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Posts published in “Day: August 21, 2008

6 days in Cincinnati

One of the hardest things to do after you leave school is keep in touch with your friends. You no longer get to see them every day in class or at lunch. You no longer call each other to solve calculus problems or chat about the Homecoming game. In some cases, like ours, you no longer even live in the same state. So what’s the secret to our success?


We chat online several times a week, and we talk on the phone once or twice a month. Actually one of our favorite ways to keep in touch is to write letters, usually on goofy stationery we forgot we had. (Yes, people do still use pen and paper and the US Postal Service.) But even though we tend to rely on hightech methods of communication, the best way to keep in touch is lowest on the tech scale: seeing each face to face and hanging out in person.

That’s exactly what we did last month when Angie came to Cincinnati.

Day 1 started normal enough: Kristan went to work and Angie was dropped off at the airport. Unfortunately, Angie’s itinerary consisted of a full day of traveling on the world’s smallest planes — from Austin to Cleveland, then Cleveland to Dayton. Then there was a delay in Austin, which resulted in the itsy bitsy plane being restarted three times, and Angie began to worry about being late. Ironically, Angie ended up arriving early to Dayton, and Kristan was the one running late.

After a belated but happy reunion at the airport, we drove an hour through the pouring rain back to Kristan’s office to finish an important project and run it to FedEx. We got to FedEx at 8:58 pm — exactly 2 minutes before they would have closed, i.e., exactly 2 minutes before Kristan would have been fired.

Needless to say, we were both happy to go home and relax that night. And with Andy gone on a business trip, we were able to have some quality girl time.

Highlight of the day: The “7th grade sleepover,” reminiscing about the past as well as wondering about the future.

Day 2 was a little more relaxing. Angie spent the day getting to know Riley (the puppy) while Kristan was at work. That night Andy came back from Chicago and the three of us had a lovely dinner, followed by an even better dessert.

Highlight of the day: Black Raspberry Chip ice cream from Graeter’s. Officially Angie’s favorite thing about Cincinnati.

Kristan used a Personal Day on Friday (Day 3) to spend time with Angie. They took Riley to Eden Park, had dinner at Newport on the Levee — think: subdued version of Kemah — and walked across the Purple People Bridge from Ohio to Kentucky. Strangely, many of Cincinnati’s attractions are actually in Kentucky.

Highlight of the day: An adorable older woman telling us she wished she had a camera to take a picture of the three of us — Kristan, Angie and Riley — as we sat on a giant swing sculpture in the park.

Day 4 started with an exhausting but exhilarating aerobic dance class at nine in the morning. Afterwards, Angie said, “Let’s go for a run!” and Kristan gave her a look that said, “Over my dead body. No, really.” Then we drove around East Walnut Hills to look at ridiculous mansion-like houses and take pictures, much like we used to do in Houston.

Highlight of the day: Flailing limbs in the back row of dance class despite Kristan’s dance lessons and Angie’s ballroom course.

Day 5 was very food-focused, with waffles, bacon, and strawberries for breakfast at home, and then grocery shopping at Jungle Jim’s — an international market with singing Campbell’s Soup cans, bumper cars, and other strange novelties. We also did some clothes shopping, but after looking at our receipts, we don’t feel like talking about that…

Highlight of the day: Spending half an hour agonizing over which novelty candy bars to get. Lion Bars from Europe, Pocky from Japan, or Sky Bars from (1940s) America?

And finally on Day 6, Angie “got” to relax at home again, because Kristan had to work and forgot that the art museum is closed on Mondays. Luckily Angie didn’t mind, because she got to play with Riley again!

Highlight of the day: Singing off-key and talking about life while driving back to the airport in the PT “Party Time” Cruiser.

Maybe it wasn’t some wild and crazy, Hollywood-style, Thelma and Louise best friend weekend, but we had a good time even without Brad Pitt or getting chased by the police. Our friendship grew stronger, and we know it will continue to grow because of all the effort we put in. And the best part is, in a good friendship, effort doesn’t feel like effort at all. It’s just fun.

