As time goes by this page will have information about what's happening, travel dialogs, etc.
Hey everybody. I'm sure you, like ourselves, have been absorbed by the events of the past few weeks as the US and coalition forces have advanced through Iraq towards Baghdad to liberate the Iraqi people and destroy Saddam's chemical, biological and radioactive weapons. We have felt the loss of those young men and women who have given their lives for the people of Iraq, and rejoiced with the Lynch family of Palestine, VA when Jessica was rescued. We've worried when it seemed things were going badly, and celebrated when victories were won.
This has been brought especially home to us, as there are some 25 troops who are part of our church family and additional men and women who are part of my postal family. I think of Terry in the 101st Airborne, 21 years old and married with a young son and another child on the way. Whenever I hear his unit mentioned, and it seems way too often, I think of Terry and wonder how he is. I think of another young man who is based off the USS Constellation flying F-14's with Carrier Air Wing 2. Whenever I hear of a Navy fighter in combat, or worse, going down, my heart pounds wondering about him, is it he? What about his mom who is a postal supervisor in a small office near us? What thoughts are going through her mind? Oh the prayers I'm sure she is pleading before the throne for her son who is defending freedom for a people he doesn't even know.
I think about the Iraqi people. Living in fear for all these years and still, with freedom on their doorstep, afraid to show hope and support of their liberators for fear that freedom, within their grasp, will be lost and retribution soon at hand. Then I see those children, waving, greeting the coalition passing by, some fearful at first as rations are handed out, then eagerly reaching out for that gift from people they have been indoctrinated to hate since birth. Realizing that these men and women are here to help not hurt them.
There are the Fedyeen Saddam, the Republican Guard, the remnants of the regime who have been filled with so much hate for us, and maintain a loyalty to the death for a man who would just as soon kill them as look at them. I feel compassion for them too, who, in another time and place could have been so much different. Knowing goodness instead of evil, love rather than hate, life instead of death. These men, too, have families who gave birth, nurtured and loved them, yet they chose, or were chosen, for a life of destruction, pain, and death.
In the midst of all this, I look around me and the worries of our lives here in Ocala seem so miniscule in comparison. That little plant in the garden that didn't make it. The bills that have to be paid. The repairs to be made and the decisions about where we will eat out at today fade into absurdity in comparison. And I have to thank God for the life He's given me, for my family and friends, for the country I live in and the freedoms I have. And I pray for all those who are not nearly so blessed.
God Bless You All,
March 11, 2003
Another month and spring is just around the corner! As we struggle here in Florida with unseasonable rain and cool nights in the 40's and 50's we look to the north and realize how blessed we are to live here. We often forget what winter is about, the snow, brittle cold, ice and those bone chilling mornings when the car refuses to start. We had a brief reminder in Slovakia, but now that seems a distant memory.
I've been working on MAPSLInk.com feverishly the past month and it is coming along. I have almost enough content to feel comfortable to go live with the search engines. There is still much to do, it will always be a work in progress, but as I bring on board contributors, the work should become more manageable.
Life at the USPS continues to keep me hoppin'. I've been working six days a week the past few, and there's a slight possibility I may have to work seven this week. However, it's only temporary and after folks return and the vacant positions are filled in the next few weeks, things should return to normal (what ever that is).
While I've been busy, so has Karen. She has felt a need to minister to the young widows here and God has opened the door for her to begin a support group with four. Of course no one knows the special needs of these women more than Karen, having been there herself for thirteen years. Their first meeting was last Wednesday and was a success. they talked and cried and laughed and shared, and didn't want to go. A real indicator of how needed and important it was to them, when asked when they wanted to get together again, they all immediately agreed they wanted to do it weekly! Karen's heart is to work with these young ladies (all are under 45 and with children) and develop a core group where they can duplicate and eventually begin to minister to others. It will take some time, the tremendous responsibilities required for a woman to be mom, and dad, the breadwinner, the counselor, the priest of her home, the home and car fixit person, the financial juggler, the educator and comforter of her children who have lost their dad and more, all while dealing with her own loss and grief, is not something any person can be expected to overcome in a short period, yet overcome they will with God's help, their own self-determination, and lots of love and support from Karen.
Just two things regarding the events in the middle east, if you haven't yet added your voice to the petition to the celebrities, click on the link on our home page and do it. Also, take time to encourage those men and women in the military who are fighting for our freedoms, even those of the people who would sneer and denigrate them and our leader, click on and use Operation Dear Abby. Your message will be sent to a random service member, in your choice of the branch of service. It will mean so much to these men and women who are far, far away from their families.
Time to get back to the work at hand, hope this finds all's well with all our friends.
PS: David tells us life changes and moves on, and so do relationships.
