Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Talk, football on the "back 40", turkey and all the trimmings ... a good time was had by all.

Friday, December 04, 2009

New Christmas Exchange Idea?

Hi Family,
             It's Paul.  I know you maybe surprised I'm writing a mass email. I wanted to share an idea I had for Christmas 2009. I know the cd exchange has been a long standing tradition now in our family.  Music is very personal and is hard to share with other people.  I think many of us have ended up with our own cds in the past.  With the invention of the mp3 and the internet it's a lot easier to find new music on our own.  It is my opinion that we should have a book exchange. I'm not saying we have to eliminate the cd exchange but I would like to add the book exchange. I think people are more willing to go into a book blind and take someone else's recommendation.  I also think there is nothing wrong with a book being used.  I think the point of exchanging is to share something that you have enjoyed not it's material value.  People should put a book in that they have read and have enjoyed.  I think with this exchange it would be nice to have the person who put the book in say of few words about the book after the other person has chosen it so the group can get an understanding for it's contents.  I would also encourage people to recycle books from year to year.  How cool would it be to have a book to circulate the entire family!  Another idea would be to put a short inscription inside the book and the year of the exchange.  
So please share your opinions on the subject? 

Let me know if you are interested in participating in a book exchange?

My proposed rules for the exchange would be.

1.  Has to be a book you have read (can be a cook book or more picture based)
2.  You must inscribe the inside of the book with your name, and the year (additional comments optional)
3.  When a person chooses a book from the exchange, the person who put it in must stand up, say a few words about the book, and why they put it in.
4.  You must read the book before Christmas 2010!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Photos from the Livestrong Challenge in Austin, Tx

Last weekend was the Livestrong Challenge in Austin. My buddy Ed came with. It took 28 hours to drive to Austin (4 hour nap, 3 hours at dad's in Dallas). We left at 10 pm on Thursday night and arrived at 2 a.m. on Saturday. That was a little too close to the start time for Saturday's 5K run, so I elected to play it safe and skip the run. We drove into Austin around 11:30 a.m. to get our packets for Sunday's ride and, while stopped at a stop light, Lance Armstrong rode through the intersection with a group of about 30 riders. (The very high dollar fundraisers...) We picked up our packets, etc. and I noticed they had "In memory of" cards that you could write on and pin to your cycling kit. I filled one out for Grandpa and really had to fight back the tears. It was a little overwhelming. I also filled out a card for Jeanne's Aunt Toni.

We wandered around the Expo center and I picked up some Livestong gear. For my fundraising efforts the Lance Armstrong Foundation gave me a water bottle, a dry fit hat, a very nice messanger bag and a cycling jersey. The jersey is being shipped later since they were out of my size. Pretty cool that they ran out of them since they are only given to those who raise $2,500 or more. Despite all the shwag that I received, I couldn't resist buying a Livestrong cycling kit (jersey and bib shorts) to ride in on Sunday, a hat for Gibson (with a matching one for me), and a shirt for Chloe.

On the way to Austin, one of my co-worker's e-mailed and told me her son works for Lance in his bike shop (Mellow Johnny's) and other capacities. We got in touch with Ted on Saturday after packet pickup and he gave us a nice tour of the facilities, including the new Teeam Radio Shack service center. Mellow Johnny's is by far the coolest bike shop I have ever been to -- although most bike shops don't have 7 yellow jerseys from the Tour de France, bikes ridden by Lance, George Hincappe and others, etc. There was much shwag purchased at the shop. Thanks to facebook, a photo of Gibson in his Mellow Johnny's shirt and Lance Armstrong foundation hat is getting a lot of views on the internet. My buddy Ed and I also went to the coffee shop attached to the shop, Juan Pelota. (You see Juan sounds like "one" and pelota is spanish for ball... testicular cancer survivors can be pretty funny with their self chosen nicknames.)

Ed and I had dinner in a nice, laid back Austin eatery on its front porch. Austin is a cool city and I wish we had more time to explore it.

