Monday, March 30, 2009

Bridal Showers and Bowling or Bowling and a Bridal Shower

It was a jam packed weekend. In my attempt to get balance back into my life, I am trying to attend more social functions.

Saturday night, Fuel, the singles ministry at McLean Bible Church, got together for a fun night of bowling. This was one of the few events that was out in suburbia so I didn't have to drive very far. It was a really nice night that started out with dinner at Sweet Water Tavern with two of my small group friends. After almost 2 years of being in Bible Study together, we are starting to think on the same wave length as we dressed (no phone calls) color co-ordinated.


By the way, what do you all think of my redder hair? I like it. Its my risky, fun, sassy side. I like the blond face frame, I think I'll ask my stylist to do a bigger blond piece up front so that it's "Pow!" noticeable. My hair looks soooo dark right now. However, in a matter of weeks it will have faded and will look more blond than red.

This is my 'team' or alley mates since we weren't really playing against anyone. By the way, I totally stink at bowling. Amazingly though, my fingers and forearm did not hurt on Sunday.


It was good fun. Half the gang drove into Arlington, VA for another party and the rest of us went across the street to IHOP. I was in the IHOP group. It was nice to sit and chat with people and I made some new friends.

Sunday was a BEAUTIFUL day and was spent in good company at my Aunt and Uncle's in DC for my cousin's fiance's Bridal Shower. It is always nice to see my cousins and Aunts (the boys, except for my hosting Aunt's husband and her son who was the dishwasher weren't there - - did that make any sense?) These are some of my favorite pictures.

Two of my lovely Aunts.


With two of my cousins. The gal in the middle is my cousin's sister-in-law (gosh not using names in this blog can be really difficult).


This is the bride-to-be with her mom just before she began opening all of the gifts.


This is my gift, prior to being opened, just had to show you the fun packaging. The gift was some of their everyday flatware.


The background to the little photo album she is looking at, it came in a bag from one of her mom's college friends (yes, they have been friends that long! Isn't that wonderful!) the card said, "Your mom is probably going to hate me."


In the album, were pictures of her mom doing silly college stuff us girls do like stuffing our bras, dressing up in goofy hand made costumes, and other 'compromising' poses I won't go into describing.


As you can see, one of the compromising poses got a huge laugh. Actually her mom was laughing so hard she started to cry and said she couldn't believe her friend had kept all those pictures.


A took set, well wrenches and ratchets. Her husband-to-be, my cousin will enjoy that gift. In reality, a took kit is a great gift. While my tools were not bridal shower gifts, I use my tools all the time and thanks to the guys in Museum Restoration, I actually know how to use them.


Tradition at American wedding showers is to collect all of the ribbons and bows and make a bouquet that the bride will carry during the wedding rehearsal.


Someone told her she could also wear it as a bonnet, however, I think that is done at baby showers. It makes a fetching bonnet.


The wedding will be in early May at a former DC mansion that is now a nature preserve.

That was what I was up to this weekend. I know I have vacation photos and stories to share, will do that as soon as I get a chance.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where in the World is Ranger's Girl?

Don't let that headline scare anyone. I am still well entrenched in the Washington DC area. I've just been supper busy and last week seemed like the days just stretched into the LONGEST days ever.

This was my first full week back to work after vacation so after sorting through what seemed like 500 e-mails (I don't think I'm exagerating there) I could get back to business. I honestly feel like I am a week behind. Hmm, I guess since I went on vacation for a week, I am a week behind.

Vacation wasn't all vacation as I had a business trip tacked on to the end of things. It was pretty interesting. Everyone was very nice, even though they were very frustrated. Nothing like going into an office where everyone hates the software application you worked your butt off to implement. I think the most frustrating thing for me has been dealing with people that haven't read the User's Manual that I wrote. I thought if I went step by step and screen shot by screen shot, people would understand. Problem is, they aren't taking the time to read the manual. GRRR. So, anyway, I think sitting with the actual users has been most helpful and I know what I want to do to revise the User's Manual, when I get a chance.

Last week in a meeting to discuss the testing and coordination of a software mod, I noticed all of the sticky notes on the conference room walls. Any of you friends with Microsoft Project? What folks have found is the easiest way to plot stuff out in Project is to plot it out using stickies on a wall first. Imagine a large conference room that can sit about 30 people comfortably, with sticky note covered walls. I'm talking floor to ceiling covered. One of the managers asked me if I wanted to run for the hills after seeing the walls.

