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New Car

April 9, 2014

So I bought a new car. The 1994 Mazda 626 (aka M2) is no more. It was a great car and I loved it and really got attached to it. But as it aged, the repairs started coming a bit more regularly than was ideal. The last repair I did to it was the radiator and then the starter got weak. I was going to replace the starter but the cost was going to be $500. Beckah talked me out of it. She said I COULD do it, but it would just be putting $500 more into a car with 223,000 miles on it as opposed to $500 into a new car.

I could have argued with her but she was right. I have been saving for a new car for over a year. Iím proud of the way I did it. I took $200 every two weeks and had it automatically deposited into a sub checking account. Once that amount hit $1500 I invested in the stock market. Specifically I bought AIG and FNF and later turned the FNF into SPA, but the majority of the money was in AIG. The AIG stock performed very well over the time I did this. What was nice about this method was that I had a $500 buffer at all times to deal with little emergencies that came up, and they did come up! But after a year of this plan I had around $6000 in the stock market. I really wanted to avoid having to finance a car when I bought one, but I also knew I wanted a car that was relatively new, had low miles and would last a LONG time. I also knew I wanted a Mazda6 really bad.

I went to a dealer who had some used Mazda6 models and I test drove a 2009 and 2013 and I liked both of them. I mentioned I liked the tinted windows in the 2009 and the salesman said he could throw that in the 2013 model. We got to wheeling and dealing and I had the price of the 2013 Mazda6 with 30,000 miles down to $13,500. But he said the tinted windows would be extra. I insisted he follow through with the tinted windows and I really expected him to say, ďWell, Iíll have to talk with the bossÖĒ and then come back and accept. But instead he said he couldnít do it, so I walked away.

The next day I went to a Nissan dealer where Mike worked. Mike is my brotherís wifeís sisterís husband. Iím not sure what that makes us. I call him my step-friend. Anyway, I met with him, he introduced me to a salesman. He showed me a 2009 Corolla with 30,000 miles that was blue, tinted windows and was really nice. But I didnít fall head over heels in love with it, mostly because it was a little older. I then asked about the Sentras, we test drove one and I liked it. The salesman offered to tint the windows for free and that was pretty much it for me. The price on it was $11,500. But with all the dealer fees I ended up borrowing $14,500. That included $1000 trade in for the Mazda I had and a $300 discount for knowing Mike. No sun roof, but tinted windows, even a little spoiler and 50,000 miles. When I test drove it I saw the stereo had an input for an iP*d and we all know I despise Apple products with every fiber of my being. But I didnít ask about it because I didnít want to be petty. I wish I had now. It turns out you can only connect Apple products to the stereo and have full control. I can still use the aux input to listen to MP3s from my Samsung phone but I canít control it from the steering wheel controls. Eddie found an app that looks like it might work but we havenít tried it just yet.

Other than the Apple snafu I love the car. Looks great, is currently getting 30+ mpg around town. I have not yet taken it on a road trip of any length but Iím told it will get 40 mpg on the highway.

As far as the financial plan now I have borrowed the full $14,500 at 2.8% for 72 months. I picked the longer loan with a purpose. If I do nothing, the payment is something like $237 dollars per month. Technically thatís doable, assuming there are no emergencies. The advantage of this is that I could keep the money I have saved up in the stock market where, in theory, it will earn more than 2.8%. What is more likely to happen is that I will sell the stock, pull together some additional money and I should be able to pay about $8000 now. I will then refinance the loan at 2.7% for 60 months which should make the payments around $130 per month. This is very doable even with life emergencies that are bound to happen. And I will make extra payments. I should have this paid in full in two years or less.

From there weíll save up and get Beckah a car using essentially the same plan. Then weíll do it again and London will probably be driving by then! Shoot, she is turning 6 years old in less than a month! But weíll cross those bridges as they come. Right now Iím very happy to have a new car even though I admit I miss the little Mazda, M2. The Sentraís name is Zelga, short for Zippy the Lightening Goat. Weíll see if that sticks!

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Dance Date and Health Update

February 4, 2014

I feel this is a journal-worthy entry. Last night I took Beckah on a date and the experience was a little out of the ordinary and I'm pretty proud of it. A few weeks ago I had an idea to do something special for her. We have lightly talked about taking dance lessons in the past but never got serious about for a lot of reasons. I don't like dancing in general, (unless its used to make a child smile or to mock other people), I can't use dancing because I won't go to places where people dance (see previous list), and really the whole thing is silly.

Still, I get it. I understand why people dance. I feel rhythm too. And the idea of doing something like salsa dancing with my wife, makes sense. Who else would I dance with? So I called a studio that does adult dance lessons called DF Dance Studio. They teach all ages all different types of dance. Jazz, swing, salsa, hip-hop even. Salsa jumped right out at me. I know the percussion is thrilling in salsa, its got some sex appeal to it and yet its friendly and social (as far as I know-I'm no expert at this). They let us take a single class as opposed to starting an 8 week course which I had no interest in without trying it first at least.

I teased the heck out of Beckah for weeks preceding the date. The studio said it was more comfortable for women to wear heels for salsa which sounds contrary to me. I dislike heels. I see no reason for any human to artificially inflate their height for any reason unless you're putting construction putty on a ceiling. I don't like the way they make women stand or walk, I don't like the way they sound (I could seriously write a journal entry about that alone). But I also recognize why they exist. And I suppose if you're dancing salsa and the studio says that's what is preferred then that's what you do. So I went to the shoe store alone to buy shoes. I didn't want to take Beckah because I wanted the dancing aspect to be a surprise and I didn't know how to have her shop for shoes and keep that a secret so I just went myself. You want to know awkward? Go into a shoe store alone and stand in the women's shoe section and wait for someone to help you and then no one does. Yeah, that's awkward. I finally went and flagged someone down and explained what I needed and why. I was told first thing that I was a the greatest husband in history. To which I replied, "Yes, I am." The gal that helped me knew salsa and knew exactly what was needed.

I got the shoes and gave them to Beckah and she was confused at the time. She did guess dance lessons eventually but not until it was like 4 days before the date. I arranged for baby sitting and we went out and it wasn't until we were in the car that I confirmed to her that we were going salsa dancing. She was very excited. We got there early and right next to the dance studio was a train hobby shop called The Train Shoppe. We had 20 minutes to kill so we went in. They had aisles of trains and the gentleman helped me with the train I bought the kids for the Christmas tree. I'm not HUGE into trains but I was really into them when I was a kid and I was having a great time. We were about to leave and he said, "Wait you havenít even seen the best part yet. Go through the back door!" I had seen the door earlier but I thought it was just to a back stock room. We went through the door it opens up into this vast train city, fully modeled, multiple trains, multiple sizes, one you can ride on. They host birthday parties, itís all done up in an old west theme. If I was 5-12 years old I would have died with excitement. It was really cool. We might be taking Thatcher there for his next birthday but I'm not sure I could wait that long. I'd love for him to see it.

Anyway, we finally went to the studio and got checked in. There were a lot of people, 20-30 I'd say. The teacher was fantastic. Her commands to the class were short and simple and didn't waste any time. Some of the people had obviously done it before. Their hips were moving and their shoulders were into it and their eyes were into and they were alive. We're doing this little back and forth basic move and there's mirrors and I'm looking around and Beckah was rocking it. Er, salsa-ing it? Then I looked at me. I looked like a robot. Stiff back, arms stiff at my side. I wondered, "Why in the heck do I look like that? I need to loosen up." Then I realized why. West Jordan High School marching band. That's the closest to dancing I've ever done. In marching band you keep everything as still as possible except your legs and hands. I was defaulting to the one thing I learned 22 years prior. Even after telling myself to loosing up I still looked like a zombie being forced to salsa against its will. It was sad. And yet right. I hate dancing. I was here to make Beckah smile, and she was. I admit I was smiling too. When we left both our cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

I knew it would be a group class but I figured I'd get to dance with Beckah the whole time. But no. The teacher said to get in a circle and all the girls would rotate through so that everyone got to dance with everyone. My heart sank to my stomach. I was doing really good just to do my zombie-salsa next to my wife. Now I was being told to dance with strangers. I didn't like that at all. However I understand the reason why. Giving everyone a chance to dance with everyone else made it easier to learn the moves from each other and dance with a variety of people. I would do the same thing if I was teaching music to multiple people. More variety equals higher quality. But now Iím holding hands with strange women. In fact I never once got to dance with Beckah beyond the very first move which was just stepping back and forth. We weren't even holding hands at that point. As the girls cycled through I was watching Beckah dancing with other guys. I admit a very small percentage wanted to say, "All right, that's enough, she dances with me and me only or we leave." But I know better. I'm not an animal and I'm not jealous over petty things. Well, actually that's not true. I am an animal and I am very jealous over petty things, but at least I do a pretty good job of filtering that out so that the person most people see on the surface and respectable adult. I behaved like an adult. But my eye wandered to Beckah wherever she was. I had the hardest time maintaining eye contact with any of the other girls I danced with. They ranged from young to old, some pretty good and some pretty bad, but I think most were right where I was. Nervous and feeling awkward but clearly committed to doing something different.

