Friday, December 31, 2010

A Farewell To The Century's First Decade

As 2010 draws it's last gasping breaths (and because there has been nothing but dead silence on my blog for much too long), I thought it would be a good idea to look over what I had hoped to accomplish this year. The list...complete with results...follows:

What I Plan (Hope) To Accomplish In 2010
1. Post something to my blog weekly. Not quite. I haven't really checked, but I think once a month may be stretching it.

2. Add something new to my Flickr site at least monthly. I came close on this one. I ran into some limits that I have since overcome by purchasing a professional level account on Flickr. Now I can upload to my heart's content. Now if only the account name were descriptive of reality........

3. Exercise each weekday (at least). This will be walking, at least at first. I have to be in hiking shape for this summer. Failed miserably.

4. Write creatively at least once a week. This is something I have not done in a long time that I need to do more of. Again, abject failure here. Not a line of original text. Something about dealing with angry people five days a week for eight hours a day tends to dry up my creative juices.

5. Complete and (self) publish my book on Arches. That means using Blurb or some other site (suggestions welcome). I started gathering photos, but stalled on this one.

6. Improve my photography skills. This one I think I accomplished; at least I think I have learned a thing or two, if only regarding the way my camera operates.

7. Sell a photo. Not sure how I will go about this one, but I think it is a worthy goal. This is one of my fondest wishes...which means it never happened. Maybe 2011 will be the charm.

8. Eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) drinking soda. Who needs to drink their calories? Not me. I say at least greatly reduce because I know this is one of my great weaknesses and I don't want to beat myself up if I stumble on occasion. The goal is elimination. For the year overall, in the greatly reduce category, this one was a success. For the last two months, not so much.

9. Eat better and lose weight. I have to face it, for me these go hand in hand. In light of the failure with exercise, it is not surprising that the weight remains an issue.

10. Be a better friend. I'm afraid this one didn't work out so well either.

11. Read scriptures and pray daily. I recognize the need for me to be more valiant in my beliefs. I also need to pay my tithing, something I have always struggled with. I was 100 percent on the reading right up until September when I missed a day (the day we went down to Capitol Reef). All totaled, I missed 10 days. Not at all shabby, but not a complete success either. The best thing here is that I read the Book of Mormon twice. I continue to work on saying my prayers and I did better with tithing this year than I have done in a long time, but still have a ways to go.

12. Try harder to see the positive things in my life. After last year, that one may be a lot harder than it sounds. As I suspected, this was a tough one. I try to look for, and focus on, the good things, but it can be so very hard to get past all the negative things that keep cropping up.

13. Be a better father. I would like to think I did a better job this year, but you would have to ask my kids.

14. Be a better husband. Again, I would like to think I did OK on this one, but you would have to ask Merilee.

OK, that about wraps up the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. All in all, not really a passing grade, but the mere fact that I have done this is a big step in a new direction for me.

What are my thoughts about 2011? You'll just have to check back tomorrow for those. I need to get past these last few minutes of 2010 before I can seriously consider what I plan on working on next year. A couple are in place, but I'll tackle the next list when the year is new.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nine Mile Canyon

Just a quick, short entry tonight. I thought I would share a couple of images from the spur of the moment trip we took to Nine Mile Canyon yesterday. We figured why not take advantage of the amazing weather and take a road trip. It was a great time and I took way too many photos that I now have to go through.

I'll share some of our recent trip to Arches, as well as a few interesting events, when I am not quite so tired and I have a bit more time. Until then, enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just A Quick Thought

I have been woefully lax when it comes to writing lately. It's not that I have not had anything to say, but rather I have been too (insert negative adjective here) to actually sit down and write. Now, when I should really be in bed, here I am typing away. I guess that's just the way it works out sometimes. I also think that tomorrow's journey down to Arches National Park has me a bit excited. I wanted to be on the road by about 5AM, but that is looking seriously unrealistic right about now. As long as we make it there, that is what is important. It has been about two years since we last went and I am looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with a place that soothes my soul while fatiguing the rest of me. Have camera, will travel! I'll share some of my adventure when I return, I promise.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Yellowstone, Tetons, and Dave....Oh My!

I'm writing tonight, in part, simply because it has been so long since I last wrote. I had hoped to never go more than a month between posts this year, but over the past few weeks, I have been rather void of things I wanted to write here. There are many reasons, not the least of which is my current job which tends to leave me rather emotionally drained by the end of the work day.

It's not as if I have not had anything worth sharing. Merilee and I spent four wonderful days in Yellowstone last month, where I caught this guy having breakfast. He acted like he actually enjoyed being photographed, so I was more than happy to oblige. This is just one of many photos I took of this marmot, the first I have ever seen. We saw many amazing things on this trip, including a grizzly and her two cubs, and the eruption of Grand Geyser; one of those that goes off only once every 12 hours or so. I went crazy with the camera.
This photo is an early morning shot of the lower falls of the Yellowstone. We were leaving this amazing area just as a bus of Asian tourists arrived after having the pace almost to ourselves for almost 30 minutes. On this trip we tended to concentrate on things we had not seen before - Black Sand Basin, Artist's Paint Pots, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and the Mud Volcano area - so it was, in many ways, like visiting the park for the first time. Yes, we did see Old Faithful a couple of times, but I did not take a single photo of it this trip. My attention was on other wonders of this unique landscape.

Yellowstone is an amazing place, and we had a great time, But we decided that July is definitely the wrong month to visit due to the crowds. We also had the single worst site in the Canyon Campground; right on the corner where we had great views of the laundry/shower building and the buildings parking lot. We were also lulled to sleep at night by the dulcet tones of the building's generators. We ended up leaving a day early because we had grown tired of living in a fishbowl. Still, the time away from camp was amazing.

Another great thing was driving through Grand Teton National Park both to and from Yellowstone. We took a few side trips in the Tetons that we had never taken before and were well rewarded. The views of the mountains from the east side of North Jenny Lake were spectacular, and the view from atop Signal Mountain was breathtaking to say the least. It was a great trip and we really enjoyed it. We were more that a little reluctant to return to our day-to-day existence.

Next month we plan on heading down to Capitol Reef for a few days, with a side trip to Bryce. I have not been to Bryce since I bought my digital camera, so I fully expect to come back with quite a few photos. We will be traveling down highway 12 as well, and I understand that is a beautiful drive. I'm looking forward to those heirloom apples right off the tree, red rock hikes during the day, and crisp, cool nights around the campfire. October brings a trip to Arches (that I keep bringing up) to celebrate when we got engaged. These two trips will have to get us through until April when we have more trips tentatively planned. If only my work were as rewarding.

Since Yellowstone, we have done some hiking on Timp and in the south fork of Provo Canyon, but one of the most exciting things we have done was see Dave Matthews Band in concert on the 17th. I have wanted to see Dave for some time now, so being at Usana and hearing them play live was a great experience. I love live music and Usana Amphitheater is one of the best venues around because it is outdoors and the music does not bounce around the interior of a building. Dave sounded amazing and I really enjoyed the show. I'm glad we got to go.

