Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year from the Family

I tweeted and posted very short messages at midnight. However, those were scheduled as I really didn’t want to struggle to get them through to the network as the rest of the United States did as well. I wanted to take my time for a real New Year’s greeting.

Hopefully this post will fulfill that greeting.


2011 was a year of transition for the family. Overall a good year but what’s a good year without some stress to make sure the gray hairs arrive. Here’s the rundown.

Elly finished her freshman year at American University on the Dean’s List and now an “Honor’s Student”. She spent the summer at home working at Target but took off for AU as soon as she could. And this time she pretty much took everything with her, sort of a message to us that she ain’t coming back to Cleveland “to visit”. It’s bittersweet. I cannot help but be proud and excited for her. At the same time it’s sad to think that it’s over already and that she’s her own person now and not my little Elly.

One of the best things for us her parents was the fact that Elly has had the chance to take up dancing again. She is taking a Ballet class as part of her schedule but she also participated in two other performances as well. Arisa and I went to see the AU in Motion (Facebook page) in November. The show overall was tremendous. Given there was wide array of dancers from good to bad, from classical ballet to hip hop and Bollywood. The dancers clearly had worked hard on everything and the show was fun. To be honest though Elly stood out. That’s largely because her piece is designed that way (she was the Sugar Plum Fairy) but also because she was the by far the best ballet dancer.

Ken graduated from Mayfield High School in June and also worked at Target over the summer. Of course the early part of the year was college essays and then the wait for acceptance, or not, letters. Ken was not only accepted to Villanova University, but he got a great financial aid package. Along with the fact that Villanova was his first choice anyway made the actual decision on where to go really easy. After things like Prom and other Senior activities Ken spent the summer working at Target and hanging out with his friends.

Ken started his Freshman year there in August and seems to be enjoying it. He lives in a triple but only in a double room so it’s a tad bit crowded. His roommates are from San Paulo, Brazil and New York City and he seems to get along with one, puts up with the other. Not surprisingly its the one from Brazil that he gets along with largely due to the fact that they both like soccer. In fact, both tried out for the Club team and both were cut. So they started their own intramural soccer team. Apparently the team didn’t do very well in the 7-on-7 format because besides Ken and the goalie they randomly picked from the student populace everyone was a forward.

Ken is doing well academically although he does say that the two courses where there is a lot of reading and writing are causing him some angst, Japanese and the math/sciences are pieces of cake. In fact, Japanese is easy enough that he is adding on Spanish next semester - he had to get approval since he was going over the permitted number of classes.

George is now a sophomore at Mayfield High School and is continuing down the path that he started as a freshman in the spring of 2011. George is in all honor/AP classes except for Art.

George played soccer in the fall again and played on the JV team. He played about half a game each game and seemed to have greatly improved. The camaraderie of the team was evident in their support of the Varsity team which once again advanced in the state playoffs only to fall to St. Ignatius eventual State Champs (again). 

George got his drivers license in December and will have a little bit more freedom and just as importantly ability to expand the breadth of his activities. In particular, he intends to start working out more. I was certainly surprised by that, but not just because he was going to but to realize he’s actually already pretty darn buff. He is also hoping to continue the family tradition by working at Target. We have also confirmed that he his indeed taller than Ken making him the tallest in the family.

Arisa made a huge transition this year. As many of you may know, Arisa was working at Target to help improve the family finances. This was pretty much a minimum wage job that was brainless and not a lot of fun. However, in the fall she was hired by Hyland Software as a Quality Assurance Associate. What that means is that she was hired by Hyland to be a software tester but specifically to focus on testing the Japanese version of the software. And on top of that it is a much better paying job and we get to see more of each other since I also work at Hyland.
For Arisa this new job has been a real challenge. In a very short period of time she is having to learn alot of new things. And much of it is technical but more importantly she is learning this all in English. I went through the same thing twenty something years ago when I was hired by JENS (AT&T Jens) and had to learn telecommunications and computer basics and services in Japanese. I can tell you it is exhausting as a young twenty something. To go through that at this point in her life is a testament to Arisa’s dedication. As we commute together to work we talk about VMWare/Virtual Machines, Oracle databases, registering DLLs, and OnBase’s digital signature software module. I simply could not have fathomed having these types of conversations with her just a month or so ago.

You also have to take into account that Hyland is a “Microsoft shop” and that for the first time Arisa is using Windows. As many of you know, I have been and am an Open Source Software proponent, but more specifically the family hasn’t used Windows since 1999. We’ve exclusively used Linux, specifically Ubuntu recently. So that means that not only is she having to learn about the company’s software but she is also having to learn the basics of Windows. So I have to say that I am extremely impressed. It goes without saying she still has a lot to learn but to come as far as she has in the short period of time she has and not in her native language is truly impressive.

I am still a Project Manager with Hyland Software. I travel about 50% of the time and it’s looking that to start the year it’ll be a combination of Nashville, Chicago and Salt Lake City. So that’ll be fun. I’m beginning to get the hang of the job and in particular how to manage projects for implementing our software.

The big ticket item for me in 2011 was that I was finally able to quit smoking. My Japanese friends know that I smoked a lot, probably two packs a day. Upon coming to the U.S. I dropped it to a pack a day. I had tried to quit a couple of times even dropping down to as few as only 5 cigarettes a day. Unfortunately I could never keep it up. In December of 2010 I got a prescription for Chantix from from my primary care doctor. With Chantix you are supposed to smoke for the first 7 days as the drug settles into the brain and blocks the nicotine receptors. On the 8th day you quit and for me that turned out be January 3rd, 2011. I only took the chantix for three weeks after quitting thought I was supposed to stay on it for 12 weeks. It’s strong stuff so once I got over the worst of the addiction and giving into triggers I wanted to stop taking it.

So in two days I’ll have made it a full year without a cigarette - which is like the first time since high school. Yay me!

The single largest event of the year was Arisa and I purchasing a house. We have been married for 21 years and have never owned a house or condo. So for us this is a huge deal and we are really pleased. In some ways it’s like the first year of marriage all over again - we have not only hope for the future but plans for fixing up the house and making it over into “our” house, not the house we just bought - if you get the difference.

We moved into a house that will keep George in the same school district, Mayfield, was affordable and was house really for the two of us without the kids. It has what we want with a large yard, it’s well built and has a usable fireplace. Check out the following slideshow which is probably more than you will ever want to see of our house.

Next post will be plans for this new year. In the meantime,

Happy New Year!

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