"Raising" the Ante

If you're ever in a position of authority and the employees are demanding raises, remember not to do what Rolandas Milinavicius did last week.

When Inga Contreras, 25, and Martynas Simokaitis, 28, (yes, apparently his prerequisite for hire in the first place was that an unpronounceable last name had to come into play) were insistent that Rolandas raise their pay, he shot and killed them.

"It doesn't make any sense," Rolandas' cousin, Jaunius Simokaitis, told the Associated Press; "If he was having money problems, these two would have been the ones to help him get out of debt. They would have helped him make that money."

Although it was two less employees to pay, I am quite sure Rolandas hadn't figured his lengthy prison sentence into the equation. If nothing else, he can be very sure that Conteraras and Simokaitis won't be demanding raises anymore.

To his credit, Rolandas turned himself in. But at this point, he is probably wishing he had given them the raise.

House Sitting (and related catastrophes)

Well, it's my first day houses-sitting for some friends of ours, and so far it's been very interesting. This morning I decided that it would probably be a good idea to get started before it got too hot, so I went in the garage to get my bike. It's been a very long time since I've been on a bike and I just stood there staring at the row of bikes trying to remember which one was mine (yes, it was that bad.) I did the only reasonable thing to do after that: I hollered, "JAY!" and my (very helpful) brother came over to rescue his damsel in distress. He showed me the correct bike, got it out for me, and then started to add air to my tires.

Disaster struck when the tire air pump blew up (literally). I tried to tell him that the tire felt fine but he said, "Nic, you need 60 psi to drive on the road. You're at..." he checked the gauge, "Zero." Plan B. We got an air compressor going and finally filled it and I was off. I apparently didn't have the shifting thing down properly and several times I was going past someone's house when my gears would make some unknown "thunk". Oh, well. I finally go there in one piece (rather miraculous) and came inside, very thirsty. They have a very expensive new refrigerator so I found a cup and got myself some-----nevermind. I could not for the life of me figure out how to get the ice machine and water dispenser to work, so I had to drink lukewarm water from the sink.

I then got to work finding the cat food, actually feeding the cats, and watering the lawn. I accidentally turned the water on too high and before I could catch it I also watered the house. Whoops. Finally I came inside to hunt around for a piece of paper to write my adventures down on, and--(prepare yourself, this will be dreadful)--I searched in their drawers for a pen. I found tons of pencils, silverware, address cards, and a driving ticket but no pens so I reverted to using a pencil.

Before I got a single word on the page it was time to change the lawn water. I went out to grab the hose and attached sprinkler but somehow grabbed it incorrectly and the whole thing came apart. I was then soaking wet. I finally fixed it and came back inside and started writing; about this time a guy in a golf cart who looked a little creepy went riding past the back fence (their house is on a golf course) so I made my presence known so that he would know the house wasn't unoccupied.

By then I was thirsty again so I went to get another drink and saw that there were some ants in their kitchen. Not good. With my pen-searching skills, I decided to venture into the garage to find some ant spray. I found a lot of things; Lysol, "Kaboom Toilet Bowl Blaster", propane, spray paint and all-purpose plant food, but no bug spray. I considered my options and decided that highly-concentrated doses of Lysol would probably be my best bet, so I made a point of spraying the ants-- well--at point-blank range and it didn't appear to have any effect but, who knows, maybe Lysol kicks in after awhile. Needless to say that by this point the kitchen smelled extremely "sanitary".

I had this odd premonition of some sorts that I should check the plants' water. When I went out there, they were damp, but that quickly proved to be from the overspray back when I pulled the "watering the house" stunt. I'll spare you the long version but for the next 10 minutes I kept trying to figure out how to turn the plants' water on.

Now I have the ater going, the trashcans in, the cats fed, the ants threatened and the situation under control. I'd better head back home before some further catastrophe takes place. Hopefully I won't do anything silly like crash my bike on the way home.......


17 Random Observations

Random information:

With my sunburn, I am approximately the animal kingdom equivalent of a boiled lobster.

Mally has been exulting that in three years she'll be out of a car seat.

It is really nice to hear from a stranger in Iraq who you've sent a letter to.

Jay: "That girl could give a white guy an afro just by talking to him...if he's lucky."

