The End of 2006

So much happened in December that I felt as though I could barely keep up at times.  Meaghan and I had a wonderful month to round out the year and I’m simply not going to have enough time to blog about each event individually, so here is a summary of the highlights.

December 8th – SoftSource Christmas Party
I blogged about it here.

December 12th – Fondue
Rich (of pink sippy lid nalgene fame) hosted a fondue party at his house over lunch for the entire project team.  I’d never had fondue before and was quite looking forward to the event.  Two main fondue dishes, one containing cheese and bacon, the other a cheese and crab mix, adorned the ends of the serving table.  A batter dish occupied the center with enough room for eight fondue forks to be frying simultaneously.  A plate full of teriyaki beef and sliced chicken breast as well as a bread plate and mixed vegetable platter rounded out the sides.  Rich popped open a couple of bottles of champagne, ensured we all had a full glass and let the feasting begin.  From the moment I first dipped my bread into the cheese and bacon dip I was hooked.  This is fantastic!  I followed by trying the teriyaki beef dipped in the batter and fried.  Superb!  Much gorging commenced and soon we were all packing away a ton of the best tasting food I’d had for a while.  Cheese, beef, bacon, batter, champagne…could it get better?  Yes!  For dessert, an entire bowl of melted Belgian chocolate, a plate of strawberries, and more champagne.  I was in Stuart heaven.  Lest any ability to actual accomplish meaningful work that afternoon be allowed to creep in, Rich busted out two great bottles of port for an after-lunch sampler that was passed around the room.  Absolutely outstanding.  Thanks Rich both for a superb lunch and for making the afternoon go by that little bit faster!

December 20th – I Like Cake!
Meaghan baked a cake for all of the folks on the team here at Nike.  Sarah (also of pink sippy lid nalgene fame) managed to get a room for us to enjoy a slice of Christmas cake together before everyone disappeared for their holiday vacations.  The cake was in the shape of a Christmas tree with green icing and little yellow, blue, and red sprinkles for baubles and decorations.  It was a light sponge filling, which is my favorite.  I can’t eat too much of very rich cakes and I’d prefer to have a couple of slices of a lighter cake than two spoonfuls of something too rich.  Thanks Meaghan for taking the time to make us all a cake.

December 21st – Playing Santa
‘Twas the Thursday before Christmas and yours truly had only just finished up shopping for presents, writing Christmas letters and cards, and generally getting everything together.  This evening it was time to play Santa and make deliveries to various friends around town.  Meaghan and I managed to get almost everyone’s gifts or cards delivered by about 11pm.  The only ones left were for Trav and Jenn, who we would be seeing on Saturday for the 24 marathon, and for Meaghan’s family with whom we would be staying over the Christmas break.

December 22nd – Eating Italian with friends
One of Meaghan’s friends, Alexa, was in town for a few days and on Friday evening we were able to get together with her for dinner.  I had met Alexa at the Halloween party in October.  We got along well right away and it was nice to see her again to catch up on the news and gossip from the last two months.  Meaghan had a craving for Italian food that night and so we decided to try a place called Giovannis not too far from where we live.  We had a fairly reasonable pizza and a non-shabby bottle of merlot and after a couple of hours of talking and laughing together, we invited Alexa over to see our apartment.  We toasted in the night several times with a bottle of Malibu and a good helpling of Drambuie.  The Christmas vacation was off to a good start.

