Through the Years

It has been a while since I’ve talked about my boys. In the summer of 2007, Dylan and Destry were placed with us through the foster care system. They’d just had their 7th birthday. Nine months later, we officially adopted them into our family.

They are juniors at Herriman High School now. I feel the way most parents do- One day they were little boys, and the next day they’d become young men. I am grateful for the good people they are, regardless of the strange parenting they receive. They both have huge hearts.

What follows is a year by year photo essay, starting with their first weekend in our home up to last Friday, when they attended a school dance.

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August 2007-Onion Days Parade and picnic, Payson Utah. Seven years old and not quite sure what to think of their current situation. They did get some swell MetLife swag.

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Summer 2008- We went to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City for a play-date with some friends. We arrived early (or were the friends late?). Here, Destry (left) and Dylan (right) ponder the pros and cons of swinging.

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On the year anniversary of their adoption, we took them to Timpanogos Cave. Dylan is on the left.

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October 2010- Halloween morning in our kitchen (our Sugarhouse, Utah home). I’m not sure what Dylan is supposed to be, but I’m assuming Destry is dressed as a tourist.

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June 2011 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. One of our favorite places to vacation. I like to make the boys stand next to random statues (I have quite the collection). It likely makes me a bad parent (joking), but they are always good sports about it. Well, they used to be.

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Outside Smith and Edwards Country Store in Ogden, Spring 2012- A bad hair period? Perhaps, but we’ve always let them wear whatever clothes they liked and have their hair as long, short, sloppy as they wanted.

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Cancun, Mexico Spring 2013- We’d been at the resort less than five hours and both of them already had their summer tans going. Cancun is both boys favorite vacation destination. img_3787

October, 2014. Back in Cancun. Both boys look much older than the previous Spring. Here, they are posing with a kid from England they met while swimming about. They were inseparable for five days. I’m not sure they’ve spoken since.

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The lads and me, Fall 2015 in our South Jordan, Utah kitchen. Dylan is sporting the rhino look, while Destry and I model a less severe style.

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Track season, Spring 2016. Orem, Utah at Grandma Kempton’s house. While this photo is clearly posed, I am stunned at the difference 8 months can make. These are no longer boys, but young men.

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Outside our South Jordan, Utah home- Last weekend, February, 2017. They had a grand time at the dance, and by all accounts, were perfect gentlemen.

It is funny, I feel I haven’t aged all that much. Yet somehow, in what feels very much like overnight, my family has changed from this-

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It may have happened quickly, but if I stop and think, the years, events, vacations, good and bad days are floating about for me to remember. I am grateful for each and every day being their father. I’m a lucky guy.

Altered

Yesterday, I fell into an old trap- Reading the comments following a *political post* on social media. As usual, I disagreed with more than half of those who felt they needed to vent their opinion about the topic at hand. I’ve learned to leave these comments alone, not respond, and allow my anger and frustration to gradually dissipate. The next step is learning not to read these comments at all. Baby steps…

The post in question was about artists, and whether or not they should be allowed to share their personal opinions about the issues of the day. The idea was these artists existed to entertain, period. And somehow, that entertainment precluded them from talking about anything at all. “Just sing and act,” many said. “You are here to be a distraction from reality, an escape.”

One comment in particular stood out, and actually caused me to lose sleep last night. This person claimed he had never, not once had a song or film impact his life or teach him anything. I kept hoping that his statements were hyperbole, meant to drive home the uselessness of the artist more than art itself, but he continued to press about the triviality, banality of music and films. Mindless entertainment, pure and simple. He could live without it.

I felt a wave of sadness. How unfortunate for this person, how tragic. Imagine, never having your heart stirred by a song, never having that moment when you knew  the singer, the musicians understood you on a level no one else ever had, when you felt that connection to something, someone outside of your small circle. Imagine no film ever impacting you, making you want to do more with your life, be better. Or no work of art ever inspiring you to see the world differently, or bringing you to tears.

I could list moment after moment where art has made my life infinitely better, where someones words or music helped me understand the world better. So many films and stories have exposed me to ideas, ways of living and thinking that otherwise would remain beyond my ability to comprehend.