Aside from those things, life has centered around work and getting a root canal and crown on one of my molars. Who knew that the process would take more than a month, but here I am awaiting my final appointment on Thursday. The dentist has been great, but once this round is completed, I don't anticipate returning any time soon. For one thing, I can't afford any trips for awhile, though I am certain there is plenty of work left to do.

Thus completes my Reader's Digest version of the last few weeks of silence on the blog front. I don't anticipate having another break of this length any time soon. One reason is I have been reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. It is about Meriwether Lewis and the Lewis and Clark expedition, and it has inspired me to begin keeping a journal of my outdoor adventures. I purchased a small journal that I can take with me as we go camping and hiking, and I can record my experiences right there where they happen. It has also inspired me to be better at writing here, as well. We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Thoughts on July 4th

I have been thinking lately about how fortunate we all are to be living in country where we have the freedoms we do. I was joking with Merilee that we will probably get a lot of politics couched as patriotism during Sacrament Meeting today and that I should probably get up and say how fortunate we are to live in a country where everyone is allowed to voice their opinion, no matter how misguided and uniformed it may be. Most of the people I know would probably take that as a not-too-subtle dig at the 'opposition', but I would know that it would be directed at the empty rhetoric I have been hearing entirely too much of lately. At least I would get a good personal laugh out of it. I would never do that, however, because I honestly feel there is no place for that in church and testimonies should speak of Christ and how we feel about him, not about anything even remotely political.

Though I often feel out of place in my current political environment, I do love our country. I have spent some time abroad in Sweden and I have seen what life can be like there. While they are by no means oppressed, there is just something different there. I can see it in my kids and some of their attitudes as they become adults. I am always glad to return home, back where I know I am allowed to speak my mind and I have the freedom to live my life as I see fit.

I also love the amazing natural beauty we are blessed with here, especially in the West. Anyone who knows me can tell you how much the natural beauty around us means to me. It is something precious that I feel must be protected. I spend time in nature to help rejuvenate; to escape the demands of everyday life and get in touch with the essence of what makes me who I am. I fear that many of these irreplaceable treasures, especially here in Utah, will be traded for the expediency of fulfilling the short-sighted demands of those who would use the land only for what they can take from it. Would our time not be better spent looking for and focusing on resources that are renewable and less destructive, while preserving the natural places that cannot be replaced if we destroy them in the name of energy or wealth? Call me a tree-hugger if you will. I am proud to align myself with the "greenies" that people like Rush Limbaugh hold in such disdain. The land we live in is a gift from God and I truly believe we will be held accountable for what we do with that gift. In another country, I may not have even had the chance to support causes that help protect the land because the government would do whatever it wanted.

So Happy Birthday USA! May we always remain free and may the great public discourse that is democracy continue for all generations to come. Long may freedom ring!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mountain Road Trip

Yesterday Merilee and I decided to spend some time up in the mountains. We started up the Alpine Loop, went down to Cascade Springs (where we just missed seeing a moose, from what we heard), drove from there over the mountain and down into Midway, then drove up into the Uintahs a bit. This is what Timp looked like early yesterday. It's so green right now, but that will change here in a few weeks, unfortunately. It was quite a nice way to spend part of our Saturday and escape the heat in the valley.

Two weeks from now we will be in Yellowstone, barring any last minute disasters. I say that because every camping trip we have planned since going to Capitol Reef last September has been canceled due to one problem or another. We are really looking forward to getting away for a few days and just enjoying nature. I can start checking the long-rang forecasts on Thursday, but I am hoping that everything will be looking clear and nice. We really need this one.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Trying To Work It Out

What a roller coaster ride the last few weeks have been. I have seen some small personal successes (caught two fish a couple of Saturday's ago!) and have had some rather rough times as well (I had to tell my kids that there was no way we could afford to bring them out this summer). I have sat down to write on many occasions, but nothing would come to me, so I would close up the laptop and move on. Tonight I am forcing myself to put something down simply because I know if I do not write something soon, I might as well pack it in for awhile because I could go months without adding anything.

As I mentioned, two weeks ago I had to disappoint my kids. They are both old enough that I hope they understand, but I felt like such a failure telling them they could not come out. I know they had both been looking forward to it. Now we have to shoot for Christmas or next summer, but after that the visits will become fewer as they both begin growing into their own lives, especially Graeme. I have not seen seen them since February '09, and now it could be June '11 before I see them again, if then. So many things have happened in the 16 months that made it financially impossible. I knew it would be hard to tell them, but I had no idea just how hard until I had them both on the phone. It may sound harsh, and it is certainly something I need to repent of, but at that moment I hated my ex for the fact that I even had to tell them. I felt like it was another disappointment for them in a long string of disappointments.

Merilee and I decided that we would keep the reservation for Yellowstone as we both need to get away. Four weeks from today I hope to be sleeping soundly in our tent after a long day of hiking around the wonders of that amazing place. I have five nights reserved in the canyon campground, but we may only stay two and then head up to Glacier. We haven't quite decided because that would mean an additional 300 miles, at least, one way. Maybe we'll just try to see more of the Tetons. I also traded back two days I had requested off so that we can go down to Capitol Reef the last weekend is September. That is becoming an annual trip for us. Nothing like heirloom apples right off of the tree. We will probably take one of the days there and go down to Bryce; the last National Park in Utah we have not been to together, and Merilee's favourite. Then we have Arches in October. It doesn't begin to make up for not seeing my kids, but it will allow us both some time in the beauty of nature. I especially look forward to Arches. I so hope to feel the peace of that place.

I have been trying very hard not to let all the negative things get me down, but it has hard. I try not to let my work get to me, but it can be such an emotional drain sometimes. I keep asking for some guidance, some direction in my prayers, but I do not feel like any has been forthcoming. I continue to read my scriptures every day, and I am trying to feel closer to the Lord, but all I really feel is emptiness and I don't understand why. I suspect it has something to do with being depressed, but I keep trying. I get up every day and I count that as a small victory. I try to focus on those little successes, because the big ones seem so very few and so very far between of late.

