Not quite a battle of wits

June 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I grew up in Spokane, Wash. in a neighborhood that gets made fun of all the time. Hillyard was the butt of many jokes. (In spite of this, I still love Spokane and miss living there.) I felt safe in my neighborhood even though there was crime going on around me. Really, looking back at my younger years, I only can remember one bad incident.

Behind our house, we had a garage. It wasn’t in very good shape and had lots of junk in it. There were two things I loved about the garage. First, a friend helped me build a basketball hoop to put on the back (thanks Dave!). I spent many hours shooting hoops on it, in the rain or shine. The second thing that I loved about the garage is that my dad didn’t use it and he let my brother and I play in it.

One summer we decided that we, along with some friends, would make it into our kind of clubhouse. We moved most of the junk into a small side room. We then cleaned up the main part and “fixed it up.” This consisted mostly of a few old posters, some old chairs, and a radio. We didn’t have many options on the radio. I had a small AM/FM headphone radio that I had received as a gift. I had some small speakers that I could hook up to it. So we put it in the garage and voila…music!

Would you believe that someone is selling on eBay the exact model of the radio I had? I couldn’t, but here it is!!!

One of the things we did in our garage was work on our bicycles. We would take them apart and put them back together and think we were fixing them. Some of the kids in our neighborhood would bring their bikes by and we would tinker around with them. It was fun and kept us out of any real trouble.

One morning I went in the garage and realized that something was missing…my radio. I cannot express the sadness that I felt. The realization that someone had taken it was so hard on me. I had never really had anything stolen from me and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to tell my parents about it, since it was stupid of me to leave it in an unlocked garage overnight.

Later that day, I was talking to one of my friends and he told me that some kids about five blocks away had my radio and that they were trying to sell it. I didn’t know them, but my friend told me right where they lived. I decided to ride my bike over and see if I could get it back.

I am both proud and embarrassed at what I did next. I told them that I wanted to buy it, but I didn’t have any money with me (which was true). I said I would ride home and get the $5 that they wanted for the radio, but I wanted to take the radio with me. I don’t know why they agreed to this, but they did. I rode home as fast as my legs would take me. I looked over my shoulder plenty, but I wasn’t followed. Since I didn’t know these kids, and they didn’t know me, I felt that I was safe. I stole my radio back!

Now, I am not proud of the fact that I lied and stole, but I was very excited that I had found a way to get my radio back. It didn’t cost me anything. And I figured that they had stolen it from me, so I just took back what was rightfully mine. Disclaimer to my kids…it isn’t right to lie or steal, even if you get back something from the losers who stole from you.

I learned a few things that day. 1. Don’t leave anything you care about in an unlocked garage. 2. I am pretty good at bluffing people. 3. I can ride a bike pretty fast with proper motivation. 4. People will take your stuff, even if it isn’t worth much. (A side note…my 89 Honda Accord was stolen in 2011 and it wasn’t worth much when they took it and was worth much less when I got it back.)

And that is my life of crime when I stole back what was stolen from me. It wasn’t quite a battle of wits (like you can find in one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride), but I felt that I outwitted them.

Categories: About Me, Just for Fun, Spokane

Can you drive a stick?

May 17, 2012 4 comments

Growing up, I always thought that driving was easy. I watched my parents carefully and it seemed to me that all they did was move the steering wheel around a bit. Easy enough, I can do that. I got my permit when I was 15 and had signed up for driver’s education during the summer. Since I played sports during the school year, this seemed the easiest time to do it. I would go to basketball camp and then head straight over for driver’s ed.

My cousin went to the same basketball camp that I did and since he was a few years older than I was, he drove himself to camp. One day after camp I convinced him to let me try and drive his Gremlin up and down the parking lot one time. The trick was, it was a stick shift and I had never tried one before. But, trying new things has never been a problem for me, so I jumped in and tried to drive off. If you have ever driven a car with manual transmission, you can guess what happened. I killed it. At this point my cousin must have had visions of his Gremlin blowing up, so he stepped in and stopped me from trying again. And my first shot at learning to drive a stick shift was cut short.

My next opportunity came after I had my license. It was after school and my friends and I were hanging out by our cars before we headed home. I was driving my Chevelle (which you can read about here). It was already running. My best friend decided that he would take it for a spin. Without asking me, he jumped in and drove off. He told me later that he wasn’t worried about me driving off in his car because he knew that I couldn’t drive a stick.