The class got out and like I said we were both smiling so much it hurt. We talked like teenagers in the car about the lesson and about the people we danced with and it was really great. Then we went to eat pizza. Sort of. This takes a little back story. Beckah has been dieting very successfully on a diet called Medifast for about 7 or 8 months. I have been wanting to stop drinking Mountain Dew and Medifast had a contest for $1000 that was a month long. So I decided to go on the Medifast plan for this contest. I started January 6th and the last day of the contest was February 3rd, the same day as this dance date. I lost 24 pounds in that time because I stuck to the diet, I did not cheat. Well I cheated a VERY tiny bit, but only a handful of times. I stand by the result. I avoided carbs and only ate their powdered shakes and meals. Anyway all that to say, I did well and I planned on having pizza. So we went to Rocky Mountain Pizza in Riverton and it was awesome! I didn't destroy my diet. I just ate half a small pizza. More on the diet later. Back to the date.

We went back home, Beckah relieved the babysitter and we watched TV and went to bed. I'm not sure if we'll take up salsa dancing. Like I said, it was awkward and I have no intentions of ever being anywhere where it would be handy to have that ability. Nobody ever rushes into a room and cries, "My son has fainted and is bleeding! Does anyone know how to Salsa dance?!" I don't think I'll ever say to myself, "Man, I'm bored. I think I'll head downtown and salsa dance for a while." I intended it to be a quirky fun thing we did. Honestly if Beckah decides she really wants more we'll cross that bridge as it comes. I have no idea how we'd arrange that much babysitting. But my needs were met and I'm happy with what we got. I can maybe see doing that if you were single and wanted to meet women. But good Lord you'd pretty much have to admit you'd arrived at the bottom of the barrel if that were your reality. You can't meet people at work or church so you end up at half a gym praying some stranger will hold your hand for 2 minutes? That concept crosses so many wires in my head. If that's where you live, buy an Xbox, learn to play guitar, learn to write C#.

I digress. The date was awesome and my greatness shall be proclaimed by my wife. I'm proud of it. Since I brought up the diet I should point out that since I've lost that much weight, I now want to build some muscle because I've seen the pictures and I'm pretty white, pasty and featureless. A lot like pancake batter really. My work has a gym membership discount so yesterday I decided to give weight lifting another honest go, which I haven't done since April, 2004 which I only know because that was when Beckah came back into my life and I stopped working out in order to spend time with her on the phone. THAT is another story that you can read about on this very journal. I'll try to post pictures every month but here's the photos for the weight loss, before and after.

This entry would be lacking if I did not talk about the new entry to our family. Eli Warren Greenwood, my nephew was born February 1st, 2014 and 3:03 am. He was 6 weeks premature and as I write this he is hooked up to breathing machines while Eddie and Brittany are watching from a distance. Brittany delivered him with no epidural and she has my respect for that. I couldn't even relate to her experience. I am among the lucky because when London and Thatcher were born I didn't realize how easy we had it. Beckah was full term, the doctor induced her labor and both were about as smooth as it gets. Eddie and Brittany have been in the hospital since Christmas day (with a break in January). They've been flexing every muscle they have for the health of Eli. The good news is that his progress is close to normal (as far as I understand) for a 6 week premature baby. But he'll be in the NICU for around 5 weeks is what the doctors are now saying. I have every confidence he'll come out of this victorious and Brittany and Eddie will be restored. They are a seed of a future happy family. I'm really excited that Eddie has a boy to share Super Bowl Sunday with. Eddie will be a power dad I have no doubts.

I should also mention that dad was back in the hospital with another pancreas attack, like he had 3 years ago. It seems this one wasn't as severe. I took him to the ER with mom the same night that Eddie and Brittany were delivering Eli. They sent him home after 4 hours and with a low fat diet it seems to have subsided. Still scary to take your dad to the ER. The SAME night Beckah's dad was in the ER in Smithville with congenital heart failure which sounds more terrifying than it is. Its still pretty terrifying though. Itís a buildup of fluid in the chest that makes it hard for the heart and lungs to function. Might be an update on that later since I think he's there for another day or two. It's really been hospital week for us!

That's all the updates I have for now. I missed a Christmas update, I didn't talk at all about how good London is doing in school or how amazing it is see Thatcher grow. But I did talk about how beauitful my wife looks in high heels, which was what I wanted to say. You're beautiful, Beckah Elaine!

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Sandstorm at Antelope Island

September 7, 2013

Pull up your chair and get comfortable. This is going to be a good one.

Beckah's mom, Waltyne, Aunt Judy, Sister Cindy and 4 year old 2nd cousin Jayden are visiting us in Utah. Waltyne has never been to Utah before and she wants to see the sights of the west so today we took her to the Great Salt Lake and specifically Antelope Island. It was a perfect day to do so. I got off work early due to being on call the previous week, the weather was good, just scattered storms expected, but none were above us. So we loaded up two cars and drove out to Layton. I drove the dodge Neon with London, age 5, Jayden, age 4, and Thatcher age 2 (almost 3, his birthday is in 3 days). Beckah drove the rental van with Waltyne, Judy and Cindy. We toured the island, saw many bison and antelope.

It was perfect. Jayden kept saying she REALLY wanted to go to the beach. How could I say no? A 4 year old comes across the country to Utah. How do I not let her put her feet in the Great Salt Lake? This is the kind of thing you bring home and use for show and tell. So we took both cars to the beach, called Bridger Bay Beach.

Both cars pulled up into the parking lot. It was easily half a mile walk through the sand just to get to the water. Both Waltyne and Cindy are in wheel chairs so Beckah said, "We're going to go to the visitors center and you can meet us there after you're done at the beach." I thought that was a great idea and I watched them drive away. We have no swim wear or towels. The kids are just in shorts or pants and they are all wearing socks and sneakers. In fact London was wearing boots. I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and button down short sleeve shirt because I had come home from work and immediately hit the road for Antelope Island. (I swear all of this comes into play later.)

I start marching the kids to the water. Jayden is very determined to get there and I love her enthusiasm and decisiveness. Thatcher moves a little slower. The sand was pretty deep. He kept asking to take his shoes off and I keep saying no because I don't want him to cut himself on the rocks. Keep in mind, a half a mile through deep sand with three kids is tough. I'm trying to keep them together and keep them safe. As I'm walking I notice that out on the water is a very fierce looking storm. It's black and stretches to the highest part of the sky I can see. This should have been a HUGE red flag for me. Instead I just thought, "Well, if it starts raining it will be a good excuse to turn back. We might get sprinkled on. Worst case scenario the car seats get a little wet." I'm not the least bit concerned. Above us the sun is shining, itís still and quiet and a perfect day.

We finally get to the water. The kids get their shoes off, I roll up their pants so they can wade in a little bit, remind them to keep close and they go play. Thatcher and I are throwing rocks in the water and really having the grandest of times.

15 minutes passes, and itís a long walk back to the car. So I say, "C'mon kids, its time to go." They are kids so they dilly dally a bit and they don't want to go but I finally get them organized enough to start walking. I thought, "Should I put their shoes back on? I hate when my feet are wet and sandy and I have to put shoes on. Nah, let's just walk it, we'll be careful." So I'm carrying 3 pairs of shoes.

I try to set a pace for the kids so I'm leading and looking back to make sure they are following. They are but its slow going. What can you do? Age 3-5 is a bit like herding ducks. But they are coming. I notice the wind is picking up. I notice that when I turn and look behind me the brine flies that are there are blowing into me. I don't want them in my eyes. I notice that itís starting to hurt. Must not be brine flies, must be the sand. Then it began.

The wind picked up full force. I later found out it was blowing at least 50 miles an hour. The sand was like needles. The kids go to full panic mode. 10/10 on the panic scale. They are screaming in pain. I'm in pants and two shirts. They are in short sleeved summer shirts and rolled up pants and barefoot. And they are all under 5. I gather them all around me and try to place myself between them and the wind so I could at least block the sand. I hold them close and yell to them, "It will be ok." They are all terrified.

At first I think it's just a gust of wind and it will let up and then we can move. After 60 seconds of holding these trembling, terrified kids I realize this is not going to let up any time soon and no one is coming to our aid. There were 2 or 3 other groups of people on the beach at the time but they were all adults and 100 yards down the beach from where we were. They were all running to the parking lot for cover and they couldn't look back. They wouldn't have even realized there was a guy holding three children that were already fully mentally unraveled.

So this is where children become men. I had to make the choice to wait it out or go one painstaking and risky step at a time. I yelled at the kids, "The only way out is to move. We have to move. We are going back to the car. Hold on to me, don't let go and keep moving." It felt like we were on the beach at Normandy. The kids, in their tears all said, "Ok". They trusted me.

And so we began. They were screaming bloody murder and rightfully so. The only thing holding ME together was the fact that I had to get these kids to safety. The kids wanted to run, but we needed to stay together. I was holding three pairs of shoes and the girls were strapped around my legs like preschoolers on their first day of school. I'm trying to hold my arms low and behind them to protect them from the sand. Thatcher was the least protected. He was doing his best to hold on to my pinky and I was doing my best to keep him in front of me while I juggled the shoes and the girls. But he's the slowest mover of us and he was struggling with the depth of the sand on top of everything else. He was tripping and I had the hardest time trying to keep him with me. He kept letting go and getting a few steps away. I had to yell to get him to latch back on to me. You'd be surprised at the noise of this wind storm. It was deafeningly loud. Every once in a while one of the girls would pop off of me like popcorn and start running, usually not the right way.