Um, well, in the state of the economy, no. I'm glad to see we have that much work. Job security is a good thing. I like job security. I'm not so sure what I think about the prospect of not having a life. One of my co-workers ended up with a dog after the last implementation (she promised her kids a dog as a reward for putting up with her long hours).

I sometimes feel like I don't have a life. Like I let the job take over. People ask me what's going on and all I can talk about is work. I wish work were something interesting I could blog about. So please bear with me as I struggle for balance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Honor of Medal of Honor Day

Today is the National Medal of Honor Day. The Medal of Honor is the highest military award for valor in combat. Each branch has its own version of the medal.

Charleston, South Carolina is home to the The Medal of Honor Museum, aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriot Point. I highly recommend a visit sometime. I taped the movie that is shown at the museum because the quotes of the surving MOH recipients are just amazing. I think the one that really gets me is the gentleman that says, " The honor of the Medal of Honor is that a handful of young men that was with you at a difficult time thought you was worthy of it."

A couple years ago, the Dunham family shared the MOH flag presentation ceremony with guests at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Their son, Jason Dunham was the second recipient of the MOH from combat in Iraq and the first Marine to receive it for combat in Iraq. This is video I took of the ceremony. At the time, Captain Trent Gibson, who had been Dunham's company commander in Iraq, delivered one of the best speeches I have heard. I try to quote him when I stop my tours at the MOH wall in the museum. One of his opening remarks will always stand out to me. "All that we have has been given to us. What we do with what has been given us is how we honor those who gave."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Marine Corps Museum Virtual Tour to IOC March 30th

I was given a chance to view the Beta version of the Marine Corps Museum's Virtual Tour. I have to say it is pretty cool.

That is an understatement, if I have ever made one.

Its more than "pretty cool", it is amazing!

Yes, I pressed every button and attempted to watch every video. I have a few comments/suggestions I will be submitting to them.

Oh, by the way IOC means Initial Operating Capability. I could also say they were going to be deploying the virtual tour but I have found any mention of deployment to anyone with military connections means you are "DEPLOYING". Prior to my software's IOC, I kept using IOC and deployment interchangeably and the Marines kept asking me where I was deploying too.

The interactive tour will be released in phases. Phase 1 is a tour of Leatherneck Gallery. Sorry, you can't get there by clicking the picture. I was only given this opportunity to preview the site if I promised to not reveal the URL.

Virtual tour 1

I am sharing some hyper snaps of a SMALL portion of what you will see on the site, to tease you. Once your tour enters the Leatherneck gallery, you have the ability to take a 360 degree view of the space. Kind of like the 360 views you get of houses on Realtors' sites. Your virtual tour guide walks you up to each artifact in the gallery and gives you a brief description of it. You may choose to take a closer look by clicking on the artifact. When you click on the artifact, an artifact description window opens (see below).


This window gives you the specifications of the artifact. You can also manipulate the Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) of the artifact to get a 3D look. I really like this feature because you can't really look at the aircraft at EVERY angle in the museum. Can you tell what aircraft is pictured below? (I'll put the answer at the end of the blog).

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In addition to the artifact 360, if you press the tab "Docent Stories" at the top of the window or the bottom right hand side of the window where the red arrow is, a new window opens. This window contains several docent narrated video clips giving you additional details about the item.

Virtual tour 2

Docent, Major Jack Elliot (ret) gives you the bonus stories on all of the aircraft in the gallery. Anyone into creating models of military aircraft may recognize his name. He is the author of the blue books that modelers use to make sure their paint schemes, insignia and weapons are accurate. He is the walking encyclopedia of all that has flown and that does fly for the United States Marine Corps.

All of the docents you will meet on the tours were once active duty Marines. They have so much knowledge and have great personal stories, I hope they do some additional interviews with these folks. I'm actually going to try to bring you some of their stories here on my blog.

My favorite features of the tour are the movie like tour and the additional docent film clips. I hope the hyper snap teasers I have shown have primed your appetite. As soon as they make the tour public, I'll post it.

This project was conceived by Steven Wallace. According to General Christmas, after a generous donation was received, Wallace, the Museum's Director, Lin Ezell, the marketing team and Interface Multimedia went to work to "Make it so".

Each phase, or chapter, will be tour of another gallery. Guess what they are planning for May:

Virtual tour 3

The answer to my trivia question about the aircraft front profile from the middle of this entry: That aircraft is an F4U Corsair, one of the most powerful aircraft of World War 2. This particular model was flown during the Korean War. That is how powerful it was.