February 13, 2003
My! How time goes by! Christmas and New Years come and gone. Karen's and my anniversary and Camrons 2nd birthday a memory. All the planning and work for the trip to Kosice now over and the trip is complete, the report to the congregation done! Wow! We did have a good trip to Slovakia. Through I was more than a bit frazzled with worry about the presentation I had to prepare for the Sunday evening after we returned home Saturday night about 11:30PM, I still managed to enjoy the trip.
While I was working at Apostolic Christian Center with a crew installing insulation 40 feet in the air, in a 1000 seat building with most of the windows but no doors and no heat, I was wondering about Karen working with the healthcare team in the gypsy camps.
Karen worked with Mike Froitzheim from HealthCare Ministries in the vision clinic setting up and fitting glasses to the patients Mike had just evaluated. What a rewarding experience to help bring vision to many who had never been able to see clearly! Though each day was different, (a new location, sometimes two) and she never knew what to expect, the rewards far outweighted the difficulties.
Without a doubt the greatest challenge after the language barrier (which the local church worked diligently to overcome) was the cold. Our daytime highs were low 30's to upper 20's and the nighttime lows were in the low teens. A bit chilly for these Florida folks! I didn't realize how acclimated I had become to Florida weather! Used to be I could take the cold in stride. That "stride" has markedly shortened!
Meals consisted of typical European breakfasts of bratwurst and weiner with poached eggs, breakfast meats and various breads with cereal and yougart. Lunches and dinners varied but always included potatos and usually sauerkraut. We had entrees including cassroles, steaks, chicken, fish and so forth. Needless to say, if you went away hungry it was because you were too picky. Most of the faire was good, at times wonderful!
Now we're back and mostly settled in. I'm working on developing a new website, MAPSLink.com to fill a need I have discovered in this area. MAPS (Moblization And Placement Service) has a worldwide reach and many areas of need. But there is a derth of information on the web on organizing and conducting a project from the local church perspective. I feel this information can be invaluable to many churches and individuals and though the task is daunting, I feel a call to do my part. So in December we purchased the site and a host and I began learning the ins and outs of developing a full fledge website. It's learn as you go, but I'm enjoying it. While in Kosice Karen and I spent time with John and Karen Baich who stands to benefit from this work and he will be helping with content. I expect it will take months to get the site fully up, and then it will be an ongoing project with constant updates. I'm excited!
Work continues to move forward. There is some uncertainty at this time with the many changes being considered, but my hope is not in the US Postal Service! What changes that come, whatever they are, will only be a step to another, better thing!
Karen has begun to see a need in the area to minister to young widows and since she was one herself, she knows many of the concerns, needs and worries faced and has begun to work closely with a couple of them and is considering expanding to a regular ministry meeting with these women to encourage and support them. She is just starting but has already been growing a relationship God put in her path several weeks ago. Keep her in your prayers and she seeks his guidance for this ministry and seeks the best for these women.
Back on the home front, Camron, our grandson, is growing like a weed and is in to everything! He is one busy, inquistive, happy little boy! Katie Mae, our granddaughter, is now 6 months old and is such a sweet natured little girl! We are excited for their lives and what God has in store for them as they grow. Pray for them and their parents, Lori and Jonathan, that God will get hold of them and draw them into a love relationship with Him.
David is busy, busy, busy and loving it. He is becoming indispensable to his employer and loving his work installing high end home audio and household computer control systems. And, he is enjoying a friendship with a young lady, just friends though. Funny thing though, it's been several months now and though he talks of her, he's never brought her around. Kinda makes you wonder. Is it us? Or her? Well, some day!
Gotta go for now,
December 10, 2003
Dear friends and family,
November, December, Thanksgiving, Christmas and then New Years Day. This time last year Karen and I had just moved in our new home and were settling in while we made preparations for our MAPS trip to Kocise, Slovakia in January.
Kocise was wonderful as we worked with some of the local folk, doing what seemed like a small job, insulating part of the ceiling, in what felt like an enormous project. While I worked with a crew of men 40 feet off the floor inside that large, unheated building, watching the snow flurries swirl outside and feeling the cold winds blow through the open windows and doors, Karen was making other memories.
The healthcare team Karen was a part of traveled, sometimes hours, to small villages to give basic healthcare to the Gypsies. Some days working outside and in unheated shacks, other days in places where the heat stoves worked so well they wished for a bit of the cold. Some places where the people were so gentle and thankful for the gift of love and caring, other places where the crowds were loud, pushing, demanding and you had to hold tightly to everything or it could easily disappear.
Still, the joy of giving and being a part of ministry to others never loses its glow. While our days were long and demanding, the revitalizing we were able to provide to the local people was returned to us on our last day when we made a short hop to the Tatras Mountains. Reveling in the splendor of their snow cloaked slopes, riding to the tops in gondolas to peer out over the cloud halo and know once again the majesty of God's creative power.
