Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Turnpike Rivalry is Back.

Every Tuesday during the NFL season, I go to ESPN and check out the power rankings. Every Tuesday, I'm hoping for the same thing.

Today, my wish came true.

Just a little good natured ribbing. See you in the post season!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Norah

People tell you that when you become a Dad, everything will change. They say that nothing can prepare you for how different everything will be. They say that it's the best feeling in the world.

When we were pregnant, I had fears from time to time about how I would feel when Norah was born. I was afraid that I wouldn't be as excited about a new daughter as everyone said I would be. I was afraid that I wouldn't immediately fall in love with her, like everyone said I would. And it makes sense to think that won't happen. Everyone I have ever loved, I had to get to know. I have never loved someone right away without knowing anything about them, so I thought I might need to get to know Norah a bit before I loved her as much as everyone told me I would.

I was wrong. There was no need to worry about anything. I clearly remember the sound of Norah's first breath after the brought her into the world. She was gurgling through some of the amniotic fluid in her lungs and nose, but that sound was pure magic to me. Everything in the operating room stopped, the nurses weren't talking any more, the machines weren't beeping, it was just me, Rach, and a blue sheet with my gurgling baby girl behind it. I looked at Rach, exhausted, and I was so excited I couldn't contain it. They brought her over to me, and even though she looked slimy, bloody and dirty, I loved her. I don't know why. It really is something no one can describe and I'm not going to try. But honestly, I saw her, and my heart caught on fire inside my chest and all I wanted to do was hold her and hug her and tell her I love her.

Fortunately, I have the rest of her life to hold her and hug her and tell her I love her. And that's exactly what I plan on doing. She is beautiful, sweet, and not bloody any more. Anyway, you're all here for pictures, so I'll give you what you've come for.

Here are my favorites so far. The rest you can find on Norah's album on our Flickr account. I'll keep a link on the sidebar for those of you who would like to keep looking up on it.

This was the first time I really got to hold Norah. She was in the blue lights to treat Jaundice for the first two days, and I didn't get to hold her because she could only be out of the lights for feedings. It was kind of stressful, but Jaundice is pretty common and we weren't worried. And I did get to hold her so... it was okay.

This was Wheeling the day Norah was born.

Here's a shot of Norah's eyes. You tell me what color they are.

I had just farted when this picture was taken.
And it smelt of snozzberries and rancid potato water.

Norah trying to eat mommy's nose.

Uncle Jeremy is not allowed to babysit without adult supervision.

Uncle Tim making faces at Norah.

Aunt Marisa telling Norah how to administer Ketamine to Mommy if she get's ornery again.

Cora had some friends over on the couch.

Our first family photo. Can you say "Awwwwww." Good job.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Norah Mae Elek is Born!!!


No time to play on the internet. Check out the photos.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Last Sonogram

So we had our last sonogram this Monday, and we have officially scheduled a date for inducing labor. If Rachel does not go into labor before next Tuesday, Dec. 4th, we will go to the hospital at 6:00 in the morning to induce her. So, between now and Wednesday the 5th, we will be proud new parents. And we'll be getting a lot less sleep.

At this second to last doctor's visit, we had our last sonogram. They did the 3D thing again, and I was disappointed with the results, again. Typically they show you results like this when they talk about the 4D sonogram:
We weren't expecting results like that (because I know that's just the 4D sonogram companies trying to get eager parents to push Doctor's offices to offer 4D sonogram imaging), but I was hoping to see results a little better than we got:


Now, I don't know about you, but I kind of think she looks like a dog. In fact, when I saw the 4D image pop up I said "She looks like a bull dog!" And I think I offended the lady running the machine. But honestly, I can't look at this picture and NOT see a dog. I'll trace it out in case you can't see it. Because once you do see it, I don't think you can look at that picture and not see a dog.

Although the 4D thing wasn't really great, they were able to take some measurements. They think that Norah is about 8 pounds 2 ounces, and they think her Femur measured off the charts. (Which is hilarious because we are both so short.) So it looks like Norah got some of her Grandpa in her... hopefully she'll stay shorter than us through elementary school, but we'll see.

