Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Travels

If you read my last post about This is Kirtland!, you know I said that the show ending wasn't really a sad event and that I was basically ready to move on with the next stage of life. Well, part of that was due to the travel plans I had!

After we had the cast party on July 22 and then did a cast recording session July 23, I got moving on my first leg of travel beginning July 26 and lasting to August 4. I left for Perrysburg, Ohio, where I visited my good friends Michelle and Julie, and my friend Amanda, who was visiting from Utah. My reason for visiting was that I was scheduled to sing at the Toledo Mud Hens baseball game on the 27th, so it was nice to be able to visit with Michelle, Amanda, and Julie and they were able to be at the game! As is always the case, singing the national anthem never gets old. This was not only my first time singing for Toledo, but my first time ever at a Mud Hens game (they are the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers). Despite a slight delay for rain, the performance went well and the weather ended up being great! Even better was that because of the delay, most of the crowd was in the stands when I sang and it ended up being at or near a sellout of over 11,000. Even better, it was a fireworks night!

Ended up being a beautiful night for baseball after a rain delay before
it even started. It was my first time ever going to a game in Toledo! 
I was very happy with my performance that night, plus a lady sitting in front of us asked me for my autograph for when I "become famous". It definitely made me smile, and yes, I totally signed it. She even asked me to make it out to her personally. I got tons of other very nice compliments from people as I walked around the ballpark (I took a bunch of pictures and got some food too). One guy even told me that his friend was a season ticket holder and I was the best singer he's heard all season. Always great to hear. I'm hopeful to sing for another baseball game somewhere, but nothing is scheduled this point. This season, so far, I've sung for the Columbus Clippers (AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), Akron Aeros (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), the Cleveland Indians, and the Mud Hens. I'd love to sing for some other Major League teams, but so far, only the Indians have responded.

Amazing to think how far we've come and that we've known each
other over 10 years now!
Anyway, I had a great visit with Michelle and Amanda, and we spent several hours talking about everything under the sun and just catching up, staying up for hours and hours longer than we should have (it was totally worth it, by the way). I really enjoyed it, though it was only for 3 days. I left Sunday afternoon and continued west to visit my sister and her family in Indiana, where I stayed for a week.

While in Indiana, I had a great time just hanging out mostly with my sister and nephews and my brother-in-law when he was home from work. We did something every day, as simple as going to the library for a bit to going to Indiana Dunes State Park and spending the afternoon on the shore of Lake Michigan. I also went with Becky and the boys to the mall and the candy factory, and we had an adventurous time eating out one night at a restaurant in Chesterton. All in all, a wonderful week and tons of fun for me getting to spend time with everyone and help Becky out a bit with the boys during the day. It was also the first time for me having both carseats in my car. We have a carseat here in Kent that Becky bought a few years ago since they still lived in Utah and flew here, so bringing a carseat would've been more difficult. I brought that with me and then we took Ryan's carseat out of their car since David needed it for work some days, so that made things a tad easier than having to move both carseats.
"In disguise" thanks to Amanda :)

Being taken out of the park against his will
At the mall while Nate rode the carousel
Indiana Dunes State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan

Getting Nate in this far is somewhat of an accomplishment...
this kid is not a big fan of water
Venturing out...he was promptly knocked over by the
next wave, and yes, I was right there to get him out :)
One thing I did in Indiana was crack Nate's resistance to eating all his food at meals. Seriously, this kid would eat like a bird and hardly ever ate the little bit of food he had been given. Becky went so far as to "offer" $1,000 to anyone who could get Nate to eat an entire meal. Well, let's just say I'm owed $1,000. How? Somehow I figured out that using the timer feature on my iPhone would be a motivation for him. I would give him about 8 minutes, and he'd eat while he watched the phone count down. They were visiting Kent back in July right when I first got the phone and I remember he just stared at the countdown for a good 10 minutes in church when he was playing with it. Well, it worked and he ate every meal except the one we ate out (because he had way too much food on top of a larger-than-normal dinner). It was almost a game to see if he could beat the timer, plus we tried using the stopwatch to see how quick he could do it. I also "bribed" him with Jelly Bellies, but it was great because I could give him a whopping 4 and he thought that was a good amount, so I went with it.

I have to say what I enjoyed most about being in Indiana was hearing Ryan talk. The things he says always make me laugh, plus the way he says them is even better. Just a few complete sentences here and there ("I want chocolate", though he says "chock-it"), but my favorite was when he wanted a drink "mm drink" or when he say candy and he'd say it really fast. What a character.

After I got home from Indiana, I had just under two weeks before the next trip, so I got to work on my main project, which was painting the back part of the house, which we call "the addition". The addition is basically a larger room and a smaller room with a bathroom (which I painted last summer) in between. This job was to paint those two rooms and the ceiling, which was quite the undertaking since we have tons of furniture in there and nowhere to move it. What I ended up doing is basically moving everything together, then moving it all again as I progressed around the different parts of the room. It made for a very cumbersome job, but there really wasn't any other way to do it. Outside of Sunday, I worked on it every day from Saturday until late Wednesday night (early Thursday morning). Not only did I have to paint, but I had to do plaster repair on several places where the drywall tape was coming off or had gotten wet from the roof damage (which was replaced recently). After that, I got some of the big furniture moved around as we decided to switch where the office area had been with where the TV had been. Because Mom and I were leaving for Nashville the morning I finished the painting itself, the room was largely a disaster, but I did manage to get the TV set up by moving the wiring for the U-verse and getting both computers set up while everything else stayed away from the walls. The rooms definitely needed painted not only for regular maintenance, but the paint had faded quite a bit to the point if we moved any of the pictures on the wall, you could tell where they went. Yikes!

