Thursday, November 30, 2006

Matt's the Man

The other day I blogged in honor of my friend Erika's birthday, so today I thought I'd send out birthday wishes to her husband Matt as well. How fun is it that they have birthdays just a few days apart?!

Matt is a super smart guy and a talented designer of all sorts of cool stuff. Just check out his awesome website and all of the crazy things in the "fun projects" section. I think one of the most amazing is his current "Pope by Pope" sketch experiment in which he is doing blind contour drawings of each of the Popes throughout history. Some of my other personal favorites are the Vestimentis Ursum projects in which he takes apart mechanical children's toys. Even the picture of Matt above is part of a unique project of his from last year--he grew a beard and then spent a week just shaving it off, bit by bit! There aren't many people in this world as creative as Matt, that's for sure! Happy birthday to the other half of the Kirklands!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Freezing!

As I drove home from work yesterday, there were joggers and dog walkers out in t-shirts and shorts. Chad and I walked the dogs together late in the evening, and he didn't even wear a sweatshirt. Today, I had to scrape the ice off my car for ten minutes when I left the office. Activities all over town were canceled due to inclement weather. This is what our patio looked like when I arrived home.


Yesterday, the high was 71 degrees, which was an unofficial new record. Right now, the wind chill is 14 degrees. I understand the concept of a cold front, but a 50 degree temperature swing in a matter of 24 hours is a little ridiculous, don't you think? I mean seriously--I'm freezing!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy (Late) Birthday, Erika!!

Sadly, I'm a day (or two) late posting birthday greetings to our wonderful friend Erika! Her birthday was the 27th, and while it's the 28th where I am, it's actually the 29th where she is! How is this possible, you ask? Erika and her husband Matt recently moved from Lawrence to Hong Kong, where they are 13 hours ahead of us.

Erika, who is seen here with her adorable nephew Brayden, is a very creative person who was a super-duper florist and chocolatier during their days here in Lawrence. She has a very entertaining blog about their transition to the Far East which was one of my inspirations to start blogging. Of course, her life in Hong Kong is much more interesting than ours in the Midwest, but I decided to follow in her blogging footsteps none the less.

While we certainly miss Erika and Matt and the fun times that we had with them at our weekly Journey Group gatherings, we are definitely enjoying the entertaining stories of their new adventures in China. It's a life I can hardly fathom and would definitely never be brave enough to try. So Erika is not only creative and funny and talented and beautiful, but she's courageous as well! Oh--and she's also frequently known as Erika the Encourager. :)

Happy Birthday, friend! We miss you!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Highlights and Lowlights

My plan for today was to share the highlights of Saturday's exciting trip to Columbia to watch our Jayhawks play Mizzou. Unfortunately, the trip wasn't very exciting at all and there were very few highlights in the game. I'm sure many of you are wondering what in the world could have possibly possessed us to travel to hostile Tiger territory to watch a mediocre Jayhawk team that has struggled with consistency this year. Besides the obvious answer (that we are extremely loyal and dedicated fans), we just had such a fun time at the previous week's victory over K-State, we decided a road trip with friends to support our boys in blue would be an exciting adventure. Even though we never found any friends who could go along, Chad and I still left at 6 a.m. on Saturday and drove the 165 miles to Columbia with high hopes.

While the game actually stayed relatively close all the way into the 3rd quarter, KU never actually looked very solid. They could only run the ball and their defense was like a sieve. Even so, we were only down by 3 points and were about to get the ball back when one of our guys jumped offsides, giving Missouri a first down when they should have been punting. That was pretty much all she wrote. After that, Missouri outscored us 22-0. Ugh. I can't even remember any actual highlights to share.

I guess one thing that was pleasantly surprising was that we didn't encounter any rude or offensive Missouri fans. We sat with a fairly large KU contingent during the game, but we walked around a little at halftime and the Tigers were surprisingly well behaved. Since we are normal KU fans and generally despise people from Mizzou, we half expected to be accosted at some point while we were there. Maybe Chad will be a little less prejudiced against MU grads because of our positive experience. :) By the way, Missouri's stadium is quite beautiful, although there are some traffic flow issues in certain areas. We didn't see much of the rest of the campus, but at least this structure was really very nice.