Dad's "doing-dishes-on-Sundays" policy is such a great one.

It started sprinkling today and the little kids thought the concept of rain was so foreign that they were running around the backyard hollering in exultation. We broke the news gently that rain is not a new concept and that it has been around for a few thousand years. The "rain" lasted barely 10 minutes.

Instant oatmeal is bad for one's health, or taste buds at the very least.

One of my goals for the next while is to learn how to successfully spell hors de oeuvres without having to actually google it every time I want to remind myself how to spell it!

Leftover pasta salad makes great spaghetti when mixed with spaghetti sauce and meatballs. With garlic bread....mm. It will be just right for my parents' "date night" tonight.

Little brothers are great at picking flowers outside and very thoughtful to put them into little vases and display them, even if they are very obviously weeds.

Jay looks really different....although quite nice...in coveralls after working in the garage all afternoon and listening to Michael Savage for entertainment.

Mally has made the shocking discovery that she has four cousins, not two.

It is very pleasant to receive a long-awaited book in the mail that has been on order for what seems like forever.

Deleting 800 emails from your inbox is quite an accomplishment; you should try it sometime. I'm now left with just over 200 from all folders combined, and a lot more available space on my gmail account, which had filled up to 21% of my free space!

The hours between 2 and 4 drag on. The hour of 5-6 flies by. I guess it's that time when the house has to be clean, dinner has to be on the table and everyone is waiting for dad to come home.

"Sunrise, Sunset" doesn't sound good sung in a lively "spiritual" rendition, as I learned while editing tapes and CD's from a friend. And Nat King Cole does a better job of singing, "When I Fall in Love" than anyone else that I've heard to date, especially the guy on the particular CD I was previewing. (Needless to say, the CD I was reviewing didn't end up making its way to the "keepers" pile; I guess I'm spoiled after listening to Lisa's collection of anniversary music back at ALERT. :D....now watch, I'll probably be going around the house for the rest of the night singing, "Unforgettable....")

Overcast, breezy days are wonderful.


Well, folks, the Fire Muster is tomorrow. We'll be headed out to Brewster Park in a few hours and from there we'll be gearing up for the competitions, which begin tomorrow. Pray for Jay as he competes; we'd like him to be safe, and, of course, to do well in the competitions. The guys have practiced a lot and I'm hoping their performance exceeds their expectations.
Thanks for praying!