All in all, it was fun to know that Norah will be joining us in a few years. But as things stand right now, we're expecting Norah to look a bit like this in a few years:


Oh, and it's now officially OK to wish people a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

RE: Chris Kinglestein

Recently we had a visitor stop by with the following comment:

I would like it if the entire blog was about candy canes and Christmas lights please.

Thank you in advance...

Chris Kringlestein

It's funny Mr. Kringlestein, that you should ask. One, because your name sounds very Jewish, and you want Christmas stuff up. I'll throw in some Channukah for you as well.

But also because it isn't yet Thanksgiving. Every where I look, stores, TV, Malls, everyone has finally completely blown past Thanksgiving and moved on to Christmas. There have been four cities nearby who had lighting ceremonies already. And I am sad. I love Thanksgiving. It has long been one of my favorite holidays, and yet, the holiday is being railroaded by the commercialization of Christmas. Why? Because stores make a heck of a lot more money off of candy canes and stockings than they do off of cranberry sauce and turkey. I'm sad about that. I wish our culture spent more time on Thanksgiving, both the holiday, and the attitude.

I know that this won't change, and I know that this steady pace closer and closer to Halloween will only continue. But I wonder when it will stop. I thought that there would never be a time when Christmas ceremonies took place before Thanksgiving, but I'm clearly wrong. Now, I wonder, will there ever be Christmas ceremonies before Halloween? Is that crazy? Or is that the future?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Here you go Allie.

Our friend (ok. Rachel's friend) Allie told me that my banner was too Autumn, and I need to change it. So, I did. You're welcome Allie.

If anybody ever wants me to change something on my blog let me know. I'll either do it, or I won't.

By the way... we're on our way now with Norah. We could have her any day now... YAY!!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Joe Biden... wow...

Just a quick note: I'm a Barack supporter, and in this race I've been swaying between Barack, Edwards, and Clinton. But... I'm sitting in my apartment right now watching Sen. Joe Biden give some GREAT answers. I don't like his position on not giving licenses to undocumented immigrants, but I have been REALLY impressed by his answers throughout this whole debate. Edwards seems to be grasping and raking the grass hoping to hang on, and I seriously heard Clinton say: "No, I"m not playing the gender card. I have talked to so many 95 year old women who say they were alive when women couldn't vote. I want to let them see the first woman President." (Uhhh... wha?) I just want to say it before the commentators do at the end of this debate. Overall, the person winner of this debate? Joe Biden. Hands down.

Joe Biden has impressed me, here are my thoughts on Biden:
  • I don't like his position on refusing to give driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.
  • I like his foreign policy understandings. A lot.
  • I like his attention to Pakistan, and his knowledge about what's going on there.
  • I like his ability to debate according to the rules, and the fact that he never once fought with the facilitator.
  • I don't like the way he skirted around the Health Care Reform questions.
  • I LOVED what he had to say about Iraq.
  • I like how he portrayed himself tonight over all.
I need to look more into him, but after tonight, it's not about Hillary or Barack for me any more. Now, its about Barack or Biden. Hillary sounded rewarmed, biting, and unwilling to listen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Riding the Train, come on ride the train, choo choo ride it!

Did I ever mention that the trains in Chicago have lots of nice colors associated with them.

Now, if you are intending to go to the south side, and your brother tells you make SURE you get on the green line that says 63rd on the outside, I highly advise looking at your brother like he is nuts, and when he says, it is easier than you think...you figure..."does this guy take me for an idiot or what!?"

So uhhh, yeah take the Harlem one by accident it makes life more interesting.

Oh, and the Brown Line to the loop is on the near side of the platform at the merch mart, in case you were wondering.

Did I mention I love Indian food, and my amazingly awesome brother took me to the bestest Indian place I have ever been in my entire life and we go the special dinner for two and we had tons and tons of Nan and I ate the shrimp right off the top and the chicken was soo goooooood and I then ate lots of delicious rice pudding and farted on the plane the whole way home!

