Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!



We hope this note finds each of you happy and healthy. We have been truly enjoying this Christmas season and are thrilled to currently find ourselves in the midst of a foot or two of snow with more on the way. We made the trip to Michigan this past weekend (about a twenty hour drive), and have been enjoying the snow -and family, of course- ever since (we don't get much cold weather in Wichita Falls!). The picture above is our "Christmas card". We opted to send it through blog and email to save a little money. You can click the image to view it full size.

The past year has been new and interesting. This is our second year of marriage, which has been quite the adventure. We don't know if we could have ever predicted all that marriage would be, but it is a blessing to be happily in the midst of it. We are still living in Wichita Falls, Texas and will be for about the next two years. The area of Texas in which we live is not our favorite climate, but there are a few recreational opportunities that make it enjoyable. We love to camp and mountain bike, so we have started a tradition of camping and biking at Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo each spring. The canyon is beautifully filled with colorful cactus, wildflowers, and red rock formations. There are some biking trails closer to our home as well as nearby in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, where we also enjoy camping. In the sweltering summer months though, we find refuge on the lake in the boat we bought last summer. We go there as much as possible and are lucky that the boating season in Texas lasts from May through October! We were also able to spend a wonderful week in Colorado this summer. We were a part of Beth's wedding, and also backpacked through Rocky Mountain National Park for a few days. It is always great to be back there!

Last fall Matt began his T-37 "Tweet" FAIP (first assignment instructor pilot) assignment at Sheppard AFB. He started teaching his first flight of students last January and is now beginning his third flight of students. He comes home every night with great stories about all the crazy manuevers the students tried to pull. Basically it is the perspective Brooke never heard when Matt was in pilot training, as now the roles are reversed! Matt also started a masters degree in Aeronautical Science through Embry Riddle this summer. Overall, Matt is really enjoying teaching the new students, is proud to be a part of the 89th flying training squadron, and is thrilled to have flown over 500 hours in his first year on the line. Oh, one more thing, Matt expects to go to transition training for the T-6 (the new trainer plane that is gradually replacing the T-37) in March. He will be in San Antonio for about two months to complete the training.

Brooke has been teaching two-year-olds at School for Little People since we moved to Wichita Falls. This fall she has also aided for a four-year-old class at the school. It has been a really good experience, and she has learned so much about children and education. She really hopes to teach elementary school, though, which is why she began a teacher preparation program through the state of Texas in August. The program lasts less than a year, and consists of a set of classes, which she finished in November, and student teaching, which begins in January. Brooke will student teach at Sheppard Elementary (the on-base school) in both kindergarten and first grade classes. She is really looking forward to this change, and hopes to land a teaching job next fall.

Through all the seasons of the year and changes in our lives, it is the peace and joy of Christ that sustains us. In Him we gain strength to live and love based on His example. This freedom is invigorating and freeing. We pray you, too, carry it with you always.

Much love and God bless,
Matt and Brooke Keilen

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Peach-Berry Betty



I made this delicious dessert last week. I was looking for a way to use up all the extra rolls from Thanksgiving. I had made whole wheat rolls, and since we ate about two, there were about 22 left over! I froze them, which is a good thing because they were perfect for this "dessert" -as the cook book calls it- that I think counts as a great breakfast!! Here is the recipe if you would like to try it.

Ingredients:
3 cups fresh red raspberries or one 12-ounce package frozen red raspberries (I used one 10-ounce package of frozen blackberries.)
2 cups sliced, peeled peaces or frozen unsweetened peach slices (I used one 10-ounce package frozen peach slices.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (right, where do you find this?) or 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (that's better;)
5 cups soft whole wheat bread cubes (about 7 slices)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Directions:
1. Thaw berries and peaches, if frozen. Do not drain. For filling, in a large mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, and ginger. Add berries, peaches, and their juices; toss to coat. Add 2 cups of the bread cubes; toss gently till combined. Transfer filling to an ungreased 2-quart square baking dish.

2. For topping, place remaining bread cubes in a medium mixing bowl. Drizzle with melted butter or margarine; toss to coat. Sprinkle topping over fruit filling. Bake in a 375 degree oven about 30 minutes or till fruit is tender and topping is golden. If desired, serve warm with whipped cream. Makes 6 servings.