Seven Hours in the Life of Nicole Hearn

Seven Hours in the Life of Nicole Hearn

Between 5 and 6: I got out of bed, struggled to make said bed (hey, that rhymed) while fighting drowsiness, went to the living room with my family to exercise, took a shower, and got ready to read the Bible with my family. Played part of a "chess" game with Daniel (using chess pieces but Daniel-style rules.) Laughed at Jay's quote, "I like the self-punishment feature that comes with foolishness."
Between 6 and 7: I listened to Jay read Mark 5, I read Mark 6, and Em and Dad read some more after I finished. I contemplated the times in the Bible when Jesus would "cast out evil spirits" in people, and wondered if that is a permanent thing. Some healings that Jesus did were very obvious: a cripple can walk. A blind man can see. Others, such as the times when he threw demons out of people, have the potential to be a little more subjective. Isn't every person responsible to keep their lives pure in such a way that demons cannot inhabit them? When Jesus cast out a demon, did he also regenerate the part of that person that had been prey to the demon?
Between 7 and 8: Helped get breakfast ready, laughed with dad and Jay, got dad off to work, went inside, and found out that Jay's internet on his computer was on the fritz. Decided to undertake the project of fixing it. While preparing to do so, reviewed some script notes with Jay and Em. Got into a discussion with mom.
Between 8 and 9: Continued discussion with mom. Tried to fix computers. Laughed at Jay's attempts to infiltrate my discussion with mom. Tried to fix the computer some more. Found no decipherable reason why the computer was doing what it was doing. Repeatedly hollered at Jay, who was in the next room, asking him if he knew how to fix the computer. Repeatedly heard the answer that if he knew how to fix it he would have done so already. Answered an email or two, got a few lines of a writing project done. Finished conversation with mom.
Between 9 and 10: Tried the XP "Internet Connection Troubleshooter"'s two-step connection-healing process a dozen times, with no results. Decided to pull out all of the computer wires and try to track the problem. Learned halfway through that I had no idea what I was doing. Kicked Jay off the working computer and drafted him to help me. Went out into the kitchen to check on the kids....uh-oh. Play-Doh. Everywhere. They were playing with Play-Doh on a grand scale. They had the presses, the cookie sheets for showcasing their masterpieces, and the blended colors...I told them to start cleaning it up because we were going to do other things. And because at about that time mom came out into the living room informing me that the Millers were probably about to show up. It went without saying that the current state of the expansive Play-Doh undertaking was unacceptable. Little kids decided not to do what they'd been instructed to. Little kids got in trouble. Jiggled wires and cords. Finally got internet working by strange means. Printed out two quotes to copy into my journal.
Between 10 and 11: Found out that Jay was leaving for an Explorer turnout pickup at a quarter of noon. Advised Em on how to make a trifle for tonight's dinner gathering at our house. Started to help kids clean up Play-Doh. Realized that cleaning up Play-Doh is a huge project. Made mental note to never allow my kids to play with Play-Doh unless under extremely special circumstances (i.e. at "grandma and grandpa Hearn's" house :D). Went on anysoldier.com and happened to see the profile of a guy who was looking for King James bibles for his group. Thought of the Bible that we found in Sac that nobody claimed, decided to send it, addressed the envelope, and got ready to seal it. Decided that I should put a picture of our family in the note so he could see the family he was getting it from. Tried to get Jay off the computer so I could print a picture. Was unsuccessful. Went to his room instead and tried to print off a picture. It printed....but the ink was running out so it had a bizarre pink hue to the whole thing. Decided that it didn't matter and he could just think that we were weirdos who liked seeing our family through hot-pink overtones. Wrapped package with excessive amounts of tape.
Between 11 and 12: Finished cleaning up the last Play-Doh. Washed a sinkful of dishes that Jay (little imp) left without doing. Played another round of "chess" with Daniel, this time a complete game. Made a sandwich for Danny per specs he gave me very clearly: "Peanut butter and honey. Cut up. In a bowl. With milk poured over the top." Not exactly my style, but I made it for him. Entertained Whitney, who was frustrated at her lack of ability to crawl (she just doesn't know that's what she's frustrated at, but she is. :D) Explained to Daniel the ethical reasons why not to hit one's sister (even if in jest). Tried on a shirt for the Explorer events this weekend (showing that I'm a proud supporter of Jay...and his post). Hummed, "Broken Road". Made sure the house was clean just as dad was getting home for lunch. Geared up to prepare for our party tonight......

And that is a random accounting of seven hours in the life of Nicole Hearn.


Plan for the future; you'll be living in it for the rest of your life.

Writing Screenplays....

Jay, Em and I are working on a movie short. For a long time we've wanted to produce something that actually has a little plot and substance, and goes outside the confines of the Hearn backyard "Dani-ellie-ellie" productions. With our combined strengths, we've come up with a plot that we really like, and a location to shoot it, plus several folks that we hope to include in our cast.
The next obvious step was to come up with a screenplay.
I was elected.
Ever since, I've been writing and writing. Just now I printed off my final draft, and had a real-time read-through with Jay.
He liked it.

No New News

(Caution: discretion advised; may not be suitable for younger readers.)

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. --Ecc. 1:9

Every morning CNN.com sends me a list of their "Top 10" stories for the day. The stories are typical of our generation's news media; today's was no exception. The six Bulgarian nurses who are accused of intentionally spreading an AIDS virus to 436 children have been commuted to life sentences rather than the death penalty. Today the father of a girl who was raped, tortured and buried alive will face his daughter's murderer in court. A 48-year-old woman is on trial for hiring her 26-year-old boyfriend to kill her 65-year-old husband. They have found steroids and other such items in the home of a man who killed his wife and young handicapped son, laid Bibles next to their dead bodies and hanged himself on a weight machine after sending text messages to several friends explaining where they would find the food to feed the family dogs after his departure. A manhunt in Wyoming continues after a former soldier described by some as "a good Christian" fatally shot his estranged wife while she was performing a song onstage in a restaurant. And analysts are saying that they believe Al-Queda is planning a new attack on the States using resources gathered during the war in Iraq. Those are eight of the top-10 stories from today's email update.

