Well Christmas is officially over in the Casey house. We've taken down the decorations and mastered our day after Christmas sales. We haven't yet opened all of Christian's toys... but we're still working on the "one toy at a time" theory with him, so some toys may remain unopened for a while.

It was a great Christmas. Bekah is devious this time of year, and has spent the last few weeks in purposeful misleading - all to pull off a perfect surprise. Bekah's dad got Bekah's mom what is probably the best Christmas present ever. And, I managed to surprise the most difficult person to buy presents for - my wife.

WORD OF ADVICE: If you ever buy silverware for a significant other, think twice before deciding to wrap each spoon fork and knife individually. It is well worth the look of joy followed by bewilderment - not to mention the 20 minutes of watching the recipient unwrapping the utensils. However, silverware is not easy to wrap. 37 pieces took me an hour of cutting paper and wrapping and taping.

Now that the holiday has passed, we are looking forward to the new year. Bekah and I are working hard to become more organized. Our goals for this next year is to settle into a routine, and get back into shape - focusing on our health a bit more. We'll see how it goes.

Well, one more day before I return to work tomorrow, and I've got a new Dean Koontz book to start reading.


Personality quirks

There is one type of personality trait that bothers me beyond comprehension, annoys the crap out of me, and frustrates every fiber in my body. (did I mention annoy)

You probably know people like this. They stick out like a house fly in a bowl of whip creme. Perhaps they annoy you as they do me. Perhaps you are one of these people - and I am very sorry if this is you.

I can handle megalomaniacs. I can handle uber-nerds. I can handle those whose elevator does not reach the top floor. I can handle religious fanatics and die hard atheists. Skaters, pot-heads, jocks, fashion focused, promiscuous, socially awkward, ambitious, etc. Bring it. I love the diversity of the personalities that I work with.

But there is still that one personality that tests my patience and sanity. The I-know-more-about-everything-than-anybody-else personality. This personality is even more aggravating when coupled with the intense need to prove their superior knowledge of everything. It is especially annoying when said know-it-all does not know it all and is obviously making stuff up.

Call it a character flaw, but when I meet people like this, I have a compulsive urge to humiliate people like this. Does that make me a bad person?


Traditions missed

One of the hardest parts of being married (that I've found) is the melding of traditions from two different families.

My family opened presents on Christmas morning, but Bekah's family did their presents on Christmas Eve. My parents hung our stockings from the wall, and Aaron and I could open them as soon as we woke up Christmas morning (although, we had to wait till mom and dad were awake before we could touch the presents - I think their allowing us to get into the stockings was their strategy to sleep in and not be rudely awakened by excited children). Bekah's family laid their stockings out (covered by a blanket) and everyone dug into their stockings at the same time.

Somehow, we've managed to compromise which Casey family traditions we kept and which traditions were continued from the Forster side of the family. That means there are some traditions that we had to let go. Of the traditions that we did not carry over from our single days - there are two traditions that I miss.

1. Going out for ice cream dressed in shorts and a t-shirt on the first day of snow. This wan't really a Christmas tradition, but a winter tradition. My brother started it, and like many things in our younger days - Aaron was the perfect big brother - he included me. I continued this tradition after I moved to Boise - even to the point that I would wear shorts to work and brought ice cream bars in for my coworkers. I tried to revive this tradition when Bekah and I moved back to Coeur d'Alene; her little sister always wanted to go. But between my work schedule and other commitments we never were able to go.

2. Going to the movies on Christmas Day. I saw a lot of great movies on Christmas. I did the family thing in the morning and stayed at home through Christmas dinner, then I'd take off with friends. This was easier to do when I lived in Boise since I had no family there to share my Christmas. The last movie I saw on Christmas day was Shanghai Knights the Christmas before I got married. Bekah has not completely nixed this tradition... we still go to a movie every Christmas, just not on Christmas day.

We are still trying to forge our own Christmas identity. I think each year we have a more clear family tradition of our own. I'm curious what it will be like to watch our kids go through this same transition in another 20 years or so.


10 Things I Learned Last Night @ the ER

10. The medical staff does have a sense of humor. They asked me the routine questions: are you allergic to any medication, does your family of history of heart problems, do you smoke, do you drink, etc. When they got to the question do you do cocaine? I answered - not to my knowledge. I didn't intend for my answer to be funny - but the nurses thought it was hilarious.

9. Travis (not sure if he was a doctor or RN or ???) looked like Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Nice guy. Travis said he would make my EKG machine stop beeping as long as I promised to "not die."

8. I still don't like needles.

7. Having an IV in your hand is not pleasant. I told Bekah - if I get some terminal illness that requires me to be poked and prodded and plugged into a bunch of tubes and IVs, just let me die.

6. However, I do like the smell of the oxygen tubes they stick up your nose.

5. EKGs and chest hair are a bad combination.

4. When you overhear two doctors talking in the hallway, one doctor uses the term "psychotic" and the other says "neurotic," you know the diagnosis does not look good for the patient they're discussing.

