Saturday, November 24, 2007

O Christmas Tree

Well, we did it! Today we chose, cut, lit, and decorated our very first Christmas tree. It all started with a trip to Seekhaven Farms, just outside of town, where we found our tree. Finlay came along, of course, and absolutely could not have been happier. He had so much fun running around in the fields of trees. He, Nick, and I finally chose one, after much deliberation, and the real fun began! Nick cut down our tree all by himself, and then the folks at the tree farm "shook and baled" it for us.

Once we got home Nicholas didn't waste any time trimming the stump, putting the tree into water, and stringing it with lights. We did have to make one additional trip to Target for more lights, though! This evening we decorated the tree with all the ornaments we have collected over the past three years and a few new ones. We have received so many special ornaments from people whom we love and it was great to finally be able to hang them!

To top it all off, we actually had a gift for each of us wrapped and ready to put under the tree once it was finished. In conclusion I have to say that this may be our first tree in three years, but I wouldn't have had it any other way because this tree is, and this day has been, absolutely perfect!

A Trip to the North Pole

Santa and his little elf went Christmas shopping yesterday at the Southpark Mall in Charlotte, NC. We chose that mall because it is almost a carbon copy of Northpark in Dallas, and one can't truly invest a full day of shopping in a mall with any less than a Neimans and a Nordstrom!

Nick gets serious bonus points for enduring a full day of trolling the mall in search of the perfect gift(s). I, of course, bought him several things as well, but we still have some shopping to do for him today.

Speaking of shopping today, we will be going to a Christmas tree farm outside of town to choose our very first Christmas tree. Yes, it may be our third Christmas as a married couple, but we didn't have a tree our first year and I decorated our ficas last year while Nick was deployed (yes, really). It should be an experience!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

We're Thankful!

This year Nick and I are thankful for so many things. Our family and friends who have been so tirelessly loving and supportive through the challenges of the last year and a half (hey, we didn't have the blog to thank you with last year!), our new home in Columbia, Nick's safe return from his deployment, my new friends here at USC, and, in general, always having everything we need. Speaking of last year, we tried to make this year an extra-good Thanksgiving since Nick didn't have one last year. You may remember that he was deployed, and sadly he actually slept through the Thanksgiving dinner at the dining hall.

We couldn't make it back to Texas, but that didn't stop us from being with our families, at least in spirit. We enjoyed the phone calls we got throughout the day to remind us that we were missed back home. We missed you too!

We started off the day with a true Thanksgiving classic, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! Nick actually let me watch the whole thing. At around 2 we went to a Thanksgiving gathering at one of my professors' houses, also attended by lots of friends from my grad program. It's so wonderful that people are willing to open their homes to us poor students who can't get home. It was so nice, even for just a few hours, to have the feeling of gathering together with people you love on Thanksgiving!

In the evening Nick and I helped serve dinner at the Salvation Army. We had decided to do this a while back since we didn't want to make a big meal just for the two of us. Things like this really take me out of my comfort zone, but I was really glad to be helping out the homeless population here in Columbia.

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment, please. The city of Columbia has zero year-round shelters for the homeless. There are around 1500 homeless people in Columbia, and they are actually forced to sleep on the streets. The only time that they are ever able to sleep inside is when the winter shelters open up. I believe the nighttime temperature must dip below 50 for the city to open these. If these people have nowhere to sleep or wash themselves or spend time in a safe environment, then what does one think that the effect will be on the city? It is obvious when you are in downtown Columbia. You can't escape the homeless and they cannot help themselves. It's a lose-lose situation in the truest sense. Recently there was a sit-in of sorts at the Salvation Army, with about 700 Columbia residents choosing to spend one night sleeping outside as a homeless person. That event helped to raise some awareness, but so much more needs to be done here for these people!!!

So, it felt good to be even a tiny part of some kind of, if not a solution, then at least some assistance. We probably served over 100 folks, mostly men. Most of them were courteous and thankful, and as Nick pointed out, they are great conversationalists. One of the men at the table Nick and I served has family in Harker Heights, and he loved to talk about Central Texas, the Texas Ranger Museum, and his neice who is ten and loves competition cheerleading. Each person who attended the meal received a hot dinner and a to-go box of food as well. I wish we could have given them more.

Tonight will be a bad one out on the streets. We had torrential rains today and the cold front that you all (in Texas) are feeling now should roll into South Carolina later tonight. I pray that what we could give them tonight gives them a little more strength and endurance to brave the cold, damp night ahead.

I guess you always leave a place like that being thankful for what you've got. We certainly did, and I am thankful for experiences like that, how they serve to remind me of how blessed I really am.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

All weekend Nick and Finlay have been hard at work, decorating the exterior of our house. We won't have much time to do this kind of thing next weekend so we decided that earlier was better than later. We wish you were all here to enjoy our festive home in-person!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Do-Gooder No More?

This past Tuesday I attempted to do a good deed. One should always be ready to help others in need, but especially at this time of year it seems appropriate that we would all try a little harder. So it was with this attitude that I set about my day on Tuesday. When I left my house for class (thankfully the one I co-teach and not one I am enrolled in) I saw, running around in my front yard, my next door neighbors' german-shepherd/lab mix.