Sunday we had to get up early to drive 35 miles West of Austin for the start of the ride. We got there, geared up and made our way to the start. Most of the riders there were signed up for the 90 mile ride. I think the official number of riders was around 3,800. We were in the back of the 90 mile riders area. Lance spoke for a few moments before the start and I noticed he was wearing the same Livestrong kit I has on. (I know, I know, who copied who...) Then the teams that raised the most money ($700,000 and $200,000 respectively) were allowed to start first. Once we were rolling it took about ten minutes to get to the starting line.

The first several miles were really slow due to the number of riders on the road. We got moving ok around the 3 or 4 mile mark and continued until the first rest stop (15 miles). We spent too much time at the stop, partly because it was so busy. Then we were riding again. The course wasn't too difficult at this point and the scenery was spectacular. We stopped again at the next rest stop (25 miles). Again, we probably spent too much time at this stop. Bottles filled up and food in our jersey pockets we took off again.

This is where the course became more challenging. The hills started rolling, each at approximately 6% grade. Up, down, up, down. I was loving it. I had been afraid of the hills coming into the event, since my training routes are mostly flat. However, I seemed to really do well on the hills, smoothly powering over them without much effort. Ed started having a hard time. Several times I unintentionally opened up a large gap on him and had to wait for him to catch back up. The hills were not kind to Ed. I started to get concerned that we might not make the cut off for the 90 mile course, since we had to reach the 37 mile mark before 11 a.m. or we would be re-routed to the 65 mile course. I didn't have a watch with me, and didn't know the exact time. Also, despite the stops and the difficulty Ed was having, I couldn't believe we wouldn't cover 37 miles in 3 hours. I forgot to take into account that the event started late, it took 10 min. to get to the starting line, the first several miles were really slow, the time we spent in the rest stops, etc.

At about 35 miles I was really worried and jetted ahead to see if we could make the cut-off. No luck. The cop made it very clear, we missed it by approx. 20 min. I was really bummed. When Ed rode up I explained I needed to crush the second half of the course and went ahead. All my 75 to 100 mile training rides at 18 to 20 MPH were done in anticipation of riding 90 miles on this day. Since I couldn't do 90, I was going to smoke the last section of the course. I flew off, solo, and was flying at about 24 MPH on a flat section about a mile up the road when the back tire on my bike started to feel soft. I know that feeling -- flat tire. I pulled over and started changing the tire. Twenty minutes later, after struggling to get more than 40 lbs. of pressure into the tire with my small stick pump, a support vehicle came with a full size pump. With the tire now at 105 psi, I was back on my way.

This section of the course was brutal. There were several large hills. One in particular was a sustained 15% incline for several hundred yards. Many people were off their bikes walking up the hill. Others were zig-zaging from side to side to try and ride up. Once again I was shocked with how I handled the hill. I dropped into my climbing gear and started spinning hard. I never dropped below 10 MPH on the hill and got over it in good shape. I had fun attacking all the hills on this section of the course, and found myself routinely flying by good riders on the up hills. They would always pass me on the downhills, where I was being cautious, but I would get them on the next hill (and repeat and repeat). After passing a particular rider on about 10 hills in a row, I received a nice compliment on my climbing ability and a comparison to Eddie Merckx. Since I didn't have any hill training or experience I like to think Grandpa arranged for a tail wind to help me up the hills.

The downhills were crazy. I hit 42 MPH on one, while holding my back break to make sure I didn't go faster! My good ride continued all the way to the finish. After failing to cover the first 37 miles at an average speed of 12 MPH (stops included) I was able to cover the last 28 miles at an average speed of 18.8 MPH. That far exceeded my expectations.

After the ride, we ate, checked out the post race festivities and got in the car to head home. We left around 3 p.m. on Sunday. Food, gas and a two hour rest stop nap were our only stops on the way home -- but it still took a while. We got home at 5 p.m. on Monday evening.

