Thursday, August 28, 2008

Photostory Friday: Magnificent Desolation

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Utah is a paradox. The state I live in is the thirteenth largest (in mass) of the fifty states. It's 84,904 square miles of the most dull landscape anywhere, punctuated by small oases of the most spectacular scenery on Earth (really, I suppose that could be said for all of the West). 

This fact was brought home to me again this past weekend, as we made a trip south, to St. George -- about as far from Farmington as you can get, and still be in Utah.  I live in northern Utah, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, with the Great Salt Lake to the west. I think it's a very pretty place, but the trip to St. George was so BORING! I love deserts, I think they are simplistically beautiful. But miles and miles (and miles and miles) of sage brush, do not a desert make. The only thing of interest on that 300 mile trip was one small, and seemingly out of place, emu and llama farm. 

But, then there are those other places. The national parks. The places with the amazing names: Delicate Arch, Island in the Sky, Angel's Landing, The Fiery Furnace, Dead Horse Point, Cedar Breaks. These places make you feel small and insignificant at the same time that they overwhelm you with gratitude for the chance to stand in God's footprint.

I find it ironic that all of these places are -- geologically -- in their final death throes. Water and wind and ice have taken these once verdant regions and created grotesquely, magnificent scenes. They are the landscapes of imagination. Who knew that destruction could be so beautiful?

The caribbean  and the tropics are often referred to as paradise, but two of the words most often associated with the West are Heaven and Hell. Sometimes, I think the difference between the two, is nothing more than a matter of intensity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Next Ten Songs on my iPod. Part 2

I have a million things to do. So, I think I'll blog. I like to procrastinate.
When I get around to it. 
Gather round the computer kids, it's time for another rousing rendition of everyone's favorite blogger event: The Next Ten Songs on my iPod!
I have downloaded (or is it uploaded?) my vast music library on to my iPod -- or as much of it as will fit. Okay, maybe vast is a little much, let's go with extensive and eclectic. 
Note: this is not a top ten list -- it is a random sampling.
iPod is set to shuffle, and here we go:

1. If I had the things I wanted: Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band
These guys are a local group here in Utah, though they have quite a following across the country. They are very musically interesting -- banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, acoustic bass, drums and any other weird thing they come across. Their sound is unique -- they call it "Post Hee Haw Funkadelic  Hip Hop New Grass." Incidentally, I used to live next to Jim Shupe, Ryan Shupe's cousin, he was the most amazing fiddle player I've ever seen. This song is from their live album. If you ever get a chance to see them live, do it -- it's a great show!

2. Matthew: John Denver
I listen to John Denver two times a year - the spring and the fall -- the rest of the time, I have no interest. I'm not sure why. His music reminds me of when I was a kid -- my parents played a lot of John Denver in the late 70's -- when I was very young. Everybody played a lot of John Denver in the 70's. It was listening to "Annie's Song," when I was a teenager, that led to my epiphany, wherein I realized that the actual words to songs could be very meaningful. This is a song based on the true story of his uncle -- who was actually named Dean. This is from the last live album that he did, before he died. 

3. Star Trekkin': Dr. Demento
Actually, I'm not sure who does this song, but I got it from a Dr. Demento collection. I am not a trekkie, in any sense of the word -- though I am a big fan of William Shatner -- or at least his Priceline commercials. This song is hillarious. And very odd. 
"There's Klingons on the starboard bow! Scrape 'em off Jim!"

4. Open Road: Bret Michaels
Yes, that Bret Michaels, the lead singer for Poison. He has a solo career -- who knew? Well, I didn't, until a couple of years ago, when he was a judge on "Nashville Star" (don't ask). So, you ask, what does it sound like? Pretty cool, actually. It's not the most intellectual stuff. He mostly sings about Rockin'! His voice is very distinct, but his solo stuff doesn't really sound like Poison (no C.C. DeVille on the guitar) it has more of a John Mellencamp sound. This is a great summer anthem type song, about kids who just want to rock! What else?

5. Life's what you make it: Hannah Montana
In the interest of full disclosure, I had to put this song on the list -- it was the next one that came up. Obviously, some of my 11 year old daughter's music has crept in to my extensive and eclectic music library. I had to go back and look this song up to find out what the title was. I swear I don't listen to this music! Okay, I swear I've almost never listened to this music. If I'm being totally honest, I have to admit, that whatever "it" is, Miley Cyrus seems to have "it." The girl certainly has a presence. Here's hoping fame doesn't destroy her life, like it has done to so many other young girls, thrust, suddenly, into the adult world. 

6. I like him: The Man of La Mancha Soundtrack
I love the story of Don Quixote. There's something very touching about a man who sees people as they really are. And I'm a sucker for hopeless causes -- the idea of an impossible dream, something unattainable, yet worthy of the struggle, nevertheless. 

7. Lift Me Up: Kate Voegele
I don't know anything about this song or the artist, except that it was on the official soundtrack for the 2008 United States Olympic Team. It's one of those over coming all obstacles kind of songs. It's not too bad -- it would be better, accompanied by pictures from the olympic games. Come to think of it, that gives me an idea...