I tried picking them all up to carry them all but it was too heavy a weight. At one point Thatcher bolted running parallel to the beach, away from our goal. I yelled at him but he didn't hear me. I yelled his name again 3 times at the top of my lungs. He was getting farther away, running for his life, crying from the pain of the sand and the confusion of it all. If he didn't hear me I would either have to leave the two girls alone and go get him, or watch him run into the low visibility of the sand storm. It was like watching God play dice with your life. Luckily Thatcher heard me and he turned around and I got him to run back to us.

I knelt down and told them again we have to stay together. And we regrouped. I wanted to save the shoes but somewhere I dropped Thatcher's shoes and watched the wind carry one away down the beach. We kept moving. The whole time I'm talking, just to let them know I was there and in charge. "Itís going to be ok, this is a great adventure, we will get to tell stories, I'm here, keep moving, one step at a time, stay with me." We sang, "Hey Jude" and "Jesus loves me, this I know." These are the kinds of things I would do if I were in a Titanic situation and there is no hope and certain doom waits. I would sing "Hey Jude" and "Jesus loves me". I was more trying to keep myself on task!

After 20 minutes of this hell, we get to the top of the beach. There is a small building we can take refuge from the wind in an enclosed porch. But the car is on the far side of the parking lot behind a totally different building. I have another decision to make. I can leave the kids alone in a strange place after walking through the belly of hell while I dash to the car, or we can all venture out again into the sand and wind and noise. I can't abandon them. That's the kind of story people tell their parole officer on why they are back in jail--"Because my daddy left me to go get the car". Both options were terrible. I didn't want to subject the kids to any more of the sand. But that was what I had to do. I gave them another pep talk, I told them we were very close to the car but we have to walk some more. They looked at me with their puppy dog eyes, buggery faces covered in sand that stuck to every wet part of their face. They looked like they had just survived a bomb blast.

But we held tight and made it to the next checkpoint, which was a windbreak in front of a restroom. The car was closer but still on the far side of the parking lot. I thought about leaving them while I went to get the car but even if I got the car as close as I could they still would have had to walk through 30 feet of this hell. We regrouped again, one last pep talk. I told them when we get to the car just get in as fast as you can, no seatbelts, just get in. Bless their little hearts. They had the faces of soldiers at this point. Fear and strength. They could see the end. We dashed across the parking lot, I had to unlock the doors and those kids fell in like dominoes. I closed their door as they quickly settled in. I looked at the beach as I ran to get myself in the car. I said out loud, "Really, Utah? You're going to do this to me? To my kids? Well, guess what? I win. Go to hell." And I got in the car.

What awaited me was like a Hollywood movie. The kids were so beat up but so relieved to be out of the wind and sand. I asked them if they were ok. Jayden had a bloody toe, as did London. Thatcher had a blister. I dumped praise and blessings on them. I told them I was so proud of them for listening to me, and staying together. We made it!

No man should ever have to go through that, but three children who are as sweet and innocent and pure as these three shouldn't have been there. It was trying to enough for me to go through it, and for me to have been alone through it. But it was extremely challenging to lead three kids through it.

I was a power dad today. I'm a power dad every day but today I had to use every resource in the most perfect of ways to conquer this beast. I did it and I did it well. Within five minutes I had those kids laughing and in awe of what they had just accomplished. They deserve a medal of honor. I love both my kids and this Jayden girl is amazing. She has me wrapped around her finger.

It's so easy to look back on as if it was nothing. I didn't break any skin or bleed. But those kids bore the worst of that storm and they came through it laughing at the end of it. Life isn't about avoiding tears, itís about laughing about them when they're gone. I will remember this day for the rest of my life and I hope the kids do too.

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My Pond

April 30, 2013

It started with Father's day. I asked Beckah for permission to build a pond. And she gave it to me. I spent the next 9 months researching how to do it. And I have done it! I wanted to post the story with pictures so I don't forget the hard work I put in. So here is your chronological story with pictures and videos of how I did it.

I watched a lot of videos and talked to a lot of people and read a lot of articles. If I had to pick one that I tried to base my pond on it was this one. It's 45 minutes but very educational especially when combined with all my other research.

His pond is bigger than mine. I was aiming for a 450-600 gallon pond but when I was done and did the math I realized I ended up with a 150 gallon pond which is fine. Technically speaking I could embiggen (largenate) it in the future but I'm happy with my finished product. The area I decided to build the pond is just off the back porch of the house so I can see it from the kitchen in the winter or step out on the patio and enjoy it in the summer. According to my research they said to lay out where you wanted to dig. Here are two pictures of my plan. They said to do it with string or a hose. I just laid out some metal bars I had to mark the area.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to use rocks as a back drop for the pond and garden area but rocks are expensive. I researched pretty extensivley into getting a permit from the state which would allow me to pick up rocks from prescribed areas for next to nothing. But after researching truck rentals and scouting out a quarry near Santaquin Utah (West Mountain) the costs started getting out of hand. I decided to just find a dealer and buy them. I actually found an ad on from a guy who was installing flagstone on a job he was working and wanted to get rid of the extra rock he had. I bought about a ton of rock from him and he delivered it. Now that I'm done the amount I bought ended up being 3 or 4 rocks more than I needed which is perfect. I can use extra rocks in and around the rest of my yard. I then chose the rocks that got me closest to my desired shape.

As you can see I laid them out in the general shape of the pond. I was going to mark each rock and move them out of the way and dig but I realized I could dig with them in place so I dug down about 6 or 8 inches and put the dirt on a tarp near by. I'll talk more about the tarp in a while. The plan was to have a shelf of rock at that 6-8 inch level and I was itching to get an idea of what it would look like. Eventually I cut these rocks so the shelf wouldn't be so big but this gave a good idea of what it would look like.

The grass that I removed was placed in areas of the yard that had settled down. Mostly because I didn't want to throw the grass away but there were some places that needed it.

When it came to cutting the rock down to size I was nervous. I had never done it before. The guy who sold me the rock told me to get a diamond-dust covered grinder to score the rock and then just tap with a hammer. So I got the grinder. I wanted to keep the cutting area wet so the blade wouldn't get too hot but I was doing this solely on my own. So I rigged up a little siphon to pour water from a bucket over the cutting area of the rock.

This mostly worked. It would have been better if someone just held a hose but I couldn't rig that up by myself because my work area would have been ankle deep in water. Anyway scoring the rock was like cutting through butter. I was really cool. And I managed to not lop a finger off in the process! Once I had the inner ring of rocks cut I had a much better idea of what the pond would look like.

I continued digging the inner part of the pond. Of course the deeper I got the harder it was to lift the dirt but I actually made really fast work of it. I thought the ground would be frozen clay and I'd have to chip away at it with a pick axe. The ground was mostly clay but it was no problem at all to dig through.

When I started I knew the sprinkler pipes were under the ground in that area but I didn't know exactly where. I just figured I'd dig and if I hit them I'd move them. But as it happened I dug right next to them and didn't have to move anything. I did see them though. Thank goodness I didn't cut the pipes or the wire that controls them! After I got about 2 feet in depth dug I had Beckah take a video to summarize and get a better look. You can also see the kids and the dog running around. I want to kids to enjoy the pond but they are pretty much oblivious to it in this video.

I knew I wanted to depth of the pond to be 4 feet. Every peice of research I read said that 3 feet was acceptable for Utah but 4 feet was better. This depth gives the fish a place to go during the winter and allows for more water in the pond which keeps it cleaner and more stable and easier to maintain. I wasn't measuring as I dug of course so when it looked about 4 feet deep I measured it and found it was only 2.5 feet deep. 4 feet gets really deep when you have to lift all that dirt up hill! Here are a few pictures of the finished hole.

The ground was really soft once I was finished. It felt like standing on a sponge which you can see in the video below.

As per my research when you're building a pond you want some underlay underneath the liner to prevent rocks or roots from puncturing it and causing a leak. You can buy underlay for $50-100 which doesn't sound like too much but I really wanted to build this on a budget. It's common to get used carpet so I found a place that would let me take old carpet just down the road. I was nervous about that too. What if I get too much or not enough or cut it wrong? When I picked up the carpet I didn't measure it. I just drove up and jumped in the dumpster and started pulling stuff out. It fit in my car. In retrospect I pulled the perfect amount. When I was done I threw some small scraps away but there was almost no wasted carpet. Since my hole was vertical and had some 90 degree angles at the shelves I decided to cut the carpet so it would fold and mold to the sides. It was a little sloppy but it mostly worked. They said the weight of the water would push everything out anyway so I wasn't too worried about it. I mostly just tried to keep at least one peice of carpet between the walls and the liner. The stones helped hold the carpet down.

I purchased the liner from an online store. 15 feet x 15 feet which sounds absurdly large but it was just about perfect. They say you want a little overhang anyway so you can make sure it doesn't leak. Here's a video of me laying out the liner before filling it. Beckah was quite helpful. I am nervous in this video because I really don't want to have a liner with a hole in it.

