Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

We’ve celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary and doubled the number of domesticated animals we own.  Those are the yearly highlights, but I suppose some other mildly interesting things happened.  Let’s see what I can remember...

Chicken Run:
Early this spring, Shannon's insatiable desire to own any and all animal life (combined with my quest for sustainability) prompted our decision to raise chickens in our backyard.  Three baby chicks were acquired from the local feed store and incubated in a makeshift brooder in our spare bedroom.  A few weeks later, what were supposed to be adolescent hens were released into the outdoors, and introduced to their new coup that my father and I built.  Sadly, all three of these chickens turned out to be roosters (boys), which are illegal to own within the city limits (due to the noise we assume).  After a few more months of trading, unfortunate mortality, and purchases, we have gone through ten total birds, and the five we have now appear to be healthy, egg producing HENS.  The hens have “high utility”, as my father would say; eating up table scraps, laying eggs, making fertilizer, and foraging in the yard for bugs and worms and who knows what else.  I build defenses to keep them out of garden beds, and Shannon cooks them oatmeal with flax and soufflé. 

Aaron and Emily:
My step brother Aaron was wed to his fiance Emily this May in Annapolis Maryland at the Naval Academy were he went to school.  The entire trip was a blast for Shannon and I.  We rented a great house overlooking Cheasapeake bay with some other family, toured the countryside, and of course participated in a gorgeous wedding and reception.
I was both intimidated and proud to be one of his groomsmen.  I was the only one of four who wasn’t currently or had previous been in the military,... but I WAS the tallest.
Ryan and Aaron put bride Emily into her poncho
One of the highlights had to be the sailboat ride around the bay for the rehersal dinner.  An open bar and an imminent thunderstorm made for an exhilirating tour.

Got a problem? Yo, I'll solve it:
Shannon has settled into her two jobs (contracted full-time Math Help Desk and part-time math faculty) at Linn Benton Community College, and is anxiously awaiting opportunities to earn a full-time faculty position.  She is known amongst colleagues and students as being a knowledgeable, consistent, and dependent tutor, and she still manages to find time to teach one math class a term.  I think the constant assault of math problems that she helps people solve every day is really giving her the edge in everyday activities like figuring the tip for a waiter, calculating angles for backyard carpentry projects, determing student loan payoff schedules or estimating the amount of time roadtrips will take.  All I know is that I don't even try to do those things anymore, because she usually has the answer before I even know what the problem is.

A new cubicle:
Engineering at CH2M Hill hasn't changed much over the last year.  My involvement in solar power projects continues to expand, which I enjoy.  I suppose the biggest news is that we moved our offices in Corvallis across town.  We now occupy most of a building on the Hewlett Packard campus.  I'm still in a cubicle so not much has really changed, except the office is newer and fancier, and my cubicle is about sixteen square feet larger.   I can actually see a window from where I sit now, so that is nice.  My bicycle commute is even shorter and safer than before, so there’s a better chance I’ll actually live to see retirement.
I attended project manager training this year, which only strengthened my resolve to avoid ANY management positions, anywhere, forever.  I extend my gratitude to those that take on that stress and responsibility, but I’m content being a technical cog in the CH2M Hill wheel of project delivery.  That’s what I went to school for and that is what I want to do.  I’m fortunate to work for a firm that let’s me make that decision for myself.

Timberline Lodge
The Great Outdoors:
Float trip on Alsea River
Float trips on the Alsea River were one of our favorite getaways this summer.  During one excursion, Shannon managed to get quite a crowd of friends and family to meet up for some super fun and relaxing time along the river.  Our rag tag “flotillas” could be found trying out rope swings, jumping off rocks, snacking and drinking (boxed wine was a popular and convenient choice), and sometimes just napping in the warm sun on a hot rubber inner-tube with feet in the cool water.  It was all smiles.

Our new favorite swimming hole on Clackamas River
Shannon Jumps!

Hiking in central Washington, near Iron Creek

For some people it’s TV, or sports, or fast food, or something more sinister. This year Shannon developed a taste for Vampire books.  Which ones?  All of them.  She once confessed that she read a few paragraphs WHILE DRIVING HER CAR TO WORK.  We found books on tape after that, so she can get her fiction fix and not endanger others.
We grew this.
For me, it was computer games.  All different types, and massive quantities of them.  I’ve always enjoyed video games and I have to say that the stuff they have now is amazing.  I even bought a new computer with more horsepower to be able to play the latest and greatest.  On some lazy weekends, I might be found playing UNTIL 4 AM.  If only I could take that gaming time and learn how to make money trading stocks…

This Old House:
The wedding last year finally paid for, we started making (or at least planning) some improvements for the house.  We just recently tossed our old mattress and purchased a California King size Tempurpedic and a new storage style bed frame.  We now spend most of our time at home, lying in the bed (guess where I’m writing this from right now) that constitutes such a frighteningly large part of our net worth.  We plan to fix and repaint the walls in our master bedroom and bath.  I had some nasty trees in the backyard removed to bring in more sunlight and reduce the chances of one of them falling on the house.  Goodwill now attempts to resell much of our old junk as we clean the house and prepare for other upgrades.  We don’t plan to stay in this house too many more years, but we want to enjoy the time we have left here.

Earplugs Required:
I’ve played music with some friends casually for a few years now, and some recent equipment upgrades have given us the flexibility to create and record more music.  Guitar being my primary background, I’m surprised to find myself doing all the drumming and singing during our weekly jam sessions.  I really enjoy learning to drum, and the challenge of singing at the same time is great mental and physical exercise.  Make no mistake, I can’t really do either, but our standards and expectations are low, and we have fun regardless.  It probably helps that there is always a keg on tap at our practice space.

Crazy Cat Lady:
I cannot emphasize enough how much of Shannon’s time is spent focused on our two little rescue kittens.  They sure are cute though.  I haven’t taught either one of them to give me back massages like our older cat Maggie, and I fear that like the Jedi, they are now too old to start the training.

Sanford, Ryan, Steve, and Thomas after the Easter Beer Hunt
Always Have a Good Time, All of the Time:
Toga parties, beach houses, Halloween costumes, rock concerts, acting (Look for Ryan’s lead role as “Survivor #1” in a short homemade horror flick next Spring), jam sessions, Easter beer hunts, hash runs, backyard parties, etc.  The trick to our youthful glow is acting like we are ten years younger than we really are.  There’s no room to tell all the stories or show you all the wild pictures here, but that is what social networking is for.  Go find Shannon on Facebook and tune in.

Best Wishes

The Harberts


  1. Awesome letter! We love you guys!

  2. Thanks for the great update! The only thing that would make it better is if one (or several - I'm a slow reader) of your soundtracks was playing in the background. Ha!