Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Unfamous Rawlings Christmas Letter 2012

Rawlings Family Christmas 2012

Welcome back to the Rawlings Family Christmas Letter, 2012 version.  This year was full of reminders of our advancing seniority and our precarious existence.  We are now officially and permanently empty nesters, as Alan graduated and moved out of the house in September.  The boys were all three here over Thanksgiving for the first time in a couple years.  They all sorted through their stuff left in the house and took what they wanted, with the rest to go to Goodwill.  All gone.  To get head start on our new life, we went to Europe for two weeks in June to celebrate our 30th Anniversary.  The itinerary was grueling, but we made good friends and had a great time.  Well keep reading.  Who knows how long we can keep the boys writing these now that they are all out of the house.  Merry Christmas to all!

Becky:  It is with heavy heart I start my letter this year.  My mother passed away in February.  She had been struggling since July with a blood disorder and other health issues.  I have many great memories to help ease the pain and  I know she is now at peace.  I continue to work as a high school nurse and an admission nurse at a local hospital.  In March, during Alan and my spring break ,we started a patio down by our lake.  We moved tons of dirt and carried 12 pallets of blocks, rocks, gravel, mulch, and sand.  It was completed just in time to celebrate Herb’s birthday on May 24th.  Our trip  in June was my first time I had been to Europe  and we saw 8 countries, 16 cities in 15 days!!  In July I rested from our vacation and spent time with friends and family before returning to school.  My sisters, their husbands, my dad, and one nephew drove to Indiana for Thanksgiving.  Our first Thanksgiving we did not travel in 29 years!!  Our 3 sons also spent a week to 2 weeks with us in November too.  It was great having everyone here.  Happy Holidays to our friends and family.  rawlingsbl@gmail.com

It’s Mark! This year was great, I was on vacation for almost half of it, and my life is much simpler now.  I stopped working at both Venture Outdoors and the photo studio in favor of working as the first official employee of a small energy outfitter doing manufacturing and design.  We convert all kinds of energy (especially human energy!) to electricity for your consumption needs.  We've setup energy systems on everything from the Carrie Furnace's (one of Pittsburgh's oldest structures left over from the steel days, and a National Historic Landmark) museum to my sailboat!  It's pretty exciting and I love it.  I also have signed a lease to live in a house on the northside for the next three years, I’m really enjoying the idea of staying in one place for a bit.
Okay, enough of work...  when we left off last year I was dreaming up a new adventure, which included buying my Mother's Father's 36 foot sailboat, sailing it around the Bahamas through treacherous seas and beautiful beaches, and as a result skipping winter yet again.  I'll have you all know I succeeded admirably, along with 10 of my closest friends.  We had a blast... but what happens in the Bahamas, stays in the Bahamas.  I'll provide links at the bottom of the page for pictures and hopefully that will help fill in the gaps.  When we got back from the trip in April I found my job at Zero Fossil and immediately convinced them to let me leave to explore Vancouver Island and it's neighbors for two weeks in the beginning of June.  This is one of the most peaceful beautiful places in the world.  I started visiting with an old friend from college in Vancouver and then continued on to meet an old traveling buddy on the Island.  Meghan and I hiked and hitchhiked our way around the island, taking ferries to remote areas and tiny out islands, and meeting some of the nicest people you can imagine.  We lived off of 2 bottles of wine a day and bread... hiked every hiking trail in several parks and made a couple new ones.  After a long ferry ride back to the mainland and then a longer plane ride back to Pittsburgh I couldn't stand to stay still so I worked out a trip with an ex-coworker Laura and we hiked the Appalachian Trail for 10 days in southern Virginia the first weeks of July.  This is beautiful country in my birth-state (for 'birthstate' unhyphenated autocorrect suggests afterbirth?) that I didn't even know existed!  Everyone in the area should check out Grayson Highlands State Park if you want to take a peek at some of the highlights.  The rest of the summer was a mix of work and pleasure, taking several trips with Erica down to see Sandpiper, up to a friends Canada cottage to hide from the summer heat for a week, and various other excursions including a 22 mile geocaching adventure.  As winter closes in I’m dreaming about the Bahamas but fear that this might be the first year since 2008 that I won’t see her shores... sigh.
Alan:  Seasons greetings yet again my fellow bipedal mammals. Another year has passed and another 4 yrs of YES WE CAN to come. My last semester of college was a bit stressful having been forced to jam 4 extra credits into it due to unnecessary high school repetition. But anyway, I am officially a WVU alumni and have two scientific degrees to show for it after 5 long yrs. I had to be an expert witness in a bank robbery/murder case as well as a technician/researcher in a sexual assault case. Not to mention a master researcher in arson investigations. Oh and by the way, those cases were hypothetical. I know more about finger nail polish than I ever wanted to. But hey, I finished with a 3.36 GPA and a smile on my face even being so close to those fancy sumo titles (and about 300 pounds.) I don’t know how I feel about those giant thongs anyway. After all the ceremonies and celebration it was time to go home and help build a patio down by the lake. Soon after that I once again returned to Custom Resins to not only test nylon but MAKE it. I also learned that if you pressurize any semi-liquid you can make a very comfortable temperpedic cloud pillow (not to be used at work) (patent pending). I was kind enough to house sit while my parents went to Europe. After 4 months of playing with a small pressurized reactor it was time to finally move in with my lady and my love (same person gutter dwellers). We have finished moving in and I'm officially a resident of the state of Pennsylvania. Now restarts the search for jobs. I do have a couple of good leads and am scheduled to take the civil servants test for the state allowing me to be a government employee, hopefully soon. I look forward to the coming holiday and wish you all the best! Much love bruthas and sistas. Go forth and be goofy.
            I write to you again from Denver, it appears that Kari and I have established a pretty permanent base camp for ourselves. I take every opportunity I can to travel and explore, and the opportunities abound. Mark invited me and two of my friends to join him on Sandpiper once they had done all the hard work sailing her down to the Bahamas in January. It was all the spearfishing, sailing, and island exploration you could hope for in a nonstop tour of the out islands. Back at home our group of fellow Denver transplants has become our family out here and we always have trips and activities going on. Theres “Monday Funday” get togethers at the park every week, a chili cooking contest (see my blog for my blue ribbon recipe), trips to the mountains for boarding (terrible snow last season though...), camping, hiking, and rock climbing, our dog Derby keeping us busy, and that's just the beginning. We banded together a soccer team and I have a lot of fun with that. I designed a jersey for us, the Eagle Sharks, and manage the team. A hike through Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the world, was an amazing experience: A 20 mile hike, inescapable for 12 miles after you enter, the red rock walls jumped to 1000 feet straight up and in places were so narrow your shoulders could touch both sides. And speaking of red rock, we are fortunate to live just a few miles from Red Rocks Amphitheater, the highlight of the year was definitely the Mumford and Sons show, they have awesome energy and great music and were at their best that night as they were filming the official music video for I Will Wait, squint really hard when you watch it and you can see me, right by the sound stage. The sold out showing of Anchorman was a close second best show. We have made a few trips out of our lovely state, visiting Pittsburgh and the parents in Indiana, and spending Thanksgiving on the beach in Key West; there’s nothing like a big lobster for Thanksgiving dinner. And thanks to everyone who came and visited us out here, we always welcome visits from friends and family. I have another 2 week trip out to California pending, and the best part is that its all paid for! To train! For my new job!! As a Microbiologist!!! I have been working for a couple weeks doing mycology and asbestos analysis for EMLab and my training will mean being shipped around to San Fran, Chicago, and Phoenix. I am pretty excited about it. Happy Holiday and thanks for reading, that's all for this edition, drive carelessly.
  BRawlings@gmail.com                                                            blrownsu.blogspot.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On Being Alone

