Archive | February 2017

Clutter

Over the weekend, my wife and I spent several hours de-cluttering. Because our home has ample storage space, it is easy to put things in a closet, a bin, and forget they exist. I am amazed at the amount of stuff we’ve acquired over the last few years since moving to South Jordan. Add that number to the things we’ve hung onto for 20+ years of being married  and we have an embarrassing amount of possessions.

Going through the linen closet, we discovered washcloths, hand and bath towels that were wedding presents. Faded and worn out, they had not been used in more than a decade. There were medicines which had expired years ago, first aid kits with dried out antiseptic wipes. We made quite a pile of things that must go from these items.

But it wasn’t only old and worn out things that were taking up space. Our storage areas and closets were full of nearly new items we weren’t using which could benefit others in our extended family (and beyond). We collected shirts, pants, and shoes, jackets, books, and put them into sacks with the intention of offering them to someone else.

Changes.

Somewhere along the road. I’ve lost interest in the concept of more. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, it felt like I could never have enough stuff, and when I had the opportunity, I lobbied my wife to purchase these things. Often, I got the things I wanted.

I finally understand that there is only a fleeting pleasure in pursuing the bigger and better, and even less happiness in in the acquisition of things. And while I type, I see the arrogance of even writing about this, the privileged position of having a choice at all.

Even after going through and removing objects from my environment, I still have more than enough, more than I need, and certainly more than I deserve.

Luckily, none of us ever get what we really deserve.

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.