Can you see where the pictures used to be?
Visual evidence that I did actually paint...
FINALLY removed the chalkboard that was a holdover from the
office days. You can see the original color of the room too. The white
strip on the side there is where I had to remove and later replace drywall tape
and plaster (see the debris below it).
Where the chalkboard used to be!
After a somewhat trying day where the ceiling had to be scraped in parts
due to earlier water damage that caused the old paint to peel off when
I painted over it. Oh, and my feet hurt like #$%&
After getting back from Tennessee, we've been working more on getting organized. Still not totally there, but making some big progress! It's exciting to see the changes, especially finally getting the chalkboard out of the room (the addition was built to house my grandma's tutoring business in the late 1980s, so it still had the basic setup of an office even though it hasn't been such in 20 years).

So, on to Tennessee. Mom came with me for this one as we went to get out of town for a bit and to celebrate my niece Evelyn's 1st birthday. We were planning on visiting Tennessee at some point in the summer anyway, so I decided it would be fun to come for the 1st. I'm glad we did because it ended up being a really fun week, especially for me!

Evelyn only recently started walking, so it was great to see her moving around. I discovered she's a daddy's girl too (NOT surprised!!). By the time we left, I'm pretty sure I was an acceptable substitute for her dad as she cried a bit when I handed her off to my mom when I had to go out to the car (we were hanging out while Heather got some of the cleaning done). What was funny was when I first got there, she cried since she didn't recognize me, but once she got used to me, hey, we were best buds! The last day I was there I went to the Nashville Zoo with her and my brother, and we had a great time even with the heat and humidity. She was a bit out of it because she was recovering from hand, foot, and mouth disease, which she came down with about the time we arrived (I first noticed her coughing that Sunday).

Mom and me (NOT "Mom and I") traveling to Tennessee. And yes, after
seeing this picture, I fixed that handle in the background!
Evelyn's actual first birthday with her favorite: spaghetti.
No shortage of pictures of this kid!
Cakes Heather made for the birthday. The little lady bug cake was just for Evelyn
Yes, she liked her cake!
SUCH a daddy's girl!

Little E is cool with me too :)
Opening presents on her birthday (we did a larger "party" a few days
later when some of Heather's sisters could be there)
Grandma with the granddaughter
Another thing I enjoyed doing was singing in sacrament meeting in Andy and Heather's ward. I love to sing--no secret there--so I like to sing in different wards (congregations) outside my own whenever I get the chance. Since no one was scheduled for their ward the week I was going to be there, I figured why not? Not only do I get to do something I enjoy, but it's a great way for people to notice who you are and gives them an excuse to come talk to you, which can be tough when someone is visiting like me. I've done it in my sister's ward in Indiana and when I came back during my visit, people remembered me and later asked my sister if we could sing together again :). She likes to sing too, so now she'll get more opportunities too. Anyway, I was very happy how my song went and was most grateful that Heather plays the piano! She did great on short notice!

During my trip to Tennessee, I made a "trip-within-a-trip" down to Louisiana to visit my friend Will, who was a missionary companion of mine in Las Cruces, New Mexico from December 2002-February 2003. We've kept in touch over the years, but hadn't seen each other since 2008 when he was a student at the University of Maryland, College Park and my brother was living in the same area near Washington, DC. Hard to believe that was 5 years seems much sooner than that. I had intended to visit him last year when I was in Tennessee for Spring Break, but he got called out for work (he's in the Air Force) at the last minute (I was visiting another friend in Texas, so was in the area, but just went back to Tennessee earlier than expected). Will lives 8 hours from my brother's (which is how long it takes me to get there from Ohio), so it was a bit of a drive, but I enjoyed it. It was great to see him and to meet Megan (his significant other) and Brody (their dog) and just relax a bit. I had originally planned to stay just overnight and then head back to Tennessee, but Will convinced me to hang around an extra day, even though he and Megan would be at work on base for most of the day. I didn't mind since it meant I got some sweet solitude and really, as long as I have an Internet connection, I'm OK. Even without it, I'll find something to do. I told him "boring people get bored." But really, it was so good to see him and catch up a bit. He showed me the planes he flies for the Air Force (B-52) and took me around the base. Megan was a good sport with all our mission and Mormon jargon as we talked too. But yeah, it was good to talk.

I've been in the cockpits of retired planes, but never a live one outside this one
time when I was 6 and I got to see the cockpit of a commercial liner. This
is the cockpit of an active B-52 bomber. It was built in the early 1960s.
I guess Will is like a brother to me...we had a great time serving together
in Las Cruces, though hard to believe it's been over 10 years!
Me with Brody!
We stayed in Tennessee 2 days longer than originally planned, but that was because of my trip to Louisiana adding one more day and then after going to the zoo on Friday, I was pretty exhausted and had a headache, so we left Saturday. The only inconvenience was Mom needed to do the bulletin for church that coming Sunday, so we got it set up on my laptop and after much effort, got my Grandpa to send her the Microsoft Word file so she could type it all up. Once we got back to Kent, I set up a Microsoft SkyDrive account for Mom (cloud storage) so she can access all her files from any computer from now on. No more having to talk someone step-by-step through the process!

It's been a great summer and certainly eventful with This is Kirtland! taking so much of my time and energy through July. It was so nice to finally get away and just relax and enjoy some new sights, familiar sights, and being around people that I enjoy being around and enjoy having me around. And hey, those long drives are actually very therapeutic for me, so long as I don't have to deal with traffic problems (thankfully only minimal ones on all legs of the trip!). Still one more trip to come as Mom and I will be heading back to Indiana in about a week to spend time with everyone there, enjoy some local events, and help Becky out a bit. I found out while I was in Louisiana that she'll be having a girl in December, so I'll be getting TWO new nieces by the end of the year! Yes!

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