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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 ksl.com/classifieds 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:
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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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, Beckah’s 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, “I’m a witch!” 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.
Beckah’s 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 didn’t finish it though because we didn’t have a rocket launcher. It was a little pathetic looking and I didn’t 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 didn’t get damaged at all. It should be ready for another flight. That was a lot of fun. I feel bad that Brian didn’t 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 can’t 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. It’s 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. I’ve only done it once but I’d 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. He’s 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 Jew’s harp. One of the most fun things I’ve 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. I’m 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 didn’t 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 it’s 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 it’s remarkable what her little hands can do with that thing. I hope she sticks with it and becomes a musician! I'm biased of course but she's got talent and its great seeing it grow. Now Ben and Thatcher are just one year apart. I really hope they will become friends as cousins and get into all kinds of trouble together. There is the matter of 1,000 miles separating them but that can be overcome with...let's say...the Internet. Aren't they working on that? I don't know!
Last story of the entry. My cell phone plan became eligible for an upgrade this month and my current phone has a broken touch screen. I can still use it, but I can't hang up unless I turn off the phone and I can't send text messages. I've been waiting to use this as an excuse to get a new phone. So last night Beckah and I went shopping to find out what makes the most sense. I was shocked at the prices a person is expected to pay. I'm sure this will be laughable in ten years, but currently we pay $86 for our two phones. 700 minutes, no data plan, and only my wife has text messaging. This is an old plan that isn't offered anymore. Now I admit that a data plan would be nice to have and I would be willing to pay a LITTLE more for a data plan. The problem is, to get any plan that has a data plan the cost becomes EXTREMEMLY cost prohibitive. Like I might be willing to pay $90 a month. MAYBE $100. But to even BEGIN thinking about a data plan the monthly cost is going to be $130 minus my Teleperformance discount which leaves the monthly cost at $118. But it doesn't stop there. We'd have to buy new phones. There is a free phone that has a data package but to get a phone that is worth having costs $100-$200. (I don't have a specific one in mind, but I'm applying "you get what you pay for" to get that number and this about the cost. I mean, if you're going to get a data plan, get a phone that makes sense with the data plan, not just a random free phone because it has a data plan, right?) So that cost would be PER phone. But that's not all! To upgrade to a data plan costs $36. Just a one time fee, they say, as if that's a benefit.
Each one of these charges absolutely cuts into my spine of my inner being. This is ridiculous. It makes me want to completely disconnect from the grid and life in the forest and grow beets and potatoes and never touch anything electronic again. I'm so macro-economically and violently angered by the fact that cell phone companies even dare to do this. They have marketed their product as absolutely necessary to have. And its just NOT necessary. It's a luxury product. And I am not in the target market who can afford much luxury in my life. And it hurts me to say it. I'm trying to be a tech guy, trying to keep up with the trends. I can pay bills but there is no room for luxury right now. And there is pressure for all sides to HAVE a cell phone. For professional reasons, making appointments, staying in contact with family, emergency situations. But do I need to watch movies on my phone? NO! Do I NEED to look up the ingredients of pizza at a restaurant? No! And I am absolutely unwilling to pay a premium price for things I don't need. I would be willing to pay a nominal price for such things but not this steep increase that is just accepted as the norm by society.
I was so angry about it after leaving the Sprint store. I wasn't angry at Sprint. I mean, I understand. If I was a business and had successfully marketed to my audience that they needed my product and that it really is a good idea to strike your grocery budget in favor of buying my product at the highest price possible I would absolutely do it. I would be ruthless and merciless in applying my price structure. I don't fault Sprint for doing their job well. We also talked to Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is trying to position itself as the premium product. They make no apologies about being the highest price. The problem as I see it with their approach is that the lowest quality cell phone company is still extremely useful. In other words, there isn't a lot of distance between the lowest quality and highest quality. It's not like Company X makes their phones out of press board and Verizon uses Titanium. Verizon claims to have the widest service area and the strongest signal which means less dropped calls and therefore I should be willing to pay a premium of $160 a month. I've rarely if ever had a dropped call from Sprint and I don't need coverage everywhere. I need it at home and at work and maybe along Bangertur Highway. I live in the city. Mass coverage areas might make sense if I regularly traveled to rural areas but I don't. Thus I highly disagree with Verizon's approach to winning my business.