I usually vary between two radically different responses when I read such news. The first reaction that I have is to gloss over it, and to read the stories as if they are old news. After all, I am so desensitized to hearing about brutal murders and heinous crimes that I am not shocked to read about soldiers killing their wives or professional wrestlers strangling their children or men raping little girls and burying them alive. These things happen every day in our world, and to take the time to personally mourn over each one seems futile, as if I would never be able to process the grief of them all. And so I read the details, try to block out the graphic images of the scenes from my mind, and shoot up a silent prayer, God, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

The other reaction that I have sometimes is to allow the stories to cripple me spiritually. I read the accounts, I internalize them, and I ask, God, how could you let a little girl be tortured and asphyxiated by her own neighbor? God, will there be no vengeance for a man who kills his own wife, or his handicapped son?  God, do you see what is happening? Do you care? It is so easy to distrust a God who allows evil to happen, I think to myself, and I beg Him to answer me--- why?

Neither response is correct, God has been showing me, so I am seeking to balance both responses. As I do, God is bringing His word to my mind, which helps me to cope in a world where black is white and white is black. First, He reminds me that only what will eventually bring glory to Him does He allow.

Psalm 76:10 "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."

As hard as it is to believe, the things we see are not as bad as they could be. God actually allows evil based on eventual glory to His name, and whatever does not fit that criteria, He does not allow. We think, in our finite understandings, that nothing could possibly be worse than the things we see and read about in our newspapers every morning. But He asks us to trust Him that the evil we see is only that evil which will eventually bring His name glory. How could evil bring You glory, Lord? It is not our prerogative to know in most cases, yet. He asks us to trust Him that the wrath of man praises Him, and that the remainder of wrath, He restrains. Imagine the amount of evil that He restrains!

Next, He assures me that I am not facing a situation so dark that it can find no parallel in human history. My generation does not experience evil that has been amped up beyond any sins of times past. When I tend to think, God, this evil is too great for You not to intervene, I remember that He has been dealing with unspeakable evil since the dawn of time. Biblical references abound, and when I read them they sound alarmingly similar to what we deal with today; a man who allowed his wife to be raped by a mob of sodomite men and then cut her body into pieces after they had killed her. Barbarians who smashed innocent children to pieces and kept harems full of women who were kept alive only for the periodic pleasure they would bring to a ruler. Bestiality and rage-driven murders and destructive behavior. Those are just a sampling of Biblical examples, not to mention the historical atrocities in the centuries since then, of humans cheering as other humans were being eaten alive by animals, of those who sacrificed their own flesh and blood to demonic gods, of men and women of God being burned alive or tortured beyond recognition. We do not live in an era that surpasses any before it for wickedness.

So, He has taught me that the wrath He allows is already wrath that will someday bring glory to His Name. He has taught me that as evil as the world around me may seem, He has seen its kind repeated again and again in the history of mankind, and nothing that I read about in my email from CNN will surprise Him or catch Him off guard. And finally, He has taught me to rest in the fact that He is already living in tomorrow, and He already sees the outcome of the evil I see today. My dad helped me to realize this point as I was telling him about the 436 AIDS-infected children; he responded only with, "Nicole, just think. Someday we'll go to heaven."

It was that simple. Yes, there is evil around us. Yes, we ought to grieve at a dying world without Christ. Yes, we ought to be compassionate to others who are facing unspeakable horrors. We ought to be shocked and repulsed by the stories we hear, for they are the products of a fallen world. But we ought also to hope, and to remember that someday the deeds of man will be recompensed before a righteous God. He will avenge innocent blood, and He will pardon sanctified saints, and I can rejoice that, in that day, I will "know, as also I am known".

Meanwhile, as we wait for the glorious appearing of Christ, we read the words of Solomon and we know that he spoke well when he said that there is nothing new under the sun.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

The Economy According to James

"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." James 4:13-15

Yesterday my dad was summoned to the public counter at his work (for the City) where a man was waiting to speak to him. Several years ago, when construction in California looked like it couldn't get any better, he had decided to drastically expand his construction-related business and had started to build a new facility to accommodate that. Due to problems, mostly on the part of his architect, the building is still not off the ground and he has 250,000 dollars in cash into the project already. His permit expires on August 28 and he was asking my dad for advice.

