Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A thank you note...

A thank you note:
Dear mom, 
Thank you for the gift of life. Thirty six years ago this Saturday, you brought a small baby, with a multitude of challenges, into the world. You brought me through the surgeries, and the cysts and the cotton balls taped over my little eyes, as they baked me under the heating lamp. And what you got in return, I'm afraid, was a know-it-all son, who didn't begin to comprehend the road you walked until I had children of my own. Thank you for that too -- were it not for the gift of my own life, I would never have known the greatest joys of my life -- being a husband and father. 
Life did not always treat you kindly. A young marriage and a young divorce, followed by another. But, you never let us boys go without. I marvel, looking back, at what you did to hold our family together. The odds against you were so staggering, that I can only begin to grasp the enormity of the situation, from a distance of many years. 
One of your boys did not complete the journey, with us. At least not yet. But Scott will be yours to raise someday -- I believe that with all my heart. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, but I got a glimpse, once I had a seven year old son of my own. 
I don't remember a Christmas that was ever lacking, though there must have been so little. 
You are a successful mother. I know, because the home we grew up in was a home of happiness and love. If not always order.
Thanks, Mom.
I love you.

Things I did once...#1

Okay, here's another semi-occasional addition to the blog (and, like the others, I may or may not get around to doing a second entry some day). Something I did once:
One time, when I was about sixteen, on the way home from the swimming pool that we had gone to for a scouting event, the car I was in had one of those big suction cups in the back seat -- you know, the kind that body shops use to pull dents out of cars.
I stuck it on my chest, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled (well, you get the idea). 
I gave myself a hickey, the size of a volleyball.
It lasted for three months.

The end.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Photostory Friday: AUTUMN!!!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

It's Autumn and I am pumped! This is, hands down, my favorite time of year. I once saw a statistic that stated that autumn moves down the slope of a mountain at a rate of about 200 feet per day. I don't know if that is accurate or not, but I have been watching the mountains above my house for several weeks now, and it's almost fully colored.  It's almost to my house! My belly button has been puckering and unpuckering, with excitement, for days now.

Fall is college football and the fragrance of decaying leaves. It's warm days and cool nights. It's subdued light and Ichabod Crane. 

It is the unbearably, breathtakingly, beautiful time of the year. Fall is when Nature performs the show, she has been preparing for all year -- an extravaganza of cranberry and rust, goldenrod and pumpkin orange. I have never been to New England in the fall (I've never been to New England at all, for that matter) but that is my dream vacation. I love living where we have all four seasons, and, truthfully, I really enjoy all of them. But I get tired of the heat of summer, and I weary of the cold and dreariness of winter, but I never tire of Autumn.

It is so beautiful, that it overloads my memory, and overpowers my senses and I forget, from year to year just how stunning the Fall is -- so it comes as a nice serendipitous surprise every September.

Well...that was a little more rapturous than I had intended, but ...in the words of Ramses...
So let it be written. So let it be done.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dorks 'R' Me

While browsing the internet the other day, I came upon a ghost from my past: The Huffy Bandit. My first bike. The most ridiculous of bikes. The Edsel of bikes. 
It was the early 1980's, and all of my friends were getting bikes. BMX was the buzzword of the the day, though none of us was actually involved with Boy's Motorcross. My best friend, Aaron, had a bike called "Gold Fever." He told me it was a disco bike. I saw no reason to doubt him -- like I said, it was the very early 80's.
So, when my parents finally agreed to get me a bike, this was what they came home with. Almost. Mine also had a long, trapezoidal shaped seat. It looked like a black pound cake. There were, literally, dozens of boys, about my age, in the neighborhood where I grew up, we all got bikes about the same time. Only I rode the Huffy Bandit. 

As an aside, the bike was supposedly inspired by the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies. Remember that highlight of cinematic history -- when the biggest name in the world was Burt Reynolds?
See those uniquely curved handle bars? The combination of the bars and the elongated seat made it possible to do NOT ONE COOL TRICK!!! I couldn't wheelie, I couldn't jump. The most spectacular feat I ever accomplished on the Bandit was to try and navigate a dip on a dirt road, and fall on my face. It was a lot like riding on the back of mentally challenged moose. But, not as graceful. 
I blame my parents. It' obvious, looking back, that they are to blame for the dork that I am today. You should have seen the way they let me dress back then: cowboy boots and guns, a space helmet and a superman cape. Yes, I was dressing myself at that point, but they had the power to stop it, and they did NOTHING! I believe it was a conspiracy.
Proof you ask? I submit my final exhibit:
About the same time as the Huffy Bandit Affair, as it has come to be known, the kids in the neighborhood were getting roller skates -- the pre-roller blade kind. These were the skates with the plastic wheels, and the big rubber stopper on the end of the toe. The kind that made the quiet whooooooooshing sound, when you rode them down the street. Naturally, I wanted some too. 
Christmas that year was the only Christmas, of my childhood, that I distinctly remember there being no snow. A perfect Christmas for roller skates, and, on Christmas morning, I got roller skates. With metal wheels. And no brakes. Naturally, I was the only one so blessed. 
Do you know the sound of metal scraping along pavement? It's like a cow bell around your neck. It's a dork alarm, so that everyone knows when you're coming. 

