2003 In Review

Hello there everyone, and welcome to our Christmas letter. I’d like to thank you all for coming, and invite you to take a seat, kick back, and enjoy your time here. You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you all here today. Well, like it or not, if you continue to read the words on this page, you are going to learn about the highlights of the year 2003 for Timothy and Jennifer Ellis. Not only that, but you, humble reader, will be subjected to reading the tale from the perspective of Tim, the [insert amusing adjective] husband. So, what are we waiting for? We’ve wasted an entire paragraph already; let’s dig into the meat of this letter!

GameCube!Basically, 2003 can be separated into two distinct portions. Two eras, if you will. BGC and WGC. That would be Before GameCube and With GameCube. Before GameCube was a time of sullenness and gloom. Entertainment options were limited to activities such as smashing nickels underneath passing trains on the way to baseball games. Oh… I guess there were the baseball games, too. But the Mariners didn’t win many of the games that we went to. BGC was generally a glum time. But on August 16th, all that changed. With a mere one hundred and fifty denelions, the GameCube was ours. With GameCube, the world was brighter. Gleeful entertainment was a mere push of a button away. The sun shined brighter, dogs stopped biting my calves, and the Mariners didn’t lose as many games. Life was good. Now that the stage is set, I’ll fill you in on some of the details of the two eras of 2003.

BGC – January 1st – August 15th

Perhaps the first thing of note that we participated in this year would be our excessive involvement in the wedding of my good friend Michael Ziemann to the lovely Brianne. I had the pleasure of donning the monkey suit and standing in the front of a church, and Jeni had the task of taking their pictures. This was Jeni’s first chance to do some real wedding photography, and it turned out fairly well. She took a lot of good pictures, and learned a lot. Mike & Brianne’s wedding was nice, and they got off to their honeymoon without any big snags, and with two lovely stuffed monkeys in their car.

fishing on Horseshoe LakeIn April, we went down to Vancouver to spend some time with my family, and ended up in a tiny little boat in the middle of a lake with only a tiny battery-powered engine to push us around the water. In other words, we went with the Ellis family to Horseshoe Lake on a fishing trip. Neither of us did any real fishing of course, since we didn’t have fishing licenses, but it was Jeni’s first experience with any kind of fishing. Amazingly, she actually enjoyed it. Go figure. Also in April, Jeni decided to try her hand at the Mary Kay business. She figured that since she liked makeup so much, she might as well make a little money with it. In May, we went down to California to be at Jeni’s college’s graduation. We got to spend a lot of good time with her sisters, and she got to see her friends graduate. Overall it was a fun experience. Plus, that trip finally put us both over the threshold of frequent flier miles we needed to have free tickets anywhere in the country. Woo-hoo!

On August 16th, using some personal cash I had saved up, I upgraded my video game system selection to the 21st century by buying a Nintendo GameCube. This leads us to the second era, WGC.

WGC – August 16th – December 31st

Universal StudiosThe most immediate result of the glorious new purchase was Jeni’s obtaining a job at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe (the town that I work in). For two long weeks, she stood as valiant daytime guard over the baby shoe bronzing booth, collecting countless information cards from interested potential customers. Yes, I am making this sound far more exciting than it was. Just after she completed this daunting task, we had a 9-day vacation in California. During our fun-filled trip, we walked down Hollywood Boulevard, had an action-packed day at Universal Studios, spent time with Jeni’s family, Jeni was a bridesmaid in her friend Nicole’s wedding, and I beat Rebekah at pool. Multiple times. Soundly.

In October, we celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, we spent a relaxing and romantic day at on Whidbey Island. Contrary to what many people seem to say, our first year of marriage was not especially difficult. In fact, it was quite enjoyable, and not just for the obvious reasons, either. We’re quite enjoying each other’s company, and have adjusted rather well to the joint decision-making process. And just for the record, we haven’t even once had a dispute over the toilet seat. :^) In fact, we haven’t really had any real fights at all. Oh, and Rachel: No, we aren’t pregnant.

