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!