You see, he was just diagnosed with cancer, and at best the doctors are giving him a 20% chance of survival. Twenty percent. He was asking my dad--should he go through with the project? Dad said that, as a City employee, he couldn't answer that question, but as a friend he would try. He then asked the man if he really wanted to risk so much with the (large) possibility that his widow would be left with a significant debt in an economy that is quickly spiraling downward for the construction element. He pointed to the very building he was standing in while they spoke as an example: less than two years ago our city was doing so well that they decided to build a large new city hall, on the assumption that the funds to pay for it would come from a minimum of 1,000 building permits pulled per year for the next twenty years. It sounded like a modest and achievable number at the time, but the economy has levelled off, and within the last two months combined the City has only taken in 20 building permits, and we're less than one full year into our promised twenty years....

The man went away with questions, forced by an illness that he could have never anticipated. The divinely-inspired James was right; our lives are a vapor. I am currently struggling in my mind to balance out proper planning and foresight so that it is neither unpreparedness nor presumption but a mix of both. What is that balance? And in what ways would I wish I had done things differently if I were to be given a twenty percent chance of living tomorrow?

"LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am." Ps. 39:4


Today I went to the The Dreaded Dentist.
I've learned to dread going to the dentist for one Very Valid Reason: they call me Nikki. Now, Nikki is an okay nickname to call me, as long as,

a.) you're my dad
b.) you don't mind getting a black eye. :)

but neither of those clauses usually apply to the dentist office where I frequent.
To make it worse, they don't just call me "Nikki" in passing or write it on my patient report. They USE it. As in, call me it constantly. In the waiting lobby, "HI, NIKKI! COME RIGHT ON IN!" In the hallway. "Okay, Nikki; head right on down here to room four." In the chair. "Nikki, go ahead an hop up into this chair right here." During x-rays. "Okay, Nikki; can you bite down for me now?" In conversation. "So, Nikki, how was it in Texas?"
Some people have phobias of what their dentists will do to their mouths.
Not me. I fear for what mine will do to my fragile emotional balance.

Today they realized that I hadn't been in for a long time, so they asked me to fill out a new Patient Form. In the spot at the top for, "Nicknames" I put in all-caps, "NIC". Yes, Nic. Not Nikki. I handed the paper back and she glanced over it. I'd begun to hope that maybe she noticed her error by my glaring correction....

"Thanks, Nikki; that's all I need for now."

Spring Cleaning

Today we're doing spring cleaning.
Six months late.

Short-Order Pianist

For those of you who were praying......

Last night I found out that they didn't have a pianist for church tomorrow and that I had been elected to play. Lovely! (Just kidding.) We decided on a few songs, but I doubted that I'd be comfortable even if they were all songs I knew in my sleep, because I tend to get really nervous when I'm playing in front of crowds ( i.e. three or more people :D). So this morning I showed up and everyone was kind of discussing the music and what would be happening with each song, and what was being played when. The song leader told me to play the song through one time and then he would tell everyone the verse so they could sing along. I started the intro and he told people the number, so they were all turning there while I was just getting ready to start, which obviously wouldn't have gone over very well so I replayed the intro and we all started together. I pretty soon found out that I was glad I was comfortable with the music because he was rather difficult to follow. I was trying to watch his hands as he was setting the tempo, but it turns out that what he was singing and what he was motioning were not the same! :D Thankfully everything seemed to go well except for at the end when he asked everyone to thank me, and they applauded while I walked to my seat and sat down.....and then he said, "Oh, wait! Nicole! We have one more song." So I had to go all the way back up there again..... *grin*......and play that next song. I was so busy trying to follow everyone and make sure that we were playing the right song when that I really didn't have time to be nervous. :)
Thanks for praying!

