Friday, December 25, 2009

My Christmas Post

Here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Rather than share a bunch of words or recapping how we celebrated Christmas here today, I leave you with my favorite Christmas musical presentation ever posted on YouTube:


Keep It Real and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Atomic City

Well here we are in Los Alamos, NM!

I recently visited a delightful free museum in town that focuses on this area and especially the place that put it on the map, Los Alamos National Lab. I could write forever about the extremely interesting things we learned but let me just give you the bare minimum...if I'm capable...probably not....sorry!

The area was settled in 1917 by a gentleman who wanted to run a school for boys with an emphasis on outdoor pursuits and responsibilities. It was called the Los Alamos Ranch School and operated for 25 years.

In the early 1940's, after the Manhattan Project had been in full force, the government needed an isolated place for the people working on the project to come together and really get some secret stuff done (until this point, they had operated from many universities throughout the country but had no one meeting place). The property was quickly appropriated by the government and in just 27 months, the Los Alamos National Lab was constructed and the bomb had been designed, built, and tested. I wish the government moved that quickly these days. I guess it makes a difference when there is the pressure of a huge war. Oh wait......nevermind.

The lab still is in full force operation today yet with a different focus. As far as
weapons defense goes, the name of the game is stockpile stewardship. Basically,
the United States stopped making, as well as testing, nuclear weapons
back in 1992 (thank you, President George Bush...never thought I'd say that!). Even though they don't get detonated, they still need to be checked to be sure that they still work properly in the event that they are ever again called upon as a last resort (let's hope not!). Seeing how they can test the small parts to be sure that the larger whole is still in working order was pretty cool.

There is, of course, a lot of controversy surrounding all things nuclear. My favorite part of the museum was a public forum book where people are free to write down their opinions, thoughts, and apparently their political rants. I probably read this book for 25-30 minutes while commenting on other people's writings as I went along, and adding my own characteristic and expected sarcasm when needed. Because let's face it...it's always needed.

All that weaponry stuff is pretty classified and Leni is happy that his job at the lab will have nothing to do with classified information. He'll be working in the solid waste facility dealing with how to properly dispose of the solid nuclear waste that is produced at the lab. When I understand more about what that means, I'll let you know.

The lab employs a few more than 8,000 people. The town of Los Alamos has about 12,000. Let me share with you some interesting comparisons between Los Alamos and our previous place of residence, Big Sandy, TX.

In Big Sandy, 76% of residents over the age of 25 (the age of all the other following statistics as well) were high school graduates. Sadly, only 11% held Bachelor's degrees (or higher). Here in Los Alamos, 96% have high school diplomas and 61% hold Bachelor's degrees if not graduate and doctorate degrees. This 61% is three times that the New Mexico statewide average. They've got some smarties up here. In fact, while I was among the most educated in Big Sandy, I'm willing to bet that I am among the least educated up here. I wish those statistics were broken down more to include the higher degrees but I know that there are tons of people with PhDs around here....many with two!

Geographically, the city of Los Alamos is built on a series of mesas divided by canyons. As a result, there will be several neighborhoods separated by canyons of National Forest land. You can loosely see the basic layout in this city map:


Our property, as a matter of fact, backs right up to one of these canyons! One moment you are in our backyard and the next, you're in a canyon filled with all sorts of hiking trails. I'm excited to explore the area soon!

If you're still reading, I extend many congratulations to you. I know this has been long. Now that you've got the city under your belt, you'll probably be ready to see house pictures which I plan to post tomorrow.

Keep It Real!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adieu, adieu...to you and you and you!

Tons has gone down since I last posted. No internet in my house just yet and I'm working right now from a quaint coffee shop which has free wi-fi however I'm running on low battery so I'll make this short with promises of a better one later this week.

First, Leni graduated this past Saturday!


It was great having his folks, mine, and his grandparents and aunt to be part of the special day. Leni is pictured above with his good friend, Josh.

After a couple days of packing and loading a 16' moving van (of course dragging a trailer with Leni's 4-Runner), we got up very early on Monday morning and made the long trek to Albuquerque where we would stay with my brother Nick and his wife Claire. Excellent hosts I might add. The drive is usually about 12 hours by car but with a large truck hauling a trailer, it became more like 14 and a half hours. I drove our car behind Leni in the moving van the whole time and this was my view for that entire time:


I think the drive was hardest on our dogs, Lucy and Sierra. Check out how uncomfortable they look:


We were at our final destination, Los Alamos, NM by 11 am on Tuesday morning. The landlord is a great guy and has put a lot of time into the house over the years. The house is perfect for a married couple with a couple dogs like us. It has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a beautifully redone kitchen, a big porch with a HOT TUB, and a work shop out back for Leni.

It snowed in the last week so we've got that to deal with. Leni had to scrape ice off the car this morning!

Watch for house pictures in the next couple days. I want to wait until we have everything unpacked. It isn't a pretty sight right now! To whet your appetite, here's a picture of our dogs in the house; this time much more comfortable!