3. Note: the rolls I used were rather dry (that's probably why we only ate two!) so I drizzled about 1/4 cup of water over the top layer of bread cubes before putting it in the oven. I also sprinkled about 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top. It was delicious!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oh, the anticipation



About once per month our church bulletin contains an insert called "Growing in Faith". This week's insert is about advent, and the advice therein was inspiring. It is all about keeping peace in your mind and heart during this time that can be a frenzy. Here is a glimpse of what it said.



It started with this quote from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "[Christianity] does not call us to abandon the world, but to help shape it. This does not mean leaving worldly tasks and responsibilities, but transforming them".
  • Giving handmade gifts is a way to show our love and honor the artisans who make them at the same time. Your gift-giving dollars also support good causes and the artisans who made the things you choose.
  • Include in your Christmas cards a note about the blessings you have received this year. Not only will your friends and family enjoy reading about your good news, your card will be a testament to God's loving care.
  • To increase the excitement and anticipation of Christmas, set up your tree, put on the lights, but don't decorate it. Instead, add one ornament a day throughout Advent. On Christmas Eve, add the rest and light the tree on Christmas morning.
  • Advent is exactly the right time to reflect on the ways we can honor God. Make a heartfelt confession and decide to start fresh. Reconciliation will let you greet Christmas with a heart full of peace and joy.
  • While you are cleaning out closets or sorting laundry, make a phone call to someone you haven't seen in a while.
  • Pick a bad habit you would like to kick and resolve to do it during Advent. Offer your sacrifice as a birthday gift to the Savior at Christmas.
  • Remember to make time during advent for quiet prayer and reflection. The graces you receive from the time you spend with God will be your gift for Christmas.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. These snowy pictures are not from here, by the way, though they are calling for snow today. The low is only supposed to be 35 degrees. They really need to learn that the freezing point is absolute; snow cannot happen at 35, not even in Texas:) Anyways, the pictures are from the cottage in Elk Rapids. The one above is the frozen over lake and the one above that is in the front yard. Much love!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree . . .



Our little Christmas tree is, well, little. Given the size of our apartment and the fact that a regular-size tree would have to travel up to the second floor though, this one is perfect. I have had this little tree since college when Cindy sent it to me during my freshman year. Thanks, Cindy:)



And little though it may be, there is no lack of gifts underneath it. This is our pile of presents to bring home with us (in two weeks!). Sorry guys, no peeking!



The stockings hung with care. Is that how the song goes? I've been trying to remember the words to all the Christmas carols to sing with the children at school. Usually the words escape me, so we mostly sing the chorus of Jingle Bells . . . a lot! The sweet two-year-olds know it by heart.



In other news, my muffler was in pretty bad shape. The fastener rusted through - again. It and some of the exhaust pipe rusted through a few years ago in Fort Collins, too, and the whole muffler fell off while I was driving down the street! Beth, do you remember? Anyways, Matt said it sounded like a semi when I was driving down the road. In fact, he could hear me start my car from our apartment, which is on the second floor and opposite side of the building from the parking lot. So Matt sawed through some rusty pipes and clamps and detached the old muffler. He put on a shiny new one and repaired the exhaust pipe, which was just about dragging on the ground. I don't have a picture of the new muffler. Just imagine bright silver shining out from underneath the car and that new car sound.

P.S. Matt has done two more fly overs. One was a few days before Thanksgiving in Colorado Springs. He was part of a fourship that flew over the Air Force Academy for the Commandant's Challenge. He said they flew over Garden of the Gods (a place with beautiful red/orange rock formations). They even flew right around Pikes Peak. He said it was awesome! I wish I could have seen it! Matt got to do another fly over yesterday. He and five other guys flew to Tampa, Florida. They flew their threeship over the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Championship football game, which was Virginia Tech and Boston College. They even got to sit down on the field for part of the game. The T-37s are almost out of commission so they have been requested for fly overs a lot recently. Pretty exciting stuff:)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fall found Texas



Within the last two weeks or so fall has come to Wichita Falls. I was waiting, waiting; wondering when it would get here. The leaves are now changing and falling. The weather is beautiful. It has been mostly in the 60s with a few days in the 70s and a few in the 50s. We have had some chilly nights and mornings, which have been absolutely delightful! The other morning I woke up to read 27 degrees on the thermometer across the way. I had to prove it could really get into the 20s here, so here is the picture. By the time I got outside with my camera, however, it had already risen to 28.