I was up last night trying to construct how different my life would be without a passion for art. I didn’t like how that world felt. It was an empty place, one with less love, compassion, understanding.

I don’t want to think about that sort of world anymore. I think I’ll go listen to some music, and later, read a book. music

 

IWSG-February

Time for the monthly gathering of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share our writing successes, failures, insecurities, goals, and offer each other support or advice. The blog hop is my favorite part of being a member of IWSG and I encourage anyone who writes to join.

Check us out here

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Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Last night, I was informed my poetry chapbook was not selected as a finalist for the Black River Chapbook Competition. My initial response was disappointment, followed by frustration. I felt this particular work was quite good and was sure any committee would feel the same way. Lucky for me, the negative emotions didn’t linger. I slept well, had pleasant dreams. Already, I am planning to submit the collection elsewhere. Onward, upward, forward.

I appreciate all the support, help, good wishes from my writing friends. They were a source of support and strength.

Let’s talk about something else.

The IWSG question for February is- How has being a writer changed your (my) experience as a reader?

I’m going to flip the question some- How has being a reader changed my experience as a writer. Reading is what fuels my writing. Hopefully, each book  I pick up offers a different way of approaching a topic, sentence structure, storytelling. Whenever I think there are no more new ideas, someone comes along and proves me wrong. Through reading I also discover ways not to tell stories, share ideas. Comparing various styles and approaches offers all sorts of interesting options.

An analogy-

When I first started playing the guitar, I had no desire to play other people’s music. I only wanted to learn basic skills, then create my own songs. This worked for me at the time, and gave me a strong motivation to practice as the song ideas in my head finally had an outlet (even if it was limited to a few notes and chords). However, not watching, listening, learning technique from other more talented and practiced musicians ultimately slowed my progress. When the early excitement and desire faded, I found it harder to learn new skills. My practice motivation waned, and when I finally was ready to watch, listen, learn, I found changing my habits difficult. That said, seeing how others approached the instrument has greatly improved my skills. I have found joy in playing the music of others and their work has inspired and influenced the way I create music now.

In my experience, writing works the same way. Sure, one can learn how to create sentences, and write simple stories or articles, even be satisfied with the results, but if that same person fails to learn from other writers, their craft will ultimately suffer.

I feel reading and writing are intimately connected, and struggle to understand writers who don’t read (multiple genres, subjects, non-fiction as well as fiction). For most of us, the reason we wanted to be a writer in the first place was someone else wrote stories or ideas which impacted us. We wanted to pick up a pen (computer, etc) and become part of that world, offering our own ideas, enter the conversation.

Just like being part of this blog hop, sharing, learning, growing, becoming better writers.

 

On the Mend

I’m getting over a particularly nasty cold. Last Wednesday, I felt the first scratch in my throat and instantly loaded up on all the vitamins, juice, etc I could handle. Weak and tired, I managed to plug through until Sunday morning, when it seemed the worst was over and I might be feeling more like myself by the end of the day.

Um, no.

I started sneezing around noon. In rhythm, it seemed like every 14 minutes the sneezes came. Heavy, powerful, back wrenching sneezes. At one juncture, I let loose 8 in a row, followed by a set of six. The runny nose accompanied the sneezing, followed by watery eyes, a massive headache, pain in my back.

Sleep was almost impossible, as the sneezing continued into the night and next morning. Finally, Monday evening I was able to settle down and get some rest. Tuesday, the headache and dizziness returned. Luckily, this morning is much better, and I think I may finally be on the mend.

Things I am tired of-

Ibuprofen

Cold medicines

Airborne tablets

Sore nostrils

Sore eyes

Tissues

That flat, metallic taste in the back of my throat

Things I am grateful for-

A wonderful spouse who takes care of me

Warm blankets and a warm place to sleep

sleep itself

Old war movies

Hot beverages

Good books to read

 

Happy Wednesday.

 

 

Three Down

I’ve been doing quite well with my arbitrary goal of reading *more* than last year.

I am not the fastest reader on the planet, but I have been able to finish three books this month and am well into a 4th. If I am able to maintain this pace, that should triple my number from 2016.