Upon our return on Saturday, we were thankfully comforted by KU's incredible win in basketball over the the #1 Florida Gators! Since the game started way too late for us old people and then went into overtime, I was struggling to stay awake by the end and started taking power naps during the time outs. We almost gave the game away at the end of regulation after making some stupid fouls, but we hung on to win 82-80. If you didn't get to watch the game and want to see some highlights, click here. The local sports guy isn't so great, but at least you can see a few of the bright spots from the evening!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dog Park Adventure

Today we did something that we hadn't done since Hope came to live with us in August of 2005: we took her to the dog park. We used to go to the dog park fairly frequently when it was just us and the boys, even though they would often disobey their parents by heading back into the woods to hunt for rabbits, we always knew they wouldn't go too far and would eventually come back to us when they got tired enough. With Hope, we had concerns about her hunting instinct overpowering her desire to obey, so we really put off taking her somewhere where she would be off leash in an unfenced area. Since the weather is absolutely gorgeous today and we didn't have any other important plans, we decided to finally give the dog park a try.

The park started out well, with Hope cautiously checking out the area and shying away from the other dogs. She hung out near Celtic for about the first 5 minutes we were there.


Then we started on a little walk through some of the trails of the park, and Hope looked up at all of the open fields before her, and she TOOK OFF!!! Here's a nice picture of Chad running to catch up with her (with Celtic not far behind), since she clearly was completely ignoring the fact that we were calling her.



So after a scolding and another attempt with her off leash, followed by another sprint by Chad to catch up with her, we took a nice walk around the park with her ON the leash. We decided to give her one more try off leash after we got back to where some other dogs were playing, but as soon as she saw the open field again she took off in a dead sprint in the opposite direction of where we were. Chad was NOT happy with her, to say the least. I'm not sure how far she would have gone if it weren't for a pair of boxers who were playing out in the middle of the field she was running through. When they turned to chase her, she turned tail and sprinted straight back to Chad. We actually had to laugh since she had been completely ignoring him until she was scared, at which point she fled back to the security of her daddy's arms. :) Regardless, the rest of our walk was an enjoyable one ON leash through some of the scenic wooded areas of the park.

Even though our first dog park experience wasn't as successful as we had hoped, we still think the dogs had a good time, based on their appearance during the ride home.


You be the judge. :)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reasons For Thanksgiving

It only seems appropriate that today I would share some of the many things for which I am thankful.

*I'm thankful for an awesome husband who helped clean house this morning and then even set the table for dinner, after searching online how to fold the napkins into fancy shapes (please excuse the folding chairs and the wrinkled tablecloth that I refused to iron).


*I'm thankful that all of my hard work from yesterday paid off, and that today's meal turned out really, really good! We baked a turkey and a small ham this morning, and then Chad made mashed potatoes. I even made gravy for the first time and was actually successful at it! The meal got rave reviews from everyone in attendance.


*Speaking of those in attendance, I'm thankful that Chad's Grandma Decker was able to join us for dinner despite her less than good health, and for Grandma's niece Patty who drove them all the way from Salina.


*I'm thankful for Chad's parents Mark and Ginny, who are rarely able to come visit us in Lawrence but made the trip to be with us today!


*I'm so thankful that my Mom is still with us this Thanksgiving after her difficult battle with cancer this year! I'm also thankful for her very sweet, but very old dog Ginger, who brings Mom and Cliff so much joy.


*I'm thankful that even though my brother Eric isn't home for Thanksgiving, he will be coming home for 10 days around Christmas!

*I'm thankful that our friends Matt and Erika's cat Quincy arrived safely in Hong Kong yesterday to join them in their new home there.

*I'm thankful that tomorrow we have a whole day off with absolutely nothing to do except hang out and be lazy.

There are so many other things for which I'm thankful, but one that is especially worth mentioning is the blessing of so many good friends that we love dearly! I could make a list, but for fear of leaving someone out, let me just say that you know who you are! Thanks for being so much fun--we love you all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cooking Craziness

Wow. What a day. This morning, since I hadn't blogged for several days, I'd planned on talking about how great the last several days had been for many of our favorite sports team. However, my day of Thanksgiving feast preparation took me way longer than expected!