8. Blowin' in the Wind: Joan Baez
I'm not even sure where I got this -- it must have come off of the "Forrest Gump" Soundtrack. Of course, this is one of those Bob Dylan songs, made famous by so many other people. Personally, I'll take Peter, Paul and Mary's version -- or even Bob Dylan, himself. And that's saying something -- normally, I subscribe to the idea that Bob Dylan is an amazing song writer, who should never be allowed near a microphone. 

9. Little Bird: Peter Breinholt 
Another local. Peter Breinholt is at the very top of my listening preferences -- any time, anywhere. His sound is very folksy, but very warm. He also puts on a great live show. This song is pretty lullaby about his youngest boy. It's just Peter (who has a very unique voice) and a very tinny sounding, acoustic piano. That would make sense if you listened to it. Go ahead. Go to itunes and sample it. I'll wait. 

10. Linus and Lucy: George Winston
This is the great tune, composed by Vince Guaraldi, for the animated Peanuts television shows. It's the one we all know. Remember those Peanut's specials? That was the only time I ever remember seeing commercials for Dolly Madison snacks on TV. I still watch them when they come on -- I own the best ones on DVD. There are three characters I have always identified with: The Scarecrow, from the Wizard of Oz, Kermit the Frog, and Charlie Brown. That's a blog for another day. I was so excited when I finally figured out how to play this song on the piano - at least part of it. I hear this tune, in my head when I walk down the street. Or lean on a brick wall with my best friend. Or when I buy a crappy Christmas tree. Or when someone draws a Jack-O'-Lantern face on the back of my head. 

So there you have it. What's on your iPod?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Photostory Friday: Magic Moments

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

I love Disneyland. I always have. I'm a sucker for anything that Walt Disney (the man, not the conglomerate) had a hand in. This past May, we took a trip to Southern California -- a first for my kids. As a kid, Disneyland was a magical place to me, but, as a parent, taking my own children there for the first time, it was even better. As we grow older, cynicism creeps into many areas of our lives. One of the great blessings of having children, is that they are seeing everything for the first time. It's all fresh and new, and that wide-eyed amazement is infectious. California is only two states away from us, but Disneyland is not likely to be a place that we get back to on a regular basis. My kids are still at ages where they can be truly astonished by something, so I wanted this trip to be special. I wanted each of my kids to have that moment -- that experience that would burn itself into their memories, and stay with them all their lives. 
For Emma, that was easy. The look on her face, the first time she saw a life size, flesh and blood, Disney Princess, told me that the moment had arrived (the first time she saw a life size, flesh and blood Goofy, was somewhat more traumatic).

Jordan is almost eleven, and not as easily wowed. But, ever the model, she lit up when a large crowd gathered to watch as she sat for a caricature, in New Orleans Square. They "Ooed" and "Awed" and told her how beautiful she was. With Jordan, sometimes that's all it takes. But, for my money, it was Matt who had the coolest experience of them all -- because it was mine too. 

Matthew loves Star Wars, and in Tomorrowland right now, there is an ongoing attraction called "The Jedi Training Academy." Several times each day, a crowd gathers around the stage, and a couple of "Jedi Masters" pull several kids from the audience, dress them in robes, and give them lightsabers, for a little Jedi training.  After the kids have practiced for several minutes, the area is suddenly secured by Stormtroopers, and then who makes an appearance? DARTH VADER! Followed shortly by DARTH MAUL! -- and they look like they just walked off of the movie set. They try to turn the young apprentices to the dark side of the Force, and, finally, it is determined that the only way to settle the issue is for each of the kids to face, either Darth Vader or Darth Maul, in a duel. 
I digress here to say that I was born in 1972. Star Wars was my childhood (and not a small chunk of my adulthood, for that matter).

So, Matt fought a lightsaber duel with Darth Maul! That was Matt's moment. When it was all over, the only thing bigger than the smile on his face, was the smile on the face of his father -- who had just lived, vicariously, through Obi-Matt-Kenobi. 
It ended up being a magical moment between my son and me -- one of those rare instances where generations come together. My son really looks nothing like me. We want our children to grow to be independent individuals, with their own ideas and characteristics, but, for that brief moment, it was a thrill to see myself, in the boy standing before me. 
I took hundreds of pictures on this trip. This one of Matthew is my favorite. 

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Is Michael Phelps a hero? 
He sure seems like one. 
Perhaps I should ask the bigger question: Are athletes heroes? Or is that title reserved only for people like firefighters and soldiers? 
Is it more heroic to save a life or to inspire one? To keep the body from dying, or to breathe life into the spirit?  What defines a hero?

Heroes are not always bigger than life, but they are always bigger than the situation that they are placed in. They set the standard in that moment. Some heroes protect our lives and property. Some defend our rights and freedoms.
And, some heroes, lift our spirits and show us that what we thought was impossible, is achievable. They give life to that voice inside each of us that longs to cry out "I am here!"
They raise us, sometimes momentarily, sometimes eternally, into the realm of immortals. They move us to find the greatness inside of ourselves, and to share it with the world.
When you climb to the pinnacle of your world, you are a hero.
When you can bear the weight of a nation upon your shoulders, and still stand straight and tall, you are a hero.
When every boy in America wishes he were you, you are a hero. 
So, the answer is yes. 