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yipppieeeeeeeee Woooot! PING!!!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Norah's Blog

Well, seeing as almost all of the Eleks keep in touch over Blog. Norah decided to join the bandwagon, and has started a blog of her own. You can check it out at:

http://norahelek.blogspot.com

Tell her hello!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Halloween Costumes

I know I'm late on this, but I thought some folks might like to see Rachel's and my Halloween costumes.

Here you go.

Rachel was a Furby, I was an old man.

I'm pretty certain that this is what I'll look like when I'm older.

This is the whole group of friends at Katie Tarara's Halloween Party.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Poem and Laughing Baby

I found this video on YouTube and couldn't stop laughing at it. I then spent the next hour looking up videos of laughing babies.



I also found this poem in a journal I wrote. It's no where near as good as the laughing baby, but I liked it, so I'm burying here where it's sure to be upstaged.

The Hymn

In the valley
at the bend of a thin dirty creek
I drove up to a leaning wooden church,
stones popping under under the tires.
The windows were open
the children laying on wooden pews.
Old women in large hats
fanned themselves,
and the old man behind me
shook like the organ music.
The farmer's fingers
thick as toes
gripped the hymnal
like a cold clod of earth.
The man across the sanctuary
sang loudly
while we whispered the hymn.
Outside, through the window,
I saw the mountains
folded on the ground
like laundry.
The clouds made their slow pilgrimage
across the thin blue expanse
all wandering slowly in the same direction.
And as we stood to sing the Gloria Patri
the pews creaked
and behind me, children laughed.
The curtains flapped.
And the organ breathed
an old
slow
hymn.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Happy Halloween!

This whole post is really just to show off the Pumpkin I carved a while ago. (I made pumpkin bread and garlicy pumpkin seeds as well. Yum!) I was pretty proud of this little guy, he had a lot of personality. But, he rotted really fast, and started attracting flies, so he's in the garbage now.

Moving on to something overly romanticized:

Halloween. It's time for little kids to put baby powder in their hair and walk around with bed sheets on and ask neighbors for candy. I have always really enjoyed Halloween, and I'm glad to be at a place in my life where I'm thinking about what my little daughter will be doing in a few years. And how much sweet, sweet candy I'll get when that cute little girl goes begging for sweets. Mmmmm....

Things in the Elek house dorm are going pretty well lately. Rachel is having a lot of pain right now because her pubic bones are separating. (Because the bones are a circle, when they spread in one place, the pinch in the other.) It's really painful, and it's hard to see her in pain. I don't know how I'll do in labor... but I'm pretty sure I'll be in a puddle of my own drool on the cold tile floor through most of the process. Sorry Rach.

Actually, as I was typing this, Rach touched my arm and said that she thought she felt her first Braxton-Hicks contraction! YAHOO! So, I guess we're officially on the home stretch.... here goes nothing.

Anyway, I just wanted to stop in and send a quick update saying things (other than the pubic pain) are still going pretty well. We look forward to bringing little Norah home, though it's pretty scary to think about becoming a Dad. I think I realized how scared I am when I came home yesterday and Rachel was balling on the couch--snot running down her face and everything. I asked her what was wrong and she cried saying "I'm just watching A Baby Story." I laughed, and sat down with her to watch the last bit of the episode. It's just crazy to watch something like that and realize that I'm going to be in a hospital room just like that in just a few weeks. I can't wait, but man, I'm nervous. Ready or not, though, here goes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sigh...

I know sports don't really matter very much. And I know professional baseball is easily among the most corrupt games in the sports world. But, it still sucks to be a Cleveland fan. Again.

When I was a boy, I watched the Browns come so close. Then, a little while later I watched the Cavs come so close. Then, a little while later, I watched the Indians come so close. Then, a little while later, I watched the Cavs come so close. Then, a few minutes ago, I watched the Indians come so close.

I am SO sick of "Next Year."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why Study World Religions

Recently I have made up my mind to obtain a Ph.D. in the History of World Religions. Many people have asked me why I want to do this, and the question deserves an honest response. Answering the question requires an adequate understanding of the motives behind the question itself. It is my belief that people who ask me “Why are you going to study World Religions” are really asking one of three things:

1. Why World Religions? Those who ask the question this way, are merely curious as to why I am interested in World Religions.