So whether by phone, World Wide Web, postal service, or in person, go keep in touch with a friend. It’s totally worth it.

Huffman ISD proposes 10-cent tax hike

HUFFMAN — Last year Huffman ISD voters approved a $20.5 Million bond package. Now, it’s time to pay the bill.

The school district will hold public meeting on Aug. 25 in the Copeland cafeteria at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the upcoming school year budget, which will, in turn, determine the tax rate.

The school district is proposing a $1.44 per $100 valuation tax rate. This represents a 10-cent increase over the 2007-2008 rate.

The tax rate is broken down into two sections: maintenance and operations (M&O) and interest and sinking (I&S). The M&O part of the tax rate is expected to be $1.04, the same as last year. This part of the tax rate is used by the district for its daily operations budget.

The increase in the tax rate comes in the I&S. Huffman ISD is proposing a $.44 per $100 valuation rate for debt service. This is up from $.38 last year.

Under state law, the district could have raised the rate as high as $1.61343 without calling for a special election.

District Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian said that this rate following a schedule that the district gave to voters before the May 2007 election. It was estimated that the tax could have been as high as $.4451.

Killian said that the debt schedule fluctuates and that with each passing year the debt service would go down. Also taxpayers will see some relief, he added, in three to five years when the district begins to retire old debt.

The tax rate is based on projected data from the Harris County Appraisal District. Killian said that they do not have the final figures from the appraisal district so they have to build a budget based on what is expected. Even if the district were to wait until September to create the budget, he noted, they still might not have accurate figures from Harris County. “There is quite a bit of lag time (in getting the figures). This is a function of the size of the district.

Hurting taxpayers is a projection that taxable value of property. Last year the average taxable value of a residence was $124,390. This year it is expected to drop to $119,889. Since the tax rate is directly tied to the value of property and lower property values mean less money coming in, the tax rate has to increase to compensate. Using these projected values, the average taxpayer will see their annual bill go up $57.78 from $1,716.58 to $1,774.36.

Killian added that the downturn in property values is not limited the Huffman ISD and was more a function of the housing market. He also said that he felt that this was not the start of a trend, but rather a temporary downturn in the market.

The 2007 Bond package included $10 million for athletic facilities ungrades including a new Falcon Stadium near the high school as well as a new administration building.

Schools introduce new teachers to community

CROSBY – The Crosby/Huffman Chamber of Commerce’s New Educator’s Luncheon at Newport Country Club and Conference Center this year was a showcase not only for the new personnel at local schools but also a display of the importance of education in the local communities and the interest of the business community to integrate these professionals into the commerce of the areas.

Justin Brady, President of the local Chamber, initiated the event describing the municipal services performed by the schools in the community.

The event introduces the teachers to the products and services available in the communities they serve in effort to establish a symbiotic relationship between the entities of local education and local dealers hoping for mutual interest to blossom.

Chamber Welcomes New Educators

The New Educator’s Luncheon this year featured the local Independent School Districts and two private schools including Sacred Heart Catholic School and an Episcopal School in Channelview.

The event was hosted by the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce. The chamber holds the event each summer to welcome new educators to the area and introduce them to local businesses.

Superintendent Mike Joseph summerized the event well by saying, “The district is excited about all the quality new teachers for the 08-09 school year. We are also thankful for the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce because events like this make the Crosby-Huffman area a special place to live. The district appreciates all the efforts by the Chamber to recognize the schools and the community.”

Also in attendance, reprsenting Huffman ISD was superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian.

School administration and staff were introduced by the aforementioned superintendents in addition to Ken Waguepack, Principal of Sacred Heart, a new educator himself, and Dr. Shirley Ellisor of Holy Trinity Episcopal School.

