Donna Crawford
Redondo Beach, California

 
Bio:

I was born in North Carolina and lived there until I was about 2 or so.  My father was in the military, so we moved every year or two.  We lived up and down the east coast, in Arkansas, Germany and Kansas, before he retired in 1980.  I attended Manhattan High School (in Kansas) and college and law school at the University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!!).

I've lived in Alabama, Georgia, Texas and California since leaving my parents' home.  I currently live in California with my husband Kirk (even while we were on our RTW, we considered California as home). My family and friends are scattered all over the place, as you can imagine.

My husband and I are highly involved with our church, locally. I have lots of hobbies, including cooking, HAM radio, reading, travelling, bzflag, and sports/outdoor activities. Although I love to watch Jayhawk Basketball, I generally prefer to participate. Some of my favorites are beach volleyball, scuba diving, cycling, rowing, swimming, snow skiing, tramping, surfing, off-roading, etc.

My travels over the last few years have taken me to Costa Rica, Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and most recently, on a 15-country, 1-year round-the-world trip.

Feel free to drop me an email to let me know how you're doing, or any other suggestions you have for these pages! And be sure to sign my new Guestbook!

Recent Articles

Wednesday, August 29

 

In Memory of...

I find that I haven't written here in a long time. There's much I could have written about, I suppose, but nothing that really inspired me to take away from doing and turn to writing.

Today, however, has caused me to take a deep breath and pause. And so here I am. Two very important people died today - my father-in-law (Fred), and my friend/coworker (David). The first death was long-expected, the second (which occurred about 3 hours before my father-in-law's death) was quite a shock.

I was at the hospital, visiting with a friend whose brother has been in ICU for a week. About an hour after I arrived, I had a rather odd call - someone was looking for the pastor who had just left. David was found unconscious in his car in the middle of a busy intersection and was being rushed to a (different) hospital. Less than an hour later, he was gone. He left behind a beautiful family, who are surely even more shocked than I am. I saw David briefly this morning, meeting with one of our church members for coffee. He looked fine - the same as always - concerned, interested, humble. The consolation I have in all this is that I know David is with the Lord now - he's happy, rejoicing, even as his friends and family grieve the fact that he is no longer with us.

I had just come home, beating my husband home by about 15-30 minutes. We recently got an air conditioner which we have in the office window - that way we have at least one room in the house that is tolerable when it's hot outside. Today it was hot. I arrived home and immediately went into the office and turned on the A/C. My phone was in another room, unfortunately with the ringer still off (from being at the hospital). I missed the 4 calls Kirk made trying to reach me on his way home. As he was driving home from work, he received a call - his father had died. This death, though still not welcome, was not surprising. He had had alzheimers for years and had been steadily declining for months. However, even when you expect the news, it is still somehow surprising. We drove down to Orange County to spend the evening with Kirk's mom, say good bye to his dad. Kelley (one of Kirk's sisters) came down as well.

I'm still processing the events of today - and may be for some time to come. Kirk's mom will be facing a lot of changes and transition. Darlene (David's wife) will be facing the same - but without having the benefit of months, even years, of preparation. Please pray for these two families. And take the time to call, hug your parents, your friends, your family - don't miss an opportunity to tell them how important they are to you.

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Monday, March 19

 

Jazzy Jeremy

Our friend Jeremy was in a series of online commercials for Pepsi. They are simply hilarious! Be sure you try them all!

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Monday, March 12

 

Grant Me...Wisdom? Strength? Anything?!

So over a month ago now, a couple of my friend from work did something pretty radical. After a year of spending time evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, talents and gifts, interests and more, they were about to be placed into optimal positions at work. But instead, they decided to strike out on their own and, 2 years earlier than planned, launch a non-profit they had been working on (Sharefest). You might remember me mentioning Sharefest in some earlier posts, in particular, those about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Sharefest is s a nonprofit ecumenical organization dedicated to positive change through tangible acts of service. It exists to bring together churches, community-based organizations and businesses to meet needs and foster hope and unity within the South Bay as a whole. As a non-profit, it relies heavily on donations and fundraisers in order to accomplish its purposes.

When Bryan and Chad left King's Harbor, I told them to let me know if they needed any help. Well, I've now (somehow!) agreed to do their grant writing for them. Having never done any grant writing before, I'll probably be finding some sort of a seminar to attend to get up to speed. Also, I'm contacting businesses and organizations all over our area, trying to determine who provides grants (or sponsorships) and gather what information we need in order to submit a grant application. It's a bit overwhelming. On that note, if you know of any businesses (local, national or international) who provide grants for non-profits in Southern California (LA area), please let me know! Name, contact, url - anything you have is helpful.

In additiion, for those of you who might not know, I joined the staff of freenode irc network in January. I'm still coming up to speed on my duties and responsibilities there. There is also a staff blog to which I made my first contribution.

And finally, I'm slowly getting back to work. A month out of the office with illness has made it slow going. But with Bryan and Chad gone and trying to help our new administrator, Chad (there's a funny story about Chads and KHC - remind me to tell you sometime), get oriented and settled in, I feel like I really need to be in the office. Besides, it's really nice to be back at work - I really enjoy the people I work with!

Ta!

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Tuesday, February 27

 

Breathing Breaks

When I last wrote, I had broken my shoulder, discovered I had bacterial pneumonia and Kirk had arrived home (just). It was such a joy to have Kirk home after such an extended absence, though I wasn't really feeling well enough to truly enjoy his company. He was scheduled to leave town (already) again on Monday but this time, I went with him, rather than spending yet another week apart. While we were in Berkeley, I started coughing, and it rapidly got worse. We didn't return home in time to make it to the doctor on Friday, so I figured I'd wait it out over the weekend, and if I wasn't better by Monday, I'd go then.

Sunday morning, I started coughing and couldn't stop. I was coughing to the point of retching, which, of course, was torture with my shoulder. Kirk took me to the ER where I spent the majority of the day. They pumped me full of more drugs than I could count and had someone come in and give me breathing treatments every couple of hours. The ER doctor came in and gave me a rather unexpected diagnosis - I was healed of the pneumonia, but now was exhibiting asthmatic bronchitis (no, I don't have asthma, but it was certainly what it seemed like).

After several hours in the ER, I was still having a lot of problems, so they admitted me to the hospital. I was fully expecting to be out the next day. Let me just say, Little Company of Mary Hospital is great. The staff was great, the food was ok (which is a BIG deal for a hospital), they were very flexible, helpful and nice. Kirk was allowed to come and go whenever - visiting hours were not enforced. When some of my other friends came by, they were very lenient as well. Kirk spent the entire day with me on both Sunday and Monday (so much for our three day weekend to play and relax).

On Monday, they didn't release me. However, Chris, Holly and Ambre all dropped by at different times of the day. It was really nice to see some familiar faces. Also a good friend of mine, Melissa happened to be working on the ward that day. It was really cool to see her smiling face anytime I got up and went for a walk (which was quite frequent - despite my breathing problems, I do not sit still well).

Tuesday, Garret came by, though I missed him - I was being re-x-rayed (to see how the shoulder was healing). Dina stopped by for a while too. Plus I had my first visit with the physical therapist, Karen. She gave me some exercises to start for my shoulder. Returning phone calls at this point was still rather difficult, as I was as likely as not to launch into a coughing fit while talking.

On Wednesday, I was feeling better. Especially since Kirk had brought me some earplugs and I was actually able to sleep. In fact, I slept so well that when the nurse came in for my 1AM meds and shortly after the respiratory therapist came in, I slept through the entire thing - they weren't able to wake me. I was given the meds, but the therapist saw I was breathing fairly well, and left.

Late in the morning, my mother- and sister-in-law came by with my niece, Amy. We chatted for a while and I was actually released while they were there. Kirk picked me up and drove me home (yay!) and they came over to the house for a while, as I got settled in. I was sent home with an armful of drugs, but it was really nice to be home.

As I write this, I've now started to return to work, even after a full month away. A full day wears me out, so I'm working extra days, but shorter hours. My cough is still hanging on a bit, but it's at least a "useful" cough - I'm coughing stuff out of my lungs. I have tons of emails to return (remember, I type way slower than usual thanks to a broken shoulder), along with some phone calls and letters. I will be starting my "official" physical therapy next week.

Thanks to all of you who were praying for me during this time! It worked and I appreciate each and every one of you! You're awesome!

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Thursday, February 8

 

Short Update

Here's a very short update on what's been going on - I'll try to remember to provide an expanded version later on. Kirk has been on the road since January 16th. He did manage a short 2 day trip home for our 5-year anniversary, which we spent in Idyllwild. We stayed at a nice little B&B (Strawberry Creek Inn) and went horseback riding. I picked him up from the airport and took him straight back to the airport - he never even got to come back to the apartment.

While he was in Maui, I took the opportunity to head up to Mammoth with some folks from irc. Christel, who I know from freenode (and whose staff I recently joined), and a couple of others were flying up to Mammoth on a Cessna 210. I attended Bryan and Chad's going away lunch and then drove straight to San Diego.

The flight up was nice, but a bit chilly. It was quite dark by the time we landed. A nice dinner out at Roberto's (where Kirk and I had met Fred & Geri 5 years ago) and the next morning we hit the slopes. Or tried to. It took a while to get everyone sorted, and it was almost 11AM by the time we headed up the hill to take our first run.

Turns out that James was a bit newer to skiing than Tracy or I realized, so we took some time getting him over to a green run and then tried to coach him down the run. It was while on this green run that disaster struck. We were near the right hand side of the very wide run, in perfectly clear view to anyone above us. I was standing still explaining how to snow plow, and Tracy was about 20 yards downhill. All the sudden, I looked uphill and saw a guy coming straight for me, completely out of control, laying back on his skis. Before I even had time to react, he ran right into me. I went flying, landing on my head and shoulder. Tracy later said he stopped about a foot or so from where Tracy was standing.

I was in too much pain to even get up and Tracy went for help. Ski patrol came and I got a nice little ride down the hill on a sled - not exactly what I was expecting. From there, the EMTs took me in an ambulance to the hospital, which was packed. After a substantial wait (a portion of which I spent on irc trying to distract myself from the pain), I was finally wheeled into xray - where they made me do my xrays laying down. First I had to remove about 5 layers of clothing - excruicating!

Turns out, I had a fractured glenoid - that's one of the bones making up the socket. Not good. I was done for the trip - without having taken a single run! I spent the next 2 1/2 days in the hotel room, icing my shoulder, taking pain medication and generally sulking a bit. We had some nice meals out and Christel was a doll and hung out with me most of the time, not getting to ski herself.

Monday, we flew home in stellar weather. I got to ride up front with Tracy (the pilot) and saw some magnificent scenery. As I was now in San Diego with my car, I had a 2 1/2 hour drive home ahead of me. We landed fairly late and I was feeling rather weary, so I decided to postpone my drive home for a day. We met Scott (numist) and Ben (krel) out for dinner and then headed back to Tracy's where I slept like the dead.

Tuesday, I just never got around to going home. I was desperately hoping to find someone who would be willing to drive me back - driving without a right arm/shoulder is difficult, even with an automatic. Putting my seatbelt on turned out to be one of my most challenging tasks. I ended up spending all day Thursday in San Diego too - we went over to Scott's house later in the evening and watched House, along with a bunch of his friends and roomates. It was quite packed, with computers and power cords everywhere you looked. We went out for burritos after House, as we were all starving. It was pretty funny to sit in a roomful of people and have 1/2 the conversation happening online and the rest in real life.