Also in October, Jeni attended her first women’s conference with some of the ladies at our church. This made Jeni feel old. Perhaps Jeni needs to spend more time playing with LEGOs, like I do. This year I built the Smith Tower (a famous Seattle “skyscraper” from the early 1900’s) out of LEGO, and I am currently working on the Simpsons with J.R. and Micah. I definitely don’t feel old.

Anniversary on Whidbey IslandAs the year wound to a close, we had a relaxing Thanksgiving at home. Katie Gower and Joy and Heather Bagley came over to celebrate and give thanks with us. The weeks surrounding Thanksgiving were the only time this year that Jeni was able to see her best friend Heather. She really enjoyed their time together, even in spite of their willing exposure to an extremely cheesy cartoon rendition of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Perhaps she even enjoyed it partly because of that. To each his (or her) own, I suppose.

After talking with Heather about it, Jeni decided in November to stop selling Mary Kay products. This was mainly due to the fact that the Mary Kay business model is largely dependent on the hard sell. Think used car salesman, only with a lot more makeup on. This kind of business didn’t really sit well with Jeni, and she decided to step down and seek other opportunities.

All in all, I like starting paragraphs with the letter ‘A’. In addition, we had a pretty good 2003. Even the seven and a half months before we got the GameCube. We have both grown spiritually, and Jeni especially feels closer to God than she has before. We have been participating in a weekly Bible study all year with a small group of people from church, Jeni has also been involved in a women’s Bible study, and she has recently begun the Experiencing God study with a different group of women. Both of us have been involved in the newly created “Good Works” ministry at our church that focuses on ministering to the needs of the community. I was given the task of being the “Media Team Leader” at the Anchor (our church). That basically means that I make sure someone is around to do sound and projector each week, I train new people, and I keep the church’s website up-to-date.

Since most of you have probably put this letter down five paragraphs ago and given up ever getting to the end, I think that I will now bring it to an end. We hope that your year has gone well, and hope that we hear from each of you in the next. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and don’t be a stranger. That’s all for now.

Sending our love,

Timothy & Jennifer Ellis

P.S. (My calves were never actually bit by dogs. BGC or WGC.)

– Tim

Merry Christmas 2003
Do stuff that you would like to write about.

Read the Signs

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned humiliating bachelor party. Get a group of guys together, have some good fun, make a guy wear a giant foam cowboy hat and a bright red bow around his neck, and spend all night playing arcade games. Good times. Especially when the arcade games are at Gameworks, and the guys are the swell bunch that showed up for Bryce Schober’s party the night of January 15th, 2003. Good times, good times.

ALL VEHICLES MUST BE REMOVED BY CLOSING TIMELooking forward to this swell experience, J.R. and I giddily headed downtown on that fateful night. Lured by a sign promising $4 parking for the duration we would need, we pulled into the parking garage at the 520 Pike Tower. Ahh, things were going swimmingly. Upon arriving at our private suite (read: a small room with a few round tables) for Bryce’s party at Gameworks we wasted no time at commencing the humiliation. Of course, it would be terrible of me to post any of the pictures here, so I would never even think of doing that. Ever. Well, as much fun as we had, it was all soon to come crashing down on us. Staggering out of Gameworks at midnight, we made our way back to the parking garage. Which was locked. Doh.

All we could access was the stinking ticket-giver-outer-thingy. Which, as it turned out, had stated very plainly “ALL VEHICLES MUST BE REMOVED BY CLOSING TIME,” followed by the hours, which stated closing time as 11:00PM. Dang, we’re stupid. O-kay. Locked out of a parking garage downtown, without a cell phone, on a Thursday night (in other words, nobody is around but a few sleeping homeless people). Not exactly the way we thought we would be spending the evening.