The new educators for Crosby are: Jennifer Abernathy, Stephanie Brown, Kristen Butler, Billy Clowers II, Lori Clowers, Kacy Debney, Jeanne Delleney, Lucy Dietrich, Stacy Eagleton, Christina Ewell, Cynthia Godoy, Paulo Gomes, Shelly Guilfoyle, Christine Gwosdz, Amy Hollas, Carlton Howard, Amanda Janacek, Sarah Keith, Kelly Keel, Roberta Kirsopp, Shelley Klinefelter, Michael Kursoki, Jennifer Locke, Aaron Milears, Andrew Murphy, Layne Neumann, Brandon Otto, Krystal Richard, Laura Roberts, Patrick Robertson, Lacey Rodriguez, Rachel Schaumburg, Christine Tatman, Kyle Toney, Mary Celeste Toney, Kelly Tumy, Jesika Vincent, Bernadette Walls, Juwan Walls, Juwan Walls, Heather Williams, Michael Williams and Stan Woodring.

The new educators for Huffman ISD are Brittany Stapleton, Cassi Locascio, Denise Rawley, Heather Winter, Sarah Townsend, Angela Mackert, Stephanie Young, Angela Rhodes, Tosha James-Gibson, Christy Conwell, Dottie Keith, Patricia Talecki, Kristen Cunningham, Bryan Pitre, Matthew Kenney, Lindsey Lasater, Beth Sarles, Karen Pack, Melody Mendez, Kathleen Anderson, Timothy Jones, Leigh Ann Wolfe, Sally Woolley, Joey Buchta, Brandy Sample, Casey Story, Colleen Ferguson and Kelly Shropshire.

Sacred Heart’s new educators include Geneva Morris, Audrey Golden, Sister Magdaline, Rachel Mendoza, Diane Nuar and Susan Harris.

Holy Trinity welcomes Mary Gassiott, Joanne Cain and Cindy Davis.

Raceway station dispels rumors of wrongdoing

CROSBY – When the Raceway at FM 2100 at U.S. 90 closed in the last days of July rumors went flying that did not square with the facts.

Closing occurred about the same time as state agencies closed a few stations in the Greater Houston Area but not locally.

The first rumor was that the station had been closed due to state inspectors determining that what was selling as gallons were less than Texas approved gallons, apparently confused with a Houston station at about the same time. The next rumor was about selling cigarettes or alcohol to minors, again based on another gas station in west Harris County.

The reality was that the first lessee passed away, his son grew tired of operating the station under the contracted rigors of 24/7 in 365 a year at a high rent, according to Sonny Ali.

The Alis not only got a better rent from the owner, Raceway Inc., but took over as gas rates began to wane and were first in Crosby to offer regular pump price below $3.50 a gallon.

The gasoline at Raceway is owned by Raceway Inc., sold by the renter and the renter prospers by internal sales.

Memorial golf tourney helps Crosby seniors

CROSBY — Nine years ago, as students and parents were getting ready for Summer Vacation, tragedy struck the Jamail family when Al and Sheryl lost their son Jared in an auto-pedestrian accident near Dayton.

The Jamail’s turned their tragedy into triumph as they resolved to carry’s Jared memory forward by helping other high school students. Jared, who died at 16, was an active member of the Crosby FFA, Lake Houston Youth Soccer and Crosby 1st United Methodist Church.

To help his classmates, as well as those who followed at Crosby High School, the Jamails created the Jared Jamail Memorial Scholarship and its signature fundraiser, the Golf Classic.

Since its inception the family was awarded over $120,000 in scholarships. This year is no exception, with seven $2,500 scholarships and one $3,000 scholarship awarded.

Plans are now underway for the 10th Annual Jared Jamail Memorial Golf Classic. The event will be held Sept. 13 at the Newport Golf Club.

Individual entry fees are $65 a person or $260 for a four-an team if paid before Sept. 1. After Sept. 1, fees are $75 for individuals and $300 for a team. Fees include green fees, lunch and cart.

Sponsorships are also available at varying levels. The Eagle Level is $750, which includes a four-person team, lunch, cart, company banner, 3 hole sponsorships and 4 caps. The Birdie Level is $500 which includes a four-person team, lunch, cart, two hole sponsorships and four caps.

