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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.

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.

 

Goals are for Suckers

What a grand Christmas season. I was able to spend time with family and friends, share a drink and conversation, eat good food and have some fun. Our annual Christmas Eve family party was well attended and everyone seemed to have a grand time. I enjoy this tradition a great deal. Many of the people I care most about assembling all in one place (my house) makes for an wonderful evening.

As soon as our party ended, almost to the moment, the snow began to fall. By morning, several inches covered the ground.

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Many people enjoy a White Christmas. For me, it is a mixed bag. I love the beauty of freshly fallen snow, and the silence that accompanies it is ideal for contemplation.

If only we had no where to go, no place to be, but driving is unavoidable for us on Christmas Day. The roads were treacherous and icy, and the temperature remained below freezing. Other on the streets, caught up in the euphoria of the season were not always attentive. Several times, we were almost run off the road by careless drivers.

We were lucky, avoided accidents, and arrived at our destinations unharmed. Gifts were exchanged. Love was shared. The end.

As for the coming year, my sincere hope is that it is somehow much better than 2016 (it has to be, right?). I’m going to do my part by actually setting goals for myself.I am not a pessimistic person, but New Year’s resolutions rub me wrong. They seem trite and coerced more than anything. Still, I need to find more focus this year, discover ways to progress and grow.

Most of my goals will remain private, but I feel like sharing one.

READ MORE!

I am sad to admit that I barely finished 15 books this past year. That is horrible. I must double that amount. I even have this lovely stack waiting for me.

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What about you? How was the holiday?  Goals?

 

 

On A Good Day

I have driven through Flagstaff, Arizona close to 15 times on my way to Phoenix, and in all honesty, I dislike the place. It doesn’t help that I usually travel through in the winter, and being up in the mountains, Flagstaff is a snowy, frozen, uninviting place.

I am willing to accept that most of the problem lies with me. I have my mind set, but the dislike is irrational. I’ve never had a negative encounter with anyone living in the town. I’ve not been involved in any snow related accidents, though I have seen several messy ones. Yet, my disdain remains. It has become a running family joke, the awfulness of any sojourn through the frozen waste. If there were a faster route, I would surely take it.

I thought nothing in the world could change my opinion of Flagstaff.

A band I love was doing a small, six city tour, which didn’t include mine. The best place to catch them was in Flagstaff. Ugh. I was not thrilled at the prospect, but as I was determined to see the band, I booked a cheap hotel, found a friend to go with me, and secured tickets.

It is just over 7 hours from my front door to the  Flagstaff city limits. I think I complained at least seven times each hour, and the drive into town on an overcrowded and stoplight ridden Route 66 didn’t alter my perception.

The hotel was just as I’d expected, room doors facing out on a oil stained parking lot, two beds, no fan in the bathroom. Strange enough, I was surprised at how comfortable it was, and how after a quick walk around the area, I was not displeased with the location.

My friend and I drank a few beers, laughed at really stupid jokes, then walked the mile distance from our room towards the historic downtown area.

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It was easy to ignore the beauty of Flagstaff when I was traveling through cold and snow, but walking towards the town center, I could not help but be struck by the landscape. The hills surrounding town were just turning green with spring growth and the breeze, though still chilly, was welcoming.

We walked to a local ramen place (never eat at chain restaurants, especially on vacation), and had some of the most delicious food I’ve eaten in quite a while. The place was tiny inside, but the atmosphere was friendly and inviting as were the staff.

I ordered a bowl called the Mic Drop. The flavors (udon noodles, various cuts of pork, house made red kimchi, amazing broth), were succulent. Each bite was as good as the first.

Vegans should avert their eyes.

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The three or four streets making up the historic downtown were lively, filled with people out walking and shopping. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and all the people we encountered at stores and shops were nothing but nice.

I kept trying to tell myself I hated it here, but as we walked to the bar where the show was being held, I had to stop lying. I was having a great time—in Flagstaff. I didn’t think that was possible.

On a good day, it seems anything can change.  I can’t believe I’m writing this, but given the chance, I’d go back, stay the night again, maybe two.

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The show was excellent. Boris blew me away. I did encounter some odd ducks at the venue who seemed to be trapped in an 1986 time warp. They were head banging like Megadeath were on the stage. I wanted to get video, but it was too dark and smokey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Letter A

I need a jump start, a reason, a purpose to write more on this blog, which sort of feels cowardly, and mildly pathetic. If I don’t want to blog, I shouldn’t, right? No one expects it, needs it, will know if I refuse this A to Z blogging challenge. Maybe this is just for me, and maybe that is all that matters.