Camron turned 2 in January and he is growing into a curious, inquisitive, energetic, playful and bright. Nothing gets by him and he equally enjoys watching rodeo on the TV or exploring the great outdoors in his back yard. He loves to test his strength and agility, daring to scale the kitchen cabinets and bounce on the furniture.
Katie is learning to walk after having her first birthday in September. While the doctor says her bowed legs will straighten in time, she doesn't know it's a problem as she races across the floor, her feet sprinting to keep up with her body. To look at her, she seems more suited for rodeo bronco riding for now, but in time that will change and she will be a dainty, graceful little girl.
Karen continues to enjoy making a home, putting her energies into caring for and decorating her place of respite and comfort. She loves making music while singing in the choir and worship team at church but what really gets her excited is spending time with the grandkids. Grandma loves her little ones.
The Postal Service continues to keep my time occupied the ongoing changes of living in Florida combining with efficiencies of operation and workforce reductions resulting in increased overtime. Six-day workweeks are becoming the standard while 10-hour days are becoming more common. Of course if you've been to our website, skonline.us, you know I find some time to document our lives, family and interests online while learning some of the cool things one can do on the web.
We did lose one of the family this year when Susie, Karen's 14 year old toy poodle, began having health problems. Seizures, bladder control problems, loss of muscular control all pointed to a brain tumor. After our October vacation she began to decline quickly and rather than let her suffer further, we sadly made the decision to euthanize her.
Once again our church is planning a MAPS trip next year, this time to Bogota, Columbia. Yes, the project changed from Campinas, Brazil to Bogata. While Karen and I would both love to be a part of this, we feel constrained to stay home this year. A few health issues of my own, currently minor but persistent, imposed a more guarded attitude while we address them now before they become more inauspicious. So, that will tend to demand our focus for the coming year.
While the past year holds many memories for us, and the future many hopes, the current season causes us to refocus on the hope of heaven found in the memories of the Babe of Bethlehem. The hopes of the wise men, the awe of the shepherds, the submission of Mary, the joy of Elizabeth, the satisfaction of Simeon's promise fulfilled, the honor of Joseph, the herald of the angels, the promise of the manger and the unfathomable love of God who planned it all, for us, his creation.
While it is our nature to focus on the cares of this life, it is God's nature to focus on us. Why not be reminded at this Christmas season that what matters is not the worries and pleasures of our world, but the promise of heaven.
Steve and Karen
October 8, 2003
While doing maintenance on the website yesterday I noticed the newsletter hadn't been updated since May and thought, WOW! Has time really flown by that fast? I'll just update and highlight some of what's been happening here.
Work has been keeping me going with six-day workweeks coming quite often. Not that we have been getting an over-abundance of mail, it's been normal for the most part. But our staffing levels have been reduced to the point that when someone is gone, there is not enough allotted hours in the normal schedule to absorb the load. So we have to supplement with overtime. So while it makes for a long week, the increase in pay is always welcome.
However, that exacerbates the next things, which are symptoms resulting from an over-active parathyroid. Seems mine isn't happy doing what it's supposed to so it's putting out better than half again the para-thyroid hormone (PTH) that it should. Besides increasing the serum calcium levels, which if they get too high can cause a heart attack, this makes you feel tired all the time and lowers your ability to tolerate the normal stresses of life. I went in for a sestamibi scan in August and the results were inconclusive. Since we haven't yet been able to isolate the particular offending parathyroid gland (there's four) we can't do anything other that wait, or do exploratory. The latter really isn't an option at this time because the nature of the para's is that they can range in location from your neck to your upper chest, too large an area to go searching basically in the dark for a pea-sized organ gone radical. The only other thing that would increase the PHT levels according to the doc would be some types of breast cancer. But he says I'm in the wrong age and gender group for that to be likely. So we will just wait and periodically re-test.
Karen had the opportunity to spend a week with her mom and sister Janna and travel to Branson, MO to take in some of the shows and sites. They had a great time and are already planing to go back. Among the places they visited was the Lowe Family Theatre, the IMAX Theatre, the Shepherd of the Hills outdoor theatre, and Spirit of the Dance, a Riverdance style troupe. Couple with that some shopping, sightseeing and general "girls" time and it made for a memorable time. Looks like they may try to make this or a similar type of trip an annual event as long as they can.
I spent much of August preparing a presentation for our church's MAPS trip next year to Campinas, Brazil. It looks to be a good trip, leaving in January for 10 days, but we are going to sit this on out. With the health issues discussed above, I'm just don't have the energy or tolerance necessary for this. If we can deal with that and get it behind us, then I'll go on from there.