I started filling it with water and as the video says 12.4 second to fill one gallon. It ran for 31 minutes. My math comes to around 150 gallons which is far short of the 600 gallons I had calculated. When I did my calculations I didn't account for the shelf that goes around the permiter nor the step below that. I just entered the dimensions at the perimeter and went with it. If that pond ever does leak and I have to replace the liner chances are high that I will embiggen it! But you can hear how nervous I am in these videos! Seems silly now but I was expecting a failure at any minute. I didn't want to have to drain the pond to fix one thing and I know that water gets heavy fast.

The filling went well over all. No disasters. Just shuffled the edges and re-placed the rocks. Here are some pictures I took while it was filling.

150 gallons later it was looking good. Not finished but good. I wasn't sure how I wanted to do the water fall but eventually decided to have it flow along the wall. How hard could it be? Build a pile of dirt that gradually gets smaller put a liner down cover it with rocks and call it good. That was the idea. This was what happened with the first attempt.

I cleaned up the waterfall by pulling up the waterfall liner and rebuilding the dirt hill underneath. The water then flowed correctly without leaking however the pipes leading from the pump to the filter were leaking.

So I worried about that for a day before finally reading the manual that came with the filter. It said to use silicone to attach the hoses as well as the seal at the top of the filter itself. Once I did that the problem was resolved. The video below shows a few drips but I think the glue settled into place because when I came back from work it was no longer leaking and I havn't seen a drop from it since.

There is no end to playing with the water fall. I don't know how God does it. They look perfect and wonderful in nature. But its challenging to choose with rocks will work the best. My goal was to get something like a staircase so there would be multiple little falls. I eventually reached a a point where I just said "Well it isn't leaking. I'll fix it later." Moving those flagstones gets old really fast! Here are a few shots showing the approach. I wanted to keep the water off the house so I used a little guidance from a peice of particle board. Beyond that it's just look and feel.

I eventually abandoned the idea of using ALL flagstone for the cascade. I found a place where I could pick up some decent looking rock for a very low price. Free is low right? This helped the water fall look a little more natural. My more immediate problem was that I had a large pile of dirt on the grass that had been there for over a week. I needed to get rid of the dirt as soon as possible. My brother let me borrow his jeep and trailer and my neighbor let me borrow his wheel barrow. I got the dirt off the lawn and was left with a large yellow spot on the lawn.

Now it was really started to look like the pond I wanted. Gratuitous dog shot because Kai is an awesome dog!

When I returned my brother's jeep he gave me a clipping of one of his lily pads which was very nice. It's just a little thing now so I hope it grows. I read to put them in some dirt and cover the dirt with gravel and put some fertilizer in as food. The roots grow horizontally so I wanted to use that to my advantage and get a long flower pot instead of a circle pot. I found a flower pot intended for windows at Walmart that was perfect. I hope it allows for lots of growth and takes up minimal space in the pond. You can see it in the pictures below.

You can see above that I have added top soil and cut off the extra liner. Only thing to do is put in plants. I would have done it right when I finished witht he water fall but the weather got cold again and snowed. I might wait a week or so before I finish putting the plants down. But I can't help myself and bought some of the plants all ready. I added 6 comet goldfish which London loves to see. Its been so cold recently that they spend most of their time at the bottom but I have seen them jump and hang around at the top when the sun is shining. Once the lily pad grows and they have some cover I think we'll see them more often as well.

The plants I bought are called Luzula grass, coryline, festuca grass, and sagina ground cover (aka Scottish Moss). I also bought a honeysuckle plant but I'm not sure what color the blooms will be. Time will tell. Here are the pictures of the plants in the ground.

I also took a quick video to get the perspective of the finished product. Of course I do want to keep the kids safe so I put some fencing around the perimeter. I do want to keep them safe and alive! I might straighten these a bit so they stand more upright but these pictures give you the look and feel of the finished product.

So how much did all this cost? It was right in the ball park of where I had planned for it to be. Here is my list of recorded expenses:

  • UV sterilzer water filter: - $199
  • Pump: - $149
  • Liner (15x15): - $148.50
  • Underlay carpet: $0 from CostULess Carpet in Riverton Utah
  • Flagstone for pond (1 ton): $280
  • Other rocks: $0
  • Rock cutter tarp gloves: ~$40
  • Sledge hammer grider disk: ~$40
  • Tubing: $11
  • Sealant misc electrical: ~$30

Total cost: $897.50

I'd probably tack on a few extra expenses for top soil and plants. So just under $1000. For as badly and as long as I've wanted this I'm quite happy with the price. I knew it would cost money to do right and so far I'm glad I did it right. Just a matter of waiting for the plants to grow and fill out. So here's a before and after of how I have improved the backyard.

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The Many Intricacies of Life

June 28, 2012

This entry is not going to do justice to the stories I have to tell. I'll just rattle them off as they come to me. First, the missionary girls came back two more times. The first time was discussed in the last entry. The second time, the most signifigant thing that was said was them pointing out how a verse in I Peter supported baptism for the dead. I think it was 3:18-22. I had never read it with that context and it truly wrapped me around a tree. When they left Beckah and I started researching it and for the next week we discussed it, looked it up online, in our Bibles, we studied the heck out of it, which was tremendous fun. It brought us to another verse in Jude but as I type this I don't remember what it was. In any case, We realized these verses were not talking about baptism for the dead or salvation through Baptism but rather making a point that it is Jesus' resurrection that saves us and that baptism is an echo of that salvation. Not to get all theological in this entry. It's been a while and I don't remember the arc of the discussion now, but that's the basic idea.

They came back a third time and again, didn't read any of the basic D&C verses I had asked them to read. But they brought along a guy from the local ward. He was mostly quiet and listened as the missionaries told me they weren't going to come back because there wasn't a chance I was going to convert and they needed to spend their energies elsewhere. Fine from a business stance, but if the topic is salvation, isn't that worth doing whatever it takes? So they left, everyone in good, friendly spirits. The guy that came with them stuck around for an hour and a half asking, "What is it like to be a non Christian in Utah?" We both answered him honetly and friendly. I'm not sure if he was after anything else but he left and that was that. The missionary girls came back to see us a handful of times, just for very short visits to say hi. I DO hope they keep in touch, especially after their missions, when I can ask them to look up information outside of the Book of Mormon and the D&C and other reading they are held to while on their missions.

Shortly after Beckah and I decided to use my vacation time at work and do a road trip to Missourii and Tennessee. So off we went, mid April. Seeing the family was great. I got to go fishing quite a bit, caught nine or ten fish. I wish there was more specific details I could give you but it was a pretty low key trip. The kids did great in the car, no major vehicle problems, or minor ones for that matter.

So I came home from the trip and we had London's birthday, which was at the zoo. She's 4 years old. It was very cute, the whole day. I specifically remember her sitting on top of Granpas shoulders and seeing the tiger and really enjoying it. Thatcher got to see the gorilla up close. I mean, we saw the whole thing, but for some reason those are the first two events that come to my mind 2 months later as I write this.

I also got a new job at IHC, which I'm excited about. It was rought stepping away from Teleperformance, but I think there will be more opportunity for growth at IHC. At this point I'm in my second week there, so I still have lots to learn. I am working on the tools team. I'm told my title is "Tools Team Staff". More on that as events unfold.

For Father's Day Beckah gave me exactly what I asked for: permission. That is, permission to build an outside fish pond. It's not going to be anything too grand and I'm doing that on purpose. Someday in a future house I'll have a big nice pond. I need a practice space first so I'm building this one with that in mind. I need to get the money together first because I want to do it right. Even now I don't fully know what that entails, but I have some ideas. Hopefully I'll keep you posted on that, but at this point I'm looking at Spring of 2013 before construction begins.

I am drumming in the West Jordan 4th of July parade, which will be a new experience. I'll be on a float with the church worship band. So call it ministry I guess! It should be fun. Unless it rains!

I'm sure I'm forgetting details and events that have happened since March but that's all you'll get out of me for now.

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LDS Missionaries

March 24, 2012

Two nights ago I got a knock on my door. I was home alone with the kids while Beckah was grocery shopping. I answered the door and there before me stood two female Mormon missionaries. They were bright eyes and had some energy, which was different. Male missionaries I have spoken to in the past seem dead in the eyes and hypnotized and nearly zombified. But these two could have a conversation. We spoke for about 10 minutes at the door and I was totally off guard. I was just responding with 1 or 2 word answers mostly. They would state a paragraph of information which sounded good on the surface but after analyzing the words they used I couldn't fully agree. For example, I think they mentioned something about Heavenly Father. It's an easy connection to just accept that, after all, God is referred to as our father. But when a Mormon says Heavely Father it gets very theologically rich. Father implies a mother, implies children, implied premortal existence and suddenly the Mormon and the Christian are on two opposite sides of the spectrum. So I told them, "I tacitly agree." The word "tacit" stopped them in their tracks. "What does that mean?" I wasn't prepared with an exact definition and hummed and hawed over it. I just told them I couldn't agree with everything but I did want to move the conversation along.

Eventually they asked if they could come back. Now this is a question I have thought about for a long time. Some years ago I was doing yard work and male missionaries approached me and I quickly stated my belief, that I was a born again Christian and I wasn't interested in talking. The moment I said that to them I realized that I just missed an opportunity to change their lives and that I was not a very good witness of the God I know. It made me feel like I talk a big game, but when the rubber hits the road I am a jerk about faith. So right then I decided the next time I am approached by missionaries I am going to gladly welcome them as friends and speak in a way that will change lives. In fact, this is a weak thought of mine. I should be the one knocking on doors and being outgoing to bring the message to people, rather than waiting for other people to come to me. So when these missionaries agreed to come back I relished the opportunity.