'I was wrong', reporter says

(Headquarters, AP) The Associated Press reporter who interviewed an up-and-coming video editor about her skills on Wednesday has officially retracted.
"I was wrong," the reporter, whose name is being withheld for confidentiality purposes, said in a confession on her personal blog, "Nicole Hearn said absolutely nothing about the ease of video editing. She, in fact, said quite the opposite, namely, that she didn't understand how everyone did it. 'I can't stand sitting at a desk for two days on end just watching the same thing over and over and trying to coordinate music and footage with pictures and ideas; it is almost intolerably dull for me'." The confession on the blog led to an anonymous police report and the arrest of the reporter earlier today; she was booked on the suspicion of falsifying information and libel.
"Believe me, I did not maliciously report this way," she told a fellow reporter early this afternoon, "I thought it was in the best interests of Nicole and accurately conveyed the emotions that she would have wanted to feel in the situation, not necessarily the ones that she did feel."
Hearn agrees with the assessment, and is urging county prosecutors not to press charges. "I felt a connection with [the reporter] immediately and felt that she did what she thought was best under the circumstances. She was privy to what only few people were: my skills (or lack thereof) had been disturbing me greatly over the previous hours and I knew that despite the positive feedback I was receiving, there were critics out there who weren't thrilled with the work in its entirety and really believed that it needed more editing before it was finished. The night of the report I was headed back to the computer to try to rework things and, yes, I'll say it honestly: I was grumpy. I know that [the reporter] did what she felt was in my best interests, and I am thankful to her for that."
Does the news damage credibility on Nicole's part? "I think that a reporter has to express what feelings came across, not necessarily what was said," the reporter's lawyer was heard saying earlier today, "And I think that [the reporter] definitely met that qualification. Especially in light of the fact that the outstanding critics are now very pleased with the results of Hearn's work."
The Chief of Police says that he hasn't heard enough to assess the situation and the county prosecutors could not be reached for comment. "All is well that ends well," Hearn said in a report this afternoon, "I am confident that this situation will blow over, like it did for me last week." The Associated Press stands behind their reporter and is endorsing the Hearn plea to drop charges, which they feel will be appropriate in this situation. "There are no hard feelings, and the situation is clearly already handled," AP editor Price August said in a preliminary hearing statement, "Sometimes, we make mistakes."

Sidebar Ads

I think that gmail is the best thing to happen since, well, Google. I primarily love conversation stacking, which is such a time saver and so convenient. But gmail isn't just all efficiency; it also is very amusing at times. Such as every time I click on an email to see an email, accompanied by gmail "sidebar ads". These ads are supposedly based on key words in the emails I use, and are usually highly entertaining. Such as today, when I exchanged a few, "I love you! Have a great day!" emails with Elizabeth McCauley and had the following advertisements presented to me:

"Take this 15 question survey to see what kind of parent you are." ("Hmm, let me see....what kind of parent am I? A mom, or a dad?" I could tell you that with a 2-question survey; "Are you a parent?" "Are you a male or a female?")

"Natural Bridge Caverns--Texas' biggest underground family attraction!" (I'm sure there are lots of underground family attractions in Texas, so that must be quite a distinction to be the biggest! :D)

"Are you a celebrity? --It's scary accurate to see what celebrity you are." (Scary accurate?)

"Storm Tornado Shelters --strongest in the industry. Financing." (Did our set of emails sound that desperate that it appeared that one of us was preparing to weather a tornado and might not come out alive on the other end? At least there's financing to help with this problem.)

"Luxury hotels, elegant resorts, and spacious conference centers." (I guess they're saying....if I really love Elizabeth I should probably give her a surprise trip to an "elegant resort" to prove it.)

Ah, you've gotta love gmail.