2. Why World Religions? Those who ask this question believe that there is a difference between the study of Christian things and the study of Non-Christian things. Devoting oneself to the Non-Christian things robs one of the opportunity to engage in the Christian tasks of Evangelism and Devotion.

3. Why World Religions? People asking the question this are usually trying to caution me against learning about World Religions because they are afraid that Academic exposure to the study of World Religions will degrade my orthodoxy and transform me into a Universalist.

I will address these three very different questions in reverse order.


In response to the Third Question: Firstly, allow me to say that Universalim holds no water. It is not possible for all religions to be correct. If all religions were correct, then it would be true that Jesus was God, and that Jesus did not exist, and that Jesus was a prophet. This is a logical impossibility. It is not even an antinomy, it is the Kantian non-entity. Impossible. Universalim makes no sense whatsoever. To say that everyone eventually meets God even with incorrect beliefs is not Universalism, this is either a lazy form of Buddhism, or a nameless Religion.

Secondly, some Christians fear that the study of other faiths entices Christians to leave the Church. There is merit to this belief, because many Christians who study other faiths end up leaving the Church. However, fault the individual for this, I fault the Church. I have taken part in many Christian worship opportunities that I felt were spiritually bankrupt. In my opinion, someone who has been exposed to authentic Christianity will not leave it for authentic Buddhism, Atheism, Hinduism, etc. However, someone who has been exposed to bankrupt Christianity would justifiably exchange that for another faith.

In response to the Second Question: With all due respect, this is a form of Dualism which Christ did not seem to support. Christ did not seem to find a gap between the sacred and the profane as did we. This is not to say that Christ did not believe in sin, he most certainly did. He most certainly believed in the devil, and in evil. However, Christ seemed to think these things were spiritual in nature, and not physical. Christ did not think that being a fisherman, or a prostitute prohibited one from becoming a true disciple. When describing the Kingdom of God, Christ did not say that Heaven was like a great worship service, he said that it was like a farmer, yeast, mustard, treasure, a merchant, a net, a king, a landowner, a banquet planner, and ten virgins. Christ compared the most sacred of places to the most ordinary of places. I do not believe that there are “secular” career paths, and “christian” career paths. I do not believe there are “secular” studies and “Christian” studies. Christ is ruler of all, and therefore everything we do should be Christian. We should not have our Christian practices and our everyday practices. Everything we do should be Christian. If my study or my practice prohibits me from doing my Christian duties of Evangelism and Devotion, I must blame myself, not my field of study. Likewise, engaging in a “Christian” field of study will not encourage me to Evangelize or Devote myself more than if I engage in any other field of study. The power of Christianity is in my love, not the book I’m reading.

In Response to the First Question: I find World Religions fascinating. I am blown away by the devotion others show toward their stories and myths. I am amazed that even today, people all across the globe are devoting every moment of their lives, every decision, every action to a theoretical construct which can never be proven true or false. I am fascinated that whole civilizations have been founded on hierarchies of myths. I am just passionately driven to understanding what Religion is, why it compels mankind, and how it has impacted the History of Civilization. I will never be able to fully study these things, but I would be remiss if I failed to engage the question merely because of its enormity. I want to study world religions for the same reason that Olympic swimmers want to swim.

And, (if I am honest about my understanding of Scripture) I want to study the History of World Religions because Christ wants me to study the History of World Religions. Christ is the supreme sovereign over my life, and I believe my passion for World Religions comes from Him. And, I would be doing myself a severe disservice were I to ignore that call.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tribe Wins! Tribe Wins! Tribe Wins!