Now I have been actively engaged in LDS research. I'm no pro, its not in top ten things I do with my life, but over time I have read books, and done online research, I've asked a lot of questions to Mormons and non-Mormons. So I have all these loose concepts in my head that make total sense to me but I have been meaning to put them down on paper, something formal, like an essay or even small book, that details to my children and my family the reason that I am not Mormon. This work would be very valid because I live in Utah and live and work with Mormons on a daily basis. I used this as an opportunity to put my thoughts together, create an outline, gather references and generally get my act together.

My outline is still rough now, but more than enough to provide a foundation for a discussion. I'm not ready to present my full outline right now, but once I get it together I will post it on my journal. In any case, last night the missionaries came back. There is no way I will remember every detail about the conversation but I will try to recount some of the highlights I took away from the meeting.

One is from Indiana, one is from the Dominican Republic and New York/PA area. We chatted for a few minutes and I then asked them about their agenda for the evening. They asked me what I believed. I gave them a paragraph of what I believed about God and Christ. Namely, that he exists, loves us, clothes us with more glory than the flowers of the field. They asked me what I believed about Joseph Smith. I honestly told them that at best, he was a well-intending young man who saw problems with his local churches and sincerely wanted to encourage other people towards God. I did not tell them that in addition I think in his fervor and passion he got caught up in his own desire, told some white lies which required more lies, which quickly became profitable and he rolled with it until his murder. That part will come later!

I made special effort to listen to what they had to say. I also made special effort to let them know that I respect them and their feelings, and that I love them and that I care for them. I let them know that I wanted them to remember this meeting for the rest of their lives. At one point they began talking about Joseph Smith and his prophecies. I actually interrupted them and let them know this was of significant importance to me. I clearly stated that if we want to continue to talk we are going to have to address these prophecies as a matter of priority and of importance. I asked them if they knew any specific prophecies he had made. They dodged the question ultimately saying, "We know the prophecies are true." I asked again, "Can you name a single prophecy he made?" They said they couldn't. I asked them where these prophecies are. They told me they were in the Doctrine and Covenants, their scripture. I said, "This is wonderful. For our next meeting I need you to research the prophecies of Joseph Smith and come back with your findings." They began buying future "outs". "We don't have access to the Internet on our missions, and we are only given access to certain books. What kind of research do you want us to do?" I said, "Ask your mission leaders, ask bishops, ask your fellow missionaries, read the books in your laps. I am not asking you to read anti Mormon literature or surf the Internet. I want you to do all that you can do and then tell me what you found." They agreed and the conversation moved on.

Near the end of the meeting I asked if they minded if I prayed. They were happy for that. I prayed and gave praise to God for his creation, thanked him for the opportunity to meet people, asked him to protect them on their journey. I am looking forward to their return.

During this meeting my wife was at my side. She supported me and asked questions. She was with me every step of the way. I am proud of my wife because she is not a woman who just sits by my side and nods at everything I say. She carries herself with confidence and beauty. I don't use those words lightly. When these missionaries came in the door I was upstairs putting London to bed. I heard warm greetings, laughter, introductions. When I came down stairs everyone was smiling and ready to talk. That might sound like a little thing, but Beckah set the tone for the mood. She created a friendly atmosphere which can make or break a conversation I think. I love my wife very much and this is one facet of her diamond-like self that shows that she loves me.

More information as events unfold. I need to make an update about my kids and life in general. Coming soon!

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January 3, 2012

I said something once about how it can be challenging to make journal entries I think! Much to be covered. Halloween, Beckahís birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, a new year. Just the biggest holidays of the year. No big deal. Halloween was fun. London dressed up as a witch and Thatcher went as a little monster. They were both very cute. For days London insisted that she wanted to dress like a witch. So I would come home from work and she was in her outfit, running around proclaiming, ďIím a witch!Ē Thatcher looked awesome in his costume. When we actually went trick or treating he was laid out in the wagon almost asleep in this blue monster costume. Very funny.

Beckahís birthday was fun. Beckah made some spaghetti and we bought some ice cream cakes from Baskin Robins. She got a printer for the computer because she is printing more and more stuff with Laine Images.

For Thanksgiving, Ashli and the Missouri crew came. It was fun to see the kids and new baby Ben. There was pumpkin pie and the normal stuff too. One of the things we did was build a rocket. A few years ago I gave a toy rocket to dad for his birthday. I was hoping it would spark something in him, but instead he just stored it for about 2 years! So Brian and I got it out and started building it. We didnít finish it though because we didnít have a rocket launcher. It was a little pathetic looking and I didnít think it would fly at all. But just yesterday Dad and I took it out and using a custom launcher built by dad (motorcycle battery) it went up and performed perfectly. Well, near perfect. There is a rubber band that holds the two ends of the rocket together and the rubber band burned through so half of it came down with no rubber band. But it didnít get damaged at all. It should be ready for another flight. That was a lot of fun. I feel bad that Brian didnít get to see it though because he built most of the rocket. I think my biggest contribution was gluing the fins on it and they were all cock eyes and out of alignment. I honestly canít believe they stayed on for the flight, but they did!

Just before Christmas I found a little group of musicians at a place called The Acoustic Musician. Just some beginners who play bluegrass music. Itís a little rough to listen to; however I was able to play the chords as they came and the solos on the music I had. Iíve only done it once but Iíd like to do it again sometime.

Christmas was great. London got a HUGE doll house and Thatcher got a train table that has a little train you can push along a track. Heís too little to really get that. But he will someday! London was very excited about the dollhouse and she still plays with it for hours by herself. Lots of other toys but those were the big hits. One of my favorite things to get was a mouth harp, aka jaw harp aka Jewís harp. One of the most fun things Iíve had in a while. I want to figure some way to use that in a real song. Beckah also got me a Halo game for Xbox and pre ordered Ninja Gaiden III which comes out in March. Iím all ready looking forward to that. I bought her Fable II and III for Xbox which I think she likes a lot. She passed Fable II in about 8 days! I also got her some perfume that she wanted. I think both of us were happy that our kids were happy and enjoyed the holiday. Also that Jesus was born, which is of course the reason for the season.

We didnít do anything special for New Years. I went to bed about 10 and Beckah played her Fable game. I did appreciate the 3 day weekend! Looking ahead, Laine Images is getting organized as a business. We have a boudoir photo session set up. We need a few more people to fill in some cancellations but I think that will go good for us. Our goal is grow by 100% this year over last year, which we both think is pretty realistic. We shall see.

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Songs and Birthdays and Cell Phones

October 20, 2011

A few things must be written about. My last entry was about a poem I wrote. I tried to post the text but that failed because I did it while in a massive hurry. But there is some updates. I have been searching for someone with an Irish accent to read the poem. I found a voice over company called I'll Say That and they did it for me, albeit with a fake accent.

I'm pretty happy with the result. I posted it on Youtube so you can hear the work in progress. They are recording some touch ups this week so I'll post the updates when I have the completed project. I'm trying to get some background music lined up and possibly some animation. I honestly don't know what's driving me to complete this project, but I am having fun with it and I'm pretty much leaving it at that.

Also following up from the last entry, The link to the radio show was mangled. I have corrected that. The story speaks for itself, but my DJ friend in Nashville saw one of my Facebook posts and wanted to talk about it on the air. This absolutely feeds my narcissism and it was fun to do. Encouragement to be funny is always welcome! Just in case it was missed you can hear the interview here.

Now THIS story is one of my favorites. I have been combing through Craiglist ads for a while now looking for photo opportunities for Laine Images, and for free stuff and anything else that pops up. I also watch the music listings for the odd opportunity to play drums. I had seen a particular listing wanting a drummer for several weeks but never responded because frankly I can't afford to be packing drums around like I used to long ago. But after seeing the ad for the fifth week in a row I responded. They needed a drummer as a replacement and sent a song for me to record myself playing over. The song is called 2nd Self by the band Umphrey's McGee. I guess the band I was trying out for regularly performs this song as a cover. It is a VERY challenging song filled with varying odd time signatures like 15/8, 9/16, and a section of 4/4+5/4+6/4 repeated twice and then ending in 7/4 before the final 4/4 jam section ending with a big 7/4 measure in triplet feel. I was SO eager to play in odd times so I attacked the song with full force. I listened to it in the car and at work for about a week straight. I made notes as best I could. I then set up the video camera and recorded myself playing it. The plan was to take the video file, add it to the mp3 track and call it good. But apparently when you convert video from a camera the time is relative and doesn't directly match up with anything else. I tried to make it match, but eventually recruited the help of a friend, Ray Alder, who is a professional with this stuff. He lined it up to best of his ability, and the result is more than acceptable.

I was proud of myself and proud of the work I did, especially given the challenge of the song. This is NOT a little 4/4 pop song! The band heard it and thought it was good, but they said the fills felt a little forced and they decided to continue their search. Honestly I wasn't hurt at all. I agree with them. I didn't reach a place of comfort and my fills were so focused on keeping time that they lose a little of their musical touch. Not a lot, but a little. I don't think my fills are TOO strict, but maybe a little. If I was pursuing this I would do more videos and be more involved. But this was a very side project. I may watch for more like this in the future so I can do this again. It was fun to film myself playing and I learned some new information about lining up video and audio. That alone was worth it. That said here is the video. Note that the time of the audio and video don't really match up until about 2:00 into the video, so I'd recommend forwarding to that point.