Finally, on Wednesday, I had to go home. My orthopedic appointment was for Thursday. I was pretty nervous about making the drive, but I did. Managed to get home without hitting rush hour in San Diego or LA. My friend, Linda, came over and washed my hair on Wednesday night - that was such a blessing.

On Thursday, my orthopedist took new x-rays and discovered I had two breaks in my shoulder. I had an AC separation and a glenoid break. The AC separation is pretty much ignored - they don't repair those, just let them sort of "heal" on their own (although they pretty much don't go back to the way they were - I'll forever have a bump in my shoulder where the bone sticks up). The glenoid fracture was more troublesome and he sent me for a CTscan on Friday.

I had the scan on Friday and was due to go back in to see my doctor on Monday to get hte results of the scan. However, his office called me Friday afternoon to tell me they had made me an appointment with a specialist - I was seeing him on Monday instead. To me, this meant I was very likely going to require surgery - not good.

Another friend (from bzflag), Manaen (zk), gave me a ring. He is in town for some work training. His timing was perfect, as I was just trying to figure out who to call for a ride to church. When Manaen called, he mentioned going to church, so I invited him to come along AND be my chauffeur, to which he agreed. His internal clock was a bit mixed up though, as he arrived to pick me up at 6:45AM (instead of 8AM). He woke me up when he called, surprising me! We had breakfast at Good Stuff (where I had one of the girls braid my hair) and then headed over to my church, King's Harbor. By the time church was over, I was pretty worn out, so he took me home. I had a Superbowl party I was supposed to attend that afternoon but I ended up staying home and resting.

Monday came along and I went to my specialist appointment. No one had sent over any of the information on my case - not the x-rays or the CTscan. Gah! They took yet a third set of x-rays and got the CTscan written report faxed over. Based on those two items, he decided I did not need surgery! Hooray, good news at last.

Fast forward to today. I've been feeling rather poorly since Monday. I kept hearing a sort of rattling in my chest if I tried to breathe while laying down. Despite taking aspirin, etc., I had a fever that kept coming and going (not too high - no more than about 101) and I had started coughing too (although I resisted coughing as it hurt my shoulder). Finally today, I gave in and went to the doctor. They did a chest x-ray (I'm going to be radioactive if they keep this up) and discovered I have bacterial pneumonia. They think it is caused because of the broken shoulder - I haven't been breathing as deeply as usual and consequently, have been unable to clear my lungs.

So now, not only is it a total pain to type (mostly done one-handed), but it is also difficult to talk, as it tends to make me want to cough, which I decidedly do not want to do.

An aside (but very important), I have terrific friends. Throughout this whole process, my friends and coworkers have been bringing me meals, doing my laundry, washing my hair, shopping for me. I am truly blessed!

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Thursday, December 21

 

A Day with Rob

A great friend of mine from Dallas called us a few weeks ago. He was on a layover in LA and wanted to hook up for a few hours. Unfortunately, we were in Berkeley at the time. However, we arrnaged to meet Rob in San Diego a couple of weeks later when he was down there on another trip.

It was a busy week. We had just spent a week in the Midwest visiting my family, then Kirk flew to Maui the day we got home from Kansas and flew back to LA the night before we were to drive to San Diego. We were up early to make the 2+ hour drive.

During my two years of living in Dallas full-time, Rob was one of my closest friends. He's a biologist by education and a photographer by trade. An excellent photographer, I might add. As part of our wedding gift, he shot a roll of black and white for us. He got what was, by far, the best photo of us coming down the aisle after we were married - the only one that wasn't blurry, I might add. That photo is, perhaps, my favorite from our entire wedding. It's the one I blew up and gave to our families. Rob recently started his own photography business, RC Photographic Productions.

Kirk, Rob & Donna at lunchAnyway, we hadn't seen Rob in at least two years - not since Dianne's wedding. We picked him up at his hotel and then drove down to the Gas Lamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. We walked around a bit and then finally headed over to a Mexican place called "Fred's" (yes, we all laughed at the name). Lunch was good, though not quite "authentic". We had a very nice time, chatting and catching up. All-in-all, it went too quickly, as it usually does when visiting friends we don't see often.

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Monday, December 18

 

Early New Years Changes

I am posting this here so that those who are really interested may know why I have taken the steps I've taken; however, I have no desire to provide further fodder for the gossip-mongers. About 9 months ago or so, I was asked to participate in a newly formed council charged with governing the ducati league in BzFlag. It was an exciting time and I was looking forward to contributing in any way I could. The ducati league is the oldest BzFlag league and has a lot of history, but was on the decline. It had been kept running by three guys who worked on the website, but all had become extraordinarily busy and really needed a step back.

We had a rocky start - an announcement of the council's formation was made before the council really had time to get organized. We were flooded with suggestions (some were really great - actually a lot of them were) before we even had methods of discussion and voting in place. Somehow, I found myself elected facilitator. Originally, the role was going to be "leader" but I lobbied for, and the others agreed, that we would be better if no one member had more authority than another.

For five months, I spent more time working on council stuff than I did anything else - even my real life job. The council saw this, but no one outside really had a clue, which is exactly how it should be. The league should see the fruit of our labor, but didn't really need to know how much work it took to do any of what we did. Then, one of my dear friends on the council - someone who had done the bulk of the technical work of coding the changes we needed - got overwhelmed and left. I nearly did at that time, but didn't want to damage the council. Instead, I resigned as facilitator and stuck around to try to help out in a role with less work attached.

One of the biggest challenges in being part of such an organization is to learn how to balance the needs of the many with the needs of the few. Also, you have to learn how to work with a large number of varied personalities, which in our case, included many cultural and linguistic differences, as well. The hardest situations were often caused when players, convinced that their need or concern was critical, pressed for action, even going so far as to launch what can only be termed as promotional campaigns amongst all the players to encourage people to put additional pressure on the council. This is, sadly, the way of things in an online gaming community - particularly one like BzFlag, which is open source.

In the context of my role, I found myself accused of all sorts of things. I will be the first to admit I've made mistakes. I take full responsibility for those mistakes. It's interesting to me, however, how I receive complaints from players that I am unwilling to forgive or forget their mistakes when the complaining player is the one unwilling to forgive or forget. It's tragic really.

So why have I left the joyful arena of the council? Simple. I'm tired of it. I am a person of action, generally quick decisiveness. But the council is made up of over 10 people. At least 1/2 of those deciding an issue must agree. It is basically governance by committee. Can it work? Yes. Has it worked? Yes. Are there issues with it? Of course. Is it perfect? Of course not. I have nothing but respect for those I served with on the council. However, for their sake and mine, I have decided to let the complainers find another target. Perhaps my absence from their ranks will lessen the criticism. Perhaps not.

At any rate, I have taken a step away from BzFlag as a whole as well. There have been issues going on in real life that have given me better perspective. I went through a year of...great difficulty. I was mostly not myself during that year. Despite recent challenges and trials, I have no desire to slip back into the same funk I was in for the last year. I will still play BzFlag - I will still play in the leagues even. But I will play much less, with better perspective and for one reason only - fun. If it's fun, I will play; if not, I won't.

To the council, I salute you. You are wonderful, selfless people and I've enjoyed each and every one of you. To the league, I challenge you - instead of fighting amongst yourselves and against a group dedicated to making things better, find a way to work with the council. They truly desire to work with you.

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Saturday, November 18

 

Greg Simkin's Solo Art Show

'Here Stands Matt Riddle' painting by Greg Simkins Our friend, Greg Simkins, recently held his first solo art show at Gallery 1988. You can see photos of his art on the Gallery 1988 website. There is a nice series of photos from the preparation for the show up through the show itself on this blog.

UPCOMING SHOWS

Sunday, Nov. 19th: 7-10pm
"DIAMONDS SPADES HEARTS CLUBS"
The art of Linkin Park / Fort Minor's Mike Shinoda and collaborative works with Greg Simkins, Gary Baseman, Dalek, Seen, and Mr. Hahn
Gallery 1988, 7020 Melrose Ave., (at La Brea), Los Angeles, CA 90038

Thursday, Dec. 7th: 7-10pm
"THE VIVISECT PLAYSET (ROUND 3)"
Group art exhibition curated by Luke Chueh
Gallery 1988, 7020 Melrose Ave., (at La Brea), Los Angeles, CA 90038, www.gallery1988.com

Saturday, Dec. 9th: 8-11:30pm
"15 YEAR ANNIVERSARY"
Group art exhibition - Premeire Book Release
Copro/Nason Gallery, 2525 Michigan Avenue T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404, www.copronason.com

Saturday, Dec. 9th: 7pm-12am
"WINTER WONDERLAND"
Group art exhibition
Project, 8545 Washington Blvd. (near Helms Bakery), Culver City, CA 90232, www.project.bz

Greg will have his next SOLO SHOW at FIFTY24SF Gallery in San Francisco on Feb. 1st!

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Thursday, October 26

 

For My Friends

It always seems that while I'm in the midst of finishing one post, something distracts me and I'm on to another. This is one of those times. Over the last few days, I've talked with a number of friends. Each and every one is dealing with some sort of crisis or situation and each could use, I believe, some encouragement. You know who you are. And this is for you:

"Dark shadows close me in, creeping ever nearer, obscuring the truth, the light. Hope fleetingly fades and the horrors of the past and the present become overwhelmingly harsh, choking off even the gasping, short breaths I try to manage. Reason fades, clarity dims, only the darkness is visible. Am I seeing from my mind's eye? Are my eyes even open? How can I be expected to think with such crowded, dark, spiraling ephemeral thoughts. I follow one wisp of a memory, which quickly slips into another and then another. I've lost track of where I started and where I was going. Was I remembering or predicting? I am undone and cannot free myself, all hope is lost.

But can hope, the bastion of humanity, truly be lost? I ponder the absurdity of life without hope. I ruminate on the inability to live a future without a past, envisaging the heaps of bags that I carry through life from one situation to the next. In each instance, I sift through the contents of endless trunks sorting out what emotion to wear draped upon me like a ill-fitting dress, what past experience to wear as my sunglasses shielding me from the harsheness of the landscape, what personality trait to walk in, hoping it will be a comfortable fit and appropriate for the road I am about to walk. All the while, the trail of luggage follows me interminably, growing with each passing conversation, each experience, each day.

Is hope so elusive? Constantly fluttering just out of reach, caught by the dark winds? Can hope exist, even in the darkness? At night, when I turn down the lights, does the table cease to exist? Or the bed on which I am laying...is it less a bed in the dark than in the light? If I close my eyes, does my room disappear? I think not. And so, as I am surrounded by the inky, oppressive labyrinth, I cling to the hope I know is there. At first, it is a thready whisper. My grip tightens and the hope thickens, gaining substance. The thread becomes a skein, the skein takes shape. Slowly, almost unnoticably, the darkness slowly begins to dissapate. I can see the faintest outline, a silhouette. I cleave myself to the hope, which leads me through the calignosity. My vision sharpens, shapes begin to form as the faintest glint is revealed, slowly at first, then rapidly gaining brilliance. Soon, my hope is pulling me forward and I'm enveloped in luminescence so bright I see no darkness. I squint, trying to adjust to what I'm seeing. Slowly, in awe, I realize I am surrounded - not by darkness or despair. I am surrounded by those who care most for me, those I once called friends. As I wandered blindly, they came around me, gently and carefully guiding me into the warmth of the light."