Most trees around here turn yellow, but we have a few nice red ones like this. This is along the trail to Lucy Park near the falls.



It is such contrast to see these pretty summery flowers next to the golden fall colors. Actually, it reminds me of a time in Fort Collins when we had a May snowfall, and the gorgeous yellow tulips were covered with white glitter. It just goes to show you, life is resilient.



Strangely, even some of the 'evergreens' change color here. I promise it's not dead. I have seen it happen here, and it will return to green in the spring.



These golden leaves are everywhere. I need to learn more abou tthe kinds of trees here. Does anyone know what this one is?







I came upon these ducks swimming in the river on my way back home from this nature trip. To my surprise, they didn't even notice I was there. Or maybe they were more concerned with their hunting!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A child enters the kingdom of heaven

I have been meaning to post some pictures of our color-changing leaves. They started to change a week or two ago and are very pretty right now. Soon I will send a picture, but for the time being Matt is using the camera at work.

I have been enjoying a fantastic Bible study lately by Beth Moore. If anyone is interested in a study that is scripture-based, penetrates your heart deeply, and has plenty of room to write, it is called Jesus: 90 days with the one and only. One of the recent things to penetrate my heart has been our need to be like children as we live our lives and prepare for heaven. To me, this means trust that our needs will be filled, open our hearts to the wonders of our God, be fully present in each moment, admit and apologize for our mistakes, and freely express our love and affections. It is when I see these things from children at school that I am most astounded.

Each day of this Bible study offers a chance to pray God's word. For those of you who may be new to this practice, praying God's word means reflecting scripture in your prayer. When you first begin, you may paraphrase scripture, but as you progress you will use scripture as a guide to pour out your heart to God in a way that aligns your heart with his. I would like to share with you a few prayers that might uplift you as you prepare for the busyness that comes with this special season.

Dear Jesus,
I long to purify my thoughts, words, and actions so that I can truly serve you. Above all, I want to love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. I need you desperately because I can not do this on my own. Help me please to love. Amen.
(Rom. 16:19, 2 Cor. 7:1)

Dear Jesus,
Sometimes talking to you feels so symbolic. I stop myself now and know you are real. You are man. You are God. You are Christ. You gave up your life on the cross in exchange for your eternal one - and mine. You carried the burden of my disobedience because you love me. You love me. You call me. You give me grace and peace. Jesus, I want to know that my loved ones are saved by you. I want to share you with them. I pray they are obedient and answer your call with "Yes!" Amen.
(Col. 2:13-14, Rom. 5:8)

Dear Jesus,
Please teach me to be in alignment with your will. Even more, teach me to abandon my will and adopt yours as my new way of life. I desperately want to be obedient to you for the advancement of your kingdom and my protection under your sheltering wings. I follow you, Jesus. Amen.
(Ps. 17:7-9)

Dear Jesus,
My security is in you, my Lord Jesus Christ, because you have brought the plans of heaven to fulfillment. My trust is in you completely because you hold true to every promise. My hope is in you forever because you love me, lead me, and guard me. You are my savior and I shower you with praise, my Jesus! Amen.
(2 Thess. 3:3, 1 Thess. 5:24)

Dear Jesus,
I am so grateful that you have chosen me. You are mercy. You are grace. You are love!
I pray that your mercy, grace, and love will secure me in your heart forever, and change my heart so I will serve you with abandon.
Remove all hypocrisy, fear, shame, greed, and worry from my mind, heart, and body. Fill me up instead with honesty, wisdom, joy, generosity, and trust. I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.
(Deut. 7:6)

Dear Jesus,
Your power and glory amaze me always. Please send down the Holy Spirit to dwell inside my heart. Once there, strengthen me with your power so that I may remain rooted, pure of heart, and firmly established in Love. May I -dear Jesus- comprehend with other believers the vastness of your love. It is longer, wider, taller, and deeper than anything else. Grant me even an inkling of knowledge of it. Fill me, Jesus, with your fullness so that I will never again be hungry or thirsty. Amen.
(Eph. 3:16-19)

I got a little carried away, but prayer is just such a good thing!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fly over

video

Matt was fortunate to be part of a fourship fly over of Tweets at the Saturday game in Lubbock, Texas vs. Texas Tech. This is his second time flying over the Red Raiders' stadium, last time being in a twoship. Tech won the game, by the way, with an awesome last-eight-seconds touchdown!

