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I Am Poison

October 13, 2014

Something rather amazing happened to me the other night. My employer,, has a party once a year called Overstocktober. Each year they hire a band of national name to play a private concert just for Overstock employees. In years past they have had Jason Mraz (which I would have loved to have seen), Snoop Dog, and others. This year they had Bret Michaels, lead singer of the band Poison.

I knew about this concert before I got back from vacation. I planned on attending even though I haven't been the biggest Poison fan ever. I've never specifically disliked them. I have paid attention to them though. When Bret Michaels did the VH1 show "Rock of Love" I saw a few episodes but didn't really connect. The show displayed a lavish lifestyle and even if it was accurate I was totally unable to resonate with it. So Bret has been on the outer periphery of my existence. However KBER has him in for interviews on a somewhat recurring basis and I listened to a few of them over the years and he sounded very down to earth; he sounded content with his life. I always thought, "Good for him" when I heard him speak.

So that brings us to our story. A few days before the concert Overstock organizers sent an email about a drawing. The prize was a backstage pass to meet Bret before the show. At first glance I thought, "Well, I have no business there. I have nothing to say." But as I thought about it I landed on, "What's the worst that could happen?" So I entered the contest. A day before the show they announced that I was one of 15 or so winners. So I began to think, "Well, that's cool. What am I going to do with that? I don't care about autographs and I have nothing to sign anyway. I know! I'll bring my drum sticks. If I do that, he'll know I'm a musician. He might even ask me to play. Yeah, right! That would never happen. Would it? I wonder..."

So the concert came. As an aside Overstock gave its employees Trax tickets (a subway-like train that connects to bus stops for public transportation) for the day so I decided to take Trax to the venue (called "The Complex"). That has nothing to do with the story except that I had a very positive experience using Trax. It took me directly where I wanted to go, no fuss. I would totally do that again. I got to the show at 7:00 pm and waited. I was supposed to receive a text message telling me where and when to go to get back stage. 7:00 turned into 8:00 and beyond. I was told there was less communication than desired and no one knew exactly what was going on. Just wait. Meanwhile a friend of mine named Nick arrived. Beckah did not go to this show with me. She said she didn't want to but was willing to. I would have loved to have her there but knowing that she didn't want to be there would have made me tense all night. So I suggested she stay home and I invited Nick and Chris (bandmates from Catalyst). Chris would show up later but Nick was there when I got the text to head back stage. So I went not knowing that Nick was welcome to come as well.

I get back stage and there's a line of at least 20 people, probably more. It's moments before the concert is supposed to start and I was thinking, "Well there's no way I'll get to play drums on stage now. It was a ridiculous idea to begin with but there's no way at this point. No way." They then tell us that we will be posing for a picture with Bret and there will be NO autographs due to time and the number of people. So I think to myself, "Well, if he's not going to sign my drum sticks and I'm not going to play on stage I'll just give the sticks to Bret." That was the least dopey thing I could think to do with them. Then a girl comes through the line to collect the names of everyone. She gets to me and says, "What's your name and who is your guest?" I say, "Uh, its just me. I didn't realize we were allowed to have a guest." She said, "If you have someone you can go get them and come back. Just go to the back of the line." I say, "Let me text him." I text Nick and he says he'll get back stage. I rush up to meet him and we get back stage again and I go to the back of the line. We were there for 5 seconds and the same girl says, "No, you guys come up to the front of the line now." I still have no idea why that changed but we are ushered to the front of the line. Bret is there shaking hands in front of a back drop and we're next. There was hardly time to think. We are told, "You guys are next." And then I'm standing there shaking hands with Bret.