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Thursday, October 19

 

The Last Day - Final Extreme Preparations

The last day of work and so much still to be done. I headed over to the house not sure what to expect. Some co-workers were meeting there in the late morning. I don't know what I was thinking - I actually showed up in street clothes. I had thought to put my volunteer shirt on that morning, but it smelled so bad I couldn't bear it. I did bring it along in the car though.

When I got to the house work was still in full swing. The streets were already jammed with spectators, so I went back to my car, changed into the volunteer shirt and walked back to see what I could do. All sorts of things were still being done - work on the interior, the exterior, picking up the neighborhood, beginning the relandscaping of some of the neighboring homes, breaking down some of the temporary structures that had been erected. I plopped my hard hat on my head and set to work.

Donna & Linda chat outside the houseI spent some time deconstructing tents and picking up rubbish. At one point, I heard someone call my name. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but you have to be 18 to work on an Extreme Home Makeover project. We have no such age restrictions on our Mississippi trips - we've taken kids as young as 10 or so, although generally, we prefer 13 or older. Rebecca, who had been on 2 trips to Mississippi with us, and her younger sister, Amanda, were standing along the fencing, watching the craziness. Rebecca asked me to sign her shirt - hehe, I felt like a celebrity, though I'm just one of hundreds of volunteers. We chatted for a bit and Rebecca showed me her arm - she had put tick marks on her arm for every person she saw volunteering that she knew. There were probably close to 200 people marked off on her arm! Wow!

I returned to working and ended up inside the house. The interior was completely chaotic! There were so many people in the house, it was hard to determine what needed to be done! I spent some time in the master bedroom, cleaning up some paint spots that had been spilled onto the floor. I spent some more time helping another volunteer try to clean up the dust and debris in the very cool laundry room/boot room. I played gopher for several people.

At one point, I ran into my friend, Kristen. I hadn't seen her the whole time I'd been on the site, though I had talked to her extensively before the build started. She and her husband, Rod (very very good friends of Kirk's since grade school) had helped by providing an RV for the week, locating a granite supplier, and lots of other things. She was helping the photographer, Trish. So, I started helping them. Trish had framed a bunch of the photos of the family that she had taken in Cabo San Lucas. They had been stored in the grandmother's closet - where they had gotten somewhat dusty, and in spots, quite dirty. I spent some time cleaning them up and sorting them between the type of frame they were in (all were solid black wood frames, but the wood detail was a little different for each). Meanwhile, while I was doing this, much was happening in the room. Frames were being hung, window dressing examined and critiqued, plants being repotted, clean up happening, the room was being reorganized. There were about 3 times as many people in the room than it could handle with all that stuff being done.

volunteers gather outsideEventually, we were ready to hang the photos (after a bit of a wild goose chase, looking for the appropriate nails). The photos were simply incredible. We spent some time placing them in the hallway between the bedrooms and bathrooms, getting them arranged and then hung. I walked around a bit more, cleaning up and doing other odd jobs but I didn't have anything specific in the house to be doing at that point and they were trying to clear some of the extra people out, so I left and had some lunch.

When I came back, there were still tons of people in the house, but they weren't allowing anyone back in, so I found a spot alongside the yard of the house, where many of the volunteers were gathering for the festivities later.

To Be Continued...

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Saturday, October 14

 

A Day of Extreme Late and Wait

Today was my first day to volunteer on a construction team for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition house we are building. I received a call on Friday to report for the framing team at 8AM on Saturday. Apparently, there was another team coming even earlier (5AM).

I arrived at the checkin tent, filled out my waivers, received my hardhat and t-shirt, grabbed my tools and headed over to the staging area with my friend, Elaine. Elaine and I have worked in Mississippi together on three different trips. The staging area was mostly empty, to our surprise. We did run into John A (another former Mississippi team member) and he told us to head over to the house. Most of the framers were having breakfast then, as the build was already "behind schedule".

We took a walk up the street and found the canteen area. It was still full of framers, but many were already heading over to the job site. I grabbed a cup of caffeine and then we headed over ourselves. It turns out that it took longer to do the backfill, and the job was over 6.5 hours behind schedule. When the alloted timeframe is only 106 hours to begin with, this is a pretty significant delay. There were a lot of guys laying rebar in the house footprint. To me, that meant the concrete wasn't even down, but surely THAT wasn't possible. At any rate, they were no where NEAR ready for the framers, much less the 50-60+ framers we had on site at the time.

We spent a little time getting oriented and chatting with people who had been onsite for a while. At one point, one of the ABC guys asked us to remove some signage from some fencing near the visitor area. Apparently the fencing provider had not made arrangements to have his signage displayed. It was interesting to stand there, removing screws and bolts, listening to neighborhood people talk about what was going on.

There was a WHOLE lot of "hurry up and wait" today. For me, it's the most frustrating part of construction. Even more so when I knew there was so much to be done, but had a hard time finding someone who could point us in the right direction.

The forms and rebar are laid, ready for the concrete to be poured We did some other random things - one of the neighbors (the neighbors's yards literally become part of the work site) had left his car in a spot where we needed to bring in a fork lift. We tried moving it, but you needed the keys to put it into neutral to move it. One of the team leaders got a forklift in there and moved the car out of the way with the forklift. That same neighbor had had a palm tree very near the border of the property we were working on. The palm had been removed and we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to dig up the roots. I never realized what a mess (and how tough) palm tree roots are. (As a side note, many, if not most, of the neighbors will end up having their property relandscaped when the project is over - it is all part of what the general contractor agreed to take care of when he took on the project).

The concrete is poured and dryingFinally, I realized something - the rebar meant exactly what I thought it meant. The concrete wasn't in yet! A good part of the morning was consumed with the laying of concrete. For this project, they use a special type of concrete - it is actually generally used for highrises, etc. It is much much stronger, rarely (if ever) used for residential builds, but the key - it is extremely quick drying. They poured the entire house foundation, and before they were even finished pouring it, we were already removing the forms from the sections they poured first.

Elaine and I hopped onto one of the concrete teams (what else are we going to do when there is no framing to be had?!) and learned how to pull the forms and tidy things up. It was hard work, but really REALLY nice to be doing something. We also got to see some professionals lay concrete - some using some tools/machinery we had never seen. We both have done concrete in Mississippi, but nothing like this. It was rather cool.

lunch areaWe had finished pulling the forms off the part of the house that had dried and went to grab some lunch. There was a full lunch tent and rest area set up in the back of a house being built a couple of doors down. As I got in the lunch line, someone told me Kirk was there. I was shocked to see him sitting in the lunch area! He had, apparently, arrived about 10-15 minutes before and was eating lunch before he started volunteering. We sat and chatted for a bit. He was mostly finished when I sat down, so he quickly headed off for the job site as I relaxed with Mimi, Karen, Elaine, Kathy and Edie. After a short while, Gary - the ABC Project manager - sat down. We all had a nice chat with him about our project and the show in general.

Finally, it was time to head back to the job site. When we arrived back, many of the walls had been delivered and were awaiting set-up. This is a pretty slick thing - all the walls were pre-measured and preassembled at the staging area. They were delivered, already built, WITH the plywood already attached! All we had to do was put the walls in the proper position, attach them to one another and fix them into place. I jumped in and started helping with this. There weren't enough nail guns to go around and there was an overabundance of people helping, but I did what I could when I could.

Volunteers start to raise the wallsJust as we had finished putting up the exterior walls and were about to start on the interior ones, I got a phone call. It was Kirk - he was in the canteen area and feeling very poorly. He needed to go home. The trick was, he had ridden his motorcycle to the site and didn't feel up to getting home on it, so he needed me to drive him back. A bit of juggling and I got him a ride to the staging area. I collected some of his things from the job site and then walked down to meet him. From there, I went and got the car and drove back to pick him up.

He was pale, cold and clammy, weak. I took him home and he promptly went to sleep. As I write this, he's feeling better a bit. His fever has come down and he is debating whether to go back to the jobsite tonight - the team he is "officially" on is scheduled to start work around midnight or 1AM. Whether he goes tonight or not, he has to get on a plane tomorrow night, bound for Australia. I desperately hope that he is feeling much better and that this was a just a temporary bit of dehydration or heat exhaustion.

As a final note, we are apparently desperately in need of volunteers. If you live in (or near) the South Bay and are willing to spend a few hours of your time on this worthwhile and exciting project, please come down! The check-in station is at the corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Doolittle. At this point, they are asking for willing bodies - even if you aren't on the 'volunteer' list. Come on out! It's quite an experience!

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Wednesday, October 11

 

An Extreme Week

Well, now that the public announcement has been made, I can post about a rather exciting event coming to the South Bay! Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has chosen a South Bay family for its next project. That means that for a week (beginning today), the South Bay will be host to thousands of volunteers who will, in a single week, demo (destroy) the existing house on the property and build a new, special purpose home for the selected family! It's a massive undertaking, and even more so when you realize that all the labor, all the materials for the home are donated. The volunteer team will work around the clock (24 hours x 7 days x 1 week) to complete the house in the allotted time.

What makes this even more exciting for me is the connection that I am fortunate enough to have to this project! Obviously, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is an ABC program. But how does it work? ABC selects a local builder. In this case, our close friend, Vic Braden, and his company Cornerstone Construction Group, was selected. Vic took on an amazing task 2 years ago - he agreed to, on a strictly volunteer basis, be the general contractor for the renovation of the Morrell House in Redondo Beach (very near my house). The renovation began as a ShareFest project, but for 18 months, Vic and several people from our church gave up every Saturday to restore the craftsman style home to its original splendor. Kirk worked with Vic often. In addition, Vic has been the general contractor on most of the Mississippi Mission trips through King's Harbor Church. The first year that Kirk and I led a team to Mississippi, Vic was our GC. Vic has incredible ethics, amazing talent and he's a joy to work with. He has an incredible heart for God and inspires others daily.

When Vic was contacted by ABC and asked to take on this role, he called the church and had the staff begin praying for him. Ultimately, he agreed to take on the massive project. It's an interesting story Vic tells. He owns a small, local, family-run construction firm. Certainly not the typical profile for the contractors that ABC selects for this sort of thing. Several times, Vic said, "are you sure you have the right guy?!" Every time, the response was "We know who you are, and yes, we are sure!" Right before he got the call from ABC, Vic and his wife Linda were looking at their business. They had just finished a few projects. They had a couple more lined up to start. The new projects fell through at the last minute. Suddenly, they were faced with an empty plate and no real understanding of why. Then ABC called. God's timing is perfect! :) If they had had those projects when they received the call, they could not have said yes.

The way the project works is that ABC pre-selects five families from a general area. The families are notified they have been nominated, but no one knows which family has been chosen. Well, no one except a very VERY few at ABC and the top people involved in the project, the architects, etc. Who is the family, you ask?

Officer Ripatti leaves the hospital after being shot in the chestEarlier this year, LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti (wife of LAPD Gang Officer Tim Pearce and mother of a young child) was shot while on patrol. She is now paralyzed from the chest down. The house we are "making over" will be for that family. King's Harbor Church and ShareFest both include many attendees and volunteers who are "first responders" - police officers, firemen, paramedics, etc. This particular project is an excellent fit for our participation.

