Archive for April, 2003

Column 2 – Part 2

My upbringing

I was raised in Christian family. A family where my parents love each other, and are committed to God and the promise they made to him and each other almost twenty five years ago.They never scream at each other, in fact, the still have fleeting moments of cute lovey talk.

Never once do I think about another college friend of mine whose father was an unfaithful priest. This friend was always putting on a happy front, but was very closed off and vehemently avoided conflict. The affair happened when he was 8 or 9, but he still got bitter tears in his eyes as he related the story to me. His parent’s conflict tore him apart.

My parents building blocks

My parents put the children first in their lives. My father is an extremely hard working man, who takes care of all of us with his love and his career.

My mother is always nagging us to pick up this, or pay that bill, or have you made reservations for your honeymoon yet. She does this because she is always thinking about us, not because she enjoys it.

They dedicated their lives to teaching my sister and I responsibility, to live a Godly life, all the while giving us the best opportunities to do so.

They have literally given me a lifetime of opportunities. So many that I can be choosy. I don’t have to worry about my one lucky break passing me by. They will be there to support me no matter what until another one comes along.

My complaining falls on deaf ears

I am a hypocrite. When I bitch and moan about something bad in my life, it is all relative. Because of my parents, I have never even known what “bad” is, or really how bad things can be.

The only reason I was even able to pay for some of my college was because I was living at home and I didn’t have to spend it on surviving. My money was never spent on surviving because my parents spent time with us to help us make good decisions. This might seem weird, but it is true when I say they gave me the opportunity to spend it on my schooling. Now they give me time so I all I have to worry about is making money for my wedding and for my future wife. On top of that, they are giving me money for the wedding.

What is my reaction?

Thanking them by conventional means doesn’t even make sense to me.

So do I thank them everyday?

No. I haven’t even thanked them in a couple months.

I feel that eventually the thank you’s will lose their impact. A lifetime of opportunity does not equal daily thanks. So I made up my mind a long time ago that I wouldn’t.

Instead I have chosen to grab a hold of every opportunity that is given to me with two strong hands and shake it for all its worth.

Everyday I go to work and become more successful. Everyday I come home and improve artistically. And everyday I become more of a man as I move

forward with my fiancée and our life together.

I have all of these things because of them. I am a living tribute to them and everything that I am is because of them. I figure their pride in me and what they have helped me become might be more appropriate.

Some still might say that a daily thank you still goes a long way.

So this is my thank you for today, and it only counts for one.

Thank you, mom and dad.


Column 2 – Part 1

Mom quote for the week:

“Are you going to tuck that in?” in reference to my shirt as I was running behind one day for work.

“Nope. It doesn’t matter; the pants are coming off when I get there anyway.”

Warning: This column is not intended for children 13 years or younger.

How did I determine that age? I guessed. Besides, shouldn’t you be doing something, anything more fun than this?

My Usual Day

My day starts at 6:20, and as soon as I open my eyes, I take for granted all that I have.

Work starts at 8:00 in the morning. My job usually has some elements of sales as wellas designing any new graphic material or web content.
I whip through the graphic programs like Rosie O’Donnell after a Ho-ho. I know all the shortcuts, I know all the quick keys. Tasks that take me 2 minutes would take my friends double as long and my parents 3 hours or more.

It comes very natural to me, and I don’t ever give it a second thought.

I am a computer junkie

I come home, and I sit at my computer more, usually for a good portion of the remaining night. Sometimes I draw an image I have found from the internet. My drawing skills are superior to most, and are borderline mind boggling to others.

For almost two years I have committed to drawing an hour a night. Why would someone do that you ask? It is because I can, and because I have to.

In that hour not once do I think about my peers who aren’t in college. The ones that don’t have an hour to spare. They made a decision that led down a path of ten hour shifts six days a week, multiple children with or without another parent, and mounting debts.

I have top of the line resources

Sometimes I intend to take my drawings to a higher level of finish. I will photograph the different elements of the composition I have in mind with my digital camera, instead of wasting precious time searching on the internet for something close.

Then, I usually draw out that thought, ink it, and scan it into my computer using a high end graphics program. I have a pretty awesome computer, not top of the line anymore, but still way above average. My scanner does the job. Not many of my friends have one of these either. And I do have Photoshop, the tool the best artists use.

