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Archive for October, 2007

Oct 31 2007

Unwelcome Houseguest

Posted by Mugs @ 6:07 am in Family

I have a bluebird house nailed to an Oak Tree in my backyard. When standing at the window in the kitchen, I can see it clearly. I had observed periodic flashes of blue from flying birds, but had assumed that they were jays. I had seen plenty of bluebird houses over the years, but never any bluebirds. So, my Mom and I were delighted to see several bluebirds checking out the bluebird house. They kept flying around the house, but would not enter. My Mom was convinced that we had to clean out their house for them, so that they would go in. I hate cleaning my own house and felt the bluebirds should clean their own house themselves. My Mom, who cleans everyones house: family, friend, or bird got to work. We read online that you should bang on the side before you open the house to allow the bird to fly away if one is inside. So, my Mom unscrewed the screws and then gave the side of the house a good bang. What looked out at her was no bird. She called Zeke and I to come look and it was something in between a chipmunk and a squirrel. I then went to get Dad in case there was trouble. Mom pounded on the house until the animal ran out and Mom declared it something from “The Secret of NIMH”. It looked like a squirrel, but was too small and had a flat tail. She then opened the box to discover a giant messy nest. The animal was on the oak running back and forth and giving us a piece of her mind. Mom had Dad hold open a plastic bag to push the nest into so it wouldn’t make a mess. When the nest fell into the bag, the baby squeeks started. There were 3 little babies in there and we were all a bit stunned as to what to do. Dad shook them out onto the ground under the tree. The animal then ran down the oak, rolled one baby in a ball, put it in her mouth and hightailed it back up the oak. Mom continued to clean out the birdhouse mumbling all the time about strange squirrels. She and Dad then moved to clean out the other birdhouse located at the back of the property on a post. Zeke and I stayed where we were and continued to watch the animal roll her babies into a ball and carry them up the tree in her mouth. It wasn’t until she flew over our heads that Zeke and I yelled. It was a flying squirrel. I was shocked. I had no idea there were flying squirrels in Virginia. I stared in amazement just as I had when I watched 2 kangaroos boxing on the ridgeline across from our house in Australia. I came in the house and looked online to discover that Virginia northern flying squirrels have been on the endangered species list since the mid 80s. Thankfully, their population has recovered, and it has been proposed to remove them from the list. They will soon be declared no longer endangered in Virginia. Well, at least in areas outside of my backyard.

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Oct 30 2007

The Dump

Posted by Mugs @ 6:51 am in Family

On Saturday, my Dad and I ventured to the dump. Having grown up in the sticks, the boondocks, the middle of nowhere, going to the dump was a part of life when I was a kid. When I left home, I was amazed to discover that most people did not have a well, a septic system that froze in the winter, a wood stove to heat the house, and a plug sticking out of the front of their car. When Dale and I purchased our first car, I asked him where the plug was and insisted that we had to get a car with an engine block heater. He not so kindly informed me that I was from the backwoods. Now that I live in a more civilized place, there are still a few things that fill me with gratitude. I am always grateful that I can wheel my garbage can (rubbish bin) to the end of my driveway and someone will come by and take my garbage to the dump for me. A trip to the dump was not exactly a pleasant experience when I was growing up. Our dump adventure was brought about by Stafford County Hazardous Waste Disposal Day. The previous owner of the house had left me 28 years worth of paint cans, deck wash, gas cans, turpentine, mineral spirits, oil, etc. I had piled it up in the garage and kept watch for the day Stafford County would finally allow me to get rid of it. Their notification informed me that people trained to dispose of hazardous waste would remove the items from my car, and that I must have proof that I was a Stafford County resident. I had my drivers license ready and was expecting workers in full hazmat gear. I was waved right in and a guy wearing a clear plastic garbage bag over his clothes and garden gloves started removing paint cans. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as expected. Next, we drove up to dispose of an old dehumidifier. The guy instructed us to go to bin #2. There were massive bins placed below the different numbered parking spots. Dad picked up the dehumidifier and tossed it in. Someone else had thrown in a water heater. There were bins to throw refrigerators in and bins to throw tires in. I stood there thinking, “Michael Thompson would love this place. He would drive around picking up junk, just so he could toss it into a giant bin and watch it smash.” I was a bit embarrased to be driving a minivan. In rural America, you take your trash to the dump in a pickup truck (your rubbish to the tip in a ute) For a long time, I saw nothing but pickup trucks. Eventually, I saw a few people like me driving cars and vans, but we all looked out of place. I know when Dale returns he’ll refuse to go to the dump unless I let him buy a pickup truck. Afterall, you can’t go to the dump on a motorcycle. I’ll probably have to make the drive myself with Gabe for company. Gabe wouldn’t care about the mode of transportation as long as he could go to the dump too. On the way home from the dump, we stopped at Wawa, a convenience store, (Servo). The Wawa is the most popular place in Stafford. It is always busy. People here love the Wawa. When we were in Australia, Zeke started calling a girl from church Wawa, so whenever I go there I always think of Tarooshi. (I probably didn’t spell that right.) The Wawa has 20 different coffee pots, someone who will make you a sandwich, an ATM with no surcharge, fresh donuts, gas (petrol) for your car, and most anything else you could want. When giving directions in Stafford, you must include a reference to Wawa. For example, “Turn left at the Wawa.” “Just past the Wawa.” “You know where the Wawa is, right?”” I learned quickly, that if I was going to fit in, I needed to begin to love the Wawa. Dad got a decaf coffee in a paper cup (No fruh fruh Starbucks Latte for him) and a box of donuts for us to eat. It’s always important to celebrate a successful trip to the dump.

