Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the old...

I guess my #1 event of 2007 would be all of the time I spent at the hospital. We spent a lot of time at the E.R. and various doctor's offices until my mother received the diagnosis of cancer - which oddly enough was what the E.R. attending suspected on our first sudden trip to the hospital. June came and the surgery was a success eventhough an infection brought a second week back at the hospital. So far, so good. The doctor was quite optimistic that they caught it early enough. She refused follow up radiation, so we stay a bit on edge. A couple of weeks after my mother came home, my wife's grandmother was seriously injured in a car accident. She ended up in ICU on a respirator for over a week of her month long hospital stay. Then, there was rehab. She is home now but still stuggling with the changes in her life. We have been very lucky that each case has turned out as well as it has and we hope there will be continued improvement for both in '08. On the bright side, work turned into a nice escape from hospital corridors. We found time to go to Birmingham one week and work on a warehouse picking system.. lots of machinery here!
Finally, we were lucky enough to find our dog Alex through a pet rescue last January. This was our first Christmas with her here and we are blessed to have such a good dog that won't bite you for putting her in silly outfits like this. (Dogs never forget and I think this is why she jumped up in a chair and stole my breakfast one morning a couple of months after this picture was taken!)
That's it. 2007 was some kind of year. I hope that 2008 will be less crazy but I'm as prepared as I can get. We'll take it one day at a time.

I thought I'd never stay up until midnight tonight, but I did - no one else did in our house. So, I saw Dick Clark again. The first one I remember is 1980. It seemed like such a big deal when 1979 was over - I'm not sure what we expected. 28 years later - still no jet packs - still no tourism to Mars. They are still playing Blondie and the Go Go's on the radio so I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. Happy 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 in Review

2007. If you could go back in time to December 29, 2006 and ask me what I thought 2007 would turn out like, there is no way I could predict the rollercoaster this year has been. I can't even remember much about 2006. I think life probably seemed somewhat more calm then, but the signs of trouble were already lingering.


We'll come out of 2007 stronger because we swayed a bit at times but did not break. I've been through years where everything got tainted by tragedy and somehow we are older and wiser now - this year was different. The key point that amazes me about 2007 is how positive we stayed while enduring some pretty hard times.


Thinking back, I wrote out 5 "milestone" nuggets which sum up 2007. It's basically odds and ends that ended up highlighting (or "lowlighting") the year. They are purely random items - not meant to reflect every family event and no mention of what happened in the news of the world. There are no politics here - just the little weird stuff that makes me who I am.


So, let's visit 5 of the highlights of the year:


5. Started working at home.
Yes - through some sort of landlord dispute, the lease on the building housing my office was lost. My option was to have a 70 mile daily commute. I got very lucky in getting to move the main office to my house. It has been quite an adjustment moving stuff all over our already small house, but in the last month I settled into a small corner of the bedroom. Even without interruptions, the job is pretty consuming. I'm sure life would be out of control without my small home office hideaway.

4. Got a Treo and a new laptop
OK. Sounds like petty material stuff. The treo gave me the motivation to start the blog. I finally had the ability to carry a camera with me at all times and I caught a lot of stuff I would have never caught in the past. I started the blog as a picture journal to show day to day life and it has continued to evolve.
The laptop - the Gateway T-1620 - is my personal, non-work, laptop for blogging, surfing the web, and general goofing off. Before I used old hand-me-downs or ebay laptops just to be able to close work and get away from it. This is more than a laptop - it is my escape!

3. Got a "new" car.
My wife's grandmothers horrible car accident (more on that in the next two days) was my motivation to stop picking up my daughters in my trusty 1999 Chevy Metro.

Two days after her wreck, we went to the dealership and bought a nicely used 4-door 2003 Pontiac Vibe. I feel safer in it. The Metro was a great car and I do miss it, but I feel better knowing my kids are in a bigger vehicle. And, I don't look like as much of a dork driving it as I did the Metro!

2. I discovered "Corner Gas"
My favorite show has been on in Canada for 5 seasons. It came to the U.S. this fall and I'm hooked. It's right in line with my sense of humor. I now have 4 seasons on DVD and 2 shirts. They own my soul. I didn't get the "Corner Gas Uniform Shirt" for Christmas, but I did get a $10 coupon - so it's now on the way. Yeah! The show has brought me a lot of enjoyment and laughs and been quite the stress reliever.