Here's what I fixed today, most of which will be baked tomorrow:

Cherry/Pineapple Jello
Blue Cranberry Sauce
Creamy Green Bean Bake
Homemade Shells and Cheese (like my Grandma Seaman used to make)
Apple Cornbread Stuffing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Squash Casserole
Dinner Rolls (from scratch)
Cornbread (from a mix)
2 Pumpkin Pies
Brine for Soaking the Turkey

Needless to say, it's been a long day and I'm really tired. Although my assistants Celtic and Hope where usually there to help me clean up my spills, for the most part this was a one woman job! The funny thing is, every other day of the year, cooking at our house is mostly a one man job, with Chad being the head chef and me being the assistant. Chad seemed completely fascinated today that I was even capable of such cooking and baking expertise!

So tonight as I rest my head on the pillow with my trusty laptop as the clock reads 11:59, my back and feet ache from standing, but my head and heart are very satisfied with the accomplishments of the day!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We're Down With OCC

Those of you who are our age might catch my musical reference, but actually this post has nothing to do with bad rap songs from from the early 90s. The OCC I'm talking about is Operation Christmas Child, a really neat project of a Christian service organization called Samaritan's Purse. We've participated in this project for the last few years, and although it's very simple, it's also very fun and rewarding. You can watch the video from the Operation Christmas Child link above to get a more detailed look at what it's all about, but in a nutshell, people fill up shoe boxes with gifts and toys for small children, and then OCC delivers those boxes to children in very remote areas of the world who may have never heard about Jesus and the celebration of his birth.

For the last couple of years, we've gone with our Journey Group (bible study/fellowship group) to the dollar store and had a blast picking out toys and gifts for our boxes. Here's all the cool stuff we got this year (for a 5-9 year old girl) and the process of putting it all together!




Voila! Our box is all ready to go, so today we'll deliver it to our church, and then someone from our church will take all the boxes to an official OCC drop off location, where I assume other volunteers for the organization will pick them up. Last year, Samaritan's Purse collected over 7.6 million shoe boxes and delivered them to children in 95 different countries! We think it's a really cool program!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Old 97's

I actually posted this video temporarily a few days ago when I was practicing embedding a YouTube video into my blog. Because it's my favorite band in the world, I decided it deserved a permanent place in Luce Chatter blog history.



I know I've tried to explain to my friends and family a million times how awesome the Old 97's are live, but you can't really get the full experience until you've been there. I promise you, the next time they come anywhere near Lawrence I will be all over every one I know to go see them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Medicinal Tequila

Someone sent me this via e-mail the other day, and it is so darn hilarious, I just had to share. Be forewarned, however, that it's not exactly suitable for all ages!



I haven't looked at JibJab for quite some time, but I originally heard of the site when they did a hilarious parody of George Bush and John Kerry during the last presidential election. If you never watched this JibJab original (or even if you did), you should really check it out!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Roof Over Our Heads

This really isn't very exciting news, but a couple of weeks ago we got the roof replaced on our house. When Lawrence had that big storm in March that damaged all the buildings on campus, there was some hail in our neighborhood which damaged lots of rooftops. Ours didn't see nearly as much damage as most, so we kind of worried that the insurance wouldn't cover it, but thankfully it did! Like a typical woman, I changed my mind about 4 times before we decided (okay I decided) on which colored shingles looked best with the house. Now that there's no going back, I'm still not entirely sure we made (okay I made) the best choice, but I guess anything's an improvement from the low-grade materials that were used when the roof was constructed in 1993. Here are before and after pictures so you can judge for yourself if the new color is an improvement.

BEFORE



AFTER
I guess it's a little hard to see the color because of the glare of the sun, but a keen eye will notice that in addition to the roof, we've also had the windows and siding replaced since that first picture was taking back in early 2005. We might be taking baby steps, but we're trying to keep on top of all the needed repairs and home improvements!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hope Is Weird, Part Two

So here's the story that prompted the post about Hope's weirdness in the first place.

Back in early October, you loyal readers (I know there are just so many of you) will remember that I blogged about our dear little Hope's confusion when her brother was running around the yard tracking the scent of a small animal that she couldn't see. Well just a couple of weeks after that, we let the dogs outside one night for their final potty break, and much to our chagrin they kicked up a rabbit in the yard, and of course proceeded to bay and bawl at the top of their lungs and chase the rabbit running for his life. Now because it was dark, we're not exactly sure how this happened, but Hope actually caught this poor rabbit in her mouth during the chase. Thankfully, she let it go, either because she wanted to chase it some more or because it wriggled free, and the little bunny found a way to escape from the yard. As you can imagine, after this excitement, neither Hope nor Celtic had any interest in coming inside and going to bed, and yet we didn't realize at the time what a life changing experience this would be for our little girl. Apparently, Hope has now realized her purpose in life--her raison d'ĂȘtre, if you will. She now knows what it means to be a scenthound.