Thatcher's Birthday happened last month. I'm embarrassed that I missed posting about it. Beckah decided to do a pirate theme and even got costumes for the kids to wear. He got clothes and toys of course. Brittany made an insanely perfect pirate cake. Now that little Thatcher has been around for a year I have learned a lot. How to father two kids for example! We are blessed to have such great kids. They are easy to make smile. Thatcher is a boy and he is starting to show some differences in his behavior. He is more likely to hit you for fun than London was. Still I've seen other boy babies who are near demonic terrors. Thatcher is not that way. He doesn't over do his physical communication! He is more likely to smile at you than anything else. The other day I woke up and heard him playing in his crib. I was on my way to work but if he's awake I'll poke in and change his diaper and get him a bottle. I walked in and apparently he had been sick. The crib was filled with puke and the whole room stank. But Thatcher was happy, jumping on the mattress, laughing and having a good time. Exactly the right attitude about life in general!

Speaking of babies, my sister Ashli had Ben! He was a big healthy boy, thought I forget the numbers as I write this. But I hear stories from MO all the time about how their family is adjusting. Abby and Ally are both rocking school. Abby is turning into a quite the writer and she updates on Facebook now so itís a lot of fun to interact with her that way. I hope my inner snarkiness doesn't affect her! Meanwhile Ally is becoming this little violin virtuoso. I hear a recording of hers about once a year and I have to say itís remarkable what her little hands can do with that thing. I hope she sticks with it and becomes a musician! I'm biased of course but she's got talent and its great seeing it grow. Now Ben and Thatcher are just one year apart. I really hope they will become friends as cousins and get into all kinds of trouble together. There is the matter of 1,000 miles separating them but that can be overcome with...let's say...the Internet. Aren't they working on that? I don't know!

Last story of the entry. My cell phone plan became eligible for an upgrade this month and my current phone has a broken touch screen. I can still use it, but I can't hang up unless I turn off the phone and I can't send text messages. I've been waiting to use this as an excuse to get a new phone. So last night Beckah and I went shopping to find out what makes the most sense. I was shocked at the prices a person is expected to pay. I'm sure this will be laughable in ten years, but currently we pay $86 for our two phones. 700 minutes, no data plan, and only my wife has text messaging. This is an old plan that isn't offered anymore. Now I admit that a data plan would be nice to have and I would be willing to pay a LITTLE more for a data plan. The problem is, to get any plan that has a data plan the cost becomes EXTREMEMLY cost prohibitive. Like I might be willing to pay $90 a month. MAYBE $100. But to even BEGIN thinking about a data plan the monthly cost is going to be $130 minus my Teleperformance discount which leaves the monthly cost at $118. But it doesn't stop there. We'd have to buy new phones. There is a free phone that has a data package but to get a phone that is worth having costs $100-$200. (I don't have a specific one in mind, but I'm applying "you get what you pay for" to get that number and this about the cost. I mean, if you're going to get a data plan, get a phone that makes sense with the data plan, not just a random free phone because it has a data plan, right?) So that cost would be PER phone. But that's not all! To upgrade to a data plan costs $36. Just a one time fee, they say, as if that's a benefit.

Each one of these charges absolutely cuts into my spine of my inner being. This is ridiculous. It makes me want to completely disconnect from the grid and life in the forest and grow beets and potatoes and never touch anything electronic again. I'm so macro-economically and violently angered by the fact that cell phone companies even dare to do this. They have marketed their product as absolutely necessary to have. And its just NOT necessary. It's a luxury product. And I am not in the target market who can afford much luxury in my life. And it hurts me to say it. I'm trying to be a tech guy, trying to keep up with the trends. I can pay bills but there is no room for luxury right now. And there is pressure for all sides to HAVE a cell phone. For professional reasons, making appointments, staying in contact with family, emergency situations. But do I need to watch movies on my phone? NO! Do I NEED to look up the ingredients of pizza at a restaurant? No! And I am absolutely unwilling to pay a premium price for things I don't need. I would be willing to pay a nominal price for such things but not this steep increase that is just accepted as the norm by society.

I was so angry about it after leaving the Sprint store. I wasn't angry at Sprint. I mean, I understand. If I was a business and had successfully marketed to my audience that they needed my product and that it really is a good idea to strike your grocery budget in favor of buying my product at the highest price possible I would absolutely do it. I would be ruthless and merciless in applying my price structure. I don't fault Sprint for doing their job well. We also talked to Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is trying to position itself as the premium product. They make no apologies about being the highest price. The problem as I see it with their approach is that the lowest quality cell phone company is still extremely useful. In other words, there isn't a lot of distance between the lowest quality and highest quality. It's not like Company X makes their phones out of press board and Verizon uses Titanium. Verizon claims to have the widest service area and the strongest signal which means less dropped calls and therefore I should be willing to pay a premium of $160 a month. I've rarely if ever had a dropped call from Sprint and I don't need coverage everywhere. I need it at home and at work and maybe along Bangertur Highway. I live in the city. Mass coverage areas might make sense if I regularly traveled to rural areas but I don't. Thus I highly disagree with Verizon's approach to winning my business.

AT&T had a more reasonable plan. $120 a month, and they offered to waive sign up fees and give discounts on accessories (which I could care less about). But I'd have to wait for my contract at Sprint to expire which is something like June of 2012. So if any upgrade to a data plan were to be done it would make sense to do it with Sprint and just accept an unreasonable price. The other option is to forgo the data plan, just get a new phone with no data plan, continue paying all ready too-high but at least lower than data plan prices and call it good. The problem with that is that it just delays the inevitable.

Writing this has been good. The obvious choice is to upgrade my phone, pass on the data plan and think about it again in two years. Beckah won't like that. She wants the data plan. Even thought we might be able to scrimp even more to afford it I simply can't justify it. The benefits it brings aren't really benefits at all. They are simply unnecessary luxury that I am unwilling to pay for. I expect no sympathy from the cell phone companies. The way I see it, they have declared war of society. Not a war of bullet but a war of economics. They are masters. They have presented the need and convinced everyone that it must be paid for. They are winning, turning people into mindless drones that will do their bidding. I am not a mindless drone. Fight the power. They will do it my way or they won't get my money. I am willing to take a job where the cell phones are free. I am willing to do anything but be financially raped by a communications company just because they think its a good idea. In fact, rape is the perfect word for it. It is a matter of supply and demand that sets the price and I for one do not have the demand at the given price. I need to shop at Cricket before I do anything else. Where's the black panther's when you NEED them?

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Radio and Stories

September 1, 2011

This is going to be a quickie!

I wrote a poem. I'm trying to get it published. Don't know where it will end up but here is the progress so far.

The Tale of Shawn
By: Craig Greenwood

Now Shawn was a man who was larger than life.
He could tame a wild horse by the time he was five.
At nine he was known as a boxer and still.
He could pile up dirt, making mountains from hills.

Shawn once took a walk from his home outside Dembley.
He came to the beach and jumped in, started swimming.
And when he came up on the far other side.
He ran, didn't stop, crossed the continent wide.

When he finally came back he sat down for a drink.
And said, "Give me a glass, boys, I need to think."
We poured him a beer but he stopped us right there.
"Iíll take some salt water , it's good for my hair!"

At age twelve he built him a boat he could sail.
He hired five men and went off into hell.
One man returned and he held up his net.
And inside Shawn showed us a most evil gent.

He thrashed and he snarled and we all asked him clear
"Is Satan your name, and what brought you here?"
He hissed back and told us he'd been in a fight
With Shawn, but he'd lost--Taken down by his right.

At that Shawn decided to let Satan go.
We begged Shawn to keep him but he told us, "No!
ĎTis better to let evil loose in the world.
Without it you boys wouldnít get any girls!"

At twenty three Shawn found the love of his life.
He decided to turn the lass into his wife.
At first she said no, but Shawn won her over.
By picking her trees, and flowers, and clovers.

And when the time came the girl birthed a child.
The first looked like Shawn; handsome and wild.
The next two were twins, and then there were four.
But they werenít done yet because Shawn wanted more!

Shawn taught his boys how to read and to write.
His girls he taught math, but all knew how to fight.
His kids called him ďdaddyĒ, his wife called him ďdearĒ.
The men called him ďsirĒ and no one he feared.

But that wasn't all, thereís more story to tell.
Shawn knew how to buy and he knew how to sell.
He dabbled in real estate, bought stocks and bonds.
When he didnít buy land, Shawn bought up the ponds.

At age 36 most of Ireland he'd bought.
He woke up one day and looked out at his lot.
He said, "This is fine, but itís not quite enough.
I think I'll take England.Ē and he packed up his stuff.

He went down to London on long dusty roads.
He never stopped once, never lightened his load.
He went to the king and said, ďListen to me,Ē
Iíll be taking your castle, your land and your queen!Ē

The king told him, "No!" and he tried to resist.
But after an hour or two with Shawn's fists,
He came right around and said, "Fine, take my land!"
And Shawn left with much more than when he began!