I just finished reading This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am in this reading group with some guys in the ward and it was the book everyone picked to read for this month. I had nominated others, but this one received the most votes. It was an interesting book in that Fitzgerald, in a way, seemed to be experimenting with his literary voice. I was reading last night and I found that I could relate to Amory Blaine's personal struggle. Our circumstances are vastly dissimilar, but he struggles with who he is, in both his creative pursuits and in life as a whole. I could relate in that I sometimes feel as if I have never found my niche; my place in the world, if you will. I had such plans 14 years ago, but divorce and distance from my kids changed so many things. Today I try to express myself creatively in words and through photography, but the words which came so easily a few years ago seem to be hiding in some dark corner of my soul and I am having a hard time finding them again. I feel like if I could only find them again, I would have hard time staunching the flow. I enjoy my photography very much, but I long to share it more and I am not certain how to do that. I plan on entering something in both the Utah County and Utah State Fairs this autumn; perhaps that is a start, or at least new avenue because I do have my Flickr site. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about a 'mid-life crisis'; I don't know. What I do know is that somehow I continue; somehow I endure, but certainly there must be more than just enduring.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Today was my son's 18th birthday. I was not there to celebrate with him, just as I have not been there for any birthday since he turned four. This is because his mom took him and his sister to Sweden when they were about 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 respectively, and they have lived there ever since. It's a long story, and if you have not heard it and are really interested, I don't mind sharing it, but not tonight. No sense going overboard this evening. I tried to call him to wish him a happy birthday, but only succeeded in waking up his step-dad at 7AM on a Saturday. That it was after 11PM here and I was bone tired isn't that important. I had told him I would call, but he stayed over with a friend and was not home. He has his own life now and I have to learn to accept that. It would be easier if I had been able to be more a part of the almost 14 years I mostly missed. I had to be satisfied with leaving him a message on his Facebook page. It amazes me how impersonal life is becoming in so many ways, but at least I was able to do that. No indication that he got my message yet, but I know he had a busy day from what he was telling me last time I spoke to him. 18. It makes me wonder, sometimes, where the time has gone.

For the past 14 years, missing him and my daughter has been an ever-present part of my life. It has been that void that is never quite filled, or that ache that never quite goes away. I have tried hard not to make it too obvious, but inside I have often wished I could be sharing a camping trip with them, or showing them some cool thing I had seen, or just wondering what they were doing and how their day had gone. I know that won't change just because he has turned 18, but I find that I can let go a bit more at this point because he is finding his own way in life now. I know that the times we talk will likely become fewer and that there will likely be years between seeing one another now. I have to rely on the knowledge that he knows I am here when he needs to talk and hope that he will have the time to chat with his old man every now and then. I wish I had a way to jump on a plane and go seem him, but I barely have money for gas for the car, let alone a round-trip ticket to Sweden. I miss him so much right now. Happy Birthday, Graeme!

Earlier today, Merilee and I went to our ward service project and barbecue.  The day started out so grey that we were not certain we wanted to go, but we decided we would give it a go and were pleasantly surprised to find the sun shining as we went out to the car. We ended up raking up pine needles under a tree that they had recently trimmed back at the Provo Cemetery. Underneath the pine needles we uncovered a couple of gravestones that could easily have been covered for years. I'm not sure that anyone will visit them this Memorial Day, but I am glad that we were able to make it possible should any relatives come by. Afterward we went to the barbecue and had a good lunch. It ended up being a really enjoyable time and we were both glad we decided to go.

This evening we decided (OK, mostly me, but she graciously consented) to hike up part of the trail to the Y. Neither of us has been very active of late, so this was a big step forward for us. We only made it up to the second switchback, but that's a start. We saw a rabbit just up the hill and, at the second switchback, we sat on the bench and watched the deer that were grazing on the hillside before making our way back down. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, so we were really not prepared for a longer hike, but it was wonderful to be up there. The view from up there is really nice. I hope to get in the habit of hiking somewhere close at least two evenings a week. I think it would help me unwind from the day and make my job seem a little less onerous. That is my hope, anyway. I will also help us get ready for hiking in Yellowstone and Arches, and eventually we will be able to do a bit of backcountry hiking, complete with packs.

I think that is all I have for now. As it gets later, this great sense of loss that I have not been able to shake all day keeps getting stronger, and I am not sure I can give words to what I am feeling right now. It is almost as if sharing it here would only give it that much more of a hold on me. I know it has something to do with what I have missed with my kids over the last 14 years, and it has been fueled by I dream I had where they were younger. I was actually saying goodbye to them at a train station and I knew that I would never see them again. I wanted that last moment to last forever, but the train was leaving and I had to let them go. Not the sort of thing that lends itself to a day of carefree enjoyment. I have been able to keep it from interfering with my day very much, but it has been there nonetheless. I hope for better dreams tonight. Better yet, I hope for no dreams and just a restful night's sleep.

One more thing before I go. Last Sunday I received a gentle reminder about who is really in charge. If you don't know what I mean, maybe you will shortly. Let me start by saying I do not own a white shirt. I haven't had one in quite some time, mainly because I think I look goofy in a white shirt, and I have not found one that I liked. Now, in our ward, we have a shortage of Aaronic Priesthood and they are always asking for help in passing the sacrament. They always seemed to ask those in white shirts or suits (something else I do not own), leaving me with the impression that, like many wards I have heard about, the white shirt was a requirement. I had never been asked to help until three weeks ago, when I was wearing a light blue shirt that was fairly close to white. I am sure part of that was because I was there early and there were few people to ask, but I was still somewhat surprised because my shirt was obviously not white. I was more than happy to help out (though I had not helped pass the sacrament in about 30 years, including all the time in my BYU wards). Well, last week I was getting ready for church and I decided that I really did not want to help pass, so I intentionally wore a dark brown shirt, cleverly thinking that my shirt would disqualify me from being asked. I even bragged about it to Merilee. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to help pass. I immediately recognized that someone was showing me that I am not as clever as I think I am, and if the Lord wants me to serve, I'll get asked. As if to further punctuate the point, as I was trying to find my way to Sunday School (we are in a new building on a temporary basis as ours is being renovated), one of the brothers comes up to me and says, "Aren't you one of the primary substitutes? Would you mind helping me out with primary today?" That's what I get for trying to be clever.

And on that lighter note, I think I will call it a night and turn in.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Another Mixed Bag

Here's a look at sunrise at Arches one of the last times we were there. I really cannot wait to get back in October. It's one of the things that keeps me going right now. I know I have probably said it before, but Arches is one of those rare places where I go to rejuvenate my spirit, if you will. It is as close to my center as any place I can think of, and I have missed being there. It will be two years since my last visit when we return, and I feel the need of the peacefulness of that place more with each passing day. I cannot wait for the quiet just before dawn, to see the stars in a night sky uncluttered with so much stray light, and to listen to the wind as it blows across the sandstone fins out by Dark Angel. I look forward to the warmth coming off the rock in the cool autumn air, the crisp bite of that first morning breath outside the tent, and beauty of all that red rock against a blue sky. I long so much to be there, which makes the reality that much sweeter when it finally comes.

This evening we actually got our garden started. We had to wait a bit with Merilee being sick and it turns out that it was a good thing we did. Our landlords live above us, and they told us at one point that they wanted to use part of the garden area, but then told us that we could do whatever we wanted. Well, we just found out today that they still plan to use half the garden area. Fortunately, they decided to use the half that we had not gotten around to totally weeding last year. The area we had weeded (at least twice) is still fairly free of weeds compared to the rest of the area, so that was thoughtful of them. I'm just a little frustrated because I waged war on the unruly grapevines and brought under control thinking that the garden was ours to do as we saw fit. Oh well, we still have the 'emergency replacement' refrigerator they 'temporarily' put in more than a year and a half ago, so I am not too surprised at the last minute about face. That and they have five kids that seem to drive them nuts, from the sound of it.