This virtual tour is very well done. The only thing I have seen that comes close is the virtual tour of the CIA Museum. The virtual tour of the National Museum of the Marine Corps trumps the CIA Museum tour as it is all CAD animation. I like the "live" feel of the Marine Corps museum tour. You are seeing the Marine Corps Museum as it really is. Who knows if the CIA really has an actual museum anyway?

Speaking of the CIA museum, the only reason I know about this is I happened to catch it on the morning news programs. I was so excited about it that I blogged about it. I wonder if the National Museum of the Marine Corps folks have contacted the Networks? I'll have to ask.

The IOC/deployment/go-live date for the National Museum of the Marine Corps virtual tour is Monday March 30th. If you don't see it promoted on Good Morning America or the Today Show, you better believe I'll have a link here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge is Only Average

When you spend $200 a night for a hotel, there are some expectations. One of mine is that there are no residuals from the previous people who occupied my room. The first thing I did when I checked into my room was to use the bathroom -- probably what a lot of people do. There, behind the bathroom door was a pile of dirty towels. EEEWWWW! I called housekeeping but it still took two hours for them to come up and get rid of them.

In addition to cleanliness, you expect everything to be in working order. The one thing I was really looking forward to was sitting in the hot tub with the jets of water pounding into my neck and back. I threw my upper back/neck out the day before my vacation. Even after an hour massage, I still couldn't turn my head to the right very far. I've been in a lot of pain and was just really looking forward to the hot tub. Well, wouldn't you know, the jets weren't working. So on a positive note, at least I could sit in the hot tub up to my neck and stretch. But man, I really needed those jets.

Great Wolf Lodge is not some place one should go by themselves. I wish I would have asked around to see if anyone would have wanted to go with me - - however, I'm sure they wouldn't have wanted to do the battlefield in the cold rain all day prior to check-in. The coolest slides, I couldn't go down by myself and of course, wouldn't you know, some creepy old man about my dad's age asked if I wanted to go down a particular slide with him. I'm sorry, but I'm not going down a water slide in an inner tube or raft, half naked in a bathing suit, with a man I don't know.

I went down a couple of the big slides a few times. Lots of fun. Boy, can I say going down a pitch black tube on an inner tube is scary! After I did that, I floated on the tiny lazy river for a while, then soaked in the hot tub and went back to my room.

This would be a great place to come with kids in the winter. If you have kids, I highly recommend this. Way more fun with kids.

I was also a bit bummed that there wasn't a business center for adults. There was a computer and gaming room for teenagers but adults couldn't get computer access there. You have to bring your laptop (which I don't have) and rely on the wireless connection in the rooms.

Below is the lobby. I really like the rustic lodge theme and many of the animals are animatronic and are triggered by these magic wands that kids can get for this scavenger hunt kind of game they have in the hotel.


Three times a day, they have a show at the clock. I only watched part of one show and it was about being afraid while lost in the woods. I assume it is the same show throughout the day. The animatronics are a little scary.


Don't know how this happened, but my room got upgraded. I think I reserved a single queen but I ended up getting a family suite. I'm not going to complain. It was a little large for just me. However, I thought, it would be a great photo op to show all my friends with families what a family suite looked like.


On the other side of the partition is a sitting room with a sleeper sofa. The sleeper sofa is not queen size and really would only sleep two, maybe three small children comfortably.

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This is the view out my window. I had a nice balcony. I didn't take any pictures outside of the Lodge because it was raining both days that I was there.


From my balcony looking to the left (since turning my head to the right really hurt). The suites next to mine were the super large ones. Its very pretty.


All of the hallways were painted to look like a forest and along the hallways were these little treasure chests that were part of the scavenger hunt thing. I think the wands are $20 each. You should let your kids do this if you go with your kids because it looked like everyone was having a really good time - - and it sure kept them busy.

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Ok now for the water park portion, or what I can show you. They keep this room heated to 85 degrees and it is VERY humid. Since I don't really remember what 85 feels like, it felt HOT. However, the water is nice and refreshing, not too cold. The main 'jungle gym' water slide dumps 10,000 gallons of water down every 10 or 15 minutes. A bell starts to clang to warn you and the kids start squealing with glee and running to stand where the water will pour down on them.

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I would have to say, going off season was the best thing I could have done. While it was crowded, it wasn't jam packed. Sunday night when I arrived, I had a difficult time finding an empty chair to set my towel and beach clothes. I can't imagine what it is like during holidays and in the summer. Can you just picture each of those inner tubes being occupied?

This is the "lazy" river. I put "lazy" in quotations because it really isn't lazy as it is very short and there are two places where ice cold water gets dumped on you. So I was alert and figuring out how to time my approach to these areas so as to not have ice cold water dumped on me (the old neck muscles did seize up the one time I got a bucket of water square on the head).