My first thought was to put him in my backyard for safe-keeping, as this was the second time I have seen him out and roaming the neighborhood in the last few weeks. However, closer inspection of my gate revealed that he had actually most likely escaped from his yard, into mine, and then out of mine as was evidenced by the gate to my yard hanging open. So, I brought him into my house and shut him up in the laundry room, also relegating Finlay to Nick's and my bedroom.

I knew this solution wouldn't work long-term, but I was very late for class by that time. The situation got more complicated when, upon trying again to get in my car and leave, I saw their other dog, a Jack Russell, running around in my front yard. Now, this dog gets out all the time - three times in the last week - but since I had rescued the big dog I didn't feel that I could neglect the little one. I decided that I could make this work if I got Finlay's kennel out of the attic.

I have been quoted as saying "I don't do attics" which probably doesn't surprise most of you, but to save a little helpless animal I will stretch my comfort zone. So I climbed up into the scary, cold attic, rummaged for the kennel, upon finding it in-tact and too large to fit through the attic door dismantled it, and began to drag it down the stairs. By this time I was admittedly not in the best of spirits, was 30 minutes late to class, and was rushing to settle affairs so I could leave. So, when the kennel wasn't cooperating in being pulled down, I just yanked harder. Big mistake.

I did manage to get it down, but when I returned to the attic door to shut it, it refused to close. Closer inspection revealed that the impediment was a spring that had sprung off its track. No matter how hard I tugged, it would not go back, but I was now 45 minutes late so I had no choice but to leave the attic door hanging down. Thinking about it now, it was kind of like my house was sticking its big, nasty tongue out at me...

So I went on to class, for all 45 minutes that were left, and then rushed back home to figure out a better solution. Unfortunately I was too late. When I opened the front door, the stench of dog poop was overwhelming. That was due to the fact that my neighbors' big dog had escaped from the laundry room and pooped all over the living room. Even for a big dog, it was a lot of poop.
aside from some chewed up blinds he didn't do any more damage to the living room, but he had done a number on the laundry room. He had spilled all the water that I had left out for him, and judging by the smell, added to the wet mess by peeing on the floor. He had scratched huge gashes into our wooden door and had apparently chewed on the deadbolt cover so hard that he crunched it (fortunately it still functions). Needless to say I was livid. But I still tried to hang onto the dog for my neighbor. So I put him out in my backyard and did my best to chain the gate shut.

I then set about cleaning the house and brainstormed about what I could do with the little dog. Once the house was somewhat cleaned-up I went into the backyard to find the spot of the dogs egress into my yard. I should mention here that the Jack Russell jumps up so high that the neighbors have had to add 18 inches of chicken wire to the top of their chain-link fence (resulting in a very attractive fence I might add). I finally found a spot where the chicken wire had fallen down so I took the little dog and placed him back over the fence and pulled the wire back up the best I could.

It was then that I noticed that the big dog was no longer in my backyard and the gate had been forced open. I gave up on him. I figured, given the day's events, batting .500 wasn't a bad average. By then I had to go back up to campus for work so I reluctantly bid farewell to Finlay, who, by the way, had behaved perfectly all day, not even complaining when he was eventually stuck in the bathroom.

My efforts were made complete when, as I was driving down the street on my way back to work, I saw both dogs happily prancing around in someone else's yard. I give up.

Nick and I have vowed that the next time we see those dogs out we are calling animal control. For actually feeling this sentiment alone, I feel totally defeated, and it makes me wonder if doing good deeds for others is really ever worth it.

I guess we'll find out when we spend our Thanksgiving volunteering at the Salvation Army. Hey, I'm not giving up on my conscience that easily!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's beginning to look...

Today was a pretty nice little Sunday at the Hall house. We slept in today - hey - it's our first weekend in Columbia in the last 3 weeks and we needed the rest! We are starting to get really excited about our first Christmas at home together. We are planning on actually decorating for the first time, complete with lights, a real tree, and all the trimmings. We want to do it right so we started off by measuring the roof-line to find out how many feet of lights we'd need. Nick was very brave and climbed up onto the roof to do the dirty work! In the process of being outside - inside - outside Nick and Finlay spotted our neighbors' lost dog, Deuce. He reminds me of a certain other terrier by the name of Harriet! The boys ran out and rescued him, and you can see him in the picture below. This afternoon we looked around at Lowes and Target, making our pre-Christmas shopping list, and we found the best thing ever! A puppy advent calendar! Now Nick and I have our advent wreath and Fin has his very own advent calendar filled with rawhide treats. We hope everyone had just as wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

SPA Family Thanksgiving

This year Nick and I are particularly thankful for new friends. Last night we celebrated Thanksgiving a bit early with some of those friends at the SPA family Thanksgiving dinner. I made a squash a corn casserole, which was pretty tasty if I do say so myself! I was also reminded of last Thanksgiving, playing Apples to Apples with the Whites because we played a rowdy game of Apples to Apples last night. Enjoy the family picture below!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Homecoming Part II

Please read Part I will make much more sense!
Campus Tour

After we left Nanny's house, the wheels began to fall off - arguably in a literal way. The old Tahoe decided, at the moment we pulled away from the curb, to perma-lock the doors, but in a way that wouldn't allow them to shut. Hence the doors began to flap open and threatened to take Dad with them. We returned to Nanny's house at 3:15 (our flight was at 4:40). Dad briefly tried to fix the doors, but in the interest of time abandoned that plan in favor of taking Nanny's car to the airport (thanks Nan). We got to the Waco airport without further event, checked in for a our flight, processed into the gate at the allotted time, and were set to go, until they announced, at our scheduled departure time, that the plane was awaiting a part in Houston, and had not left for Waco yet.

