Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

With just five minutes left in 2010, I would like to take a moment to wish all of our friends and family a very happy new year. We wish you all the best in 2011.

God speed as the new year is upon us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Just what is the real meaning of Christmas?

So, here we are, six days away from the big day. It seems that this year, I have heard more and more people complain that they can't wait for Christmas to be over. I know that this season has become very hectic with all of the parties and shopping and doings and goings, but is it really that different from any number of other weekends throughout the year?

Honestly, I don't think that it is. I think that it has just become fashionable to dis Christmas.

But beyond that, I think there are deeper issues. Even the most adamant shopper among us would be hard pressed to say that presents are the meaning of Christmas. There are those who would claim the holiday as a time to focus on family and friends, but then, we should change the name to Friendsmas or Kinsmas. No, as the name implies, Christmas is about the Christ. We have all seen the motto knit on a Christmas sweater, "Jesus is the reason for the season".

But as I think about it, I wonder if even then, We are not getting the whole meaning of Christmas. Is it really all about the birth of Jesus, or is there something more? I think that there is.

The baby Jesus came to earth for a reason. Even as a baby there was a purpose to His coming. Unlike you or me, Jesus' never had to ask what He wanted to do with His life. Thousands of years before he was born, circumstances were set in motion that would determine His life on earth. He came as the savior, not a mentor, a teacher or a good example. He did not even come as a savior, he came as THE savior. The only one, ever. He came to die on the cross and redeem all of humanity. I think that is the meaning of Christmas, that God Himself came to earth in the form of a helpless baby, with the intent purpose of saving you and I from the mess we have made of our lives.

When you look at Christmas in that light, it is a pretty amazing holiday with a rather impressive meaning. I hope that maybe, this Christmas, as you hustle through the maze of shopping centers and sweat through the cooking of your holiday meals, that you will stop and contemplate what Christmas is all about. Is it about friends, family, a the birth of a little baby, or is it the beginning of the most amazing plan ever, designed by the Maker of Heaven and Earth Himself, to restore you and I to an amazing relationship with Him.

Well, regardless as the rest of you fly through the season, stressing over what to get Uncle Herbert or trying to arange the table so the Aunt Merfurd doesn't have to sit next to Uncle Boobert's twenty year old girlfriend, I am going to do my best to show my world what the real reason the season is.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tenure... Or sixure, actually sevenure. But who's counting

Me, that's who.

Do you remember what you were doing in August of 2005? Personally, I had just given notice at work that I would be leaving within a week. I put our house on the market and it sold in under 24 hours. Kerri and the kids had left town a week ahead of me, and I was supposed to clear out the house and close up shop in El Paso, Texas.

For some time I had been seeking a job with a little more meaning than I had found in the commercial real estate industry. It seems I had found out about one such possibility located in a little pecan tree covered town on the high desert of Southeastern New Mexico. Here, nestled along the Pecos river, at a branch campus of New Mexico State University they were starting up a new film and animation program and they needed an instructor. I had interviewed and they liked me, so now in the period of just under two weeks, I was going to be standing in front of 25 big scary college students, armed with nothing more than a syllabus and something called a rubric. (No, I was not the most attentive college student, I don't remember syllabi and rubrics were definitely foreign to me)

That was six years ago. Six... Academic years ago. New years day for me is now August 13 or 14 when school starts each fall. Every job has it's important dates. For college faculty, its the three and six year mark. At three years you apply for promotion from instructor to assistant professor and then three years later you apply for associate professor and at the same time, you are eligible for tenure. That is where I am today, or at least that is where I was until 11:58AM MST, when I finished the three binders each three inches thick and filled to the brim with the totality of my activity over the last six years. As I set it on the VP's desk, I had hoped to hear a chorus of hallelujahs or something spectacular, but I heard nothing but the dull thud of my binders as they plunked onto the desk. Afterwards, I turned and walked back to my office, where I spent the remainder of the day filling out reports on student performance and assessment (and playing a game or two of Deer Hunter 3D on the iPad). Now here it is at ten o'clock at night and it still hasn't really sunk in that I have just completed what is probably the most important document of a faculty members career. I guess knowing that I will have to wait until Spring to find out the results of the committee, dampens things a bit, but I had kind of hoped for the chorus thing to happen.