1. Sara started kindergarten.
On July 30th, our oldest daughter was off to school - real school. It was quite an adjustment for me more than her! You know this day is coming and you prepare for it as much as you can, but the fact is that time does not stop and she has to grow up. I know just how fast it goes by and we do our best to treasure every moment.

Picture from the first day of school - right after we arrived, she sat down at her desk to pose for this.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Garbage Day

It's beginning to look a lot like a garbage dump
Everywhere you look....

Another day cleaning up after Christmas and tomorrow is Garbage Day- for the first time in 11 days. That meant tonight was the time to run all the trash down to the street and hope there are no hurricane force winds tonight that will spread our remnants across the neighborhood. If I wouldn't look like more of a nut than I already do, I'd be tempted to take a picture of the stack of trash - it's borderline obscene to have that much trash. We did have 15 people open presents here over two days so I guess it is to be expected.

Tonight we streamed some Wii playing over the webcam and got a few viewers. Watching two kids and a chunky dude play Wii is not the same as inviting the world in for a big family get together. I have to keep thinking about the best use of the webcam.

I think the countdown to New Years Day will start here tomorrow night by counting down my three biggest stories of the year - some covered in the blog and some not. Hint: I have had a lot of questions - and I mean A LOT more than I thought I would have - about what happened to one of our most popular Christmas traditions. The story behind that will be #2 in our countdown.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dismantling Christmas

I took a day off of blogging for the holiday and what a full day it was. The kids got more than they needed for Christmas as usual - I really need to stop getting up at 3:30AM the day after Thanksgiving and hitting the stores for bargains. The big gift this year came from my parents - the Wii. The Wii is pretty cool since you actually have to stand up and move around to play games. It's perfect for the rainy fall/winter we have been having. By the time the yard dries out from the last storm, it rains again.

The yard dried out today and I took the opportunity to take down all of the big Christmas decorations outside. I only left up the icicle lights - they are very easy to take down and I'll do that New Years Day. It is raining again now and it will rain all day Friday. We might have the first snow next week.

Wal-mart had another huge sale today - all of the special Christmas gifts were 50% off. So, why are they so generous? They are taking advantage of all the people who are returning those special Christmas gifts that they did not like. Wal-mart cuts 50% off the price. You don't have a receipt. Wal-mart gives you back only half of what your last minute shopping friend/relative/boss paid for it. The margin is so good that they make money twice - off the original buyer and again when it sells for 50% off. A very nice racket, eh?

So, more work tomorrow and Friday and then another 4 day weekend! Yeah! I'm also working on another Blogger theme to countdown to the New Year that I will hopefully start tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yes, I am still stirring!

11 days ago I had the crazy and random idea that I should force myself to write here on each of the 12 days leading up until Christmas. Instead of forcing myself, I found myself looking forward to writing each day. It is a nice escape from work and a reminder that work is not the only outlet I have. Writing here has helped me put my personal goals back in perspective - these are goals that are outside of the family life which is, of course, my number one goal. There has to be a little piece of the pie divided out for just you and I have really lost that in the last year - until the last couple of weeks.
I grew up wanting to be a writer - took a huge curveball off the course by majoring in education - and have ended up being paid to be a writer of sorts - technical writing. This is my first step toward having a more creative outlet and for that I am thankful.

Thanks to the inspiration of http://randallfriesen.com/ I got the what might seem crazy idea to stream our Christmas Eve gift giving family event on the web. I got to utilize the webcam on my new laptop and got to brush up on my horrible HTML skills at http://www.geocities.com/barneynoble/. In my defense - I haven't written anything involving HTML since 1997! Cookie cutter web editors have spoiled us!

Our web cam was seen by many people (we had over 600 hits today!). Via the tracking on camstreams and the sitetracker on this blog and the cam page, we saw visits from all over the US and Canada and also the United Kingdom, Finland, and Germany!!
Here are a couple of still frames I captured:


I think a good time was had by all. My wife's family always opens gifts on Christmas Eve while my parents come for Christmas Day. My kids are blessed - the get gifts Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning from Santa, and Christmas before lunch from my folks.