That's all for now.

Keep It Real!

Monday, December 7, 2009

And the Award Goes To....(part 2)


I know you've been waiting with baited breath. I'll protect you from anymore suspense:

The Poor Customer Service of the Month Award goes to Bank of America!


I'll spare everyone the gory details but essentially, Bank of America is receiving this award due to its poor communication with my parents regarding an investment CD that they had opened. The CD was coming to its maturity and my father had called the bank to arrange details related to how it would be handled. The representative they spoke gave them some gross misinformation which, needless to say, complicated the entire matter. It may seem inconsequential but consider that this misinformation created some ridiculous inconveniences for my parents, quasi elderly folks who have given DECADES of business to this financial institution only to have their precious financial savings treated as if they were unimportant.

Shame on you, Bank of America.

5 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Friday, December 4, 2009

And the Award Goes To....(part 1)

It was a toss up actually.

At first, I was pretty sure I was going to give the "Poor Customer Service of the Month" award to the United Postal Service (USPS). Let me be clear about something: I think the USPS is great. For all the grief they take from the American public, I think the amount of mail they move in such a short amount of time is impressive, especially as compared with other countries. But I was super irritated when I went to my local post office this week. I went in just before 10am on Wednesday with the intention of overnighting something to New Mexico. As the postal worker punched the zip code into the computer, she informed me that the package would get to New Mexico on Friday. The following exchange ensued:

Me: "It's Wednesday today, don't you mean Thursday?"
Her: "No, it won't make the plane so it will be guaranteed by 2pm on Friday"
Me: "So the word 'overnight' means nothing?"

At that point, I just paid for it, said "Thank you" and left.

What the heck? I could have driven it there faster! All I wanted was to send something across 1 state line overnight. It's not like I was asking them to send something to Alaska or Hawaii or even a state as far away as Maine. I could not understand why the delay.

Luckily, I think this was a case of the USPS using one of my own mottos: under promise, over-perform. Through tracking, the package did in fact get there on Thursday and not Friday as they said.

I still say that they shouldn't call it "Overnight" if they won't promise that up front.

Due to the timely delivery of said package, the United States Postal Service will not, in fact, receive the Poor Customer Service of the Month Award. Congratulations, USPS!

Stay tuned to find out who will!

8 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who Doesn't Love a 4 Day Weekend?

Truly, I think everyone should be able to take advantage of the 4 day weekend more often. It is so refreshing and I think America's work force would be for the better if its laborers were as rested as I felt at the end of my Thanksgiving 2009 break. I'm not saying anything crazy like once a month or anything, but perhaps every 2 or 3 months wouldn't hurt. I suppose that is what vacation time is for. I digress.

Thanksgiving Day was nice and lazy. We slept in, watched the parade in the background as we slowly cleaned the house a little, nothing too demanding at all. We then headed over to a friend's house to chill as we waited for the arrival of a few other friends as well as Leni's parents with which we would be eating dinner. There were ten of us...not too few and not too many...just right if you ask me.

On Friday morning, Leni and his father got up before dawn for a little hunting. I was going to post a picture of the gutting process but I'll spare you :)

On Friday afternoon, we loaded up the truck with camping gear and the dogs and headed up to Barnwell Mountain where we like to go 4-wheeling and camping. Also in attendance were Leni's parents and their 2 hawks and 3 dogs as well as 3 other friends and their puppy. That's right...2 hawks, 6 dogs and 7 people. That's right...animals out-numbered the people!




The 4-wheeling portion of the trip was quite successful! We'd been hoping to take out a landcruiser that the guys have been building to send to Liberia for a missionary family but it just wasn't quite ready. We did, however, take out our 4-runner as well our friend Josh's 4-runner. Our 4-runner is gray one on the right and Josh's is the blue one on the left.


It was a first trip (aka "shakedown"...see post with shakedown discussion) for Josh's 4-runner and since it is a stock vehicle with no performance modifications like Leni's, no one quite knew what its limits would be. In the end, we were very impressed! Josh has graciously fixed up this truck for his brother-in-law, Brett, who obviously has yet to receive it. Doesn't it look great?



Josh's 4-runner did require some tows and some winching here and there but on the whole, I think its performance surprised everyone!

The other cool thing about the wheeling trip was the opportunity to share this recreational hobby in our life with Leni's parents. We got to take them out and it was wonderful to see them having so much fun. I could see the wheels turning (so to speak) in Leni's dad's head as he started asking questions about what it would take to get his own truck to perform similarly.

Check out this video of Leni's truck doing it's thing:

video

When we returned home on Saturday night, we were definitely (and happily!) exhausted. I think I was passed out by 8:30 PM. It was nice to get up, go to church, and then come home and rest for the afternoon and evening before returning to work on Monday.