It is a relief to have that turned in, to be sure. I will not know if tenure has been granted until May at the earliest. The packets need to be reviewed by our local Promotion and Tenure committee and then sent to Las Cruces to be reviewed again by the main campus. Then they will tell our president, who I imagine will in turn, tell me. I hope.

Tenure is not a sure thing, and the denial of it means that I receive a one year terminal contract and then am out of a job. While the kind of job security found as a faculty member is unheard of in the corporate world, it is still a bit unnerving to think that I could be forced to look for work if they don't like this one document. It would mean uprooting my family, pulling the kids from school and selling the little house that inspired the name of this blog.

So, this Christmas, if you are wondering what to get me, if you are seeking that perfect gift and money is no object*, what I really want more than anything else in the whole wide world, would be a prayer or maybe two for favor in the eyes of the Promotion and Tenure committee and powers that be, both here and in Las Cruces.

(* in our house money really is no object. It is more of a concept, an idea, an abstract sort of thing that we can almost feel as it swooshes into our account on payday and then, just as fast it is gone.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

She loves the smell of crepes in the morning

From childhood I have known that cooking was not going to be a passion for me. I developed a love of Ramen noodles mostly because of their ease of cooking. When I left for college, I moved into the dorms and quickly signed up for the meal plan. Then after a summer on my own, surviving on pop tarts and um... pop tarts, I moved in with Ms. Barbara Naul. Ms. Naul cooked eggs, sausage and biscuits each morning and served lamb chops and steaks for dinner. In short, I made it through five years of college without ever having to cook a meal. Ms. Naul didn't cook on Wednesday night, so I went scrounging for a cooked meal at my beautiful and talented girlfriend's house. A year later as that same beautiful lady agreed to become my wife, I moved into the apartment that we would live in after the wedding. Kerri came over to see me after I had moved in and after checking the cupboards, quizzically asked where my pots, utencils and plates were? The truth is that I had none and was forced to borrow a pot and fork from her until she moved in as my wife. After a few lessons, I became proficient in boiling water and soon was able to prepare a rather tasty meal of mac and cheese without any assistance what-so-ever,(except for the complex set of instructions on the box).

I have evolved some, and am actually in charge of making eggs on weekday mornings for my family. I can even cook sausage if pressured to do so. Now, I know that for those of you who enjoy posting articles about how you have discovered some small Italian shop that sells the secret ingredient to your exotic organic recipe for your world renowned home made bread, this may not seem that amazing. But trust me, it is tremendous growth in this man's life.

In fact, last Saturday, instead of making pancakes (from a mix), I decided to try and make something that I remember my dad making for my mom, when I was a little kid... Crepes. To my amazement, both the recipe and the cooking method are infinitely more simple than those ornerus pancakes. It was almost enjoyable, and that same beautiful and talented girlfriend from earlier in this article absolutely loves them. Bonus!

Today is veterans day, a Thursday, and we are off of school today. Since Kerri has started teaching, weekends and days off have become much more precious to her and at six thirty this morning I was pounced on and told to get up and make her crepes. I did not mind. The look on her face as she sits in her spot at our restaurant like booth of a dining room table was worth it. No amount of money could entice me to take a job as a chef (what a miserable existence that would be) but I will gladly wake early every Saturday and slave over a hot stove to make crepes if I am rewarded with a smile from my bride.

Surveys show that fewer and fewer families actually sit down to a meal anymore. Maybe we have gotten too busy with both work and entertainment to enjoy the finer things in life, or maybe a few husbands just need to see the look on their wife's face when they make crepes for breakfast.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Little Red Piggy Banks

It's a beautiful morning outside today. I know this because I can see it, just five yards away, through the double glass doors of the Eddy County Fair Grounds' Exhibition Building. I am not outside in the sun because, I am manning the booth at the Eddy County Fair for New Mexico State University Carlsbad until just past lunch today.