Did I get what I wanted? YES. I got seasons 3 and 4 of Corner Gas (http://www.cornergas.com), which is my favorite show. I also got 2 Corner Gas t-shirts. I'm nicely outfitted and owned by the marketing ploys of CTV.

More than that, we are very fortunate to be close to family and to have made through a crazy year (flip back through the archives to see some of the ups and downs). We are truly blessed and I want to wish each of you who somehow stumble upon this page a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Webcam is Live!

We're up and running. Send me a text message and let me know where you are watching us from. Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Alternate permanent link to the cam:

http://www.geocities.com/barneynoble/

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2 - All prep and no fun

Today was work, work, work. Still having cam problems that I can't figure out. I think I am having network issues. I'll probably have it up and running again tomorrow. I was able to stream live for about 3 hours late this afternoon - it was all Alex the Dog sitting in her little prison waiting for us to come home from church and dinner.
We cleaned - did as much prep for 11 people being here tomorrow as possible. I went to Wal-Mart one final time tonight - I think I have everything we need. If we don't have it, we'll do without it!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

3

Not a whole lot here tonight. I spent most of my blog writing time exploring web streaming. Imitation is the best form of flattery, I hope. Last night, Randall Friesen (http://randallfriesen.com/) streamed his Christmas party live on the net. I thought that was pretty cool. So, I too am going to be experimenting with streaming and hope to have a live embedded stream here on the blog on Christmas Eve of our annual Christmas Eve Present Opening!!!
I'll be testing the stream tomorrow - streaming our dog in her prison like cage (she's been chewing the kids toys lately out of boredom).
Check it out at : http://yorkie9.camstreams.com
Look here for the embedded video Christmas Eve afternoon (between 1-6PM Central Time approx.) More details to come....

Friday, December 21, 2007

4!

We're winding down to Christmas quite fast. Today was Sara's kindergarten party which I attended. I was able to sit in a tiny chair and eat sausage balls. It was no more than controlled chaos. The amazing part was only 5 other kids parents were there. Why is that amazing? We were invited and school started at 8 and let out at 9. Parents actually dropped the kids off and left only to come back 45 minutes later and get back in line to pick them up. Total insanity.

At lunch, we ran to Wal-Mart and bought some Play-Doh. Here are some of our creations:

Can you identify them?

Yep - that's mommy. The tongue sticking out didn't come out too well. I can't take another picture since it has already been molded into something else.

And yes - it is a Play-Doh Toilet!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

5


I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know


It's just not going to happen here for us again this year. There is always the outside and rare chance that the weather could suddenly change and provide us with a White Christmas. The last one I experienced here in Middle Tennessee was in 1992. The forecast was for rain but the temperature suddenly dropped at around 2PM and the snow started to fall. It was barely a half inch but it was the last real White Christmas I saw here. (3 or 4 years ago, some parts of the area had an even smaller dusting. I was not in one of those areas, so to me it does not count!)

My parents house - Christmas Day 1992 - I was younger, thinner, and had better hair.
My '85 Cavalier - long gone, never forgotten!
I did experience one real White Christmas in Cincinnati but there was so much snow that year - the special feeling I would have had was quickly turning into a weary dread. We moved the following summer!


Side note: Elfed the kids and the dog. The kids love it. The dog seems insulted. My friend Lori in sunny Florida inspired me to elf the dog and it is quite mesmerizing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

6 - Arrival of The Elf

Thanks to Andrew, we now have our own personal copy of a book I consider the creepiest Christmas story ever written. Christmas is normally about the lights, good food, family, and fun."The Elf on the Shelf" brings fear as a new tradition of the holidays. Imagine spooking out your kids with an elf that supposedly watches your every move, then flies to the North Pole every night to report the things you've done directly to Santa Claus. Just what every kid wants for Christmas - paranoia!

Lindsay and Sara live in fear of the Elf.

He watches their every move.He sits among the Christmas cards casing the house so he can report on which items Santa should steal.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

7



I am finally getting over the stomach bug that has been with me for the last two days. I'm not sure what brought it on - could just be sinuses. The up and down weather and all of the rain have made for a miserable last week. More good news - today was trash day and I found out that the trash will not run again until the Saturday AFTER Christmas, so I get to sit on a ton of trash for the next 10 days. I guess I'll do it like the country folk and burn it in the back yard. Time to invest in one of those fire pit things!

