Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dreaming of Wide Open Spaces

On this Wednesday afternoon, as the walls of my cubicle start to close in on me, I find my self day dreaming.

Dreaming about being outside, about camping and hiking. Dreaming of campfires and roasted hotdogs. Dreaming of backpacking and relaxing in my hammock. And this video I came across is not making it any easier to stay focused.

MILE... MILE & A HALF (trailer 1) from The Muir Project on Vimeo.

Is anybody else finding it difficult to keep your mind from wandering to wide open spaces today?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Red Jet Cafe: Wood Fire Pizzas

If you are ever in Grand Rapids and are in the mood for a good pizza, I would suggest stopping at the Red Jet Cafe. It is a little restaurant in a small neighborhood not too far from downtown. I happened upon this place a few years back when a client took us there for lunch.

The restaurant is housed in what used to e a local library. The inside dining area isn't too large, but if the weather is nice, there is a lot of outdoor seating. It has a great atmosphere and great food. They are known for their crepes and their wood fire pizzas. The wood fire pizzas are what I would suggest. They are the perfect size. The fact that they are baked in a wood fire oven makes the crust taste amazing. So the next time you are in GR, I would suggest stopping there. You can go to their website here to see a menu and location.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One down; Three to go

Last week, I got an email that I was both anxiously waiting for and dreading. I got an email with the results of my first attempt at one section of the CPA exam.

I'd spent way to long long studying for just one section. I began studying back in January. Originally, I was hoping to take my first section at the end of April. But due to lack of motivation and the strenuous tax season schedule, April suddenly became July. So on July 5, I took FAR: Financial Accounting and Reporting. In preparation, I had read through the study book about three times and gone through just about every question on the test prep software twice. And after all that, I still felt like I had failed when I left the testing center. Things that I knew backwards and forwards weren't even tested, and the topics that I thought were unimportant were tested hard.

So that was why I was dreading the email. I was sure that it was going to come back saying that I had failed. So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I opened it up and it said PASS.

But that doesn't mean that I can relax and bask in the glow of my recent victory. No, there is no rest for the wicked. Passing this exam only means that the clock is ticking. I now have 18 months to complete the remaining 3 sections. But that should be easy, you say. Think again. These tests are hard. Only about 10% of people pass all four on there first try.To pass I will need to spend just about all my spare time in the next few months studying, which proves harder and harder with a newborn in the house.

So if you don't see me for a while, you know where I'll be.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What it means to be a Father

With the birth of my first child, I've been giving a lot of thought lately about what it means to be a Father. When I honestly think about it, it scares the crap out of me. I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm supposed to be responsible for this other human being. I'm supposed to teach him right from wrong, yet I still make wrong choices daily. And I'm supposed to teach him what it means to be a man, when I'm not sure what it means to be one yet myself.

With all these fears and anxieties, I am extremely thankful for the example that my Dad has been to me. I know my Dad is not perfect (and I've defnitely given him enough grief over the years about that fact), but I really think that my Dad was just about the best Father anyone could be. So often today, kids don't have a father figure in their lives. I consider myself lucky that my Dad has always been there for me when I needed him. There are so many things that my Dad has done for me over the years that I am grateful for. In tribute, I'm going to share a few stories about my Dad and how he has shaped my life.

Hotdogs: Those of you who know me personally all know that I love hotdogs (I've been described as somewhat of a hotdog snob). But few probably know why I love them so much. My mom works third shift at the local hospital as a nurse. When we were younger, she'd typically work Saturday nights. This left my Dad to be in charge of Sunday lunches most weeks. My dad, being the gourmet chef that he is, would typically just boil up some hotdogs. The frequency of hotdogs caused my brother and sister to hate them growing up, but for some reason, I looked forward to it every week. Today, I rarely eat a hotdog without thinking about my Dad and his Sunday lunches.

Winter: Growing up, the thing that our family always did was snowmobile. During the summer, we rarely did much of anything. But during the winter, every other weekend we'd be driving up north to go snowmobiling. When we were younger, it was a family ordeal. But as we got older, it ended up being a time where my Dad, my brother, and I would spend together. During my teenage years, we would go for week long snowmobile trips across the U.P., snowmobiling from hotel to hotel. Looking back, these were some of the happiest experiences of my life, and I really think that I am as close as I am to my Dad today because of these trips. In the past few years, because of my employment situation, I haven't been able to go along on these trips any more. It defnitely made me realize how much I loved the trips and the time I got to spend with my Dad and my brother because of them. Thankfully, this year I might be able to go along again.

Mr Fix-It: I honestly think that my Dad knows how to fix, or could figure out how to fix, almost anything. Somewhere in the genetic code, this trait was lost in my DNA, but I am so grateful that my Dad has this trait. When I turned 16, I got a 1993 Buick Regal. I ended up owning this car for just shy of ten years. In that time, the car had been totaled and brought back to life. At the end of its life, the car was having some serious electrical issues. We couldn't ever figure out if it was the alternator, the battery, or something in between. But whatever it was, it would cause the car to die and leave me stranded in random places. On one specific instance, I was getting dinner before I had to go to class. While in the drive-through, my car decided to give out. I managed to get my car out of the drive through and parked in a sketchy neighborhoood. I had to leave it there and walk the mile or two to campus. I had to make it to class because I had a test that night. On the walk to class, I called my Dad and asked him whether I should get a tow truck or not. He said that he would drive the 45 minutes to where my car had died and check it out for me. I went to class, took the test, and expected to have my wife come pick me up. But when I got out of the test, I found out that my Dad waiting in the parking lot with my car ready to go. While taking my test, my Dad had changed out the alternator and jumped my car all on the side of a road.