Now, it is on to my final few work days before Leni's graduation weekend. My replacement started work this week. Meet Bri:


I originally hired Bri back in 2008 to work on our Ministry Staff here at The Pines. She helped facilitate the various programs that we offer that spring. Knowing her skills, we asked her to apply for my job back in the late summer/early fall when we started advertising for it. Probably close to 25-30 resumes were submitted and the camp director interviewed 10 or 12 people and through it all, Bri was offered the position and gladly accepted. It is great to have her here to overlap with me for 2 weeks because it is allowing me to work closely with her and orient her to her new role.

Other things to be excited about this week include a visit from The Pines' former Executive Director, Linda, whom I adore and cannot wait to see on Thursday! Visiting for the weekend will be another former Ministry Staff member, Stacy, who worked the same year as Bri 2 years ago. Should be another weekend for the books!

11 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Day In Night Court

Stop. One. Two. Go.

That's how I was taught to approach stop signs and red lights (when turning right of course) in drivers education when I was 15-years-old. Stop the car. Count to two. Proceed when safe. This method has been serving me faithfully for each of the 12 years of my driving career. Until about a week and a half ago.

I had approached a red light. I used my trusty method and proceeded to turn right. A couple blocks down, the red lights started whirling. I was very confused. I wasn't sure if the officer was just trying to pass or if he was actually pulling me over. I pulled over and, sure enough, he wanted to chat. He said that I had run the red light a few blocks back. Bull. I didn't argue with him. He was just a bored cop in a small town and there's no sense in fighting with those guys. I was, however, really irritated when he was complaining about the mosquitoes as he was writing my ticket.

So, thanks to that officer, who I hope is miserably allergic to mosquito bites, I got the distinct pleasure of visiting the Kilgore Municipal Court. I don't know what I expected, or that I had any expectations really. I was told that court would convene at 5:30 so I put on some nicer clothes, got my ticket, my ID and my proof of insurance together, and arrived at 5:00.

As it turns out, my arrival time was probably about 40 minutes earlier than it needed to be. When I got there, people were sitting in a waiting room but I'm not really sure what they were waiting for because no one was taking names or registering people. At about 5:40, they opened the doors to the "court room". I use that phrase very loosely. It was like no court room I've ever seen before. The nicest thing about this room was the lovely tiled floor. The walls were brick and very institutional. There were chairs for maybe 50 people or so. In front of the chairs was a crude wooden railing that wasn't even attached to the floor or a wall. Behind that was a conference table with 4 or 5 office chairs. These chairs sat empty for the time I was there. After we were shuffled into the court room, a gentleman (we'll call him the bailiff I guess) came in and explained how the process would work. We would all meet with the prosecutor individually and then the judge would come at the end to hear any contested cases.

They heard the juvenile cases first. One by one, the teens would head back with a parent or two. Since they hadn't taken names, it was a simple matter of hand raising and the bailiff choosing who would be next. They each would leave the room to speak with the prosecutor for about 5 minutes (give or take) and then they would come back and exit the courtroom through the main doors, never to be seen again. No meeting with a judge. Seemed interesting.

After the juvenile cases, they started seeing the rest of us. As I continued to wait for my turn, I noticed that some of the other people were starting to talk to each other about their offenses which made the waiting process MUCH more entertaining as I'm sure you can imagine.

I really hate to paint all of these east Texans with the same brush, but sometimes, it is really hard not to. Probably 70% of the people I waited in court with last night fit many of the same descriptions: mullets, incomplete sets of teeth, dirty clothes, smelling of cigarette smoke, speaking with improper grammar...it was really sad. I realized that the time spent changing out of the clean jeans that I had worn to work earlier in the day was a total waste. What made things interesting was that I observed that the more serious the offenses of these people were, the more willing they were to talk about them...loudly and in great detail.

Most of what I heard were people swapping stories of driver's license suspensions and being busted driving with no insurance. The sad thing is that most of these people had several citations of the same thing piled on. One gentleman behind me was married and with two kids. He couldn't have been more than 23 or 24 but had already had his license suspended 9 times in his life. That's more than one suspension per year! It started getting REAL interesting when he and the woman in front of me were discussing which of the 3 county jails in the area were the nicest. For your information, Gregg County is the best based on the toilet facilities as well as the fact that you are permitted to smoke there.

As you can imagine, one could get incredibly wrapped up in listening to all of these conversations. Despite that, I was more than ready to go at about 7:20ish when it was my turn to meet with the prosecutor. The bailiff led me out of a side door into a hallway where the prosecutor, a well dressed (thank God!) woman in her 30's, was sitting behind a card table with some paperwork and a computer. Classy. Again, I don't know what I expected but a card table in a hallway was not it. She explained what my options were. If I wanted to fight the ticket, I would not get a court date until late in December after Leni and I would already have moved to New Mexico. So instead I opted for deferred adjudication. I still have to pay the ticket but as long as I do not receive any more citations in the city of Kilgore within 90 days, they will not report it to insurance. Fair enough.

