Wednesday, May 13, 2009


May 9
We’ve spent the last week in Chicago where Thom attended the AWEA Wind Convention (American Wind Energy Assoc). Over 20,000 people attended the event held at McCormick Place. He spent 4 full days at the huge convention center where he listened to seminars, attended their job fair, and visited hundreds of exhibitors’ booths. Thom hopes to work in this growing field for his next career, now that he’s retired from the Army. In 2008, when most other industries took a huge hit due to the poor economy, this field continued to grow. Our country is finally waking up to realize we can capture wind energy through modern wind turbines, thereby generating electricity from our own backyards. The technology exists. Our government’s RES (renewable energy standard) has determined that we must produce 20% of our electricity from wind by the year 2030. After attending the conference, Thom believes our country can produce more than that, even sooner than 2030. The Midwest and Texas are the most promising wind areas.

Thom met many people and exchanged business cards. Now he’s following up by sending his resume to many of these contacts. Most companies aren’t hiring at the moment, but are poised to hire as soon as loans are available again. The general feeling is that within six months, they’ll be putting in machines (turbines) all over the country and hiring again. Thom learned much about home turbines as well, which is growing rapidly. Maybe we’ll have one in our backyard one day! Thom thinks many people will be interested in having them soon, and there may be a market for selling, installing, and maintaining them.

Our hopes are that NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) will hire Thom. They’re based in Golden, Colorado and have many job openings. It’s run by DOE (Dept of Energy) and is one of their several labs that work to make renewable energy more efficient, practical, and accessible. Thom met many people from NREL at the convention. So please keep us in your prayers as we continue our job search.

Photo: sunrise over Lake Michigan from our campground at Great Lakes Naval Station, north of Chicago.
While Thom was busy in Chicago, the boys and I did school, school, and more school (as they like to say). We’re now on lesson 134 of Calvert. There are 160 lessons, so the end of our school year isn’t too far off. I think we’ll finish near the end of June. I’m proud of all of them, because homeschooling is a lot of work and requires self-discipline. This, along with improved writing skills and all the knowledge they’ve acquired will benefit them throughout their lives.
I drove the boys into Chicago on the final day of the convention so we could attend the 2-hour opening to the public. Wow! The McCormick Place is huge, and the wind convention only took up a portion of the place. We met Thom who toured us up and down the aisles of exhibitors. The boys were impressed, and Robby in particular asked many questions. He enjoyed talking with the company reps about their products. The other boys quickly discovered that each booth had goodies, such as candy or pens, flashlights, nerf balls, etch-a-sketch, Japanese fans, measuring tapes, key chains, and all sorts of other things. Since it was the final day, most exhibitors were delighted to give out goodies even if we weren’t potential business clients. Everyone I spoke with sounded upbeat and positive that the convention had grown from 13,000 last year to 22,000 this year. One lady came by and “hired” the boys to haul out her 3 luggage pieces by paying them $2 each! While we exited, she told us that her company hauls freight, and she wrote up all kinds of new business here. She said everyone there builds huge things and needs to have them delivered from Point A to Point B. So she was thrilled. Our boys were thrilled when we arrived at the limo awaiting to take her to the airport, and she invited them in for a tour!

I also treated the boys to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. They just opened the Harry Potter Exhibit, which will run for four months. Here we saw hundreds of props used in the movies, of which we’re all big fans. We saw Snape’s potions, the marauder’s map, Prof Umbridge’s pink dress and shoes and detention quill, Harry’s wand and glasses, Tom Riddle’s diary, Creature and Dobby, Lord Voldemort’s robes and wand, along with moving pictures from the walls of Hogwarts, to name a few. The museum had an electric car, a huge pendulum, a German WWII submarine called the U-505, and the Idea Factory where the boys played with water toys. They also had an area called “Petroleum Planet” where I learned the average American uses 1000 gallons of crude oil/yr. I was disappointed to read a big sign that said enthusiastically, “Our National Reserve has 150 billions of barrels of crude oil – enough for another 70 years!” We need a new plan…like using wind energy!

Now we’re on our way back to Nappanee, IN to have some more work done on our motor coach. They ordered parts for satellite dish, bin doors which need smoothing and repainting, and a few minor things. After that, we don’t know our exact course. We’re hoping opportunities open up after this last week in Chicago, so we’ll keep you posted.

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