I'm not bitter though. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My heart breaks

I have to get something off of my chest. 
Yesterday, in our quiet little town, we had a terrible incident. Following an early morning domestic dispute, a man barricaded himself inside of his pickup, in his driveway with two loaded guns. The standoff lasted for twelve hours, and ended with the police moving in, and the man being killed. 
Sometimes these things happen, and we make a quick judgment about the situation, and move on with our lives.  But, rarely do they affect our own lives so directly. This incident happened less than a mile from my home, and in the neighborhood that I just moved from, in July. The man's name was Brian Wood, and he lived next door to a good friend of mine. I didn't know Brian well, I had only met him a couple of times. 
But, and this is where my heart breaks, he has a ten year old son. This boy is a good friend of my son, Matthew. They are in the same class in school. They play on the same soccer team. Before we moved, they were in the same Cub Scout troop. I don't know what led to the standoff, but I do know that whatever it was, it was not worth the damage that has been done to this boy.
I lost my dad, when I was twenty-six, to a momentary, idiotic decision. It left a gap in my life, impossible to fill. But, I was an adult -- I cannot imagine what this young man is dealing with, and will deal with forever. No one wants the last memory of their dad to be this, but because of what happened, this boy will remember that terrible night, every time he thinks of his father.
I want to judge this man harshly, and if I didn't have a personal connection, I probably would. But, my personal connection is my son. I talked to Matthew about the situation when I got home tonight. He told me that counselors came to his class today to talk to the kids about what had happened, and to help them cope with it, and to help them know how to help this man's son, when, and if, he returns to the class. Matthew reminded me that Brian Wood took him, and the other cub scouts, to day camp for two days, back in June. He told me that he was really a cool guy. Suddenly, I was grateful that Matt had had that experience. 
Matthew knows that this man was not a monster. When so many other people only know what they saw on the nightly news, Brian's son will have a few friends, including Matthew that know that there is more to the story. 
As for Matthew, he is pretty subdued. He told me he just hopes that his friend doesn't stop playing soccer. 
My heart is broken.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photostory Friday: An Update

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

A couple of months ago, I posted the story of my daughter Emma's popcorn. For those who weren't around then, here's a brief run down: My five year old daughter, Emma, caught the gardening bug (she did not catch this from either myself or her mother), and spent hours watching our neighbor in the big garden next to the house we were living in at the time. One day she came to me and asked for some popcorn, to which I replied that we didn't have any popped, at the time. 

No, she wanted the unpopped kernels, so that she could plant them in the garden. So I gave her eight little kernels of Orville Redenbacher's finest, and promptly forgot about it. But Emma didn't forget. She watered and weeded the little patch of ground that the neighbor had given her, and one day came to me and told me that her corn was getting big, and that I should come and see. Well, eventually she pestered me enough that I did go to see, wondering how I was going to break it to her that what she was seeing was weeds, not corn. You can't just plant Mr. Redenbacher in the ground and expect it to grow. Right? 

To my surprise, there were eight little stalks of corn, about a foot high, growing right where she planted them. I was flabbergasted. Emma was not. What had happened, was just what she had expected to happen. The first two pictures here are from that day (and also from the first post).
Over the summer we moved from that house, but not so far that we couldn't go back and check on the corn, now and then. The stalks eventually reached a height of about eight feet. This past weekend we harvested them -- if you can call plucking the ears off of eight stalks of corn, harvesting. Some of them are already drying, in the hope that the final chapter of this story will be a nice big bowl of popcorn for Emma. 

I am pleased on so many levels with this little incident. I am pleased that Emma gets to enjoy the fruits of her labor. I am pleased that she was so diligent in caring for her corn. And, I'm grateful for this lesson of simple faith, that I learned from my five year old gardener. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Photostory Friday: September 11: A Snapshot in Words

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Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

