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.

January 20, 2019

Ice Fishing on Prior Lake

Ice Fishing on Prior Lake
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 20, 2019

The weather in Minnesota has finally become cold enough that the big ice houses are out on the lake and the really big trucks used to drag them out there are out there as well.

We are told that the ice is 15 inches thick which is plenty to drive on.  However, we are still always nervous to drive on the ice no matter how thick it is.  We roll down all the windows and open the sunroof to give us enough escape hatches just in case...

On Tuesday night, our friend Dan Walters told us he brought his new ice house out on Prior Lake near our house and told us to come out for a visit.  Avery hadn't gone back to college quite yet so we were more than happy to oblige.

We hadn't seen their new ice house yet, but were pretty impressed.  It seems to be quite a bit bigger than the last one they were using and had a lot of the comforts of home.  

We don't have our 2019 fishing licenses yet, so we weren't able to actually join Dan in his fishing adventure.  Sadly Dan didn't have much luck anyways and we didn't get to see any whoppers pulled out from the ice hole.  Stupid ice hole.

  Is that a UFO off in the distance?  Nah.  Just the big lights from Mystic Lake Casino piercing the night sky.

The one thing about having our boys go to school so close to home is they seem to come up with so many reasons to swing home for a night or two.  I think the fact that I'm always willing to take them out for another "Good-bye dinner" probably has something to do with it.

Jen and Dan invited us to their ice house again on Saturday night so Luke had a chance to go check it out as well.

Jen thinks Dan went a little overboard on the new heater he bought for the ice house.  It does make it pretty toasty warm in there!

I don't care that it snowed last night.  I'm sick and tired of posing for your pictures!