3. I'm not sure what kind of drugs they gave me, but that was some good stuff. It made me really happy. It also made me really funny... if only to myself.

2. Doctors consider any blood pressure to be good. High, low, doesn't matter. If you have blood pressure, it's a good thing. Consider the alternative.

1. There is nothing wrong with me. They gave me a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, it takes longer for them to discharge you than it does to admit you.


Interesting e-mail of the day

From: Fellow Trainer
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:32 AM
To: Training Staff
Subject: Classroom 4

Say team
The cleaning gal just ask that we keep the door to Classroom 4 closed at all times today. Seems there is a big black cat in the ceiling and they are trying to get it.

* * * *

For the record, I have no idea how a big black cat got stuck in the ceiling. Neither does out maintenance man. (not to mention how the cat even got in the building)


The Real Reason for the Season

(originally posted 12/21/06 on my other blog What's Inside)

It seems the Christmas advertising season starts two days earlier than it did the year before. That is two extra days a year of hearing songs about Frosty, Rudolph, mistletoe, and holly. Two extra days of red, green, & white decorations, and Salvation Army bells ringing across the nation. Two extra days for all of the seasonal Santas to wear their red suits. Two more days for hearing about peace, joy, and the good news of Jesus’ birth, along with the complaints “it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet." And two more days of panic for dietitians and procrastinators.

Christmas is my wife’s favorite holiday. She loves the deep sense of family traditions, and the budding philanthropist within her finds no deeper satisfaction than giving gifts to her closest friends, family, and the occasional stranger in need. She longs all year for the apple pie, laughter, winter snow, the smell of evergreen, and - most importantly - the curious excitement that comes with the celebration of Christmas.

Yet, somehow, in all of the commercial endeavors, the difficulty finding parking spaces at the mall, and the inescapable business of the holidays... we miss the real reason for the season. We get caught up in the worry of buying presents in time, and picking the perfect wrapping paper. We occupy ourselves with lists: food lists, wish lists, mailing lists. We bury ourselves in traditions: the nativity scene, Christmas Eve church services, carols, gift exchanges. What is this for? What is Christmas about?

The Christmas story is (for some of us) a familiar and treasured story. But to really grasp what God intends for us during holiday season, we have to dig deeper. We must look beyond the shepherds, the manger, the gifts of the magi, and the inn with no room. We discover the reason for Christmas before Joseph and Mary even travel to Bethlehem.

Of all the people involved, I think Mary’s reaction best describes what Christmas is about. In the first chapter of Luke, we read about Mary’s encounter with an angel. She has been told that she was with child and would give birth to a son. In verse 38, Mary says “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” Mary was not asked a simple favor, but given a daunting task and a lifetime of unanswered questions. Yet her bold response echoes the greatest gift we could ever give to our God.

I am your servant, do as You will. Such an act of faith can not be possible with out an assurance. In verse 37, the angel eased Mary’s confusion and fears “Nothing is impossible with God.”

The holiday season is not always the easiest time of year. For many, it lacks joy. The stress of the holidays overshadows the joy of Christmas. But God does not intend for us to suffer through the most wonderful time of the year. When you are facing the first holiday after losing someone close to you, or your first Christmas away from home; when you are stranded at an airport because of a blizzard; when you are panicking about whether or not you will blow your diet, or mail out Christmas cards in time; remember, with God all things are possible. It is up to us to reply, “I am Yours, may you do as you have promised.”

And what has God promised us. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)


Good morning, Starbucks

Has anybody noticed any trends in Starbucks’ morning patronage? It seems (at least to me) that the majority of morning customers in the drive through are women, while men are the majority inside the coffee shop.


Could it because of the predominantly female Starbucks staff? Hmmm.


I’ve been Memed

I’ve been tagged with the instructions to blog 10 weird, random things, facts, habits or goals about myself (thanks Sarah). At the end, I’m supposed to tag 10 other bloggers to do the same thing, but I don’t have 10 other bloggers to tag. So, I’ll leave it open to whoever wants to continue the meme. So here it goes…

1. I love singing and playing guitar; I do not claim to be good at either.
2. If I found a magic lamp with a wish-granting genie inside, one of my three wishes would be the ability to imitate anybody's voice.
3. Three is my favorite number.
4. I desperately need a haircut, but I will not get a haircut until I decide whether I want to grow it out or go with a faux hawk. Getting a mullet is not an option.
5. I have never had any desire to go to Hawaii. However, I would love to visit Antarctica.
6. I enjoy a good game of Yahtzee.
7. I used to think that the world’s worst math teachers were employed at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Then I went to college.
8. I eat way too much fast food.
9. I sometimes wonder if I’m ever going to finish the novel I’m writing.
10. If I had things my way, all of my old friends from Boise would move up here. That way I could still hang out with them, but I wouldn’t have to go to Boise to see them. (And, just for good measure, Sarah would move back here from Texas.)