Although rather uneventful, here is a little video that I shot over the weekend so that I could capture her quirky behavior and share her new favorite pastime. It's just with our small digital camera, so the quality isn't that great. In the first one I shot I used the zoom, which made it even grainier, so this is video clip number 2.



At first, Hope's new love of being active in the great outdoors seemed like a good thing. She is getting exercise and clearly enjoying herself, and we can handle walking out to the yard to drag her in on occasion. However, on Saturday night, after she'd spent many hours of the day with her nose to the ground, we noticed something horrible:

Look at the poor girl's snout! She's become such an obsessed sniff-o-holic that she has rubbed her face raw. :( Now we're having to let her out for just a few minutes at a time, forcing her back inside when she won't come willingly. Our silly girl has gone from being completely uninterested in tracking wildlife to completely obsessive-compulsive in a matter of weeks. She spent almost the entire evening standing at the back door, crying to be let out. She's definitely a strange ranger about some things, but as everyone who has met her knows, her sweetness certainly outweighs her weirdness!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hope Is Weird

If you haven't met our dog Hope, she can be a little strange. We excuse her oddities because we know she had a rough life before she came to live in the comfort of the Luce household. It's kind of long, but here's the story of how she came to live with us:

When I first saw Hope at the shelter in the summer of 2005, she was in the holding area (not available for adoption) nursing a litter of puppies. My friend JoAnna and I were just looking through the holding area to see what dogs would soon be "moving up" to the dog adopt area. When we got to Hope's kennel and saw those sad hound eyes, I immediately fell in love with her. Then we walked around to the back side of her kennel and saw her information card, which said HEARTWORM POSITIVE across the bottom. My heart dropped and I almost burst into tears, because we knew that a positive heartworm test meant that she would be euthanized as soon as her puppies were weaned. Treating for heartworms is expensive, and the shelter just doesn't have the funds to do it. Since Chad and I hadn't had a foster dog in a while, I went straight home and told Chad that I'd found our next rescue. When I told him that she was heartworm positive, he of course asked who was going to pay for her treatment, to which I replied, "Uh...that would be us." Chad wasn't exactly sure this was a good idea, so I dropped the issue for the time being, since I knew I had a few more weeks to work on him while she was weaning her pups.

For the next couple of months, every weekend when I was at the shelter I would go visit Hope, who was actually named Shelly at the time. On each visit, I would tell her that I was going to name her Hope because I hoped she would survive her heartworm treatment and find a wonderful home. One weekend my dad was visiting and came with me to the shelter, and when I took him back to the holding area to see Hope, I'll never forget him saying, "That's the saddest dog I've ever seen in my life."

So by August, Chad had agreed that we could foster her, and on August 22, 2005, we finally brought Hope home. Immediately we noticed the many scars, emotional and physical, that this sweet little girl had. She cowered pretty much every time you wanted her to come to you, and if you used a stern voice at all she would just freeze in terror. She had big chunks of flesh gone from both ears and a wicked scar around the knee of her back leg. Not only had her previous owners clearly neglected her--evidenced by the fact that she hadn't been spayed or put on heartworm preventative--but it appeared that they had mistreated her as well.

After a few days of getting her settled, we took her to the vet to start her heartworm treatment. She stayed at the vet's office for 2 days while they injected her with arsenic, and then she got to come home for the 30 day resting period that follows. During that time, she had to be kenneled while we were gone and could only go outside on a chain so that she wasn't able run around. If her heart rate were to go up while her body was killing off the heartworms, the decomposing worms might get pumped through her veins too quickly, causing a dangerous clot (gross, I know). During her 30 days on a chain, we noticed how agile and deftly she moved while tethered (as opposed to Steeler and Celtic, who would manage to get themselves tangled in about 30 seconds), and we decided that she must have spent much of her previous life tied to one. In fact, as we inspected the scar on her back leg more closely, we realized that it looked like the indentations of a rope or a chain that had dug into her skin after a particularly bad entanglement.

