Friday, March 31, 2017

I Love The Mountains Of Ogden, Utah...

Driving home from the bus stop earlier in the week I glanced over to see a snow-covered Ben Lomond Mountain. In Utah County, just south of Salt Lake, they have Mount Timpanogos, above the Salt Lake Valley you'll find Mount Olympus, but I'd take Ben Lomond Mountain over both of them. It's simply beautiful.

I have a friend who lives at its base. I'll bet waking up to that view each day is a treat. But, as we are sometimes prone to do, maybe it gets ordinary when you see it everyday. Maybe not. I know that many people have posted pictures of their hikes on both Mount Timpanogos and Mount Olympus, but I don't see a lot of pictures posted from Ben Lomond. It could be it's not as accessible as the other peaks. Maybe I just have more friends who live in Salt Lake and Utah Counties.

I once heard, and it's confirmed by Wikipedia (so it must be true...) that Ben Lomond Mountain is the original mountain used by Paramount Pictures for their logo. Per Wikipedia, William W. Hodkinson, founder of Paramount, sketched the mountain on a napkin during a meeting. He would have been quite familiar with the peak--Hodkinson having spent time there and having opened up one of the first movie theater in Ogden. Of course, the Wikipedia page for William, or W.W. Hodkinson, states the logo was actually Pikes Peak (another beautiful mountain...). It's possible since he was born in Pueblo, Colorado. Is the logo Pikes Peak, or Ben Lomond? Too bad we can't ask him--he passed away in 1971.

Famous logo origination or not, it doesn't much matter in the grand scheme of things. So if you're traveling in Northern Utah, just look up. It's definitely worth it and you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Way We Watch Life As If Passes Before Us...

Last weekend I and a couple of thousand other people gathered in a high school gymnasium in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and watched our children and friends perform.

But how did we watch?

This is how--from a small screen.

Now, I can comment on this because I'm one of the biggest offenders of this new way to watch life. I do it all the time. When my daughter's team danced, I was right down there with them, with camera in hand trying to be as steady as possible, hoping to get a video worthy of preservation. I could justify my actions by saying that I was filming the dances because my wife and the rest of the family couldn't make the trip. I needed something to show them so they could see what I saw.

But that's not completely true. I had friends at the event who videoed the same dances. I could easily have had them send me copies. I wonder if I'm beyond that. I wonder if I had put down my camera as my daughter took the floor, would I have enjoyed the experience, or would I have been thinking about how I was not getting it on video?

I included another picture, this one of a friend who teaches and who had several teams at the same event--he's in the pink shirt. I love the look on his face--it communicates so much, the determination of watching his kids perform, that intense focus. It shows the dedication of a good teacher, a good mentor. He can use the video he's taking to better improve his kids. He can see what's worked and what's not working. It helps him in ways that teachers could not have imagined generations ago.

So, is our new way of experiencing life a bad thing? I suppose it depends on the situation. But I wonder, what if an EMP hits and fries every electronic device we own and we have to start over, will our lives be as full as they are now, or will they be fuller? That's an interesting question.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Seeing More Than The Big Picture...

I was looking for a Pic Of The Day last night. Usually something pops up and if all else fails, I can find something around the house--decades-old pictures are always pretty good. I pulled my car into the driveway, killed the engine, and looked west.

Another sunset over the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island unfolded before me so I grabbed my camera.

Over the years I've witnessed and photographed some amazing sunsets. Last night's was nice, but I wouldn't call it one of the best. Still, I thought maybe I could get something out of it. I usually have my zoom lens on the camera and when I focused on the brightest section of the sky, what I saw was very nice. I caught an orange sky through some trees with a the light reflecting off Farmington Bay.

Looks like I found my Pic Of The Day.

I took another picture, just for the fun of it. I pulled back to get the most sky possible with my zoom lens. It turned out to be not the worst picture I've taken. But that second picture got me thinking. If I were shown the big picture, would I see the gem buried in the middle of the shot? How many times have I looked at a picture or a scene and missed something amazing?

I don't know if this little experience will change the way I look at pictures or take them, for that matter. But it did make me think.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Oh, What You Experience While...Editing

I am about halfway done with the first major edit of my middle-grade WIP. And I'm really enjoying it. Mostly because it's the first time since I wrote the words back in November that I'm seeing them again. I'm falling in love all over again with the story--that's a great feeling.

I've worked in a cubicle for almost twenty years at my current job, and many years before that at other jobs. Being a writer cannot compare with those jobs. For one thing, when you work in a cubicle, you have a task and once that task is done, you move on to the next task, and you do that day after day, year after year. 

But when you're a writer, sure there are tasks, but there can be times when you do not know if that task is complete. I mean, how can you ever really know if a sentence or a paragraph is done, and if it's done, is it good enough?

