Archive for September, 2006

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!


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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.

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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.

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