Once Shawn and his lass had a wee little spat.
She left and he didnít know where she was at.
He started to cry and the rivers he made
Flowed under the trees and into the shade.

He'd cried him a lake, tíwas the size of a city.
But then she came back, and was filled with such pity.
No longer they wanted to bicker and fight
Instead they made up, late into the night.

One day he went fishing for less than an hour.
But soon he returned for it started to shower.
With him he brought back his pole and his tent.
And 500 fish he had caught with his net.

At 45 Shawn thought that he would retire.
He'd lived a fine life, many kids he had sired.
So he laid down his head and he closed his eyes tight.
And I kid you not, Shawn had laid down died.

We buried his body and the tears that were shed
Ran down our cheeks for our old Shawn was dead.
We put the dirt over his grave in a pile.
His wife cried and then came home after a while.

And when she walked in and pulled down her hair.
Shawn was having a drink right there in his chair.
She told him, "All of us thought that you had died.
But here you are sitting, now tell me no lies!"

He told her he'd died, up to heaven he'd gone.
He'd met with angels and finally with God.
God told him, "Sit back; relax, youíll do no more work."
But Shawn didnít consider that much of a perk.

So God sent him away, to his home, to his life,
To the earth and the river and also his wife.
Said he'd rather be here with the work and the sin.
Than to not have his wife and his home and his kin!

And that is the story of our old friend Shawn.
He was wise, brave and fearless, quite smart and quite strong.
If ever you could be half of that man,
Youíd be second best and also my friend.

I was on the radio in Nashville. I'll post that story tomorrow too, but here is the audio.

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Road Trip and My Birthday

July 18, 2011

We went on vacation. I try not to announce vacations on the Internet before I leave because to me doing so is the same as saying, "Please, break into my house and steal my things. The house will be vacant for two weeks on these dates." But, alas, we did go on a two week road trip that was planned since around September. We got the idea to check out a festival in Springfield, MO called "I Love America" held every July 4th by my sister's home church, James River Assembly of God. She has talked about it for years. It's all day, family friendly activity with music and bands and food and fireworks. It was presented to me as THE way to celebrate the 4th of July. Over 100,000 people attended this thing each year. I had been thinking about going year after year and it never worked out. Life and kids and money were to blame. Meanwhile, year after year this festival took place. So around September we started talking about it, planned it, combined Tennessee in the trip. Money was set aside. And then James River Church announced in March that the festival was cancelled. I have since learned that the festival itself had grown into a nightmarish event to plan and it wasn't really accomplishing what the church wanted to do (reach people for Christ in a personal, meaningful way instead of just being eye candy), so it will probably be cancelled forever. And I never got to go. And yes, I'm actually quite upset about that!

But I wanted to capture the day by day moments and memories of the trip here on the journal. Beckah took nearly 16 gigs worth of photos too, so we will go back later and plant the pictures after I have this thing written! But here goes! Enjoy the saga.

We left on Friday, July 1st. We decided to drive because the cost of flying 3 people (Craig, Beckah, London) and 1 baby (Thatcher) was our entire budget, or close to it. We looked at renting cars, buying luggage racks and other options, but in the end, it was the most fiscally responsible to back up the Neon and pack light and just go for it. We also wanted to minimize the amount of time I took off of work so I worked on July 1st from 4:30 am to 12:30. London and Thatcher stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Thursday night so Beckah could pack, sleep and drive the day shift while I slept in the car. I headed home, from work and picked up Beckah and the dog and headed to Grandma and Grandpa's to drop off the dog and pick up the kids. We were on the road by about 2:00. The dog was planned to stay with Eddie and Brittany but it turned out that Mom and Dad liked him quite a bit and actually kept him the whole time!

We drove straight from Salt Lake City to Springfield, MO in about 26 hours. No stopping, no sleeping. Beckah drove 95% of it. I tried to sleep but I have such a hard time sleeping in a car. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep total. I drove for about 2.5 hours but other than that it was all Beckah. When we hit the Missouri river we found the road flooded and had to take a detour through Kansas to get to Kansas City. It didn't take us too far out of the way, just slowed us down a bit. Gloria (our aptly named GPS) lead the way, fearlessly and boldly! In fact she was so fearless she suggested we just drive THROUGH the river. We thought otherwise and went around!

We got into town on Saturday around 2 pm and checked into hour hotel and crashed. Well, Beckah and Thatcher and I. London got some sleep and was ready to party. She spent most of the nap time singing and playing her game (Leapfrog). When we woke up we went to Ashli and Brian's and saw their new house for the first time. It's about two years since they moved in, but it was new to us. They have a nice hot tub, nicely thought out floor plan, land for Brian's horses. They even had some chickens. But the highlight was seeing Abby and Ally and Ashli and Brian and even Benjamin, who will be born in September. Ashli served us some homemade manicotti which was really good. Beckah has brought it up a few times since then and wants to try it. Unlike drugs, never say no to manicotti!

Ally gave London some of her Barbi dolls and London LOVED playing in their house. Thatcher lit up every room he was in. Ashli was as happy to see our kids as we were to see theirs. In the middle of the day Beckah and I took Abby and Ally to a fireworks stand. Since James River was uncapable of providing entertainment for the 4th I took it upon myself to do so. Plus I had NEVER been to a fireworks stand with the purpose of buying a quantity of fireworks. And there are a lot of fireworks that are legal in MO but illegal in UT. So I told Abby and Ally that they could buy any fireworks they wanted as long it was under $10 each. Beckah, my little in-house capitalist taught the kids how to extract every cent of their $10 allowance to maximize the available funds. I figured I'd get some quiet fountains and few rockets and total cost would be under $50. We spent a total of $74. The girls were very excited and so was I.

That night we went to Lamberts. It was an hour wait and we were full by the time our ordered meals got to us so they delivered on their promise. Beckah also found some time to take some maternity pictures of Ashli in old downtown Rogersville.

Monday was the 4th of July. Our hotel had a swimming pool so the O'Connells came to see us. We were lucky because the pool was covered and we were the only ones there. This was Thatcher's first time in a full swimming pool and of course he loved it. He splashed and had quite a good time. Both London and Thatcher liked playing with Brian the most. In fact London kept talking about seeing Uncle Brian the whole way down to Missouri. "Unko Bwian." Afterwards we went to Pat and Dottie's house in Ozark, MO and had an afternoon BBQ that was really fun. We also met Ellie, Abby and Ally's cousin, who is a little doll herself. Abby and Ally brought some of the fireworks we bought the day before but they secretly let me know that they saved the fun ones for us to do back and Ashli and Brian's house. But we had fun doing some sparklers and smoke bombs. We lit some little ash snake things and Abby and Ally got very messy with those, but no one got burned. That night we went back to Ashli and Brianís and I was in charge of lighting the fireworks. There were some big fountains but the most fun was the rockets. Nothing too spectacular but it was a lot of fun. I was running around the humid dark and trying to not get burned or wounded and my little assembled family provided the oos and ahs. I actually quite enjoyed myself.

The next day was our last day in Missouri. All week I had been asking Abby and Ally about the house two houses down from them that had a pond. They said they never talked to them. So, wanting to see the pond, I took Abby and Ally on a walk to the neighborís house and met the man that lived there. He was nice and happy to let us look at his pond. We didn't see fish there but he told us a green heron lived nearby and how low and high the water gets.

Also I had requested to do something outside of normal day to day. The plan was to see a fish hatchery. So we drove to Branson and saw I think the largest rainbow trout hatchery in Missouri. It was SO hot and the kids didn't have sunscreen so I was mostly stressing about them getting burned. They didn't get burned. The hatchery itself was interesting. The biggest thing I realized is that the entire trout fishing business in America is a sham. All these regal trout fisherman that are trying to connect with nature are not connecting at all. They might as well stay at home and surf the Internet. I mean, you have to buy very specific licenses depending on how you're fishing and where youíre fishing and when you're fishing, to catch trout that are placed there by a huge breeding facility who will die when the water gets too cold. If the hatchery doesn't stock the fish, then they will die out leaving only the natural bass and catfish. But bass and catfish are different than trout so this entire industry is born. It's part natural, part Las Vegas, part green. I'm sure some senator is getting rich. After seeing how they squeeze the eggs out of the trout at the hatchery and measure the right amount of sperm and mix it by hand and control all the temperatures, year after year, just to keep the industry going it made me step back and say, "You know what, maybe we ought to leave the fish alone, let nature run its course." I mean, native fish would thrive, trout would still exist in their native environments, and if someone is so adamant that they have to catch trout, let them buy a ticket, go to where the trout are, and fish there. Most of the rest of the people will be happy to catch bass and catfish. We can simplify the whole fish license fiasco (ie, you pay $5 and get to fish on planet earth). Why don't we just let the fishing industry suppliers (makers of poles and lures and nets) collect funds to pay for licenses? I guess my beef is that my own lack of a license makes me not fish. I would have loved to fish in Missouri but I'm not going to go through the song and dance of providing ID and paying money. So I opted to not fish. Rather than connecting with my daughter and son and teaching them about fish, we did nothing. Well, we saw a hatchery. But if we fished we would have bought a pole and lures and we would have fished. The "man" would have been paid, I would have got to share something with my kids and the world would be a better place. And God forbid that you go fishing without a license. Multiple hundred dollar fees.