December 23rd – 24 Marathon
Jack Bauer was back in fine form for the fifth season of 24.  The marathon, hosted by Trav and Jenn, began at 8am sharp as advertised, with Meaghan and I joining shortly before the end of the first episode at about 8:35.  The end of a long week combined with the drinking and relaxation of the night before combined in us both sleeping through our alarms, waking at about 7:30.  A hasty shower, packing of snacks and drinks, and a quick drive over there put us a little behind schedule but we were soon engrossed in the adventures of CTU once again saving the world.  This show seems to only get better and better every season as they continually refine the formula.  Despite feeling like there is no way they can “bring Jack back” at the end of each season, they always find a way not only to integrate him back into his one man quest to save civilization, but also find compelling new ways for insidious criminal geniuses to attempt to execute their plans for social chaos and terrorism.  The last few hours have always been a hard push in the 24 marathon as the real-world time approaches midnight and you’ve been sitting and watching from eight o’clock in the morning.  However, this year it seemed easier than before to stay awake.  I don’t know if that’s due to some kind of TV marathon conditioning that’s kicking in from previous years of practice, or if the story was just that much more compelling this time around.  Either way, Jenn managed to finish the entire marathon this year (congrats!) and neither Meaghan nor I were as wiped as we had thought we would be when the final episode drew to a close.  We headed home shortly after the conclusion, eager to get to bed and steal as many hours of sleep as possible before our flight the following day.  We had exchanged gifts with Trav and Jenn earlier that day and they were kind enough to get Meaghan and I two really nice bottles of wine, a couple of accompanying wine glasses, a picture of Trav and I from their wedding, and a subscription to Playboy! Woohoo!  Thank you very much to both; they shall be appreciated.

Christmas Eve – Flying to Klamath Falls
It felt like a pretty early start when we were in the shower by 6am given that the 24 marathon the day before had concluded only 4 hours earlier.  Our flight didn’t board until shortly after nine o’clock but we were unsure as to how busy the airport would be given that it was Christmas Eve and wanted to be sure to leave plenty of time.  The long term parking lot at the airport was full and we were turned around to the economy lot + shuttle option.  Upon entering the red economy lot, we were presented with a sign indicating that the economy lots were also full as of the early morning of December 23rd.  Yikes!  Most people had parked their cars here while they went on their Christmas vacation and wouldn’t be returning any time soon.  Fortunately, PDX had opened up their emergency overflow economy lot (i.e. the unused field next to the regular parking lot) and we were able to find a space at the absolute outer extremeties of available parking.  We walked back to the closest shuttle pickup point and were soon on our way to the terminal.  Upon arrival at the terminal, we were pleasantly surprised to find that nearly everyone had travelled on Saturday.  There were no lines for the electronic check-in desk, the baggage check counter, or the checked baggage security inspection points.  We were able to quickly pass security and then sit and enjoy a very welcome morning coffee at the Starbucks before meandering down to our gate for boarding.  At the check-in desk we were able to change our seats to be one of the exit rows (1 and 4 on a Bombardier) which meant we could enjoy the extra legroom.  Barely an hour and a half later (only about 55 minutes in the air) we landed in Klamath Falls; much easier than driving and really the only way to go.  Greg and Jenny (Meaghan’s parents) picked us up from the airport and by noon we were settling in at their house, enjoying a nice glass of wine.  Christmas was not only off to a good start, it was positively cooking with gas!

Decebmer 25th – Christmas Day and Meaghan’s Birthday
Happy 24th Birthday Meaghan!  Many happy returns.  I thought I had it bad with a birthday in early January, the aftermath of Christmas only just fading away when an expectation of a new celebration is presented.  My mum thought she had it even worse with a birthday in late December, the tree not yet even taken down.  Meaghan, however, takes the cake…literally.  Being born on Christmas day (an honor shared with my friend Gary Aanetsen) she certainly has had the lion’s share of “double gifting” (the phenomena whereby a gift is given for both Christmas and birthday in one).  I made certain to delineate a gift for her birthday to turn away from the double-gift idea but to her it didn’t really seem to matter.  She was just happy to be able to celebrate both with her family and all the better to do them both on the same day.  Having been unable to celebrate either a birthday or Christmas holiday with any of my family for over seven years, I certainly understand the sentiment of being able to enjoy both at the same time.  Congratulations Meaghan, you’ve almost survived the first part of your twenties!

Christmas morning is a time that nearly everyone gets excited about and this Christmas was no exception.  Mandy (Meaghan’s sister) took it to a new level of excitement with an all-time record of anticipation in my book.  I was a little afraid she was going to spontaneously explode on Christmas Eve!  We all did superbly with gifts, everyone was exceptionally generous and it took us a few hours to finish unwrapping and appreciating the presents and prizes we all received.  I’m going to blog more about Christmas morning with pictures later this week.  For now I want to extend thanks to everyone who sent a gift, card, or Christmas wishes.