For $300 a company can get a Par Sponsorship, which includes 2 players, lunch, cart, two hole sponsorships and two caps. All sponsors will also be included in the event program.

Hole sponsorship signs are available for $100 each.

Tournament directors are also seeking donations for the auction and items for the goody bags that will b given to each golfer.

For more details contact Pam Johnson at

Lee College awarded $300K performing arts grant

BAYTOWN – Lee College became the first community college awarded a $300,000 challenge grant by the Kresge Foundation, the second largest non-profit organization in the United States.

“We are delighted to support the construction of Lee College’s new performing arts center,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation. “As you know, Kresge only recently extended eligibility to community colleges in our capital challenge grant program. With your strong commitment to access, diversity, community impact, and environmental sustainability, Lee makes an excellent first grant to a community college for us. We are pleased to support your organization and the strategic opportunity by your capital campaign to extend your private donor base.”

The grant is made on challenge basis to assist Lee College in completing the construction of the new performing arts center, which is set to open in December 2008. In order to receive the grant, Lee College must raise $548,000 by February 1, 2009 from the Baytown community and other private organizations.

“Lee College will use the Kresge grant as an opportunity to reach out to new donors and solicit higher levels of giving from past contributors,” said Interim President Dennis Topper.

Established by Sebastian S. Kresge, the foundation supports communities by building the capacity of nonprofit organizations in six areas: health, the environment, arts and culture, education, human services and community development. In 2007, the foundation approved 442 grants throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, totaling $178 million.

“With the awarding of this grant, we are saluting the efforts of Lee College to improve conditions and advance opportunities in the Baytown community,” said Rapson.

The Performing Arts Center is a component of Lee College’s master plan, and in late 2006, tuition revenue bonds totaling $12 million were sold to cover the cost of the construction. For more information about the Performing Arts Center or to make a contribution to the Setting the Stage for Excellence Campaign, contact Roberta Wright at 281-425-6302 or email

For more information about the Kresge Foundation, visit or call 248-643-9630.

An Olympic experience

I’m certain you have all heard the travel expression, “My parents went to Disney World (or some exotic destination) and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Such is my dilemma. My son is visiting China for the Olympics and I’m sitting here writing this column. What’s wrong with that picture?

That’s right, while I write this our David Brent from Crosby’s Newport is vacationing in Beijing, China, taking in all the sights and Olympic events he can handle—from both exhaustion and financial points of view. Reports we have received via email is he and his companions are having a ball. They attended the Opening Ceremonies, have visited the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, went sight seeing in much of Beijing and have seen many of the Olympic events.

I say he is visiting China but if things work out as the schedule predicts he should be arriving back in Newport Monday afternoon, August 18, the day I am writing this column. He and his companions spent about ten days there, saw all of the Olympic events they cared to and then boarded a flight back to Houston. From my point of view, Dave had a once in a lifetime experience. Spending several days at the Olympics would be one great event I would like to do and then being able to do so in far off China just adds to the experience and pleasure.

One of his traveling companions, Audrey, was on a working assignment as well as some vacation days. She had her lap top computer with her so we heard from her more than Dave. Since Audrey’s job is travel I figured this would be another trip to China for her but she tells me this was a first for her as well. More power to them! Linda and I have had many opportunities to travel, including one roundthe- world trip, but we never visited China. Hong Kong was as close as we got.

Both Dave and Audrey commented on the smog and the wearing of masks. I know they went over with masks in hand but I have no idea if they wore them at all. In an early e-mail Dave said he is “reminded of Houston with sand.” At this time of year Houston has stifling humidity, and 90-degree temperatures. He said that is Beijing now but add continuous blowing fine sand from the Gobi Desert.

About the smog, Audrey writes, “The air is not as bad as the news would have you think. It is more dirt than pollution. We are walking in humid dust rather than a chemical odor. About all you can do is cover your mouth when walking up wind in the early morning and take a couple of showers a day.”

One of them also advised us that Audrey had a birthday while in China and they celebrated in style. Incidentally, as a travel employee Audrey lives in Houston about six months each year and six months in London.