Although it was a big of a struggle to keep Hope subdued for 30 days, at the end of the month she went back to the vet for a final injection, and was able to come home and be a normal dog. Housebreaking went pretty well considering her age (which was estimated at 5-7, even though now we think she's a little younger), and her other house manners were remarkably good for a dog who'd lived her whole life outside. The boys seemed to really like her, more so than most of the other fosters we'd had over the years. We started actively looking for a permanent home for her, and a few weeks later we took her to visit a potential family. They seemed to really like her, but I wasn't too sure about them. I cried the entire way home from their house because I didn't want to let her go. Thankfully, the family decided to get a puppy instead.

Many more weeks went by without anyone showing much interest in Hope. Chad and I talked a lot about how much we loved her, and discussed the idea of keeping her, but we realized that if we adopted Hope there was no way we could ever foster again, because 4 dogs would just be too many. Then sometime in early December, a really nice couple came over to meet her as a potential playmate for their Lab. We really liked them and we took Hope over to meet their dog later that week. The dogs seemed to get along, the couple was really nice, and Hope didn't even seem to notice their cat who was perched up on the furniture. We left her there for the afternoon, thinking that we'd finally found the perfect home, and decided that if this perfect family fell through, she would definitely become our dog. A few hours later they called and said that once their cat got up to move, Hope started chasing him, and they couldn't get her to stop. As much as I had liked them, I was secretly so happy! I didn't even care that we'd never be able to foster again because we loved her so much and she fit so perfectly into our family. A few weeks later, we signed the adoption papers and she officially became Hope Luce. :)

Now I actually started this post because I was going to tell a story about Hope's weirdness, but clearly this has gotten way too long, so tune in for her weirdo story tomorrow.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Welcome Home, John

I don't know John, but last night when I walked the dogs through a nearby development, there were tons of signs welcoming home this National Guardsman who'd been stationed in Iraq. His family had put signs on the community mailbox, explaining that he'd over there for 1 1/2 years and was coming home on the 9th, and asking the neighborhood to participate in his homecoming by putting up their American flags. There were flags on almost all the houses lining the street, and signs with "Welcome Home" or "Great Job" in almost every yard. One family had made a huge 12 foot banner, and the house where John lives was decorated with tons of lights and a big balloon arch. I can't tell you how moving it was, which seems odd since I've really never met this person (although I have met their Border Collie named Two and their Lab mix named Zero). I just couldn't help but think about him having been away from his family for 18 months, and the incredible joy and emotion he must have felt finally coming home. Just seeing the support from all of his neighbors must have been overwhelming, especially since 2 days before there had been a slew of rivaling campaign posters in the yards just across the street. Now, they both had American flags and were united in their cause--showing love for the troops.

While the scene was very emotional in a joyful way, it also brought to mind the thousands of families who won't ever have this joyful homecoming because their son or daughter or father or mother was killed in the war. It's just devastating to think about, and reminded me that I should be committed to praying for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, regardless of whether I'm for or against the war in the first place.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who found John's homecoming noteworthy. There's an article about it this morning in the Lawrence Journal-World.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chad Chesney Wins

Okay, I am seriously going to pay for today's blog, but it's just so funny I can't resist. Some of you, who have witnessed first hand how much Chad hates the comparison I'm about to make, will find this funnier than others.

About two years ago, a coworker of mine mentioned to Chad that he looked like Kenny Chesney. At the time, we had no idea what Kenny looked like, so we went home and looked him up on the Internets. We saw the resemblance, but didn't find it to be quite as striking as my coworker did. Anyway, during the last two years, as Kenny's popularity has increased, the "Hey, you look like Kenny Chesney" comments have also been on the rise. What makes it so hilarious is that Chad despises most country music, he really despises Jimmy Buffet, who is one of Kenny's inspirations, and he would not be caught dead in a huge cowboy hats or muscle shirt. There is nothing about Kenny's image that Chad identifies with or admires, which makes him go crazy every time someone makes the comparison. For example, here are some excerpts from an e-mail conversation that occurred earlier today among a bunch of our friends:

Jake--
"I would like to congratulate Chad on recently winning the Country Music Association's 'Entertainer' of the year award."

Chad--
"Jake is a dead man. Funny, but still dead."

