The Great Adventure

October 27, 2011

Wilmington, OH – 10/27/2011 (Last post)

Filed under: Ohio — Jim @ 12:32 am

My Dear Family and Friends,

Last night I gave a talk at the First Christian Church‘s Mens Group’s monthly meeting.  My Dear Bother in Christ, Dale, asked me a few weeks ago to give a talk on my experiences in Iraq.

What an experience.  I shared the experiences of my time in Iraq with Church Family!  It was an emotional journey for me: preparing for the talk brought up memories and experiences that I didn’t have closure on.

I was in Iraq for 2 1/2 years. Through prayers that asked for my protection, God saw fit for me to return whole.

Before I go to bed, I want you all to know that my life is a whisp, made meaningful by family, friends, God’s servants in the Church, and His will for my life.’

I think I can move on now.  I have told of my journey to Iraq and back again.

Peace be to you all.   Whether you have loved ones in harm’s way, you yourself are in harms way, or you are taking on an adventure of your own.  God, Jesus, is with you and He will never let you down.

Although my Great Adventure in Iraq is over, the Great Adventure of my life is not over.  I hope I can give God my finest moments, the last breath of my life to His Glory!

See you around, if not, see you with Him in Heaven!  Jesus died for our sins and by believing in Him we have Eternal Life! I believe in Him, have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior and know He will receive me in His arms when I die.  Will you believe and do as I do?

Thank you for following this blog:  March 2007 until today.  I pray God will bless you all!



Where do I go now?


May 15, 2011

Wilmington, Ohio 5/15/2011 (Smells of Christmas Revisited)

Filed under: Baghdad,Ohio — Jim @ 10:42 pm

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow, it has been so long since I have last posted.  I have been home now 1 year and 7 months. I still work for the same company, but now support a FAA project.

What prompted this post?  Well believe it or not, I still had a trunk in the garage from Iraq I hadn’t unpacked yet.  The last time I tried I stopped, because it was just not the right time.  Understand, there wasn’t anything in the trunk I really needed, but there was a finality in unpacking the last box.

One of the first things I found was a one inch thick pice cut off the bottom of the Christmas tree in 2007.  Ann and the kids sent it to me in a care package with the words “Venable Christmas Tree 2007” inscribed on the bottom.  Wow, time stood still and memories flooded into my thoughts that had been pushed back by all of the other things I have experienced since then.  Sorry if this impacts what you think of me, but my eyes welled-up as I pondered the words on the bottom of the piece of a Christmas tree from many years ago.  

It was my first Christmas away from home, in a war-zone where everyday we went injury free was a gift.  We all went to sleep at night not knowing if a rocket or mortar was going to take us out at night.  In Baghdad, in the Embassy compound trailer where I lived on the night of 25 December 2007, I wrote a post I called the smells of Christmas.  Here is the link to that old post:   If you read the old post, you will understand why the old piece of wood hit me so hard.

I am so blessed to be home now.  So many things have happened that I would have missed if I had still been in Iraq. This weekend our youngest child graduated from college.  How many events did I miss while I was in Iraq?  Too many…

The point of this post is not me, but those military members and their families that are now sacrificing for us.  Please don’t go to sleep tonight without thanking God for them.



December 28, 2010

Wilmington, Ohio – 12/28/2010 (“It’s a Wonderful Life!”)

Filed under: Baghdad — Jim @ 1:39 am

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas has passed again, but the gift remains eternal.  The gift of His son Jesus started with a child in a manger, but ended with the death, resurrection and the gift of eternal life to all who believe.

Forgiveness is something that we mortals have a hard time really understanding.  I remember the translated quote “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”  What does this really mean?

I am sitting here watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” too late for a normal work-day, but okay since I don’t have to work until next Monday.  What a message this movie brings.  What if we had never lived?  What if those we love and through our love have brought forth new life, had never occurred because we had never been born?

I really like to watch “Christmas Vacation” every year around this time.  Although I like this movie, perhaps I should be watching over and over again “It’s a Wonderful Life”?  Why?  Because it is a message of HOPE and PURPOSE!  Not humor related to things we laugh and sometimes cringe about, but heart pondering of what if?  What if I hadn’t been born?  What if we hadn’t gotten married?  What if…?

I have no regrets with my life, other than I didn’t practice forgiveness and teaching others how to forgive as much as I should have.  As I sit here tonight I realize it is a wonderful life, but I wish I had been able to see what would have been if I hadn’t so I could be more forgiving and know when and how to keep my mouth shut and just listened. 

