go to eat steaks and have cocktails.

We went with our old friends, Sue and Ron Korkoski.  They are always up for new adventures!

It's known for it's steaks and high end cocktails including the Manhattan, Bee’s Knees and the Old Fashioned. Upon request, drinks are delivered in handheld smoke lockers that infuse smoke into the drinks. It's a great place to go with friends.

When it started warming up on Thursday, we were amazed at all the birds and other critters coming out of the woodwork to attack our bird feeders. It must get pretty hungry being locked up inside a tree when it's 67 degrees below zero.

We were glad to see our friendly albino squirrel skittering across the back fence. We always worry about their safety.

We searched for fun things to do when it's Mega Cold outside and heard about the banana hammer trick. We were going to try it but apparently waited too long when one of the squirrels came up and stole it. Unfortunately we didn't catch a picture of him running up the tree, but it looked pretty hilarious watching him try to climb with it jammed in his mouth.

On Friday night, we were out and about when we heard our old friends, Karl and Tina Zitzewitz, were checking out Whiskey Inferno. I had to crash their romantic dinner to grab this picture. Then I left.

I bumped into my old buddy, Ted Fristad, shopping at Hy-Vee. It's always good to see Ted!

Ted starred in one of my favorite photos from 2017!

January 27, 2019

The Miracle of Luke's First MRI

Luke had his first MRI on Friday. 

Many people would say having an MRI is not a miracle, but let me tell you why I believe this particular one was. 

My twin sons were both born with congenital heart defects. Luke’s were particularly challenging and we came within inches of losing him when he was just a baby. Multiple heart surgeries were needed to allow him to grow and thrive so he could handle the next heart surgery they had planned for him. 

During one of the surgeries, it was decided to attach metal leads to his heart to prepare him for a pacemaker they believed he would most certainly need at some point in his life. Fast forward through other scary surgeries and situations and we get to a point in his treatment where we were told several times that an MRI would be the best way to look at his problem to develop a solution. But there was no way he could go through one of those!  Not with that metal inside...an MRI uses huge industrial magnets to capture images.  It would be way too dangerous to have one with metal leads on your heart.  Or at least so we believed.

When Luke was 13, he started developing lesions in his liver that mimicked the kinds of lesions that are associated with liver cancer. 

He was told by more than one set of doctors to prepare himself to be put on the list for needing a heart and liver transplant. 

When he was 14, Luke received a pacemaker. 

Recently, we were told Luke’s liver lesions started showing signs of growth again. He was told by his new doctors at Mayo that he should get a cat scan every 3-4 months to keep in eye on them.  Luke was very concerned about this because he'd heard that people shouldn't have more than 20 CT Scans in their whole lives because of the radiation involved.  

A few weeks ago, after his latest scan was performed, the doctors felt comfortable stating the lesions on his liver weren’t cancer. 

We then heard a familiar phrase from the past. 

"It would be so nice if we could get an MRI just to be sure." 

We agreed. That would be incredible, but just not possible from everything we’d been told in the past 16 years. 

Our doctor said, let me connect with your cardiologist and see what is possible. Long story short (too late) they concluded he could safely have an MRI if they took the appropriate precautions. 

He’d have to have his pacemaker checked before and after the procedure and a cardiac nurse would be monitoring his status the whole time. Oh, and he’d also need a physicist in the room to constantly monitor the amount of heat being generated in his chest to make sure the heat levels weren’t getting dangerous!  

We were very nervous about doing the procedure, but re-assured when we arrived and they told us that the Mayo Clinic has already performed MRI's on patients with pacemakers more than 3500 times without having an issue.

So we did the procedure and as they said, we had no problems.  They were able to get the images and get a better look at his lesions and again conclude they are benign.  In the words of Luke's cardiologist, it was a very reassuring scan.

We never thought Luke would be able to get an MRI, but thanks to the miracle workers at the Mayo Clinic who are constantly pushing the boundaries of medical technology, we were able to do so.

And that is why I believe that Luke's first MRI was nothing less than a miracle.

The Faces of the Minnesota Zoo

The Faces of the Minnesota Zoo
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 27, 2019

The kids wanted to go to the zoo last Spring, so we bought a family membership since financially that makes more sense than paying for one visit to the zoo.  Our membership is about to expire, so we thought we'd go out for one more visit before it does.  These are some of the faces we saw while we were there.

The Komodo Dragon is the largest living species of lizards on the planet.  They seem pretty docile in their cage at the zoo, but out in the wild they've been known to be deadly to human beings.  I'm pretty sure I could take this one if I had to.

The Gibbon is a member of the ape family known for their loud singing as they communicate back and forth with other gibbons.  They have really long arms and I could watch them swing from tree to tree all day.  If I had to swing from tree to tree like they do, I wouldn't make it very far.

We like stalking the birds in the Tropics Trail, but I have no idea the names of each of them are.  I believe this one is called Mr. Pretty Feathers.

If I had red eyes like this, I believe people would think I'm the devil.  That's why I'm not going to buy any eyes like this.

We went to the bird show and saw this snowy owl which looks just like Hedwig from the Harry Potter movies.  I've never seen one of these guys out in the wild, but I'd like to.  Maybe without the snow, though.

There was a sign posted outside of the Wolves enclosure that said "Careful, animals may bite."  I tend to want to test signs like that, but something about this guy told me not to push it.  I don't have enough fingers to spare.

Little Bobby said there was no way he was going to floss his teeth, but something about the look has dad gave him made him start doing it.

There was a Super Blood Wolf Moon in the sky this week.  I slept through it, but Miss Sheri took this picture for me so at least I could see it.  Doesn't look all that super to me.

It was time for our annual end of the year Fantasy Football awards dinner.  I had another bad year in Fantasy, so no awards for me.  Although I did get some good chicken fingers that still allowed me to feel like a winner by the end of the night.

We're starting to get this empty-nester thing figured out.