Grumbling aside, we had a few strawberry plants in the ground already (Merilee planted them before getting sick), but this evening we spent some time working in our 'half'. I was able to start getting the ground ready for some tomato plants (heirlooms hybrids for us), and I prepared beds for and we planted radishes and peas in hopes that the cool nights and cooler weather being predicted for next week will allow them to sprout and flourish. We figure we have enough room for some spaghetti squash, green beans, watermelon, peppers, cukes, and maybe some zucchini and potatoes. We had a lot of success with the beans and tomatoes last year; not so much with the potatoes. Hopefully we will be able to stay on top of things and get everything in the ground by the end of next week. It feels pretty good to have things started, at least.

This last week was a rather difficult one for me. The job I do can be rather stressful and extremely emotionally draining at times. Usually I will have one, maybe two days a week where I feel like I have been beat up mentally, but this last week was five days of mental stress that really weighed me down. I try to remind myself that this is important work and that I am helping people, but sometimes I get calls that make me want to throw my hands in the air and walk away from my computer. I get so tired of the people who want to verbally beat me up because they are having a tough time doing whatever. I get especially tired of the people who say they know it is not my fault while treating me as if I was the only person responsible for their problems. Also, I have had to deal with enough pushy, entitled mental health providers (not to mention other people) from a certain state back east that I have lost any desire whatsoever of visiting there EVER. Anyway, by the time 5PM hit on Friday, I was ready to crawl under the covers and lie there in the fetal position for a good long time.

Today I was provided with a fairly strong reminder that someone is looking out for me, even though I sometimes question that. We had gone to WinCo to get some of the things they had on sale for their grand opening, and when we got back to the car, I noticed that my PDA was missing. Now, this thing is not my-life-in-a-portable-computer that they are for some people, but I have it in a nice case that I also keep other things in, much like a wallet. I started doing this because I have program on it that is like Quicken that has helped me immeasurably in keeping from the occasional overdraft charges that I used to experience while trying to keep track of everything in what I know is an already overcrowded cranium. Anyway, my PDA was missing and I pretty much freaked. I uttered a few choice expletives that I will have to repent of (nothing too terrible, but still), tried not to have a massive coronary right there in the parking lot, and immediately started heading back into the store to see if anyone had turned it in, all the way looking at the ground to see if it had fallen out. I kept thinking that this, on top of everything that had happened this week (I could write several thousand words in addition to what I have already written about this oh so wonderful week), was just more than I could take. I went in the store and checked at the customer service desk, and just as the lady there was checking to see if it had been turned in, this older gentleman walks up with it in his hand. I was flooded with relief (all those phone calls I was thinking I would have to make were now not needed, for one thing) and thanked him profusely for finding it and bringing it in. He said that he had found it on the sidewalk outside the store and thought I might have dropped it, but he wasn't sure. I said a prayer of thanks as I walked back out to the car, so grateful that someone honest had found it. It was almost as if someone was saying, "See, someone is mindful of you and looking out for you." I have to remember that the next time I start feeling like the guy at the gathering that no one seems to see.

I have found myself praying for a miracle, or sorts, this week. It is almost time for my kids to come out for the summer. Graeme turns 18 in two weeks, and I am fairly certain this will be the last summer he has free to spend time with his old man. The problem lies in finding the money to pay for the plane tickets. The closer it gets, the more I fear that they will not be able to come out because I do not have the means to get the tickets. I missed going to see them last summer because I lost my job and did not have the money to go, and I took a huge pay cut when I started my current job, so it is not like I have much to work with. Merilee and I are getting by, but not much more than that. If ever a miracle would be welcome in my life, this would be the time. I just don't know if I can face the thought of not seeing them again this year. And Kayleigh, if you are reading this, when I told you I had not given up hope and would not give up hope until there was none left to give up, I meant it. I have not given up and won't yet. There is still time. It has just been on my mind a lot of late.

With tomorrow being Mother's Day, I want to wish my mom and my dear wife a very happy day indeed; my mom for putting up with me and raising me with so much love and respect, and my wife for putting up with as well. Seriously, though, they are both amazing women that I am extremely fortunate to have in my life. I love them both. I also want to send out a very special Happy Mother's Day to a dear friend who is looking to adopt (you know who you are). You will make a wonderful mother and some child out there will be incredibly lucky to have you two as parents. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Well, it is now pushing midnight and I guess I better go. I have a lot more on my mind, but it will keep for now. I just want to end by saying that somewhere deep inside of me, I know that I am a very fortunate man in many ways. There are so many things that conspire to keep me from feeling that most of the time, but right now I feel it pretty strongly. I have a great family and a wife that loves me for who I am, not for who she thinks she can turn me in to. I have friends, though very few and I need to be a better friend to them. I have a job, a place to live, and my kids think I am OK, even though we are thousands of miles apart and I have not been able to be there for them anywhere near as much as I would have liked. I am very grateful that tonight, at least, I can see and feel this. Just thought I would share that. Goodnight.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sunday Musings

I threw this photo in at the beginning not simply because Arches National Park is one of my favourite places on the planet, but because this weekend we were able to reserve our favourite site in the campground for a renewal of our annual autumn trip to this desert wonderland. That's right; Oct. 28-31, barring any repeat of the kinds of problems we have had lately with weather and camping trips, we will return to Arches after more than two years absence. Six months is a long time to keep one's fingers crossed, but I'll probably be doing it.

Yesterday, while running errands alone (Merilee has bronchitis and spent the day resting), I was thinking about some of the things that have been happening for the last year and a half, and I came to the realization that part of what has made things so difficult for me has been that my self confidence is running a serious deficit lately. Every since I lost my last job and went through seven months of no one even wanting to give me an interview, I have been waiting for the next thing to go wrong. I realized that part of why my current job has been difficult is that I have subconsciously been wondering when they will decide that I am not working out and they will let me go. I realized that this has been having an effect on other things as well, like not writing because I did not think anyone would like it, so why bother. Or not taking photos or doing any number of other things because my self-confidence was in the toilet. It was a bit of a shock, but hopefully now that I realize it, I can try to do something about it. I don't know what, or how to even begin, but at least I am aware at this point. I'll just keep pushing forward.

Now, I know I said that I was not going to let this blog become complaint central, so I will add something rather nice that happened to me amidst some mild frustration, writer's block, and temporary insomnia. Last night, while fruitlessly trying to come up with something to say here that was worth putting down, I discovered that a band I really enjoy (and that I thought had disappeared for good) had actually released a new album last September. While this was great news for me, it got even better because I found the album available for download on Amie Street (one of the few download sites I really like) for...get this...$3.07. I still had over $6 credit with them, so I snapped it up and, even though it was not the most appropriate of Sunday listening experiences, burned it to CD and gave it a spin this morning. It was great and I really enjoyed listening to it. It reminded me just how important music is to me, especially when it is from a band I really enjoy (Vertical Horizon in this case, if anyone is curious). Anyone who has known me for a long time knows just how addicted to music I have been since high school. Lately I have not had as much available listening time as I have in the past and I have really missed it. I almost stayed up last night to listen to this one, but by somewhere between 1:30 and 2AM, I figured I had better at least try to get some sleep. It was something very nice to have happen at a time that I really needed it.