All in all, it was a great experience and I am really proud of my ride. I am planning to go back next year (more of a personal journey without all the public fundraising efforts). Next year I will flying there... and intend to destroy the 90 mile course.

My photos are at


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Austin Livestrong Update

Headed to Austin Thursday night (17+ hour drive). We raised $2,500 for the fight against cancer and in memory of Grandpa!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Livestrong Challenge Update

Despite the economy, the generosity of family and friends has been amazing. Thus far we have raised over $1,350 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation for the fight against cancer! Thank you for your support!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Livestrong Challenge - Austin, TX 2009

With the Tour de France starting this weekend, my growing interest in cycling, and the inspiration from watching Lance Armstrong, I have decided to do something productive with my latest hobby. In memory of Grandpa and Jeanne's Aunt Toni, I am running the Livestrong Challenge 5K on October 24 and riding the Livestrong Challenge 90 mile ride the next day, October 25 in Austin, Tx.

I am trying to raise $2,500 to help Livestrong/The Lance Armstrong Foundation fight cancer and raise global awareness. If you would like to make a donation, please visit 

If you don't want to donate, please support my efforts by refraining from kicking me in the calves the week of October 19th.  Your support, one way or the other, is greatly appreciated. 



Thursday, June 11, 2009

Formatting issues

Apologies for the formatting. I thought that I had laid it out perfectly, but the words no longer line up with the corresponding photos. You get the idea!

Celebrating the Wedding of Gretchen and Jason

The guests waited patiently ...

... for the beautiful bride and groom.

And a fun time was had by all!

(With apologies to the Birchler brothers Tom, Jim and John who weren't around when I was taking photos.)
May 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Allergic Much?

Hi Family,

So, a couple of years back I got retested for my allergies and finally discovered why I am so sensitive to raw apples and other fruits. It's Oral Allergy Syndrome! I'm allergic to Birch trees... and thus have trouble with apples... Whee!

Jason happened to come across an article on the subject today. It's a good article that explains Oral Allergy Syndrome to normal folk (CNN readers).

Click here to read the article, "Oral Allergy Syndrome May Explain Mysterious Reactions

Usually, I share these via email with just the allergic families, but heck! It's useful info for all Birchlers at this rate!


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Nickolas James baptized!

Our pastor, Fr. Dale, baptized Nickolas on Sunday, January 25th at 11:30 am Mass. Nickolas was ready to be baptized because when Fr. Dale invited family and friends to the Baptismal font, he shouted excitedly "I get baptized!" Since Fr. Dale had his microphone turned on, the whole congregation heard what Nickolas had to say.

Nickolas couldn't wait to blow out his Baptismal candle.

Nickolas's godparents were Amanda's Uncle John and our friend, Fr. Bob DeLand. (Ellen stood as proxy for Fr. Bob who was unable to attend Mass due to commitments at his own parish, but he was able to join us for lunch afterwards.)

We were all very excited and happy!

Nickolas finally "crashed and burned" when he couldn't take apart the blocks on the cross he received from Fr. Bob. But it was a wonderful celebration!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gretchen's News!

You may have already heard this via the family grapevine, but I thought I'd post and make it all official-like....

I QUIT MY JOB !!!!!!!!!!!

BECAUSE I GOT A NEW JOB !!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm pretty darn excited - if you couldn't tell from my use of extreme exclamation marks!

I've been in consulting for 6 years now (yikes!) and am ready for something a little calmer with shorter hours, less travel, and more predictability. So, I'm going internal. IT, that is. I'm going to be a DMS Engineer at Sidley Austin. That's a big gigantic law firm - and the job description is working on the server software I am an expert in. It's a good fit. A headhunter found me on LinkedIN . . . that's how this all happened - crazy!

My last day at the current place is this Friday, February 6th -and my first day at the new place is February 16th. I'll have a week off between jobs. Whee!

It is a crazy time to be changing jobs... so keep your fingers crossed for me on that front... but I am still excited!