Trips to the Hardware store: When I was really little, my Dad would take me along on Saturday morning trips to the hardware store. I remember walking up and down the aisle's with him looking at all the nuts, bolts, and tools. And on the ride there and back, I remember listening to the radio (Ranger Bill, Warrior of the Woodland). I don't know why, but memories of those trips have stuck with me through the years. I think it just proves that some of the simplest things are the most important. It didn't really matter what we were doing. It just meant the world to me spending time with my Dad.

I hope someday that my son will have silly memories like these to share about me. If I do half a good a job as my Dad did, I think I'll be doing all right.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Jonah Miles

For those of you who follow my wifes blog, this will most likely be a recap. If you don't follow it, you can read her story here.

Going back two weeks...

As Jamie's due date got closer, Jamie and I became more and more anxious. For some reason, we had it in our heads that Jonah would come early. But, God and Jonah had other plans. So we were a little disappointed when the due date came and passed.

Then on Monday the 16th, a little after 1pm, I got the call at work from Jamie that I had been waiting for (or so I thought). I rushed home, and shortly after Jamie and I left for the hospital. There, Jamie was hooked up to a monitor for about 30 minutes to see what her contractions were doing. When Jamie called me, her contractions were 3-5 minutes apart. But at the hospital when she was laying down, the contractions had spaced out to 8-10 minutes apart. So we were told to go home to wait until they got closer together again and much more intense. Thinking that night would be the night, we didn't want to be too far from the hospital. So instead of going home, we went to Jamie's parent's house, which is closer to the hospital.

Once at Jamie's parent's house, we were on a strict regimen of alternating walking and relaxing. We would walk around the neighborhood and then have Jamie lay down to time the contractions. It was pretty hot that night, so later on we ended going to Target to walk around. We walked up and down just about every ailse in the store. But the contractions weren't any closer together. After all that, we decided that we might as well go home to get a good night's sleep.

When we woke up the next morning, the contractions had pretty much stopped. So it was decided that I might as well just go to work. This time, there was no call. That was Tuesday the 17th

So on Wednesday that 18th, Jamie woke me about around 4am letting me know that she was having more contractions. I was very dazed and confused at that point. They were closer together and more intense. Jamie called the doctor, who told us to wait it out a little bit before coming to the hospital. So we sat around at home for about two hours before going to the hospital. I think we ended up watching something on Netflix about shark attacks.

When we arrived at the hospital, I thought it was going to be like Monday all over again. This time, the contractions were much closer together and more intense for Jamie. But when the nurse checked her, she was still dilated the same as on Monday. The nurse gave us some options. We could go home and wait out the contractions or stay and have them check the progress in about an hour. We decided on the second choice.

During that hour or so, Jamie's contractions were getting more and more intense, but she was handling them like a pro. After the allotted waiting period, the doctor ended came in to examine Jamie. Before he examined her, he was still talking like we might get sent home. But when he checked her, she had dilated 2 more cm. So it was decided that we were for sure going to stay. Which was good. Because no more than 15 minutes after the doctor left, Jamie's water broke. This is when things got interesting...

Now to clarify, Jamie had her heart determined on going through labor completely natural (no drugs involved). Also, apparently after the water breaks, the contractions get even stronger. The contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes, and it seemed like Jamie wasn't getting a break. Heck, I barely had time between them to scarf down a few bites of my breakfast. We tried just about every technique/position that we could remember from the child birth class (leaning against the bed, leaning on the birthing ball, leaning on me). There were a few contractions when Jamie was holding on to me that her legs gave out and we both just about ended up on the floor. Eventually, Jamie thought that she would be able to relax more in between the contractions if she laid down.

At this point, the contractions were probably at there worst. At first I kept trying to encourage Jamie, letting her know that she was doing great and that she could push through it. But eventually, it just became harder and harder to watch Jamie be in so much pain. She would literally be crying in fear of when the next contraction would start. I felt so helpless. Jamie was in the worst pain of her life, and there was nothing I could do about it. I'm not going to lie; I shed a few tears. I could tell by Jamie's face that she was beginning to re-think her pain management plan. So I changed the way I was encouraging her. I let her know that it was ok if she got pain medication. She quickly agreed and we pushed the button for the nurse.

When the nurse arrived, she could instantly tell that Jamie was not doing good. The nurse checked Jamie's progress and gave us some news. Jamie was fully dilated and was ready to push. The contractions were so bad because Jamie was going through the transition phase from 8-10cm. The nurse called the doctor to come (he was at another office) and quickly set up the room for delivery.
That's when they started to have Jamie push. Pushing for 10 seconds, three times, every contraction. The way the nurse rushed to get the room ready, I thought that this part of the labor would be over fast. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Jamie would end up pushing for over two hours. But slowly yet surely, our son made its way out into the world. At first I could only she a little bit of hair, then the top of his head, and finally his whole head. At 12:26, Jonah Miles entered the world, and our lives were changed for ever.  He weighed 7lbs 9oz. and was 20 inches long.

The hour or so after that was kind of a whirlwind. I remember cutting the cord. It was a lot tougher than I expected (more like cartilage, not spongy like Chandeler describes it on Friends). I remember them placing Jonah on Jamie's chest, and seeing his eyes for the first time. But beyond these few moments, the rest is a complete blur.

Eventually, our parents came to meet their first grandchild (first on both sides). The next two days at the hospital, we received a steady stream of visitors congratulating us and wanting to see the new additionto the family.

It's hard to believe that it has been two weeks already. Jonah has already changed a lot. Jamie and I, like all new parents, are working to get him on a schedule. It has been tiring and frustrating at times, but overall, it has been great.

I'm sure that my blog will proably be taken over by pictures of Jonah. Here are a few from our first photoshoot with him. You can see more on Jamie's blog here.