On an unrelated note, yesterday a friend of mine sent me a link to some photos of the volcano that has been causing problems in Iceland and parts of Europe. As we looked at the photos, it was hard to see the destruction that the volcano has caused for the people of Iceland. At the same time, it was amazing to me to see how much beauty there was within something so utterly destructive. The photos of the lightning within the clouds of ash were amazing to me, and it surprised me that I could find something so visually stunning amid such fury. They were great photos. In case anyone is curious, here is the link:

That's all for now. Here's hoping that this week is better than the last and that some things start looking up.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Closing Thoughts For The Week

Another Sunday is winding down and the spectre of another Monday begins to come forward. It has been a nice few days away from the worries and cares of work, though the circumstances could have been better for Merilee. She is finally starting to feel better and that is definitely a good thing. We would much rather have been camping, but hindsight shows that things worked out for the best. There will be other weekends.

Tomorrow I get to find out if a certain unnamed cable company has finally managed to fix a problem that has plagued me for almost a month now. It seems that line noise has been making it virtually impossible for me to use my phone for work. Each new day has been a bit of an adventure wondering if people are going to tell me I am breaking up or not. I have enjoyed not having to deal with that. I just hope that they were finally able to solve the problem while I have been off.

Yesterday I decided to take a bit of a bike ride to enjoy the beautiful weather and feel the sun. I originally planned on heading toward Utah Lake on the river trail, turning around when I felt that I had gone far enough. I did not want to over do things like I usually do, but the further I went, the better I felt. I kept going almost to the end of the trail that runs along the fence at Utah Lake State Park. I felt a little tired, but not unpleasantly so. It was the return trip that did me in. I tend to forget, when riding to the lake, that the trail trends downward, so riding back is more of an uphill ride. I started to feel cramping in my back and my legs were complaining, but I did the whole trip in about 90 minutes and I felt pretty good when it was done. I'm sure Merilee and I will be making that trip quite often this summer.

Last night I also finished Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I did something I have not done in quite a long time; I ready 140 pages at one sitting. It was a very interesting book, combining science fiction, math, and philosophy in very intriguing ways. He manages to create a culture that is similar enough to ours that it is familiar, but different enough that is was very interesting. I have read four other novels by Stephenson, including the three-volume Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and System of the World), and there is something about the way he writes that I quite enjoy. These are not novels you just breeze through in an afternoon; you have to pay attention and they make you think, all while being very entertaining.

I have been trying to force myself to sit down and start writing again, as in creative writing. It is one of my goals for this year that has never really gotten off of the ground. For some reason, I just never seem to manage it. It's not that I do not have ideas; it's just that taking the time to commit them to something other than my own grey matter has proven quite the challenge. I think a lot of it has to do with my own internal misgivings and a marked lack of confidence. I am not sure why this has been the case lately, but I have just not felt overly confident about myself. Self-doubt is present more often than not, and the 'why bother' part of me tends to win out. I am hoping that I can channel Saturday's success to other areas and actually get things going.

That's about all for now. I have decided that I am going to try to use this blog to focus more on the positive things than the negative. Not every entry will be upbeat because life just isn't that way (especially my life recently) and I want this blog to be realistic, but when I have something less positive to say, I am going to try to bring something good into the entry as well. Think of it as me trying to force myself to improve my outlook and not focus on the negative. We'll see how that goes. Maybe I'll start a blog where I can be as negative as I want and no one has to see it but me. Maybe I just need a therapist; who knows. Anyway, this is starting to sound like babbling to me, so I think I will go for now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Checking In

I'm back again after another period of silence. I have meant to write, but when the weekend ended, I had forgotten to. Lame excuse, I know, but there it is. As it is now, if things had gone as planned, I would not even be able to write now. Merilee and I were supposed to be camping at Capitol Reef through Sunday, but the bad weather scuttled those plans. We had a fun day yesterday while the weather lasted up here, going to the BYU Paleontology Museum and walking up by Bridal Veil Falls. I was able to take a few photos (including the one of Timp below) and the sun felt great. The bad thing is that Merilee caught a cold and had a low-grade fever last night. All in all, I guess everything worked out for the best, but I really could have used a few days out in nature to help recharge the ol' batteries, as it were. At least I am not at work and that has definitely been a blessing.

Today, with the weather as it has been, we have been taking it easy, relaxing, watching X-Files, and just doing whatever. Merilee feels a bit better, but still not well enough to go out and do a whole lot. Maybe tomorrow we can do something fun. Now we just have to make it through until July when we have our Yellowstone (and maybe Glacier) trip planned; that and Arches in October (keeping fingers crossed). That's all for now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Feeling A Bit Stir Crazy

With spring nearly upon us (OK, so it's "officially" here already), I am beginning to feel the draw of the outdoors rather strongly. It got to the point today that we took a drive up Provo Canyon, just to see where Mother Nature is at in coming out of her winter sleep at some of our favourite haunts. We discovered that it may feel like spring down here, but everything still looks rather dead up in the mountains. There is still a good bit of snow up there in many places (well, duh!) and it looks like it will be weeks still until the green will start poking through the brown. With the days lengthening, I want to get out and do some hiking after work. Maybe tomorrow we'll hit the shoreline trail. We'll see.

It is now a little less that four weeks before we will be heading out for our spring camping trip. As I mentioned last time, we had wanted to go to Arches, but when I tried to reserve a site in the campground, I discovered that they were totally booked. I have since discovered why. Apparently that weekend is the jeep rally in Moab, so it is a good thing we will not be down there. We decided to try for Arches in October and, instead, head down to Capitol Reef. We will also take a drive on Highway 12 before they try to ruin it by making it a lot wider, and spend some time in Bryce Canyon if the weather is good. Bryce is the only National Park in Utah that Merilee and I have not visited together, though we have both been there separately. It should be a fun trip. Goodness knows that I will be ready to spend some time away, and Capitol Reef may still be fairly quiet. I just need the time.

I was thinking about where I am at with this year's goals, and I find I am not as far off as I was afraid I would be. The flu set me back in the fitness endeavors, and I have never really gotten going with the creative writing, but my blog postings have been somewhat consistent and I have worked a bit on my photography, though I have not posted much. The most success has been in the things that, ultimately, are the most important. I have not missed a day in reading my scriptures and I have been paying my tithing. I have been trying to be a better friend, father, and husband, but I would have to leave it to my friends, kids, and wife to decide if I am doing better there. I would like to think I am improving. One thing I still struggle with is seeing the positive in things, as my last post clearly shows. I think I had such high hopes at the first of the year and we have had so many things go wrong so far this year that it has been a real struggle for me. I think four days out in nature is just what I need to help readjust my attitude.

