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03 January 2007

my version of 'meet the parents'

when i got back from algeria, i had the weekend at home but then had some work to take care of in schenectady, related to closing out the india job. when that was done on wednesday, the 13th, i flew to minnesota to see jules. she and her roommate were having a 4-way birthday party for some of their friends (and the roommate), and i was able to help out a bit getting the place ready. as i've said before, their parties are way different from what i'm used to but i'm trying to learn. they had probably in excess of 150 people coming and going, along with fancy invitations and a big banner. they had a raffle of assorted items like rocket balloons, biracial baby doll legs, and meat (this year i think the grand prize was a large ribeye steak). i'm doing better at her parties. i'm not the social type and ended up several times standing around with a beer in hand and nothing much more to do, nothing to talk about. last party i drank myself into oblivion to get over the nerves. this time, i did a bit better but still had to retire a bit early due to a minor and unjustified bout of jealousy. after that, jules and i had fun the rest of the week as she showed me around minneapolis. we got to check out the mall of america for a while, shopping, watching some football, etc.

the big concern with meeting the family was how conservative/religious they are and how liberal/non-religious i am. it was looking to be a clash in the making. i was afraid they'd ask me about my religion and religious upbringing, but jules assured me they wouldn't ask. also, they aren't big fans of long-haired boys, tattoos, and piercings. i'm all of those. so, the following tuesday, jules and i made our way down to iowa to introduce me to her parents. the plan was that i stay tuesday and wednesday, then travel back home on thursday. we arrived at the farm late afternoon, and i was first introduced to JulesMom. she's a lovely though quiet woman who made me feel comfortable the moment i stepped in the door. soon after i was taken to the shop to meet JulesDad and JulesBrother. they work most of the day in their shop fixing up junk or wrecked cars and reselling them. currently, they had a newer jeep in good shape that they were repainting the fenders on, a ford expedition they were replacing the passenger side glass in, and an older mustang, i believe, that they were removing the engine from. i'm not much of a gearhead. i'd like to know more, i even have the desire to tear apart my truck engine part by part, just to figure it out, but i'm not home often enough or long enough to do that. anyways, jules dropped me off there to meet the male counterparts in the family. she went back with her mom and the kids and left me to the wolves. no matter where i was, i was in the way. really didn't have much to talk about, JulesBrother was kind enough to exchange some idle chit chat to break the ice a bit.

after watching TheGuys work on almost dropping a recently moved motor and painting the fenders on a recently purchased jeep, we went back to the house for some home-cooked farm food. dinner there seems to be a typically big deal since both families (at least while i was there) seem to eat together a lot. that's about 9 people at one table. the family says grace before lunch and dinner. what scared me most was if they asked me to lead the prayer. i lucked out as it seems the man or woman of the house does the praying and there is no opening for guest speakers. i WAS surprised the last morning i was there (yeah, i'm jumping around chronologically) when we didn't pray before breakfast. i didn't know what was going on, then out came the bible. apparently, at breakfast, they read a daily bible verse from a pre-printed cheat sheet and once that is done, they read some verses given to them by the church and we pray for someone from the church on the prayer list. the food was really good, it was easier to talk over food, and i think i made a decent first impression. that night, jules slept in the guest room next to her parents room and i slept on a thin mattress in the toy room across the hall. this setup was ideal for TheParents to keep two youngins from fooling around in their house. this was expected since the family is mennonite and fairly conservative compared to myself.

the next day i woke up to find that i was the late riser. TheGuys had been up for a while, waiting for me to help with splitting wood for their furnaces. i hurriedly put my contacts in, threw on my boots, and was soon on my way into a cool dreary morning greeting us with spitting snow. luckily, they don't split wood manually. they have a pretty nifty hydraulic wood splitter. they had piled up the trees they had already chainsawed into pieces big enough to fit on the splitter. still they were pretty heavy, maybe 60-80lbs a piece. JulesBrother and i admitted (at dinner) to hurting our backs lifting incorrectly, but i guess that goes with farm work, no OSHA there. we split 3 big truckfuls of wood and i'd only pinched 2 fingers in the process. i was given the responsibility to drive their skid steer to load the truck, but that's OK, just more chance for me to embarrass myself.

later that day, jules, JulesBrother, his 2- and 4-year olds, and myself went four-wheeling around the farm in their isuzu rodeo (or was it an amigo) showing me the place. they have like 500+ acres that used to be devoted primarily to dairy farming. we had a great time plowing through the woods, getting stuck (the truck didn't turn to the right very well), slipping and sliding our way through the property, and climbing up fairly steep hills.

i was supposed to go home the next day, but didn't have much to do back home and was actually having a good time getting to know the family better, so i pushed my return flight back a day. that night, again we had a big communal dinner, watched some TV (they like their rush limbaugh in the shop, and bill o'reilly and hannity and colmes after dinner. JulesBrother showed me some swords he's gotten as gifts (he didn't laugh when i told him i'd bought some online when i was in india). he showed me the heating system they have installed in his house and his parents across the pond. it's a big fireplace with loads of copper tubing in the top of it. a closed-system water circuit runs through the fireplace and throughout the house thus heating the entire house from one fireplace. it is pretty nice, i liked it. he then showed me his .44 magnum with red-dot scope and his, i believe, AS-15 rifle.

the next day, i drove around town with JulesBrother getting parts for their shop to fix. i helped a bit putting back together a ford expedition they were working on. while we were working, JulesDad used his jedi mind tricks to pseudo-corner me between his removed engine and a workbench to ask me what my religion was. luckily, even though jules was sure he wouldn't ask, i prepared my response, not of it a lie at all. i told him i was raised lutheran (which deflected a bit of the conversation since his wife converted from lutheranism), and that i was the 7th-generation in my church (when i went). then he started asking about how my parents were raised, etc. and i kinda double-talked around it for a bit until he gave up. after a bit of work, we went out to the field and i got to shoot a couple rounds on each. the .44 sure kicks, and the scope on the AS-15 popped me in the eye on my second shot (but he didn't see it as he was watching the target with his binoculars). he said all my shots would've been kill shots if we were hunting; better than we both expected considering i haven't held a gun in maybe 5 years. he's a pretty cool dude, and likes showing off his toys to the new people. lucky me.

the next day was uneventful aside from the fact that i thought i could get to the airport faster than JulesDad's directions. that being the case, i got lost and got to the airport quite a bit late. there were some heavy delays in chicago, and i stood in line forever to check in. i was getting concerned i was going to miss the flight even though it was delayed, then they called over the intercom to start going through security. i got to jump through the line at check-in counter, got checked in, bid jules a quick goodbye, and was on my way home.

i had a really good time. the family is nice, their farm is awesome and lots of fun things to do. i don't mind helping around the farm when i'm there. it is adifferent experience. let's hope they liked me.


Blogger themom said...

I don' think you even took a breath typing this blog - I'M IMPRESSEd!!!

Love Jules - Love the family!


7:47 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"fairly conservative compared to myself." - The Understatement of the Year (And it is only January 3rd)

10:00 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Jean said...

How could they not love you???? I'm sure you made a good impression.You are a bit different but thats what makes you who you are. Love ya, Mom2

11:24 AM, January 04, 2007  

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