VIOLATION NOTICEWe scoured the short section of the garage entrance that we had access to, looking for a phone number or some information on how to get J.R.’s hot rod out of the belly of this cement beast. Finally, we found a number. Which we called on the nearby payphone using a few coins that Paul gave us. Oh yeah, Paul was with us. He didn’t have a cell phone either though, so he wasn’t much help… except for the change he gave us to call on the pay phone. I guess that was pretty helpful. Plus I think he said a few funny things, too. Too bad I don’t remember them. Wait, where was I? Oh, right. So that phone number had a recording that gave us another number. Great. I wonder what percentage of the money from that pay phone goes to the owner of the parking garage? Fortunately we were able to flag down Nick (who had been at the party) and borrow his cell phone to call the second number. A real person answered this one and assured us that they would be down to rescue us in a few minutes.

At this point, Paul ditched us. I can’t blame him. We are such losers. Well, I’m a loser anyway. All right, I admit it, I was the one who told J.R. to park in there. I was the one who basically got us locked out of a parking garage downtown just because we didn’t spend three and a half seconds to read a sign. Sheesh. Well, true to their word, the night shift security guard for the tower showed up not too much later to rescue us–for a price. Oh yes, that’s right. Twenty-seven dollars, to be exact. Not such cheap parking after all, when you can’t follow their simple rules. It’s okay though, I’m thinking of going back there later to umm… well, nevermind. Let’s get this back to the main point. You should always read the signs. If you don’t bad stuff could happen. Seriously.

– Tim

Do you want to end up stuck outside a parking garage downtown at night, glossy-eyed and brandishing a sombrero like a madman? I didn't think so.
Do you want to end up stuck outside a parking garage downtown at night, glossy-eyed and brandishing a sombrero like a madman? I didn’t think so.

Dumpster Diving

December 27th, the day that we returned from California, the Puget Sound area experienced a day of unusually high winds. In fact, when we woke up that morning, it was even quite windy in Ashland, Oregon. unusually high windsThis time, the drive was, fortunately, quite uneventful (see Tire Blowout Fun). Arriving in Woodinville shortly after dark, something seemed slightly awry as we drove the streets between the freeway and our apartment. Although Woodinville is not known for having a very exciting weekend nightlife, usually the streets are at least lit up. Yes, once again God’s creation proved its supremacy over man, with high winds knocking out the power in our beloved township.

Being the well-prepared citizens that we are, the lack of power did not dampen our spirits. We got out the flashlights, lit the candles, and then decided that we were bored, and would go to bed. In order to know when the power came back on (crucial information, of course), I left the light switch in the ‘on’ position in the bedroom when we went to bed. Therefore, I was woken up by a fully lit room at approximately 2:00 AM, at which time I stumbled across the room, flipped off the switch, stumbled back to bed, and fell immediately back to sleep.

Strangely, the knowledge of exactly what time the power was returned to our place of dwelling bears no further consequence in this story.

not ashamed to dig perfectly good food out of a dumpsterOn the next day, my brother Matthew came over in the late morning to trade back tires with me (again, see Tire Blowout Fun). Shortly after he arrived, a vicious knocking came at our door. I say vicious, because it wasn’t just one, or two, or ten knocks. It was a constant, frantic knocking on our front door that did not cease until I opened the door to reveal… J.R. and Micah.

So excited they could barely complete a coherent sentence, they managed to sputter out enough information to get across their main point: A certain local grocery store was throwing out ALL of their frozen food. But here’s the catch–it was still frozen. Perfectly good food was being tossed, simply because it had spent a few hours thawing the day before. Upon making this discovery, they did what any other self-respecting just-barely-no-longer-a-college-student would do. They raided the dumpster for all it was worth, and packed their freezer so full of food that they had to hold things in with their hands while closing the door. They had come to our apartment to share this good fortune with us, and invite me to dive for a freezer full of my own bounty.

I would of course have been a fool to pass up an opportunity for armfuls of free frozen goods. So, Matthew and I went with them. Sure enough, the dumpster behind this particular local grocery store was quite a find. It was almost as though it had been arranged specially to be raided. This giant dumpster was nearly full of non-smelly trash, on top of which was laid a layer of cardboard, upon which, at the very top of the dumpster, sat two solid feet of all sorts of frozen goods.

seriously look at all that foodGrabbing all that I thought our freezer could hold, I piled on the Toaster Strudels, frozen juice concentrates, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and cheesecakes. Sadly, Matthew was unable to join in the fun, since he was not to travel back home to Vancouver (a three hour drive) until Sunday. Occasionally, a car would drive by, and all four of us would jump down from the dumpster, and walk around aimlessly, as though we were attending to some important, legitimate business behind the grocery store. I think now I know what a crows and raccoons feel like. Or maybe not.