In the midst of the work on the presentation, I attempted to upgrade the cooling fan on the CPU on my computer and ended up gouging the motherboard, putting it out of commission. When I ordered a new motherboard, I thought, "I might as well go ahead an upgrade the CPU while I'm at it". While waiting for the parts I pulled the data off the hard drives, but in the process corrupted the boot file with the partition logs, effectively deleting all the data. I had been thinking I needed to do backups, of course just thinking about it didn't do any good.
I pulled together some specialized software to attempt recovery and that along with the data I had been able to copy before the corruption resulted in recovery of better than 85 percent of what I thought I had lost. Then after installing the new hardware I learned that the cooling fan I had was severely over-rated and could not handle the additional heat generated by the new CPU. So I had to come up with a way to manage the environment inside the tower, as well as cool the CPU, to prevent a meltdown. I think we've got it pretty well in control now, though the temps I running are higher than I like, (48-51 degrees c, would prefer 40-45) it's well within manufacturer's tolerence.
So now we're running an AMD XP 2500+ chip on an ASUS A7V8X-X motherboard with the addition of an IBM 120GB hard drive. That's the basic set up with another 60 gig Maxtor HD, and an ATI All-in-Wonder video card. The sound and network chips are onboard the MB. With this running Windows XP Home it makes for a pretty fast system well suited for the multi-media stuff I've been doing.
The end of September we had the opportunity to visit a while with my cousin Dean Hardy and his family from Toronto. They were on holiday in Orlando and took time from their busy schedule to visit with us. We had an enjoyable time and came away convinced that we were not cut out for any more family than we have. I love 'em, but I really think 9 kids would be a bit too much for me. But then, maybe that's the PHT talking! :-)
At home, Susie has been a hand full. She is now over 14 years old and showing the effects of her age. She is losing her sight, her hearings gone and she's beginning to have seizures. She's up much of the night pacing the floors and keeping Karen up while I'm at work. It's not good for Susie or Karen. We've been to the vet and she is running blood work to rule out some things and see what kind of reasonable things we can do to treat her (Susie, not Karen). After that we'll be in a better position to decide the future for her.
Now I have two weeks off and we are planning to get away for a while and have a house sitter watch the "kids", the holidays coming and along with it a busy time at the ole PO. Probably especially so this year as we have a couple planning to retire soon and they have said last Christmas was their final for the Postal Service. I'll try to do a better job of keeping this up to date along with the other stuff I've got going.
May 5, 2003
As May has come, so has the warm weather, humidity and weather reminders we live in Florida. The recent reports of a pre-season hurricane in the Atlantic let us know this may be a different kind of hurricane season this year. The official season runs from June 1st through November 30th with the expectation of the worst weather (historically) in September. Remember Andrew and Hugo? While Andrew was a late August storm, Hugo was smack in the middle of September. I've been in Ocala since 1988 and have only seen two storms come within 100 miles of here. (see Weather .com)
Fortunately for us the storms tend to head up the Atlantic seaboard through or near Charleston (sorry Dan) or in the Gulf of Mexico the closest usually run up through the Florida panhandle well to our west. Now I'm not complaining. I've seen the effects of a hurricane in the news often enough to know better than to wish such a storm on us here. Still, sometimes I think (in weak moments) it might be kinda cool to be in the middle of one. 'Course that thought quickly flies when I put my brain back in gear.
Right now we are enjoying the back porch where we can sit and enjoy the breeze and the garden. Living close to the railroad tracks has the benefit of that lone train whistle (well, more of a loud, blaring blast) as the train nears the crossing. We are only a couple city blocks away and when outside it's not hard to miss. Thankfully the house is well insulated and it's a very distant blow from inside.
Lori recently had a bout with gallstones and spent a few days in the hospital. This is her first time with it and though the doctor said she will eventually need them removed, she's ok for now. They do need prayer for God's provision. She had insurance on her previous job, but due to a disagreement with a supervisor ( a long story and I have to agree it wouldn't have been good to stay as long as the supervisor was there) she quit two weeks prior to the attack. So with no insurance, the hospital bill is quite a load. They struggle financially as a rule (remember those days?) and this didn't help a bit.
David is doing well in his job though he too had a bit of a health event, turned out to be a small but painful cyst that made it difficult for him to sit and do his job. He was worried since this is the first health crisis since being on his own and was relieved to find it to be so minor and manageable.
We have a new music pastor coming this month to First Assembly and are looking forward to having his ministry and leadership. It has been since last August and though the folks who have been filling in have done a great job, things were in a holding pattern in several areas pending the new leadership. Speaking of music, Karen has the opportunity of go to the Heart of Worship Conference in Orlando in June. Should be a great experience and we look forward to her being there.
That's all for now, have a great month and thanks for visiting us at Steve and Karen Online!