This was a really big game and exciting for them to get to fly over. It looks fantastic to me, but Matt said it was hard to get the timing right. They were to fly over just after the National Anthem finished, but the singer was so slow that they had to turn around and get back into position to try it again. Matt will probably be part of another fly over at the Air Force Academy the week of Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sweet and sour pork

Matt's Men's Health magazine had some excellent Chinese recipes in its September issue. The writer actually went to China and learned from top chefs how to cook authentic Chinese food, which is soooo much healthier than the take-out variety (and tastes better, too!).



We tried a few of the recipes, but our favorite is the sweet and sour pork, which is also great with chicken. It's delicious!! I also like these recipes because Matt does the cooking! He likes the fact that he gets to cook the foods really fast over really high heat. It's almost as good as cooking with fire.



The most important thing about this recipe is to prepare everything before you turn on the stove. The cooking process goes very quickly.

Ingredients:
1 lb. pork butt or shoulder, with fat trimmed off
2 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. rice wine or dry sherry (we used the sherry)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. each salt and ground pepper
1/2 tsp. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. plus 1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks in juice
1/2 c. each ketchup and white vinegar
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. peanut oil or other vegetable oil (we used olive)
4 slices fresh ginger (we used a little dried ginger)
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares

Directions:
1. Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine or dry sherry, sesame oil, salt, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. sugar. Mix, add the pork, and marinate 10 minutes.

2. While the pork is marinating, be sure your green pepper is chopped. Also, drain the pineapple chunks, reserving 1/2 c. of the juice. In a bowl, stir together the juice, ketchup, vinegar, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1 tbsp. cornstarch.

3. In another bowl, combine the flour and 1/2 c. cornstarch. Drain the pork, reserving the marinade. Lightly dredge the pork pieces in the flour-cornstarch mixture and set them aside on a plate.

4. Add the reserved marinade to the pineapple juice mixture and stir.

5. Heat 1 c. of oil in a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok until it's hot but not smoking. Add half the pork, spreading pieces around in the oil. Cook 1-2 minutes until they begin to brown, and then turn them. After 3-4 minutes, when they're brown on all sides, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the pork.

6. Wash and dry the wok, and return it to high heat. Add the remaining 1 tbsp. oil and the ginger, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the green pepper and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the reserved pineapple chunks and swirl the sweet and sour sauce into the wok. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until it's just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the pork and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Makes 4 servings. We served this with instant brown rice.



Enjoy!



And here's us attempting to take a picture of ourselves.



And Matt pushing on my elbow to try to get my finger up my nose. Would you expect anything less? Please note this was after the food was finished being cooked!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Live strong challenge



On Saturday morning we ran in the Live Strong Challenge, a 5k run held in Austin and put on by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The event was one of four Live Strong Challenges held across the country over the last few months. Thank you to those who gave donations for the cause. They are very appreciated!

Our friends James and Courtney came with us to Austin. Courtney and I drove down to Austin (about five hours) on Friday afternoon, while Matt and James flew a T-37 over (about one hour). It was good though, because Courtney and I just chatted the whole time. We also got the hotel rooms paid for by the Air Force (because it counted as training time for Matt and James), which was a nice perk.

The run on Saturday was awesome. We had to get up bright and early to get parking. We thought it would be packed with the thousands of extra people in town, but it was pretty easy. The run started and ended at the state capitol downtown. There were all kinds of vendors handing out free foods, drinks, and give-aways before, during and after the race.

All the runners and walkers (Courtney and James opted to walk since she is carrying a little one) crowded the street at the start line. A woman with a beautiful voice sang the national anthem. I cried, thinking of Dad, missing him, but also knowing how happy he would be for us to be running for him. He would be thrilled that the benefits from this race may mean even one less person won't have to experience what he did.

I reminisced to my days in middle school track when Dad would come watch my meets by the fence. Dad never wanted to pay to get in, of course, because there was a decent and free view from the fence by the bleachers:) He would call me "Track Star" with that goofy sound in his voice that told you he felt like busting into air guitar mode at any minute. He would have called us track stars on Saturday. We really enjoyed the run and did pretty well. We certainly didn't sprint and aren't the fastest people ever, but we were content with our 32:36 time. My goal was to finish happy and without stopping somewhere between 30 and 36 minutes. We definitely did, and it was really exciting to run so hard that last 100m or so that I thought either my lungs would collapse or I would puke. Brian would say that means we could have given more during the race, and he's probably right. Next year, Bri. Yummy pumpkin muffins and strange guava smoothies welcomed us at the end.

