Sonnet 2008

For two thousand and eight, these are the facts,
Of Tim and Jeni’s story of the year.

The windy island wedding of the Jacks;
Tim worked from home, not as an engineer.

We helped Tim’s parents move to a new home,
And saw the sights that Boston had to see.

On down to California did we roam.
Then welcomed our friends Bryan and Beckie.

Tim launched a new website: The Naked Loon.
We both became new members of the Seed.

At home we remodeled our entry room,
And vis’ted with Rebekah, yes indeed.

For Christmas time the Christmans came, and lo!
The year didst close with snow snow snow snow snow.

Tim and Jeni - 2008

2007 Year in Review Quiz

  1. What new pet(s) did we get?
    1. A box of one dozen starving-crazed weasels
    2. A purple gecko named Steve
    3. An eight-year-old husky named Malish
    4. An African Grey parrot named Sven that says “quivering” a lot
  2. What is the name of the new church we began attending?
    1. Seed
    2. Mushroom
    3. First Baptist Church of the Totally Awesome
    4. Warm Fuzzies Chapel
  3. What two cities did Tim visit on business with Genie?
    1. Bellevue, WA and Kirkland, WA
    2. Reykjavik, Iceland and Cairo, Egypt
    3. Hobbitton and Mordor
    4. Atlanta, GA and Chicago, IL
  4. Which of the following accurately describes our first road trip of the year?
    1. Down the Oregon and Northern California coast to visit family in San Francisco and Tim’s old professor from SPU, now at California Baptist University
    2. North into Canada, seeking fame and riches in remote frozen towns, working our way across the countryside by selling novelty toothbrushes
    3. East through Idaho and Montana into the hinterland of North Dakota on a quest for the seven sacred stones of Crackerton, which combined form the key to unlock the gate of Suruth, entrance to the ancient tomb of the music-warrior Jorash, whose legendary flute was able to tame even the wildest beast
    4. To the grocery store for milk
  5. What did we spend most of our free time doing in the summer?
    1. Inventing a new type of egg-beater, the yolk-o-tastic XR9742
    2. Writing a book: “How to break your spouse’s spirit in ten easy steps”
    3. Stealing flowers, bushes, ferns, and berry vines from the abandoned property next door
    4. Taking classes in acting, ju-jitsu, flower arrangement, and hostile takeovers
  6. Which of the following was not part of our trip to the Olympic National Park with Joy, Heather, and Sam?
    1. Visiting a natural hot springs (very natural, if you get my drift)
    2. Hiking through the woods in the rain
    3. Staring down a deer in the middle of the road
    4. Five-hour campsite pillow-fight, followed by a flaming marshmallow-eating contest
  7. What did we do for our five-year wedding anniversary?
    1. Stayed a night in a fancy lodge, hiked to a remote mining ghost town, and went for a relaxing drive through some small towns in east King County
    2. Planted a tree
    3. Visited a zoo populated entirely by monkeys
    4. Got into a screaming match and broke all our dishes
  8. What was the purpose of Jeni’s visit to Dallas?
    1. To scout out headquarters for Tim’s upcoming master heist
    2. To find out first hand whether or not you can, in fact, mess with Texas
    3. To eat a 72oz steak in one sitting
    4. To visit with her best friend Heather, her sister Rebekah, and her friend Debbie
  9. Describe Rachel & Adam’s visit to Seattle.
    1. Jeni & Rachel got Rachel some new clothes and a new hairstyle, while Tim & Adam bonded over Xbox 360 and Wii
    2. Jeni & Rachel joined a belly-dancing troupe while Tim & Adam hunted cougar in the mountains, armed only with butter knives and slingshots
    3. The four of us began work on a massive underground fortress to house our secret mission control center
    4. Lots and lots of awkward silence
  10. Who did we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with?
    1. Thanksgiving with the Amish in Pennsylvania, Christmas with astronauts on the space station
    2. Thanksgiving with Australian troops in Uzbekistan, Christmas with a family of bears in Alaska
    3. Thanksgiving with Tim’s family in Vancouver, Christmas with Jeni’s family in Rosamond
    4. Nobody – we stayed home and slept all day for both holidays
  11. Which of the following did we experience in the last week of 2007?
    1. Driving from Seattle to California then to Southern Florida with Rebekah
    2. Ringing in the new year on a crowded Gulf Coast island beach town
    3. Preparing for the island wedding of Jeni’s best friend Heather
    4. Having the car break down on the island beach town on New Years Eve, the day before the wedding
    5. All of the above

Click here to check your answers.