And he's is full show mode. He's extremely nice and gracious and expressing thanks to everyone. He's happy. This lines up with everything I've heard about him. A few of my Facebook friends had attended his shows and one even ran sound for him and all said his shows are great and that he was the nicest guy in the world. So what do I say? "Hi, Bret. This is my friend Nick. We're in a band. I'm the drummer. Since you're not signing autographs tonight you are welcome to have my drum sticks." He takes them from me and says, "Cool, man. Hey, if you guys are in a band you should come open for us at this bar we play at when we're in Salt Lake." I thought, "Is this real? My whole life I've been trying to get people to take me seriously as a musician and I mention two sentences to this guy and he's ready to share the stage with me? That's amazing!" Bret takes the drum sticks from me and is spinning them in his hands. He says, "I will hang these in my living room." I laughed and thought to myself, "Well, I bet you won't do that but I understand what you mean." The photographer took two pictures. I have no idea what I was doing in these pictures as I type this because I have not seen the pictures yet. I think I tried to look like a very serious musician. I am thinking that I looked more like a shocked deer in the headlights or a child who had just dropped his candy which to be fair is pretty much my default stance. I then said, "I came ready to play if you want to do something tonight." I was serious, but I thought to myself, "He'll probably take that as joke not realizing that I'm being dead serious." But instead he said, "Yeah man. I call people from the audience up on stage throughout the show. I'll call you guys up for a song. That will be awesome." He gives the sticks back to me. I'm in a bit of shock and I'm told by a stagehand, "Ok, you guys are done." And we're ushered away so Bret can work his line. This whole conversation took place in about 30 seconds.

Outside with the common folk again Nick and I are talking, wondering where Chris is. We go outside because I have not eaten and Overstock paid for food but you had to wait in line for it. In retrospect I should have gotten food when I got there but I was terrified of missing the aforementioned text. We waited in line for at least 20 minutes and then they announced the concert was starting and the food truck we were waiting for had run out of food. So I rushed inside. Chris had texted us and Nick went to meet him so we were split up for the time being. I went inside and now the room where the concert was had been packed with people like sardines. All standing room. I got up as close as I could comfortably get but of course near the front of the stage it was just shoulder-to-shoulder people. This is not a situation I excel in. This is WHY I play the drums. I let the crowd stay down there, away from me, with a comfortable wall between me and them, but I can still see them. But now I have a job. I have to wade through this crowd and get to the front of the stage and hope that Bret might see me so he might remember our short conversation so that he might follow through on his previous statement. Was it even worth it? I might successfully navigate this crowd only to be forgotten or laughed at. It is more likely I will get elbowed in the face or stepped on or puked on. My mind raced.

For the first few songs I just stood at back of this crowd. Every concert I've ever been to I have created excuses to not be at the front. "You know the sound is better by the sound board. It's better to be back stage and hear it from there. It's better to be on stage and have monitors. It's better to buy a CD if you're interested in sound quality." All of these excuses are true but they have kept me comfortable and justifiably at the back of the room during all concerts. But now I had a mission. I started watching for a hole to open up. Sure enough, once every song or so someone would leave and I'd do my best to step forward. I should take a moment and explain that the band was of course great. It wasn't Poison, it was the Bret Michaels Band. But they played a number of Poison songs, a handful of his solo stuff, a bunch of covers of 80s songs. It was all what I would term "party music". That is, music that every red blooded American knew and was fun to listen to. It wasn't anything complex or technical. Nothing overly offensive. I think I heard 3 swear words from the stage the entire night. This man is clearly an artful master of his trade. His job is to make people happy and I have to say he does an amazing job. His whole career from 1983 has been the lead man fronting a band that was the American icon representative of the glam rock of the 1980s. I didn't doubt that he could do it of course, but it's like watching any professional do their job with expertise. It's an amazing talent. It's different than leading worship but here is where it gets philosophical. Why not? This man is leading people to what they define or think or have been told fun is. Worship leaders should do the same thing to a certain extent, right? What I mean is, to engage people on that level and get them all clapping, singing, happy and ready to follow you to war if you asked them to is just amazing. The connection. The management of that communication is not easy no matter what the situation is. And like I said, Bret is a master of it in my opinion.

Where was I? Ah yes. Standing at the back of the audience wondering how I'm going to accomplish this task. I'm stepping froward being so careful not to offend people as I step around them and through them and on them, hoping they don't stab me in the back because when someone cuts me off or steps in front me in situations like this I get angry. I ask under my breath, "Who do you think you are? Sit down in your assigned seat, sir. We will have order here!" But I have to throw all that out. After 6 or 7 songs I'm still a good 10 feet away from the stage. Suddenly, 5 feet in front of me who do I see in the crowd? Nick. I have no idea how he got there or how long he'd been there. But at least it's someone I know. I charge ahead with a valid excuse now. "Excuse me, I need to get to my friend." As if anyone heard me. As if they might say, "Oh well, excuse me. Let me step aside. This man has to get to his friend. Everyone clear a path for this guy." It didn't matter. I needed an excuse for me. I was able to get to and stand with Nick. We continued taking advantage of the periodic holes in the crowd to step forward. Soon we were just behind the very front row. We had done it!