Kreutz Photography took pictures of the race, which should be on their website soon, www.kreutzphotography.com. You should be able to look them up by our BIB numbers (4494 and 4495) and last name.

We also got to hang out with Gary on Saturday afternoon for the Michigan/Michigan State game and that night at a downtown oasis called ThreadGills for a fun country rock band called Mother Truckers. Matt has found some of their music on iTunes. By the way, Deb, we noticed on their website that they will be in Boise in a few weeks if you and Ryan are interested in checking them out.

On Sunday, Gary and the girls came to the airport to check out the jet. It was so good to see them! They really got a kick out of trying on the heavy parachute and the fancy helmet.

All four of us look forward to doing the run again next year. Austin is a great city to visit!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My sister, the artist



I am so fortunate to have artistic talent in the family bloodline. The three pieces pictured on this post were created by my sister Marcy. She is so talented! She creates images in her mind and transforms them to tangible pieces of art...and all in seemingly about five seconds!

The first piece (above) is called "Red Onions," and the second piece (below) is called "Fleming Creek". They were both gifts for my birthday. I love them and they are perfect in our place. Marcy, thank you so much and I hope you approve of the frame job.



Feel free to check out Marcy's work online at http://www.allthingsgrow.etsy.com/.

She will also be participating in the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, Michigan's largest juried alternative art fair on November 15th, 10am-7pm at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit. For more information see, detroiturbancraftfair.com.

I am so proud of Marcy's art and thought all of you would enjoy seeing it, too.



This last piece is our wedding gift, also painted by Marcy. Sorry about the glare. I thought I had a photo without glare, but couldn't find it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Spouse taxi day



Tuesday was Spouse Taxi Day at Sheppard (also known as "Hot Brakes Day"), which is when all the spouses get to taxi around and down the runway with their IP. So I got a Tweet "ride" (except we never left the ground)!



I got geared up in all of Matt's usual stuff. Flight suit. Check. Parachute. Check. Cool nametag with wings. Check.


This is us at the jet, ready for the walk-around. It was a beautiful day!



Can you believe Matt gets to fly around everyday? And he gets paid for it?



I even got to wear a helmet, oxygen mask, and that cool visor, all worth nearly $2000. Mental note, don't drop the helmet.



Here we are ready to go! Matt even let me do a radio call: Sheppard tower, Dicey 85, Number one, One Five Center.



Yay, we made it! It was awesome to experience this small part of what Matt does everyday. At the end though, I was still left really wanting to get off the ground. Maybe another day...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's fall!



I'm a bit of a sucker for the simple joys of fall. This is my favorite time of year because I love the colors, the leaves, and that distinctive crispness in the air. Matt of course thinks it's rather silly that I am all oogly-eyed over this pretty fall centerpiece. Even so, he did agree it looks really nice:)



I went to United today and they have all kinds of neat pumpkins and gourds: all kinds of colors, textures, patterns. They are gorgeous and oh-so-fun!



I also stopped by Pier 1 and got these napkin rings. There are four different leaf designs; one of each. I hate to be wrapped up in material things, but these things make me think of how beautiful Michigan is right now. I miss it so much, so it is worth it for a glimpse like this.



Even though we're at our apartment, I couldn't resist decorating the front door! It makes it feel even cozier here.



I made this door hanging last year with supplies from Hobby Lobby. It was a cinch and and much cheaper than all those pre-made things. You can often find pieces to make things like this for 50% off, too.

Happy fall everyone!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Breakfast cookies



I found a recipe for these breakfast cookies from Organic Valley and they are soooo good and very good for you, too. The original recipe is at http://www.organicvalley.coop/ and it is called "Survival cookies with java drops" if you want that version. My extra yummy, extra healthy version is below. By the way, Organic Valley has a lot of recipes on their site, especially ones that look really good for fall if you are interested. Let me know if anyone has some good autumn-ish recipes to share! I lost track of a great pumpkin cheesecake recipe a few years ago. Any ideas for a good one?