AT&T had a more reasonable plan. $120 a month, and they offered to waive sign up fees and give discounts on accessories (which I could care less about). But I'd have to wait for my contract at Sprint to expire which is something like June of 2012. So if any upgrade to a data plan were to be done it would make sense to do it with Sprint and just accept an unreasonable price. The other option is to forgo the data plan, just get a new phone with no data plan, continue paying all ready too-high but at least lower than data plan prices and call it good. The problem with that is that it just delays the inevitable.
Writing this has been good. The obvious choice is to upgrade my phone, pass on the data plan and think about it again in two years. Beckah won't like that. She wants the data plan. Even thought we might be able to scrimp even more to afford it I simply can't justify it. The benefits it brings aren't really benefits at all. They are simply unnecessary luxury that I am unwilling to pay for. I expect no sympathy from the cell phone companies. The way I see it, they have declared war of society. Not a war of bullet but a war of economics. They are masters. They have presented the need and convinced everyone that it must be paid for. They are winning, turning people into mindless drones that will do their bidding. I am not a mindless drone. Fight the power. They will do it my way or they won't get my money. I am willing to take a job where the cell phones are free. I am willing to do anything but be financially raped by a communications company just because they think its a good idea. In fact, rape is the perfect word for it. It is a matter of supply and demand that sets the price and I for one do not have the demand at the given price. I need to shop at Cricket before I do anything else. Where's the black panther's when you NEED them?
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Radio and Stories
September 1, 2011
This is going to be a quickie!
I wrote a poem. I'm trying to get it published. Don't know where it will end up but here is the progress so far.
I was on the radio in Nashville. I'll post that story tomorrow too, but here is the audio.
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Road Trip and My Birthday
July 18, 2011
We went on vacation. I try not to announce vacations on the Internet before I leave because to me doing so is the same as saying, "Please, break into my house and steal my things. The house will be vacant for two weeks on these dates." But, alas, we did go on a two week road trip that was planned since around September. We got the idea to check out a festival in Springfield, MO called "I Love America" held every July 4th by my sister's home church, James River Assembly of God. She has talked about it for years. It's all day, family friendly activity with music and bands and food and fireworks. It was presented to me as THE way to celebrate the 4th of July. Over 100,000 people attended this thing each year. I had been thinking about going year after year and it never worked out. Life and kids and money were to blame. Meanwhile, year after year this festival took place. So around September we started talking about it, planned it, combined Tennessee in the trip. Money was set aside. And then James River Church announced in March that the festival was cancelled. I have since learned that the festival itself had grown into a nightmarish event to plan and it wasn't really accomplishing what the church wanted to do (reach people for Christ in a personal, meaningful way instead of just being eye candy), so it will probably be cancelled forever. And I never got to go. And yes, I'm actually quite upset about that!
But I wanted to capture the day by day moments and memories of the trip here on the journal. Beckah took nearly 16 gigs worth of photos too, so we will go back later and plant the pictures after I have this thing written! But here goes! Enjoy the saga.
We left on Friday, July 1st. We decided to drive because the cost of flying 3 people (Craig, Beckah, London) and 1 baby (Thatcher) was our entire budget, or close to it. We looked at renting cars, buying luggage racks and other options, but in the end, it was the most fiscally responsible to back up the Neon and pack light and just go for it. We also wanted to minimize the amount of time I took off of work so I worked on July 1st from 4:30 am to 12:30. London and Thatcher stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Thursday night so Beckah could pack, sleep and drive the day shift while I slept in the car. I headed home, from work and picked up Beckah and the dog and headed to Grandma and Grandpa's to drop off the dog and pick up the kids. We were on the road by about 2:00. The dog was planned to stay with Eddie and Brittany but it turned out that Mom and Dad liked him quite a bit and actually kept him the whole time!
We drove straight from Salt Lake City to Springfield, MO in about 26 hours. No stopping, no sleeping. Beckah drove 95% of it. I tried to sleep but I have such a hard time sleeping in a car. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep total. I drove for about 2.5 hours but other than that it was all Beckah. When we hit the Missouri river we found the road flooded and had to take a detour through Kansas to get to Kansas City. It didn't take us too far out of the way, just slowed us down a bit. Gloria (our aptly named GPS) lead the way, fearlessly and boldly! In fact she was so fearless she suggested we just drive THROUGH the river. We thought otherwise and went around!
