It's been an interesting time since I've written anything of consequence in my blog. It sure seems like life keeps throwing things at me, and I have to either catch or dodge them without getting smacked in the face. I've been doing a little of the catching and a little dodging. But let me tell you...whomever is throwing these things has really good aim, because they keep smacking me in the face.

Here's a quick update of what's been going on with me over the past year. I obviously met Jessica, the most wonderful person in my life. When she's with me, everything is right with the world. I feel whole. When she's away, which is most of the time, it's very difficult. I had the pleasure of spending a month last summer with her, a few days in the fall, Thanksgiving, and from Christmas all the way through almost the end of January. Unfortunately, I won't really get to see her much until summer.

Right now she has a visiting professor position at St. Lawrence University, which is located in far upstate New York. It's not an easy place to get to, and from where I live, it's about 23 hours of driving. Even flying isn't so convenient because of where the airports are. So that's why we don't see each other often. Her position there ends at the end of this Spring semester. After that, she'll be moving. We have no idea where she'll be next. Our only hope is that she'll be closer.

I got to meet her family over Christmas, and they're all wonderful. I spent a week in Arkansas where I felt like I was a little kid again. Her family treated me to a Christmas like I haven't seen in probably 10 years. I got more gifts from them than I was ready for. I'm sure it's the first visit of many to come. I couldn't help but think of Jessica's sister, Jodi and her family when the Superbowl was going on. Strangely...they're big Packers fans. It was like a little piece of home while I was down there.

The trip down there was a lot of fun, but it wasn't without its stresses. Right before heading down to visit, my kitty, Meat, had an emergency. He had a urinary blockage that ended up requiring an extended stay at the vet. He went in two days before my flight left and had to stay until after I was in Arkansas. I had to arrange for a person to pick him up and to look after him. My friend, Allison, was so wonderful. I still need to do something for her since she helped me out so much. Unfortunately, while he was recovering at home, it appeared he was blocked again. I ended up having to call and arrange for another emergency vet visit. Can you believe my landlord came and took him to the vet? She's such a nice lady! Anyway, the good news is that he wasn't blocked...just using the litter a lot more. It was not an easy...or cheap...experience for all parties involved.

Prior to that vet visit, Meat had other problems. Right after I moved (I'll get to that), Meat got an eye infection. I got that treated. Then he got a bladder infection. Got that treated too. While he was in the vet, he caught an upper respiratory infection. So he was in bad shape. Since September, Meat has cost me about $600 in trips to the vet. It really blew my budget, but he's doing fine now. He's been on his special diet for almost two full months now, and no problems at all. I think he'll finally be ok.

Speaking of blowing budgets...I had quite the situation with my flight to Arkansas. A few weeks prior to my flight, I had asked Chris if he would drive me to the airport on the day my flight left. He happily agreed. We had talked about my flight a week prior and a couple of days prior as well. When the Thursday before Christmas arrived, I was ready to go. I called Chris periodically throughout the morning and was confused why his phone went straight to voicemail. It came to about noon, and I started to panic. I needed to leave by 1:00 to get to the airport on time. I decided to drive out to Chris' place to find him. When I got there, his house was dark. By this time I was hyperventilating and freaking out. I decided to call his parents to see if they knew where he was. They live in Sheboygan, WI, which is on the opposite side of the state from me. When I called, Chris answered the phone. I lost it, screamed at him and hung up.

I will admit that this wasn't one of my best moments. I have never in my life been that mad at someone. I was so emotional, I wasn't really thinking rational. If I had, I would have realized all the options I had before me. Some really great friends live two doors down from Chris. They would have hopped in the car right then to help me get to the airport. I also have an uncle that works for the airlines in Minneapolis that would have had options too. Instead, I thought to myself that if I didn't leave right then, I wouldn't make it. So I drove myself the hour and a half to the Minneapolis Airport. MSP has no long term parking. It's 18 dollars a day to park if you use your credit card, and about twice that if you don't. I had no choice. I got there on time and I made my flight. Unfortunately, I had no room in my budget for $126 dollars in parking. I ended up getting hit with overdraft fees that pushed the final tally into the $200 plus range. It was not good.

I eventually forgave Chris. We're on speaking terms again, but it took me over a month before I was able to really talk to him. He never offered to pay my parking fees. He hasn't even apologized without making excuses. I don't really care anymore though. As much as I would appreciate the apology, I know he feels bad about what happens. We all make mistakes. I certainly have made my share.

