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Enough dinking around. I’ve put this off long enough. All it took was a simple email to get an invite to their monthly Munch & Mingle. So not only will I get some free pizza, but I’ll also be on my way to getting some solid volunteer experience. Specifically, I’ll have the opportunity to develop some management and organization skills as well as widen my professional network. In case you’ve never heard of the Jaycees it’s a national organization that focuses on four areas of development:

  • Business
  • Community
  • Individual
  • International

The Kalamazoo Chapter is extremely active and should end up being the perfect opportunity for me to put to use everything I’ve learned in school – with all the money I forked out for my education, I’ve gotta do something to make it seem like it was worth it!

The date is set. September 15 my buddy and I will meet up Survivor-style at Pinckney State Park, pitch a tent, build a fire, drink some frosty beverages, and chill like Grizzly Adams for a couple days. Should be a blast. I’ll report back on this one later and I’ll link to plenty of pictures that I’ll post on Flickr.

And so it is. When I placed this item on my list I thought it would be one of my biggest challenges – that it would take a great deal more time than it actually did. Clearly I had no idea what fate had in store…strike that…I knew, I just wasn’t as prepared as I’d have liked to be. Though I’m not sure any amount of planning could have prepared me for what I’m now facing.

Twenty years ago my mom moved from Alaska to California then to Oregon. The divorce was more than she could handle, so she packed her bags and left behind everything. I don’t even remember the day she left. There were no goodbyes at the airport, no apologies for leaving…nothing. I have no memories of being sad, angry, or feeling anything. It just seemed like she was all of a sudden gone.

I saw her a handful of times after that day. Graduations, weddings, a couple times when I was in college and a couple more after I graduated with my bachelors. Phone calls were sporadic. Sometimes months would pass before we’d speak and when we did it was mostly small talk, nothing of any real substance.

The past few years I’d been telling her that she needed to come to Michigan. That I wanted her to come. That she’d be happier living near family and that I’d do whatever I could to support her.

So with help from my grandmother she took me up on my offer. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised. It was a huge risk coming out here with no job, little money, and no real prospects. She left behind her long-time boyfriend, most of her belongings, and a job she’d had for 10 years. She gave all that up to move out to Kalamazoo, Michigan and live with her son who she’s seen less than 10 times over the past 20 years and who she’s never been close with. Never.

A month and a half has passed and it’s been a roller coaster ride. There are days when I have the urge to sit and have a meaningful conversation with her or take her someplace to simply share an enjoyable experience. And there are those days when I want my family and my home all to myself. Getting her a job has been amazingly difficult and I’m reaching a point where I don’t know what else to do to help her. I suppose initiating more conversations couldn’t hurt.

It’s true that we make our own fate, or re-create it, and that this is mine. To this day I’m not sure what I was hoping to accomplish by having her come to Michigan. I just knew that there had to be more for her here than back in Oregon and that looking out for family was the right thing to do.

One thing I’ve learned over the past three decades is that the most challenging path is often the most rewarding. That being the case, I know there are good things waiting in the months ahead and there is still much to learn about myself and and the mother I’ve never really known.

Update: On February 5, 2007 my mom packed up her belongings and moved to Utah where she now lives with my grandmother and in the same town as two of her sisters. Now upon reading that, one might think that things didn’t work out. I like to think things worked out just as they were meant to be.

Everything culminated one night in January after she’d been living with us for almost 6 months. She had been working in a deli for about 8 weeks and wasn’t happy with her overall situation. At 7 bucks an hour there was no way she would be able to get her own place and cover all her living expenses and to be honest I didn’t think she would ever get there. Before our breakthrough conversation I overheard her talking on the phone in her room to one of her sisters. She was crying off and on, saying she didn’t want me to think she was giving up and that having a discussion with me about moving to Utah would be incredibly difficult, that I wouldn’t understand, and so on. As I stood there listening, my mind traveled in and out of self-reflection. And a litany of questions popped in head: “Is that how she sees me?”, “Am I that difficult to talk with?”, “Is there anything I can do to change this?”

There was. And after she finished her call I gently knocked on her door and told her I needed to talk with her downstairs.

Reluctantly, she said, “All right…I’ll be down in a minute.”

That minute turned into twenty and when I heard the stairs begin to creak, I knew she was on her way down. I had been rehearsing in my mind what to say and how to say it, though it didn’t keep me from having to take a couple deep zen-like breaths as my heart rate slowly accelerated.