If you complete this meme and blog about 10 weird, random things, facts, habits or goals about yourself, please leave me a comment so that I can laugh at… I mean go read you 10 things.


Snowfall & Sunshine

This is what I love about winter: crisp blue skies above a new layer of snow (just enough snow to transform the ordinary scenery into something magical, but not enough to be a nuisance). There’s a crispness in the air – cold, but not frigid. It’s refreshing. The sunshine brings a brightness often forgotten during winter; like finding hope amidst ruin.

It reminds me of my childhood… well, kind of. Growing up in Seattle, fresh and clean snow under pure azure skies would have been an oddity, if not a rarity. The weather in Seattle slushed more often than it snowed, and the somber clouds always lingered. So today’s weather doesn’t remind me of Puget Sound winters of yesteryear, but of the winters of my youthful dreams (I have always wanted snow for Christmas). It was that picture perfect postcard kind of snow that I longed for.

Like finding hope amidst ruin.

I’ve always felt at peace when it snowed; the world seems quieter. There is a tranquility that can be found in an unadulterated blanket of snow – a stillness that we all long for. In the hectic day-to-day chaos that dominates our culture, such serenity is desperately needed.

It is because of that quite desperation, I find this time of year so exciting – reinvigorating. Like finding hope amidst ruin.


musical genius

The Ruin of the Beast by Steven Delopoulos
I miss Burlap to Cashmere


Riding the short bus

We trainers have a short bus is an award we pass around at work. Well, actually... it's not a bus. It's a foam stress reliever in the shape of a van. It has "for special friends only" written on the side.

How is this an award? Well, the short bus is given to someone who does (or says) something exceedingly stupid. If the employee of the month gets a prime parking spot, the dunce gets a trophy... er... short bus. Once in possession of the short bus, the only way to get rid of it is for someone else to earn it.

Now let me explain a few things:
1. It is all good natured/out of love and respect
2. It started as a practical joke on a trainee who frequently asked ridiculously stupid questions
3. I have never been awarded the short bus (and I hope to keep it like that)
4. The short bus is only passed between the trainers; most of our employees posses no knowledge of our humorous escapades in the basement
5. The current owner of the short bus has had it longer than any of the previous owners

Today, the current owner was able to relinquish possession of the short bus.

We had soup and dinner rolls for lunch; all of us we impressed with the food. In a conversation about lunch, one of our trainers wanted to compliment part of the meal.

"What are the bread thingies called?" she asked.

"Rolls?!?" the other three of us spoke in near unison. Then laughed.

Congratulations, we have found a new owner for the short bus. (only she doesn't want it, and she can't wait to get rid of it)


Driver's Med

Are all of the doctors at Kootenai Medical Center pushy, reckless, and aggressive drivers? I drive by Big Blue on my commute to work; each of the last three times I've turned onto Ironwood from 95, I have followed (or been followed by) a vehicle turning into KMC's staff only parking. This morning, the car in front of me dangerously cut off a large freight truck. On previous mornings, I've seen erratic lane changes (without blinkers), failure to yield, excessive speeding, inattentive driving, and running a red light - often close to causing an accident. Without fail, each traffic offender turns into the KMC staff parking lot.

You would think that the medical staff at the primary hospital in North Idaho would be so used to seeing the carnage caused by such aggressive driving habits. One might also think that having seen the consequences - they might be a little tamer in their own driving.

Since the only time I have (recently) seen drivers enter the KMC staff parking area, I must assume that these reckless drivers are a fair representation of KMC's staff.

I probably Should not single out KMC. I have noticed similar driving habits in bulk from other major employers. Employees at the Hewlett Packard between Lake Stevens and Marysville (Seattle area) were frequent offenders - one HP employee drove into oncoming traffic on Highway 9 to pass me (in the left-hand turn lane), merged into my lane (forcing me to the shoulder), then ran the red light turning into HP. When I moved to Boise, I observed the same habits from employees at the Hewlett Packard Training Centre in Meridian.

Is there something about certain employers that causes employees to abandon all common sense when driving on wet, slushy, and icy roads?


Holiday treats

Other than snow, what could make the holiday season any better? The treats.

Now, I know that this is a rough time of year for dieters and health food fanatics - but what would Christmas be with out the goodies?

My all time favorite Christmas treat is something my mom called reindeer fodder. Mmmm. Yummy stuff. Reindeer fodder consists of a mixture of Capt'n Crunch, peanuts, and marshmallows blended into melted white chocolate (or almond bark). The whole glob of goo is spread out onto cookie sheets, hardened in the fridge and then broken into little pieces. Of course, I don't like peanuts so my mom always made two batches: one with nuts and one minus nuts for me.

A bowl full of reindeer fodder and a glass of eggnog - and I'm a happy man.

There are various recipes on the net. Ingredients vary: some call for additional cereal flavors like Crispix or Cheerios, and extra ingredients like raisins or pretzels. It's good stuff; if you've never had any before I highly recommend trying it out this year.