Sunday, December 16, 2012

Love and Life and Loss

This is not the post I started out to write today.

I started out writing a post about hatred and murdered children and how desensitized our society has become. I wanted to vent about the horrible events of Newtown, Connecticut and other recent tragedies. I wanted to give in to the rage and write my rawest emotions and fiercest anger. I actually did write those things, all of them, but when it came time, I couldn't click on the publish button. I'm not going to contribute to the hatred that flows too easily through the air that we breathe and the thoughts that we think.

And our frog died tonight.

Swimmy was a tiny, african river frog. Emma won him six months ago, and he lived with us for about five months, three weeks, and six days longer than I thought he would. African river frogs are not hard to take care of -- you change their water every month or so, drop in a food pellet now and then, and they pretty much do the rest. You don't take them for walks or pet them. You don't cuddle with them or play catch. You mostly just look at each other.

But the grief in our home tonight is real. Emma is crying because she is just coming to understand the wrenching emotion of losing something (or someone) in which you have invested time and love. The rest of our tears come from watching Emma's poor little heart break.

Love and life are profound.

And each life touches every other life, which is why loss is so difficult to accept.

I planned to write tonight about the pain that is caused by hatred, but I think the deepest pain is really a result of love, and the loss we feel when something or someone we love is separated from us. Hatred is cold and small and singular, but love is warm and affirming and encompassing. The potential breadth of love is never ending.

I would never equate the life, or loss, of a small frog with the lives of children, cut short by a deranged and hateful man. That loss is more than I can comprehend. There is no answer that provides comfort, except for this: Love is eternal.

Know that life is a miracle.

Know that life is significant.

Know that every life matters.

And know that the chance to live is superseded only by the chance to love, and the pain we feel at the loss of a loved one is the evidence that our hearts are working properly.

I believe that there are more hearts in this world that love, than hearts that hate.

And I will always believe that.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Roads that take Us Home

Bear with me, everything makes me reflective, this time of year.

A road is a funny thing. Each one leads to somewhere, and away from somewhere else. The difference between the two, is the direction the traveler is moving. 

Thanksgiving is the great traveling holiday. I always think about roads at Thanksgiving. It must have something to do with that song "Over the river and through the woods (to Grandmother's house we go)." 

When I was young, we were always on the road to my grandma's house each Thanksgiving, and there was a portion of the highway that ran over the Ogden River, and through a small stretch of "woods." We could NEVER pass that place without someone mentioning that song. To this day, I can't pass that stretch of road without thinking of the song. I still feel compelled to mention it too. 

Roads lead us to many places -- to school, to work, to our wedding, to the place of our birth and the birth of our children,  and to the place of our final rest. Some roads take us to places we should not go, and some lead us to sacred ground. 

I think about the roads I once took, to places that I haven't been in many years. I think about the roads I may travel someday, and the roads that lead to places I may never see, but maybe my children will. 

I know it's a cliche, but for me, at Thanksgiving, all roads lead home. Home is more than a structure, more than an address. Home is love and joy and acceptance -- at least it should be. Home is where you want to be, more than anywhere else on Earth. 

So here's to the roads you'll travel this Thanksgiving.

May they be beautiful. 

May they be safe. 

May they lead you home, wherever that is.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ok, Let's talk about change...

The candidate I voted for did not win.

This is America, and that's the way it goes sometimes.

I respect the process by which we elect our national representatives, and I accept the will of the people, as the supreme sovereign voice in this country.

That doesn't mean I'm happy. Nor does it mean I'm mad.

I'm discouraged.

Democracy is messy stuff, and no one will ever be content all the time. That's one of our greatest strengths as a nation -- we're ill at ease. We want more. We want better solutions. We want higher achievements. We want to be better than we were before. We reach. We fight. We stretch. We grow. We bend. We break. We rebuild. We strive for the thing that is just out of reach.

At least we used to.

Lately we just fester and dig in our heels. We divide and no one conquers. We're stagnant and we're petty. We're self righteous and self absorbed. We're dying. Spiritually, morally, every way, we're dying.