So that was my experience. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wish night court on anyone, but it could have been much worse. I leave you now with a picture of the cast from the popular sitcom from the 80's and 90's, Night Court. If you aren't familiar, you should definitely Netflix it.


18 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Behind the Eight Ball


I hadn't been that irritated in a LONG time.

I had just completed a feat so rare and wonderful. And no one would celebrate with me.

It was this past Friday night. Some staff members as well as some visiting friends had headed out to a local pizzeria. The pitcher had been ordered and we were working on it and the bread sticks were about half gone. It was perhaps the 3rd or 4th pool game of the night. A new game was about to start; it was to be me and my visiting friend from our summer camp staff, Sarah, versus current staff member Megan and her visiting friend, Catherine. I stink at breaking so I usually force it on someone else. But everyone seemed to be busy grabbing food or a sip of their beverage so in an effort to expedite the process, I just went for it. I didn't even look closely at what happened until my peripheral vision picked up that there was more motion on the table than my usual pathetic breaks. I focused in just in time to see the eight ball drop down into a pocket. Immediately my eyes darted around the table in search of the cue ball...had it dropped too?

Phew! It was still on the table!

Now I'm no pool expert. I love it but unfortunately am not much of a player in skill or success. But I know enough to know that a large amount of excitement and cheering should follow the sinking of the eight ball on the break. So that's what I did.

All by myself.

During my fit of joy, everyone stood around looking at me like I was a fool (please keep all sarcastic comments to yourself). I realized after some confusion that those who had seen it did not realize that if you drop the eight ball on the break, you win. I think the only person in the room who knew this rule was Leni and he had missed it. I pleaded my case to those ignorant players present. They insisted that a sinking of the eight ball in all situations is the worst kind of scratch - the kind that loses you the game.

It was torture! An amazing moment and not only was no one celebrating with me, but some were trying to snuff out my victory. I did the only reasonable thing to do left at that time. I took my glass of beer to a table in the corner and pouted. I wasn't really pissed but more needed some decompression time to deal with my devastating disappointment. After a minute or two, I was good to go and played the next game....and won that one....TOO!

Really, it was a fun night and I wasn't near as upset as I may portray myself to be. It was just an issue of ignorance and nothing more.

In case anyone is wondering, below is a list of accomplishments for which everyone should be aware that their immediate celebration is required. This list is not all-inclusive:

  • Engagements
  • Announcements of first pregnancies (seconds and beyond not near as exciting)
  • Good score on a test, especially important tests such as GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc.
  • Acquisition of a brand new vehicle
  • Completion of major physical feat (marathon, etc)
  • Remarkable weight loss (insert plug for The Biggest Loser every Tuesday night on NBC here)
  • Accomplishing a goal that has been much time in the making: finishing a degree, completing a major project, etc
  • Buying a home
  • (In this economy....) Selling a home for a reasonable profit
  • Sinking the eight ball on the break
If anyone has anything to add to this list, please feel free to do so by commenting.

19 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scary How Prayer Works Sometimes

I got back to my desk after being out on camp for a few hours yesterday afternoon and when I got back, Leni was sitting at the other desk in my office, which is not uncommon as he often does homework there. This time, however, he was on his cell phone having a conversation with someone about a job. That was all I could ascertain just listening to Leni's end of the discussion.

When the call ended, he told me that he had been talking to a gentleman from a different department at Los Alamos from the one he'd been conversing with over the past couple months. Apparently, Leni had submitted an application to a job posting that had been listed back in August and this guy was just now getting around to calling people back. They talked for a while and in the end, the guy said that he was going to get in touch with some people about setting up an on-site interview there at the lab and that if Leni hadn't heard back within a week from someone, that he should call this guy back directly at that time.

Hopefully the fact that two different departments at the lab are looking at Leni may speed the process along. If nothing else, these developments from yesterday have strengthened my belief in the power of prayer and trust that God's going to take care of us; even if He chooses to do it at the eleventh hour.

While we're on the subject of prayer, here are two others things you can pray about:

This is my friend, AJ, and his new pal, Nikki:

AJ lives in the Seattle area and has been married now about a year and a half(ish). A couple weeks ago AJ was diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkins Lymphoma at the ridiculously young age of 26. He had his first round of chemotherapy this past week and he and his wife, Sarah, are remaining positive and vigilant in prayer. This particular type of cancer, thankfully, is quite treatable as well as CURABLE! Please pray with us for AJ. You can keep up with updates on AJ at his blog at http://west-coast-steins.blogspot.com/

These are the four children of the Camp Director here at The Pines:
Please take special note of the newborn! Anna Elizabeth Egan was born on Monday afternoon and, as you can see, her older brother and 2 sisters are quite excited about her. She brings The Pines to a year-round population of 15! Please join The Pines in a prayer of thanksgiving for Anna!

24 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Waiting "Patiently"

Lunation: The mean time for one lunar phase, the appearance of the illuminated portion of the moon as seen by an observer, usually on Earth.