So as you can see, I am risking my life (or maybe just 50 lashes with a wet noodle, as my mom used to say) even blogging about this. Regardless, I have to share just a few pictures in which you might be able to see the comparison.

KENNY vs. CHAD



































































And the crown jewel of the comparison pictures, even though I'm so bummed I could only find a thumbnail:







Before he wrings my neck, I would just like to point something out to my dear husband. After I warned my friend Kevin that he'd better lay off of the "Chad Chesney" comments, he pointed out that Chad should be flattered by the comparison since Kenny can get just about any woman in the world that he wants (I assume that applies only to women under 5 foot 3). I realize that Kevin may be exaggerating just a little, but he isn't kidding about Kenny being wildly popular with the girls. Chad should be flattered. And I should be eternally grateful that I have an awesome husband who resembles, but is WAY more awesome than, the famous Mr. Chesney. :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Elation

Can I just say that I will be so glad when today is over? I am so tired of the hideously repulsive campaign ads that I could just spit. I think it was the staff of Good Morning America who reported that 81% of Democratic ads were negative and 91% of Republican ads were negative. I swear, it usually feels like we're voting for the lesser of two evils. What is it about becoming an elected official at the national level that turns you into scum? Okay, maybe I'm making sweeping generalizations here, but seriously, there have been far too many outrageous scandals in D.C. to call that place normal. The mere fact that at least one congressperson has suggested that the congressional page program be done away with because it's too big of a temptation for the senators and representatives is a perfect demonstration of the dementia which abounds in Washington. Clearly, many normal, decent people become completely insane when presented with too much power. Just ask Ted Haggard. Speaking of power problems and the page program, I thought this was an interesting related article, even though I know nothing about the person who wrote it except that his name is Sheldon Richman.

I will say that I didn't see a single ad for our incumbent Governor Kathleen Sebelius which even mentioned the name of her opponent, let alone in a negative light. Way to rise above the fray, Madame Governor! Of course, since most Kansans (including me) couldn't name the people she was running against, she probably didn't need many commercials at all--let alone negative ones!

Menu Makers, Part Two

Back in September, I wrote about trying MenuMakers for the first time and promised to give everyone our opinion on the meals after we'd eaten a few. Well, for those of you who have been anxiously awaiting our thoughts on the subject, we recently finished all of the meals I prepared back in September. The reviews are mixed. First of all, we actually saved a lot of money on food during the month, since we didn't eat out nearly as much. Normally, on those nights that we open the fridge and go "there's nothing to fix for dinner," we end up out eating at a restaurant, and generally it's not the fast food kind. You just don't realize how much that adds up over the course of a month! Anyway, the results were mixed because while there were a few recipes that we really liked, out of the 12 entrees that we tried, most were just so-so. I kept having to remind Chad that we had paid for the convenience of easy preparation, because he kept saying "I could make something better than this," which is true because he is a very good cook. Since I'm not, and I really don't like to cook, I would lean towards doing MM again because I liked the convenience and am not a picky eater. However, Chad decided that since the recipes aren't that great, he wanted to do his OWN MenuMakers evening with his own recipes. Last night, while I was out shopping for clothes, he went to the grocery store and bought ingredients for about 7 of our favorite meals, mixed up about 4 of them, and put them in the freezer. Now, for the next few weeks, whenever we don't know what to fix the next night, all we have to do is grab something from the freezer and thaw it out. Hopefully we'll see the same benefits of saving money, but we'll be eating some of our favorite meals and not trying something new that we don't really like. He's a husband extraordinaire!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Shout Out To Jake Too

Since I sang Amber's praises a couple of days ago, this weekend I have to give a shout out to her husband Jake as well. Jake is also working towards his PhD and finished his comps earlier this year, but he's an athlete as well as an intellectual! Jake is an avid runner, and a few weeks ago he ran a marathon in about 3 hours and 18 minutes. That means he basically ran a 7 1/2 minute mile 26.2 times, which is faster than I can run a mile ONE time!