We got into town on Saturday around 2 pm and checked into hour hotel and crashed. Well, Beckah and Thatcher and I. London got some sleep and was ready to party. She spent most of the nap time singing and playing her game (Leapfrog). When we woke up we went to Ashli and Brian's and saw their new house for the first time. It's about two years since they moved in, but it was new to us. They have a nice hot tub, nicely thought out floor plan, land for Brian's horses. They even had some chickens. But the highlight was seeing Abby and Ally and Ashli and Brian and even Benjamin, who will be born in September. Ashli served us some homemade manicotti which was really good. Beckah has brought it up a few times since then and wants to try it. Unlike drugs, never say no to manicotti!
Ally gave London some of her Barbi dolls and London LOVED playing in their house. Thatcher lit up every room he was in. Ashli was as happy to see our kids as we were to see theirs. In the middle of the day Beckah and I took Abby and Ally to a fireworks stand. Since James River was uncapable of providing entertainment for the 4th I took it upon myself to do so. Plus I had NEVER been to a fireworks stand with the purpose of buying a quantity of fireworks. And there are a lot of fireworks that are legal in MO but illegal in UT. So I told Abby and Ally that they could buy any fireworks they wanted as long it was under $10 each. Beckah, my little in-house capitalist taught the kids how to extract every cent of their $10 allowance to maximize the available funds. I figured I'd get some quiet fountains and few rockets and total cost would be under $50. We spent a total of $74. The girls were very excited and so was I.
That night we went to Lamberts. It was an hour wait and we were full by the time our ordered meals got to us so they delivered on their promise. Beckah also found some time to take some maternity pictures of Ashli in old downtown Rogersville.
Monday was the 4th of July. Our hotel had a swimming pool so the O'Connells came to see us. We were lucky because the pool was covered and we were the only ones there. This was Thatcher's first time in a full swimming pool and of course he loved it. He splashed and had quite a good time. Both London and Thatcher liked playing with Brian the most. In fact London kept talking about seeing Uncle Brian the whole way down to Missouri. "Unko Bwian." Afterwards we went to Pat and Dottie's house in Ozark, MO and had an afternoon BBQ that was really fun. We also met Ellie, Abby and Ally's cousin, who is a little doll herself. Abby and Ally brought some of the fireworks we bought the day before but they secretly let me know that they saved the fun ones for us to do back and Ashli and Brian's house. But we had fun doing some sparklers and smoke bombs. We lit some little ash snake things and Abby and Ally got very messy with those, but no one got burned. That night we went back to Ashli and Brian’s and I was in charge of lighting the fireworks. There were some big fountains but the most fun was the rockets. Nothing too spectacular but it was a lot of fun. I was running around the humid dark and trying to not get burned or wounded and my little assembled family provided the oos and ahs. I actually quite enjoyed myself.
The next day was our last day in Missouri. All week I had been asking Abby and Ally about the house two houses down from them that had a pond. They said they never talked to them. So, wanting to see the pond, I took Abby and Ally on a walk to the neighbor’s house and met the man that lived there. He was nice and happy to let us look at his pond. We didn't see fish there but he told us a green heron lived nearby and how low and high the water gets.
Also I had requested to do something outside of normal day to day. The plan was to see a fish hatchery. So we drove to Branson and saw I think the largest rainbow trout hatchery in Missouri. It was SO hot and the kids didn't have sunscreen so I was mostly stressing about them getting burned. They didn't get burned. The hatchery itself was interesting. The biggest thing I realized is that the entire trout fishing business in America is a sham. All these regal trout fisherman that are trying to connect with nature are not connecting at all. They might as well stay at home and surf the Internet. I mean, you have to buy very specific licenses depending on how you're fishing and where you’re fishing and when you're fishing, to catch trout that are placed there by a huge breeding facility who will die when the water gets too cold. If the hatchery doesn't stock the fish, then they will die out leaving only the natural bass and catfish. But bass and catfish are different than trout so this entire industry is born. It's part natural, part Las Vegas, part green. I'm sure some senator is getting rich. After seeing how they squeeze the eggs out of the trout at the hatchery and measure the right amount of sperm and mix it by hand and control all the temperatures, year after year, just to keep the industry going it made me step back and say, "You know what, maybe we ought to leave the fish alone, let nature run its course." I mean, native fish would thrive, trout would still exist in their native environments, and if someone is so adamant that they have to catch trout, let them buy a ticket, go to where the trout are, and fish there. Most of the rest of the people will be happy to catch bass and catfish. We can simplify the whole fish license fiasco (ie, you pay $5 and get to fish on planet earth). Why don't we just let the fishing industry suppliers (makers of poles and lures and nets) collect funds to pay for licenses? I guess my beef is that my own lack of a license makes me not fish. I would have loved to fish in Missouri but I'm not going to go through the song and dance of providing ID and paying money. So I opted to not fish. Rather than connecting with my daughter and son and teaching them about fish, we did nothing. Well, we saw a hatchery. But if we fished we would have bought a pole and lures and we would have fished. The "man" would have been paid, I would have got to share something with my kids and the world would be a better place. And God forbid that you go fishing without a license. Multiple hundred dollar fees.