I've had the most writing success publishing short stories. I love getting that initial idea and being able to produce a story, sometimes in a few hours. Editing those can usually be done quickly, too. But one thing that drove me crazy was the moment just before I submitted my final draft to the publisher. Was it good enough? Could it be better? My logical mind knows it could be better--there's always more that can be done, but every author knows there comes a time when you've got to just let go. You've got to let your children fly.

I've never submitted a whole novel before so this will be a new experience for me. Hopefully, my short stories have prepared me for what could be an overwhelming experience. I guess we'll find out.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Decisions, Decisions, And I Chose...

Because of craziness around the house, we got take out for tonight's dinner. When we plan meals for the week, or more correctly, when my wife plans the weekly meals (she does most of the planning...) we don't schedule "eating out" as one of the choices.

But, it happens, as many of you know.

Tonight I ordered for everyone and I decided to get a meal because we wanted to get one large order of fries. The gal behind the counter than proceeded to give me this huge cup and I thought, "that's a lot of soda."

This last weekend I spent away from home and I drank a lot of pop. I'd like to think I'm not a pop drinker. I used to have some everyday and then I stopped. I even went about six months without a drop. I honestly thought I wouldn't ever drink it again.

Nope, I caved. But I don't drink it a lot and as I held that empty cup looking at my choices, nothing looked good. I know just how bad that sugary liquid is for me so there's that. I ended up loading it with ice then filling it to the brim with water. I know I paid for a huge cup of water (that's usually free...), but it was probably the best then for me anyway.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Driving An Open Road On A Beautiful Spring Day...

I think it was Gale Snoats who said, "I love to drive." As I get older, I don't know if I like driving more than I once did--I'm not finding myself behind the wheel very much these days. I take public transportation to work and we don't really go anywhere anymore. But as I drove home today from a weekend dance competition in the great Gem State to the north, I realized, there's something therapeutic about being on an open road.

If you want open roads, Idaho and Northern Utah present many suitable options for you. Not a lot of tight turns, so if you buy a really expensive foreign automobile that goes really fast, you'll go really fast pretty much in a straight line. Of course, going really fast, you may not see the deer and (more importantly...) elk that might cross your path. Luckily, we saw neither, but the state of Idaho made sure to remind us every few miles that deer and elk live in the area, too.

As an kid driving to Idaho Falls, then Rexburg, then Driggs was an annual event. I keep telling my kids (probably too much...) about how it was when I was a kid and how the interstate system had not yet been completed. That's an odd thought, even for me. But it's true. As I grew, sections of I-15 were finished until finally a car can go from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls in under three hours and you don't even have to break any speed limits to do it.

As I drove I snapped a few pictures. At no time we were in danger, though some may disagree with that. I was much less distracted than texters with whom I share the road. Although, one of the most amazing things I ever saw while driving occurred on that very stretch of Interstate 15 many years ago. On one of our trips north we passed a smaller import. As we passed I noticed the driver doing something not normally associated wth driving. What was the driver doing? She was reading a paperback novel.

Today's trip was short and thanks to some expensive upgrades to the family chariot, the drive was very smooth. I wouldn't want to make that drive everyday, but on this warming beautiful spring day, it was great.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ducks, Dogs, Danger Signs...And Dastardly Kids

What is it about water, lots of water, that gets us humans thinking. Why do we ponder life's great mysteries when we're alone on a beach, near a raging river, or by the edge of a lake? What is it that makes us ask questions about ourselves, our families, our past, present, and/or future?

Okay, maybe not everyone does that, but I seem to find myself thinking those thoughts. I also wonder why some parents allowed their young boys chase and try to kicks geese and ducks off the grass and into the river. I wonder when I turned from a kid that chased birds to on who didn't. Probably when I was old enough to read (maybe a little later...).

And when I se huge signs by the side of the mighty Snake River, I wonder why they were even needed. I mean, the water is literally raging below. Then again, signs exist--usually--because people need them. We, as people, are pretty clueless sometimes.

As I walked along the riverside I saw many dogs, but I only took a picture of one. The dogs were better behaved than those boys. Many people I know believe dogs are smarter than people anyway, so it's not so surprising.

The birds were beautiful. The price you pay for getting close enough to take these pictures is to constantly watch where you're walking and check the underside of your shoes once you leave the area. Still worth it.

Tomorrow we'll leave the river's shore and return to a desert where a huge dead sea sits to the west and captures fresh water from the mountains then converts it, or kills it, depending on your viewpoint. I wonder if those who travel to its shores ponder the great mysteries of life. Or if parents who bring their boys to the Great Salt Lake allow them to kick at birds.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Art...And What It Shows Us

If you ever find yourself in Idaho Falls, Idaho, you need to take a stroll along the River Parkway. And if you're on the west side of the mighty Snake River, just northwest of Broadway, you should see a couple of park benches.