At any rate, once I had what I believed to be a freezer-full, we drove back to the apartment, bid farewell to J.R. and Micah, and packed it all in. Our freezer was filled nearly to capacity, although we did not have to hold it in to shut the door. In fact, two months later, and we still haven’t had to buy frozen chicken again. Or juice. Or Toaster Strudels. Okay well maybe we never bought Toaster Strudels to begin with. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is, free food is good. Yeah. In fact, that’s today’s moral. Free food is good.

– Tim

Always accept an opportunity for free food. Always.
Always accept an opportunity for free food. Always.

Tire Blowout Fun!

Recently we took our first round-trip road trip together, from Woodinville, Washington to Rosamond, California, to be with Jeni’s family during Christmas. Our trip began on Saturday, December 21st. We packed up our car for the week-long journey, and set out to downtown Seattle, to watch The Two Towers at the Cinerama with a group of our friends. Not a bad way to start a road trip, if you ask me. After the movie, we drove as far as Vancouver, and stayed the night with my (Tim’s) parents.

sweet blowoutOn Sunday, just as we were about to hit the road, my dad (Norm) did a last minute check over the car to make sure it was in good order. Not that he doesn’t trust his son, but he just likes to watch out for him. Good thing, too, because as it turns out, they had run over a nail that morning, and the back-left tire was leaking fast. Ah hah, no big deal, we’ll just have it repaired. WRONG! As it turns out, tire places aren’t open on Sundays. So… what to do… Again with the good idea, Norm came up with a scheme whereby Matthew (my brother) and I would switch tires, since Matthew’s car was the same model as ours and only one year different. Perfect. Half an hour later, as we are heading out for real, Norm asked “Do you want to check the spare tire, to make sure it has air in it?” Considering that the trunk was full of Christmas gifts for Jeni’s family, and the presents we had just received from my family, we weren’t too keen on that idea. Besides, we had fixed our tire problem. Clear sailing from here on out. I’m sure the spare tire is fine. So off we went.

So, um… what’s with the blowout, then? Didn’t we fix the tire? Right. The back-left tire was fine. But when we stopped for gas in Grant’s Pass, just 42 miles from our destination, the front-right tire sprung a leak. In fact, we didn’t even notice the leak. The attendant (for those of you who don’t know, you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon, so all stations have attendants) came running over to us and told us about it. It was leaking so badly that he could hear it 30 feet away. As it turns out, we pulled the car just a tad bit too close to the curb while pulling away from the pump, and the wheel was turned just wrong such that the nozzle was pinched between the tire and the curb, and something gave (hint: it wasn’t the curb).

matches?!?This is where the story gets somewhat embarrassing. A sensible person would have stopped right there, at the gas station, put on the spare tire, and had the leak repaired the next day. But, I’m not a sensible person, I’m an engineer. Only a week before had I poured scalding hot Wassail from a Crock Pot into a jug without spilling a drop, using only a thin paper plate. So, when the attendant found out that the audible hissing from the tire could be stopped by pushing the nozzle to one side, I came up with a brilliant plan. Running inside, I grabbed a book of matches, which I then proceeded to smash in between the nozzle and the hubcap, thereby stopping the noise. No noise, no leak, right? Perfect. That will hold for a few more miles to Ashland.

Obviously, it didn’t. Although we did maintain a relatively low speed, about 4 miles down the road, the matchbook must have come loose, because the tire pretty much exploded. Fortunately we were near an exit, so, after cutting in front of a semi truck going 10mph faster than me, we exited the freeway and came to rest off the side of the road on a paved area.