Timothy and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

all it has is a sunroof

all it has is a sunroof

I gave notice at Valberg and now I’m starting a new job at Genie with more responsibility and more stress and when I went to look at electric bicycles for my commute I wrecked my car and the police gave me a ticket and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

At court I contested the ticket and three people before me got their tickets thrown out but the judge didn’t care and I had to pay a hundred dollars. We went looking for a new car and I said I wanted a brand-new car with leather seats and tinted windows and cruise control and a sunroof. We got a 2001 Saturn and all it has is a sunroof. I think I’ll move to Australia.

Who needs dancing?

Who needs dancing?

Jeni got her interior design diploma from the Art Institute and I had to go to her portfolio day and set up and fetch lunch and just sit in the corner all day. I said I was going to play my DS. I said, if I don’t get to play DS I am going to be really bored. No one even answered. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

In June Jeni’s sister Rachel got married to Adam and Jeni was in the wedding and all I got to do was open the door for people when they showed up. During the ceremony I had to sit in the front row and I couldn’t even play DS. At the reception there was dancing, but I don’t know how to dance. Who needs dancing? I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

we could barely see the mountain

we could barely see the mountain

I could tell because we went to Mount St. Helens in August and there was so much smoke from fires that we could barely see the mountain and then we went to Ape Cave and it was just cold and wet and dark. The next day we went to Beacon Rock and Multnomah Falls and I had to walk all the way to the top of both of them. I got really tired having to walk that high up. I think I could see Australia.

We took swing dance lessons and Jeni stepped on my foot and our instructor played music from those dumb Eharmony commercials. We went horseback riding in Leavenworth for our anniversary and our guide had a horse with a cool black tail and Jeni got to ride a white horse. Guess whose horse was plain old boring brown? It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Guess whose horse was plain old boring brown?

Guess whose horse was plain old boring brown?

That’s what it was, because after horseback riding we went into downtown Leavenworth and the restaurant I wanted to eat at was too crowded. Come back next week and we’ll be practically empty, they said. Next week, I said, I’m going to Australia.

While working on the still-unfinished top-secret website project J.R. made me work on messy code and then when I started crying because of the code Pete said I was a crybaby and while I was punching Pete for saying crybaby Jeni came home and scolded me for having messy code and fighting. I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, I told everybody. No one even answered.

I had to set the table.

I had to set the table.

So then we decided to build a new living room and bedroom in our garage. Jeni chose the layout of the rooms. Jeni chose the color of the walls and the lighting. I chose to hire someone to do the construction for us but then our bank account said we can’t afford that. My friends made me do all the construction work with them, but they can’t make me enjoy it.

When my parents and brothers and Rachel and Adam and Joy and Heather all came over for Thanksgiving the remodel wasn’t totally done. I had to spend Thanksgiving morning installing the new projector and surround sound system. I showed everyone the unfinished closet. I showed them where a shelf would be if we were finished and I showed them where our new painting would go if we had time to hang it up. We were going to eat at one o’clock but my parents were late and the food took forever to cook and instead of playing DS while I waited for the food I had to set the table. Everyone said they had a good time, but I think they wished they were in Australia. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

wished they were in Australia.

wished they were in Australia.

My Seattle Bubble website only got over a thousand hits a day. I lost four times in a row at my new train board game. We went to my parents’ for Christmas and I put too much oil in the truck. Jeni quit her job but we still had to go to their boring Christmas party, where I couldn’t even play DS and her boss didn’t give her a bonus like everyone else. I hope you sit on a tack, I said to her boss. I hope the next time you get a double-decker strawberry ice-cream cone the ice cream part falls off the cone part and lands in Australia.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good very bad year. Jeni says some years are like that. Even in Australia.

2004 & 2005 in Review

Well it’s that time of the year again. “Time for what,” you ask? It is time for another year in review letter! “But wait,” you protest. “It’s not Christmas time any more. Isn’t it a bit late for this?” No, no it is in fact not too late. See that’s just one of the many things that make this letter so special. Many people send out a Christmas letter, but this is no Christmas letter. This is a year in review letter, which is clearly a different thing all together. For one thing, it does not neglect the oft-ignored days of December 26th through 31st. Also, this particular letter is a super-magnificent, extra-length two years in review letter. What else makes this letter special? Well I suppose you’ll just have to read on to find out. Or alternatively, you could stop reading right now and live the rest of your life with the horrible nagging feeling that you’ve been missing something. It’s up to you.

Tim on an Astoria beach

Tim on an Astoria beach

The intent of this letter is for me, Timothy (there are some who call me… Tim?), to update you on not just one, but two action-packed years of Ellis household happenings. This is of course due to the fact that the closing of 2004 was conspicuously lacking a year in review letter. I can’t elaborate on the reasons for this other than to vaguely allude to filthy squirrels, but whatever the cause, the result is that twice as much information must now be packed into relatively the same amount of space. As such, I should probably stop talking about the letter and actually get around to letting the letter talk about the last two years. Ready, set, go.