On Saturday, he and Amber came over to watch the Nebraska game (they are Huskers by birth) in HD TV (although it turned out not to be broadcast in high def), and Jake asked us to Tivo the game because they were going to be a little late. Jake decided, on a whim, to run in a half marathon that morning in KC. I'm astounded and impressed that he can go out and run 13.1 miles after just deciding to do so the day before! Even though he decided to race on the spur of the moment, he still won his age division! Way to go, Jake! You're making the rest of us look bad! :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Birthday Wishes

Today happens to be a very important birthday. My father Merl, who lives in Athens, Ohio, is turning __ today. I don't want to tell you how old he is, because I think he looks pretty darn good for his age, and I wouldn't want to give his secret away. If anyone not related to me can guess his age, I just might recognize them in my blog tomorrow. Now if that's not motivation, what is? :)

My dad is a very busy, active guy, and I can only hope that when I get to be his age I will be just as busy and active. He spent much of September/October traveling through the West and Midwest with his wife Mim, and last weekend he called me with stories of kayaking near his home. When he comes to visit, he always has the energy to come help me walk dogs and take pictures at the shelter, and on just about every visit he falls in love with a particular dog that he dreams of taking home. He is great about keeping in touch with his family and is also a lover of attending concerts and musical performances in his little college town. Dad has MacGuyver-like talents and can construct and repair things in ingenious ways. A couple of years ago at Thanksgiving, I watched him rig up a rope and pulley system to chop down some trees in his yard without actually making them fall over--it was quite impressive. He is a recovering workaholic who still tends to work too hard even though he's now retired, as evidenced by the fact that he started volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and ended up putting in like 60 hours a week. He was always super into the details of his work and sometimes reminded us of Phil Hartman's "Anal-Retentive Carpenter" on SNL, though not quite as over the top. The good thing is, I inherited Dad's detail-oriented nature, which is what makes me a good computer programmer. :) Thanks, Dad. I love you. Have a very happy birthday.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hooray for Amber!

Today I just have to give a shout out to my good friend Amber. Tonight, I'll get to hang out with her for the first time in several weeks because on Tuesday, she finished the written comprehensive exams required for the completion of her PhD. She's been so busy studying, we haven't seen her much lately, but tonight we're looking forward to a small celebration! Amber, it's your night to say "Hooray for ME! Hooray for ME, Billy!" (I'll explain that reference later for those of you who don't catch it.) Her husband Jake also recently finished his comps, but Amber deserves special recognition (sorry, Flapping Eagle) because even though she was feverishly studying every day, she always took the time to read my blog and leave thoughtful comments. :) What a friend! It's so nice to know that although my family often forgets to read my blog, Amber is always there! Congratulations, future Drs. Metthersmissers!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Creepiness

I have to say I am generally disturbed by a couple of things on Halloween. First, it freaks me out when kids who are too old for trick-or-treating come trick-or-treating at our house. I realize that I'm not especially tall, but when there's an adolescent at my door asking me for candy who's taller than I am, it makes me uneasy. To avoid this uncomfortable situation, we decided that last night we'd enjoy the cute tiny kids for an hour or so and then turn the porch light off a little early. So at 6:10 the doorbell rings for the first time and I grab my cauldron of candy, and there, I kid you not, is a person standing on our porch who is a good two inches taller than I am. Not only that, but he is obese. Not only that, but his dad is standing just off the porch waiting for him. Not only that, but his dad is obese as well. Seriously people, is it me or is there something wrong with this picture?

Here's the other thing that freaks me out on Halloween: people who go way overboard with the decorations. I'm not talking about a few pumpkins or some cobwebs or even a paper skeleton hanging in the tree in the front yard. I'm talking about people like the ones who live in the rural area next to our development, who have turned their yard into this:


Many years ago, we were walking our dogs past their house one evening when Chad said, "I don't remember there being a cemetery there." We realized immediately that it wasn't a cemetery, but it was quite funny, because they had very subtly placed about 5 tombstones in the empty field next to their house, so it was almost plausible that there could actually be a forgotten burial plot there in the much older neighborhood. It was creepy, yet understatedly so. Each year, they added a few more items to the display--tombstones, headless zombies coming out of the ground, a witch or skeleton hanging from a tree, a dilapidated fence--until they arrived at the monstrosity you see here.


I wish you could see this place in person. The pictures just don't do it justice because I was trying to snap them as we drove by through the plethora of cars that had gathered last night. The scary scene is actually at least the depth of their house, so there's so much I couldn't capture with a flash at night. I'll admit, the sight is pretty amazing, and yet, I have to be slightly worried about the people who have put so much time into this endeavor. Pretty creepy.