I was curious about the MacBook's "Time Lapse" setting, so I videotaped myself watching the Tribe Game.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Update: Busy Busy

So... it's been a while since I've posted, but I'm sure you can all forgive me. Here's the top ten of things that have been keeping me busy:

1. GREs
I've studied for the GRE's twice in my life. The first time Heather Battles and I "studied" at Panera Bread every Tuesday. She for the MCAT and me for the GRE. She's an M.D. now, and as of last week, I hadn't taken the GREs yet. So, I had Rachel sign me up, and I took them. I really should have studied more, but I spent most of my study time preparing for the Math section. I figured it would be better for me to relearn the rules for exponents and statistics than to try to memorize every twenty dollar word in the English Language hoping to see fifteen of them on the test. So, after a few days of Math review (and realizing that a Math prep test took me just under 12 hours to complete.) I drove up to Pittsburgh on Thursday and just took the test. I got a 570 on the verbal, and a 600 on the math. I'm not sure if those are good scores or not, but everything I've looked at say they are anywhere from slightly below average, to slightly above average. So that's good. They aren't out of the ball park, but they probably won't make any one think I'm mentally handicapped when I apply.

2. Grad School
I'm applying for Grad Schools right now. I have to speak with some of my old Professors from Malone to get some advice (if you're an old Professor from Malone, and you have advice... ) but right now I'm looking at University of Chicago, Duke, Princeton, and Boston University. My hope is to study the history of World Religions wherever I go. U Chicago has a pretty great reputation, and I hope to study there. But it's ULTRA expensive, and I'll need some serious fellowship opportunities if it's going to work out. We'll see. If you have any other ideas let me know... I'm somewhat afraid that the GRE scores will knock me out of the competition for some of the schools I've listed.

3. Norah and Rachel
We just had our most recent Sonogram today. It's so neat to see her moving around and sucking her thumb in there. We're reading her Peter Pan right now. I bought a beautifully illustrated copy a few years ago, and Rach and I are reading it to Norah when we go to bed. She seems to like it and kicks around a lot while I read.

4. Work
Work is nuts right now. Lots and lots and lots going on. I've had to do some serious dancing around the "regular office politics" lately, and there have been some factors that make work very difficult from time to time. I can't go into specifics, but that's been eating away at my time for sure.

5. New Database
I'm working on a new database to house the information for the Student Conduct process. Our old database was in a program called FileMaker Pro. It wasn't a very good program, and was very difficult to use. Once the program was set up, we couldn't access the data very easily, so we are in the process of switching to Microsoft Access. Because no one in the office (including me) knows how to use Access, I've taken it upon myself to learn the program and set up the database. So I've spent a few nights and days curled up next to the University's thirteen hundred page edition of "How do Use Access" learning how to create a viable database. I think I'm there and when I get the kinks out of how to secure the database on the server, it'll be up and running.

6. Learning to cook indian food
Yum. I love it. But it takes a very, very long time to create curries sometimes. We went to an Indian food class a while back, and I can't wait to get back to the Indian grocery so I can pick up some curry leaves, and "estrogen." (We didn't know what this particular spice was, but Hari kept calling it "Estrogen." Later we learned that he was actually saying that the spice's flavor was "astringent." Seeing as I haven't grown boobs or anything I can only assume that it was "astringent" and not "Estrogen.")

7. Reading all the books you have to read before you can have a baby. Baby Wise... Baby Signs... How to be a Daddy... THE Book for First Time Daddy... The Baby Name Bible... (We're done with that one) The Father's Survival Guide... Jesus and Pacifism... All the books you need to read in order to qualify as a guy who can change a diaper without breaking the kid. I think I have a long way to go, but at least I now know a heck of a lot about breast milk, moisture wicking gel, and how big FREAKING HUGE 10 cm is.

8. Watching the Browns
Go browns. Seriously... we're looking like a real team. ESPN even said that the game against the Pats would be a good one to watch! Really?! Someone told people to watch Cleveland? Wow.

9. Watching the Indians
BAM! Take that Joe Torre... Kenny Lofton's smiling his rear end off because you wouldn't start him because he's black, and now he knocks you right in the mouth with two hits and four RBIs and ties the record for post season stolen bases all in the same night. Way to go Cleveland... no one should be able to compete with the pay roll of the Greedy Yanks, and yet here you are, showing "The Man" how it feels to get kicked in the shins with steel toed boots... thirteen times. Keep at it boys!

Indians over the Yanks in 4! I said it!