I want to share something that I found last night in a rather unexpected source.
"Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways." 
I call the source unexpected because it is from a book called Anathem by Neal Stephenson; a "science fiction" novel. I found it quite profound because we are all beset with ugliness every day, in one form or another. Too many people cannot see the beauty around them. How many people have noticed the daffodils and primroses that have started to bloom? How many people have taken the time to wonder at the beauty of life returning after a long winter sleep? I have known too many people who have become so wrapped up in the minutia of daily life that they cannot appreciate these things for the beauty they share with us.

Perhaps one of my favourite examples are those wondrous lands we have right here in Utah. Some people look at the desert lands of southern Utah and see only the potential for oil or gas or some other commodity. They fail to see the beauty that is right in front of them, and sometimes they end up ruining that beauty without a thought for those who cherish it, simply because they do not see it themselves. I have a hard time understanding how someone could spend any time among the marvels of Arches or Canyonlands or Zion or Bryce or Capitol Reef and not be overcome by the beauty that is there to behold. Now, I totally understand that what is beautiful to me may not be beautiful to someone else, but I am grateful that I have not become so jaded by my everyday life that I have lost that sense of wonder that helps me to see the beauty that is right in front of me. If I had lost that, I know that the ugliness that besets the world every day would soon become too much for me to take. Thus, my April escape to spend time amidst nature; a time for me to appreciate beauty and renew my soul.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Long Silence

I really did not mean to take so long between writing here, but the last few weeks have been something of a nightmare in many ways; the main nightmare being a little something called H1N1. Now, I never went to the doctor to make it official, but from everything I have read and from what I have been told, it sounds exactly like the porcine influenza in all it's glory. Besides, Merilee never got sick, even though I was sick as the proverbial dog, and she was immunized for H1N1. I spent almost two full weeks feeling like I was becoming a good friend of the grim reaper, with two days of that spent in a serious relationship. I am just now starting to feel something like my old self. What a joy 2010 has been thus far.

Now it looks like our planned Arches adventure in April will probably become a Zion adventure, with Arches being put off until late October. The Arches campground is almost completely booked until some time in May. I have never had a problem booking a site there before. It would seem that many others are starting to love the place as much as I do. We would try something in Canyonlands, but they are all first-come-first-served campgrounds and that is an awfully long way to drive not knowing you have someplace to stay when you get there. We'll see what happens. Maybe someone will cancel right when I can make the reservations, but that is a pipe dream if ever there was one.

One good thing that happened during this otherwise bleak period was that I managed to get four tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band on Aug. 17. I have been trying to see Dave for some time now and it looks like it will finally happen. Even better was the fact that the tickets were FREE! That's right; Dave and the guys had to cancel the Salt Lake shows two years in a row, so they decided to make this show free and I managed to get tickets. It was definitely one of those right place at the right time kinds of things. I think somebody upstairs realized that I really needed a boost in the morale department.

Anyway, I'll quit complaining for now and hope for better things for the rest of the week. My day at work today (as well as the final three last week) has not given me much hope for that, but I try to focus on what little seems to be left. And in case anyone thinks that I am always negative in my posts, I will just say that I put off writing in part because I did not want my post to be too negative. Believe me, if I had tried to write this during the last two weekends, this post would have made me look blissfully happy in comparison. That's just the way things have been lately. Things have got to get better from here. or so I keep telling myself. But I'll quit complaining and try to be more positive when next I write.

Thanks for putting up with me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Few Words Before Bed

Not much to say tonight. Once again, I have gone two weeks between posts. Part of that is because I kind of took the weekend off last weekend. I had Friday off and then got a sinus infection that kept me home on Monday. It made for two short weeks at work, but not the way I would have liked. Suffice it to say that I did not feel like saying much last weekend.

Tonight I am feeling rather contemplative. Not in a bad way, like two weeks ago, but just in a taking stock kind of way. I have been working hard to remind myself that, at work, for every rude person I get on the line, there are many more that I am genuinely able to help. That has helped somewhat, though it is still difficult to get through the times when the calls are non-stop. I have been at this now for almost five months and there are times when it is becoming routine, which is a good thing. Almost seven months out of work has meant it has taken some time to get used to working again. I think I am almost there, though I value my free time so much more now that there is so much less of it in a day.

I have been going through a lot of my stuff lately and I realize that I have A LOT of STUFF. I have been trying to get rid of what I can and organize it a bit more so that I know right where everything is if I find I want to get rid of it later. I have even been seriously thinking of giving up my comic book habit after several years. I'm not sure if I actually can, but the thought has been there. I sometimes feel like I have given up so much the last year or so, why should the comics be so hard? We'll see what actually happens. I'm just running out of room and wondering if I am laying up treasures on earth, so to speak. They are just things, but they have been things that have brought enjoyment into me life at times when there seemed precious little to enjoy and so much to try to forget. Maybe I am finally starting to grow up (but not too much!) and I am moving past such things. Maybe I need to focus more on writing and photography.

I wanted to end by thanking a dear friend who said just what I needed to hear after my last post. Thanks again.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Attempting To Put My Mind at Ease

I thought I was done for the evening, but I guess not. I'm not saying that melancholy won out, but I really feel the need to get some things out of my head tonight and this has been a good vehicle for that in the past. Sometimes it helps to just write them down. For what it's worth, this will likely be 'one of THOSE posts'; rather intensely personal at times, but some things that I need to say, even if only for my own benefit. Read on if you like, or not. I think this one is mainly for me.

In a little more than three months, my son will be 18 and, soon after that, my daughter will be 16. That thought does not make me feel old, like it does some parents, but it does make aware of just how quickly time passes. I was only a full-time father until they were 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 respectively, when their mother decided to stay in Sweden and away from me. There is no point rehashing that time, for it is water long under the bridge, as they say. Today has just been one of those days when I realize just how much of their lives I have missed. When my son was first born, the one thing I wanted more than anything was to be a great dad for him and all our kids. I looked forward to helping with homework, taking them camping, sharing in their triumphs and being there to comfort them when life hit the rocky patches. I have done that the best I could, but we have spent only about a year together total in the last 13. They are both becoming adults and while I am very proud of them both, I mourn for the time I was not there; for all that I have missed.

I like to think I have worked hard to be the best dad I could be under the circumstances, but I know there are things I could have done better. I am certain that every parent feels that way, but I tend to feel it keenly because our time together has been so short. I have been able to share some important things with them, and they have had opportunities that they very likely would have missed if they had stayed here, but I have missed them every day we have been apart, and sometimes that becomes a burden that is very heavy to bear. Today has been one of those days the weight has really worn me down. You would think that because I was able to talk to them today would help make that load lighter, but that has not been the case. They will soon both be pursuing their own lives, and I know that our phone conversations will be less frequent as they find their own ways through life. I still wonder to myself what might have been.

Tomorrow the demands of everyday life will take precedence and I will have to move past what I feel this evening as best I can, but the two of them will never be far from my thoughts; just as they never have been for more than 13 years. I keep up my hopes that we will find a way to get them here this summer, and in many ways live for that precious time together. I miss them dearly, and love them both more than I could ever adequately say. I have tried as best I could; I just pray that they know that and can forgive their dad his many shortcomings.