Otherwise known as a "month".

Also otherwise known as the amount of time until Leni graduates.

As with most graduates and their spouses (if applicable), this is obviously an exciting as well as stressful time. Many of you have been asking for updates on Leni's quest for gainful employment following his pending graduation next month so I thought I'd bring everyone up to speed.

I wrote a post over a month ago about a very promising job opportunity about which Leni and I were quite excited. At the time, we were told that the second interview would be set sometime in November. We had asked them to consider letting the second interview be conducted in October during Leni's Fall break so that he wouldn't have to miss anymore class but that never panned out. No big deal. The frustrating thing, though, was that as good as this prospect was, it started a long time ago and the waiting since mid-September has been brutal. Even though we knew that there probably would not be much movement on the position until this month, knowing about it so early has really only made the anticipation worse.

Leni got a phone call from a Project Manager at Los Alamos National Lab this past Monday. The gentleman let Leni know that they would be setting up a second interview via conference call for next week and that he would get back to Leni later about the specific date and time (he needed to make arrangements first with the other people who would be on the conference call). Finally...some progress.

As you can imagine, we're praying a lot for patience right now and especially that we would just be able to place this in God's hands and trust His divine plan for us. Please join us in these prayers, as we need as many as we can get.

One month until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'll Hug Your Elephant if You'll Kiss My...


In case there is any confusion, I'll just make it incredibly clear: I'm one of them.

Use whatever word you want: hippie, socialist, pinko commie, liberal....whatever. But it is true. I'm a Democrat. Which isn't to say that I stand 100% on the party's platform. I'd call myself a "moderate liberal" if I had to put a more descriptive label to myself. There are things I agree whole-heartedly with and things I wish were a little different but nevertheless I've planted my flag and there it will stay until another party presents a philosophy that I like better.

This political affiliation doesn't sit well with most of my fellow East Texans. We dems are few and far between. Last Fall, I was at a county fair and was impressed when the local Democratic Party office had a booth. Bold. I went up to get a sticker and was pleasantly surprised that I knew one of the people manning the booth. It was one of the postal workers at my local post office. We didn't say anything to each other but exchanged glances that seemed to say, "You? ME TOO!". At the same fair, there was a huge tortoise that, according to the sign, was 114-years-old. My "Hey! This tortoise is almost as old as John McCain!" joke did not go over well. Anyway, you get the idea. I take a lot of crap whether it is directly aimed in my direction or just things I hear on the side.

Leni is a member of an organization on campus that is chalk full of guys who very strongly support the Republican National Party and very vehemently dislike our sitting president. These opinions are, of course, fine and the wonderful thing about this country is that we are free to share them. These guys often use the email list of their organization as a sounding board for their political rants. After a particularly ridiculous one was circulated recently in which many government programs and politicians were referred to as stupid and moronic, the faculty advisor for the organization finally chimed in. His email was quite lengthy but I wanted to share a part at the end with you all. Here it is:

Here is the only point that actually matters! I strongly disagree that the world is made up of two non-intersecting groups: people who agree with me and people who are stupid/evil. It is possible for you to believe that people who support health care reform as proposed by the Obama administration are misguided or uninformed. But it is arrogant to assume that they are stupid or evil. This has a strong effect on our Christian witness. If we regularly treat people we disagree with as "them" or "the enemy," we cannot - at the same time - be showing them the love of Christ. If a non-Christian were to overhear discussions between Christians which demonize democrats, gays, abortionists, drug addicts, evolutionists, jihadists, Catholics, celebrities, welfare moms, illegal immigrants, or any other "them," they would not be likely to come to us to hear about the love, compassion and forgiveness offered by Christ.

I was very pleased at the poise and love with which this response was written and am very thankful to the author for his stance and courage to share with so many opposing members. My prayer is not that these people will change their political views but rather take to heart this message.

If anyone is interested in seeing the original email and the faculty advisor's response, let me know and I will email it to you. Reading them both in conjunction with each other yesterday was fascinating to me.

1 month and 6 days until Leni graduates.

Keep It Real!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Come Together

I know, I know.

I just posted yesterday. And I don't think I've ever posted two days in a row. I try not to be one of those people who posts to their blog just for the simple sake of posting.

Today, however, I am grinning ear to ear. I love when things that I like operate in conjunction with each other. Like when two people you are really fond of start dating each other. Or when you are blessed with good weather for an outdoor activity you've been planning for a long time. Or when the most lazy thing to do happens also to be the most efficient thing to do. You get the idea.

This morning, two things that I love dearly collided in a fashion that left me tremendously joyful.

First, you must recall that I ADORE the Today Show on NBC. I watch it each weekday morning when I get ready for work. On the very few times that I take a day off during the week, if I am around the house, I dutifully watch it in the background of whatever else I am doing that morning. I love that the show has a delightful mix of actual news, frequent weather updates (national and local), useful tips for life's issues (investing, large purchases, health care, relationships, etc.), and a youthful, humorous banter among the cast. What more could someone need in the morning?