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Oct 29 2007

Reformation Party

Posted by Mugs @ 3:10 am in Family

On Friday night, Josiah and Abby attended a Reformation Party in honor of Martin Luther. They were to dress up as kings, queens, knights, friars, peasants, etc. Abby went as a princess, of course, and sat with all of her princess girlfriends. Grandma managed to get Josiah dressed as a Friar, although he attended under protest. I signed the paper saying he would attend and he turned it in before discovering that his friends weren’t going. The party was pretty entertaining. For jousting, the kids rode bikes at each other and tried to knock each other off the bike with a pillow. They also had archery and stone throwing. The kid who won the jousting was crowned king and had to choose a girl to be queen. There then took place an awkward 10 minutes of a middle school boy holding a fuzzy pink crown uncertain what to do and a large group of middle school girls trying to avoid being chosen. After the party, I talked to Josiah and Abby about how to be gracious in an uncomfortable and awkward situation. Graciousness is a bit of an old fashioned concept in todays pushy world and something that I’m often lacking in. It is encouraging, however, that as we grow more like Christ, we too can be characterized by kindness and warm courtesy. When that change occurs in us, we begin to reveal our own reformation.

Oct 23 2007

Army Training in Tikrit

Posted by Dale @ 10:18 pm in Deployment,FOB Life

I’m spending a little time at FOB Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. I’m here to attend a weeklong course on Project Management. At the end of the course, I will have the opportunity to take the certification exam to become Project Management Professional (PMP). Can you sense my excitement? You’ll be happy to know that even in Iraq, Army classes are still the same. Generally, Army classes are structured at what I call the lowest common denominator level. The intent is to train everyone to the minimum standard. There are some courses out there that are not structured this way. But most are, including this one!

The instructor for the course is a contractor from a “Management Training Institute” that specializes in PMP exam preparation. The instructor and the company shall remain anonymous. On day 1, the instructor informed us that he would not use any overhead slides or PowerPoint presentations. His teaching method is one I’ve never before encountered. He teaches directly from the student workbook, otherwise known as the book of knowledge. In the workbook, each paragraph has blanks for missing words. So the instructor reads the script directly from the workbook and tells us what words to write in the blanks. He even spells some of the words for us. To top it off, he evens tells us to highlight some of these words with our highlighters so that they’ll stand out even more!

Do you remember Mad Libs? I feel like a writer for Mad Libs got a new job as an instructor. Gotta love Army training.

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Oct 23 2007

Skate Night

Posted by Mugs @ 7:02 am in Family

Tonight the kids had a school skate night at the roller skating rink. It was Gabe’s first attempt at roller skating. He gave it a go. By the end of the night, he wasn’t falling down quite as much. He stuck with it and both he and Abby improved quite a bit. They both came home exhausted and in need of a good soaking bath to ease the pain. I remember going to the ice skating and roller skating rinks as a kid. It was a part of the repetiveness of life that happens when you live in the same place from 1st to 12th grade. My kids have had no repetiveness of life yet. I’d like them to, though. Growing up in Northern Minnesota, all I ever thought about was leaving to see the world. Well, now I’ve seen the world, and I’d really like to stay in one place for awhile. Back in April, when we were told that Dale would deploy, God pressed upon my heart 1 Peter 5:10: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” Dale reminded me of that verse a few weeks ago, but it is difficult to always be positive when you are “suffering a while”. I do keep this deployment in perspective. There are many people enduring much worse suffering than I. I try to keep myself together most days, but there are moments when I become a big sook (Aussie for cry baby). Watching the other Dads help their kids skate was a bit tough. Dale is a decent roller skater. He gets his talent for skating and bowling from his Daddy, who was a fantastic skater years ago and is a great bowler still. Hopefully, next year, at skate night, Dale can be out there with the kids giving them some advice and assistance. Next year…it seems far far away. When my pastor taught 1 Peter 5:10 to the church, he reminded us that Samson asked, “Please strengthen me once more.” So, I ask that as well. “Please strengthen me once more.”