I really liked the detail throughout the Lodge. I suppose, what you are really paying for is the experience and the details such as this. This is the wave pool. I didn't do the surf rider thing as by the time I got to the pool after a day walking miles and miles, I was so tired and my neck was hurting.


The food was only average - - but very expensive. I only ate dinner at the hotel and that was out of convenience. I did breakfast at IHOP and lunch out in Yorktown or Williamsburg.

Now, even with my average rating. I would go back. However, I would find other people to go with me. Had this been the only thing I had planned on doing, I probably would have asked around for some friends to go with me. Great Wolf will be opening a location in Fredericksburg, VA, a little closer to home. There are many locations throughout the US, including one in Sandusky, Ohio, near my hometown. So maybe I can convince my sister's family to go for a day and night sometime. This is not a place you want to go solo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

So Much to Write About, So Little Time

Well, I spent hours folding laundry this evening. That gave my computer time to download all of the photos from vacation to my computer.

I just returned from vacation and a work related trip yesterday then it was back to work today. Thank God it was Friday.

The Twitter version of vacation - - cold, wet, muddy, battlefields, dirty towels, large room, water slides, hot tub no jets, good night's sleep, miles of walking, Virginia and family history, ghost stories, more rain, caffeine withdrawal, hot tub no jets, scary animatronics, good night's sleep, indians, ships, old ruins, tour of a military base, good night's sleep, worked my butt off, bowling, good night's sleep, worked my butt off again, long drive home, good night's sleep, back to work at the office.

I have some pictures to organize and I'll fill you in this weekend.

I also have an update on Gracie from her new mom.

Lots of stuff.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chapel Progress


Are you ready for some updates? Above, the site of the chapel one year ago, February 2008. Not much changed over the year as they constructed the road to the chapel and the parking lot.

In January 2009 they begin on the building.


The first week of March, it looks like they are getting the foundation down.


Below, the side of the chapel site in September 2008.


The side of the chapel in January 2009.


Below, the side of the chapel in March 2009.


This is what the chapel looks like in March 2009 from along the top of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I'll try to take some more from this vantage point in the future.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Sometimes God Just Turns the Lights On

My Bible study is currently doing Tune In: Hearing God's Voice Through the Static by Jen Hatmaker. I gotta tell ya, its a great study. We've been blessed by really good studies, last year - - a year long study on the Proverbs 31 Woman and now a study - - that may take us a year - - on hearing God's voice.

Last month we discussed how God speaks to us through the disciplines of studying His word, prayer, fasting and worship. Just a side to this, for my own personal study, I've started a study on the life of King David. I just love how God is able to repeat, or drive home the lessons he wants me to learn. For instance, when we were studying prayer in my group study, in my personal study on King David, it started with Hannah praying to God for a child, and we all know who that child ended up being. O.k. to be fair for those readers who aren't versed in the Bible, it wasn't David, but Samuel, who becomes the spiritual leader of Israel and who anoints Saul and then David as Israel's kings. I have always loved Hannah's prayer and how sincere and heart felt it was. God spoke to her through Eli and answered her prayer.

When we studied worship and how important it is to God and all the details that he demanded be put into it. Basically he wanted His people to put 100% of themselves into it, everyday. When Israel worshiped, God spoke to them, but when they didn't worship, He was silent. A key verse in both studies was 1 Samuel 3:1..."In those days the word of the Lord was rare..." We discussed how we should live our life in worship. I have often been reminded to work as if I am working for the Lord. I gotta tell you when I do that, my attitude is so much better.

With the state of the economy, I've been feeling a lot of fear and anxiety. I am blessed that I have a job and a home. There was a time in my life where I was without both. This Sunday, I woke up with such fear about the economy and money (Satan really gets me regarding money). The sermon was how as Christ believers, we have nothing to fear. The main scripture was Mark chapter 2, about the Paralyzed man on the stretcher and how his friends dug through the roof of the home Jesus was preaching in to bring their friend to Jesus. Let me just say that this scripture ties into my group Bible study and how God speaks through people (friends). I sat in church, and I sit here now in tears because I am so thankful for the friends God has brought into my life. There have been times where they have had to euphemistically (wow big word for me tonight!) carry me and dig through that roof for me. I hope that I can be that friend for them.

The message Lon Solomon wanted us to leave church with was Luke 10:19-20. A followers of Christ, we've won. We can stop worrying and enjoy life. Because its not the ups and downs here on earth that matter, its that our names are written in heaven - - its what is in heaven that matters. Shout out to my friend K in Germany, I thought of you at this moment.