December 28th – Flying back to Portland
Klamath Falls airport has a single runway and operates only a handful of flights each day.  Why wouldn’t our flight be the one that was delayed?  After careful planning to arrive at the airport with plenty of time, we checked our baggage at the counter, again changed our seats to be in an exit row, and were informed that the plane was running a couple of hours late.  Oh well.  We said goodbye to Greg, Jenny, and Mandy (Chris was off snowboarding with his friends) and headed up to the airport lounge to wait.  It turned out to be a really nice opportunity for the two of us to spend some time together and reflect not only on Christmas, but on the year in general and the experiences we had shared over the last couple of months.  Sometimes it is fortunate to be stuck in a small airport for a couple of hours and have the chance to slow down, enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, and reflect upon the vacation, past couple of months, or year in general.  This has been a tough year for both Meaghan and I, with many changes, trials, and stressful experiences.  I feel much stronger now than I did this time last year (incalculably stronger in many ways as a few of you know) and it was great to reflect on the ways in which our lives have changed and the things we’ve been through as the year drew to a close.  I’m very much in love with Meaghan and it was great to have someone there to share in the reflection of the year’s memories both happy and sad.  The hours went by very quickly and before long we were on our way back to Portland.  The delayed flight had meant that we arrived back in Portland quite a bit later than expected.  The baggage carousel at PDX looked quite backed up, the delayed flight clearly jarring with the receiving airport’s plans.  After retrieving our checked luggage, taking the shuttle back to the boonies of the economy lot, and then driving home, it was already time for bed.  We managed to get the first loads of laundry sorted and a couple of bags unpacked before calling it a night.  I was back at work on Friday and wanted to be sure to get enough sleep to not be entirely useless in the morning.

December 29th – Thank you notes and a fridge!
To send thanks for all of the wonderful gifts we received this year, Meaghan and I made a special journey to Oblation at Bridgeport Village, one of my favorite places to shop.  Oblation have a great and often unique selection of papers and card sets that feel a lot more personal to me than the typical offerings seen in other places.  We both selected fairly simple designs for our thank you cards, both of which we felt reflected our styles.  Before heading home we decided to drive just a little further down I5 and take a quick tour around Fry’s Electronics.  Meaghan has had her eye on an Espresso maker for a couple of weeks and I will never pass up an opportunity to wander around in one of my favorite stores.  The yoga/game room in our apartment has been slowly transitioning into a yoga/Warcraft room over the last month and for a few weeks now I have had the idea in my head to put a mini-fridge up there.  This would eliminate senseless wastes of valuable WoW minutes otherwise spent trekking all the way downstairs to retrieve items such as beer, taquitos, or pizza.  Not wanting to incur such inefficiency long term, the fridge practically elected itself as an essential item that much be obtained post haste.  We found such a fridge at Fry’s during our perousal that night and drove away the proud owners of our new GE compact refrigerator.  Fry’s had an awesome deal on the unit and we walked away with it for under $160.  W00t!

December 30th – Mum’s birthday and much organizing
Saturday morning hailed in my mum’s birthday.  Happy birthday mum!  We called her up to wish her a happy birthday and I ended up talking to both of my parents for almost two hours.  After that Meaghan and I began the somewhat large task of organizing our yoga/WoW room.  This play room has become the general dumping ground for anything and everything we didn’t have the time to sort through right away.  It is actually designed as the master bedroom in our apartment if you look at the official floorplan.  It is the larger of the two upstairs bedrooms and has an attached walk in closet and bathroom as well as a great view of the Frank Estate grounds.  I originally chose it as my yoga room and play area because I figured I’d end up spending more time in there than in the bedroom and so the extra space and nicer view would be put to better use.  Prior to Meaghan moving in the attached walk-in closet was used as a storage area, stacked floor to ceiling with 17 gallon storage tubs.  Once Meaghan’s clothing was integrated with my own we needed to open up the second closet so that we could share the closet space in the bedroom.  I moved 24 storage tubs out of the closet into the yoga room ready for sorting.  Throughout December we have been sorting through these tubs, pairing down the stuff, preparing donations piles to go to Goodwill, and then repacking an ostensibly smaller number of storage tubs to put in Public Storage.  We had finally stored or donated the last of the tubs and were left with the final pile of stuff to sort covering most of the floor.  I had weeded out enough old paperwork that when shredded filled three 13 gallon trash bags.  The rest of the stuff either had a place in the room or a place in the trash and seven hours later the floor was clear!  …and there was much rejoicing.