This brings me to my other love in life. Star Wars. I was raised on it. I know all the lines. I draw connections between the storyline (and characters) and the Christian faith. You know what I'm talking about. When the original three episodes were digitally remastered, I saw them in the theaters. When the newer three came out, I saw them in theaters too. In fact, I was one of those uber fans that got a huge crew together and saw Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in the theater at the very first midnight showing. I have even spoken of someday having two kids and, at the appropriate age (about 3) having each watch the movies; one in the original order of release and the other in chronological order....then waiting to see how they would develop differently. Any predictions?

So imagine my delight today when, for their annual Halloween Costume Contest show, the whole cast of the Today Show teamed up with George Lucas and hosted the show while donning their Star Wars costumes! They did such an amazing job. You just have to see it for yourself:


1 month and 12 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Silver Lining

It's no secret. East Texas living, while often amusing to say the least, hasn't always been my cup of tea. I've complained about many things ranging from the heat and humidity during the summer, to poor education, to morbid and rampant obesity, to my shoebox one-room house. The list could go on.

One thing, however, that I LOVE, is my office. Sure, it has sandy concrete floors. Sure, it two doorways leading to other parts of the office but no doors. Sure, it gets loud and sometimes I can't hear people on the other side of the phone. The view from my window, however, makes up for all of it.
My view from this window, under which my desk sits, is constantly changing. Sometimes there are tons of kids running around, laughing and playing. Sometimes I can see the maintenance staff hard at work. Sometimes its a swarm of bees attacking children (see related post). Once I spied an unknowing staff member who, not realizing she was within my eyesight, had her iPod on and was listening to what was apparently some fantastic dancing music...she had some good moves. Other times, there is little action going on outside my window other than the pleasant sway of trees and the family of squirrels that commonly dart back and forth across the grass.

Today, I am especially fond of this view because of the change in leaf color that the "cooler" Fall temperatures bring. It isn't anything as spectacular as other places I've lived, but it is just enough to change the way things look for a little while before all the leaves fall to the forest floor.

Here's hoping that you find a morsel of joy in something that otherwise drives you a little nuts. It's there....keep looking.

1 month and 13 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pagan Holiday

Never fear. This will not be a post reminiscent of the conversations you've heard about Halloween being a holiday for pagans, candy poisoners, and child abductors. I may be into tradition and meaning but I also understand when it is okay to let loose and have a good time. To those of you out there with plans this upcoming holiday weekend, I wish you the best. Even my good pal and Pines staff member, Megan, who was recently caught calling a city official to see if there was an ordinance regarding age limits to trick-or-treating (Megan is a recent college grad).

Although I have no problem with the celebration of this holiday, I do not do much to celebrate it myself usually. Yesterday, however, Leni and I took some time in the evening to carve some pumpkins and I thought I'd share them here:

Here are the two pumpkins we carved. Can you guess which pumpkin belongs to whom?



Here's the two of us with our pumpkins:


Before signing off, please take a moment to check out this link and remember the real liturgical meaning of this weekend: All Saints Day

1 month and 17 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

What A Waste

Looking to kill some time at your computer? Here's a website you can refer back to with new things to read each day that just might make you feel better when you feel like a complete dork.


Enjoy!

One month and 20 days until Leni graduates.

Keep It Real!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oh Behave!


I just can't make up my mind.

I tend to go back and forth.

Let me bring you up to speed. I've been thinking a lot the last couple weeks about acceptable behavior and ettiquette. This has been brought on by watching others in my life who couldn't care less about it, let alone spell it (or even know that it exists!). Primarily, I am referring to a two-year-old, Kiera, and my 2-and-a-half-year-old labs, Sierra and Lucy.

Let's start with the dogs. We're currently visiting Leni's parents for the weekend. Aftering having several couples over for dinner at the 'rents house last night, our dogs, after the euphoria of new people (and Paul & Karisse's 3 other dogs) had worn off, were exhausted. When everyone else was still talking and milling about, they had uncharacteristically retreated to the back bedroom to escape the bustling activities out front. By about 10:00 PM, I really envied them. I too was tired from a long day and meeting new people and really just wanted to excuse myself, put on the PJs, get into bed and watch the news and then the Tonight Show. But being a member of the hosting household at the moment, that definitely would not have been kosher. Lucky dogs...no one cares what a dog does. Animals don't have the tabs kept on them the way people do. They can get away with a lot. They can express their needs most times and in a variety of different ways wheras people are held to much higher standards. Don't get me wrong...I'd much prefer being human than a dog. But there are days that being a dog has it's attractive points: sleeping 18 hours a day, being able to go to the bathroom pretty much wherever you want, being taken care of, etc.