So, ShareFest, Cornerstone Construction Group, a local marketing firm (Beckett & Beckett) and ABC are partnering up to do an amazing work in our small community. In the last weeks, hundreds and hundreds of volunteers are being lined up from the professional trades. Typically building is done on a horizontal timeline. The foundation is poured. When it's ready, the framers come in and frame the house. Then, the plumbers come in. Everything happens in a specific order. In this case, the building is done vertically - the subcontractors will be in the house at the same time, virtually on top of one another, trying to complete the work in the extraordinarily short time frame. If you've ever been around construction before, you know that generally, the subcontractors (or "subs" as they are often called) often don't speak to one another...they view themselves as being in competition with one another. This timeline forces them not only to talk to one another, but even to work together!

In addition to searching for manpower to build the house, CCG and ShareFest have been urgently rounding up suppliers to donate the materials used to build the house, food to feed the hundreds of volunteers, buses to get everyone in and out of the neighborhood, tents for the various headquarters, RVs for the few people involved who have to be onsite 24/7 for the duration of the project, and so many other things. The South Bay (and Southern California in general) has proven a tough sell for many. Many many movies are filmed here and so many companies are accustomed to these requests - they don't want to give anything away. On the other hand, if any of the materials are purchased and not donated, the family may find itself taxed on the home, which does not accomplish the goal. And so, many many phone calls are made, people involved trying desperately to find the few remaining requirements.

Perhaps you are now asking yourself whether Kirk and I are going to be involved in all of this. The answer is, quite simply, "YES!" Kirk is on the "Smart House" team. The entire house will be wired for all sorts of smart things - automated/remote control lights, computers, etc. I don't even know what it all includes, but Kirk is well-equipped to help out in this area. Our friend, Mike, is has a company that puts this sort of thing into houses regularly and he is running the team. Even though Kirk will really only be in town for a single day before leaving again for Australia, he will work his shift - contributing what he can. I have actually already done some work on the project, working on some behind-the-scenes stuff for ShareFest. In addition to building the house, we will be taking donations for the family. At the end of the week, we cut a check to the family for all of the donations we've taken in. (In reality, the donations will keep coming, as will the checks to the family, but for purposes of the show, the family is handed a check when they move back into their new home). In addition, I'm on the call list for several teams, and have been asked to be a "Marshall" (which means a gopher). I'm happy to do whatever I can.

As you can tell, I'm quite excited about this project and am looking forward to seeing what is accomplished in the South Bay as a result. Of course, a house will be built...but so much more is already happening! I will try to post updates as we go along!

The official project website lists much more information about the family, the volunteers and donors. In addition, you can donate from that site and volunteer to help!

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Happy Birthday, Jason & Marianne!

Today is the birthday of two of my friends, Jason and Marianne. So, in their honor, I want to wish them both "Happy birthday" and "Tillykke med fodselsdagen" in a few different languages!

Afrikaans Veels geluk met jou verjaarsdag, Jason & Marianne!
Albanian  Urime ditelindjen, Jason & Marianne!
Alsatian  Gueter geburtsdaa, Jason & Marianne!
Amharic  Melkam lidet, Jason & Marianne!
Arabic  Eid milaad saeed, Jason & Marianne!
Armenian  Taredartzet shnorhavor, Jason & Marianne!
Assyrian  Eida D'moladukh Hawee Brikha, Jason & Marianne!
Austrian  Ois guade winsch I dia zum Gbuadsdog, Jason & Marianne!
Aymara  Suma Urupnaya Cchuru Uromankja, Jason & Marianne!
Azerbaijani  Ad gununuz mubarek, Jason & Marianne!
Basque  Zorionak, Jason & Marianne!
Belauan  Ungil el cherellem, Jason & Marianne!
Bengali   Shuvo Jonmodin, Jason & Marianne!
Bicol   Maogmang Pagkamundag, Jason & Marianne!
Bislama   Hapi betde, Jason & Marianne!
Brazil  Parabéns a você, Jason & Marianne!
Breton  Deizhabloaz laouen deoc'h, Jason & Marianne!
Bulgarian  Chestit Rojden Den, Jason & Marianne!
Cambodian  Som owie nek mein aryouk yrinyu, Jason & Marianne!
Catalan  Per molts anys, Jason & Marianne!
Chamorro  Biba Kumplianos, Jason & Marianne!
Czech  Vsechno nejlepsi k Tvym narozeninam, Jason & Marianne!
Danish  Tillykke med fodselsdagen, Jason & Marianne!
Dutch  Ne gelukkege verjoardach, Jason & Marianne!
English  Happy Birthday, Jason & Marianne!
Esperanto  Felichan Naskightagon, Jason & Marianne!
Estonian  Palju onne sunnipaevaks, Jason & Marianne!
Euskera  Zorionak zure urtebetetze egunean, Jason & Marianne!
Faroes   Tillukku vid fodingardegnum, Jason & Marianne!
Farsi  Tavalodet Mobarak, Jason & Marianne!
Finnish  Hyvaa syntymapaivaa, Jason & Marianne!
French  Joyeux Anniversaire, Jason & Marianne!
Frisian  Lokkiche jierdei, Jason & Marianne!
Gaelic   Lá breithe mhaith agat, Jason & Marianne!
Galician   Ledicia no teu cumpreanos, Jason & Marianne!
Georgian  Gilotcav dabadebis dges, Jason & Marianne!
German  Ois Guade zu Deim Geburdstog, Jason & Marianne!
Greenlandic  Inuuinni pilluarit, Jason & Marianne!
Hawaiian  Hau`oli la hanau, Jason & Marianne!
Hebrew  Yom Huledet Same'ach, Jason & Marianne!
Hiligaynon   Masadya gid nga adlaw sa imo pagkatawo, Jason & Marianne!
Hindi  Janam Din ki badhai, Jason & Marianne!
Hungarian  Boldog szuletesnapot, Jason & Marianne!
Icelandic  Til hamingju med afmaelisdaginn, Jason & Marianne!
Indonesian  Selamat Ulang Tahun, Jason & Marianne!
Italian  Buon Compleanno, Jason & Marianne!
Japanese  Otanjoubi Omedetou Gozaimasu, Jason & Marianne!
Javaans    Slamet Ulang Taunmoe, Jason & Marianne!
Kashmiri  Voharvod Mubarak Chuy, Jason & Marianne!
Kazakh  Tughan kuninmen, Jason & Marianne!
Korean  Saeng il chuk ha ham ni da, Jason & Marianne!
Kurdish  Rojbun a te piroz be, Jason & Marianne!
Kyrgyz  Tulgan kunum menen, Jason & Marianne!
Latin  Fortuna dies natalis, Jason & Marianne!
Latvian  Daudz laimes dzimsanas diena, Jason & Marianne!
Lithuanian  Sveikinu su gimtadieniu, Jason & Marianne!
Macedonian  Sreken roden den, Jason & Marianne!
Malaysian  Selamat Hari Jadi, Jason & Marianne!
Maltese  Nifrahlek ghal gheluq sninek, Jason & Marianne!
Maori  Kia huritau ki a koe, Jason & Marianne!
Mauritian  Kreol mo swet u en bonlaniverser, Jason & Marianne!
Mongolian  Torson odriin mend hurgee, Jason & Marianne!
Navajo  bil hoozho bi'dizhchineeji' 'aneilkaah, Jason & Marianne!
Nepali  Janma dhin ko Subha kamana, Jason & Marianne!
Norwegian  Gratulerer med dagen, Jason & Marianne!
Persian  Tavalodet Mobarak, Jason & Marianne!
Pinoy  Maligayang kaarawan sa iyo, Jason & Marianne!
Polish  Wszystkiego Najlepszego, Jason & Marianne!
Portuguese  Feliz Aniversario, Jason & Marianne!
Romanian  La Multi Ani, Jason & Marianne!
Russian  S dniom razhdjenia, Jason & Marianne!
Samoan  Manuia lou aso fanau, Jason & Marianne!
Serbian  Srecan Rodjendan, Jason & Marianne!
Slovak  Vsetko najlepsie k narodeninam, Jason & Marianne!
Slovene  Vse najboljse za rojstni dan, Jason & Marianne!
Sotho  Masego motsatsing la psalo, Jason & Marianne!
Spanish  Feliz Cumpleaños, Jason & Marianne!
Sri Lankan  Suba Upan dinayak vewa, Jason & Marianne!
Sundanese  Wilujeng Tepang Taun, Jason & Marianne!
Surinamese  Mi fresteri ju, Jason & Marianne!
Swahili  Hongera, Jason & Marianne!
Swedish  Grattis på födelsedagen, Jason & Marianne!
Syriac  Tahnyotho or brigo, Jason & Marianne!
Tagalog  Maligayang Bati Sa Iyong Kaarawan, Jason & Marianne!
Taiwanese  San leaz quiet lo, Jason & Marianne!
Tamil   Piranda naal vaazhthukkal, Jason & Marianne!
Thai  Suk San Wan Keut, Jason & Marianne!
Tibetan  Droonkher Tashi Delek, Jason & Marianne!
Turkish  Dogum gunun kutlu olsun, Jason & Marianne!
Ukrainian  Mnohiya lita, Jason & Marianne!
Vietnamese  Chuc Mung Sinh Nhat, Jason & Marianne!
Welsh  Penblwydd Hapus i Chi, Jason & Marianne!
Xhosa  Imini emandi kuwe, Jason & Marianne!
Yiddish  A Freilekhn Gebortstog, Jason & Marianne!
Zulu   Ilanga elimndandi kuwe, Jason & Marianne!

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Friday, October 6

 

Late nights on irc

Irc ("Internet Relay Chat")... a gathering place of technologically inclined people, geeks if you will, but each with varying interests, focus, direction and history. With tens of thousands of people on a network, channels exist to make conversations plausible, pleasurable, possible. Channels about computers, games, cooking, lifestyles. Channels that exist for the sole purpose of advancing projects, providing a meeting place for groups and clubs. Channels filled with people who just want someone to talk to. There are even variety channels.

I have a channel, ##essy. I suppose, if I were forced to classify it, it would be a social/variety channel. We have our share of "geeks", by which I mean the hordes of brilliant, selfless people who, at the mere hint of a question mark, will turn their attention and resources to decyphering and solving whatever problem or issue you have (or might have or SHOULD have). We have our younger members (which does not mean less mature). We have our gamers, our bloggers, our technocrats, administrators, teachers, students, Germans, Italians, Swiss, French, English, cooks, restauranteers, entrepreneurs. The variety, the cultures, the languages. In a digital way, it's sort of like some of the traveling we did.

It can be fun at any time of the day, since so many different time zones are represented. Lately, though, a few of us have been hanging on late into the evening. The conversation is varied, often wavering between silly and philosophical, between virtual and real life, between the past, present and future. I've had the wonderful opportunity to get to know some of these folks a bit better through some of these (and other) conversations. Additionally, many of us have resumed our blogging (or started new blogs). Kalen has been blogging - posting some of his writings (past and present) (he is quite prolific - be sure to read his stuff if you can). Tokimi has resumed his blog, and DTRemenak has started a blog (and he blames it on us).

Stop by and see us sometime...and don't worry, we are friendly - we don't bite.

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Sunday, October 1

 

Hugs abound

Any of my friends or family could tell you, I'm a "huggy" person. I love hugs - both giving and receiving. Well, this seems a perfect thing to share with you, in that case! (Thanks, again, to Dennis, who showed it to me!)



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Saturday, September 16

 

A Decade Is Born

I figured it out a while ago - I have moved over 25 times in my life. No wonder I hate moving so much! I find the whole process horrifying and traumatic. When I was 7, we began making plans for yet another move - and yet, a unique one for the specific reason that this would be the first time we moved overseas. My father was being stationed in Germany. The moving process, while still quite common for us at the time, was different too.