Now I had a new problem. How on earth do I get Bret to notice us there? Up to this point I had my drum sticks tucked in my jeans pocket and inside the bottom of my shirt, almost hiding them. I was so conflicted about this. I know I should be proud to be a drummer. But I also was terrified someone might see me and think, "Psht, look at this guy! What a douche. He brought his own drum sticks. What does he think he's going to do? Play the drums? Let's mug him and leave him dead on the highway." Which again, is pretty much the constant undercurrent thought of my subconscious at all times. So I'm there, looking up at Bret and the lead guitar play and bass player and drummer. I'm trying to be so serious and so cool but inside I am dying like a flower in a volcano. I am telling myself, "Hold up your sticks and be seen!" While the other side of my brain is saying, "Don't look stupid. Better just keep those tucked away." The result was me meekly smiling, holding my sticks below my chin like a terrified 7th grader. And I was hyper-aware of how awkward it must have looked but I had no idea how to balance all of these events that were occurring in the blender of a moment that this was.

At one point Bret had a woman on stage and she was singing with him. He also called up veterans on stage and did a song with them. Like I said, the ultimate party atmosphere. He looked out at the crowd towards Nick and I and said in the mic, "I'll have you guys come up later." At the time I wasn't sure if he was talking to us directly or if he just sort of meant, generally everyone in the room. As the concert wound down to a close he said, "I'm going to do one more song..." and I thought, "ahhhhh, there it is. I knew it. I knew this was too good to be true. All is right with the world. That's ok. What could I actually expect here? This was a dying wish before it began." But then Bret finished his sentence, "...before I do, I made a promise to some musician friends of mine. Guys, come on up we're gonna do the last song together." It was at this moment that time froze and everything went into slow motion. Logical linear thought no longer applied here. My body was operating on adrenaline, habit and subconscious learned behavior from here on out. I don't know why my legs worked. Nick turned around and high-fived me and we jumped on stage which was about 4 feet high. Nick owned the moment. I think he turned around and looked at the crowd and shook hands with the band members. I walked back to the drums. I wondered, "Does the drummer even know this is happening? What now?"

It appears he did not know. He looked at me the way I would have looked at someone who walked onstage and stood next to me during a worship set 3 songs in. A stage hand then said to the drummer, "You're off, he's on." (Referring to me.) I sheepishly smile, realizing the drummer, Mike, has no idea what is happening. He looks at the stage-hand asking, "What?" Which is exactly what I would have done. The stage hand repeats himself. Mike takes his in ear monitors out and says, "So what's happening? He's playing? Oh. Well, ok." And this man began standing up and was ready to relinquish his drum set. At this moment I thought, "Dear God, what have I done? I know this song but I don't know how they start it or end it, or if there's a guitar solo or anything." I was hoping to have gotten in early enough to go over that stuff, but in this situation I'm ready to follow Bret into war. If necessary I will play this song. The song had been announced at some point as Kiss's "I want to Rock and Roll All Night". I know this song very well but I've never played it. I have no idea what I'm going to do. Luckily, and wisely so, the lead guitar player rushed over and said to the drummer, "No, you play this song, he (Craig) can play toms." The drummer said, "Oh ok." I was instantly relieved but also a little disappointed. Did I want to play the full drums? Oh yes. Could I have landed that song? Oh yes, no question. However it would have a bit rough around the edges and I did not want to be responsible for crashing the song. I haven't crashed a song in years and years even under a little bit of duress. But this was a bit of a high pressure situation. Given 20 minutes of prep I could have knocked it out of the park. With nothing I could have done a triple easily, in keeping with the metaphor. But a triple would not have been good enough in this situation. So the song started and now I went into show mode. Keep in mind that that drums are at the back of stage. With the lights and everything you could barely see the crowd. Sigh. I love playing drums and this is one of the many reasons. But during the intro I'm hitting the floor tom and a large china cymbal while the drummer played the hat, bass and snare. Given my instrument I squoze the most out of every note. I tried to keep it interesting, and varied, but still part of the song, still musical, but still visible as an extra player in this very non-standard method of playing. I can't speak for Mike the drummer (I don't know his last name yet, despite Internet searches), but I believe after the intro he looked at me in recognition that I actually did know what I was doing and he knew I wasn't going to mess up the song. I did the best I could. That's my concluding thought. I did the best I could. And I think it was pretty good.

