Friday, December 31, 2004

Year in Review

Well, I started this year alone at my house in Baghdad. My roommates had gone to Amman for the New Year. I think I stayed up until midnight. Heh.

A lot has happened this year. I started the year expecting that I would be in Baghdad for another year and a couple of months. That didn't quite happen. Evan showed up and was diagnosed as most likely benign. I've visited Cyprus, England, Scotland, and Jordan. Mara and my friends died. Iraq regained its sovreignty on my birthday. We had a change in leadership of our team which _greatly_ affected life there. We moved from one house to another. We left for some training and weren't allowed to return. I got to SCUBA dive in the Red Sea. Instead of sitting around in Amman until my term ended, I came home five months early, surprising my family and most of my friends. Since then, I've mostly been sitting around my parents' house, helping to re-organize stuff.

This next year is still pretty fuzzy for me yet. I expect that I'll finish my Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland. I'll have some job to help finance it (and give me medical benefits - I'm currently among the uninsured). I'll be involved in some way at my church. I'll either rent the cheapest apartment I can find, or I'll buy the cheapest foreclosure I can find in the hopes of selling it for a tidy sum at the end of the year when I figure out where I'm actually gonna settle and what I'm actually gonna do.

It's....unsettling....for me to know so little about where I'm gonna be and what I'm gonna do.

I've never really been one for New Year's resolutions. I'll let you know if I make any, but I can't think of anything right now. I don't need to lose any weight or stop smoking anything. I could probably stand to exercise more regularly. My house is definitely gonna be less cluttered than in the past. I'll definitely have a less hectic daily schedule than I had prior to my overseas adventures. I definitely want to keep up with my Arabic. But I don't have any measurable "resolutions," per se.

This year actually ended for me almost three hours ago, if you're counting 366 24-hour periods, but it won't end here for another six hours. My little brother's out with friends, as I expect my older brother is. My mom's asleep on the couch, my dad's cooking something, and my sister is playing "vulture" for the computer. We'll watch movies until my dad makes us turn on the Sesame Street New Year's thing. After that, he'll fall asleep and we'll probably end up watching Conan since he's doing a Central time thing.

But, tomorrow is not just another day, it's also another year, and while I'm somewhat unsure of what it'll bring, I'm also looking forward to it. So come, on, New Year! Give it to me with both barrels. I can take it.

New Year's Eve Eve

Well, yesterday was something of a red-letter day for me and my family. In the morning, I finished reading Malachi!! I actually managed to read the Bible through in a year! I have no idea how many times I've attempted to do that, although I know that the first time I tried was in 7th grade at Mr. Lenart's encouragement. I'm sure that I've at least considered it every year since then, and attempted it some subset of those 15 or 16 years. So, yay me! Not sure what I'll do for devotions now.

Then, in the evening, our whole family gathered at my brother's house and played Cranium. I'd played it on several occasions before, but no one else had. It was _hilarious_! We got to see my mom act like Jackie Chan, my dad hum (incorrectly) "That's the way (uh-huh,uh-huh), I like it," and me, Toby, and my dad all try to act out the word "missionary"- try sometime to do that word in charades by pointing to someone, trying to motion the word "before," and holding your hands like you're praying and/or giving a book to someone. Beth finally got the word (yay, Turner daughters team!), but not before all of us were pretty much rolling on the floor, laughing. Apparently, that looks more like a Chinese waiter than a missionary.

So we had a lot of fun.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Reggie White

I've been somewhat surprised at the coverage of Reggie White's life. Reggie White, the ordained minister (not just of defense) - his life was completely about sharing the Gospel. There was never an interview in which he didn't share some part of his testimony or the Gospel. All accounts of him on and off the field say that he lived according to his beliefs.

But the vast majority of the coverage I've seen has spent the absolute minimum amount of time and words on that "side" of his life. Basically, other than saying that the nickname "Minister of Defense" comes from the fact that he's a minister in "real life," they've said nothing about him _as_ a minister.

Somewhat unexpectedly, however, on ABC's Monday Night Football half-time tribute, they actually _did_ spend some time on that 'part' of his life (which was really his whole life). So kudoes to ABC and MNF.