10. Death of Will Ruberg
Will Ruberg passed away last week. He was a great guy, and was dating one of the students that Rachel and I are working closely with. Rachel and I met him on our second New Orleans trip. He came out to help rebuild the city, and we later learned that he lived in the city when he was a kid. At first I was intimidated by him, because he just looked like such a "cool" kid, but later I realized what a fun and energetic guy he really was. I liked him a ton. Needless to say, his death is a serious blow. We're working with Kate (his girlfriend) to try to help her cope... but honestly, how do you possibly "cope" with something like that. I can't imagine being in her shoes... it's just terrible. Please be praying for the Ruberg's and Kate.

That's will on the far Right. Look at that smile.
We'll miss you Will.

I'm finished with this post, and I can't help but think how terrible it is that I don't spend more time talking about him. I'm sorry. This isn't meant to be a memior for Will, just a description of what's going on in my life right now... it seems a very selfish way to talk about him. I'm sorry Will, but I know you wouldn't take any offense.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Best Medicine.

So I'm really, really sick today. Last night, I couldn't sleep because I was so congested that I kept waking myself up choking on my own sputum. (Sorry Katie Couric) The post-nasal drip has given me a really sore throat and my tonsils are so swollen I can see them sticking out of the back of my throat like spongy meaty little fingers. I tried everything I know to get the congestion down, but nothing helped. I irrigated my nose by forcing saline solution into my nostrils until it filled my nose and ran out my mouth, that helped for a few minutes. I drank a shot of whiskey. I drank a shot of Sambuca with coffee beans in it. Then I drank a mug of herbal tea with honey. I draped a towel over my head and held my head over a pot of boiling water to let the steam break up the congestion. I gave myself 5 sprays of steriod nasal spray. I used the new suction ball thingy we got for Norah and tried to suck out the mucus. I took two Benedryl and later I took a Sudafed. Nothing helped. I was up unitl 4:00 in the morning tossing and turning and getting angrier and angrier at my nose.

Then, I woke up and went about my day. All day long I've been sneezing and yadda yadda yadda, but then, in just under three hours, everything changed. I woke up feeling like crap, and spent the morning just wanting to lay in bed. So I pulled out the sleeping bag, and layed down on the couch all morning, and now I feel a hundred times better.

My nose is still clogged, and I can't breathe for crap, and I still have post-nasal drip to make Niagra Falls jealous... but my spirits are high.

That's right... THE BROWNS WON! We racked up a whopping 51 points against the Cincinatti Bengals today and went away with a W. I couldn't be happier right now.

Thanks Braylon. I needed that.


If you want to see the highlight reel... go here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rachel wanted me to put up some pictures of our new apartment. So here you go! This is where you spent your first few months Norah! (We can't wait for you to get here...)


Our Front Door

Kitchen... the Window is behing me.

To the Right...

Kitchen Table, to the right of previous picture.


Plants. I'll kill them eventually I'm sure. This is to the right of the table.

I'm now standing in the kitchen doorway. (Where I was standing taking pictures of the Kitchen, only now, I've turned 180 degrees to take pictures of the living room.)

Living room. The door is to the right of the silver picture frame. (Thanks Cris!)

Now I'm standing in the doorway you saw in the previous picture, photographing the living room.

To the right of the previous picture. This is the doorway I was standing in to take the other pictures.

Turn 180 degrees, and you're in the bedroom/nursery. This is where we'll sleep.

This is the dresser/part of the crib/pack and play.

Here is the pack and play/crib. We'll hopefully be putting the crib up here.

To the right of the Crib is a doorway. Through that doorway is the dresser/dyson.

To the right of the dyson, the Bathroom.

Don't worry Rach, I closed the curtain. ;)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Overdue: Bryson City and Training

Sorry... It's been a long, long time.

We are knee deep in training right now, so it's been a while since I've been able to post. I find that I'm super busy this first part of the year every year, but it's good to start out on the right foot. I should be working on my bulliten board right now, and I will very soon. So this post will be sort of short.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Babs, Carrie, Rachel and I went to Bryson City North Carolina. Carrie's Aunt and Uncle have a cabin in the mountains and the four of us went and had the best vacation I've had in years. Here's how it went down:

We met up in Ohio and left our Saturn in a pharmacy parking lot for the week. We thew some of our things into the back of Bab's and Carrie's Element, and Babs started driving. (For those of you who don't know Babs, he has to drive or he'll go nuts.)