Then I will color that image on the computer. For this task I use my Wacom tablet, which is basically a pressure sensitive tablet with a mechanical pencil that I can use to draw on the computer. All of these are the tools the best artists use, and the best tools cost the best, or the most, money.

Producing this work of art is not an overnight process by any means. I take my time, though, because I can and because I feel like I have to.

Another friend of mine from high school is only now attending school. He is attending Baker, a great school, but it is no University of Michigan. He has to work all day to support himself to go to school. If he loses his job, he loses credit, simple as that.

Wedding Planning

After I have done my art for the night, I see my fiancée so we can continue to plan our wedding. We might invite hundreds of people, but we are always trying to save money. In the end, the wedding will cost over ten grand. I don’t once think what another friend of mine would do to his credit card debt with that money.

I stay up late, and I work real hard, because I choose to. I don’t have to work any harder; I have a job and a degree, but to sit idle, seems like a waste.

Continue to Part 2…..

Column 1 – Part 2

My Grandpa after the fact

The few times I saw him after the funeral my grandpa was a mess, but not like you would think. He was just weird, and I felt guilty for wishing him to be the way he used to because things were different.

For the first time ever it wasn’t always enjoyable to be around him, and shame on me, he wasn’t there for my entertainment.

I didn’t really feel much pain over death, to say truthfully, I always felt like there wasn’t anything anyone could do, so why fret over it too much. Grandma was a great woman, and had lived a great life, and that is how I will remember it, but pain never found a crack to seep into.

The following summer

The winter semester came and went and then summer came. It was hard to believe it had been that long since my grandma was gone, but college goes by quick, and it is hard to notice much of anything more than 16 credit hours.

My summer job was landscaping. I made great money but I paid the price of my first outside summer job in dehydration and allergic reaction to anything green. Then as I toiled in the hot sun over paver bricks, already miserable from the work and the weather, I got called inside by my employer. I was working for my friend’s mom and, let me tell you, she was on MY hit list. I would have given anything to have not received the message from her.

I got a call from my parents, seems Grandpa had a heart attack, but he was alright. It was kind of funny how typical it was, I never pictured it to be anything but, a strange call during an already terrible day making it even worse.

Something was going on that night, and I figured since he was alright, that I could just see him later. But Sarah and I did go and see him, I think there was a possibility that, without her there, that I wouldn’t have.

He looked fine, a little more naked than I would have preferred, but you know, good for an old guy. I had drawn him a picture and told him it was time to start running, ha ha. Funny guy I am.

I am more thankful that I went to see him that night. I was one of the few people, because of how close I was (location,) that got to see him. The next day Grandpa was gone, a blood clot in the night put him in a coma in which he would not recover. I have yet to.

When my grandma passed away, that was a sprained ankle to the painted picture I had for my wedding. I thought it would be a little weird, Grandpa hanging by himself, maybe crying a little, but it would still be cool to walk back to him, shake his hand with a smile and hug. But when my grandpa passed away, that was like a broken leg. I couldn’t picture my wedding without him. And I still can’t really.

How I miss them

Sarah and I were talking about her shower not too long ago and how Linda had shared her wedding experiences with her. How she told grandpa “Don’t tell me I’m pretty, don’t tell me I look nice…” and the whole gooshy thing goes on for hours. But I was reminded that grandpa wasn’t going to be there.

I teared up for him a little, just once of the half a dozen times I have since he left, and the two and half days I wept to the point of nausea right after the fact. I miss my grandpa and would give anything to have him here for the wedding. It was my first taste of what death could be, and in two years my three grandparents had passed away, so it became more like a swallow. The one thing about Grandpa was that his advice always felt like it was coming from a friend and not an authoritative figure. I always felt so much like him, and that I would be just like him at that age.

His words

These were two of the things he said that have stuck with me in particular. The first was that I could treat my girlfriend better. I always thought he saw his shortcomings in me and even though he couldn’t really prevent his own, he could try to correct them through me. Kind of like that was his job. The second thing that stuck with me was what he told Sarah the Easter before he left.

“We expect big things of him.”

I was the firstborn of the grand kids, and I never take that for granted. I got the most of my grandparents and felt a little obligated to set the bar.