2004 started off on a somewhat awkward note when my best friend J.R. took me to a beautiful waterfall in a secluded back-woods Oregon forest and proposed. Of course, I had to turn him down, so instead he proposed to his girlfriend Jen two weeks later while Jeni hid nearby and took pictures so the memories could last for a lifetime.

In February, we got tired of spending $850 each month on rent, so we decided to move somewhere cheaper—a lot cheaper. When our friends Pete & Kimberly bought a house in Lynnwood, their former residence in Kenmore became available for little more than a song, and of course we jumped on the opportunity. I mean that literally. As in we actually went to their old house and jumped. We were pretty excited about saving money. With the move came not only a new address and a ridiculously hard to find house, but also the ability to have pets. Since one of my life goals is to operate my own personal zoo, we got right on that by getting two ferrets in March (Fezzik & Iliana), “rescuing” a Siberian Husky from a local shelter in June (Latcka), and getting two more ferrets in August (Grizzly & Dimitri). We also discovered a delightful litter of five one-month-old kittens in the attic in May, but couldn’t keep any of them due to Jeni’s allergies (they and their stray mother went to a local no-kill shelter). Yes, you read that right. They were living in our attic for at least four weeks before we found them.

Latcka demonstrates her attack pose

Latcka demonstrates her attack pose

April brought Jeni a new part-time job for our friends from church Yen & Veronica, whose new baby Zayn needed taken care of two days a week. Jeni was glad to do it and both of us were glad to have a little extra financial help in paying off the remaining school loans.

J.R.’s January proposal led to a June wedding in Astoria, Oregon, in which I had the great honor of being the “best man.” The weekend trip to Astoria was both pleasant and relaxing, and the wedding went smoothly. Two interesting notes about the church they got married in: 1) It can be seen in the background of the opening scene in the movie Goonies. 2) I can personally vouch that all of the windows in the sanctuary were shiny and spotless for the ceremony.

Jeni’s brother Michael came up to visit in August, and her other brother Darrell Jonathan came back and stayed a few weeks with us after we drove down to California for Thanksgiving. We showed them both all the local sites and gave them the full “Seattle experience,” which essentially consists of visiting the Space Needle, sitting in traffic, and getting rained on.

To celebrate our anniversary in October we spent a weekend on Orcas Island, enjoying nature and taking in the “island lifestyle,” which as far as we could tell involves not going out to eat or doing any shopping other than groceries after 6:00 PM, fending off sea otters from under one’s deck, and complaining that President Bush has personally destroyed the island’s tourism industry.

Just before Thanksgiving we made the first major purchase of our married life when we bought a new-to-us pickup truck. Although the truck doesn’t get as good of gas mileage as our cars, we decided to get a truck so we would be able to transport furniture, loads of dirt, and go places with our dog Latcka without getting her white hair all over everything in the car. Personally I didn’t mind the appearance of a fresh blanket of snow covering the entire interior, but Jeni wasn’t okay with it for some reason. Go figure.

2004 closed out with Jeni’s involvement in a local non-profit theatre group and their production of A Christmas Carol. In her capacity as the Assistant Stage Manager she was responsible for corralling the unruly actors, ensuring that the constantly disappearing props got on stage at the right time, and tending to the costumes’ emotional needs.

Brock hauls away the junk

Brock hauls away the junk

Now for those of you that are still with us, it’s time to move on to 2005. Right at the start of the year I joined forces with J.R., Jon, and Pete to form a crime-fighting super team. As a secondary objective we are working on a top-secret super-awesome website that will become wildly successful and make us all gigantic bags of money when we finish it. Stay tuned for more info next year, when our year in review letter comes engraved on platinum tablets.

Honestly, nothing else really interesting happened until May, when Jeni took a road trip down to California for her sister Rebekah’s graduation and her friend Beckie’s wedding. Joining her for the quest was my brother Matthew. I was unable to join them because I had to save my vacation hours for a later trip, but I don’t want to ruin the upcoming paragraph’s surprise. That would make the paragraph pretty sad.

In June we sold one of our cars, since we didn’t really need two nearly-identical cars in addition to a truck. After three attempts we found someone on Craig’s List to buy our 1991 four-door Cavalier. They were so excited about having a car that when we got back from the test drive they practically threw the cash in our face, grabbed the keys, and ran out the door.

The extra cash came in handy, since around that same time Jeni started a one-year program in Residential Design (interior design) at the Art Institute of Seattle. She has classes three nights a week, and gets to learn all kinds of neat stuff like how to draw houses, choose fabrics, tie-dye shirts, and build rocking chairs out of cradles.