And a Common Sense tribute to a good man who was blessed, and who used those blessings to give the honor and glory to the One who blessed him in the first place. Welcome home, Reggie!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Let it Ice, Let it Ice, Let it Ice

The weather people in Nashville did it to us again. They called for flurries and got our hopes up. Then the flurries sorta disappeared....then as the day approached, they came back....and got up to 1-2 inches in the area, with it remaining through Christmas because of the cold. But when the time came, we got ice instead. Lots of ice. It was pretty, and it kept flurrying all through the day yesterday, but the accumulation was rather limited.

Oh well....while "I'm Dreaming of a Clear Christmas" doesn't have quite the ring of "White Christmas," it's still not so bad.

Last Year This Time

It's almost 6:30 PM in Baghdad right now. A year ago right now, I was sitting in the WarEagle chapel, getting ready for their Christmas Eve service. I'd spent the day before making cookies for my friends and all of the gate guards that I'd see on my way into the camp (and for some other friends and gate guards at another camp) - because it'd be pretty rude to walk past all those guys with goodies for folks inside and nothing for them. When it was a pie or cobbler, I'd do it, but whenever I made cookies, I'd make extras for them.

I'd spent that morning trying my darndest (unsuccessfully) to get a ride out to a rehearsal I'd scheduled, and ended up spending the afternoon with Mystery Date and his troop at their Christmas party.

This year I'm sitting in sweats, unwashed, watching Ted Danson search for the Loch Ness Monster on SciFi with my family. Later on, we'll go to my parents' church's Christmas Eve service (with all the talent provided by the Turner family, apparently), then maybe to one of the services at the church that pays Jesse to sing in their choir.

Return to the Shire

At the end of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, there's a scene where the four hobbits return home. They're so excited to be back. Merry and Pippin are wearing their respecitve coutries' colors as they ride into town. One of the first things they do is go back to their favorite pub and get a drink, just like they used to. But it's different somehow - all the same things are going on in the background, but they're not the same. They clink glasses and drink, but it's just not the same anymore.

They've gone off and seen and done amazing things and their old world has stayed exactly the same. And that's what they wanted, wasn't it? Sam, Merry, and Pippin all managed to re-adjust, but Frodo didn't.

I guess the jury's still out as to whether elves will need to spirit _me_ away.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Diet Donuts

So yesterday after the Michael W. Smith Christmastime concert, my siblings, dad, and I stopped off at Kripsy Kreme for a donut. As we were walking out, my older brother was eating his donuts - one regular glazed and one cake (i.e., without the glaze).

That makes them diet donuts, right? 50% of the sugar?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Dentist, Part II

So I spent yesterday morning at the dentist again. She'd said that I needed one of my other old fillings replaced, and since my health insurance and other benefits end on Saturday, I figured I should go ahead and do it then. Well, she looked in my mouth and found two more old fillings that were on the verge of cracking or something and when she heard that my benes ended soon, she just went ahead and replaced all of them. The good thing about it is that now my mouth is set (except for cleanings) for a very long time. _And_ apparently dental technology has advanced considerably since she put those fillings in, 8 years ago. Back then, those fillings had to be so big or something that she had to use the metal fillings instead of the tooth-colored fillings, but apparently either the holes have shrunk, or the tech has grown because now all of my teeth look completely like teeth.

(Bee-dee, bee-dee, bee-dee - hey look! The bad guy is Jack Palance!)

It was funny at the end of the visit. They told me to rinse and spit, but I wasn't quite over the bowl. I thought that I'd closed my mouth, but apparently I was too numb to know that I hadn't. Fortunately, the assisstant chick was still taking off my bib, so she caught the river of mouthwash that came streaming out of my mouth. We both had a good laugh over that.

It's always weird going to my dentist though. She's latina and so are all of her assisstants (and apparently many of her customers). So, her working language is Spanish (although they all speak perfect English). It always takes me a second to figure out who she's talking to because I have to decipher the language first, then the content (if it's English) - all while there's suction and drilling going on inside my head.

There's just something wrong with a Dremel tool being used inside my mouth. I'm not a big fan. I find myself seriously tensing up. My legs shake from the tenseness. I don't even notice that it's happening, but literally every two or three minutes I have to force myself to relax.

(Ha! The little triangle made it above the purple line on the screen! That means that Buck's buddy escaped to warn Earth. And double-Ha! Wilma outranks Buck! Go strong chick characters!)

Anyway. I'm not sure why you'd all be interested in knowing about my dental adventures, but the other post I've been contemplating involves watching a DVD, which would mean turning off Buck Rogers, and that's just not gonna happen. Y'all are great and all, but it's _Buck_!