About ten hours later, we were there. We got to the cabin at about 2:00 in the morning, and were absoultely shocked at what a nice place it was. I brought along three wrought iron pots for cooking on the fire because I didn't think there would be a "real" kitchen. Well, much to my chagrin, not only was there a kitchen, there was high speed wireless internet. (Which we couldn't get to work all week, fortunately.) I'll just narrate through the pictures.

The place was very, very comfortable, and we really enjoyed just hanging out in the cabin.

Here's a shot of Rachel in the HUGE King Sized bed we slept in. Yes, they even had clean sheets waiting for us...

Here's a shot of the living room and the front door. Our bedroom is on the other side of that stairway.

And here's a shot of the dining area. (The front door is behind me to the right.)

The front porch and an idea of what it looked like to sit on the porch. When you went out there it was basically just a loud, loud locust fight. It was nearly dead quiet in the day, and beautifully loud at night.

Here we are on a hike... this was on the way to a waterfall in a Cherokee reservation nearby. More pictures from that beautiful hike follow below:

Here you can see the tall grass that rose up straight from the creek bed.


The water was cool, and clean, and a mist rose off of the stream as it crawled down the slippery backs of those polished creek stones.

Moss grew all along the creek bed in a cuishoney carpet of emerald fronds and an occasional bright flower.

Here you can see the water looks black because it is so transparent you look right onto the polished stones below.

The creek rushed by so beautifully it took me a long time hike the mile and a half to the waterfall because I kept stopping to take pictures.

Here's a shot of one of those flowers we passed. These were some very strange looking flowers with just two tiny petals sticking out from the stem like fragile purple silk blades.

There were about a dozen of these little streams that bubbled up, to the right and left of the path and spilled into the creek. One of these streams dripped down from under the exposed root structure of an old mossy tree. It looked as if the tree itself was the source of the stream.

Here's another one of the flowers we saw periodically near the stream. There were a handful of these red flowers that looked like a mess of yawning red beaks.

Here you can see the delicate carpet of rich green moss hanging its hair down into the misting mountain stream. It really didn't get any more beautiful than this. I could take this walk again and again. Or rather, just go and sit in that moss watching the water bubble by for a few hours. It was a very beautiful place to me.

Here's a little guy we saw taking his time climbing a tree.

Here's a shot of Carrie walking around by the water. Look at all the lichen and moss growing on the backs of the logs and trees, everything was just! so green.

And here's the waterfalls we came to. They weren't as big as the Mingo Falls that we had just been to, but the walk more than made up for it. Oh, and on the way back, some hiker behind us caught Rachel peeing in the woods. I was lookout, and when I saw him turning the corner I yelled Stop! Get up! Naturally, she thought I was joking, but when she saw him she jumped up and we ran ahead. Fortunately he was about sixty yards away when he came around the corner, but I'm pretty sure he knew what was going on because Rachel didn't have time to put the toilet paper in the bag she brought... That was the highlight of Day 2.

Here's a shot of Mingo Falls. It was much more visited than the other falls, and I hope you can see why. You had to climb up a hundred and fifty-nine steps to get to the falls, but once you got there you were rewarded with a fifty foot long roaring creek skittering down rocks that looked like enormous elephant hides.

Here's a shot with a person in the corner to give you a feel for the height of the falls.

One more shot, I tried to use the Rhotodendron to frame in the waterfalls. I think I liked the effect.

There was a bridge people could stand on to view the falls. Under that bridge was this water logged gnarled log sagging under the weight of the waterfall crashing down. I took quite a few pictures of that log, by the time I was done, it almost had a personality.

This was the end of the falls. It was almost as if this was the spot where Mingo Falls surrendered to the gradual drop of the creek bed. From here on out, the water tripped over a few logs, and fell down a few large rocks, but nothing like the falls in the background.

