Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One Bites the Dust, Another Gets Hosed

OK, maybe I shouldn't joke about it, but it has been an eventful week for us. Saturday we drove past our old house in Provo. The city bought it from us two years ago and they said they would pull it down within a few months. Two weeks ago we drove past and it was still there with the "No Tresspassing" sign in the window. But when we drove past on Saturday, things were definitely different. We pulled over to take a look. A backhoe was sitting in the middle of a pile of brick, wood and dust. It was a shock to see our first little house become a pile of rubble. There were pieces here and there that were still recognizable: the laundry room door, fence posts that Ann and I had put in, some pipes, rain gutters, and pieces of walls. Mary was traumatized. She cried for ten minutes. We have lots of memories of that place: Dad's surprise 50th birthday party, Ann locking us out of the house two hours after Little Kev was born, ice growing on our bedroom wall, remodeling the kitchen, putting in the fence. Life was easier back then, even if we were living in a condemnable house.

Then Monday morning Ann got a call from her cousin, Shelly. She asked Ann how she was doing. Ann said she was doing well and asked why. Shelly said her mother had just called from Ann's dad's house. His house had burned down! Ann called me at work, and, well, all I could think was, "Wow!" (And worry, of course. That is a worried "wow".) I just didn't know what to think.

Lynn, Ann's father, called us that evening and said he was sitting with his feet up watching television. He joked with Ann, "Well, Jeanne has been asking for an addition for a while. Now she gets a complete overhaul." That is how Lynn is. After the initial shock, he finds humor in the situation and then gets back to work. Ann and I are confident he will have a house up and done by the end of March. That is just how he is; he takes care of the problem without waiting around. There is a lesson there in that, the same lesson in Gandalf's words to Frodo when he says that everyone who lives to see hard times wishes they hadn't, then says, "But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

The fire was a roof fire and from what we heard, didn't get down into the house all the way, but the firemen had water on the house for hours, so the house is a complete loss due to the smoke and water damage. (The "Another Gets Hosed" part of my post title should make more sense now.) Luckily, they were able to save some things from the house.

Anyhow, that's our news for the past while.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Well, it is here. Inauguration day for President Obama. I just had to share an experience that we had last night. First, I promise that what happened was not in any way prompted or influenced by me, Ann, or any of Mary's other family members. She hasn't ever heard anyone speak about the soon-to-be President, be they supporter or skeptic.

Here is what happened. We were sitting down at dinner, and I love using any opportunity I get to teach our wonderful children. Watching a child learn is an awesome experience. I believe that knowing what is going on in the world is important to know, even for a five-year-old. So, I told Mary that we were getting a new President of the United States.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"His name is Barack Obama," I answered.

"Obama? Oh bummer."

There you have it. And the way she said it was classic. That should give you all a laugh, whether you be supporter or skeptic.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Post Promised in eMail Update

Well, I promised a post in the e-mail I just sent out to all my friends and family, and I was just sitting down to write, but one of the things I have learned in my marriage is that if the Dixie Chicks are playing really, really loud on the radio, then my wife is very mad at me. I think it has only happened twice.

I hear "Wide Open Spaces" playing upstairs. I guess I had better go up and see if I did something….

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is real friendship?

One of my best friends is a past coworker named Bob. We used to spend so much time talking together when we should have been working (good thing we weren't often very busy) and we always had such a great time. We thought the same, liked the same things, and were so similar in so many ways. I was really sad when he left to work as a flight instructor.

Anyhow, he stopped by at work today to say hi to all of us, and we had a nice visit. He told us that he had finally gotten a job with an airline. He had finally reached his goal. Farns, another coworker, jokingly made the comment that Bob was the only RMP employee ever to make something of himself. After he left I thought about how much Bob had gone through to get to this point. I knew about the sleepless nights he and his wife had gone through (partially due to a possessed alarm clock in his daughter's room), the hours of studying and flying, and the other sacrifices. His success got me excited to "make something of myself." That made me think of something that all those self-help coaches and multi-level marketing people say about how you need to get friends that are successful so that you can be successful. They say, basically, that misery loves company, and if you have average people for friends, you won't be as likely to succeed because they don't want you to succeed. They will tell you why you can't do it instead of encouraging you because they are afraid that if you succeed you will leave. Or perhaps they are just trying to watch out for you so you don't waste the time and money.

Don't get me wrong in saying this - I have some fantastic friends - but I have experienced this in my life. In the times that I have told people about my goals and dreams, I have almost always gotten the "come back down to earth" speech, or I have at least been told to be careful, to think it through, in a tone of voice that says "It ain't gonna work. You're crazy."

