Friday, December 29, 2006

Counting Blessings at the End of the Year

It's time for the end of year post, where we count our blessings ... despite the hardships of the year (losing my job earlier in the year, the stress of a move), there are many:

1. That both Lauren and I are still alive and unharmed to celebrate the New Year, given the car wreck after Thanksgiving that totalled our previous car, and that our insurance came through quickly enough to snag a new one off the lot ... and a thank you to the unknown person who had originally ordered the car, but refused it when she found out that they weren't including a full-sized spare tire with it! Now if State Farm could come up with the reimbursement for the car rental ....
2. That we're in good health. Mine has much improved after leaving an unhealthy and stressful (in every sense of the word) job situation, and Lauren, at least, has been spared the possibility of having gallbladder surgery for another year.
3. That we're both as much in love with each other as ever, and everything is on track for our wedding in March.
4. That we have the continued blessing of friends and extended family, both mine from Des Moines and from years past, and Lauren's from various places (Urbana-Champaign and here in Maryville), who have all enriched our lives in various ways. What makes it amazing is that several of them (at least 3, at last count), are also getting married sometime next year as well (and in one case, the wedding is directly attributable to me, because I introduced them last year).
5. For the blessing of our kitties, who continue to remind us that we need playtime in our lives: for Opie, who (apparently) has kitty Alzheimers and can't quite find the litter box anymore, but can still find the food dish and our laps; for Kitty, who has made the transition to indoor cat quite well (except for the occasional hairball chucking); and even for Stinky, who has finally started to grow a bit and still gives us headaches in going into places and on top of things she shouldn't.
6. For the guidance and blessing of our minister, Mike Kyle, who shepherded us through the pastoral pre-wedding counseling process, and our diocese bishop, who pronounced his blessing on our future wedding.
7. For the blessing of a decent winter so far; although it's been cold, apart from a dusting or two, we haven't had any snow this year, but we have had enough rain to keep the lawn in decent shape. EDIT: I spoke too soon. The next day after I wrote this, we've gotten two inches of snow just in time for New Year's Day. Go figure ;-).

I dare say we've been quite blessed this year ... here's hoping it continues next year as well.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Visiting my Parents -- Cheshirekitty Speaks

Today's post is brought to you from Jeremiah Joe's Coffee in Ottawa, Illinois, where we are hanging out drinking coffee and seeing the sights of Ottawa. Ottawa, a city of about 18,000 people, exists about 70 miles from Chicago. My parents live 8 miles away in Marseilles.

Ottawa would have made a wonderful college town, but local folklore (uncorroborated) suggests that they blew their chance years ago, when the city chose the Appellate Court over the University of Illinois. Maybe that's just as well, because Ottawa has retained a certain charming character while getting some culture from its location on the I-80 corridor. For example, Jeremiah Joe's Coffee. And the Court Street Cabaret, where my niece Robyn helps with technical production. We'll be watching Holidazzle (a Vegas-style revue) there this evening.

Of course, for more down-home experiences, there's always hanging at the local Wal-Mart with my mom:Everyone but me thinks I look like my mom.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hanging of the Greens

Last Sunday after church, the two of us joined fellow church friends in decorating for Christmas ... we hadn't done so earlier because, as Lauren pointed out, the Episcopal church that we go to follows the strict liturgical calendar, which means that the Christmas decorations and trim would not be put up until the end of Advent. She noted that some churches are even stricter than ours, and do not put up their Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve day.

The Organ/Choir Loft

Channing Horner Hangs Trim

The Front of St Paul's Episcopal

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Decorations, Redux

Most of today was spent recovering from finding out a day ago that I didn't get the KC job I'd interviewed for ... on one hand, I was up against some tough competition (me and 10 others, for what became 1 open slot down from 2), but it would have been nice, if only for the pay alone. But I'm moving on.

I'm interviewing tomorrow for a more local job with a nearby school district. I have my fingers crossed for that one; granted, it may not pay much, but it would mean a 15 minute commute each day, as compared to a 1.5 hour commute down and back to KC every day, and that means more than a nice salary.

So, to take a small break from job hunting, and celebrate a nice day (temps near 60), we headed down to the local Earl May garden shop, which is, sadly, being downgraded to a landscaping services only shop (apparently, the chain is in the middle of a store reduction). As they've having a store-wide clearance, we picked up some additional holiday trim for the front porch. We also picked up a nice bench and side planter combination for the rose garden, and some feed to stock the bird feeders.

A half hour later, we had redecorated the front porch, and added some more Christmas lights:

South Side Candles

The Front Tree

The Front Porch Redone

Bedroom Candles

The Angel Tree

Later that evening, Lauren introduced me to a bit of Christmas nostalgia from the Chicagoland area, having purchased a DVD containing a trio of pre-Rankin Bass stop-motion puppet featurettes: Hardrock, Coco, and Joe, Suzy Snowflake, and Frosty the Snowman.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Final Score ...

NW Missouri State: 33
Bloomberg (PA): 3

Back to the playoffs again .... but against whom?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Cannot Tell a Lie ... I'm a Bearcat Fan

It's football playoff time in Maryville; the Bearcats are one game away from playing for the Division II national championship, and to show off their pride for the upcoming game, someone on the second floor of the Admin building outside the Admissions Office has decorated the statue of Abe Lincoln with some Bearcat wear.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The New Honda, Well ... Fits

Just got back from St. Joseph, MO this evening; after we had dropped the rental off, we went over to the Honda dealer to chat with them about the Honda Fit they had on their lot as of Dec. 1 (we had started talking to the dealer by e-mail after we got back from KC). After negotiating through the maze of acquiring financing, discussing warrenty and add-ons, and such, we drove home with it.

On the plus side, we managed to get a new car with a slightly lower monthly payment than I was paying for my Accord, so I was happy. By and large, it's a nice car for a compact; in size, handling, and zippy-ness, it does remind me of the Honda Civic or the Accord hatchback (which I used to own as well), and it has plenty of cargo room. I also think I'll like the car's gas mileage; on the way back, I think we got almost 38-40 miles per gallon ... much improved over my old Accord, and certainly better in this day and age of high gas prices.

The Fit at the Dealer

Friday, December 01, 2006

Symmetry and Convergence

To continue from yesterday's post, I spent most of Wednesday afternoon waiting at the towing company in Kansas City so I could remove the plates and remaining personal belongings from my car. It was ironically appropriate that the final resting place for my Honda was the interior of the former Leeds GM auto plant off Stadium Road, and I came there driving a Chevy, the rental provided by Enterprise.

Built in 1928, the Leeds plant was stripped years ago of its machinery, but you can still tell where the equipment once had been ... swing tracks for assembly hangers, the long, long enclosure for the assembly line, the paint rooms and sub-assembly rooms separated by rolling chain link gates, and the equally long finish out line leading to the holding yard and rail sidings, where Union Pacific stores several older passenger cars and locomotives.

Inside, I drove through the long, long cavern that once held a bustling assembly line until approximately 1998, the year before my car was even built. Empty bays still sit where the production line itself must have run, and not too far from the finish out line, I found myself chatting about previously owned Hondas with the owner of the storage space while taking the back license plate off the fender piece ... this piece I could now carry with two hands, as it was no longer attached to the car.

I finished pulling items out, and by this time, the weather that I'd hoped to avoid was worsening ... the winter storm that KC was slated to get had started to move in, and by that time, I knew I was going to have to spend the night in KC ... fortunately, the owner of the storage space, who knew I wasn't from the area, offered to lead me over to my friends' place safely.