I am alone in this endeavor, and it is fairly quiet on this last day of the fair. The Exhibition Building is a large room, not unlike an elementary school cafeteria with red white and blue cloth dividers set up between the twenty or so booths that line the hall. There is a voters registration booth, the Republicans of Eddy County, two or three leather goods booths, a concession stand, and a variety of knick knack dealers and the local Hospice representative. Our booth sits between the Hospice and an empty five minute massage booth. I am writing this blog on my iPad while sitting on one of three small folding chairs. There are sundry boxes of applications, flyers and promotional items, most of which are stuffed loosely under a wobbly six foot long folding table which has been covered with black cloth. We have the usual promotional items, fall class schedules, bookmarks, GED applications and such. It is a pleasant was to spend a Saturday, though I'd much rather the venue be outside like a "real" county fair. I don't begrudge in the least, the opportunity to act as the face of the University for a few hours. Who knows, maybe I'll even convince someone to enroll at NMSU Carlsbad today. In truth, I enjoy watching folks stroll, roll and limp by. It is a funny thing to observe people... especially how people react to free stuff.

Among the promotional items on the table are the usual branded pens, LED key rings and plastic loot bags. Some years ago, for some strange reason, someone saw fit to print the NMSU logo on the side of little translucent red piggy banks. These pigs wouldn't hold a roll of nickels and if I were a gambling man, I'd call it a safe bet that the sum of all the pigs we've distributed, (and we have given out a rumen full over the years), haven't seen a collective three dollars. The things just aren't all that useful. But I guess they're cute... I don't see it, but apparently there are a lot of folks who do.

Right now would be an ideal spot to launch into a rant about Americans and their obsession with stuff. In truth, I figure if a person is using their own money and I am not obliged to give up money or shelf space for it, let them collect junk until it falls out of their ears.

I don't care why people are so drawn to these little pigs. What strikes me as odd is the manner in which they do it. Like paupers who have come upon the rarest treasure they swoop down on my table. Usually they are older ladies who laugh when you ask them if they are interested in classes, so we can assume that they are not going to save coins for college in their little treasures. I don't know what people will do with these little piggies. Maybe it is like Halloween and Trick or Treating, you don't really care what you get as long a you get. Twice today I have had to ask folks to take just one. And when I ask, they quickly set the one (or three) down, hard, like a caught thief and then they glare at you. But to the other pig, the one in their other hand, they cling to like my children cling to me during a lightning storm. These pig conisours rarely say a word, and usually make a hasty retreat, clutching their remaining pig tight to their chest, or stowing it safely in their loot bag. It leaves you thinking, "Hmmm."

It's not all that odd, in the grand scheme of human oddities, but it is interesting and a bit funny to see how attached we can get to a trinket that will probably collect more dust than anything else in it's lifetime. One might expect to see the yard sale market flooded with these little red pigs in the near future, but I imagine that more likely, folks will not part with their treasures in this life. Maybe we will see them on the Antique Roadshow, some fifty years from now, worth more money than you or I'll pull in this year. Maybe.

I think I will go and de-clutter the garage.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

Last summer, on a visit to the Sunny State of California, while shuffling through our good friend's book shelves, I came across a copy of "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt". I am a little embarrassed to say that I was mezmorized by the book, because it has taken me over a year to read it. In truth though, it has been one of the best books that I have read in a long time. Nothing has yet come close to "Sam and the Firefly" or "The Fat Cat" and "Wild at Heart" was a good read, but this was a really good book.I am by any calculation a slow reader, and this is book, which contains just over 800 pages was no exception. over the last year, between soccer games, lawn mowings and various trips to the "here and there", usually out on the front deck, I would read two or three pages at a time... more when the future President was hunting bears or tracking outlaws and less when he was reforming legislation as a commissioner or elected offical.