Ok, I'm off my soapbox for a second. Just angry that something as simple as fishing has to be regulated at all. Just back off the little fish, let nature happen, let me catch a fish from time to time (I promise I will still buy meat from the grocery store). I don't want my tax dollars paying for a multi-million dollar facility where some guy can get his jollies extracting eggs and sperm from trout. Ok, now I'm done.
After the hatchery (which I promise I did enjoy. It is fun seeing thousands of fish, just depressing to realize that they are so manufactured) we went to a place called the Landing. It's sort of like Gateway mall on meth. Bigger, much more built out, it's on a riverfront and very nice. Crowded but nice. We ate steak and got some frozen yogurt that Abby and Ally were going on and on about. It was a nice night. London kept demanding to use the bathroom and then never actually performing which kind of stunk, but we had put her through the ringer and I guess that's part of potty training. On that note, London did great on this trip as a whole. Very few accidents, she always alerted us. The funniest time was when we were driving and she said, "Nasty!" (Her word for "I need to use the potty." We were driving and we said, "Can you hold it for a second?" She said, "Yes." We drove on. Thirty seconds later she began singing the Sesame Street song, "Accidents Happen, that's what they say!" Beckah and I just looked at each other and laughed. Oh well, next time!
The next day we drove to Nashville. It took about 9 hours. Gloria lead us between St. Louis and Memphis along a road I had never been on. In fact, for the first time in my life I went to Sikeston, MO. I actually made Beckah stop so we could take pictures. Sikeston is the home of Lamberts but more importantly there was a girl I knew in college from Sikeston who was SO proud of Sikeston. You'd think it was the global capital of the planet after talking to her. Just hearing her talk about it made quite an impact on me because when I'd hear her talk I'd think to myself, "I've BEEN to Missouri and it's nice, but it's just a state, and who in the heck has ever heard of Sikeston other than the 4 people who live there?" And that little seed has just stayed planted in my brain ever since. So when Gloria took us through the city itself we stopped and ate lunch. I can tell you that Sikeston is more than just a gas stop! They have a Walmart too!
We did have to do some more detouring in Mississippi County, MO because of flooded rivers but we got through just fine. We checked into the Lakeside Inn and went directly to Hurl and Waltyne's house. Hurl has a friend who had planted a bunch of plants in his front yard. Corn and all kinds of stuff. I thought it was cool! As we pulled into town Tim called us and invited me to go on a bike ride the next day. I said, "Sure."
Now I knew that I wasn't in shape for a bikeride, but how do I not do that? I mean, that's out of the house, doing something real, something I havn't done before. I knew Tim was very serious about riding but I didn't know HOW serious. I met up with him and he was wearing the whole biker shorts and shoes with pedal locks. Tim is into road biking, as opposed to mountain biking. In road biking its all about staying consistent with speed and maximizing every pedal stroke. In mountain biking its all about, "What do I have to do to get over this obstacle?" I've never really been THAT into either one. I did the Rose Canyon two summers ago and that was serious mountain biking. Mostly I just like to get on and move and have fun. But Tim is driven for improvement, and good for him. I mean, if you're going to do a hobby then maximize everything and be the best you can be. And I'll tell you, he's way better than me! He's got the gear, he builds bikes. He gave me his normal bike, which was ultra light, had all the gears and specialty equipment. Tim rode on a bike new newly built out of about 6 other bikes. It's main feature was that it was single speed. We met two of his friends and started biking from Tim's church and the gears were different. The whole handlebar style was a 10-speed style with three different grip options. But I figured all that out quickly. I was the slow man of the pack, mostly because I am just not in shape. Pretty soon my butt started hurting from the seat. To be nice Tim altered the track we road so it was a little shorter. We went about 30 miles. Tim kept saying, "There is a hill coming up in about a mile." I thought, "Oh crap, a hill, I'm out of breath and tired, I don't think I can do a hill. I hope it's not big. I do NOT want to wimp out on this!" Then Tim would look over, "Ok, that was it. That was the hill. Should be flat for the next little while." I was thinking, "THAT was the hill? That wasn't a hill! That was just the movement of the land." But every time he said, "Hill!" I thought we would be heading up Mount Whitney next.