Small children are very much the same. I spend a good deal of time eating meals with my camp director's daughter, Kiera, as I mentioned before. Man...this girl really has the life. If something upsets her, she cries and screams. As annoying as these types of behaviors are in small children at times, can you just imagine the freedom in being able to express your needs in the very moment that they become real? How often do we as adults realize we need something but find ourselves in situations where it cannot be shown or mentioned, either at that time or even ever? Not that I wish to be a one who wails constantly when my needs are not met, but I'll admit that there are those days when I think that laying on the floor while kicking and screaming might just make me feel better.

Never fear. I am not regressing. I like to think that I move forward in the way of maturity and undersatnding of social appropriateness. But growth is like climbing Mt. Everest. For every couple of steps up you take, you inevitably fall back one or two here and there as well. To those of you who understand this and even feel the same way, I feel ya. To those of you who have no understanding of this concept, maybe you need to just get on the floor and try it anyway. You are only fooling yourself.

1 month and 25 days until Leni graduates.

Keep It Real!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Things That Annoy Me


  • Websites with background music
  • Folding fitted sheets
  • Excessive and repeated tardiness
  • People who let themselves be held hostage by their cell phone
  • Those stupid quizzes on Facebook
  • People who think that having a large family and putting their kids on TV is a good idea (Jon and Kate Plus Eight, Eighteen and Counting, etc.)
  • Pop-up windows
  • People my age who's bodies are more fragile than mine - have to eat specific food, can't go long without rest, etc. I realize they typically have no control over this and that it is somewhat unfair on my part. But it annoys me nevertheless and I further admit that I think many of these people just don't push themselves as hard as the rest of us.
  • People who drive faster than me
  • People who drive slower than me
  • Overuse of the word "epic"
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Overly enthusiastic optimism in the face of staggeringly obvious defeat
  • When people speak aloud abbreviations meant for typing such as "LOL" or "BRB". Has anyone noticed that speaking the abbreviated letters is no more syllables than the actual words in most cases?
  • Inefficiency
  • Donald Trump's hair
  • Snowboarders who sit in a long line across the middle of runs
  • Cats (except the ones who act like dogs)
  • Those who listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving
It should definitely be noted that this list is not all-inclusive and may require a sequel at a later date.

More importantly, it should be noted that Leni graduates 2 months from today.

Keep it Real!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bacon's Revenge


Dear Swine Flu: Please get the hell out of my sister-in-law

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God's Gift to Bakeries


I made a pie yesterday for the first time.

That's only partially true. I made the innards of a pie. We cheated and bought pre-made pie crust. It's not that I'm not capable of making pie crust, I just don't have the space. We have about 1 square foot of counter space in our kitchen and it is always occupied by dirty dishes. So all of our food preparation takes place on a small cutting board that rests right on top of the burners of our stove.

Don't waste your time asking me how excited I am to move in 2 months. The answer is most definitely what you would expect.

Needless to say, we steer clear of recipes that involve rolling pins and spreading things out, much like pie crust.

Leni's dear mom had given us some berries about a month or so ago. They'd been in the freezer and I had no idea what they were. Raspberry? Blackberry? Could have been anything really. But I threw it all in a big bowl with some sugar and flour as Mrs. Crocker advised. Dumped it all in the pie crust, baked it for the appropriated amount of time and then the wor
st part...waiting. It's not just about waiting for the oven to do its job but about the 2 hour cooling period afterward.

The verdict? Quite tart but otherwise good! The tartness was easily taken care of with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. I think they must have been blackberries but who really knows.

Some may scoff. I've heard the snickering. Call me Susie Homemaker if you want but I really like making things in the kitchen. I rarely eat dinner in our camp Dining Hall unless I am a team member on the retreat (rare anymore now that our wonderful staff is all trained up and 100% cap
able). There are some around here who do not get this...and I understand their confusion. Why wouldn't someone go for the free meal that you don't have to clean up after? The reason is not because I don't enjoy our food but rather that I so enjoy making our own. In my professional life, I see so few benefits of the work that I do. Not only is it ministry work, in which glimpses of the fruits of our labor are so rarely seen, but it is also behind the scenes administrative ministry work. So I see far less than other people in The Pine
s' employ. But the projects I do at home, meal preparation included, are the times in my life when I get to do something and enjoy what happens next.

Anyway, thanks for listening. If you are interested in some pie and ice cream, feel free to drop by.

Just wanted to share one more thing with you:


This is a pumpkin that my brother, Nick, and our friend Christian made back in the Fall of 2004. If you can't tell, it's a profile of the late Pope John Paul II, and in keeping with honoring his incredible life, we call it the POPE-kin. While it has long since decayed and been scavenged by squirrels, I always keep this photo and make it my computer wall paper each October. Enjoy!