Messy Rooms and Empty Drawers

This morning I decided to undertake quite an ambitious project----namely, cleaning out my fourth dresser drawer. Now, this dresser drawer is unlike any other dresser drawer that I have. The other drawers are kept for keeping--surprise, surprise---clothing in. Well, maybe that wasn't such of a surprise. Regardless, that fourth drawer may look like a normal clothes drawer, but, no, siree. It is a catch-all drawer. It keeps every little trinket and item I don't want to deal with until "later", and end up forgetting for months on end. I have new motivation to clean it out, since I came back from Texas with more clothes than I left with, and now all of my items won't fit into the current drawers that I have. The Fourth Drawer needs to be commandeered for the cause, and in order for that to happen, it has to be clean.
If this were a movie, right now the scary, tense string orchestra would enter. Cleaning out this drawer has been like venturing unarmed into a tribe of headhunters-----audacious, to say the very least. If not downright terrifying!
I'm finding all sorts of things that have been buried in the depths of the drawer since my pre-teens. I've found multiple non-working watches, letters written to people and never sent out, letters from people to me when I really don't even remember the people, data CD's from years ago storing writing projects I haven't touched in ages, and, of course, the most flagrant of all the unnecessary collections in that drawer-------pens and pencils.
I started to try to hold them in my hand, but figured out quickly that such an attempt was futile. So I started putting them all onto my window sill. How many pens and pencils is it possible to fit into one little dresser drawer? After today, I know that the answer is at least 124, since there were that many in my drawer.
I've gathered an entire trash bag full to capacity of items to be tossed, and the drawer is almost completely clean.

The new problem that has presented itself is that, while I have an empty drawer, I have a very messy room with relics of the past sprawled out all over it and ink pens scattered around the room; I'm sure that if I strung the items end-to-end I'd have enough for a roundtrip to Mars.

If I can get motivated enough to deal with the sheer volume of the drawer's contents, I should have a place for everything and everything in its place by nightfall. Until then, I have an empty drawer, and a messy room and enough pens and pencils to give one to every illiterate child in China.

I know that taking on this project is huge. But, like I said, I'm feeling ambitious.

A Photo Recounting

Hello, Friends;

Well, we're back! Saturday night around midnight or a little after we rolled back into our driveway after an incredible week up North. Instead of simply telling the story, I thought I would intersperse my narrative with pictures from the week. I'm working on a DVD with footage of the trip, but, until then, this will have to suffice.

(Remember, two days before this all, I was arriving home from Texas!)

We left for Sacramento on Thursday morning/afternoon/sometime around there.

The trip was very pretty! For all of the exposure I've had to "green" over the last few months, it was good to remember that the desert can be beautiful as well.

Going through "The Grapevine", we saw a lot of windmills.

We were going to be scouting out Yosemite and camping spots there for a trip with our aunt and her family next year, so we drove halfway up and stopped in Fresno that first night and then went into the Park the next day. I'd never been to Yosemite before, and it was beautiful.

The scenery, even along the road, was breathtaking.

We stopped for lunch at a place called, "Bass Lake" which is about 60 miles outside of Yosemite Village.

At the area where we decided to go camping, we took some pictures. I got a very nice profile picture for my cell phone at this same time.

I think Jay had a fascination with the Canadian Geese that were at Bass Lake; the video footage we took has a great deal of coverage for them. :)

We continued on to Sacramento, getting in a little after midnight. Here you can see the Capitol.

We helped with conference setup; here you can see Em and I doing inventory of CD's.

Danny and Mally contributed, too; they're sorting caribeaners and sundry other items for the Cadet department.

We took an afternoon trip to go see my mom's cousins in Pleasant Hill; they really enjoyed seeing us. They love chinese food, so we went to Panda Express and brought enough food to feed an army. It was surprisingly good.

Saturday we went to a Train Museum in the afternoon; we all really enjoyed that.

Sunday a very comical thing happened. We decided to visit my mom's Aunt Mae who lives on the outskirts of Sacramento. She has dementia or alzheimers or something like that so we called an hour ahead to let her know that we were coming. When we got there we called, rang the door bell, pounded on the door....all to no avail. We called again and again....still nothing. Last time we'd done something similar, we'd arrived and she hadn't been there-----she'd misunderstood us and assumed that we expected her to provide lunch for us instead of the other way around, and had gone to the store to come up with some food for us. Unfortunately, she's not allowed to drive and could easily get lost. Therefore, when we pulled up on Sunday and she wasn't there, we got a little alarmed. We decided to wait, hoping that she'd come back soon. Jay wanted to check and verify that she was indeed gone, but he couldn't get into her garage (to see if her car was there) without intruding on her backyard.....and being in the direct presence of her very intimidating Doberman Pinscher dog, "Koko".

So, we waited.