Ingredients:
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter (at room temperature)
1 large egg
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. oatmeal (plain)
2 tbsp. ground flax seed
2 tbsp. wheat germ
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Large dash cinnamon
Small dash nutmeg
1/3 c. dark chocolate covered coffee beans
1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4-1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
1/8-1/4 c. sliced almonds

Instructions:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease one large baking sheet.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

With an electric mixer, on medium-high speed, beat together the room temperature butter, sugar, and honey in a large bowl until pale and fluffy (3 minutes or so). Add egg, beating with mixer until creamy (about 1 minute). Beat in vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture until just blended. Add the dark chocolate covered coffee beans (often called java drops), chocolate chips, dried cranberries and apricots, and almonds. Mix well by hand using a strong metal spoon, as the dough is quite thick.

Scoop a large spoonful of batter for each cookie, arranging mounds three inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten mounds into rounds using moistened palm of your hand. Makes about 8 large cookies.

Bake until golden yet gooey (about 10-13 minutes). Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Notes:
Cool cookies and store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days.

Nutrition Information: (for original recipe only)
162 calories, 2g fat (10.6% calories from fat), 4g protein, 34 g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 25mg cholesterol, 196mg sodium.

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Live strong challenge



We recently learned that the Live Strong Challenge will be in Austin, Texas October 25-26. This is a two-day running and biking event that raises funds for cancer research, support, and outreach through the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Sure, part of this race and the funds raised are about curing cancer. That goal is very intangible though and may be a long, long way off.

The most important thing here is to spread hope and empower people living with cancer.

After all, how do you battle an evil like cancer unless you inspire the people to be warriors?

We run for Dad and we run for Andrea. We also run for all of our family and friends who have encountered cancer in some way.

The run at the Challenge is a 5k. The riding distances are 10, 45, 65, and 90 miles. We have registered for the run, and if we are able to ride, too, we will sign up for that (uh, probably the 10 mile because there isn't anything in the 20 mile range and 45 would be a whole lot on a mountain bike!). The distances may be short, but we are excited and will train because this is about more than running and riding. In order to ride, however, each rider must raise $250. If you are interested in supporting this fight (regardless of whether we are able to ride, thereby assuring our need to raise $250 each), you can offer prayers by posting to our blog or donate financially at the following site:

http://austin08.livestrong.org/looseintensity

Our team name is Loose Intensity, a term coined by one of Matt's former baseball coaches. This phrase means be strong, be tough, be fully present in what you're doing. Also, relax, have fun, and be you. This attitude is one that we strive to embody, and it's also one that I saw in my Dad everyday that he battled cancer. Make no mistake, Dad won the fight, and others will, too.

For more information about the event, go to:

http://www.livestrongchallenge.org/

One more thing, for a great read and inspirational story, try Lance Armstrong's book It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. We both read this a couple of years ago and it is a powerful story.

Thanks so much! We love you all!!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mom and Lisa's visit



We are so excited that Mom and Lisa came to visit! They came the afternoon of August 13 and left the morning of August 18. We had a great time catching up, eating good food, and laughing.

On Thursday of the visit, we went for a long walk along the river. The path along the river is about a half mile from our apartment. It leads to the Falls, which is the main tourist attraction in Wichita Falls. This waterfall is man-made, but you can find the location of the original falls on the path as well. It appears that the original falls were not much more than a trickle down a short hillside. I'm sure this was heaven in the eyes of the people who settled here though, as they had been on a long journey. After we came home and got ready, we went to Gidget's Sandwich Shack for lunch. This local cafe is directly across the street from us and they serve sandwiches, soups, homemade potato chips and more. Later that day Matt gave us a tour of the ENJJPT building and life support. We were even able to go out on the ramp so Mom and Lisa could see the T-37 up close.

On Friday, we went shopping in Dallas. We went to a huge, three-story mall that had all kinds of fancy stores. We actually found a lot of great deals, and the bonus is it was all tax-free. Texas has higher sales tax than some states to offset not having state income tax. As a result, they offer a weekend before the school year begins, when clothing -and other essentials- is tax-free!

On Saturday, we went to the lake. We enjoyed the sun and water skiied. We had anticipated this to be the hottest possible time for Mom and Lisa to come to Texas. It had been in the 110s! Ironically though, their visit brought the first "cool" weather we had seen in a long time. Most of their trip was 70s and 80s.

On Sunday, we went to church, got breakfast from our favorite donut shop, and chilled out.