Keep It Real!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Setting the Record Straight

Many of you have been keeping my husband, Leni, in your prayers recently. For those of you who may not know why, let me bring you up to speed:

Leni is graduating in 2 months and 21 days + my job ending in December + poor economy = slightly nervous about "what's next"

In all actuality, my nerves have been much less high than his about this. Who wouldn't want to hire a guy like him? He'll be up against guys with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, just like him. And maybe some of their GPAs will be higher than his....but that's okay. He has some stuff that they won't, the most important being an Associate's Degree in Automotive Technology and actual field experience before starting his B.S. back in the Fall of 2005. That combined with the fact that...as they say it...he's pretty easy on the eyes....makes up for an easy hire if you ask me.

Last week, we flew Leni to NM for a carreer fair being offered by the Engineering Dept. of the University of NM. While he was out there, he met with somewhat of a big wig from the Los Alamos National Lab. For those of you playing at home, you may recall that this is where Leni completed an internship in the summer of 2007. Mr. Big Wig (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) told Leni that he would be hiring 3 Systems Engineers in January and that he would "hold" one spot for Leni if he wanted it. This was followed up with an invitation to come back out for a "formal interview where a start date would be determined". Leni is much too nervous and modest to say it, but this is essentially an unofficial job offer. It sounds like it can't be made official unless a second interview is completed but basically, the job is Leni's. We're in the process of nailing down some dates with Mr. Big Wig...hoping for something over Leni's Oct 19-20 Fall Break.

So that's the story. Nothing is totally 100% but I'd be absolutely and completely shocked if this didn't work itself out in our favor. Thank you for the prayers and please keep them coming. I'll keep you all posted as more details unfold!

Keep It Real!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

All I Ever Needed to Know


This past week I received an email from a good friend. Among other things, it mentioned how much of a waste of time it was for her to learn cursive back in elementary school.

How absolutely true it is! Other than your signature, when was the last time you wrote in cursive? Isn't it more likely that most of you print when actually using a pen and then type everything else on a computer? I have found this to be true for most.

Schools should really teach printing and then go straight to word processing.

This got me to start thinking...what else was I taught in my primary and secondary education that was a total waste of my time, my effort, and my parents' tax dollars?

Cursive: we already discussed this above
Ridiculous Spelling Words: I am a great speller. The best in my family. I always aced my spelling tests and, to be honest, enjoyed them. That being said, why the hell did I have to learn how to spell the word "lamborghini" in 6th grade? I'll tell you why...Mrs. Wolfe loved those cars and wanted all her students to know how to spell it. That word ruined a perfect spelling test score for me and I've never even used the knowledge of how to spell it until this post (actually, I had to look it up). The fact that my teacher didn't even spell her last name correctly only adds to this frustration.
Memorizing Shakespeare:
I have no idea what, but my high school English teacher insisted that I memorize a variety of different sililoquies. I really don't see how it did me any good then and I surely don't remember them now!
Circuits: I had to take an electronics class in 9th grade. I have no idea what a circuit is or how it works. Why would a 14 year old girl need to know this? I feel as if I had ever needed to know it for future employment, my collegiate coursework would have required it. Doesn't help that the teacher was a total creepster.
Geometry:
Okay I admit it...the basic geometric skills have been helpful at times. Like when drawing out plans for building a small project, etc. But that upper level stuff was ridiculous. SIN? COS? TAN? How about "WTF" instead!
Chemistry: the whole class in general. Total waste of time. Have never used one bit of it in my post-chem life. Not one.

This is only a small sample of these things and I could certainly list many more. But I also don't want to give the impression that I didn't appreciate my education before college. I went to some very good public schools and, looking back, had many fantastic teachers. The good far outweighs the bad. It just isn't near as much fun to write about.

Keep It Real!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Test Grade: Pass

This is my friend, Megan:


Megan really tested our friendship today. When I logged on to check my email today, I saw that much to my personal horror, she had committed the crime of sending me an email forward. I suppose the forwarding of an email is not a crime in and of itself, but the forwarding of an email that I do not deem worthy certainly is.

This was the first forward that Megan had ever sent me. Several questions hit me like a ton of bricks: Will this email be worth my time? Will it be cutsie or will it be funny? If it is funny, will it be funny enough? If it is cutsie, will I have to put an embargo on opening emails from Megan? Does she realize that my opinion of her rest solely on the content of this email? Could it be that she has no idea that the fate of our friendship depends on how hard I laugh at this, if at all? Should I just delete it and avoid this prediciment completely? Or should I cross my fingers, open it, and pray to God that Megan is an excellent judge of email forwarding, much unlike many people I know?

I went for it.

Congratulations, Megan! You are still very much in my good graces! I will never fear opening forwards from you again because I know that you are a wise judge of what you pass on and what you do not. Well done, friend. Well done.

I know that I already forwarded this email on myself and that you, the faithful "Snack For Later" consumers, may have already seen it. But if you have, you'll agree with me that it is definitely worth another look. See below:

For those of you who wonder what failure looks like...















Congratulations again, Megan...both on your hot new vehicular acquisition (PT Cruiser everyone, get excited!) and your lifetime pass at forwarding emails to me.

Keep It Real!