I told Annie the other day how I wished my words could be recalled like an errant email can be.  Unfortunately, words, once spoken, never can be recalled.  Paul speaks of the tongue:

JAMES 3:1-12 (web)

Control of the Tongue

3:1 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.

3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn’t stumble in word,
the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

3:3 Indeed, we put bits into the horses‘ mouths so that they may obey us,
and we guide their whole body.

3:4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds,
are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires.

3:5 So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things.
See how a small fire can spread to a large forest!

3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue,
which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature,
and is set on fire by Gehenna.
{Gehenna is a name that describes a burning Hell with rotting bodies and unclean things in it}

3:7 For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing,
and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind.

3:8 But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

3:9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men,
who are made in the image of God.

3:10 Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing.
My brothers, these things ought not to be so.


3:11 Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water?
3:12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs?
Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh water.

As we move from this Christmas to the next, I pray that I may learn more how to forgive and be forgiven.  I also hope I learn how to think more about others and put myself last.

May God Bless you all.  I hope you had a great Christmas and have a great New Year.


November 17, 2010

Columbus, Ohio – 11/17/2010 (Breathing with Passion)

Filed under: Baghdad — Jim @ 4:38 pm

Dear Family and Friends,

In case you don’t know, my Father-in-Law fell down a flight of stairs earlier this week.  He was going to the dentist office and lost his balance.  He woke up to a young man cradling his head and telling him not to move.  After time at the hospital in Athens, he was transported to Columbus, Ohio where they are much better able to deal with the trauma.

As I am sitting here with him in the room, I am seeing a person whom I love very deeply, sleeping soundly after two days of extreme pain.  Here in the silence of the room, with only the noises of the monitors and his breathing I have time to think without distractions.

This man is a role model of a person who has passion for his job.  Although he is a retired university president, he continues to teach and work with students because he has passion for education.  How many of us strive for our own passions.  Too many of us have jobs where the money is good, but the passion either is not there, or the passion we once had faded many months, years, or even decades ago.

As our children were growing up, Ann and I continued to tell them to find their passion and seek out a job that fulfills it.  We guided them to find a job that fulfills their passion, even if it starts off low-paying.  Passion will carry them further in their careers than others without it and, perhaps, one day will result in salary more than meeting their needs.

You remember the old saying “Do as I say, not as I do”?  Well, I have to confess that I have not lived up to guidance we gave our children. 

Passion for me was there when I worked on aircraft in the USAF.  Since my brother was a pilot, I took on every aircraft job as if he was the one that was going to fly the aircraft after I finished.  Many times, my passion for that job resulted in finding things that would not have been found if I had not been as thorough.  I transitioned to a technical writer/editor job, but even though I was thorough and dedicated, the passion for my job started to wane.  One reason was I couldn’t see the end result of my work. 

Fast forward through other jobs and years and I found myself with the opportunity to go to Iraq.  My wife and I discussed it and agreed it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  With the family’s blessings, I left from Dulles and headed for 5 months away from my loved ones at home. 

To say the time away was difficult is an understatement.  Anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, household emergencies, weather difficulties, and of course household/outdoor chores were missed.  One time I wrote about (see “Smells of Christmas”) was my first Christmas away from home spent in Baghdad, Iraq.  There were so many other events that still cause my eyes to well-up, but one thing that I continued to remember was that I chose to go to Iraq.  

Despite the difficulties, I was again working in a job in which I had passion.  I had day-to-day experiences with Iraqis, both Muslim and Christians, and I discovered that the people of Iraq are just like us.  Although we may differ in religious beliefs and culture, the bottom line is they wanted  peace and security for their families and for themselves.  I became close to these people, as did the other US staff and international consultants, and we all shared a common factor:  We had passion for what we were doing.

I have been working from home now for over a year, closing down the Iraq project.  The memories of my time there are sometimes vivid, but other times are clouded by the day-to-day experiences that life in our culture brings us.

Now, as I sit in a room with a man struggling with his pain and health, who lived his whole life with passion, I am ashamed.  If there is one thing I intend to do after all of this is over and he is again teaching and living each day with passion, I am going to take the hand of my wife and ask her to help she and I find our passion.


October 16, 2010

Wilmington, Ohio – 10/16/2010 (Marathon weekend)

Filed under: Wilmington — Jim @ 10:13 am
Tags: , , ,
USMC Marathon

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, the weekend is upon us and it is a beautiful day.  Ann and I got up early – Saturday is her Master’s degree class day.  She leaves early and gets back early evening.  I made her breakfast and sent her off with a cup of tea to go.