Earlier I mentioned that I moved. I did that in September. A lot of things happened that lead up to that decision. I think the biggest one was what happened with Josh. For the sake of Josh's privacy, I'll just say that what happened involved the police. After that incident, things really changed in the house. It was uncomfortable, and it was by no means as much fun as it once was. My friendship with Chris was on the rocks a bit as well. Something had changed within me.

I was on this self improvement kick for a while. Think it was a great thing for me to acknowledge my faults. I know that I'm not perfect, and I'll never be. When it comes to my relationship with Chris, I always told myself that any issue that came up was my fault. I accepted the blame willingly because I truly thought it was my fault. I felt that since I was trying to improve myself, I needed to accept that maybe I was just not being patient enough or that I was just being too picky. Things changed when my girlfriend was visiting for a number of weeks. She said to me that while I told her I was overly critical of others, she had never seen me be that way. She had seen nothing more than patience, and added that I really put up with a lot. I was a little taken aback. So I talked to a few others about it and they agreed with my girlfriend. I really couldn't believe it.

It was as if my eyes were reopened. I suddenly realized what I had been doing, and that's when I knew I was going to have to get my own place. From that day forward, I found my patience waning, and it got harder to be at the house. Once I found an affordable place, I packed up and now I'm living in a comfortable two bedroom duplex. Aside from the pain of the electric bill (electric baseboard heat), I really like it here. One of the really nice benefits, until recently, was that I'm significantly closer to work. My commute is under ten minutes now. I like it.

Speaking of work, things have changed there. Namely, I got promoted. My former boss moved on to a new job. I interviewed and got the lead developer position. I now am responsible for the development team and a number of other things. It's a lot more than I expected it to be. I really enjoy the challenge, but it takes a lot out of me when it comes to energy after work. Sometimes I end up having to stay late to keep up.

Because of that, I haven't been going to fencing as much. Fencing is still a lot of fun, but that's changed as well too. There are some people that go to fencing that make me rather uncomfortable. There's a growing contingent of people that are really "Christian". I put them in quotes because they don't embody Christ in any way. They look at me with judgemental eyes, they don't really talk to me, and they over all just make fencing kind of a drag. One of the people has a bit of an ego problem too. Not to mention...he scares me. He seems so reserved, but then on the fencing field, he can be so overly aggressive that it's not safe. I've seen him tackle people, hit people with his hilt, and literally throw himself at them. Not to mention, he doesn't call his shots, which is really dishonorable. A lot of people don't like fighting him because of it. He's painted his mask with a cross on it. It makes him look like some sort of templar knight in the crusades. I want to tell him that the crusades were nothing to be proud of and that the Knights Templar weren't good role models, but I doubt he'd listen or want to hear it. Anyway, I'm not sure how much I'll be going to fencing because of it. I may have my own sub group of people that meet to fence instead. I'd rather learn with a group of people that make it fun and keep it safe. Otherwise, why go?

The other outside of work thing that has truly suffered is the community center. I haven't been able to do much of anything for the center since November. I just don't have the energy. Not to mention the center has never really been a positive stressor for me. I put a lot of my energy into the center last spring, summer, and fall. Unfortunately, I feel like nothing came out of all that energy in the end. I would love it if the Chippewa Valley had an active and vibrant community center, but I can't give it to them anymore. I'm spent.

Due to all that energy being gone, I haven't really been able to do much of anything when it comes to personal projects. For a time, I felt like when I was home from work, I needed to work hard at relaxing because if I didn't relax well enough, I'd get burnt out faster. That attitude just added more stress. Eventually I just succumbed to escapism. I've watched a lot of TV and played a lot of video games just to not have to worry about everything else.

It seemed like every month was something new. Something happened that ended up costing me a couple hundred dollars or more. That forced me to not be able to save anything and had me freaking out about making it to the end of the month in the black. Let me tell you, I've gotten very frugal in the past year because of that. I'm finally in a spot where I have some money left over. Right now I'm in a place where I feel relaxed about money. While I know it's only sure is a nice breath of fresh air.

One thing I didn't mention...last fall my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The good news is that they found it very early. She was able to just get a lumpectomy, which was successful. The treatment and recovery was rather short. She's fine, all healed, and back to normal. I'm amazed at how smoothly things went after she was diagnosed. It just goes to show the benefits of regular mammograms.

Well, that's quite the catch up. There were a few other things that happened last year. I saw the Blue Angels and took some cool photos, took my girlfriend to Six Flags, broke a tooth, got new glasses...I could keep going, but I think I'll save those for another time. Hopefully now that I've caught up, you'll see me post more.

Until then...happy weekend!