It also meant that, for the first time, I would need a passport. And so, I got my first passport. During our four years in Germany, we did a fair amount of traveling. We visited all sorts of places in Germany (I managed to learn to speak Hoch Deutsch ["High German" or "University German"] along with 6-7 dialects of German..and no, I don't still speak it. Sadly, after the many years since living there, I've lost most every bit of vocabulary I ever had). We also visited Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, East Germany (yes, there was an East Germany back then) and the UK. I enjoyed Girl Scout Camp in Pisa, Girl Scout trips to Switzerland and Austria, Swimming meets in Belgium, overnight train rides to Berlin. Four years worth of travel and seeing things from the innocent eyes of a child.

It was many many years before I'd leave the country again. We returned to the USA in 1976. I had the one-off trip to Mexico with my family in 1980 (a family trip to visit my aunt & uncle in Acapulco, along with other aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents). But then, my passport expired. I had no reason to get a new one, as I had no plans to travel internationally.

Finally, in 1994, I made plans to go to Italy for vacation with a friend of mine. It was an exciting prospect, as I hadn't been to Italy in many years and it seemed like a good destination for us. The exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Italian Lira was quite favorable for us. So, I ordered my new passport.

Italian stampI was so excited when that silly little green book arrived, full of blank pages, waiting to be filled. I was excited to put that first stamp in it! Little did I realize that I'd have to add pages before I was done.

A whole week's vacation! I was working at Turner International at the time, in Atlanta. I don't think I'd had a "real" vacation since college (and those never felt like vacation). Although I had been there before, my friend hadn't, so when we planned our itinerary, we decided to include Rome. We flew in and out of Milan, headed to Venice, Rome and then to Bologna, before heading back to Milan for our flight home.

I had never been to Venice before, so I was looking forward to it. We went in March because it coincided with the local University spring break, and my friend was taking college courses. The flights were, as I recall, extremely cheap (about US$200-250 per person), although we had to fly through Kennedy in NY. Upon our arrival in Italy, we promptly hopped a train to Venice.

Venice was everything (and nothing like) I expected it to be. The canals were beautiful, the buildings old, the cathedrals majestic. The streets, particularly at night, were silent. There was no car traffic, no motor sounds. You could drop a pin in an alley and hear it land from three streets away. We found a room at a pension - sort of a cross between a hotel and a hostel. I had brought nothing of value with me, but some girls we had met on the ferry left some jewelry in their room when we went to dinner. When we came back, it was gone. Not a very good advertisement (you are forced to leave your key with the manager when you go out) for this particular place.

At once point, we saw a man painting water colors on the piazza in front of an old church. Some of the paintings were marvelous! I haggled with him for a bit and then we agreed on a price. I had my photo taken with the artist, holding the painting I purchased.

We took a trip out to Murano, Burano and Torcello, islands near Venice. Murano is famous for its glass making. Burano is famous for its beauty and lacework. And Torcello is famous for an amazing mosaic in the small cathedral there. I brought home a beautiful runner that I bought in Burano, and still, to this day, use on top of my great-grandmother's piano.

From Venice, we headed off to Rome. Now, let me just mention. If you head off to > Italy, do NOT do what we did. Don't go to Venice and then Rome. Save Venice for last. The reason? Simple. Venice is calm and peaceful and slow-paced. Rome is NONE of those things! Rome is loud and fast and crazy and polluted. It's FUN, don't get me wrong. But after Venice, it was a shock. Venice had no motorized vehicles, except boats and they were rather quiet. Rome has cars and busses and motor scooters. Oh, and the motorscooters - they thought nothing of cutting a bus off or a car. They drove like complete and total madmen! It was chaos!

In Rome, we spent 1 night at a pension that was not really in the area we were hoping to stay. And it turned out we had some problems there. I've long since forgotten what, but we moved. We found a place near the Termini - the main train station in Rome. From there, you can get most everywhere in the city. We were relieved that the pension had a room available.

The man at the counter of the new pension was very nice and got extremely excited when he saw my CNN baseball cap. Working for Turner, I got this sort of thing all the time. It was no big deal to me. So, I gave it to him. He was stunned and very excited. (Keep in mind, that through this entire exchange, I spoke no Italian, and the guy spoke no English. It's amazing what you can communicate without words.) A short while later, there was a knock on my door. Baffled at who it could be, I opened the door to find the man from the counter. He handed me a beautiful papyrus that had an Egyptian painting on it. He insisted that I keep it. And I have. To this day, it hangs on my wall.

There is so much to do and see in Rome, it's often easiest to take a "tour". If you take one of those coach tours, it would cost 50,000-60,000 lira. Someone suggested to us to take the "city bus" tour - it cost only 10,000 lira. We did and it was worth every penny. With the city bus, you get out at every major attraction. The bus driver plays the part of tour guide as well. We saw all sorts of things and left feeling like every lira had been well-spent.

Now, I have to interject here a couple of interesting things. First, if you ever go to Italy, don't bother with the pizza. There are pizzerias everywhere. But pizza was basically created in the USA. We tried pizza...several times. It was generally soggy, and rather gross. Certainly not what we expected or wanted. Second, the last time I had been to the Vatican, I was probably around 10 or 11, maybe even younger. the thing that most struck me about my return as an adult was that the perspective changed for me - substantially. I won't go so far as to say that everything looked "shorter", but I was certainly not looking "up" as much as I had to before to see everything.

Finally, we were on our last leg. We took a train up to Bologna. Now this is really an interesting little city. It is NOT a tourist city at all. We stayed in a beautiful little pension that looked across the red roof-lined streets of the city. There are two rather interesting towers in Bologna, including the Pisa-like lean that made the "Leaning Tower" so famous. One of the towers actually has a large portion of the upper section broken off. Apparently, two families were in great competition and built the towers. They each wanted their tower to be "bigger and better" than the other family's. One family built its tower a bit slower, with more thought. Ultimately, the tower that was put up faster (and higher) began to lean and finally the top section fell to the ground, making it the shorter of the two.

The other thing of note in Bologna is the food. Italians all recognize Bologna as being the best place to eat. The then president of Turner International was a native of Bologna. He had given me his card and he highly recommended a restaurant called Ristorante Diana. With only a single night in Bologna, we decided this was where we wanted to eat. The restaurant is near the old part of town and is very formal. We arrived to find out they don't take walk-ins, and reservations are normally made weeks in advance. Bummer. But on a whim, I whipped out the business card of our President and the maitre'ds eyes lit up. He said he could work us in around 9. So, we wandered the streets for a couple of hours before dinner.

Let me say, Ristorante Diana was fantastic. The food was perfect, by far the best we had had anywhere in Italy (and we had had some GOOD food before). It was the perfect way to end our trip, really.

The next morning, we had to get up before dawn to catch our train back to Milan and then our flight home. As we arrived back at the pension (quite late since we had sat down for dinner after 9PM), the proprietor was trying to tell us something. We couldn't quite figure it out until he handed us an Italian newspaper. Uhoh. Tonight was when Italy went onto Daylight Savings Time. We would lose an additional hour of sleep! It was a brutal trip home, as we had had too little sleep the last two nights before we left. Then, on top of it all, our flight out of Kennedy back to Atlanta was delayed by more than five hours. I was so tired I wanted to cry.

And so, my new passport was initiated.

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lilo's Passing

I spend a good bit of time on the irc Freenode network. It has a long and somewhat interesting history that I won't go into here, but thanks to Sean for showing it to me. At any rate, Freenode has been headed by Rob Levin a/k/a "lilo" and "someguy" for quite some time now. He had a vision for the way irc should work and was implementing that vision on Freenode.

I just found out that on September 12th, Rob was out riding his bicycle and was hit by a car. He spent the next 4 days in a coma and eventually succumbed to his injuries, passing away today, September 16th. I know many will miss lilo. He had a great impact on irc and a great many people who use his network. Of course, he left behind a lot of people in "real life" too - he had a wife and child.

Several times, I spent a good bit of time talking to Rob. Not only was he an incredibly nice person, but he spent more time than was necessary walking me through how things worked, why they worked and generally orienting me to irc. We also chatted a few times on a personal level. I liked him and always knew I could go to him if I had questions or concerns. He will be missed by many, including me.

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Thursday, September 14

 

A Long U-Turn

About once every 4-5 weeks, Kirk and I head up to Berkeley. He has work there at the 88-inch cyclotron at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. Generally, we leave on Monday and come back on Friday. Occasionally, we'll go on Sunday or come back on Saturday. Once or twice in the five years we've been married, we actually came home on Thursday, but that is rare.

I'm fortunate enough to go along with him for two reasons: (1) I have a job that is very flexible and they support me traveling with my husband; and (2) there is equipment that must be driven up and back (flying it on a plane isn't really an option), so I'm able to travel for free if Kirk volunteers to make the drive. It's a really nice situation for us, as we are able to spend the week together. When at the cyclotron, they run on a 24-hour schedule. Kirk is normally on the 4AM to noon shift, giving us the afternoons free.

On Monday, we headed up there as usual. If we are unlucky, we'll hit rush hour traffic heading out of LA. If we are REALLY unlucky, we'll hit it heading into the Bay Area. If we hit any rush hour, it generally means it'll be an 8 hour trip for us (once it took 10! ugh!). It took us about 8 on Monday, even though we hit bits of rush hour on both ends.

When we arrived at the lab to drop off the equipment, Kirk unloaded the car. Then he found out that the cyclotron was broken. Now, normally, if it's "broken", they are looking at a several hour delay - maybe even 24 hours. However, it was "really" broken - so basically it was out of operation until Wednesday. Kirk's first shift was going to probably be Thursday at 4AM. They asked us if we'd be willing to drive back on Saturday instead, which, of course, we were.

We checked into the hotel, got settled, hung out and didn't have to go to sleep at 8PM! Yay! On Tuesday, we spent the day in the hotel room. Kirk essentially telecommuted, getting much done. Around 6PM, he got a phone call. Apparently the cyclotron wasn't "really" broken...it was "really REALLY" broken and now the soonest it would be fixed was Friday! Well, Kirk's company only has it reserved until Friday. So there was no sense in us staying. Basically, on Wednesday morning, we packed everything up and drove home. Somehow, we managed to miss both rush hours this time and made it home in a bit over 6 hours!

On the way up and back, we saw some of the fires in the mountains. There are quite a number of them, and some areas that were tremendously burned. A couple of the fires were close enough to the road (or large enough) that we saw open flames going. It made me think of my friend Vic, who is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and had to detour around some fires earlier this summer.

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Tuesday, August 8

 

I'm a dragon!



A friend of mine, Soraya, who loves to draw dragons, drew one for my online character! I think Soraya is VERY talented and love it!

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Wednesday, October 26

 

Steven's Surgery

Today, our friend Steven is in surgery. The tentative diagnosis is portal hypertension and the doctors are planning to perform a rather complicated procedure called Distal Splenorenal Shunt (DSRS). The procedure is expected to take approximately 7 hours. Please pray for Steven's well-being & for healing, for the doctors to have steady hands and cool heads, and for peace and comfort for the family.

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Monday, October 24

 

Steven

Our friend, Steven, has been in the hospital for internal bleeding (and they don't know why). He is out at the moment for a few days, but will be returning to the hospital on Wednesday for a long, rather complicated surgery. Please keep him and his family in prayer. He will be in the hospital for upwards of 10 days post-surgery.