I also find myself wondering what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life. This could simply be early onset mid-life crisis, but I really wonder. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I woke up this morning with a feeling of worthlessness that was almost overwhelming. It seemed to be the direct result of some rather negative dreams that I have since forgotten, but the feeling remained and that was troubling. I think part of it had to do with the fact that I am working a job I moved on from 12 years ago, so I feel like I have regressed rather than moving forward. I am grateful that I do have a job, but I am doing customer service at 45 when I should be well into a career that has never materialized. I had thought I was finally seeing some success when it disappeared in a single morning. It is something that frustrates me and something I have referred to in the past. I find myself wondering what it is I am supposed to be learning from this experience. Since high school, I have been trying to find that one thing that I was best at; that one talent that would be the source of my livelihood or would bring me a sense of fulfillment. It seems, however, that I am more like the proverbial jack-of-all-trades. There are many things I enjoy, but nothing, it seems, that I am good enough at to really say, "See, this is what I do really, really well. This is my talent." I am sure this has been on my mind so much today because of my mood this morning, but it has been there, in the shadowy recesses, for a long time now.

I should probably leave this post at that. There is more floating around my brain, but I hope that getting this out will be enough. This may end up being one of those posts that disappears after I have had some time to re-read it, or I may leave it here for my own reflection later on; time will tell. I have only deleted two or three posts in the past because they were a bit more than I wanted to make readily available to just anyone. We'll see if this one makes that list. In the meantime, if you have made it this far, thanks for listening. I think I will be able to rest my head tonight a bit easier for having shared these words in this way. As I said earlier, sometimes it helps just to get them out. Here's hoping for a restful night.

A Quick One

I really don't have much to write tonight, but I did not want to miss another week, so here I am dutifully typing away.

I had a rough night last night, filled with strange dreams that have thankfully faded away into the obscurity that comes with waking, but they left me with a feeling of worthlessness that was very hard to shake. I'm not sure if my dreams were influenced by our viewing of "Amadeus" last night, but I found myself feeling a bit like Salieri when he wondered why God would put the longing for music into his heart if it was not meant to be. I was feeling like the artist inside of me has been screaming to get out, but somehow never quite making it. Like I said, rough night, rough morning, not so bad this evening. (Now if only tomorrow was not Monday.)

On a completely different note, with the completion of the Super Bowl tonight I will have missed an entire season of football for the first time since I gave up watching football for the sake of marital peace with my ex. I went three years without watching a complete game at one point. Somehow, I have missed it more this time than before. Just another reminder of what a strange trip it has been for the last few months. In just three months, we will have been without television for an entire year. I never would have thought that possible for me, but sometimes life forces you to do what you thought impossible.

I think that's all for tonight. Melancholy seems to want to dominate my writing this evening and I refuse to let it, so I'll just let this suffice.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Gathering of Random Strays

I hit a bit of a bump last week and just could not find anything to say worth writing, so rather than simply fill a space with pointless drivel, I decided to skip the whole process and move on to other things. Not willing to let that happen a second week running, I decided that I really needed to post something this week. I think this week will really live up to my blog's name. Please forgive me if coherence or continuity seem horribly absent.

Stray Thought #1
January is all but complete and things have mellowed somewhat at work. I have decided that I have no desire, whatsoever, to visit New York City or much of northern New Jersey. I am not so shallow that I truly believe that everyone there acts entitled and rude, but I have dealt with enough people who do the last four weeks that it has put me off that area entirely; at least for now. I have developed a bit of emotional armor plating (something I'm not sure I am all that grateful for) that helps me deal with the ruder, more belligerent callers, but it still has it's chinks. Friday I got ripped a new one by a UR nurse from that area who was complaining about how unprofessional the care managers were being, all the while acting completely unprofessional with me. When I told her I would have to transfer her to the assigned person, she said, "That's just great. Now I get to play phone tag all day" in a very rude manner. It was all I could do to not say, "Yep, and you're it!"

Stray Thought(s) #2 (With pictures!)
Nasty calls aside, there have been some very positive things happen in the last couple of weeks. I got my time off, so Yellowstone and Arches are looking like they will happen now. I actually aced my first audit at work, which was nice. We finally got the car fixed so we do not have to drive around with eyes glued to the rear view mirror anymore. We had a snowstorm that was very beautiful, leaving the mountains looking amazing. I finally made it to a meeting of our Manly, Manly Book Club and had a great time. It has been a long time since I have had an intelligent and respectful discussion with people of so many differing view points (and the sushi was great). Merilee and I got to walk home in the snowstorm after the BYU-UVU hockey game on the 22nd; nothing quite like walking in the dark with three inches of snow on the ground and more coming down (we'll forget about the clueless driver that almost hit us in the crosswalk on 900 E). The hockey game was great fun as well.

Stray Thought #3
I found out two weeks ago that I was supposed to have a ward history into the stake by the 15th so they could have them to church headquarters by the 30th. With the bishopric and me all being new at the same time, somehow this requirement of my position was missed, so I had to get something together. I finally put together a rather brief (though fully illustrated) history that I hope will pass. Now, at least, I know that I will have to do this next year, so I will be paying much closer attention to things than I did for the last 6 months. I had even fruitlessly looked on the church Web site and scoured the distribution center for anything to help when I first started. I finished what I submitted promising that 2010 would be better.

Stray Thought #4
On a similar note, I learned a valuable lesson yesterday regarding church service. The bishop had sent me a photo from one of the missionaries serving from our ward to print so it could be posted on the bulletin board. Now, I have some older Kodak photo paper that I thought would be perfect to use because it would help to use it up. I'm rather ashamed to admit that I thought that it was only a photo for the bulletin board, so the Kodak paper would be good enough. Well, I learned 'good enough' is definitely not good enough. The paper did not take the ink well and it looked very dark. I later reprinted the photo using my best paper and it was amazing the difference. Lesson learned: when the bishop asks you to do something, use only the best tools available.

Stray Thought #5
While I am still enjoying winter, I am ready for spring to arrive. This is mainly because I am really wanting to go hiking again. I don't have the gear to go tromping through the snow (no snowshoes are rated for people of my girth, I have found) and I just want to disappear up in the mountains for a spell. Merilee and I may head down to Zion in a couple of weeks if the weather is going to be nice and if we can afford it. At this point, April seems so far away.

Well, that is probably enough for now. I could probably spend more time writing, but I will hold that back and perhaps do the unthinkable....write in the middle of the week (gasp!). We'll see what next week brings.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Second Verse, Same As The First

I won't spend all my time whining tonight, I promise. I will say that this last week was much like 2010, week one. Still getting blamed simply because I happen to be the one on the phone, still fielding problem after weird problem, and still having to face rudeness with professionalism and and anger with courtesy. At least Friday was a bit better than the rest of the week work-wise. It would have been better if I had been able to get my car fixed, but I found out Thursday that the part we had been waiting a week for was never actually ordered, so now driving at our own risk will not end until Wednesday at the earliest. I am very close to waving the white flag already, and it is only January 16th. Still, my optimism, though on life support, remains and I have hopes that this will all let up sometime soon.