I have no idea what Nick was doing. I think he was hamming it up and yelling and having a great time. I'm sure someone in the audience was taking a cell phone video so hopefully I can get one of those and post it here. After the song ended the band left the stage. I shook hands with the lead player and the drummer. I don't know what I expected at this point. The drummer left and the lead guitar player wasn't interested in talking to me at all. So I left the stage with Nick and we were ushered back to the land of the common people. We met up with Chris who was standing just off stage and I told him, "You should have been here earlier!" He laughed and was happy for us. The conversation died down. I think one lady whom I didn't know said, "That was awesome" as I walked off stage. I either was or at least felt invisible. Not that I craved everyone congratulating me or anything. I wanted to be invisible again. Most of the audience was headed outside to cool down. I too went outside. And continued walking. Until I was at the Trax station. I was totally alone again. Two minutes prior I was playing drums on stage in a concert situation in front of all of my co-workers with Bret Michaels, a legitimate, noted, famous musician and his band of professionals and now I was sitting on a train car that was 100% empty except for myself. It was like going from the hot tub into ice cold water. I was just sitting there smiling like a dope. I couldn't be happier than I was at that moment. What an amazing string of coincidences.

Less than a month ago I played guitar and worked on song writing ideas with Paul Colman. Next I shared a stage with an 80s icon who is still very active as a top tier musician. Only one question. Who is next?

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Another trip to Tennessee

October 7, 2014

The Tennessee trip has occurred with a stop in Missouri to boot. We were gone for 3 full weeks. I burned all my vacation time. It was a great test of the new car on the road. I'll try to summarize all that happened and all the people we saw but I'm sure I'll miss some. Here we go.

We left on Friday afternoon. Beckah packed the kids up, we cleaned the house. Kai the dog went to our friends from church, the Coopers. We loaded the kids into the car and for the entire trip they did awesome. We had a two-screen DVD player and they also had hand held games. They would switch back and forth between watching TV and playing their games. We were sure to let them run around and get some activity at lunch breaks but when it was time to go again they had no problems loading back into the car. It was amazing really. We put 5,000 miles on the car and didn't have a single issue with the kids fighting or crying. I would have expected otherwise.

Since we left on a Friday afternoon we stopped in Cheyenne and stayed at the Little America hotel, thanks to Eddie for setting that up. The hotel was great but the temperature was 35 degrees. We were all dressed and prepared for a summer drive so that was a bit of a shock. Next we drove to Lincoln and stopped to see Danny Topping and his family. Marvel Topping had died and was buried just two days prior. Her death was unexpected so it was alarming. I knew Marvel so long I don't remember meeting her. She was just always there. One of my favorite moments with her was when she taught Danny and I how to slide a straw up and down against the lid of a drink at a fast food restaurant to make the "squiggy-squiggy" noise. Such a small thing but every time I have a cup like that I move the straw and remember that moment. Danny and I went nuts with it for about 2 hours and I'm sure gave Marvel a headache. I'm sure she regretted teaching it to us but we were in tears laughing so hard. I remember asking her once as a child if she was a "senior citizen". The question was legitimate. I actually wanted to know. It was rude though, but I was 8 or 9 I think. She laughed and brought it up every time I saw her. "I'm not a senior citizen yet, Craig." She loved that. I remember the trip to Disneyland our families took and how she miscalculated the space roller coaster. She got off that thing and I didn't think she was going to be able to walk. I remember shooting fireworks with her and Danny, her garden in the backyard. I remember her telling me that Danny had moved to Nebraska to get married and my jaw dropping. She was an amazing person, amazing piano player. She will be missed. But Danny and I got to sit down and laugh for a few hours together which was fun. I really wish he lived in Salt Lake.