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Wednesday, July 27

 

Dinner with the long lost hoon

Tonight, we had dinner at a fabulous little Ethiopian restaurant (named, appropriately, "Ethiopia Restauraunt") with our long, lost friend, Michael aka hoon. We had a great time catching up with him (as we haven't seen him in a year or so). Thanks for the great dinner & company, hoon!



The food was fantastic and served with rolled flat bread, called injera. It is the only "utensil" provided. It's a bit odd looking, sort of spongy, but is quite delicious! We had a vegetable combo and meat combo. It was served family style on a large platter (see photo above). The Butecha (fava beans) was wonderful! I highly recommend this restaurant.

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Thursday, July 7

 

Do You Know the Way to Monterey

Today, 6 of us rode up to Monterey to the Moto GP Races at Laguna Seca. Ambre & I drove the Jeep up as a support vehicle for the 2 Ducatis, 1 MV, and 1 Kawasaki that the guys rode up. Along the way, she and I made a few scenic stops, including one to hike out and see this waterfall at Julia Pfifer Burns Park. More to come!

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Monday, July 4

 

4th of July BBQ

We went to a bbq at the Jones' and who did we see? Our good friends, the Harris' with their 4 month old fost-adopt child, Ryan. He's a cutie!

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Sunday, April 3

 

Time Flies

Time truly does fly - when you're having fun or not! I just finished a rough cut of the first draft of the new project I took on - the Women's Ministry section of our church website. It was so sadly out of date before that I volunteered to work on it - I was tired of people complaining they couldn't find anything on it (or for that matter, that ~I~ couldn't find anything on it).

I am also starting Authentic Woman again tonight. It's the second time it will be offered. Chris is expanding the class from 7 weeks to 10, as one of the biggest bits of feedback he got after the first class was it was way too short (the men, after all, have three years worth of classes!). It's a wonderful class, but lots of administrative work.

We are rapidly approaching our trip to Mississippi (we leave in less than a week). As we wildly make our preparations and time slips away, I find myself in the midst of what I knew would happen - I'm in over my head. I expected it...yet... But this is how God works, isn't it? He gets us to a point where we truly are in over our heads and then we have no choice but to turn to Him. I'm there!

Pray for us as we enter the last days before we leave. Also, for our car, which decided to die on the way to the team potluck. It appears that the waterpump may have gone out. We are hoping that's the extent of the damage (there was some sort of electrical warning light on too), especially since we are slated to take the Jeep to Moab for a week to go four-wheeling just 6 days after we get back from Mississippi.

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Saturday, December 18

 

Traversing South

Some of you know (or would know if you've read any of our blogs before) that Kirk and I play on online game called bzflag. We've met a number of people that we play against in person over the last few months. Puppy Power, Dodge_This, High Karate Kitty, Mozul, SportChick, ChincillaWell, it turns out there's a fairly large contingent of bzflaggers in Arizona. On our way to Tucson, we had agreed to meet a whole family of them outside of Phoenix. So, we stopped for lunch and met up with High Karate Kitty, Dodge_This, Chinchilla and Puppy Power. The whole family plays (although not all at once - that would require a LOT of computer power AND a really fast connection. They were very very nice! It's always so fun to put faces to names. After lunch and a lot of chatting, we headed out. We got all the way down to Tempe (where we stopped for some more Costco gas) when we realized Kirk's ATM card was missing out of his wallet. After much searching, we called the restaurant and they had it. We drove all the way back.

Kirk and Donna with her grandfatherNeedless to say, we arrived in Tucson a bit later than we originally planned. But it was no problem. We went straight to my grandfather's house. We hadn't seen my grandfather since before we left for our RTW. An awful lot has happened since then! We hung out and chatted and caught up and then...oh yeah, we went to dinner at Los Margaritas, a great little Mexican restaurant. It was really good to have some time to hang out with him.

Donna & her grandfather in front of Mission San Javier del Bac, which is under renovationOn Thursday, we hung with him around the house for part of the day. He took us out to Mission San Javier del Bac (also known as the "White Dove of the Desert"). I had been there once before with a friend of mine from Dallas; at that time, the interior was closed, as it was being renovated. This time, the interior was open, but portions of the exterior were being renovated. The interior was quite pretty. It was interesting to see a Spanish mission with such influence from Mexican and Native American culture.

On the way back home, we drove by the airplane graveyard. My uncle had taken me there once before, and I figured with the interest Kirk has in airplanes, he might find it interesting. Hundreds (thousands?) of airplanes dating back to WWII to present have been retired in Tucson, and are resting there in a variety of forms of disrepair. For dinner, we went to Chad's, which is a favorite of my grandparents. After Chad's, I talked my grandfather into driving through Winterhaven. Winterhaven is an entire neighborhood where they put up crowd-stopping Christmas lights! It was technically a little "early" in the season to be driving through there (which was probably better - often it's so crowded, they block the streets off to all but foot traffic), but there were plenty of displays up!

Trev & Hannahmarie (she's looking at Donna)The gang takes a photo op at a little overlook on the mountainOn Friday, Kirk and I went over to see Trev & Kristi, his cousins. We got to meet their new addition, little Hannahmarie. She was really sweet! It's so fun to meet a happy baby! After a yummy lunch that Kristi made for us, and a good deal of catching up, we decided to go out for a drive. We all piled into our jeep and we headed over the mountain near their house. Hannahmarie fell right to sleep as we started driving. When we hit the off-road stuff (not REALLY offroad - just a dirt/gravel road, really), she woke up. We stopped on the way back over the mountain at an overlook. It was beautiful, but very windy and cold!

After a quick stop, we all headed down to meet my grandfather at yet another Mexican restaurant. At this one, they made your salsa fresh at your table - made to order! The food was delicious! I was quite glad my grandfather came out to meet us! I felt bad not hanging out with him the whole time we were there. After dinner, we drove Trev & Kristi back to their house. Shortly after we arrived, some Christmas carolers came by! They sounded great and were collecting canned goods for disadvantaged families.

When we got back to my grandfather's, we had a comical series of telephone calls. I wanted for us to stay at my cousin, Marty's, on Saturday night if possible. My great-aunt (my grandfather's sister) was flying down on Sunday and Marty was going to have to drive up to Phoenix, pick her up and then drive her down to Tucson to my grandfather's. I really wanted my grandfather to come to Marty's with us and stay the night. But he didn't seem to want to. I must have talked to Marty and my grandfather 3 times each. Finally, Marty called my grandfather, and voila! He was going to drive up to Arizona City in the afternoon and spend the night with us.

The next morning, Saturday, we had brunch plans up in Phoenix. We packed everything up and headed up there. It's not a bad drive. We met some more bz-friends up in Phoenix at "The Good Egg". This time, we met up with Justin (who is not a bz player), Scipio, Nidhoggr & Theropod. Nidhoggr owns the server that we play the most often on (and assist by admining on). Justin, Scipio, Nidhoggr, SportChick, Mozul & Theropod, digesting their delicious brunch Brunch was delicious. The conversation was wildly diverse and entertaining! In addition to the great conversation and brunch, Nidhoggr gave me a wonderful homemade (by him) collection of soaps and hand creams.

After a great brunch (and another trip to get Costco gas), we headed back south to Arizona City. I had only been to my cousin's house once, but it wasn't hard to find. Marty & Robin have an amazing house. As a California convert, I have no hope of ever having anything so roomy or nice. But it was great to visit with them too. They have several children (the youngest is now in High School) and the place is always bustling with activity. Marty & Robin were actually going out that night to Robin's company Christmas party, but, once my grandfather arrived, they served us a wonderful late lunch (thank goodness) of lasagna and the fixin's. We chatted for a long while until they had to start getting ready to go out.

Kirk & Donna with Marty & his familyAfter they left, we sat around and played games with their kids - like Word Thief and Upwords and speed Scrabble. We had a great time until it was sufficiently late that we really HAD to go to sleep. We were leaving first thing in the morning!

To be continued...

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Tuesday, December 7

 

A month of Sundays - Part 1

Hooray! It's December! One of my favorite times of year! A month or so ago, I asked Kirk to hold Sunday (December 5th) open for a "date". We haven't been doing much in the way of dating lately, so it seemed like a good idea.

Unbeknownst to him, a group of girls (we are married and all our husbands hang out together too) had decided to take our husbands to the Mission Inn to see their Festival of Lights. The Inn is pretty cool - it was initially built in 1876 (and no, it was NEVER a mission - only a boarding house). I'd never been there, so I was excited.

The day we picked turned out to be quite rainy! I was hoping the rain would quit by the time we went out there. It's about an hour drive from here. I herded Kirk out to the car, dressed in warm clothing. Then we drove across the street and picked up some friends (they were hiding in the Von's parking lot). Neither of our husbands knew where we were going. The other two couples drove out in a separate car. James & Gia (who rode with us) are hilarious! And it was really fun listening to James & Kirk spout off a steady stream of guesses as to where we were going!

The Gang at the Mission Inn Coffee Co.When we arrived, it wasn't quite dark yet. When I said surprise, Kirk said "This is IT?!" Ha! we walked around the entire place and decided to stop into a coffee shop and have something to warm up (and wait for the other 2 couples to show). Kirk was definitely happier when the lights went on and Mike & Anita and Garret & Ambre showed up. The Inn was beautiful! There were lights everywhere on the city-block sized inn - even on the palm trees surrounding the it! Kirk loves photography and took pictures practically every where we went (if you're surprised, don't be - check out our RTW page and you'll see!) The Mission Inn was all lit up!We could hear carollers, but they seemed to be somewhere else at the time. We stopped in a little gift shop that led through to the inner courtyard. Once in the courtyard, we actually got to see a boy propose to his girlfriend while we were in there! It was soooo sweet!

Carollers at the Mission InnEventually, we headed inside the hotel. Much of it was not open to the general public (apparently, it's quite a tourist attraction during the holidays. While inside, we finally caught up with the carollers. They sounded fabulous! It made me miss the days when such thing was rather common in neighborhoods.

Finally, we headed back outside. We had all decided to grab dinner together somewhere. We had not made reservations at the inn and it looked to be rather pricey anyway. We decided to head over to the Old Spaghetti Factory, which was just down the street. The gang at the entrance to the Mission InnAfter a quick photo op at the Inn entrance, we headed over for dinner!

Dinner was wonderful and we even closed the place down! All in all, it was a great date (can I say that even though I got to plan it?).

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Friday, November 12

 

Christmas in November!

Who said Christmas doesn't come early? Well, actually, Christmas is about sacrifice and giving (not receiving) and this post is really about receiving. So perhaps I should say "it's my birthday! even though it's not the day I was born!" That would be more accurate!

Today, deliveries are expected of: new parts for Kirk's spitfire (the old waterpump died), a flash drive for my laptop, and... a new hand-built computer for Kirk!! Kirk's computer has been getting worse and worse over the last few weeks. At this point, it can't even connect to the internet!! A friend of ours, Jeff, built him a new computer from spare parts he had lying around. It's not the latest thing but it'll be a whole lot better and faster than what he has now!!

Now I just have to find a time to get to the office and pick it all up!

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Thursday, November 11

 

Veteran's Day Thoughts

So, today is Veteran's Day. I don't believe I've ever had the day off before. But yesterday, around 2:30, my employer told me that we would be off today! Hooray! There is a temptation to just play around and have some fun.