Something needs to change.

I direct the following to President Barack Obama:


Four years ago, you promised us hope and change. Hope only gets you so far, and nothing has changed. At least not for the better. In every way, this nation is in worse shape than it was when you took office. And I don't lay that all at your feet, and this is not a castigation of your policies -- it's a plea for change.

Four years ago you had the chance to be something special -- a President and not a partisan. You squandered that opportunity. Tonight the pundits began talking about your legacy -- what you will leave behind. For what will you be remembered?

Be a headline in History, sir, and not a footnote.

Astound us.

Once again, you have the chance to bring real change to this nation. Use that power wisely. We are heading for a cliff, and we're running downhill. A six billion dollar campaign season got us to exactly where we already were -- the status quo. Your party holds the Senate and the Presidency, their party holds the House, and the truth is, the Republicans aren't going to budge -- and neither would the Democrats, if the roles were reversed. Which puts the ball back in your court.

Change things. You have the power. And, you have nothing to lose.

Heal this country.

Walk across the aisle, and work with them. Your nation needs you, more than ever before, to be the bigger man.

We need you to change the direction we are headed.

We need you to change the political dialog in this country.

We need you to accept the mantle of leadership, and learn to lead by example.

You have the choice to determine your own legacy.

For your sake, and for mine, and for this nation that we both love, I hope your legacy is one that the unborn generations will look back on as the moment when everything changed.

For the better.

God Bless America,

A Concerned Citizen

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Week 25

Day 177

June 24: Sometimes our kitchen reaches critical mass -- everything is a mess, everything smells. Please don't stare too long at the contents of my refrigerator.

Day 178

June 25: Welcome to Emma's Outdoor Beauty Salon. Would you prefer red...or red?

Day 179

June 26: There was just this big puddle in the driveway...

Day 180

June 27: Matt and Emma -- missing Jordan, while she's away at Girl's Camp, though unwilling to admit it -- bond over watching fish jump into the sunset.

Day 181

June 28: Say hello to her li'l friend!

Day 182

June 29: I was GOING to mow the lawn, but when I went to get the mower from the shed, I was accosted by a swarm of wasps. How do they build their nests so fast? Well, they won't be inhabiting this any more.

Day 183

June 30: I love the hands of young brides -- they're so delicate and so pensive. One of my favorite things to do is to take wedding and bridal pictures. There are so many beautiful images to be captured and so much happiness -- I love to watch the couple, through the course of the event. Amidst all the craziness, they still find time for stolen glances and little hand squeezes. Or to sit, hands folded quietly, and reflect on the beginning of their new life.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ten Songs on my iPod

It's time for another edition of: The Next Ten Songs on My iPod.

Ipod set to shuffle...and here we go:

1. You're the Inspiration -- Chicago

This song takes me back to my childhood living room, and our record player. I'm singing (earnestly) to any of a number of fifth grade beauties, with names like Abby and Kim and Lisa...

2. Glory of Love -- Peter Cetera

What are the odds? A Chicago song, followed by a Peter Cetera song. This song is iconic to my generation. This is the love song from The Karate Kid part 2 -- the best of the Karate Kid movies. 
Live or die man?!

3. The Living Years -- Mike and the Mechanics

This song ought to make me think about the passing of my father, and the birth of my son -- it practically tells the story. But that's not what it makes me think of -- when I hear this song, I think about the girl I kissed over Christmas break, when I was sixteen. 

4. Grease -- Franki Valli

This is a great movie, but to tell you the truth, I love Grease 2 even more -- the movie AND the soundtrack. 

5. Don't Stop -- Fleetwood Mac

I love the message of this song. Never stop. Never give up. Keep looking for the positive. Things change when you believe they can change. 

6. Playing With the Boys -- Kenny Loggins

Another iconic song. If Kenny Loggins isn't on the soundtrack of your generation, then you're not part of that generation called X. The volleyball scene from Top Gun -- this was the reason girls watched Top Gun. So says my wife.