The next day we went to a place with a different sort of beauty. It was a bit overcast that day, so I didn't get the best pictures, but I wanted to post a few of the pictures we got from the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. The mansion was built by George Vanderbilt when he was, guess it... 27 years old. I can't even begin to imagine building something like that at my age. I have trouble buying salmon, how did this guy manage to make the Biltmore Estate at 27? Anyway, it was a beautiful day at the Estate. We loved walking through the mansion and looking at all of the original furniture and decorations. The whole experience is a real historical treasure. If you are ever near the Vanderbilt mansion, you should go. It's worth the hefty ticket price. (Which also lands you a Wine Tasting...)

I liked this picture because it says something to me. Here is just a simple little plant, not even flowered yet, and it is so intricate, and so beautiful. Behind it is the most elegant home I've ever seen in my life, the most beautiful thing I've seen made by human hands, and yet, there is still something in this bare flower bud that triumphs over even that. I don't know, maybe I'm getting too deep, but after the beautiful walk in the woods, I was just struck by how hard we try to make beautiful things, when there are so many of them all around us.

Here's a shot of the front yard. Rumor has it the neighborhood lawnmower kid was loaded.

Here's a shot of the Wine Cellar. You weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house, but no one said I couldn't take any of the Wine Cellar...

Again, the Wine Cellar. You can imagine how beautiful the rest of the home was...

We toured the gardens as well. They were pretty, but again, I couldn't help but think about how that little no-name mountain stream was so much more beautiful than all of this arranged and controlled beauty around me. Still, some of the structures were just breathtaking, and the leaves on some of the plants were literally as big as a person. It was very neat to see.

A flower in the Hot House. I love the texture of the petals, they almost look like they're made of octopus skin.

It's hard to take a picture of these trained fruit trees. They were expertly manicured and trained to stand flat against a wall like someone hiding against a wall in a dark alley... uh... holding fruit.

Here's a shot of the four five of us in the gardens.

I have a lot more pictures, but you can check them out on your own at Flickr.

I mentioned the Highlight of Day 2, but not the other highlights so here you go.

Highlight of Day 1: Babs was driving us through down town Bryson City (very quaint mountain town) when he came to some rail road tracks. The lights did not blink, and the arms did not come down, but he saw a train moving very slowly down the tracks toward the car. It was only the engine, there were no other cars on the train, and it was moving very slowly, but Adam stopped like any good driver... just in time for the lights to go off and the arm to come down on the roof of his car. Then he floored it and drove out from under the arm and over to the other side of the tracks. I felt badly for him, and when we saw that there was no damage to the car, I laughed very loudly for a very long time.

Highlight of Day 3: I was making Hot Pepper Sauce by sauteeing some Hot Indian Chile Peppers. As I sauteed the peppers, apparently some hot pepper gas began filling the cabin. Before I knew it, Rachel, Carrie, Babs and I were on the front porch with watery eyes and dry coughs. I went in, threw some vinegar in the pan and it calmed down for a while.

Hightlight of Day 4: We went White Water Rafting class three river. For those of you who have been rafting before, it was a series of ones and twos with a three at the end. That three almost knocked Babs right out of the boat, making for the Highlight of Day 4.

Highlight of Day 5: We drove to Blue Hole in the Ocoee River in Tennessee. It was a place that Babs and I had been to a few years ago. The river is damed up, and they let the dam out once a week making some intense white water. When they bring the dams up again, the water recedes and what was white water a day ago, turns into a beautiful swimming hole with tunnels in the rocks that you can swim through and places for skin diving. While we were there, Carrie found one particular slab of rock that was quite long, and quite slippery. She found that by squatting down on your ankles, you could slide down on your feet for quite a distance before falling into the stream. Naturally we all tried it out for a while, and Carrie's pretty sure it will be an olympic sport soon.

Highlight of Day 6: I don't remember. Maybe it was watching Deliverance. Rachel's new favorite movie. "Where you goin' city boy?!"

Well, I was going to talk about training, but this post has been wayyyyyyy too long as it is. I'll update you on the changes here at WJU next time. (That's my cliff hanger for anyone who actually read all the way throught.)

Till then...