After dinner we drove on to Kansas City and stayed at a hotel there. We didn't get a chance to see the house in Lenexa but the GPS (her name is Gloria) lead us to the airport trying to find a Burger King! The next we drove from KC all the way to Nashville and Smithville. For the first two days we stayed at Holly and Brad's house which was nice. We had decided to leave the kids with Holly for 2 days while Beckah and I went to Gatlinburg to redo our honeymoon in place of our 10th anniversary which really was the driving overall reason for this trip. The kids had no problem staying with Holly

Gatlinburg was crazy. We checked into the Buckhorn Inn, same place we stayed for the honeymoon. I would highly recommend this place. Its beautiful, secluded, quite fancy. Certainly not a place I would stay on business. But its very romantic. We had more opportunity to check out Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge which is a strange place. It's like Vegas, but instead of gambling, its rednecks. The alcohol component is common to both. However in Gatlinburg its more moonshine and whiskey over the vodka and beer of Vegas. We went to the Aquarium, the "Odd"itorium, a haunted house, a number of restaurants. Had a great time.

Now, before we left Beckah was booking hotels and preparing the trip and she decided to look at a cabin while shopping, just for fun. She found a cabin just up the road from her parent's house. We were there during an off season. School had started, rentals at Centerhill Lake were down. So the price for this cabin was $85 per night, which was very comparable to hotels in Smithville. I was very nervous about this. It was said to have a hot tub, a deck. All the reviews were good. But there had to be some weak point. Infested by roaches? Next to a slaughter house? On the grounds of an asylum of some sort? Nope. We drove from Gatlinburg to this cabin and it was beautiful. Practically brand new, giant deck, beautiful and well-maintained hot tub. 3 bed rooms, satellite TV. I couldn't have asked for anything more. It was surrounded by 60 foot oak trees. That sounds beautiful, right? Except in the fall they drop their acorns. This is like standing in God's firing range. When we first got there I heard them falling through the leaves and figured it was squirrels or birds moving around in the trees. Then I realized they were dropping acorns. Then I realized there were no squirrels, at least not that many. Then I realized they were hitting the deck and the house. Let me tell you, in the middle of the night it sounds like someone throwing a hammer at you when they hit the roof. Luckily no one was hit in the time we where there but there were some close calls. I was in the hot tub one night with the kids and one fell directly in the water. It was like a bullet had been fired into the water. But this was a small thing. If we ever do that again I will be bringing my guitar. I missed my guitar immensely. I would have loved to have played on the deck and just watched the world turn. I would make an awesome retired person!

We of course saw Hurl and Waltyne and over time the entire family. Hurl and I spent a good amount of time together fishing, driving around and running some errands. We had campfires a few nights too. Another purpose of this trip was to look at land to potentially buy. Beckah and I have decided that as a long term plan to move to Tennessee we will buy land in 3-5 years, and just own it while we save up for the dream house, whatever that is (but I bet it includes a pond). I'm thinking 10-15 years before we're close to moving, but who knows? We want to live a little more rurally than we currently do too. So I got hold of a real estate agent and told her what we were looking for. She gave us some addresses that matched that description. One was a 20 acre plot for $55,000. But it was overgrown with thick brush and trees. So thick you couldn't even walk through it without a machete or a bulldozer! That was in a place called Rockvale. We looked at some 5-6 acre plots there that were clear but also not quite what we intended. Then we looked in Las Cassass and found some that were a little better in terms of location and proximity to the city of Murfreesboro. Our goal was not to select land. We just wanted to get an idea of how to shop for land and see what we were interested in. We got some ideas for sure and I'll just have to keep you posted on what will happen next.

I had planned on going to Nashville for a day and I thought Beckah and the kids would be with me. But Beckah had plans to be with her family as much as possible so she decided to stay. It was going to be just me and the kids. But then she said the kids would be spending the night at Aunt Judy's so there was suddenly no kids. At first I thought, "Sweet!" Later I just realized that being alone in Nashville echoed all the other time I spent in Nashville! Actually it worked out better to be alone for reasons you will soon see. I let Doug Griffin know I was in town and set a time to meet with him around 2:00. But I drove into Nashville about 9:00. I decided first to go to Radnor Lake and walk around the whole thing. I saw turtles, deer, turkeys and to my surprise I found a walking stick. I loved it. I had never seen a walking stick before and always wanted to. I stopped and took a video for about 10 minutes. I was like a child for a second.