7. Make it with you -- Bread

This song takes me waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy back to when I was very little. My parents were in to that mellow 70's sound. Why are they called Bread? I've always wondered that...

8.Rhythm of My Heart -- Rod Stewart

I love the visuals that this song paints -- of a neighborhood celebrating. Remember when we used to do things like that? I like happy songs. 

9. Dream Weaver -- Gary Wright

I don't have the same connection to this song that others my age have - namely Wayne's World. I was serving and LDS mission at the time that that movie came out. Actually, I have a two year pop culture gap -- any reference to anything that happened between the end of 1991 and the end of 1993, is completely lost on me. 

10. Here I am -- Air Supply

I was a BIG Air Supply fan when I was young. I went to see them for my twelfth birthday. My next concert was Neil Diamond. Then Lionel Richie. 

Eventually I got cooler. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The "T" Jump

A summer day.

The cereal bowl is in the sink, and I'm outta here!

I look down our street -- Woodchuck Way -- and all I see are possibilities. The games and the adventures, and the pure American kid freedom to waste the day doing nothing at all. Accomplishing absolutely nothing may be the best way of all to spend a summer day. But not today -- today we have a plan. Today we're building the jump. THE JUMP.

Screen doors are slamming all over the neighborhood, and wheels are rolling -- skate boards and bikes and roller skates, that's how we roll.

Up and down the streets, jumping the curbs, you can smell the summer. (Summer smells like dirt and lemonade and Russian Olive trees, in case you were wondering. And hot, summer smells hot). Kids and their you want to know a secret? It's almost more fun to plan the adventures than it is to carry them out. When you're a kid, your imagination is vastly bigger than your resources.

But like I said, we had a plan.

Today, my best friend Aaron and I were going to build the jump.

This was in the hey day of Evil Knievel, and there was no doubt that only one of us was going to make this jump. And it wasn't me. I was generally opposed to the idea of seeing my own blood any place but where it belonged. No, Aaron was making history today. But first we had to build it. And when your resources are limited, you become resourceful...

You need two basic items to make a bike jump -- a ramp, and something to elevate the ramp. The higher the elevation, the greater the acclaim -- and the greater the possibility of death, a plus in any situation involving ten year old boys. We opted for an old, red, wooden toy box lid, and a stack of bricks. (This was a new subdivision, and it seemed every house had a left over stack of bricks in the garage or the unfinished basement).

The sight of the event would be in front of Aaron's house. The sidewalk had a nice upward slope to the West -- it was just long and steep enough to reach optimal speed, the speed of no return. The speed where bailing on the idea of the jump is as dangerous as the jump itself. Boys like to keep their alternatives simple -- in this case potential death, OR potential death with a healthy sprinkling of legend!

The ramp was up, and we decided to give it a couple of short test runs. I say "we" because Aaron always insisted that I at least try whatever hair brained idea we hatched. So I tried. But, the thing is, when you're talking about bike jumps -- especially jumps held up by a stack of bricks -- you have to be committed. If you hesitate at all, the bricks, that really don't want to be there in the first place, will just fall over. I timidly hit the bottom of the ramp, and the whole thing fell apart.

The funny thing is, this didn't seem like an omen at all.

Aaron decided -- he instinctively KNEW -- that you had to be going fast enough to fool the bricks. You had to be airborne before the bricks new what was happening. That requires speed. But, with Aaron there was always a twist. This time it was a "T" made of two spare bricks, placed about four feet from the ramp.

Aaron got on his bike. The Lone Ranger had Silver, Zorro had Tornado, Roy Rogers had Trigger -- Aaron had Gold Fever.

It was a disco bike. 

I don't even know what that means, but that's what he said. 

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is THE JUMP, as faithfully and clear as it plays back in my memory, thirty years later:

Aaron is about thirty feet up the sidewalk. The angle of the slope is about thirty five degrees. The temperature is in the low 80's. My palms are sweaty. Why are MY palms sweaty?