And waited, and waited, and waited. We all sprawled out on her front lawn, had conversations with eachother, and let all of our food (including our ice-cream) get warm on the sidewalk while we were there for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Finally, Jay decided to get some action going. He found that her bedroom window wasn't locked and decided that he could possibly enter the house there. Mom meanwhile decided to try to call Aunt Mae's kids, to tell them what was going on and that we suspected that she'd left her house and had gone to get food or something like that....and had probably lost her way.
Dad got to work pounding on the door, then he and Jay decided to face off with Koko and look into the garage. They came back a few minutes later with an announcement. "Her car is here."
We pounded again, and within a few seconds the door opened and out came Aunt Mae. "Who are you?" she asked my dad.
"I'm with Carol," he said, "I'm Mike."
She reacted strongly, both astonished and ecstatic. "You folks didn't even tell me that you were in town! What a surprise! What a surprise! You should have called and let me know that you were coming!"
We put our things in the fridge (or freezer, as the case may be) and enjoyed a great supper with her. She kept repeating questions over and over, and it actually became quite fun near the end; do you know how you'll often think of a cute quip to a question several beats after you've already answered it? When we thought of such witty replies, Jay pointed out, we only needed to wait until the next time the question came up to answer it in our preferred way. :)

Here's Jay, Mally, Dan and me

We regaled her with songs as a family; here we are singing, "I'm Upright, Inright, Outright, Downright Happy In the Lord", clearly at different stages of the song. ;)

Aunt Mae loved Whitney!

....and Mally.

Here's a picture of Dad, Jay and me when we were waiting outside of her house waiting for her to......come to the door. :D

The conference started Tuesday. Whitney and Mally did a great job in the Family Viewing room; mom said it was almost "supernatural" that they behaved so well.

Whit and me

The Blakes had a huge picnic for us, their annual "Pre-Sac Party".

John Blake and John Bragonier do some "trick photography" to appear like John has been decapitated.

We had fun reuniting with the LeMasters, who had just pulled in from their trip to Alaska.

Most of the group gathered for a group shot.

Thanks to the Blakes for their great hospitality!

Tuesday morning bright and early I was working on Registration!

Em and I helped serve meals during the Conference. The meals were done in a big truck pulled up to the loading dock, and it was so hot in that truck! We had an assembly line where we made meals quickly and efficiently.

Jay had the special needs squad; he did a great job and I was (obviously) very proud of him.

Jay's Unit Leader was John Erickson, an ALERT guy that he really admires.

Richard Shoemaker, who works with Cadets and who my family got to know quite well during the week; it was fun introducing friends of mine from ALERT to my family!

I went on stage twice in five minutes to receive the Presidential Service Award and my certificates for completion of the Faith, Virtue and Knowledge Journals.

Hannah Blake did an excellent job of watching Whitney all week. One day they were both dressed in denim; it was really cute!

Danny had fun in the Children's Institute; here they're getting ready to do their parent presentation!

While the ALERT Cadets wait to go in, Josh LeMaster talks on his walkie-talkie to someone....

Emily and her good friend Esther Blake

Mallory kept reminding Nathan of our trip to June Lake last year, and they posed for another picture like one they'd taken then.

Here Jay is getting ready for the ALERT Cadet presentation at the end of the night. Our video camera ran out of batteries right before they were supposed to go on; I was so disappointed. Somehow seeing him up there and seeing how quickly he's growing up, and what a great man he is....I burst into tears. It was terrible, because my entire row kept looking at me like I was losing my mind, which, who knows, I maybe was. :) Thanks to Bonnie for being there and for cheering me up with her usual hysterical quotes and encouragements.

After Sac, we enjoyed a loooooooong night at the Boy Scout Camp and had tons of interesting things happen, including (but by all means not limited to) a skunk hunt, a fire-extinguishing adventure, ultimate frisbee, and the endless antics of John Blake when he did so many things to sabotage me including stealing my cell phone and dumping mayonnaise all over my food. It was very, very, very enjoyable.

On the way home we drove in tandem with the LeMasters & Co.

We arrived back around midnight. What a special trip, with great lessons, fun projects, extraordinary people and a God who spoke well when He said, "Behold! How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity!"

I can't wait for Sacramento 08.