Then I went and caught up with Doug who is doing great. We discussed music and radio and history, the past interns. Nothing exciting. But we discussed that Paul Colman lived near by and that Paul used to babysit Doug's children, or vice versa. I mentioned that I helped him promote a concert of his years ago when he was getting started in Nashville and that I had exchanged a few Facebook messages with him. Doug then had to leave for a gig. Doug invited me to come to his current radio show in two days because Karla would be there filling in for Jaci, so it would be like old times. I agreed and left. I was supposed to pick up the kids at around 5:00 but it was 2:30. How could I spend 2 more hours in Nashville? I figured I'd go see the house I used to live in and just head back early. But then I thought, "You know, I think I'll text Paul Colman and see if he wants to get something to eat. It's crazy, but it might work." I figured there was no way he'd reply back. But I sent the Facebook message and lo and behold, :30 seconds later Paul replied. We had a short conversation via Facebook messaging so he could orient who in the heck I was. But eventually he invited me to his home studio which was just 3 minutes down the street from where I was. "Yes, this will work!" I thought to myself.

I went over there. It was an apartment with his multiple guitars hanging up. He was extremely welcoming. We went out to the balcony of his apartment and caught up. He filled me in with some of the details around the time that I originally met him. Then he shared some of the tracks he has recorded from his upcoming album. Then we actually sat down and worked on a song I wrote a while ago called "You Have". I still need to rewrite the lyrics and record that section but I recorded audio of his comments (his suggestion) so I just need to sit down and do it. We discussed worship music and how its different than other types of Christian music. We discussed relationships. At one point we even read the Bible together. Romans 8 if memory serves. It was a very Nashville moment for me.

I picked up the kids late and drove back to Smithville. I was so amazed that moment happened. I'll never forget it. Two days later I drove back to Nashville to sit with Doug and Karla as they did the morning show on the FISH. The format of the show was different that what I remember at Way-FM. There it was more open and friendly and loose. This was so heavily formatted, there was no time for fun. I didn't have a chance to speak because there was no place for it. Which was fine. But I was there.

I fished with Hurl as I mentioned above. There were two ponds we went to, and they both had plentiful cat fish and large mouth bass. I enjoyed using spinners to catch the bass but Hurl was using hot dogs and hamburgers and pulling out catfish as big as my leg. 3-4 feet long, 15 pounds. They put up fights for 5-10 minutes. They were fun to catch. So I started using the same bait and caught 4 or 5 of them myself. We didn't eat any of the fish, just catch and release.

When we left Tennessee we headed for Missouri to see Ashli's family. We only had 2 days there and one of those was a travel day, so we really didn't want to do anything spectacular. We just wanted to visit the family which we did. I helped Ally with her homework which I admit I loved doing. Abby baked Challa bread for us which was amazing. She was such a little master at it. Beckah and I played the board game Settlers of Catan with Ally and she beat us fair and square. Brian showed me his collection of jail memorabilia from his grandfather which was actually really interesting stuff. For the record his grandfather was a warden, not an inmate! That would be a different set of memorabilia! Ashli loved seeing London and Thatcher and they even spent the night with the O'Connell family. We all had a really good time just talking and playing.

The next day we headed for Denver. I was tasked with finding a hotel and I chose one in Limon, Colorado. I did a terrible job. We had stayed at Super 8 hotels quite a bit along the way so I thought that would be safe and it was kind of expensive but still one of the less expensive ones. But alas, it was not a good experience. It wasn't infested with bugs or anything like that, but it just felt old and dirty and not comfortable. Other than a bad night's sleep, it worked for us. The kids didn't care. They were happy as clams. But its those kinds of things that make a trip memorable so I'll take the bad with the good. The next day we stayed on I-70 and drove through the mountains west of Denver. I'm really glad we did. The fall colors were there and you're really in the mountains for 2-3 hours. Gorgeous scenery. It probably added an hour or two to the trip but it was worth it, which is why I wanted to go that way.

When we got home on a Saturday all was in order. We were very happy to be home. Jay and Maggie dropped off Kai at Mom and Dad's house and they brought him over Sunday morning. I actually missed Kai a lot when I was gone and was happy to see him. So all in all a great trip.

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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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