Thanks for coming! We had a great time and we love you very, very much!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Escaping the storm

I have been meaning to write about all that we have been up to, but instead I have to start by writing about what happened yesterday. We headed out to the lake early in the morning. It was beautifully calm!



In the picture above, I thought Matt was taking a picture of me, but he was actually trying to get a shot of his brand new ski, which you can also see:)

Matt took these pictures of me skiing. They really show just how perfect the water was. It was the best day we've seen all summer!!! It was awesome. We both skied twice before taking a break, during which the wind picked up and the glassy waters dissipated.

Around one in the afternoon, a couple of friends joined us. We skied a bit more and tubed before calling it a day. We dropped them off at the State Park docks and then headed back over to the free launch to put the boat on the trailer. As we headed over towards the launch, however, the few dark clouds in the sky became a huge storm in no time. It was thunder, lightning and strong winds as we made our way to the dock. It took me a couple of tries to drive the boat on the trailer through the rough waves. Luckily a guy from shore came over to help us. Once we got our boat on solid ground, we hurried to get everything ready for the trip home as 50-60 mph winds blew us and everything else around. It was getting pretty bad!

No sooner than we had gotten ashore a jet ski pulled up. A woman was trying to back her trailer down the ramp, but clearly did not have much experience and jack-knifed the trailer with the truck several times. The guy who helped us offered to drive it for her. She was clearly relieved and said the woman with the jet ski usually drove the trailer. Five of us tried to hold the jet ski on the trailer as the waves tried to send it over the edge, but we secured it and pulled it out of the water.

The guy who helped us out of the water had also borrowed our air pump earlier in the day when he had a flat tire on his truck. Now that the flat was repaired, he backed his truck in and went to get his boat, which was "parked" on the beach. When we got to the boat we saw that the waves had flooded it, but we had to get it farther inland so it wouldn't be washed away or filled any more. The strength of six or seven adults was not enough to slide the boat through the thick clay, so one of the guys tried to pull the boat out using our tube tow rope and his F-150 truck. Even with several guys (including Matt) pushing on the boat, the truck tires just spun. Matt asked if it had four wheel drive and the guys looked at him as if to say, "of course not, can we use yours?" So Matt got the Jeep, put it in four low and the boat came right up the shore.

With one problem averted, we saw another boat coming ashore. An older man was bringing his fishing boat in, and his wife was intending on backing the trailer into the water. She was a bit nervous considering the weather, so Matt drove it for her. By that time the waves had died down a little bit and it was not as difficult to help bring in his boat.

Our little entourage, now including this fisherman as well, walked back to the water-filled fishing boat, and attempted to bail it out. As we devised a plan for this boat, we saw another one coming our way. A pontoon was towing a catamaran, which was capsized and its sails were becoming increasingly filled with water. By now it was raining, too, I think. They dropped it off near us, and the men pulled it in by rope. When they got near shore, the guys stood on one side of the pontoon and hung from a rope, trying to pull the catamaran right-side-up with the weight of their bodies. They eventually got it to flip and we worked furiously to get the sails down in the strong winds.

By this time we had some company. The local firemen, police, ambulance team, parks and wildlife officer, and channel six news had all come to get in on the action! I thought they were there to help, but strangely they just stood and watched. Not long after this, we brought in both the catamaran and the once water-filled fishing boat. The storm had died down considerably, all boats were in, and we went home for dinner.

This is what the lake looked like at the time that we left. I wish I could show you a picture of what it looked like during the storm, but we were a little occupied. It was pretty exciting!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. John Carlson





John and Beth got married on July 26, 2008! Matt and I went to CO for the wedding, which was in Black Forest. We are very excited for John and Beth! It was a beautiful wedding, and so much fun. We really enjoyed getting to see so many of our favorite people.

Liz was gracious enough to send me these pictures, which were taken from her camera. I'm not sure why they are blurry, if it was the camera or the transition to the computer. They give you a glimpse of the wedding, but if you really want to be blown away with some beautiful pictures, please go to the photographer's website, which is:

http://tinyurl.com/bethandjohn

There are two galleries of Beth and John's photos; a designed album with about 150 or so photos and the complete set of images from their engagement to the last dance with about 750 photos.

Password to "Beth and John's Album Design": bethjohnalbum
Password to "Beth and John's Wedding": bethandjohn

Enjoy the gorgeous pictures!
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