This was 1982 -- no helmets, no pads. No hovering mothers. No worries. 

I can see his face, nothing but determination. This jump matters. This jump is immortalizing. 

And now he's moving. The distance is closing. Fast. The wind is blowing his red hair -- in 1982 Aaron still had hair. He must be doing ninety! This is for all the marbles. This is for GLORY!

And then he's there. The bricks are clueless. The ramp holds, and the next five seconds are in slow motion:

Gold Fever leaves the end of the jump... foot...two feet...

The front tire is six feet in the air, but the rear tire is so close to the "T"...

It's inches away.....and...(I can hear my heart beating in my ears)....he...CLEARED IT! HE MADE THE JUMP LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!!!!!


A jump -- the verb version, not the noun -- requires two things, a take off AND a landing. 

It never occurred to me that he might not stick the landing. 

I look up from the "T" to see that Aaron is still airborne. He actually seems to be rising, like gravity no longer has a hold on him. And then Aaron and the bike separate. They just split apart. Gold Fever shoots out from under him, bounces on the back tire, and comes to a rest three houses away. 

And Aaron goes horizontal. 

As God is my witness, he was flying. HE WAS FLYING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! 

Knievel never flew!

Did he plan this? He would.

Well, everything that goes up, must come down, and down he came, at about the same thirty five degree angle that he started at -- he came down like an F-14 on an aircraft carrier. With no landing gear. 

He landed on his stomach, in the full Superman position, and slid across the sidewalk, to the end of his yard, and I went for his mom, and the band aids. Not for the first time -- or the last. But, before I reached the front door, I turned back at the sound of screaming. It wasn't screaming in pain, it was screaming for joy! There was Aaron, sitting up, basically bleeding from the entire front of his body, but looking triumphantly back at the "T" -- wobbly from the wind of the passing bike, and the impact of the F-14 crashing into the ground -- but still standing. 

Still standing. 

That's how we spent one summer day. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


If done right... can defense!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This One Time I Was Sleeping And...

Mama’s Losin’ It
This one time I was sleeping and...

...Well, it's hard to jump right into the middle of the story...

This one time I was sleeping and...

...It's just that, it wasn't really my fault, that's important...

This one time I was sleeping and...

...see, I was working this horrible graveyard shift -- Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. It's a killer. If you ever get the chance, call in sick and move to another state...

This one time I was sleeping and...

...I was REALLY in love with my wife (then girlfriend). REALLY...

This one time I was sleeping and...

...ok, I can't be the only person this has ever happened to...

This one time I was sleeping and...

...You know, the truth is, Disney makes movies about this kind of thing...

...sort of...

This one time I was sleeping and...


This one time I was sleeping and...

...I'm not saying I wasn't having a good time...

This one time I was sleeping and... was very relaxing. That's a compliment, you know...

This one time I was sleeping and...

...Look, in my defense, I'm probably a necrophiliac...

...or is that nymphomaniac?...

...narcoleptic. THAT'S it....

So, this one time I was sleeping and...

I suddenly woke back up and realized that my girlfriend (now wife) was STILL kissing me.

I knew I'd fallen asleep mid kiss.

And so did she.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Don't Know

So, I asked Emma what I should write about tonight, and her response was:

"I don't know."

That would be a very short post because, the truth is, there isn't much that Emma doesn't know.

For example:

Emma knows that eagles have see thru eyelids -- so they can still see, when their eyes are closed.

She knows that vultures have bald heads, so they can eat dead animals, and not get blood in their feathers.

She knows that owls don't blink a lot, and they have to turn their heads to be able to see peripherally.

(Emma just checked out ten books on birds, from the library)

She knows how to skip and hula hoop, at the same time.

She knows precisely which buttons to push on everyone.

She knows what iridescent means.

She knows she doesn't like to be mocked. Not "made fun of." Mocked.

She knows that some starlings can mimic the sound of human voices.

She knows that Grover Cleveland was the only President of the United States to serve two, non-consecutive terms.

She knows where everything is. If something is lost in our house we check with Emma first. Seriously.