December 31st – New Years Eve!
Having finished clearing the yoga/WoW room floor the day before, I started bright and early on Sunday by setting up our new fridge and actually organizing the room aesthetically.  After another few hours work, the results are superb!  A completely organized desk area, up to date filing cabinet, warcraft fridge, yoga gear area, and weight bench all neatly fit into their prescribed places in the room.  For the first time in a month, there is enough visible floor to make it worthwhile vacuuming.  Perhaps its finally time for Roomba.  I noticed in looking for the link while writing this entry that they have a new “Intelli-Bin” feature on the Roomba Discovery that notifies you when the internal bin needs to be emptied.  I’m very tempted.  After a day of cleaning and organizing we got ready for the New Year’s party hosted by our friends Jason and Tracy in Hillsboro.  Trav and Jenn were going to be there, as was Adam (Jason’s brother) who always causes all manner of chaos.  After the continual partying over Christmas and three days of housework, neither Meaghan nor I were up for a huge drunken party but wanted to catch up with people and find out about their Christmas vacations.  We stayed for a couple of hours and said hi to folks but we weren’t really feeling the party vibe and everyone there seemed more than a little tense so we ducked out at about eleven o’clock to bring in the new year together at home.  After a quick toast to each other, a midnight kiss, and a short phone call with my parents, we headed to bed.  I don’t remember much after my head hitting the pillow and seeing the red letters of 12:17am projected onto the ceiling by my Oregon Scientific atomic clock.  Seventeen minutes after midnight, probably the earliest I’ve been in bed on New Years for quite a while.  Right before I fell asleep I remember thinking “Yes!  Finally, it’s here: 2007.  The year is over!”.

All in all, an exceptionally busy month given that Meaghan and I were still organizing our place, getting her moved in, decorating for the holiday season and finishing up our Christmas shopping.  Both of us wanted to make 2007 a really fresh start, and so we have spent nearly every available hour trying to sort out every part of our lives.  This has involved going through every single box and tub of stuff we own, completely and thoroughly sorting out only the things we want to keep and then organizing them either for storage or use in our apartment.  I cannot remember a time when I more thoroughly sorted through paperwork.  Its amazing what you can accumulate over the years.

This year has certainly been about change.  Looking back to the end of 2005, I can honestly say that nearly every facet of my life has undergone some form of change over the past twelve months.  In addition, several once in a lifetime changes have occured all in the same year, some of them very happy and some of them very sad.  I won’t list out the sad changes that have occured this year.  Some of them I have written about, and those of you that know me are familiar enough with the rest.  What happened is in the past, the Christmas holiday was a wonderful closing season, and 2007 is shaping up to be a great new year and a fresh start.  Despite the turmoil, I can honestly say that I cannot remember a time in my life when I felt happier or more hopeful and excited about the future.  I have a new Nephew, Ethan, whom I cannot wait to meet in person.  I have settled into my role as a Software Architect with SoftSource Consulting and I’m genuinely enjoying my working life on a day to day basis.  I’ve changed jobs several times since first moving to the United States, and I would easily rate both my time with CyberCom in Hawaii and my time with SoftSource as the best experiences I’ve had.  Interestingly enough, both are software consulting gigs, and I wonder if perhaps that’s just my niche.  I enjoyed working on product development and I liked the feeling of working on a consistent project for both Intel and Corillian.  I also enjoyed working for the Salem Keizer School District, but there is something about consulting and moving from place to place, from project to project that makes me get really fired up and excited in a whole different way.  Finally and most importantly I met Meaghan, who has brought more happiness to my life than I could ever have imagined.  Ever since our first date we haven’t spent a moment apart and in the month or so that we have been living together our relationship has only seemed to get stronger every day.

Goodbye 2006…long live 2007!

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