Tonight though, as the kids were engrossed in a Disney movie and Kerri zipped through another novel (she is the speed demon of readers), I finally finished the book. In a little motel just off of the interstate, in the middle of Louisiana, as the rain fell outside my window, I completed the final four page Epilogue. Amazed at my small accomplishment and at the power of the final paragraph, I read it three times to myself, before reading it aloud once to my wife. I don't know how impressed she was, but I sure was.

Afterwards, fairly anti-climatically, I set the book on the table, momentarily satisfied with myself, knowing that I will probably never pick it up again.

I am not an avid reader, I read slowly, comprehend even more so and am often distracted by small ambient sounds and sights to the point that I have to re-read entire sections three times or more. With a beautiful wife and three wonderful kids vying for my attention, there is little motivation to set aside the time it takes to digest a book worth digesting. However, I am glad that I set aside the time to complete this book, I recommend it to you, it is a very good book. But even if this is not the book for you, I think it would do you good to search for a good read, something to stretch the mind a bit. Doing something a little bigger than you think yourself capable is a good thing, even if it is just a book.

I already have the next book purchased. I have no illusions, I may never make it past chapter one. But maybe in another year or so, you will find me here, rather proud of myself again, singing the praises of " A Patriots History of the United States".

Just maybe

Friday, May 7, 2010

She Did It!!!

In my last post I mentioned that Kerri had passed her graduate test and only had to complete the coursework required to graduate. Well, she did and is now ready to graduate. Her cap, gown and hood arrived and she turned in her last paper. It was a wonderful moment as she hit SEND and the paper whooshed silently into cyberspace. It was actually a little anti-climactic... I was expecting Vivaldi to play, balloons to pop up or something, but silence was the sound we heard as we starred at the blank screen in wonderment at the consequences of that little push of the button.

Tonight she will walk across the stage and receive her degree and be hooded. I am very proud of her and though I have probably not been the most supportive husband over the last five years, I never doubted her determination or ability to pull off what is an amazing accomplishment under normal circumstances. Kerri was able to manage straight A's all through her degree and be a wonderful mom, husband and daughter.

Probably the best part is that, as a Professor at NMSU, I will be there on stage with her as she receives her degree. I have been given the honor of presenting her with the hood at the ceremony, Maybe I will even be able to recite my poem! I doubt it though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The results are in...

When I took the position as instructor at NMSU Carlsbad, one of the perks was that my family receives six credits free each semester. This means that Kerri has, over the last few years, made significant progress towards earning a Masters degree in Education, with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction.

She has made so much progress towards earning that degree that she is in serious danger of graduating this spring! She even went so far as to complete the four hour Master's exam a few weeks ago.

Well just yesterday, she received notice that she passed. While we never doubted her abilities, we are very proud of her. She has managed to maintain a 4.0 grade average throughout the degree, which has not been easy.

There are plenty of smart people out there, and I'm sure that if you were inclined to look, you might find a few good lookers out there. But rare are the women who possess the poise, beauty and intelligence of my lovely bride.

I am one lucky dog.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weeds + Kids = a Nice Yard

This week is Spring Break in Carlsbad and in order to celebrate, we have planned... nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Squat. Zippo. Nothing!

I know that may not sound like much fun to you, but since Kerri started school, I started teaching, and the kids started... well, being kids and playing soccer, singing, piano, student council, science fair, basketball, jumprope club, band and so much more, a little nothing is just what the doctor ordered.

Yesterday, after Church, we besieged the backyard with gloves and rakes and shovels. No leaf was left unbagged, no pecan left unpicked, no weed was left unplucked. and in the end, though there is little grass and the paths that the dogs have worn are still unlevel, the back yard is a pleasant place to be.

Sometimes, in our busy lives, working inside under the life sapping glow of florescent lighting, listening to the eternal hum of electrical appliances, printers and computers, we forget the great peace that can be found in the the silence of the outdoors.