Just a week to Christmas and with every post I write I prove how boring my life actually is. I could write about frustration with work, but I'd rather leave work for work!

Monday, December 17, 2007

8 : Retail is not as bad as they want us to think

As we fly up on another Christmas, the news is flooded with stories about the disappointing sales at the retailers. It amazes me that no one is shopping and I've seen many theories. The price of gas is through the roof. Grocery prices are skyrocketing. Lead paint has us all in hysteria. Me? I have three probable theories.

We all have a lot of crap and the other big trend these days is to simplify. Oprah recently profiled hoarders. These are the people that buy everything and never throw anything away. A few years ago, we moved from Cincinnati to Nashville and had a huge truck filled to the top. I realized unpacking that we didn't need near the amount of junk we had and I've worked and worked since to have less and less baggage. I've bought only 3 or 4 dvd's in the past year - only 1 cd. What's the point of buying something like that and letting it sit. So, theory #1 - there is a group of people today just sick of accumulating more crap.

Theory #2: It's a load of lies. Retail is in better shape than ever. How do I know? There are stores EVERYWHERE. We have about 25,000 people here in my town and we have a WalMart supercenter, a Big K Mart, Big Lots, Kroger, Publix, Office Max, Radio Shack, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.. When I grew up, life was a bit different. I lived in a similar size town growing up and when you wanted a big store, you drove 20 miles to East Nashville and shopped at exciting places like KMart, Big K, and Zayre.


Of course, we also had the mall and that was reserved for really special shopping (Christmas and Birthdays). See, if we wanted a special item in 1979, we waited for it. Today, that special item is just 4 miles away at WalMart. The temptation is there and we can impulse buy immediately. No need to wait! Charge it! You may be shocked, but getting a credit card in the late 70's and early 80's was just about impossible.

So, we've just diluted the market so badly and we're so impulsive that we've spread the dollars around and we're spending more than ever. Trust me - I didn't have a fourth of what my kids have now when I was growing up and I felt rich compared to some of my friends. The money is out there - but instead of a hand-full of retailers splitting it up, there are hundreds and then factor in the internet. Whoa doggie! Ho ho whoa!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Worst Christmas Album Ever




What can be worse than Barbra Streisand mutilating "Jingle Bells"? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgNSX5YzDSs)




How about the Star Wars Christmas Album? Listen in horror as C3PO sings about the true spirit of Christmas. More proof that droids should stay away from the eggnog...

http://www.i-mockery.com/shorts/starwars-xmas/
There is a link to listen under the second cheesy picture

Saturday, December 15, 2007

10

Today was spent working. Weekends used to be for sitting around and goofing off - not now - now when you are Santa. I spent 2 hours at Wal-Mart - washed 4 loads of clothes - 2 dishwashers full of dishes - installed a new door bell - built a shelf to handle my rapidly expanding collection of work related stuff - and fixed the shower handle that was turning around and around. Finally got to sit down around 8PM.

I bought a "game chair" yesterday, thinking it will be good for sitting in the corner typing out stuff like this and also good for playing the Wii (that is still hidden until Christmas). Alex the dog instantly took it over as her own.
Here are some pictures of the Christmas decorations - taken a couple of weeks ago. Too wet to stand out in the yard and take pictures these days.


Friday, December 14, 2007

11

Today was "take the day off to rush around and finish Christmas shopping" day. This would have been more comfortable if it were not for the huge lunch at Olive Garden. I'm not sure when we will have the time to wrap all of this, but most of the shopping is over. Now we can hunker down and wait for the snow to come tomorrow night!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ho ho ho!


Blog 1 of 12

I realize I need to stop ignoring the blog. I blame my blog shunning on my job. Things have been insane at work lately. There is always a fire to put out - always some new thing to freak out over. I drove to Knoxville for a meeting today and drove back tonight. Nothing like a 300 mile commute to clear your head. I took tomorrow off so I could get some down time. There is a delicate balance between managing a group and managing to drive everyone nuts including yourself and sometimes I feel I am barely hanging in there. Maybe three days of rain, snow, and cold is just what I need to get things back on track!