I am having kind of a lazy morning.  I need to cut the yard and edge it, which will probably be the last time I do those things this year.  Not much else planned, other than possibly working some to make up for a little time this week. 

Part of my lazy morning is due to the fact that today is a rest day so I am not running.  Tomorrow is the Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon day.  Katie and I are running the 1/2 marathon and Sam and Bethany are running the full marathon.   We have been training for 3 months now, so we are all prepared, but the challenge still lies before us.  I have run one full marathon, and two 1/2 marathons.  This will be my third 1/2 marathon.  This will be Katie’s second 1/2 marathon.  This is Sam’s and Bethany’s first full marathon, but they have both run a 1/2 marathon.  Steve would probably be running it as well, but he is in Costa Rica student teaching.

It should be a great weekend and I hope you all have one as well.


October 10, 2010

Wilmington, OH – 10/10/2010 (Sunday hike and grillin’)

Filed under: Baghdad — Jim @ 11:18 pm

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a great day, but started off a bit off.  Ann and I went to the wedding of the son of close friends yesterday and got back late last night. We intended on getting up and going to church, but we slept too late.  After we got up and got ready we decided to go to Glen Helen Nature Preserve (the Glen) ( in Yellow Springs, Ohio for a hike.  Glen Helen is a nature reserve immediately east of Yellow Springs, Ohio.  Here are a few pictures from our hike:

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After about 4-5 miles of hiking we drove back home and had a 20 minute nap before we started on supper.  some of you may know that my grill was down for repairs.  I recently received the last part I needed to rebuild the grill that I ordered on August 17th.  Being grill-less is difficult was a challenge for Ann and I since we normally grill-out 3-5 times a week.  I guess I now have my “man-card” back since I am now grillin’ again.

On October 17th, Katie and I are running the Columbus, Ohio 1/2 marathon.  Our son and his bride are running the full marathon.  I have to admit I will be both glad to complete the run, but sad that the training is over.  I have to find the next event that we will want to complete.  Winter will be here very soon and we have to take advantage of the weather until then.

The last time I ran the Columbus Marathon ( was in 2006.  I ran the complete marathon then as part of the Team in Training ( group raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society.  If any of you are interested in raising money for a worthwhile cause, running a marathon or another endurance sport and have the benefit of a team or coaches and mentors this is the way to go.

Well, it’s time to head for bed.  Until next time…


September 15, 2010

Wilmington, Ohio – 9/15/2010 (Other people really matter)

Filed under: Baghdad,Ohio,Wilmington — Jim @ 10:06 pm
Tags: , ,

Dear Family and Friends,

As most of you know, after working 2 1/2 years in Iraq, I have been working from home for almost a year. I am working contract close-down issues and now am assisting the Director of Contracts on sub-contractor close-outs. Most of the Iraq team have long since left or were asked to leave the company, but me and three others still are with the company. However, only two of us are still working on the Iraq project.

While this is of great benefit to us, since being without a job is difficult especially in these trying economic times, working out of the home has brought unique challenges. In Iraq, I had day-to-day contact with international as well as Iraqi national staff. Now, other than Lily (Katie’s chocolate lab), K-K (Katie’s cat), and Bernie (my Golden Retriever) my day-to-day contact with other living, breathing creatures is with my wife Ann and any other person I talk to from the cashier at Krogers to the counter person at the tire place. You would think any person I talk to is one of my long-lost relatives the way I interact with them and care about what they have to say to me.

As I was writing this I realized that my day-to-day work-loneliness led me to a new respect and caring for people to whom I would not normally have paid much attention. Is this a bad thing? No, on the contrary, my life has changed now even more because I really pay attention to people to whom I should have been paying attention to before.

Isn’t it amazing how life changes for the better even when you least expect it?


September 5, 2010

Wilmington, Ohio – 9/05/2010 (What is your opus?)

Dear Family and Friends,

What a busy and joyous day.  I have to admit I slept in today.  It has been awhile since I slept in, but what is embarrassing is that I didn’t get up until the morning went into the double digits.  Part of the issue was I stayed up until 2:30 am finishing a movie Sam and I started. 

After I finished two cups of coffee, Katie and I ran the required 5K  run in preparation for the Columbus, Ohio 1/2 Marathon ( in October.  We returned home to Sam, Bethany, and Ann starting on the garage sale prep.  Sam and I put together saw-horses and added boards for temporary garage sale tables, as the ladies organized garage sale items by category, to include a Christmas table.