We finished the ride, I was dead, but I survived. Mostly my butt hurt! The next day Hailey and Gavin and London celebrated their birthday together. I wasn’t THRILLED that London celebrated another birthday. I mean, she was born May 5th. It was July. Not her birthday. I understand the purpose was so that no kids would be left out (no child left behind) but I think it's ok for a kid not to celebrate their birthday if it's not their birthday. But I saw it was my job to just shut up, so I did. There were a ton of people at the party and Beckah requested that I man the grill. I was VERY HAPPY to do that. So someone kebobbed some shishes and I grilled them and they turned out good and I was happy. I spent some time talking with Justin and Hurl and Gavin and was very happy to be there. I didn't have to help prepare, or clean or be there for presents. I just grilled and I did a fine job at it!
Before I move too quickly I should mention that the Lakeside Inn lives right up its name. Every morning I would walk down do the water's edge and out on to the dock. I could see baby birds (swallows?) nesting and being fed. I met some of the fisherman and saw quite a few fish under the dock. I also saw a snapping turtle which I thought was really cool. I would stay there again. It was a little pricier than I would have liked but it was a nice place to stay. While checking into this inn I saw a brochure for Canoeing the Caney, which is the main river that feeds the reservoir. I took it and called them and it was decided that Sunday would be the day to go Kayaking. I hoped Tim would come but he was going to be out of town. Brad wasn't too interested in going, so I went by myself and I have to say I quite enjoyed doing it alone. I woke up, went to the pickup point, rode in a van with a bunch of college students who were taking a vacation together and who talked WAY too much and I had no interest in being around. When we finally got the boats in the water I paddled upstream to see how close to the dam I could get. I was able to touch the dam and if I wanted to I could have paddled into the water outlets. But I decided it would be better to go downstream. I went 6 miles in about 3 hours. I saw lots of fish, including a 4 foot long muskellunge. I also saw some vultures descend from the canopy of the trees and land near the river. I decided to go see them and paddled over and got about 8 feet away from them as they drunk water from the river. They watched me cautiously, and it was just a vulture, but it was really cool. The river itself was like a cross of the rivers you see in Utah and the rivers I imagine exist in the swamps of Louisiana. In other words it was mostly open water and each side was thick with forest that overhung the river and made the edges dark. Bird sounds were everywhere and would have been better without all the canoes and fisherman. There was a boat about every 200 feet or so. I mostly just floated and watched an listened. It was peaceful and nice.
That night we visited with more Cantrells and ended up at Toni and Greg's house. More BBQ. Greg is a master gardener. I was impressed with his crops. Makes my little garden look pathetic! We saw some frogs around his house. And bugs. The bugs in TN did not let me down. Fireflies and cricket sand cicadas. I only saw one cicada shell, but you could still hear them. I am not ready for the quantity of bugs in the south, I never will be.
The next day we left TN and drove to O'Fallon, MO, just outside of St. Louis. The next day drove from there to Lincoln, NE. Along the way we hit a town called Craig, MO. I insisted we stop and take pictures. Little town, quaint in its perfection. Found out that it was flooded and the whole town was evacuated. We didn't see that until after we left but it was a bad omen. This flood took us on a two hour detour way off our path into the state of Iowa. I should comment on the acres and acres of corn we saw on this trip. Holy cow. 6 foot tall, 4 inches apart by the mile. America is good at growing corn! We had planned to make it into central Nebraska but stopped in Lincoln instead. That prompted me to call Danny and arrange and very quick meeting. He brought his kids Tyler and Madison and even brought Marvel. We visited in the hotel room for about an hour and it was a lot of fun to catch up with them. The next we drove home and after 4000+ miles pulled in at 2 am.