Come Monday, they will come for me, looking to drag me back indoors. This week however, I am king, or maybe prince, of my own backyard. The King is the one who sends the sun that makes the backyard beautiful, and I am so greatful to Him for that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mighty Large Hail

Here Ruthie Roo waits patiently to see if I will put the hail down her brother's shirt.

Growing up in central New Mexico, the only hail I ever saw as a child was the small stuff, the size of peas or maybe marbles once or twice. Mind you, it hurt, but after getting hit a few times, the wisest among us learned that the best way to avoid the pain was to stay inside. Eventually, even I learned that inside was the best place to be in a hail storm.

We lived in a large house with a tin roof, so even the small stuff was sounded awfully impressive, but I don't remember ever losing a window or a cat to hail.

I have seen larger hail on television and recently my uncle's house, in the center of the state, was pummeled to the point that cars were totaled and siding was destroyed. The pictures looked impressive, but I don't guess it really sank home.

Long time Carlsbad residents tell stories of softball or golfball sized hail, which I had always guessed was smaller hail that had been run through a fish story or two, but last night for first time, I experienced hail that I worried might have the power to break glass. Not the size of basketballs, mind you, but larger than I had ever seen.

The picture above was taken moments after the hail stopped. I gathered a sampling of the hail and took a picture with my phone. It measures about 3/4s of an inch and the cracking noise it made as it glanced off the windows sounded like a baseball connecting with a bat.

I'd have to say that regardless of the size, the sound is much more impressive on corrugated tin than anything else, but the whack whacking on the glass was pretty cool. The cool part being the fact that no windows were lost.

Moments after it began, it was over and deathly silent. Within five minutes, the skies were clearing and we saw nothing more through the night.

I checked early this morning and the hail was gone. There were no signs of pitting on the vehicles, though the hail removed the majority of the remaining pecans from the trees and the streets were brown from dislodged hulls and branches. Driving to work at 7AM, there were drifts of hail along the shoulders, but by 9AM when I emerged from the classroom they were gone.

I often dream of replacing my indoor teaching job, computers, pressed shirts and paved roads for land, a ranch house and cattle or maybe a farm. Some days a post hole digger and miles of fence to string sound more appealing than program reviews, Chairing department meetings and such. Last night left me wondering, how many cow hands have had the sense knocked out of (or into) them while riding herd on a stormy night.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

And the winner is...

This last Saturday at around three in the morning, Kerri and I jumped into the van and proceeded to follow a CMS school bus containing our son, to Portales, New Mexico for Southeastern New Mexico Science Fair. Nathan's project on robotic edge detection technology had advanced from the city level and though Kerri and I were excited about his accomplishment, I think Nathan was more focused on a bus trip out of town with twenty to thirty other tweenagers.

As a side note, I do not envy the bus driver or sponsors who had to ride on the bus with the kids.

Aside from the main focus of the event... FREETIME! Nathan had to stand by his project for two hours and answer questions from a host of scientists, engineers and college professors serving as the fair's judges. In the end, Nathan came away with one of five awards presented by the United States Navy, a medal and certificate from the U.S. Army and Second place overall in the Engineering category at the fair.

We are very proud of him and look forward to traveling to Socorro for the State Science Fair this spring. Once again, we will be traveling in our own, quiet vehicle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Has anyone seen the ancestors lately?

Sarah came home from school with a geneology project to work on. As she and Kerri mulled over the particulars, they came across a requirement that Sarah interview her family and write about some of the stories and traditions therein.

Kerri suggested that Sarah talk with her Grandmothers Christensen and Fincher. Sarah scrumpled up her little face, tilted her head and after a short, thoughtful pause, she informed her mother that... no, in fact, Mrs. Houston had specifically told them to talk to the actual ancestors.

hmmmm no.

Kerri and I both agreed that in all likelihood, it was Sarah who had misheard her teacher, and after a bit of gentle persuasion on our behalf, we think Sarah agrees.

But I don't think she is really convinced yet. Not really convinced.