Continental automatically rescheduled everyone who had a 7p.m. connecting flight or later, but our connector from Houston to Columbia left at 7:30. Sparing you the unnecessary details, this ended in an hour-long delay in Waco, and Nick and me sprinting, yes sprinting, through George Bush International airport, in hopes of catching our flight. The issue was that we landed at 7p.m., but our other flight was scheduled to board, in another terminal, at 6:55. We made it to the gate at about 7:15, and had our flight not been boarding late, we probably would not have made it. We got to Columbia around midnight to find that only one of our suitcases had made it. Nick's luggage came in on Monday and all was well. At least they didn't misplace, oh, say, our dog, like American did last Christmas.

That's the end of the Homecoming trip story. I have been very very busy with class this week and apologize that I was not able to update sooner. Enjoy the pictures, and remember that you can see the others on Snapfish. If you need me to e-mail you an invitation to look at them, shoot me a line at

Finally...Homecoming Part I

Herman Melville said," life's a journey that's homeward bound." While Nick and I hope this is true for us someday, we were content, last weekend, to return home just for a few days. As I mentioned before, Nick and I had the chance to go back for Baylor Homecoming as a birthday gift from my parents.

We left Columbia on Thursday evening and were in Waco by late Thursday night. Friday we had lunch at one of my favorite high school spots - Rico! The lunch stop was truly complete when I ran into two of my favorite teachers - Peggy Jezek and the former Jill Osborne, now Wilkerson.

After lunch we ventured over to campus, where Mom played photographer as Nick and I snapped pictures at our favorite spots all over campus. A highlight was sneaking into the Pi Phi room and seeing the clock that Mom and Dad gave to the room. I love it's new spot!
Dinner Friday night was, of course, at Ninfa's. The whole family joined in, and we were glad to see Mark and Lauren. We were also happily surprised to see Jim, Shelly, Kate, and David (Nick's aunt, uncle, and cousins) while we awaited our table.

Post-dinner it was on to the bonfire, with a stop at Lauren's apartment to visit our cat-nephew, Rocky. I also got caught up on wedding details, which is always fun! At the bonfire we were able to run into lots of friends and some family. We had a blast, and it was even better when we heard the announcement that Pi Phi had won Class A Float!!!

Saturday morning we, of course, attended the parade. It wasn't too cold, and the floats looked great, but once again, the highlight was seeing so many people that we haven't seen in a looong time. Especially exciting was seeing some of the new babies of friends and family, a few of whom I have seen growing up on their own blogs. A shout out here to Kayleigh Conlon, Price Boyd, and Price Dyer.

After the parade Mom and I went to the Pi Phi coffee, where we caught up with - you guessed it - more friends! Pre-game Nick and I were hankering for some tailgate action, the likes of which it is difficult to find at good ole' BU so we found ourselves at the George's tent. After a great burger and refreshments we headed over the see the slaughter that was the Baylor-Tech game.

For Saturday dinner some the family came over for Uncle Dan's I really enjoyed seeing Grandma, Boppy, Aunt Carol, Uncle Jamey, Matt, Stephanie, Camille, and Lily. As a sidenote here, Lily let me hold her and did not cry! This may be a first for me. I also opened some great birthday gifts. You should all know that Nick worked with a very limited wardrobe during our trip because he carried my new grind and brew coffee maker to Texas, for me to unwrap on my birthday. What a great husband!

Saturday night we did make a trip to Cricket's, how could we not? I loved seeing my college girlfriends guy-friends, and I was so sad to not have more time to hang out!

Sunday we visited FBC Woodway with mom and dad, and aside from some new paint and chair-covers in the sanctuary, it kind of felt like I had never left. I finally got to see Rebecca on Sunday afternoon since she was so wonderful to come down to Waco to visit. We only had a few hours to hang out on Sunday, but she's coming to visit in just a few weeks! Yay!

On the way out of town we were able to stop at Nanny's house, and I was very pleasantly surprised to get to see Aunt Sherri and Uncle William there too. We had a great, but too short, visit, and I know it will be too long until I get to see any of my family again.

Pictures of our trip will be in our Fall 2007 snapfish album if you would like to see more than are posted on here in Part II

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We know, we know

We are sorry for the delay in posting about Homecoming events. We hit the ground running on Sunday night (technically Monday morning) and haven't stopped since. We hope to post something substantial on Friday so stay tuned!