They also shared another bit of information about the Olympic events that surprised me. Even though most of the events are sell-outs they are taking place to very low audiences. Apparently a lot of people bought tickets and then aren’t showing. They indicated in many events there are about ten vacant seats for every one filled. There are some exceptions, such as swimming and gymnastics. I would expect the field and track events to be much the same. The news in the U.S. is that scalpers have bought large blocks of tickets and have been unable to sell them — thus the empty seats.

Even so, they have been able to secure tickets for anything they want to attend, including the above named events. By email Audrey suggested watching the TV background and look for the yellow or red shirts. The yellow shirts are volunteers attending to fill up chairs and the red shirts are Olympic people filling other seats.

The duo has commented on the food as well. I did a column a few weeks ago on the menu that included dog meat, dung beetles and a number of rather odd sea creatures. They have found their way around most of that. They do better in the finer restaurants and staying away from “street vendors.” It seems every place they go they are accompanied by a guide and security. They have said little about security except “it is tight.” To my knowledge they have not been prevented from going anywhere they have chosen but always with their guide.

They speak highly of their guide, a female who has been quite helpful to them. She is also quite curious about life in the United States and Great Britain.

Transportation seems to be “very good” there according to what I glean from their emails. One e-mail said there is still a lot of walking. “If needed, you can take your pick of several different types of transportation. Just be in track shoes once you get there. The Forbidden City seemed to go on forever, and you have to walk it all,” concluded Audrey. “Next time I come I’m bringing one of those canes that makes a chair.”

Their homebound families are glad they are having a good time and seeing a part of the world relatively few ever see. I’m expecting to see a host of photos when they return. I also hope they don’t bring me a “lousy t-shirt.”

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Financial tips for college students

If you’re a college student, you may already be back on campus. If not, you don’t have long to go before school starts again. And this year, in addition to whatever courses you may be taking, try to master some financial lessons, as well.

Of course, many students already have at least one foot in the “real world,” because, in addition to taking classes, they’re working many hours a week to help pay for school, rent and living expenses. But even if you’re a full-time student, living on campus and paying for school through a combination of grants, loans, savings and help from your parents, you can learn some financial basics that can help you throughout your adult life.

Specifically, consider these suggestions:

##M[ Continue Reading ]##• Don’t overuse credit cards. Credit card marketers aggressively target college students, so you’ll need to be vigilant about all the offers that will bombard you. While it might not be a bad idea to carry a single credit card for use in emergencies, it’s very easy to over-use the “plastic” and rack up big debts. You’ll need to discipline yourself to save for the things you want, rather than charging them.

• Shop around for financial services. You’ll find plenty of banks willing to give you a T-shirt or a frying pan for opening an account with them. But these places may not be offering you the best deal on checking or savings accounts or loans. It pays to shop around.

• Keep track of your student loans. Make sure you understand all the terms of your student loans: how much you’re expected to pay each month, when payments are due, what interest rate you’re paying, what credits may be available for on-time repayment, etc. You might be able to achieve a more favorable repayment schedule by consolidating two or more loans. Once you start repaying your loans, do whatever you can to stay on track with your payments.

• Never stop looking for financial aid. The aid package you may have received as an incoming freshman doesn’t have to be the final word on financial assistance. Colleges offer some scholarships based on college-level academic achievement or real world experience — both of which you may have accumulated since your freshman year. Study your college’s scholarships and be aggressive in going after them.

• Estimate your future income. You may not know exactly what you want to do when you graduate, but if you have a career path in mind, try to learn what sort of salary you can expect during your first few years out of college. Once you have a realistic idea of how much you’re going to earn, you may have the motivation you need to avoid bad financial practices, such as accumulating big debts.

College should be a learning experience — in many ways. And if some of the knowledge you obtain during your college years can help you develop sound financial habits, so much the better.

Aaron Cole, A.A.M.S.
Edward Jones Representative
6500 FM 2100, Suite 285
Crosby, Tx. 77532