So I wanted to take this time to say to him, I miss you Grandpa, so damn much. I have so many faults, but I am going to dedicate my life to Sarah and trying to overcome them. And we will be great, together. So to some extent, I would like to dedicate this site to you. To let you know, that I still hope to be just like you when I am old and that, you did your job well.


Column 1 – Part 1

If you are reading this page, then email my mom. She said, (now picture your mother, I think most everyone has a mother…I hope.) “Who wants to read your opinion? Oh, yeah, give me a break.” That’s right, who does? Do I care, Nope, and …double nope. But I want to say some things before my “big day”.

Welcome to the first installment of what I am going to call “Dipping a toe in my mouth” as seems to be my everyday life. This column will be bi-weekly being posted every Saturday with my thoughts on life during the week.

Warning: If you are a family member of mine and you are reading this, do so with caution. I poke fun in my dialogue, but you should all know that I love you very much and wouldn’t say anything to intentionally hurt you. All in the name of storytelling.

My Grandparents and my wedding

I had many thoughts come late high school, and even early college, about marriage. The thoughts weren’t about anyone in particular, just about what it would be like.

Now, this might seem really morbid, but I wondered which of my grandparents would make it to my wedding. At the time I thought, well, if I went by age, my grandma on my dad’s side would be at the largest risk, but she was really resilient throughout life. (I never did figure that out, once you give birth to my dad, that would be enough for me, seriously.) But not to stray too much, I also thought, “Well my mom’s parents are not even in their late sixties yet, so they are sitting real good.” I really wanted them both to be there. My Grandpa in particular because he was a such a big influence on my life as I was growing up. He made it a point to be involved in everything I did, and spoil me at every turn, with just a dash of reprimand. So, I not only loved him but respected him as well.

The Grandparents 50th

It was the summer of my grandparent’s 50th anniversary, and the family got together in Grand Haven to celebrate. The Ray family was always really close in age, and I always loved that about us. There weren’t any extreme age gaps, and it seemed like the stereotypical ages for the right titles, sixty-six year old grandfather, thirty three year old aunt, mid forty year old parents, etc, etc. We had had some activities earlier in the day and then we met for a nice dinner right on the lake at Bil Mar.

The interaction was typical. My mother had three sisters, my poor poor Grandpa. Janet, Pat, and Linda, no particular order. The family was like a interactive story and the sisters each had a part. Janet would tell it, provide the sound effects and any necessary visual effects. Pat would reign the story in, always throwing in an “Oh my Gosh” and making that noise with her mouth. You know the one. That “tsk” noise that sounds like a backwards tongue thwap that is more of a personal guilt reliever when you find something funny, but you really shouldn’t. Example, My little cousin says, “Why does grandma smell like old cheese?” and you think, that is just too darn cute to not snicker, but I don’t want to encourage the little bugger. Anyway, then my Aunt Linda is there on the sidelines looking for a pause in the story to organize a game of “family” volleyball. I don’t think she’s ever played volleyball, but we don’t know that until ten minutes into the game. So, never a dull moment. Add my Grandparents, who were always a little blunt, and I spent most of the time listening and concentrating on not blowing soggy bits of green beans out my nose.

We had dinner, we had wine, we had conversation, and the family was together, for this special occasion as the sun set apricot on our happiness. Mmmm, apricots.

The collective present from the family was a years worth of work in a mammoth book. It was a creative memories book with photos from all of my grandparents old friends, signed with a memory of an event they had shared together. My grandma got teary eyed, and so did grandpa, which was becoming more common place for him in the past few years. I remember her telling us how beautiful it was and she had her handkerchief as she dabbed at her damp eyes. She grasped my Grandpa’s hand and I wondered why they were still standing.

As stiff and brutal as an event could be, my grandma held her strength as she delivered the news that her cancer had returned. The initial reaction was shock from all of the sisters as she went on to tell them that she had been keeping it from them for a little while as to not worry them. Then there was crying, and I kind of sat there not really knowing what to think, my first real glimpse into the end, of something mortal. My lack of emotion I attributed to the fact that I just didn’t know, I figured it would be awhile still. But at the same time, how do you know that in six months the cancer will have consumed your grandmother completely? It is almost too fast to ever believe it is real.

to Part 2…..