These aren't your everyday park benches. They're art. I suppose you could classify every park bench as a work of art, but the two that I saw were commissioned as artistic pieces, gifts from loving families in honor of those who who have passed on. 

The topic of art will most likely become a subject of discussion in the coming weeks and months. We will inevitably reduce the argument into two sides--those who love art and those who don't. It's a ridiculous assumption, but we tend to do that these days, make it a simple proposition, then beat over the head anyone who disagrees with your position.

It's a shame, really. People will create art no matter who funds it, or if it's not funded by outside sources at all. It's in our nature to create--it's why I believe in a creator, and that we, like Him, will one day have the opportunity to continue to create, just on a much larger scale. 

And so, because children who wanted to remember their parents, there are now at least two places where you can sit and watch the laws of gravity beautifully take effect, along a river's edge, in Idaho. If you ever find yourself in Idaho Falls, Idaho, you need to take a stroll along the River Parkway. For there's beauty to behold--the beauty of nature, a testament of God's love for us, and a couple of park benches, a testament a family's love for those no longer here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gem State Classic Show Dance Championships...

My daughter and I are currently in Idaho Falls, Idaho, attending the Gem State Show Dance Championships.

If you'll indulge me for a moment, I'm going to do a little bragging.

Okay, maybe not bragging, but at least, delivering good news. My daughter and her dance partner Paxton tied for 2nd place in their category. It was pretty cool. I videoed the dance and dared not even cheer or scream for fear of letting go of the camera. And, I was pretty nervous, too. They really did a great job and I'm proud of them both. 

I'm new to the whole "going to ballroom dance competitions" thing. The first one I ever attended was last month. I'm kind of a fan now. Watching as a parent brought back memories of when I competed in sporting events. I played little league baseball and football (yes, really, football...). I also played AYSO soccer. When I got to high school I ran track and cross country. I remember my mom going to my little league and soccer games, but not so much track and cross country. And that's okay--I was middle-of-the-road at best. Besides, she had to work being both father and mother to us three kids.

Of all our kids, we've followed our daughter's sporting exploits the most. The boys (except the youngest who currently does Karate...) and the daughter played soccer and we went to every game--we had to or they wouldn't have a ride to and from. The boys never played any other organized sports, but our daughter did gymnastics for several years. She made the decision on her own when it was time to stop. And thanks for some great friends and other fortunate circumstances, she's now doing ballroom dancing.

Now, instead of competing, I watch from the bleachers. I sit and video with all the other parents and grandparents. My stomach does summersaults as my child gets read for her routine, then I can barely breathe as they dance. I wonder what my mom thought as she watched me, this little skinny kid wear a helmet and shoulder pads and pretend to know what I was doing, or when I was stuck in left field hoping no one hit to me. Did she feel nervous? Did she worry?

Probably not. I think parents didn't take the sports as serious back then. At least, that's what I'd like to think anyway. 

I'm proud of our girl--they really did great. And one day, God willing, she'll be sitting in the stands watching her children as they do their stuff. And, God willing, my wife and I will be right there with her.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jennifer Beckstrand's "A Bee In Her Bonnet"...A Book Review

It was a week before our show, You Can't Take it With You, opened and both casts were relaxing, awaiting our time to take the stage and perform. Times like that are perfect for getting to know your fellow cast mates. I turned to Jennifer and asked, "So, what do you do when you're not up on stage?"

I didn't expect her response.

"I write novels."

Not that she's not capable, but it's not everyday you run into, not only a fellow author, but a very successful one at that.

Turns out, the person playing my character's wife in the other cast has published seventeen novels. It's such a huge accomplishment. I asked what genre she writes. She responded Amish romance. Over the past couple of years, I've gotten to know quite a few local authors. I had not heard of her--probably due to the genre. You can count the number of romances I've read on one hand, and you can count the number of Amish romances I've read on no hands. Like she said, I'm "not in her demographic."

The next night, she brought me a couple of books to read and I gave her my collection of short stories. Last week I finished reading the second book in the Honeybee Sisters series, A Bee in Her Bonnet." I enjoyed it very much.

Yes, it's not my typical read, but well-written literature is enjoyable, no matter the topic. A Bee in Her Bonnet continues the adventures of the Christner Sisters, Lily, Poppy, and Rose. The second book in the series focuses mainly on the second sister, Poppy. She's head-strong, determined, and doesn't take guff from anyone. The story begins with Poppy's hand being caught in a rolled-up car window as she rides her bike. The hoodlums in the car begin driving away leaving Poppy in a precarious position.