 I never travel alone. maybe a lonely long car ride or flight here and there, but there was always someone waiting to greet me on the other side of that trip. Literally, always. I have never gone somewhere that I didnt know anyone there or was going to some kind of event where everyone is a stranger and you make friends by default, like a summer camp or something. You see the lonely businessman sitting a the bar at Chili's, the one chatting with the friendly barkeep as he wipes down the bar with a wet rag. Its charming to see, like youre watching a scene from a movie, but I dont want to be that guy. I became that guy.
My trip to San Fransisco went well, I learned a lot about identifying mold spores (super interesting, I know), and I also learned what happens when I am deprived of my usual social environment outside of work hours. I was temporarily working in a swanky office park, across from corporate offices for Walmart and YouTube, and at work it was great, good people, interesting to learn new things, but then when it came quitting time I was on my own. This means leaving work to walk to my hotel as the sun feebly tries to see 5 oclock, the winter solstice just around the corner urging it over the horizon. I call Kari, an hour ahead in Denver and undoubtedly already engaged in some fun activity with friends back home, leave her a message, and arrive at the hotel's front door at the same time as night's darkness. My plans to go for a run are extinguished with the sun. The prospect of braving the traffic to go wander the city alone doesnt seem appealing either. A couple episodes of Seinfeld later and I have arrived at the most exciting part of the evening. What for dinner? Apparently I am in an asian neighborhood because the only restaurants around are Thai take-out and sushi joints. And a Chili's. Maybe I will sit next to some other "that guy" eating at the bar and we can just be a couple normal guys. I take a seat at the Chili's bar, 3 college looking kids to my right getting way too excited about a basketball game, and a couple to my left, the wife yammering on about something as the husband pokes at the remaining broccoli on his plate. I am thinking about how to start a conversation with him when he lights up at the sign of the bill and hurries out of the place. They are soon replaced by a couple Bros about my age, I give them a "sup" nod as they take a seat, and I am gauging their suitability for potential temporary companionship when they call over the female bartender (ignoring the guy right in front of them) and order two shots of Jager, take them together, and then one orders another for himself, I guess because he enjoys it? I resist facepalming, thinking there could still be an interesting conversation in there somewhere, when Bro #2 starts telling a story "Dude I forgot to tell you. I took this stripper home the other night...". Facepalm. The bartender asks for my ID and I try to start up a conversation "Huh, I'm used to getting funny looks when I hand over a California ID" and as the friendly barkeep takes the bait and asks where I'm from wiping down the Chili's bar with a wet rag, I realize what I've become. 
The rest of the trip went well enough, I sucessfully avoided Chili's for the next 2 weeks and found a couple spots that offered a little better dining experience. I made friends with the wise old Japanese itamae, Jimmy, at the sushi bar down the street, and even met a few other "that guy"s to have some normal social interaction with.  The meals were the lonliest part of the day, and the early setting sun just made it that much harder to get out and be active after work. Next week I set off to do it all again, luckily Kari will be with me for the first week, and I feel much better prepared for week two, maybe I'll even summon up the courage to wander the streets alone this time, see what stories I can unearth there.