Uh, where did the wheel go?You may think that at this point, we were pretty distraught. Think about it. We were sitting there, in the dark, on the side of a rarely-used exit, somewhere in southern Oregon (as in, endless fields and hills with very few people), with a smoldering, blown-out tire, and oh yeah, remember that spare that my dad wanted us to check??? For some reason, though, we were actually in quite good moods. Although it had been raining when we left Vancouver, it was completely dry here, we had a powerful flashlight, and, as it turns out, the spare tire was indeed in just dandy condition. Look, you can even see a smile on my face as I prepare to put the spare tire on.

So, I think I’ve just about rambled on enough now about a silly flat tire. We got the spare put on, and made it to Ashland okay, and the rest of the trip was just super.

I’m sure there’s a moral to this story somewhere… Lemme think… Okay, how about this: “Matches don’t fix tires.” Yeah. I like that.

– Tim

Matches don't fix tires.
Matches don’t fix tires.

J.R. & the Ring

Four score and seven years ago (that’s 87 years, in layman’s terms), our forefathers—okay well never mind, my wife has vetoed that introduction. Go figure. So anyway, from the day that the rings were picked up from E.E. Robbins, Tim kept them in his immediate possession at all times. At work, classes, and in his bedroom, he always kept the red backpack with the 3 ring boxes in the front pocket (her engagement band, her wedding band, and his wedding band) close by his side. Considering that the rings were by far the most valuable items that he owned (both monetarily and sentimentally), he was very, very careful not to let them out of his site.

Well, by now you’re probably thinking “hey wait a minute… isn’t it the best man’s responsibility to keep the rings?” Well, you are right, it is. However Tim and J.R. (the best man) had an understanding. The rings were to stay in Tim’s possession until the morning of the wedding. When they arrived that morning, Tim would then hand the rings over to J.R., so he could fulfill his best manly duty. What could happen to them in the course of a few hours?

As it turns out, more than you think.

After they were all spiffed out in their dandy tuxedos, the time came for the rings to be handed over to J.R.. Tim took each of the three rings out of their box, and placed them all on one finger. After thoroughly checking for holes and finding none, J.R. held open his inside-suit-coat-pocket, and Tim held his finger over the pocket and dropped them in.

About half an hour later, all the guys were in the sanctuary, taking pictures, and J.R. said the last words that Tim wanted to hear:

“Um… Were there three rings, or just two?”

silent stare of death. a sort of “that isn’t funny. tell me you’re kidding” look.

“I’m not kidding. I thought there were three rings, but right now I only have two.”

look of dismay.

“This is the first time I have even reached into this pocket since we put them in, I’m sure of it. I reached in to count, and all I feel is your ring and her engagement ring. I don’t know where her wedding band is.”

So, Tim and J.R. checked the floor all around where they were standing, and they checked the lining of J.R.’s suit coat, just in case they somehow missed a hole in the pocket… no luck. The ring was not to be found. Panic began to set in. They crossed the lawn to return to the dressing room. They scoured the dressing room, and searched the lawn. They told everyone they saw, as they all joined in the search for the tiny wedding band. Tim tried to reason through the situation with J.R.. He tried to determine how the ring could have fallen out. Suddenly Tim realized that J.R. had leaned over the sink to wet his hair before geling it. He headed toward the bathroom with J.R., but was blocked, and told that he was not allowed to enter that portion of the building. This rather upset Tim. As it turns out, Jeni (of course not knowing anything about the missing ring) had decided that this would be a good time to arrange some candles in the sanctuary.

As Tim waited for what seemed like hours for Jeni to finish, suddenly a happy shout arose from the direction of the guys’ dressing room. Pastor Lee had found the ring! It was lying on the floor in the dressing room, just below the spot that Tim and J.R. thought that they had placed the rings into J.R.’s pocket. Apparently, somehow the smallest of the rings had missed the pocket, escaping the notice of either of them.


Ever the slaves to tradition, after the ring was found, Tim gave J.R. the rings yet again. J.R. counted them about every ten seconds from then until just before the ceremony, when he placed the rings, all three, on the ring-bearer’s pillow (which was a sunflower).