Do I need an overall theme? How about- 26 random blogs with subject matter completely dependent on my selfish mood. I like how that feels.

Today- A, which stands for Acceptance.

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I accept the challenge to write one blog a day, excluding Sundays, for the month of April. Each day, the post must have something to do with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Twenty-six letters, twenty six days.

I accept that this will be hard for me, because I’m lazy lately when it comes to blogging. I also understand that I am attempting this challenge for very selfish reasons.

If I complete this challenge (wait, let me rephrase that, WHEN I complete this challenge), it will mark the most blogging I have done in a one month stretch since the creation of this blog, and certainly triple the amount of entries for 2016.

I’m going to challenge myself to also read blogs from others participating in this challenge, and to comment on said blogs. I want to participate more, contribute more, meet new and different bloggers, be part of a community.

Gosh, I’m an accepting sort of guy.

Day 1- Complete.

 

Which One?

The first Wednesday of the month is when the writers from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group get together and discuss our recent successes, our struggles and failures. If you’re a writer and want to play along, check us out and sign up here- http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

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I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to diving back in and submitting queries to agents again. I’m ready to have other writers look over my query letter and after that feels tight and polished, putting my neck on the block. Rejections sucks, but not as much as I anticipated. It was easy enough to separate rejection of my writing from rejection of me as a person, which was surprising. I expected to be deeply hurt. Maybe I had already set myself up for failure. Maybe I thought no agent would be interested in the story I was selling. I’m not sure I was confident in my own work, which makes it very difficult to convince others to take a chance on it.

I feel I have moved past that fear, finally fully behind my own writing, which makes me ready to expect someone else to be as well. Instead of looking at my writing and only seeing the weaknesses, I am able to see the strengths, the things I do quite well. The issue this time won’t be confidence, it will be which book to submit.

I have two novels ready for submission and they are vastly different types of stories. The first is more “literary” to loosely use that term. It is about relationships and memory, how we create them, preserver them, and how we easily misread them. It is a great story, but by no means a page turner. The second is all action with elements of science fiction. It is much longer as well. They are both my writing style, and strangely enough, I like them equally. If I had my way, they’d both get a chance to be read.

Sadly, unless I’m going to self publish, I have to chose what kind of writing style I want to put forward to agents. Do I want to be seen as a serious, literary writer or someone who writes more speculative fiction? It matters. It dictates the course of my life from this moment forward (at least in a professional sense). So few professional writers have successfully changed direction and not sunk in the effort. I know it is foolish to act as if my “future” in writing is even a possibility at this moment, but…

Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

 

 

Spinning and Static

A month or so ago, I received an email (private Facebook message more likely) from the husband of my Aunts sister (yeah, a strange connection for sure). In it, he mentioned my love of vinyl, and that he had decided to part with his collection of records from the 70’s and early 80’s.

In my dreams, I saw stacks of records, maybe hundreds of albums from an era of music that always reminds me of being a boy, sitting in front of my fathers expansive and quirky collection, headphones on, expanding my musical knowledge. I assumed everyone who actually still owned records would own many. Any casual collector would have dumped their albums at a thrift store years ago.

I wasn’t naive enough to believe that every record would be a treasure. Musical taste is perhaps the most subjective part of a human personality, and while I knew this man some, his musical preferences were a mystery.

I arrived at his place and followed him down into the basement. He was moving, downsizing, and the records were not something he wanted to bring along to the new place.

In the only unfinished room in the basement, was a solitary box of records, maybe 70, tucked away in the dark and the dust. A bit saddened, I began to thumb through them. Most of the collection was smooth jazz, beat down Beatles records, obscure Christmas collections. Kids albums with silly songs instead of albums from Bowie or Springsteen stared back at me. I admit, I was disappointed.

Once I got home and really sorted them, I found a few amazing pieces, a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, Simon and Garfunkel, some interesting classical albums, as well as other records I had forgotten existed. I gave them all a good bath (they were wicked dusty), then sorted them into piles I would be keeping and those that I would be selling or giving away. In the end I kept close to 20.

I just finished listening to Bridge over Troubled Water again. Next, I’ll listen to some Cream, or maybe something by Count Basie.

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I am grateful for the gift this man offered me. My initial disappointment has been replaced with gratitude at the chance to get to know another person through their musical taste, and by a connection to some of the music of my childhood; a connection only possible through the all too familiar hiss and pop of old records.