Well, you can guess what I did. I jumped in and tried to drive off in his little 70’s Honda Civic (they look like an egg to me. Of course I killed it the first time. But the second time, I took off with no problem. I did know about how to shift because when I was 5, my mom used to let me shift for her when she was driving my grandparents 58 Nash Rambler. It was a three on the tree (meaning that the gearshift was on the steering column). Using this vast experience of shifting, I was able to keep the Hodna going (it was a Hodna because when he had it repainted, they put the letters back on out of order).

I came back to the school a few minutes later and my friend was shocked when I drove up. He asked me when I learned to drive a stick and I told him that I just got done teaching myself. He insisted on seeing for himself, so we drove around for a few minutes to prove to him that I could.

Since then, I have driven quite a few cars that have had a stick shift. When my wife and I moved to France, all of the cars we had available to drive were stick shifts. Since she didn’t know how to drive one, she left the driving to me. Towards the end of our time in France, we took a trip down to the south with our six month old daughter. One day we were sitting in a parking lot outside a large grocery store in the outskirts of Dijon. I went into the store to find us some lunch while she fed the Princess.

It took awhile for me to come out because I found a sandwich cart inside the store and I had to wait in line to get our sandwiches made. Unbeknownst to me, it had started raining pretty hard outside. Jen had finished up feeding Princess and was thinking that I was waiting in the store for the rain to let up. So, she decided to drive up and pick me up. Meanwhile, I finish up getting our food and start out through the rain to the far end of the parking lot where I thought our car was at.

Imagine my surprise to see the car drive by heading the opposite direction in the next aisle over. I tried my best to run after her, but I was carrying all the lunch food without a shopping bag (you have to provided your own in France and I hadn’t brought one in). I chase her down the row, and she turns and goes up the next one. I try and chase her down that one and she keeps going! She didn’t see me for a bit. So here I am, running up and down the parking lot and getting soaked. Eventually she saw me and stopped. We had a great laugh when I got in.

“Here I come to save the day!”

Interestingly enough, that was the only time that Jen drove a stick. Even though we have had a few cars that have a manual transmission, she really has no desire to drive a stick. But that is okay, I enjoy driving a stick and we have other cars that she loves to drive (including this car).

I can truly say that I taught myself how to drive a stick.

Categories: Driving, The Fam

Chasing down “The Germ”

August 11, 2011 2 comments

Ok, so my wife has been bugging me that I “abandoned” my blog and needed to post a new story. I guess that I haven’t been in much of a story telling mood lately, but I thought of a fun story from when I was in high school.

One Friday night, I was out with some friends.  As curfews were drawing close, I started driving a few friends home.  My best friend and I (I will call him G) dropped off a friend on the South Hill area of Spokane and then headed north to drop him off in Mead.

We pulled up to a stop light and looked over at the car next to us.  It was Mr. H, a teacher and the dean of students at our high school.  Mr. H had been our teacher, my basketball coach, and ASB (student government) advisor.  He also had lectured me a few times on my fast driving, and rightfully so.

Mr. H drove an old Honda Civic that he called “The Germ” and it was legendary at our school.  He would try to drive from basketball practice only using his brakes a certain number of times.  If he was running out of his allotted times to brake, he would even run into a snow drift to stop himself.

Mr. H’s Honda was this style, but dark green and wasn’t nearly as nice. It even had a metal hanger for an antenna.

We were actually surprised to see him out and about that late on the weekend and wondered what he was doing.  Mr. H looked at G and I and gave us a look like we had caught him doing something wrong.  The light turned green and he took a sharp turn and sped off.  G hollered “FOLLOW HIM” and I took off as fast as my trusty 74 Chevelle would go.

The next 15 minutes were some of the craziest driving that I have ever done, including driving in Paris and in Slovakia (more on that driving in a later post).  To my credit, I stayed with Mr. H in spite of the driving maneuvers that he tried.

Honest officer, I was only going one way…it just happened to be different than the arrow!

After the crazy chase, Mr. H turned down a residential side street and we thought that we had lost him.  We were sure he couldn’t have made it to the next intersection, so we slowly drove up the street.  Finally, we spotted The Germ parked in someones driveway.  G and I looked at each other and decided to slowly approach the car.  We didn’t see anyone until we got right up to the windows and there was Mr. H hunched over.

When he saw us, he jumped out and started laughing.  He didn’t give any explanation, but made us promise not to tell anyone what had taken place.  We agreed (which I guess I am now breaking that agreement) and headed back to my car.  I took G home and we were still a bit thrown off by what had taken place.  We figured that no one would probably believe us, so we didn’t really tell many people.

Someday, I will run into Mr. H and I am sure that we will have a great laugh about this memorable night of driving.

What if fortune cookies were realistic?