I thought today about how sad I was when Bob left RMP. Maybe I would have even been happy if he had decided to give up his flight career or put it on hold. I still secretly wish he could somehow still work at RMP. Isn't it unfortunate that we are often that way with our friends, that we are negative about their goals and even wish them to fail at their dreams? I fear that I am even that way with my beloved Ann.

As I write this now, I think about how our friends could be compared to a bird that we love so much that we never let go of. We get so afraid of losing it that we hold it so tightly and for so long that when we open our hands to look at it, it immediately flees, or worse, it's wings are bent and broken so that it can no longer fly, or worse yet, we have squeezed the life out of it.

I worked with Bob for only a few years but we built a great friendship. I am sad that I may seldom ever see him much again. (It's too bad that we make such great friends with people that end up being in our lives so short a time, but that is a subject for another post. Thank heaven for eternity.) But today I was completely happy for his success. The things that we should hope for the most for our friends are their success and happiness. I am going to work harder at being complimentary and optimistic, kind and selfless. That is real friendship.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sky Breaker or Body Breaker?

As I got about half-way along the level part at the top of the water slide, I saw the light reflecting up into the tunnel and I was a little confused: the light didn't look right. Then suddenly I realized three things all at once. First, (and this explains the brighter-than-expected light) the covered part of the slide ended much earlier than I thought it did. Second, I perceived the awful reality that the slide was far steeper than I had supposed. And third, just before I dropped to oblivion, I remembered that I was supposed to cross my legs. I was too late. I caught the air, my legs went up and out, and I had lift-off. I thought I was going to die.

Somewhere along the line I was able to pull my legs together and I hit the slide again, because I quickly became aware that I was hydroplaning across the water (it felt like I was sliding down a washboard) with hundreds of needles of water slashing at my face. I thought to myself that I didn't remember reading on the sign at the top what I was supposed to do with my head–lay it back or keep it up–but before it mattered, I was at the bottom. I lay there for a moment, wondering why I had waited in line to experience aeroplaning, hydroplaning, and being body-slammed all within five seconds. Then I got up out of the slide and looked up to where I had just frivolously thrown my body from, trying to project my thoughts to Ann, "Remember to cross your legs! Don't forget to cross your legs!"

She didn't remember either.

It was the first time I had ever gone down a free-fall water slide. I chose the blue slide called Sky Breaker because I thought it was less severe than the other two free-fall slides at Seven Peaks in Provo. It had a full tube covering the slide for the first part of the drop (or so I had thought) so I could hold myself down in the slide. It extended further than the slide next to it appeared to. Perhaps part of my decision was based on the psychological response engendered by the color blue: calm and tranquility. They should paint that slide a frenzied myriad of painful colors. Or maybe black with little skull-and-crossbones along it's length. As Ann and I walked away from the slide tower, we looked back at the slides and saw that it stretched out further than the other slides only because it had that long, level stretch at the top. After that, it ceased to extend in a horizontal direction. When I made my decision I was standing under the slides on the stairs and couldn't tell the steepness. Lesson learned: look at things from all angles before you make a judgement.

We went to Seven Peaks last Saturday, August 2nd. It was lots of fun. Mary, Eden and Kevin went with us, and they had a blast going down the little kiddie slides. Mary was actually a lot braver than I thought she would be with the exception of the wave pool. She wasn't too thrilled with that. Eden was a little cautious about the longer slides. She makes the most hilarious faces when she is afraid. But on the whole I was pleased; I never really learned to swim, and I want our children to at least not be afraid of the water. Everything went well until the very end. Ann was the last person to do something. She went off the rope swing for the last time, and when she got out of the water, her neck really hurt. It quickly got worse. She went to the first-aid station, and to make a long story short, they were concerned enough with possible back injury that they called the paramedics. Ann got an ambulance ride to the hospital and had some x-rays. They said she appeared to be alright, but told her she had a back sprain and to take it easy. We don't know yet how much that will cost, but I suppose the ambulance ride alone will be about $700. Hey, I don't mind paying for an ambulance driver's family's Christmas.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What America Means to Me

When I drive to work I usually listen to Bob Lonsberry on the radio. It gives me a chance to hear some of what is going on in the world, and I usually agree with his views. It also helps me know how fast I need to drive: if I hear too much of the news, I know I will be really late for work. But this morning while I ate breakfast I read something that made me change my morning routine a little. It was an article in the Ensign that talked about how we let our busy lives keep us from concentrating, pondering, and nourishing our spiritual selves.

I decided to use my drive to ponder, and as I sat in my car pondering on what to ponder, I saw an American flag, and I thought to myself, if someone asked me what being an American meant to me, what would I say? Or to put it another way, what kind of patriot am I?