These pictures are of my daughter at the Healing Field. The Healing Field was begun by a flag company, here in Utah, following the tragedy of September 11, 2001. It has now spread around the nation, and the world. The concept of the Healing Field, was originally to display a field of  American Flags, with the names of each victim of the terrorist attacks. One flag for each victim. The idea has now grown to include a flag for each member of the armed services, killed in the war on terror. It is a poignant and sobering experience to walk through row upon row upon row of American flags, and to contemplate the price of liberty. If you get a chance to experience a Healing Field, do it. 
When the attacks of September 11 took place, I began, immediately, to collect all the newspapers and magazines and other sources that documented those first few days. I knew we were in the midst of one of those experiences that a generation never forgets. But, I also knew that over time perceptions would change about the day, and I wanted to remember what it was like at that very moment. I keep these items in a box, that I have not opened for several years now. That night, after I finally turned off the television, and put the kids to bed, I couldn't sleep. So I went to the computer, and started to write. I came across this in my box of articles yesterday. It is my first impressions of the day. Some of it turned out to be inaccurate, but it was interesting to see this first snapshot:

The skies tonight are quiet. They belong to the clouds and the birds and the stars. There are no aircraft anywhere in the skies above America tonight. All flights have been grounded indefinitely, because of a horrendous act of terrorism perpetrated upon the United States of America this morning.
At about 6:45 this morning, a passenger plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City. Twenty minutes later, another plane crashed into the other tower. Within an hour, both towers had fallen. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and a fourth went down in a Pennsylvania field. It was determined that each plane was hijacked in a coordinated terrorist attack. It is thought that the plane in Pennsylvania may have been heading for the White House, or another D.C. target. Two men were arrested, in New York City, with a truck full of explosives, possibly intending to blow up the George Washington Bridge. 
America suffered a tremendous blow today, and the nation, and the world are reeling. I do not know exactly how to feel. My emotions have run the entire spectrum. From grief and anger at the senseless violence, to pride, at the way volunteers appeared, almost instantaneously, to offer assistance where they could. I have been to the point of tears many times today, for many reasons. 
How do we cope with such a tragedy? How do we go on in the face of terror? Can we recover? I think the answer to the last question is an emphatic YES! Terrorism's greatest strength is fear, but fear can be managed. Terrorism gains strength, from the immobilization of it's victims. By submitting to fear, we give the perpetrators a victory. America is not a nation driven by fear. There is a reason that terrorism does not, and will not, succeed in America. Instead of cowering and falling into chaos and anarchy, Americans react, by coming together. 
Today we are shocked. Tomorrow we will begin to pick up the pieces, and to rebuild our cities. And our lives. Rather than divide us, national tragedy makes us all the more aware of who we are. We are Americans. Whether we live in New York, Washington D.C. or Salt Lake City, at these times, we are more conscious of our connections to one another, as citizens of the United States of America. Such events do not destroy us; they galvanize us into one nation. A nation, with the capacity to cope with such heinous acts, and to rise above them, as the bright, shining star of freedom in the world. 
Perhaps then, it is appropriate tonight that the skies are silent and empty, so as not to detract from the star of freedom and liberty. In the words of Thomas Paine, "These are the times that try men's souls." 
In the next few days, we will see many acts of heroism, because that is what America is: A nation of heroes. 
Never forget this day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembrance: Seven Years Later

It was a beautiful, late summer morning. I remember that, distinctly. There was not a cloud in the sky, for the entire day. I had just dropped the kids off at the baby sitter's  house, and turned on the radio in my car. Though I usually listen to the news, on the way to work, that morning I heard two voices that I did not recognize. They seemed to be talking about a plane of some sort, hitting a building somewhere. They were so agitated, that I thought I had come across a radio drama of some sort, by mistake. Shortly, the local morning news hosts came back on the air, explaining that some kind of plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City. I had a vague idea of what the World Trade Center was. By the end of the day, all of the vagueness was gone. The enormity of the disaster was not lost on me, but it was an accident happening on the other side of the country. That notion was soon cleared up, as well. 
I stopped at the Chevron, to get what I don't recall, and by the time I got back in my car, the second plane had hit the other tower. An accident was no longer a plausible explanation. By the time I got to work, the Pentagon had been hit. There was concern about a fourth plane -- United 93 -- that could not be accounted for. 
For me, the first several hours of September 11, 2001 are an auditory memory -- I did not see any of the footage until late that afternoon. There were things for me to do at work, but I was by myself, nearly the entire day, for which I am grateful. I needed the time to think my own thoughts, and to wrap my mind around the enormity of the unfolding situation. Before I left work that day, all flights over United States air space had been grounded. It was something that I had never given thought to -- the number of planes in the air, at any given time of the day, and to know that there were none anywhere caused the sky to look so big. So empty. That emptiness felt appropriate that day. I now work within the path of airplanes landing at the airport, and every day, as I see them fly over -- sometimes so fast and low -- I think about the planes of September 11, 2001. 
That night we sat in front of our television, watching the replay of events, and listening as the stories of heartache and loss flooded in. Before I knew it, it was dark outside and all of our windows were open, and our two young children were asleep on the floor. It was nearly 11:00 pm. I did not know what to do. It felt wrong to turn off the television and go to bed. It was not morbid fascination, it was sympathetic heartache. How can you turn away, when so many are in need of so much? Yet all we could do was to share their sorrow, and their dwindling hope...
I think about a quote from former mayor of New York, Rudy Guilianni: "We have met the worst of humanity, with the best of humanity." 
It is amazing to me that the darkest day of our nation's history, was also it's finest hour. When it all falls away -- the politics, the left, the right, the 300 million different opinions, the chaos of democracy -- there is more that unites us than divides us. There were so many good stories -- of friendship and heroism and charity -- that showed the true character of our country, that in  a strange way, I am grateful for having gone through the experience. 
The most remarkable story, in an ocean of heart stopping stories, for me, is the story of United Flight 93. We now know that they got news of the crashes in New York and Washington D.C., and knew that they were destined for another high profile target -- likely the White House or the Capitol. The forty people aboard that hijacked plane decided to take destiny into their own hands, while they still could. Knowing that they would likely die in the attempt, they phoned loved ones, said goodbye, and rushed the cockpit. The plane went down in a field near Shanksville Pennsylvania. Killing all aboard. And no one else.
The men who hijacked the plane, no doubt considered themselves brave. They saw themselves as heroes. They were not. Murdering thousands of innocent people is not heroism, it is butchery. Terrorism is a cowardly way to make a point. The passengers aboard that plane met hatred with love -- the greatest kind of love -- the kind where you lay down your life for a friend. Those people left this life on their terms, and not that of their captors, and I believe they were greeted by their Savior with open arms. It was a Christlike sacrifice. 
So how do you make a story like that even more heroic? I learned, just today, that the passengers waited until the plane was no longer over any residential areas, so that no additional lives would be lost when the plane went down. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend. And his nation. 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Photo Story Friday: Life