I threw this photo in tonight because this is what my mind has been on a lot lately; not necessarily Zion National Park specifically, but being out in the beauty of nature again. Merilee and I were not able to make our autumn trip to Arches last year, though we did see Capital Reef in September. It seems like it has been a very long time since we have been camping, and I am eager to go again. I find myself wondering if February is still too early to go to Zion. I have requested a couple of days off in April so we can head to Arches and Canyonlands, but I am not sure if I can wait that long, especially with the emotional pounding I have taken the last two weeks. I need to find other ways to rejuvenate in addition to camping. Nothing seems to work as well for me as spending time in these amazing places. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that we should go to Glacier after Yellowstone. I long to see that park again.

Just a quick goal update; exercising still needs work (who wants to walk outside when the air is practically thick enough to eat with a spoon), still weaning myself from soda (only have it on the weekend, not during the week. Next step is a Coke-free weekend), and I have not written creatively yet this year. I am struggling to make contact with the muse I have ignored for far too long. Scripture reading is going well; every day so far. Tithing paid almost without regret, but not quite; still working on that. Working on the other areas as well. So far, so good.

So there you have it; nothing earth-shattering this week on the personal front. I face the coming work week knowing that I have to take it one day at a time (old cliches, gotta love 'em) and try to enjoy the time off as much as possible. One final thought, though. I have noticed that it feels like my world has shrunk considerably since I began working from home full-time. I no longer have the time at the office, so everything revolves around the apartment. It has been especially bad the last two weeks as we try not to go out in the car in case we should get stopped by a less-than-understanding officer of the law who would rather write us a ticket than give us a pass because the part we need still is not in. It has saved on gas, but I fear becoming somewhat of a recluse. Hopefully getting out and walking Monday morning will help get me away from all that.

Anyway, here's hoping for a better week and go Vikings! By the time I get home from church tomorrow, it will either be all over, or they will go down to the Big Easy and get beat up by the Saints. Or maybe not. I think I have some idea what it was like to be a Red Sox fan. Besides, I cannot stand the Cowboys. OK, I'm rambling now so it is definitely time to say goodnight before things get too silly.....or incomprehensible, your choice.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

2010, Week One....Um....Isn't 2009 Over?

OK, technically I am two days late in keeping my goal of writing here weekly. There is a very good reason for this. It seems 2009 would not go out quietly and tried to spill over into the new year, at least as far as work goes. Last week was, by far, one of the worst weeks I have ever had as an employee on any job. That includes working on the BYU stadium grounds crew during the week of Stadium of Fire three times, including 25 hour shifts for the event itself (not to mention enduring Phylicia Rashad one year, Wayne Newton another, and fielding complaints from people who drove hundreds of miles just to see the Beach Boys on the 4th of July to find that they could not see anything from their seats the third year). Not only was last week busy, but Wednesday was just about more than I could take.

I do customer service for Aetna Behavioral Health. At least once a day I get a call from someone whose claim is not being paid or who is having some problem that is frustrating them. On Wednesday, it seemed like that was the only kind of call I received. I can completely understand being frustrated with insurance. I work for an insurance company and my health benefits leave much to be desired, but whatever the caller's problem is, IT IS NOT MY FAULT! Why don't people realize they can get much further by not acting like I am the cause of all that is wrong in the world? By the time I was done Wednesday, I felt like I had been emotionally assaulted. The other days last week were not much better, and working with some of the 'care managers' back east does not make it any better (I like to refer to some of them as 'I-don't-care managers'). I felt like 2009 was making a comeback. My 9AM to 5:30PM schedule sucks, and it did not help that the new corporate head of our area decided to do away with the process for requesting time off we had in place, summarily dismissing any requests already submitted and stating that if too many people request the same day, it will now be decided my seniority for everyone who submits next week, no matter when you submit (this may be a repeat complaint; if so, please dismiss. It only appears here because I have had my Yellowstone reservations since last April). Needless to say, while I am thankful I have a job, the search for something more appropriate (not to mention fulfilling, profitable, and a whole host of related adjectives) continues.

I have been able to stick with most of my goals. I did not drink a single soda all week long, though I am having one this evening for reasons I will not get into. I have not had time to work on my photography, but that will come. I have read my scriptures every day since Jan. 01, and many other things are coming together. I will begin my early morning exercising on Monday morning, and Merilee is doing very well in helping me eat better as she does much of the cooking for lunch, which has become our main meal of the day because I am home. All in all, not too bad in spite of the work week I had. I have not yet lost hope in this infant new year. Here's hoping that next week is not as bad, that my vacation submission is approved, and that things get better from here. I definitely don't want to have to change this blog's title to 'Collecting Stray Rants'.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year, New Beginnings

Just thought I would include a bit of colour with this post. This was early autumn up the south fork of Provo canyon.

I decided that this year it might help if I put my 'resolutions' for the year in a more public place to help remind myself that I actually did make them at some point in time. That said, I am not actually calling these resolutions. These are more like goals I have for the coming year. I'll check back on them periodically and see how I am doing. This will also allow me to do a personal progress check right before 2011. Anyway, here goes.

What I Plan (Hope) To Accomplish In 2010
1. Post something to my blog weekly.

2. Add something new to my Flickr site at least monthly.

3. Exercise each weekday (at least). This will be walking, at least at first. I have to be in hiking shape for this summer.

4. Write creatively at least once a week. This is something I have not done in a long time that I need to do more of.

5. Complete and (self) publish my book on Arches. That means using Blurb or some other site (suggestions welcome).

6. Improve my photography skills.

7. Sell a photo. Not sure how I will go about this one, but I think it is a worthy goal.

8. Eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) drinking soda. Who needs to drink their calories? Not me. I say at least greatly reduce because I know this is one of my great weaknesses and I don't want to beat myself up if I stumble on occasion. The goal is elimination.

9. Eat better and lose weight. I have to face it, for me these go hand in hand.

10. Be a better friend.

11. Read scriptures and pray daily. I recognize the need for me to be more valiant in my beliefs. I also need to pay my tithing, something I have always struggled with.

12. Try harder to see the positive things in my life. After last year, that one may be a lot harder than it sounds.

13. Be a better father.

14. Be a better husband.

I think I will let those stand for now. I know I will come up with more, but I don't want to be overwhelmed right now. At least the year has started off well. Merilee and I had a fun day getting our grocery shopping done and we got to have lunch at In-N-Out Burger. I know that isn't exactly healthy, but it sure was good. I was afraid that I had over-hyped the pace with Merilee, but she really liked it too. We may even go again if we can catch it while the crowds are down. We watched some X-Files episodes on DVD, and then finished the evening off with The DaVinci Code. It was a fun day and an auspicious beginning for 2010. We'll see how it goes from here.