Along comes Luke Bontrager, Poppy's neighbor and someone who is as head-strong, determined and non-guff-taking as Poppy. He saves Poppy from the baddies, to which he thinks Poppy would be grateful.


She's upset because she didn't get a good look at the boys in the car. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not familiar with romance novels or Amish history, but Beckstrand brought the world alive to me. We pretty much know the main characters (who can't stand each other in the beginning...) will find each other irresistible by the end. It is, however, a fun journey. There's humor mixed with understandable conflict as the two learn about each other and about themselves.

In addition to the budding love affair, there runs an undercurrent of mischief brought on my mystery troublemakers. That part of the story remains unresolved by the end of the second book. So, if you like romances, and/or Amish romances, you'll like Beckstrand's fun, sometimes funny story of these Wisconsin Amish sisters. And if you've never read anything like this, take it from me, you'll probably like it, too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blast From The Past...Winter Journal 1992 Vol. 2

And today, I present the rest of my walk down memory lane. This particular journal (Journal #14, by the way--I'm currently on Journal #64...) extends into the summer of 1992, the last day written was the entry for June 3. And June means graduation and marriages.

Here's the program for our A'cappella concert. You can even see who was in that fantastic group. We were working on songs for our European choir tour--an absolutely amazing experience! Maybe one of these days I'll take pictures of the things in that journal.

Even though there were many things that attracted me to my wife, one was her musical talents. I was lucky enough to see her perform in Hale Center Theater's production of Brigadoon. She played Jean, and if you're familiar with the musical, Jean gets married in the show. That was a bit surreal watching my fiancee get married on stage. She did great in the show, by the way.

With graduation came senior recitals. We all got pretty close in that choir--great talent and even better people. Corinne definitely fits that description.

Another choir member gained notoriety for another reason, he was a U of U poster boy! Yes, that Mat-Bill.

I included an embarrassing note from someone (I forgot who gave me that...), an apologetic note from Daron, the same Daron who gave me a Christmas card (see previous blog post...) and who passed away, and hand-written note on how to handle stress. For all of the kids out there, this is the way we remembered things before the internet. We wrote things down and put them somewhere to save. My, how things have changed.

And since it was the time for weddings, I tried including announcements and the accompanying photos whenever possible. In this particular journal, I found the announcements for Angela and Erek and Tammara Lynn and Daren. As far as I know, both marriages are still going strong.

And that's a few of the things you'll find in Journal #14 comprising a daily blog post covering December 5, 1991 to June 3, 1992. I'm glad Bob asked me to check something in my journal. It's probably one of the only times I've looked at it in twenty-five years. I should do this again with my other journals. I've only got sixty-three more journals to go.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blast From The Past...Winter Journal 1992 Vol. 1

My friend Bob asked me a question last week. Back in the spring of 1992 he and I joined a group of students from the University of Utah on a camping trip. We visiting some of the most amazing places in America. Bob asked me if I could reference my journal from 1992 and let him know exactly when we went on our trip. I'd said I'd be glad to. Luckily, I remembered his request and pulled down the journal.

And suddenly, it was twenty-five years ago.

Except for my missionary journals, I've always used three ring binders as journals. I've loved being able to use my journal as a scrapbook, of sorts. I found the dates. I remembered about when it was because after the trip we came home to the knowledge that California was on fire due to the Rodney King Riots that took place while we were gone. We knew nothing about the riots (this was pre-internet, mind you...). Tonight, I messaged Bob, gave him the dates, but I didn't put away the journal just yet.

1992 was quite the year for me. I met my wife, proposed (thankfully, she said, yes...), graduated with my undergrad degree, toured Europe, returned to my old mission, and got married. We remember the big things, and usually remember the important dates, but looking at the things I put in my journal made me remember so much more. There was so much, I'll need two blog entries to include all the stuff.

My journal included Christmas, 1991. I found several Christmas cards from many friends, one friend who passed away shortly after.

There was a card from the Fraternity/Sorority committee complete with their signatures.

I attended a hockey game at the then Delta Center. I believe this was the first sporting event held at that venue.

Then came the infamous U of U Choir Retreat, the place where I first met the woman I was going to marry.

And I included the ticket stub to where I took her on our first date. I can't remember who won--must have been concentrating on other things...

I found the flyer for one of the more interesting fraternity tradition: The ∆X Scamofolage. The goal: go to the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, and see if we could get dates. We would all meet at an agreed upon location at the end of the night to see who was successful, and who wasn't. Check out our lame "pick-up lines." They're classics!

Of course, not everything was fun. I lost a friend that year--I'm sure many people lost many friends during that time. I'm glad I put Shauna's obituary into my journal all those years ago. It brought back some bittersweet memories.

Next blog post--more pictures from 1992, more experiences, more of the life that was.