Buck Rogers!

So I was just flipping through channels, with Sci-Fi being one of my first stops (as usual) and who should be on, but my first love, Buck Rogers! He just found the magic bubble wrap at some factory on a world where the ruler is a sorcerer who can bend people's will to his eeeeeevvvvvil ways just with his words. And he found the magic bubble wrap to some kickin' background late 70s, early 80s bomp-chicka-wakka music.

Move over, Mystery Date. It's Buck Rogers. I fell in love wtih him at 3 (or so). And what's funny is that even then, and even with love veiling my eyes, I still could see the difference between the Saturn V rocket they showed launching in the credits (at least in the first season) and the space shuttle they found him in in the backstory episode during the second season. But it's also kinda cool that they kept up with the changing technology between '79 and '81 when the show aired.

Hey look! It's Wilma! I could never decide if I wanted to _be_ her (because she's a cool, strong woman character), or if I was jealous of her because she got to be around Buck. She always did have the best hair. Curly, bouncy, but not with Farrah wings.

I shouldn't have looked online to see what years it aired. Now I know that the entire series is on DVD. Bah! Curse you, and all of your choices!

Oh no! His ship was crashing and now it's "To Be Continued!" Good thing Sci-Fi is showing another one next. Buck, my love, I'll see you again soon!

Monday, December 13, 2004


So I got back from MD today. I think I tied my fastest time - 9 hours and 45 minutes. That's a really long drive. When I got back, no one was home, so I thought that they'd gone out to dinner for Jesse's birthday without me and left very pitiful voicemail messages on everyone's phones. But, they'd just gone to one of those "Walk through Bethlehem" things and came home a little while later for dinner - I hadn't missed it after all.

My trip to MD was completely unnecessary. My main purpose for going up there was to get the license plates for my car and since I had to do it _some_ weekend before January 5th (when my temporary tags ran out), I figured I might as well go during the weekend of my church's Christmas musical. It was great to see everyone (and this time I actually got to _see_ people since it wasn't a secret anymore). All of the youth who were shorter than me when I left are now taller than me, the kids who were in my Sunday School class (3rd and 4th graders) are now youth, and the toddlers that I used to chase around the sanctuary and tickle don't remember me anymore (and are in grade school now)! And there were lots of new babies for me to meet (and babies that were new a year ago, but are still just "new to me").

I really enjoyed the trip, but let me get back to the "completely unnecessary" part - so apparently the tags were sent by MVA to CarMax. CarMax hadn't gotten them yet, but they would within the week, and as long as someone had a note signed from me giving my permission, they'd be allowed to get them for me. But it was really great to get to see everyone again.

I've _really_ missed getting to be part of a church music program. At the downbeat of the musical's overture, I teared up, and was fighting back tears most of the show, and not just because of the content. :) We'll see how much I can be involved in with school as my main focus, but I've really missed getting to be part of a _group_ of musicians. I've pretty much been on my own since I've been overseas, although there has been the occasional duet or trio. My skills have improved some as a result of that (no one else to lean on), but it's just a different thing altogether to get to play and sing with other people too. :)

One musical grouping that you might remember was my Christmas Eve program last year for the guys out at Camp WarEagle. In the email about that night, I mentioned "another guitar player." Well, said other guitar player and I spent some time getting to know one another while we were both overseas (it was all purely platonic, for those who would wave "the rules" at me), but lost touch when he came home in July. Well, we've started talking again since I've been back...and he's coming through Nashville this weekend and....(you might want to sit down for this).....he and I are going on a _date_.

You heard that right folks. Leia, the dateless wonder, will be seeing a gentleman caller for dinner and some blues music on Friday night, then hanging out again some on Saturday before he continues on his way to visit family for the holidays. Other than a possible "it went _really_ well" or "I don't want to talk about it," you probably won't hear anymore about my mystery date (the person or the evening), but I just had to share. :) I'm a "little" excited about it myself. :)

OK...well past my bedtime. Nighty-night!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I was reminded yesterday that some of you are sitting on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting my retelling of how things went this past Sunday.

Well, there's not too much to tell. I got there, but there wasn't anyone else there. Eventually another girl apparently showed up, but before she made it to my class, she got taken to work in another classroom. I was sitting there by myself, in a puddle of sunshine, happily reading the paper when the pastor (the teacher of the men's class) caught me and invited me into their class. Then, since I'd prepared for the lesson, he had me teach "half." He took the half that was discussed in the teacher's book, and I took the rest. It was fun.