It is all so very exciting.

I made a bold pick for book #1, choosing a novel from Catherine O’Flynn. Her first book, What was Lost, was sensational (and a little bit spooky). Her second effort, The News Where You Are, was not as groovy. I struggled to finish it, almost quitting on two or three occasions. I was betting on the hit or miss being a cycle in her writing, and I was correct.

Mr. Lynch’s Holiday was a great work of literary fiction about a recently widowed Irishman who lives in England deciding to take a vacation to reconnect with his son, who has found himself in Spain, residing in a sea-side community gone bust with a bunch of other ex-pats. Secrets are shared and revealed. Lives are altered. An all around good read.

The second book I attacked was The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith. Number 2 in the Child 44 trilogy, this story unfolds around events surrounding a speech given by Nikita Khrushchev just after the death of Stalin through the Hungarian uprising of 1956. The crimes of the Stalinist regime are exposed and the members of the secret police become targets of vengeful criminals. Caught up in this chaos is Leo Demidov, former MGB officer, his wife and recently adopted daughters. As the secrets of Leo’s past are exposed, he will fight to preserve the lives of his family at any cost. I love the historical elements in this series, and the political intrigue, betrayal the tangible fear of Soviet era Russia drive the stories. A fun, fast read.

Third, I finished a mystery novel called Woman with Birthmark, By Hakan Nesser. Inspector Van Veeteren is back on the case, trying to solve a series of confusing and brutal murders. Each victim is shot twice in the chest and twice below the belt. The connections-each of these men served in a military training course together decades ago and each victim received phone calls where the caller would play an obscure pop song from the 1960’s. With several chapters written from the killer’s perspective, the real reason for the crimes is pretty easy to figure out, but the book is a fun read. I enjoy these sorts of crime novels, because the killer is rarely some monstrous uncontrollable evil, but someone realistic and understandable. Not every murderer is Jack the Ripper and not every mystery novel needs to be about the crime of the decade.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading. What are you reading this month? Anything exciting that I should check out?

 

 

January 11

One day closer to warmer weather.

Another successful day, moving me closer to accomplishing several personal goals.

Shaking off the rust of too many months of inaction.

Approaching the beginning of a writing project with anxiety and excitement.

There is still much to do, but oh so many things to be grateful for.

Onward and upward.

How are you?

 

 

IWSG-January

The kids are back in school. Sheryl’s too short vacation is over and she has returned to the office. The house has resumed its usual daytime stillness, settling back into routine.

Welcome to winter.

Oh, and welcome to the first Wednesday of the month, which is of course when the members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gather to share our writing adventures, successes and failures. Check us out here-http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Every writer is an insecure one, so join in the fun.

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I am roughly four weeks away from learning the fate of my poetry chapbook. The fine folks at http://www.blacklawrence.com/ are at this moment, selecting the finalists, which hopefully includes my work. I entered fairly early in the window, so the wait has been/felt extra long. I’d like to pretend there were days I didn’t worry, or wonder. Less time has been spent stressing about it all than in October (the sleepless nights I’ll never get back), and I’ve swallowed the nervousness that kept me from even looking at the poems (certain there would be a million typos, misspelled words). Still, I am more than ready for this process to come to a conclusion. I feel confident about the work, and if for some reason, I am not a finalist, I will be alright.

Really.

But dammit, I so want to win.

When I was sending out query letters for my first novel, I fully expected the rejection. I never felt I’d created a solid letter, and if I wasn’t sure about what I was submitting, it was unlikely any agent reading it would feel any differently.

In this contest (unless they are being completely dishonest about the process), it is a blind reading, and no one on the committee has any clue who wrote what until after the decisions have been made. My ability to write about my work is not being evaluated, but rather the writing itself. I’ve always thought that if I could get someone at some press somewhere to actually read my work, that would be all it took.

What if I’m completely wrong?

I know, I know, rejection is rarely about the person (right?), but that doesn’t make this any less frightening. And maybe rejecting me would actually be less disheartening than rejecting what I’ve created.

Four more weeks…

Maybe I need some company in my misery. Do any of you have some heartbreaking rejection stories you’d like to share?