Ok, I'm off my soapbox for a second. Just angry that something as simple as fishing has to be regulated at all. Just back off the little fish, let nature happen, let me catch a fish from time to time (I promise I will still buy meat from the grocery store). I don't want my tax dollars paying for a multi-million dollar facility where some guy can get his jollies extracting eggs and sperm from trout. Ok, now I'm done.

After the hatchery (which I promise I did enjoy. It is fun seeing thousands of fish, just depressing to realize that they are so manufactured) we went to a place called the Landing. It's sort of like Gateway mall on meth. Bigger, much more built out, it's on a riverfront and very nice. Crowded but nice. We ate steak and got some frozen yogurt that Abby and Ally were going on and on about. It was a nice night. London kept demanding to use the bathroom and then never actually performing which kind of stunk, but we had put her through the ringer and I guess that's part of potty training. On that note, London did great on this trip as a whole. Very few accidents, she always alerted us. The funniest time was when we were driving and she said, "Nasty!" (Her word for "I need to use the potty." We were driving and we said, "Can you hold it for a second?" She said, "Yes." We drove on. Thirty seconds later she began singing the Sesame Street song, "Accidents Happen, that's what they say!" Beckah and I just looked at each other and laughed. Oh well, next time!

The next day we drove to Nashville. It took about 9 hours. Gloria lead us between St. Louis and Memphis along a road I had never been on. In fact, for the first time in my life I went to Sikeston, MO. I actually made Beckah stop so we could take pictures. Sikeston is the home of Lamberts but more importantly there was a girl I knew in college from Sikeston who was SO proud of Sikeston. You'd think it was the global capital of the planet after talking to her. Just hearing her talk about it made quite an impact on me because when I'd hear her talk I'd think to myself, "I've BEEN to Missouri and it's nice, but it's just a state, and who in the heck has ever heard of Sikeston other than the 4 people who live there?" And that little seed has just stayed planted in my brain ever since. So when Gloria took us through the city itself we stopped and ate lunch. I can tell you that Sikeston is more than just a gas stop! They have a Walmart too!

We did have to do some more detouring in Mississippi County, MO because of flooded rivers but we got through just fine. We checked into the Lakeside Inn and went directly to Hurl and Waltyne's house. Hurl has a friend who had planted a bunch of plants in his front yard. Corn and all kinds of stuff. I thought it was cool! As we pulled into town Tim called us and invited me to go on a bike ride the next day. I said, "Sure."

Now I knew that I wasn't in shape for a bikeride, but how do I not do that? I mean, that's out of the house, doing something real, something I havn't done before. I knew Tim was very serious about riding but I didn't know HOW serious. I met up with him and he was wearing the whole biker shorts and shoes with pedal locks. Tim is into road biking, as opposed to mountain biking. In road biking its all about staying consistent with speed and maximizing every pedal stroke. In mountain biking its all about, "What do I have to do to get over this obstacle?" I've never really been THAT into either one. I did the Rose Canyon two summers ago and that was serious mountain biking. Mostly I just like to get on and move and have fun. But Tim is driven for improvement, and good for him. I mean, if you're going to do a hobby then maximize everything and be the best you can be. And I'll tell you, he's way better than me! He's got the gear, he builds bikes. He gave me his normal bike, which was ultra light, had all the gears and specialty equipment. Tim rode on a bike new newly built out of about 6 other bikes. It's main feature was that it was single speed. We met two of his friends and started biking from Tim's church and the gears were different. The whole handlebar style was a 10-speed style with three different grip options. But I figured all that out quickly. I was the slow man of the pack, mostly because I am just not in shape. Pretty soon my butt started hurting from the seat. To be nice Tim altered the track we road so it was a little shorter. We went about 30 miles. Tim kept saying, "There is a hill coming up in about a mile." I thought, "Oh crap, a hill, I'm out of breath and tired, I don't think I can do a hill. I hope it's not big. I do NOT want to wimp out on this!" Then Tim would look over, "Ok, that was it. That was the hill. Should be flat for the next little while." I was thinking, "THAT was the hill? That wasn't a hill! That was just the movement of the land." But every time he said, "Hill!" I thought we would be heading up Mount Whitney next.

We finished the ride, I was dead, but I survived. Mostly my butt hurt! The next day Hailey and Gavin and London celebrated their birthday together. I wasnít THRILLED that London celebrated another birthday. I mean, she was born May 5th. It was July. Not her birthday. I understand the purpose was so that no kids would be left out (no child left behind) but I think it's ok for a kid not to celebrate their birthday if it's not their birthday. But I saw it was my job to just shut up, so I did. There were a ton of people at the party and Beckah requested that I man the grill. I was VERY HAPPY to do that. So someone kebobbed some shishes and I grilled them and they turned out good and I was happy. I spent some time talking with Justin and Hurl and Gavin and was very happy to be there. I didn't have to help prepare, or clean or be there for presents. I just grilled and I did a fine job at it!

Before I move too quickly I should mention that the Lakeside Inn lives right up its name. Every morning I would walk down do the water's edge and out on to the dock. I could see baby birds (swallows?) nesting and being fed. I met some of the fisherman and saw quite a few fish under the dock. I also saw a snapping turtle which I thought was really cool. I would stay there again. It was a little pricier than I would have liked but it was a nice place to stay. While checking into this inn I saw a brochure for Canoeing the Caney, which is the main river that feeds the reservoir. I took it and called them and it was decided that Sunday would be the day to go Kayaking. I hoped Tim would come but he was going to be out of town. Brad wasn't too interested in going, so I went by myself and I have to say I quite enjoyed doing it alone. I woke up, went to the pickup point, rode in a van with a bunch of college students who were taking a vacation together and who talked WAY too much and I had no interest in being around. When we finally got the boats in the water I paddled upstream to see how close to the dam I could get. I was able to touch the dam and if I wanted to I could have paddled into the water outlets. But I decided it would be better to go downstream. I went 6 miles in about 3 hours. I saw lots of fish, including a 4 foot long muskellunge. I also saw some vultures descend from the canopy of the trees and land near the river. I decided to go see them and paddled over and got about 8 feet away from them as they drunk water from the river. They watched me cautiously, and it was just a vulture, but it was really cool. The river itself was like a cross of the rivers you see in Utah and the rivers I imagine exist in the swamps of Louisiana. In other words it was mostly open water and each side was thick with forest that overhung the river and made the edges dark. Bird sounds were everywhere and would have been better without all the canoes and fisherman. There was a boat about every 200 feet or so. I mostly just floated and watched an listened. It was peaceful and nice.

That night we visited with more Cantrells and ended up at Toni and Greg's house. More BBQ. Greg is a master gardener. I was impressed with his crops. Makes my little garden look pathetic! We saw some frogs around his house. And bugs. The bugs in TN did not let me down. Fireflies and cricket sand cicadas. I only saw one cicada shell, but you could still hear them. I am not ready for the quantity of bugs in the south, I never will be.

The next day we left TN and drove to O'Fallon, MO, just outside of St. Louis. The next day drove from there to Lincoln, NE. Along the way we hit a town called Craig, MO. I insisted we stop and take pictures. Little town, quaint in its perfection. Found out that it was flooded and the whole town was evacuated. We didn't see that until after we left but it was a bad omen. This flood took us on a two hour detour way off our path into the state of Iowa. I should comment on the acres and acres of corn we saw on this trip. Holy cow. 6 foot tall, 4 inches apart by the mile. America is good at growing corn! We had planned to make it into central Nebraska but stopped in Lincoln instead. That prompted me to call Danny and arrange and very quick meeting. He brought his kids Tyler and Madison and even brought Marvel. We visited in the hotel room for about an hour and it was a lot of fun to catch up with them. The next we drove home and after 4000+ miles pulled in at 2 am.

This was a very fun trip. Very memorable. Other than the flooded river detours we had no near miss traffic mishaps or car problems. Everyone was healthy. If we ever do a road trip again it will be measured against this one. In fact it will be fun to do it again when the kids are older. We won't need diapers and kids can move and entertain themselves a little more independently.

But that's not all! The following weekend was my Birthday. Beckah and I had decided to do a very low key event. No going out, no big presents. So on July 17th, we got some pizza and ice cream. Mom and dad and Eddie and Brittany came over and Beckah absolutely surprised me. Months ago I got all excited about concertinas. They are really cool little instruments with interesting history and I thought it would be fun to have one. I had forgotten about it, but my little Beckah remembered! And now I have one! Which means I have to learn how to play it. At this point I've only played with it for about 30 minutes but I know a lot more about it than I did before! I'll have to try to film myself doing something on it when I can. I am still working on the mandolin from father's day! The only thing I need now is a Jaw Harp and a clay jug and I'm ready to rock! Beckah also got me a trailer to haul the kids in on my bike which will be very interesting. Maybe it will get me back into bike riding. So, between drum lessons, learning mandolin, learning concertina, playing drums at church, fathering two kids, and Beckah's photography, and gardening, I'm not allowed to ever say that I'm bored.

After everyone left and the kids went to bed Beckah and I talked on the porch, which I LOVE doing. I had eaten Papa John's pizza and tin roof ice cream but Beckah got hungry for some Peanut butter and Jelly and then we went to bed. I was exhausted. This summer has been AWESOME!

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