July 1, 2011 2 comments

So last night my wife and I were talking about a fortune I got in my fortune cookie a few months ago.  It gave me some hope that I would find a job and everything would be good.  A few months later and it didn’t come true.  So I was thinking what would the fortune cookie fortunes look like if they were realistic?  Here are a few of the ones that I came up with.  If you have some other original ones, send me a comment and I will add some of the best ones.  A big thank you to my wife for helping me remember the ones I came up with and for coming up with some clever ones of her own.  Enjoy!

Categories: Just for Fun Tags:

The phone is for me?

June 23, 2011 1 comment

Ever have one of those days where you are busy but don’t really do much?  Today has been one of those days.  I have spent most of the day on the phone.  This wasn’t how I had planned to spend my day, but it ended up this way.

I got up with the idea that I was going to do some dishes (I know…how exciting!) and then help mow my former employer’s lawn (I plead the 5th on this one).  After this I would watch my recorded Mariner’s game in the afternoon before we had to do some grocery shopping.

Last night I had done an online application for the EBT program that gives money for food.  I really didn’t expect to hear anything right away.  But right after breakfast (or as my two girls call it, breh-fix) I got a call to confirm information.  Well, that call turned into five calls from the same very helpful lady.  And it kept me on the phone for awhile.  Good news is after all those calls from her, we are getting very generous benefits and so we will be eating some good food!

During the last phone call, she told me that there was a man (Mark) working for a medical center in Seattle that is using my Social Security Number!  She encouraged me to go to the Social Security office and find out what I could do about it.  So, I thought I would run and pick up the food card and then go to the SS office.

Meanwhile the mail came.  I got a letter saying that my kids couldn’t be covered by the insurance policy that I had applied for.  It wasn’t open enrollment season so they couldn’t be covered.  With our insurance coverage ending at the end of the month, I didn’t want to mess around with this.  So, I had to call them.  Found out that I just needed a letter from my former employer.

So, after sending an email and walking over to the office, the letter was going to be sent and I could head out on my errands.  Picking up the card was quick and I headed to the SS office.  I took a number and realized that it was going to be a long wait.  I saw a sign that gave a phone number to call, so I headed out to my car and called them.  They gave me another number to call to report identity theft.

I came home and had lunch, and then called the identity theft number.  Another helpful person took my information and then told me how to report it to the credit agencies.  She also said I had to file a police report.  So, I called the credit report company (see..lots of phone calls!) but ended up going to their website to report the identity theft.  Got that taken care of and saw my credit report (which is still pretty good).

Got a text from a friend who needed some computer help and yes, I called to her to help her out.

My next call was to the local police.  First number was the wrong department and so I had to call another number.  Gave the basic information and, surprise surprise, I have to wait for another phone call!

In the mean time, I called back to the SS office to make sure that I covered everything, I found out that I am doing what I am supposed to do.  Then I called to check the balance on the food card (which isn’t activated yet).

So, here it is most of the way through the after noon and basically I have talked on the phone most of the day. I decided to throw in a blog in between phone calls because I think that this is the most phone calls I have ever had in one day when I wasn’t working.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had any calls about a job.  You would think with over 30 active applications that I would get at least one call!

My main question after all these phone calls is this: What would I do without my phone?

The story that I am looking forward to telling

June 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been unemployed for almost three months now. (You can read about it here.)  I thought it might be fun to tell the story of my new job before I actually get the job.  So, that is what this blog is going to be.  A little fantasy story for you to enjoy.

The quest for a job is not always a fun one.  When I found out last November that I was going to be unemployed in March, I figured that it wouldn’t be a problem to find a job.  To be honest, the first couple of months, I mostly just worked on my resume and focused on finishing up that semester’s classes in Seminary.  When January rolled around, I started looking harder.  My wife would even jump in and do some searching for me.

I applied for a job at a Christian conference center.  I didn’t get an interview for that position, but when an even better position opened up, I sent my application off once again.  I went through the interview process which included a failed trip to visit the center.  That trip was interrupted by the tsunami warning and our family drove back home in the middle of the night.  In the end, I was disappointed in being the second choice for the position.

So, it was back to finding other positions to apply for.  Along the way there were a few interviews, but nothing ever materialized. It wasn’t until the end of June that I got my big break.  Jen and I had determined that if possible, we would like to be able to live close to where we had been living so that our kids could go to a particular school.  I was applying for all types of different jobs all up and down the I-5 corridor in Washington and Oregon, so I could end up getting an offer that would cause us to move.  We spent much time in prayer about what job I would end up with. (FYI up to this point, the story is true…the fantasy takes over now.)