This Sunday, I'll be driving back from MD, so I won't "get" to teach, but I'll be back in the saddle next Sunday.

It's just after 9 here in TN and I'm all packed up and ready to go. Once I finish this post, I'm headed out the door to drive to MD. I'll be there through Sunday, obviously. My missions while there are to get license plates for my car, get a new license for me, and watch my church's Christmas musical. Those of you in MD who read this and who don't already know about the musical, they're doing it at least on Saturday night and Sunday night. I don't know times. Check out the church's website. I'll be there Saturday night.

The reason I'm coming back on Sunday (and not waiting till after church) is that Sunday is Jesse's (my older brother) 31st birthday. And while the family tradition for the past 10 years has been that I'm away (usually in MD) on his birthday, I figured that it was a tradition that could change this year.

Anyway, gotta hit the road or I'll never get there.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


So I was thinking about this today as I was writing to a friend about it. I've been reading through the prophets recently and am currently in Ezekiel. Are there modern-day prophets?

Was there someone who went up to Saddam prior to his downfall and said, "God told me to tell you that unless you turn from your wicked ways, the Coalition will come through and wipe your empire off the face of the planet?"

I'm not the first to liken Saddam to Nebuchadnezzar (heh...I think _Saddam_ was the first to do that). Thinking in terms of Biblical history...maybe there _was_ a prophet sent to Saddam prior to the first Gulf War and at that time, Saddam repented to some extent - to the point that being wiped out was reduced to being sanctioned for a few years...or at least delayed. Then the prophet came again only this time Saddam didn't listen at all and God's punishment was meted out by the Coalition.

You laugh, but why not? Do you believe that it happened in Biblical times? If so, then why not now?

I mean, we know that, historically, the Babylonian Empire took the Jews into captivity. That's not the question. The question is whether or not you believe that the prophets in the Bible were actually sent by God to warn them of this captivity in advance of them being conquered and captured.

And if that's the case, could it happen now? And if so, _does_ it happen now?

Now, granted, if there _was_ prophet sent to Saddam, he (or she) likely died a very quick death. But seriously, I'm very curious now. Are there modern-day prophets? Are there people God sends to speak prophecy to the leaders of the world?

Hey Look! I'm Famous!

This is the article that was printed about me in the South-east edition of the Davidson AM section of yesterday's Tennesseean. Shew..the other editions of that section had the story, but not on the front page, and I wasn't in color.

Not sure how long this link will work.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Sunday School

So, tomorrow I begin my adult Sunday School teaching career. I'm not a member of this church, no one's ever questioned my theology at all (although they know my parents and my most recent job, which I guess would give me some credibility within the SB sphere), and I've never taught adults before....but I'll be teaching their female singles for my remaining time in TN.

As is typical for me, I read through the lesson for the first time just a few minutes ago (hey - at least I didn't wait until the ride tomorrow). I really wish I'd read through earlier though. I dunno. I guess I was expecting the teacher book to be like the ones for children - they've got lots of activity possibilities all laid out for you. The material I used to use even had activity books with stuff to punch out and color for the kids, so I didn't even have to scrounge up paper most of the time.

This has one activitity. It involves writing on a piece of paper or chalk/white board. Let me tell you how exciting and discussion-provoking I find this activity to be. Hmm... I was reading in the prepatory stuff at the beginning of the leader's guide and came across a section entitled "Elements of Bible Teaching." It's a half of a page, so I guess the elements are pretty self-explanatory. But in the middle of this section, the following sentence caught my eye: "For the Holy Spirit to transform lives, participants must experience all [seven] elements [of Bible teaching] before, during, and/or after the session." Now, I'm taking this sentence out of its context, and the ending ("before, during, and/or after") does leave it open for a pretty big time span...but the implication of the sentence is plain - the Holy Spirit _CAN_NOT_ transform someone's life unless that person experiences a bulleted list of things.

This seems to bring up two things in my mind. 1) The pride of the author in having the confidence to make such a statement about the nature of God, and 2) the limitations we allow ourselves and others to put on the power of God.

Why _must_ the Holy Spirit jump through these man-made hoops in order to transform someone's life?

And I'm not saying that these elements of Bible teaching are bad things. They're all good things...but it's still humans telling God what He can't do. That's pretty silly, imo anyway.