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Along the trail to Spectra Point, at Cedar Breaks National Monument, stands a tree -- a bristlecone pine. It's not a beautiful tree -- at least not by traditional standards. Beautiful trees have large palm fronds, and symmetrical shapes, and broad leaves, that burn fiery red, in the late seasons of the year. Bristlecones have very little foliage, and no symmetry. They are twisted and gnarled. Life is hard on bristlecone pines; they live where they have no business living. At 10,000 feet, the air is thin and the soil is terrible. But, adversity makes you strong. This tree is a survivor. This tree is 1600 years old. 
As I ran my hands over the ancient, grey surface, I thought about the history that has passed on this earth, during it's lifetime, and I wondered what it could teach me. The tree was born during the fall of the Roman Empire, but, it couldn't tell me about politics. It is older than Islam and just younger than the Emperor Constantine, but, it could not teach me about religion. It is just a tree, after all. 

But, what it could teach me about was life. And longevity. And fortitude. And strength. And character. You can't always change the circumstances of your life, but you always have complete control over your response to those situations. You play the hand you are dealt. 
There is a young, Silver Maple tree in my backyard. Eventually, it may grow to be a big, beautiful tree -- if it survives the violent winds that blow out of the canyons, east of our home. 
Silver Maples have notoriously shallow root systems. But this lonely, bristlecone pine has burrowed its massive roots deep into the rocky cliff, on which it stands, and no force has shaken it, in sixteen centuries. 
Your life is what you make of it. 
That's the wisdom of the ancients. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Things I've seen: #1

I've been contemplating adding this as a segment to my blog for a while now. 
Things I've seen will be a semi-occasional addition to the blog. Who knows, maybe I'll never see another interesting thing in my life. Feel free to add descriptions of the things you've seen.

Well for the first installment, the picture you see before you is a three wheeled motorcycle, called a trike. 
I get stuck in traffic, a lot, on the way home, and it can get a little mind numbing -- but, I swear I saw this, a couple of weeks ago...
The trike was purple.
There was a midget driving it (or little person, I guess they prefer)
There was a hot blonde (of normal dimensions -- I'm really not trying to be insensitive) on the back. 
It made the drive home almost worthwhile that day. 

14 years

Fourteen years ago, September 2, 1994, a young woman of beauty and grace, took a big chance and married a shy, self conscious boy, not much older than she. He had big ideas about how it would all work out. It turns out he was wrong. The house came later than expected. The riches and the easy life are not on the horizon. They may never be. Yet there was joy in their home. Not always -- sometimes life has been unkind -- but those difficult times are as precious and memorable as the good times. There has been more laughter than tears. 

I don't know what I've brought to you  in the last fourteen years, Sharon, but you have given me hope and confidence. You have loved me unconditionally, when that must have seemed like hardest thing on Earth. You have made me a father, three little miracles. You support me, you encourage me, you believe in me -- and there must be times when that seems like a hopeless task. But, I can never express what your love means to me. 

Thank You for the life you have given to me. 
I love you.

p.s. I'm still going to write you a song someday