So I was called in for an interview.  Was I ever excited and nervous.  After not getting call backs from so many different applications, I was excited to finally get to the interview stage again.  I changed things up from my normal interview attire and went with some clothes that would go with my new dress shoes and tie.  I figured that I needed some new mojo going into this interview.  I arrived a few minutes early and found the bathroom so I could check my appearance and make sure I looked okay.

After one initial interview I had commented on facebook “that interview couldn’t have gone any better!”  I didn’t get a second interview, so it must not have gone as well as I thought it did.  But this interview actually couldn’t have gone any better.  The man who would end up being my boss was extremely nice. He had a great understanding of my skills, even though I hadn’t worked in a non-ministry job in over ten years.  But he was willing to take my experience and apply that to this job.  It was so refreshing to have someone appreciate my skills and abilities instead of just throwing my resume into the  recycle bin.

At the end of the interview, he told me that I would hear in a couple of days.  Now, I have heard that before and usually it is one of two things: I don’t ever hear back, or it takes weeks until I hear.  But he was a man of his words and the next day he called and offered the job to me!  Not only is this a job that I believe that I can do well, it is a job that I am going to enjoy. It will challenge me while I will be able to help people.

And my wife is so happy as well.  It pays me enough so that we will are buying a great house with a great yard.  Her dreams of a nice garden and raising some chickens are coming true.  And it is a job that will allow me to be home every evening.

So…this is the story that I am looking forward to telling.  I don’t know when I will get to tell this story or at least something close to this.  Keeping checking back to see when I really do actually get a job.

Categories: About Me, Jobs Tags: , , , , ,

The Autobahn (do I have to say more?)

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Growing up, I had heard about the Autobahn.  The place where fast cars got to go fast.  No speed limit.  For someone who enjoys driving fast, it sounds like a dream world.  When I learned to drive, the speed limit was only 55 mph, and that seemed slow to me (and to Sammy Hagar too!)  But a place where there isn’t a speed limit?  Sounds like somewhere I would like to go.

I got my chance while we lived in France.  Our church was a part of a convention of churches from around Europe.  Each year we would have an annual meeting somewhere.  One year it was outside Venice, Italy.

Me and Jen in Venice

One year the meeting was in Frankfurt.  Our pastor, music pastor, Jen and I drove from Paris to Frankfurt for the meetings.  While we were there, I was invited by a friend of mine to come and visit his youth group in Kaiserslautern.  This was more or less an hour drive.  I drove over by myself, following my friend.  It was raining and he didn’t drive too fast.

But after the youth group, I got to drive back to Frankfurt on my own.  Here was my opportunity.  I get to drive on the autobahn all by myself!  Oh…how excited I was.  I couldn’t wait to get my chance to drive fast!  Now, at this point you might be asking what sweet driving machine I was behind the wheel of.  If I made a list of 100 cars that I would want to drive on the autobahn, the car I was in wouldn’t have even made the list.  It was an Opel Vectra.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with Opel, it is a German company that was owned by GM until 2009.  They have been making cars since 1899.  But really, they are not exciting cars.

But this was the car that I had to drive, so I was going to see what it could do.  In the car’s defense, it was a well-built car that had been maintained very well.  So it was a safe car.  But how fast would she go?  I had no idea, but I had a goal in mind.  200 KPH (124.27 MPH for those who don’t want to convert this in their head).  If I could hit 200 kph, I would feel that I had really accomplished something.

What I needed to find a good long stretch of road that would allow my non-super car to get up to this speed.  Add in the challenge of other cars and I was going to have to pick my spot well.  When driving in Germany, you have to watch your mirrors for the faster cars coming up behind you.  If they flash their headlights  at you, you should move over very quickly.  As I was making my assault on 200 kph, I had to get over a few times to let people pass.  This slowed me down a bit, but didn’t deter me at all.

I pushed that little car and I was able to not only hit 200 kph, but go over it slightly.  My heart was thumping so loud and the adrenaline was pumping.  I was loving life.  And, to my amazement, even at 200 kph I had cars passing me!  I didn’t stay driving that fast for long.  I slowed down to 135 KPH…which is the smarter speed to drive.  While it is true that there isn’t a speed limit on the autobahn, what you don’t hear is that many insurance policies don’t cover you if you are driving over 135 KPH.  So if you get in a wreck going over 135 KPH, you are liable for any damages

I would have to say that driving on the autobahn was a blast…when I was going 200 KPH.  When I wasn’t, it really was just like driving on any other freeway…well, except for the fact that all of the signs are in German and I never did figure out where the heck Ausfahrt was.