Michael Phelps is a hero.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Photostory Friday: An Ode to the "Y" Chromosome

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

I've told you about my girls, Jordan --  the leggy, blonde model and Emma-- Atilla the Five Year Old. So, i guess I'd better tell you about Matthew. Matt is our middle child, and only son. He's a nine year old bundle of charm. Boys are completely different than girls. Not necessarily less drama, just less of the "world is coming to an end" kind. More of the "blood and guts" kind -- you know, guy stuff. Matt is a companion, a helper, a reminder that my job as a father and a teacher is a great responsibility. He is also very patient -- and forgiving  -- of his father's shortcomings. Matt is one of my best friends. 

Oh, and all of the girls at school love him. 

A few years ago, when Matt was making that transition from child to kid, I sat down and wrote about boys:


  Being a boy is having shoes that make you run faster and jump higher. It is building backyard fortresses of scrap plywood. It is exploring outer space, sailing the high seas, and battling monsters -- all at the same time. It is being chased by the girls, secretly hoping (and scheming) to get caught, but being willing to take that secret to the grave. 

   When you’re a boy, every football you throw is a touchdown pass, every shot with a basketball is a buzzer beating, game winner, every baseball hit, a home run. A boy is sure that his dad could easily take any of the other guy’s dads - and isn’t afraid to say so. A boy can admire Han Solo and Luke Skywalker and still thrill when Darth Vader comes on screen. 

   Being a boy is digging for dinosaur bones in your backyard -- and being pretty sure that one was the real thing. It is going down the river with Huck Finn and whitewashing the fence with Tom Sawyer. It is having more fun planning exploits, than actually carrying them out. It is having a crush on the girl next door. And the babysitter. And your fifth grade teacher. 

   Boys know that video game scores are important. Boys are as interested in tricks as they are in treats. A boy carries everything he needs to survive in  his pockets. When you are a boy, playground swings become rocket ships, and jet fighters. You dress in cowboy boots, a Superman cape, and a space helmet -- just to cover all of your bases. 


Being a boy is burying “treasure” in your backyard, just so you will have some to dig up -- then forgetting where you buried it anyway. It is taking a bath and wondering where all the scrapes and bruises came from (I honestly don’t remember falling down that often). It is being afraid of the high dive, but being mortified that you might be the only one who is. It is pledging “blood brotherhood” with your best friend, but being a little squeamish about the actual “blood” part. Being a boy is wanting to grow up to be a fireman. And an archaeologist. And an astronaut. And just like your dad. 

   Boys conduct “scientific” experiments, by tying firecrackers to various toys “just to see what will happen.” Boys play tennis -- with rocks. Boys know how to get a double missile  on Space Invaders. Boys have an endless fascination with bugs and body noises, and anything else that grosses out little girls. A boy knows that no one makes a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich than his mom. 


 Being a boy is climbing higher and riding faster than you would ever admit to your mother. 

   Being a boy is putting on backyard concerts, with tennis racket guitars and trash can drums. 

   Being a boy is being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. 

   Being a boy is being prepared. 

   Being a boy is imagining that you are the only thing that stands between your third grade class and an entire fleet of alien invaders -- and liking the odds.

   Then again, maybe that’s just me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fair time again!

Well, it's August, which, of course, means that it's time for the Davis County Fair once again. As usual, I'm entering a couple of pictures in the Living Arts Exhibit. But, this year, I've also talked Jordan into entering a few pictures that she has taken in the past year, as well. If you're in the area, and you have a little time, drop by and have a look. It's free, by the way.
The first three pictures here are Jordan's, the last three are mine (duh).
The Fair runs from Wednesday, August 13 through Saturday, August 16.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Photostory Friday: A Birthday Present for Grandma

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

A year ago my mother-in-law, Dorrie, was in the last stages of chemo-therapy treatment for breast cancer. The treatment was very hard on her. They say that the greatest risk factors for developing breast cancer are: being female and aging. This was an eye opening experience for me. I have a wife and two daughters. 

 During that time, and in the months since Dorrie began this ordeal, we have acquired a lot of pink ribbons around our house. We joined the Race for the Cure, whose slogan is: Today we fight a bully. 

 We don’t fight the bully. They do. The women in the pink shirts, with the hats and the scarves on their heads. We offer support, we do what we can. But each of those brave women, ultimately, face this monster alone. They wouldn’t say that, but I will. Seeing the survivor’s parade at the Race for the Cure rally was one of the most moving experiences of my life. They are strong. 

 Last August, my mother-in-law got her fondest wish, which was to have all of her family (which have scattered to the winds) in one place at the same time. At that time we numbered twenty-four (we’ve since added two more) -- thirteen adults and eleven grandkids, and we all came together for a week, in a cabin in the mountains east of Heber City. The reunion took place over Dorrie’s birthday.


What you see in the pictures is her birthday present (at least part of it). The older kids were returning from an early morning hike, to show their grandma their new shirts - all of the grandkids wore them that day.