Then - - yes, there is more! In Fuel (singles sunday school) the speaker talked about Benaiah and how all his exploits and lion hunting was God's way of preparing him to be King David's bodyguard. (Don't you love the tie-in to my personal study on King David?) That God uses our experiences as 'resume' building. The speaker did say that "Not all lion chases come out victorious, but its the courage to step up that matters." He talked about how God likes working when the odds are stacked against us because His glory really stands out. The last thing I wrote was "Sometimes we need to stop listening to what the world is telling us."

That is what I hear - - to stop listening to the world. To stop being afraid.

I have just felt so encouraged going into this week, I hope this brings encouragement to others.

Here is a link to Sunday's sermon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bing West Speaks of Iraq and Afghanistan, Past, Present and Future

Bing West, former Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Ronald Reagan, fourth generation Marine, scholar and author was the speaker in the Distinguished Speaker's series at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.


While there were a lot of books being handed to him to sign, this was not an event to plug his latest book The Strongest Tribe. This was an opportunity for him to speak to Marines and guests about Iraq and Afghanistan and what awaits as the Obama administration hammers out its War strategy.

West told everyone to watch the 8 people Obama has selected to help him formulate this strategy (Jones, Mullen, Gates, Biden, Hill and Holbrooke are the six that I can remember, I forgot my notebook and pen). He believes a strategy will be hammered out when NATO meets in Germany in April, not before. Key to this strategy will be who will be the risk assessor of the policy. I personally wonder if Hillary Clinton, in her role as Secretary of State may emerge in that position.

As you can tell from the photo below, people were paying close attention.

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More than one were taking notes.


West didn't offer what he thought should be done in Afghanistan. He did say that it wasn't so much the surge in Iraq that turned the tide as it was the change of hearts of Sunni tribal leaders. Something similar would need to be done in Afghanistan. By that, he meant not the surge but a change of hearts and minds of the Afghanis. Will it happen? West couldn't tell. He did predict that we would be fighting there actively for the next 5 years or more.

I wonder, does Obama's administration have the will to stick things out that long in Afghanistan.

West talked about how American attitudes have changed since World War 2. After 2400 Americans were killed in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans didn't push Japan back to the other side of the international date line, providing them a sanctuary. The US went after Japan. However in 2001, the US let Osama Bin Laden escape into the mountains of Pakistan. West thinks that if terrorists are able to mount another large casualty attack on US soil that Americans may stand up, roll back their sleeves and finally go all out after them.

I don't think so. I think, with the current state of the economy, if there were a successful, large casualty attack here in the US, that many Americans (Democrats especially) may demand a complete pull out. They will say the wars were the reason for the attack, they will point to Bush's failed policy and that it didn't make the world safer but more dangerous for America.

The question session was very short. I would be curious as to his thoughts on the possibility of a failed state situation in Mexico with drug cartel funded militias crossing the US border and waging war with local law enforcement in border towns.

West spoke of the US resources being spread thin that besides the economy, it was Afghanistan + One that could be big factor on future policy, strategy and funding. The Obama administration has moved to remove supplemental spending from the DoD budget and wrap all of the supplemental into the regular budget. Good idea? We'll see. It could be like the auto manufacturers going back to Congress asking for more money. At what point though, do we just not have enough money to keep handing out for defense, domestic programs and this stimulus plan?

Below, West signs copies of his books for Marines and corporate sponsors.

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Yes, I got my picture taken with him too. I handed my camera off to a Marine. He did a good job. I would like to know why my make-up seems to disappear. I think I'm going to have to start refreshing my make-up toward the end of the day or something.


This is one of my favorite book signing photos. The Lieutenant looking over Bing West's shoulder telling him what to sign.


I also really like this shot because this Lieutenant looks so excited!


There were several couples. I like to see wives or girlfriends attending these with their Marines. I think its a good sign when your significant other is interested in your career in this way. These are my favorite 'couples' pictures. The gal below didn't like this picture because it wasn't as modest as she would have liked. I cropped it to make it modest because they both had such nice smiles in this shot.

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Of course, this one below is my most favorite. This is Col Camp and his wife.


The two Majors on the left were sitting at my table. They along with a gentleman on the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation board and a Spanish Naval Officer were great dinner companions. We had great conversations going. The three active duty officers were attending Command and Staff. I asked if they were all in the same conference group.

That got raised eyebrows, "Are you a spy, how do you know about conference groups?"

I rolled my eyes and laughed. Of course, I told them I had dated a Marine (Major A) who went through C&S last year.