So...I'll tell you how it goes tomorrow. In the two weeks that I've been attending this class, there has yet to be a repeat attender other than myself and the people who were teaching the class. Granted, that's partially because occasionally they split the men and women, but still....other than the teachers, it's been completely different people for me every time.

Might explain why they asked _me_ to teach.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Dinner with Friends

I just got back from dinner with one old and several new friends of mine. The "old" friend was a guy named Scot who was on the SWBTS team that got to Kuwait just a few weeks after I did, and then followed me to Baghdad. They were on the field with me for the first several months of my term, so the whole lot of us got pretty close. The new friends were a girl (Delia) who is going to Amman over Christmas, a girl (Leah) who may go to Amman next May, and Scot's girlfriend Katie.

We had a really great time talking about our various experiences. The girls obviously wanted to know what Amman was like to know how to pack, etc., but we also just had a good time talking about things in general. They've invited me to hang out with them some, so yay! I have friends now! :) much of a loser do I sound like right now? ;p

Also, while I'm thinking of friends, y'all be thinking of my friend from WarEagle days Tom (or more appropriately, his wife whose name I've forgotten). She's due any day now, but if the baby doesn't come before Saturday, Tom can't go to the Army/Navy game with Terron and possibly Jason (both also from WarEagle).

I'm sure they'd like to have the baby sooner rather than later for other reasons as well, but that's as good a reason as any.

So...since I now know _lots_ more Army folk than Navy/Marine personnel....Go Army, Beat Navy.

But Bryan O'C, if you happen across this, that was really a typo. I meant it the other way around. Please still tell the NASA people nice things about me when I ask you to! Remember - your own son is Army Reserves. Eh...what am I worried about? Insulting you at my interview got me a job. Go Army!

Great-Uncle George

Today I went with my dad to the funeral of my Great-Uncle George. Uncle George was the husband of my dad's mom's sister. He'd apparently been suffering from Alzheimer's for some time now, so this was not unexpected.

I discovered when I saw Uncle George that I _had_ seen him at some point previously in my life, although I couldn't tell you when or where. I vaguely remembered the faces of some of my dad's cousins, but apparently they all knew about me and my trip overseas, so Daddy wanted me to come along 1) to have some "quality" time with me, and 2) so that they could see that I was safe, etc.

I learned a lot about Uncle George today. He had been awarded the "Silver Beaver" which is the highest level of Scoutmaster in Boy Scouts. Both of my brothers were scouts, taking after my dad who was a scout. Apparently Uncle George got Daddy into it. My younger brother, Toby, and my dad have been teaching at a scout camp here in TN the past few years with a boy named Danny. We learned today that Danny was a grand-nephew of Uncle George as well, but on George's side instead of Elenor's (my grandmother's sister). My dad was impressed with this show of Uncle George's legacy as a scout - grand-nephews on both sides of his family were continuing the tradition of scouting without even knowing that they were related.

I was impressed with his service record. Uncle George apparently signed up for the Air Force in 1941 - just in time for WWII. No one among those I was talking to (my dad and his cousin Jerry) knew what he did in WWII. And apparently, after his term of service was over, he got out and worked elsewhere....until the Korean War started. Then he re-enlisted (!!!) and served as a navigator on 32 flights into Korea from where he was stationed in Japan.

So Great-Uncle George, I wish I'd been able to know you. You sound like you were a really cool guy. But in any case, we here at "Common Sense" salute you.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Tennesseean

I just finished getting photographed for a story in Nashville's newspaper The Tennesseean. I was hoping for a hot, young (male) photographer...and I got most of my wish....all except the male part. Well, and she seemed like an attractive young lady to me, but guys may have different opinions as to her "hot"ness. it was a typical newspaper picture of me amidst my Iraqi memorabilia. And now I'm felling weepy. It was the maps that did me in. Stupid maps that I love. Well, and the pictures and all of the other stuff.

I miss it so much over there. Most of my WarEagle friends and other friends were coming back to wives and kids or grandkids (or they were bringing their families with them). Before I left, I lived 700 mi. from my family already. We talked _more_ while I was overseas than we did when I lived in the States. Maybe I'll feel less displaced when I'm back in MD with all of my friends. Maybe it would be different if Mara were still alive. I miss it all so much.

I just finished talking on the phone with the reporter too and now I'm teary again. It hurts to think about it. I want to go back there so badly.

So now I'm gonna distract myself by buying one last Christmas gift for my friends overseas and mailing the box to them.