But today is a holiday for a reason. For the last 228 years, our country has been defended by people who are willing to step up and sacrifice themselves, their time and their family for the ideals that this country was founded upon. Although Veteran's Day, specifically, was created to remember those who fought in World War I, it was later amended (after WWII) to just refer to "veterans", which now includes everyone from WWI to the current Iraqi conflict (although technically, they won't be veterans until they have left the conflict or the conflict is over). So, today, I will remember people like my grandfather (a former Brigadier General in the U.S. Army - he was in action in WWII, Korea and Vietnam), my father (a former captain in the U.S. Army - he was in Vietnam), my uncle John (also US Army), my father-in-law (who flew as a flight engineer in the Korean War), various other friends (like Wes Cochran, Julie Dietrich, Cameron Mandrake, John Schowalter, etc.) and family (like Chris Reid) who are currently serving or have served in the U.S. Military. It is so easy to focus on what's wrong with our military and/or policies (I hear this from folks daily). But don't forget what is right - the sacrifices these young men and women make to protect our nation.

So, I challenge you on this day to think of and pray for those who have served and are serving our country. I can't imagine that there would be any person out there who doesn't know at least one person who falls into that category. It's not about whether you agree with the policies and programs of our government. It's about remembering those who have given their time, talents and even their lives.

Thank you, Veterans! You are our heros!

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Sunday, November 7

 

Date Night

Kirk and I had a great date last night! First, someone had given us free tickets to go see the Ten Commandments musical at the Kodak Theatre (the same theatre where the Academy Awards Ceremony is held). So, after arranging for some friends to come with, Kirk suggested we go out to dinner in Hollywood (near the theatre) before the show.

So, James & Gia and Kirk & I headed up to a little restaurant that our friend Steve had suggested (thanks, Steve! It was great), "Off Vine". The food was amazing! Kirk got the grilled pork chops (yummy!!) and Gia got the smoked mozarella & chicken ravioli. Both dishes were amazing! James and I each ordered linguine - I got chicken and he got seafood. They were good, too, but the flavors on the other dishes were really wonderful! The restaurant was in an old house, built in 1908. It was a wonderful setting for a date!

Kirk, Donna, James & Gia at the Kodak TheatreAfter dinner, we headed over to the Hollywood & Highland complex, which houses the Kodak Theatre. After parking in the handicapped section (there are definitely advantages to having a broken ankle), we wandered around for a few minutes before heading in and find our seats. It turned out that we were about 8 rows back from the stage in the orchestra level! The seats were great! As we got settled, one of the ushers came by and told us that after the show, the cast and crew were going to do a meet & greet, Q&A session if we wanted to stay! Cool!

The big draw for this show, of course, is Val Kilmer. It was a little hard to think of the guy made famous by "Real Genius" as Moses (even though he was the voice of Moses in Prince of Egypt). However, all the promotions for the show assure you that he CAN, indeed, sing.

When the show started, we discovered that he can sing, however, he had obviously strained his voice - he was quite raspy. There was another guy in the play - Adam Lambert, playing the part of the Joshua - who had a simply AMAZING voice! It was unreal, really! However, I found myself throughout the rest of the production watching and listening, hoping he'd have another solo. He didn't, but the one he HAD performed made the whole show worth watching (if it weren't already). On the whole, the performance was quite enjoyable. There was one scene in the second act (the Golden Calf) that was not appropriate for children (and possibly not for adults - it was quite lewd). Otherwise, despite the fact that Val Kilmer was the weakest vocal link, we had a great time.

Val Kilmer at the Meet & GreetAfter the show, we moved to seats even closer to the stage and get settled in, awaiting the cast. The theatre cleared out quite quickly. There were about 30 or 40 folks who stayed behind for the meet & greet. Val Kilmer and several other cast members (including the four young boys who were in the cast) came out to meet us and answer questions. Val was quite funny, really! He had a quip for practically every question that came up - and they were witty, seemingly spontaneous answers. One person in the audience asked what they did to keep their voices in condition. Val answered, "Not enough, apparently."

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Friday, October 29

 

A Break in Death Valley

Kirk and I decided to take a little break and head to Death Valley for a few days, to meet up with our 4-wheel club. Friday, we spent the day packing and I prepped our food for the trip. Friday night, we went to my friend's (Rena) wedding. We left before the reception started, as we had a 4+ hour drive ahead, of us to Olanche.

We spent the night at a teeny little motel with a bed that should be used in a comedy act. When we arrived (around 11 PM or so), the manager was out working on the hot water heater - apparently it had stopped working. Saturday morning, we awoke fairly early (although later than many others, as we could hear them outside packing up already) and managed to get a hot shower. Then we all headed over to the Ranch House Cafe for breakfast, where we were meeting the rest of our group.

All total, we had 18 Jeeps on the trip (5 Wrangler/Rubicons, 2 XJs, 1 Comanche and 10 KJs). The drive out to Saline Valley, where we would spend our first night, was fabulous! We had excellent views of several valleys, hit several water holes and even had an amazing drive down Lippencott Mine Road (very steep and winding). Then we had a long drive across dusty washboard.

We camped at the springs - an oasis of sorts in one part of the valley. There was a hot springs, a warm springs and one additional springs in the area. We all pooled resources for a pot luck on Saturday night (I brought my new favorite soup, Southwest Chicken Soup).

An amazing morning in Death Valley
On Sunday, we broke into a couple of different groups. We took 6 Jeeps (2 KJs, 2 XJs and 2 Rubicons) on a loop. We went up to see the Marble Bath (whoever decided to put a bathtub filled with blue marbles in the middle of the desert certainly created a popular stop along the way!), checked out a geo cache, saw the 700 foot tall sand dunes. Igor got a flat along the way coming back. Chuck's diffs kept locking, although we are on pavement and going, 45+ mph (when they had no business locking!). We ended up pulling the fuse to try and fix the problem. On the last few miles, we got behind a camper pulling a trailer and a Land Rover that wouldn't pull over and wouldn't let us pass. Finally, our trail guide went off road and around them, then slowed down and stopped so they would have to let us pass. They were going around 10-15 mph while we had been going about 25-30 before we had come upon them.

Sunday night, Mario (of Adventure Trailers) held a barbeque for everyone (he is the one who had arranged the trip). Afterwards, Shawna, Angela and I walked down to the hot springs. I had avoided it up to that point because it had been over run by people from a nudist colony. However, JJ had just returned from the pool nearby and said it was deserted except for folks from our club. We went down and hung out for a bit. It was quite dark, so you could barely see much of anything anyway. I decided to head back to camp after a while. The others were still soaking, so I dressed and headed back on my own.

As I walked up the hill to our camp site, I was thrilled with the beauty around me. And it was virtually deserted. I took a step with my left foot and suddenly it slid out from underneath me -- fast! I rolled my ankle hard, heard a loud "crackk!" and fell to the ground. I had done something really bad to my ankle. I thought of the time I had done something similar (and heard a similar awful sound) a few years ago (I rolled my right ankle and detached the ligament, pulling a small chip of the bone out in the process). Ugh! I tried calling for help and no one could hear me.

I tried putting some weight on my foot. No, that wouldn't work either. I hopped/crawled up the hill a bit further and called for help. No answer. I crawled closer. Still no answer. Eventually, I heard Clint call back "Are you okay?" "NO!" "Where are you?" "In the middle of the road." Less than a minute later, 3 guys came running up the road. Shortly behind them, John drove up in his jeep. they helped me into the Jeep and then John drove me back to camp. As he drove by the campfire, he leaned out the window and said "Don't you know an ambulance when you see one?"

Kirk helped me into the tent and we used our little remaining ice to try and bring down the swelling. I slept with it elevated (on top of my duffel bag).

The drive home Monday was a blur. We all drove out together (as far as the Saline Valley Road turnoff). In the process, we had another flat tire (Igor again), a leaking radiator and another transmission overheat. Once on blacktop, Kirk and I rushed back as quickly as possible. I was trying to make it to my "Authentic Woman" bible study at church. It's only seven weeks long and I really didn't want to miss another class (I missed the one while we were in Berkeley recently). I did make it in time for class.

On Tuesday, I was at work (using my crutches) and my ankle was starting to hurt (even though I was staying off it as much as possible). With Kirk and Linda's encouragement, I went to have my ankle x-rayed. It was just a precaution, really. I was quite sure it was only sprained. Maybe a ligament detached again, but surely that was all.

NOT. It's broken. It's not a bad break, but I'm out of action for 6-8 weeks. Oh well. I'm just terribly thankful that it happened at the END of the trip AND that I had such great people around to help me!

Hopefully our next trip to Death Valley will be a vacation, but not a "break"! Check out our photos!

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Sunday, August 22

 

Swag, Swag, Swag

Okay, so when I first heard about Camp Jeep, I thought, "yeah, right". But seriously, a camp for jeeps? What's up with THAT? Here's the skinny: Camp Jeep is like a huge party put on by Chrysler Jeep for owners of Jeeps. You really have to be an owner to go (or you can go with an owner). We originally were thinking of volunteering with our Four-Wheel Drive Club (KJ West) to help out at Camp Jeep; however, we ended up attending as real live "guests". No commitments, no working - just fun.

But what IS Camp Jeep, you ask? Well, you actually can't camp there. Not at the site, anyway. We had to go and find a campsite (which was about 20 miles away). Camp Jeep is a large site that included a variety of off-road trails on which you drive YOUR jeep, plus some off-road courses that you get to try new jeeps on (everything from the brand spanking new 2005 Grand Cherokee to the new Jeep Unlimited).

We arrived at our campsite late on Wednesday night. Most of the KJ West club was already there - they had all come up a day early for orientation as trail guides (not to mention that they had come up for a whole weekend earlier in the summer to go over the trails). We set up camp and went and chatted with some of our friends.

We went to sleep fairly early, since we were on the first trail ride the next morning (and you had to be there by 6:30 for checkin). When we signed up for the trails, we took an easy trail (first) and an intermediate trail (you were only permitted to sign up for two). At the time, we knew we had a lift kit to put on, but not whether it would be on in time for Cam Jeep. Well, Kirk and Clint and a few others had put the lift kit on the car only a week or so before.

Kirk made me drive on the easy trail - to get a feel for what it was like and to teach me a little about how to drive offroad. The scariest part for me was while we were driving along a pasture and it felt like the car was DEFINITELY going to tip over!!

From there, we headed over to the Camp Jeep Village, to see what it was all about. It was really cool. They had all sorts of things there: you could test drive the new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee on an obstacle course, drive any of 5 different models on the Jeep 101 (an off-road obstacle course) or a Rubicon on the Rubicon challenge, climb a climbing wall, climb a tower and zipline down, learn to scuba dive, ride bmx bikes, talk with the engineers who designed your jeep at a round table discussion, shop shop shop at the Jeep Store, watch a cooking lesson/demonstration, make crafts, watch a short version of the new Warren Miller Movie, watch concerts concerts and more concerts, drive more jeeps and get lots and lots and lots of swag! Every where you looked, they were giving away swag. The cafe wasn't all that exciting, but it's the only place to eat lunch. For dinner, they gave away a free voucher for free food plus a Sobe (one of the sponsors was Sobe). Yummy!

Needless to say, we had a great time! On our trail run the second day, an XJ in front of us tipped over on its side. Everyone was fine, but it was quite the ordeal. Alex, who was driving one of the rescue vehicles, busted an axle trying to help. Afterwards, the trail guide decided that the trail had deteriorated too much so we turned around and went another way.