Before we wrapped up the day, we had stir-fry for dinner and then headed out to the garage for as much work as we could complete before the sun set. Finally, about 9:30 pm, we went inside to do dishes and try to relax a little before the day ended.

After scrolling through the movies we decided upon the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus.  What a great movie!  This is about the fourth time I have seen it and I shed tears each time (please don’t take away my “man-card” for this).  If you haven’t seen this movie please take the time to do so.

Basically the movie boils down to the point that our plans sometimes are different from what occurs.  However, every one of us has a chance to make the difference in another person’s life.  One of my favorite lines is “We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.”

Wow, what a powerful statement.  While we wait to fulfill our supposed dream of our lives, others see our everyday actions as an impact on their own lives. “We are the music of your life,”  is stated by a character in the movie. What music will be played to summarize our lives?  Will it be glorious music sanctioned by God, or will it be music sanctioned by the forces of darkness?

A person just infamously stated that God didn’t create the universe.  Although he is highly respected in his field, he forgot the basic truth, without God we are nothing.  Our lives are as dust blowing in the wind without Him.  Even Einstein believed in God – what makes this other person want to deny the truth?

As I close this post tonight, I pray the music of my life has made a positive difference in another’s.   Please strive to play music in other people’s lives that is sweet and turns them towards God.


September 3, 2010

Wilmington, Ohio – 9/03/2010 (Weather specific)

Filed under: Ohio — Jim @ 3:21 pm
Tags: ,

Dear Family and Friends,

What a beautiful day in Ohio!  High of 80 today, but only a high of 68 tomorrow.  Is this an indication that the days of summer have ended and the change of seasons have begun?

Yesterday I was told the company is continuing me through the end of September.  This is good news since the contract actually ended the second week of April.  I am working with Directors and the CAO in the final invoicing and Iraq contract close-down, but this work is scheduled to be complete in about 2-3 weeks.  I am looking for another engagement with the company, but it may involve a move.

This weekend Sam, Bethany, and Katie are coming home.  We are planning on doing some preparation work for a garage sale planned for the following weekend.  Garage sales truly are verification that what is one man’s trash is another’s treasure.  Perhaps we will be able to “make money” during the garage sale…hmmm make money on selling things at a loss?  The great American dream at its worst.


August 31, 2010

Wilmington, Ohio – 8/31/2010 (To Steve)

Filed under: Baghdad — Jim @ 1:14 pm

Dear Family and Friends,

Our son is visiting us before he heads over to Costa Rica for three months.  He is going there to student teach and fulfill the last of the requirements to be able to test for his teaching license.  It has been a long road for him, having to redo two years of college in order to go in the path he has chosen – a middle school teacher.

This is so interesting because when he was younger he did not like school.  This was evident starting his first day of kindergarten, when he decided it wasn’t for him.  He packed up his backpack and started walking home.  Ann was called and she met him as he was making his way home.  This was not the first sign he didn’t like school.  Every day it was difficult to get him out the door, with each morning a challenge as Ann worked to get him to accept that school was not an option. 

What/who changed him to have a passion for teaching rather than a dread?  Things changed for him with a teacher named Mr. Bell.  He inspired his class and turned on a light in Steve that we hadn’t seen the whole time he went to school.  Steve Haines is another one who saw things in our Steve that others didn’t.  Our son who liked to stay out of the limelight started acting/singing in high school plays and musicals because of Steve Haines.  These two teachers are not the only ones that helped to change his life.  Of course he met others along the way who steered him to a path he didn’t know he had chosen. 

Steve made it through high school and left for college not knowing for sure what he wanted to do, other than marching band.  He loved being in the band and doing well in school was a requirement not an option.  He majored in classics for the first years of college, but didn’t really know what he could do with a degree in classics.

After much deliberation and soul searching, Steve decided to change his major to education.  This involved another two years of college.  Of course I was surprised, but Ann told me later she knew Steve was meant to be a teacher. 

Steve found his passion and graduated in June.  It was a long road for him, but once he was on the path he was meant to follow his life and ours changed.  The path was long, but the terrain was easier to cover.

Back to Mr. Bell.  He changed Steve’s life, changed our lives, and because of him and other teachers along the way, Steve will change the lives of all the students he teaches during his career.  Thank you Mr. Bell and all of you who teach!

Now, Steve is preparing to leave for  Costa Rica.  Life is moving now for Steve.  His adventure in education started when he left school that day many years ago, but now he is running to education and not running away.  God bless you Steve as your adventure continues.


P.S.  Things never turn out the way you expect them to.

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