She knows how to do her mom's nails. And her dad's too -- but that's a secret.

She knows how to climb waterfalls, and make rainbows.

She knows how to find your weak spot -- whatever it is.

She knows how to braid hair.

She knows what makes you tick.

She knows what makes HER talk -- she says that talking is her gift.

She knows the benefit of being the youngest daughter.

She knows that I'll always need her more than she needs me.

Oh, and she knows who Pablo Picasso is.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Brother is Strange

My little brother is strange.

Strange, but always entertaining.

Every time we see him, something new has happened to him, or he remembers something that once happened to him.

He does things differently than other people. He sees the world from a very unique point of view.

Did you ever watch Friends? Remember Phoebe Buffay? Do you recall how she was always saying quirky, off the wall, irrelevant things, like "I once spit in a pig's mouth"?

That's my brother.

We got together with him tonight, and as I was telling him about a chipmunk we saw on our hike yesterday, he comes out with this whopper:

"I once got attacked, and bitten by a squirrel."

But it gets better.

This happened at La Caille -- one of the most famous and exquisite restaurants in Salt Lake City (Tim was a dish washer at the time)

It happened inside a walk in refrigerator.

And the weird thing is, I believe him. This is the kind of thing that happens to my brother. But he tells the story in manner that makes you think this kind of thing happens all the time.

Because it does.

To him.

But, I can't help but laugh, as he talks about the squirrel making eye contact with him, and then running all over the refrigerator, as Tim throws everything he can get his hands on at it -- knives, bowls, tubs -- until he finally runs out of ammo, and the squirrel swaggers up to him, knowing he (the squirrel) had won. Tim takes one last swipe with his hand, and the squirrel sinks its fangs into his hand, and won't let go. He talks about the blood all over the refrigerator, and the call he had to make to some office to let them know that he might have rabies, and how no one seemed the least bit concerned that there was a possibly rabid squirrel running around in the walk-in refrigerator of a hundred dollar a plate French restaurant.

My brother's life is a cartoon.

That was just tonight.

He also swears his cat talks to him. In broken english.

He often forgets about occasions requiring presents, until the last minute. Last Mother's Day, he completely forgot, until he was on the way to our mother's house. He stopped at a convenience store, and bought her a Sprite. She drinks Coke. But it didn't matter anyway -- he got thirsty on the drive, and drank half of it. But he still offered it to her -- with the whole story to go along with it.

When we went to Disneyland a few years back, the elevators of the hotel we were staying in, had no floor indicator in the lobbies on the different floors, to tell you what floor the elevator was currently on. But one day Tim decided that they had had those indicators the day before, and he could not be persuaded otherwise. To this day, he believes some construction crew came in over night, and took all the floor indicators out. Of the entire hotel. In one night. The quietest and most efficient construction crew off all time.

Tim can recite every line of the first three Star Wars movies (the REAL first three movies), as well as the Indiana Jones movies. But he doesn't just know the lines -- he gets the nuances right. He knows what music is playing at any given part of the movie.

When he was a kid, one of his favorite past times was giving weather forecasts on a chalkboard we had in the basement.

And it goes on and on and on...

And Tim thinks this is a normal life...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

366: Week 24 -- The Alphabet

 June 17 - 23

Days 170 through 176

This week I took a little detour from the norm.

I decided to try and shoot the entire alphabet in a week. The rules were the letters had to NOT be intentional letters, and I had to shoot four consecutive letters each day, but once I had taken a picture of a certain letter, I allowed myself to shoot the same letter again, if I came across a better example.

It was a more fascinating project than I had anticipated, to walk around for a week, looking at everything as a potential letter.

I tried to steer away from the really obvious choices.

Some worked better than others.

Lessons I learned?

"Q" is easier to find than "R"

Sometimes you just have to call it what you want it to be, and hope everyone goes along. See "R" and "V" and "G" and "J"

People will think you're weird if you stop and stare at a rock wall outside a restaurant, hoping to find an "S"