We had such a fabulous time! I am sure we will go back next year! To see photos, go to Kirk's blog about Camp Jeep!

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Monday, August 16

 

Busy Weekend

We had a busy, but fun weekend. After the Luau on Friday, I went over to hang out with my friend, Gia, who was getting married the next morning. She had several girls over to her hotel room. We prayed with her and laughed with her. It was a nice time. I didn't get home until quite late, of course.

Kirk & Donna at another weddingHer wedding was at noon. Luckily, I had prepared the potluck dish I was bringing the day before. The wedding was at our church building in Torrance. It turned out to be a really nice venue for a wedding (it was the first one I've been to over there). James & GiaHer Gia, of course, looked beautiful! The wedding and reception were both a lot of fun!

After the reception, we dashed home, where I made dinner for a couple of friends that were coming over. We had a nice time hanging out and chatting with them. We even taught them to play a quick game of palace.

On Sunday, we attended church on the beach for the first time all summer. In the afternoon, we headed over to a birthday celebration for our nephew, Scott. It is so nice to have family close by!

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Monday, August 9

 

Bz meets wasabi

bz'ers - can you tell who is who?What a great week this has been! Last night, Kirk and I got to meet a bunch of the developers/players from bzflag. Several were in town for SIGGRAPH, and the others flocked to the tiny town of Redondo Beach for a gathering of nine. JBdiGriz drove up from San Diego, DTRemenak and Bozo drove down from Sacramento, Patlabor221 came in from Ventura, cappy and scanline were here from Boulder (Colorado) and learner/brlcad was in from Maryland. We started with a little sushi at Ichiriki and then headed to a nearby hovel for some coffee and tea. It was really great to meet everyone and put faces to names. Admittedly, much of what was discussed was a bit over my non-technical head, but it was fun nonetheless. See who you can identify from the photo of our gathering!

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Friday, August 6

 

Mozul, SportChick and hoon meet for dinner

Kirk, Donna & MichaelWell, for the third night in a row, we had the opportunity to meet someone out for dinner. Last night, it was our friend Michael (a/k/a hoon). Michael is one of our fellow admins on bzflag's secretplace server. We went to another great little restaurant in Elmwood, La Mediterranee. The food was fantastic!

Of course, the company was great as well! Michael had just bought a new house (closed on it today)! It was fun to finally put a face to the name.

As it turns out, a bunch of bzflaggers are going to be meeting up on Sunday for some sushi and Michael might be able to meet up with us (he'll be in SoCal over the weekend).

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Thursday, August 5

 

Old Friends, New Places

Kirk, Donna, Brent & TobyKirk has been coming up here for 17 years, but the last two nights, we have had a dinner in an area he's never frequented - Rockridge. Last night, we went to dinner with some college friends of mine at a little italian place called Oliveto. The food was quite fresh and good. It was really great to see our friends - we had last seen them when we went to dinner at Spenger's last February (the last time Kirk and I were up here together). They have been here for the last 8 months while Toby completes her fellowship. Now, they have fabulous news! They are moving back to Oregon in a couple of months to have their first child! It has been a real blessing for us to be able to hang with them up here - it's nice to have them so close (even just temporarily). When they move back, we'll have yet another excuse to head back up to Oregon!

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Wednesday, August 4

 

Back in Berkeley

Donna, Kirk & ChrisWell, we are back in Berkeley. It's the first time in about a month for Kirk, but first time since February for me! Last night, we had the great pleasure of having dinner with Chris. We had never met him before, but had heard much of him. Years ago (11 years to be exact), he invented a little game called BZFlag that we love to play (it's available for free). He had originally invented it as a demo to show off 3-D graphics, but it was so fun to play it became much more. In fact, although Chris no longer works on the development of BZFlag, there is an entire team of folks that do! We had dinner at the Soi4 Bangkok Eatery in Rockridge (some of the best Thai food we've had since we were in Thailand). I love meeting people and we had a nice time chatting with Chris, who now works for an animation studio.

Now we are back on the 4AM to noon working shift. Ugh. But it's amazing how much you can get done that early in the morning if you try!

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Monday, July 5

 

Independence Day (Weekend)

We had a fabulous day on our little holiday! After spending the morning at church, and the middle of the day watching our newest series from Neflix, Alias, we held an impromptu barbeque at our house. We had planned to go to a friend's house, but they went out of town at the last minute.

Mike, Anita, James, Gia, Kevin, Diane, Kirk and DonnaWe had 3 couples come over to barbeque - a BYOM (bring your own meat) kind of affair. It was really nice to have folks over to our apartment.

Just as Kirk was getting our little barbeque going and the meat all laid out, the gas ran out! Uh-oh! He and Mike walked to the grocery store across the street to get more, but they didn't have any! (I got a call from Kirk when they were on their way back, "Fire up the broiler"). Notwithstanding that little glitch, the food all came out great and it didn't spoil anything (except, perhaps, Kirk getting to barbeque OUTSIDE).

Afterwards, we headed down to the beach to watch the fireworks. It was a beautiful display! And we had the added pleasure of being able to see another display just down the beach from us in another town! (Two for one!) All in all, we had a great day!

Last Friday, we also got to go see Spiderman 2! For the record, it was MUCH better than the first one, in my opinion!

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Monday, June 14

 

Girls' Dinner

Today, I started my second week of work. It was very busy, but enjoyable. Tonight, I had a great dinner at my friend Gia's future home! Essentially, she kicked her fiance out of the apartment for the night so we could come over and see it. Generally, there are five of us, but we had an intimate group of three for the evening. Gia & Donna & Anita We had a wonderful time just chatting and catching up. Meanwhile, our husbands and fiance helped to move one of the girls in our home church group.

Gia made an excellent pasta dish, Anita made sinful brownies, and I made my favorite salmon dish, Salmon Bake with Pecan Crunch Coating. The food was awesome, as was the company. I even taught the girls how to play a game of speed scrabble.

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Friday, June 11

 

A Day of Crap(s)

Have you ever had a day where things were just kind of "blah"? Today was one of those days for me. It started out where I didn't want to run my errands in the morning, since I was meeting someone here at the house at noon. I was not certain I could be home in time, and would rather run the errands all in one shot. So, here I stayed.

Noon came. And went. One o'clock. Two o'clock. I knew that sometimes she was late, but now I was watching in frustration as the day slipped away. I called her house and got the answering machine. I tried to take care of a few other things while I waited, but I was becoming more and more irritated. I played a little bzflag and only got MORE irritated. Several of the players were acting up, but one in particular was just over the top! Since I'm an admin there, I have to help things run smoothly; so I was administrating instead of just playing. So much for something to relax and relieve some tension...

A few minutes before 4, I called her house again and the person who answered told me she now has a cell phone and gave me the number. I called her -- she had had something come up. She still would come by, but now it would be around 6 or so. I had a very short time to do a lot of errands. First and foremost, I needed to run over and do my tutoring session with my friend's son. After an hour of that, I dashed here and there to finish things up.

When my friend did finally arrive (I hadn't seen her since we returned from our RTW), I found out that she is going through a horrific time, personally. We talked and cried for a bit (not what I was expecting at all). Ultimately, she left with a promise to be back later. Kirk and I will certainly be praying for her and her situation. Of course, I felt horrible for being so angry and frustrated. My inconvenience is nothing compared to the trauma she is experiencing right now! It certainly helps to keep things in perspective, huhn?

Craps tableKirk and I headed over to Bill & Sue's house for a nice little evening of dinner and craps. If you are wondering whether you misunderstood me, I am sure you did not. I don't even know how long ago this little tradition of their started, but when Kirk and I first started dating, I was invited over to one of their dinner/craps sessions. It was the first time I had met any of Kirk's work friends (with whom he had been working about 14-15 years) and I was terribly nervous. But they were all very nice, and we had a fun time playing craps (with chips only - no money exchanges hands in our little games). So, tonight, the tradition continued... Ken and Bill are pretty good croupiers. We had an excellent dinner of Chinese food (I'm not sure where Brad and Christine picked up the take out...it's not as good as Hu's, but it's the best I've had in the South Bay). There was certainly a lot more food than we had room for.



Craps tableWhile playing craps, we all started out with $200 worth of chips. Sue went on a nice long run (she was the first shooter). She must have rolled the dice for 20 minutes or longer! Of course, action around here doesn't move as fast as in Vegas... In the end, the big winner had over $700. Kirk and I were not the big winner, but did perfectly well ourselves!

Tomorrow, we head up to Big Bear. We are meeting up with some others from the KJWest club - a group of Jeep Liberty owners - to take a few 4WD trails.

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Tuesday, June 8

 

Another Day, Another Wok

Many of my friends know of my obsession with sushi. I just plain love the stuff. I'd have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I could! In fact, one of my favorite past times is taunting my friend Sean with the fact that I'm having sushi that day (of course, it's absolutely devastating when he taunts me and I'm NOT having any).

But, noooooo, I'm not going to tell you I had sushi today. In fact, I was all set to have a bit of left over mexican food for lunch, when my hubby called me to invite me to join him and his work friends for lunch at the Big Wok.

The Big Wok is just that - a restaurant where all the food is cooked on what is essentially a giant wok. Technically, the food is "Mongolian Barbeque"; you go through what looks kind of like a salad bar, except that it proffers a bunch of raw meat and vegetables, with an interesting mix of "dressings". The dressings are, in fact, various cooking oils and sauces, which when mixed in with the rest of your selections, serve to give your plate a completely individual flavor.

We love the Big Wok. The food is really good (how could it not be - you've essentially designed the dish yourself) and reasonably priced. Some of our guy friends like that you can go back for seconds, thirds, fourths... I never have that much room. But it is rare to walk out of there without feeling completely stuffed! It's not sushi, but it's spicy (at least the way I make it) and that's the next best thing!

Work was fun today (will I say that every day? perhaps so!). Afterwards, Kirk and I grilled out again (of course! It IS summer after all) and made some lamb. It was great, and reminiscent of our time in Australia and New Zealand. After watching another movie, I sat down and read three chapters of a soon-to-be released book of one of my friends, Kerri. Kerri is a comedienne in Los Angeles and is hilarious. She also has the unique trait of being a CLEAN comedienne. No, I don't mean she washes on a regular basis (which she DOES, but that goes without saying) - rather that she does "clean comedy", a rarity it seems. If you ever have a chance to see her perform, she's great!

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Monday, June 7

 

Work and Friends

Today was my first day of "official" work! Technically, our office is closed on Mondays, but I'll be working on Mondays anyway. There are things that I can do then much more easily without distractions. It's nice to finally have started. I've got about 3 weeks of overlap with Linda, the woman whose place I'm taking, in order to figure everything out. There's a lot to do and learn, but luckily, my time volunteering has helped a lot and much of what I'll be doing I'm already familiar with.

I also got to go hang out with my girlfriends for dinner. There was a group of 5 of us who went to Hawaii several years ago. Four of us are still in touch, so we've been having dinner once a month. Tonight, we met at Leo's - a Mexican joint nearby. Unfortunately, Michelle was unable to make it - both of her children (one is a newborn) got sick today and she just couldn't saddle her husband with taking care of them alone. Rena and Marie and I met anyway. It is always so nice to catch up with my girlfriends. Everyone is so busy now that it can be difficult to get together (which is why we schedule our dinners a month in advance!).

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Donna in Austria
Click for larger image Austria, August 2003