Jeni on her way to work

Jeni on her way to work

As I mentioned earlier, the place we’re living in Kenmore is extremely cheap. In fact, due to a surprising turn of events in late 2004, it’s actually even cheaper now than it was when we moved in. By “cheaper” I mean “free.” We pay utilities and that’s it. Of course, having free housing doesn’t make us immune to the desire to own our own home, so throughout early 2005 we spent a lot of time “window shopping” and even finding out how much of a home loan we could get pre-approved for. Unfortunately this whole process was pretty depressing, as we realized that all we could reasonably afford would be a grass hut on a thousand square foot lot located in the tiny town of Index. Partly as an outlet for my frustration at the ridiculous cost of housing and partly as a way to track home price trends in the area to search for a glimmer of hope, I started a blog in August called Seattle Bubble. On it I track all the local news stories about housing prices and trends and post them online with brief comments. Hundreds of people read my blog on a regular basis.

Since we’ve decided to stay in our ghetto (but free) digs for a while, throughout the year we have been busy making various improvements both indoors and outdoors. One noteworthy example is that our awesome mailman Brock came and hauled away no fewer than nine dead appliances that were strewn about in the yard, allowing us to create a vegetable garden, from which we had a bountiful harvest of tomatoes and squash this fall. Brock also hauled away hundreds of pounds of scrap metal (including three car engines) that a previous owner was storing in the garage apparently in hopes of one day building a spacecraft. This allowed us to discover a leak in the garage roof, which I am still fighting with to this day. Once I fix the leak however, we will be able to convert the garage into useable rooms—practically doubling our livable square footage.

On our North Carolina trip

On our North Carolina trip

Also in August, we took a weekend trip to Spokane to be at the wedding of our friends Laura and Matt. Jeni did Laura’s makeup for the day, and I was happy to help run the sound board, sitting in for the intended sound man who had an unfortunate scheduling hiccup. August was a pretty eventful month overall, because a few weeks after we got back from the wedding, Jeni had her last days of caring for Zayn. The reason for the ending was that Yen & Veronica had their second baby girl in October, and shortly after this they returned to Singapore where Yen will be teaching accounting. We will miss them.

I have continued to work for Valberg, a small engineering firm in the town of Monroe, where I design electronic control systems for all sorts of things from half-million-dollar sports cars, to limousines, to fast boats. In order to help pay for school, and to gain experience relating to her classes in residential design, Jeni started a new job in September at a local store called Lighting Universe. She works as a sales associate in the showroom, where her responsibilities primarily involve helping people choose the right lighting for their rooms.

Speaking of lighting, this paragraph doesn’t have anything at all to do with lighting. In October I finally had enough vacation saved up, and we were able to make a long-planned trip to North Carolina to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. We had a great time while we were out there, and since our plane tickets were free (due to frequent flier miles), we were able to pack a ton of stuff into our two-week visit. We visited two historical towns, went to two beaches, drove east into the hill country, stood in the place where the first airplane flew, watched my little cousin Kari demonstrate her mad Tai Kwon Do skillz, built sweet LEGO houses, rode fast thrill rides, and were flashed by an octopus. Not necessarily in that order.

2005 was also a busy year for our church (The Anchor), as we made a number of changes in pursuit of God’s calling for our body. We have been trying to sell our building, so we could use the very large amount of resulting funds to rent more appropriate facilities, expand our ministries to the community, and invest the cash remainder. Also we split into two more localized bodies to foster a tighter sense of community and to help those in the north end of Seattle better reach their neighbors. These changes haven’t been easy, and a number of people have left the church for various reasons, but we are continuing to do our best as a group of believers to follow God’s will.

November and December were very busy months for us, that included my parents and my brother Peter coming up to our house for Thanksgiving, us driving down to California for Christmas, and Jeni spending time with her best friend Heather upon our return.

Our last bit of big news is that with the sending of this letter, Jeni and I are now debt-free! In a mere three and a half years we have eliminated nearly $40,000 in debt. Although nobody gave us a trophy for the occasion, we definitely have a high sense of accomplishment, and are quite happy to be financially free and completely independent. By the way Matthew, that’s six months less than four years, which means that even including $5,000 in debt that wasn’t from my schooling, I win. Booyah.

Well, that pretty much wraps it up for 2004 and 2005. I’m quite impressed with you for making it all the way through this marathon letter. If you want I will get you a trophy. I’d also like to take this opportunity to put down those that didn’t read this far, because—hey they’re not reading anyway so I can say whatever bad things I want about them. Just kidding, I love them even if their attention span is equivalent to that of a hummingbird.

May the blessings of our Lord be poured on you without restraint this year. Don’t be a stranger.
Sending our love,
Timothy & Jennifer

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.