This one came out of necessity…at least that’s how I like to think of it. My wife and I went way up north for a little four day roadtrip vacation. With all the driving we’d be doing, I wanted to have plenty of tunes lined up and I didn’t want to have to burn a load of CDs to make it happen. Thus, my iPod Nano was born. I got my wife excited about the Nano by showing her the new Nike + iPod Sports Kit (which truly is a very cool product). We’ll probably end up getting a couple of them so we can both track our progress.

So the iPod worked out great. The 2GB unit held plenty of music for the trip (I didn’t even have it completely full either!) and now that we’re back I can use it when I start running again.

A couple things that disappointed me about the iPod was that if you don’t pay an extra $30+ for the outlet charger, you have to plug it into your computer in order to recharge the batteries. Then if you want to charge it in the car you have to buy another charger specially for the car. So that’s where all the profits come from – Apple, you sneaky buggers. On top of that, you really do need a protective case for these things – that’s at least another 20 bucks for something decent.

Whatever. All I know is now I’m part of the elite set of trendy sheep who own some digital goodness. Amen.

It’s been awhile, but a lot has happened since I last wrote. I’ve come a long way with the dining room. It’s turned into a nearly complete, totally functional room. The new ceiling light is installed, though not without complications. I had to cut another hole in the ceiling in order for the light to be centered on the table. That meant I had to patch the old hole. Unfortunately, there was a decorative combed fan pattern on the ceiling which meant that the patched hole would need to match the rest of the ceiling…maybe later. For now it will just be semi-patched. I’ll have to look into getting a professional to match it to the rest of the ceiling.

All of the original wood trim is now scraped, sanded and stained and I installed new shoe molding to match. The walls and ceiling all have fresh coats of paint, I replaced two cracked window panes and installed new handles and latches on all the windows. We purchased a new rug at World Market and hung most of the wall decor.

There is still one section of floor board that needs to be replaced because the wood doesn’t match the rest of the boards (it must have been installed sometime after the others because under the scraped paint was unstained wood – unlike the others). Trying to match the wood is going to be a challenge.

We still need to frame one more piece of artwork, purchase an asian-style buffet table/wine cabinet from World Market, and get some kind of window treatments. I’d like get some dark bamboo blinds, but it’s been hard trying to find ones that will fit our old, non-standard-sized windows. Then there are the bay window drawer fronts. Surprisingly, it’s been incredibly hard to find unfinished, custom-sized drawers or drawer fronts. I’ve gotta keep looking.

If we stay in this house long enough (and I don’t think we will) then I’ll get to adding the dry bar where the small closet is right now.

So although It’s not yet complete, the room still looks incredible and has nearly come full circle.

Update: We purchased the Shanghai wine cabinet from World Market and I installed new bamboo roman shades. Only a few items left on my to-do list!

Beck and decided to give this one a go when we did a little food shopping yesterday. We picked up:

  • Passion fruit (looks like a giant raisin)
  • Papaya
  • Mango

These exotic fruits are far from cheap $1-2 each, but I’ve never bought any of them before so it’s kind of cool trying some new foods. I’ll keep you posted.

Update: So I ran into a bit of a snag with all these new fruits…I had no idea how to prepare them OR how to eat them. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty stupid, but it’s true. After I cut open the passion fruit, I saw a bunch of little seeds in some gelatinous yellow stuff. So, do I eat the guts or do I somehow eat the thin membrane-like layer just behind the hard, wrinkled skin? I didn’t have a friggin’ clue. I had to actually get on the web to find out. Turns out the edible part includes the seeds and transluscent yellow goo. And actually, it’s primarily used as an addition to various dishes or drinks.

I also struggled with cutting the papaya and mango – I was clueless once again with how to slice these up. Didn’t care for the papaya too much, though strangely I did like the juice. The Mango was by far the best tasting, kind of a cross between a peach and an orange. Riley ate up both fruits, which proved to us that she will in fact eat practically anything.

I knocked six more movies off the list by joining the Columbia House DVD club. I found this forum thread online that had some codes posted that could be used on the CH website to get a better membership deal. So with that code I was able to get six DVDs for 49 cents each and free shipping, take a 7th movie for $14.95, and buy 2 more movies in the next two years at regular Club prices.

With the regular deal without the code you have to buy 4 movies in two years and you only get 5 DVDs at 49 cents with the option to buy a 6th.

I absolutely love the web!