To me, being an American is less about the land and more about the company I keep as an American. I don't mean only my family and friends, but people I never have and never will meet as well. People from California to Florida; people far away in Alaska or Hawai'i; people all over the world who call America home. When I think about America, I think about people working together to make their lives better. I think particularly about families struggling to make it in a tough world. I think about small-town celebrations where everyone gets together to have fun and to celebrate being free. I think about the soldiers across the world who protect our freedoms. I think about the working men and women who keep the economy turning, who keep America rolling forward. I think about the stay-at-home mothers and fathers who nurture and teach millions of wonderful children who will be the future of America.

Living in Utah and being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adds a little more to my view of freedom. In a way, we have two days of Independence in July: the fourth and the twenty-fourth. The twenty-fourth marks the anniversary of when the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake valley after an exodus fraught with persecution, hardship beyond my conception, and death. When they reached the valley, that exercise of freedom had really just begun. I have heard so many stories about how the people worked together to turn the desert into a place to live and to thrive. I think about the Mormon Battalion, called to serve their country even after the government of that country had failed to provide those promised rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I think about Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children." That is the spirit of America.

The American Dream is not having a house or fancy car like so many commercials today claim. It isn't having a large property or a big boat. The American Dream is achieving those things. The American Dream is the opportunity that we have for success. It is having the freedom to work to honestly earn those things that make us better, and then using them to continue in achieving new goals. It is becoming self-sufficient. It is progress.

On the American flag I see fifty bright stars of hope on a field of blue, placed on a foundation of red and white, the integrity and courage of all those who have fought for our freedom and those who continue to protect and enliven that freedom, at war and at home. I am proud to be an American because I am proud to stand among the people in this country who are courageous yet humble, who are earnestly striving to achieve more yet are completely grateful for what they have, and who are indefatigable but who also have time for fun with family and friends.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Family - A Reason to Blog

With a crescendo of music and magic, the dragon exploded with a flash, sending sparks cascading into the air and a spray of glistening water droplets toward the sky. The lights dimmed, and the music quieted. Twinkling harp runs and flute trills ran up and down. Lights sparkled as a fairy flitted back and forth above the water, here, then there. A change in the music as it started to build, and then a flare of strings as they started playing the main theme. The music continued to intensify until out on the Rivers of America, with a crash of light and sound, Mickey appeared at the helm of the Mark Twain, accompanied by pin-wheeling fireworks, dozens of dancing Disney characters, and jets of water and arcing fireballs synchronized to a delightful score of music. The Rivers burst into flame, the sky lit up with thrilling, sparkling pyrotechnic energy.
And Mary went wild.
Have you ever watched Disneyland's Fantasmic with a five-year-old, princess-loving, imagination-driven little girl? Mary, our oldest, just lost it. She went crazy, swinging her arms around, bouncing, yelling "whoooo hoo!" and "yay!" and waving with both hands. Her whole body trembled with excitement in my arms. Her face was lit up, and she was more excited than I have ever seen her. It was a wonderful experience for a parent, and it was magical for both of us - for me because I love to see her be happy.
And besides, Fantasmic is wonderful - really fantastically orchestrated. And truth be told, Mary is perhaps a little more like me than I would like to admit. I remember times when I was younger (OK, so maybe it was less than a month ago before our family vacation to Disneyland) where I would jump, cheer or shake with excitement over some upcoming fun occasion. Sometimes, after a rough week at work, I still do that on Friday afternoon in my car as I drive home, just because it is the weekend.
Anyhow, I don't want to make my entry too long, but we did all have a very fun time at Disneyland and the beach. We went to Huntington Beach. Ann had never been to the ocean or to Disneyland. It delighted me to see her reaction to both. She was shocked by the immense size of the ocean. She had been expecting something like Lake Lahontan in Nevada. We went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride first at Disneyland (a tradition of my parents - we went to Disneyland with my whole family) and then to the Haunted Mansion, and to put it mildly, Mary found those two rides decidedly unfavorable. She screamed like she was dying when the elevator doors closed in the Mansion. That initial impression for Mary didn't please Ann, but then we went off with just our small family, and after several children's rides, Ann was starting to have fun. Then she went on Space Mountain (we had to take turns on some rides, having four small children) and she was addicted. She loved it. She got teary-eyed when we left Disneyland on our last day. We both were really down as we drove back across the border into Utah. It isn't that often that we get to spend so much time for so long together as a family, and it was great.
Disneyland is awesome, and it really is magical, especially when you go as a family. I love it even more now as an adult than I did as a child. But what really made it that way was family.