This was a very fun trip. Very memorable. Other than the flooded river detours we had no near miss traffic mishaps or car problems. Everyone was healthy. If we ever do a road trip again it will be measured against this one. In fact it will be fun to do it again when the kids are older. We won't need diapers and kids can move and entertain themselves a little more independently.
But that's not all! The following weekend was my Birthday. Beckah and I had decided to do a very low key event. No going out, no big presents. So on July 17th, we got some pizza and ice cream. Mom and dad and Eddie and Brittany came over and Beckah absolutely surprised me. Months ago I got all excited about concertinas. They are really cool little instruments with interesting history and I thought it would be fun to have one. I had forgotten about it, but my little Beckah remembered! And now I have one! Which means I have to learn how to play it. At this point I've only played with it for about 30 minutes but I know a lot more about it than I did before! I'll have to try to film myself doing something on it when I can. I am still working on the mandolin from father's day! The only thing I need now is a Jaw Harp and a clay jug and I'm ready to rock! Beckah also got me a trailer to haul the kids in on my bike which will be very interesting. Maybe it will get me back into bike riding. So, between drum lessons, learning mandolin, learning concertina, playing drums at church, fathering two kids, and Beckah's photography, and gardening, I'm not allowed to ever say that I'm bored.
After everyone left and the kids went to bed Beckah and I talked on the porch, which I LOVE doing. I had eaten Papa John's pizza and tin roof ice cream but Beckah got hungry for some Peanut butter and Jelly and then we went to bed. I was exhausted. This summer has been AWESOME!
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Everything Possible At Once
June 22, 2011
I am ashamed at how long it has been since I updated. There are a ton of topics that are worth of mentioning such as:
So, let's get started. A few months ago Jeremy Hartshorn went back to Costa Mesa and decided to organize a reforming of Lobbypalooza. I guess Lobbypalooza continued after we graduated but got less and less interest each year until it finally died. So Jeremy went back to revive it and to do this he hosted a Lobbypalooza reunion. All the bands from back in the day got together. Except some of us couldn't make it! After some discussion Jeremy asked if I could video the drum part and send it to him and the band would play live to it. So I called Eddie, who has access to such equipment, and he showed some interest. Two days later Eddie brought cameras to my basement, we used Beckah's photography lights and green screen and I played along to the original Carousel tape. That part of it was tremendously fun to create.
We sent that to Jeremy, who sent it to Tim in Ohio. Tim recorded his bass part and sent it back to Jeremy who played the two videos live while he played and sung. Eric Kennedy was there live as well. The end result was genius. Live band in a can! They streamed the show live over the Internet and I watched it live. Jeremy said it was one of the highlights of the night. Jeremy has always had this knack for making miracles happen in the steepest of odds. This project happened in such a hurry and went so flawlessly. It was cool.
So, that leads right into my next topic. The week after that Carousel performance I found that Zildjian was doing a contest. Drummers just had to send a video of themselves drumming to anything. Solo, or with a band or whatever. I figured, well I made that video, so, why not? What are they going to do, have me arrested? So I sent in the video. I figured for sure I'd never hear back. But just last week the contest ended and the winners were announced. I got TWO emails from Zildjian. The first one I read said something like, "Thanks to all the participants, here are the finalists:". My name was not on the list. I figured as much. I then read the second email from Zildjian. It said the following:
This means that among others, Tommy Lee probably saw my little video. I have no enormous respect for him necessarily, but I have nothing specific against him. But he's a big name. I think it's very cool he saw me play. And, top 5! I mean, I did the math. I can estimate there were 250 entrants in the West division. Top 5 means top 2%. I have to say, I am very proud of that. And I'm getting some free stuff from Zildjian! It probably won't be the $1,000 cymbal package, but still!
Moving right along the topic list, next is Laine Images. This has been going gangbusters for us. Beckah and I are both really putting our backs behind this. She is getting more organized by the day. I mean, she is discovering faster ways to do things in Photoshop; she is coming up with contest ideas to gain new clients. I have worked with friends at work to get the site looking pretty dang decent if I do say so myself! We have business cards, and a schedule of online advertising, a plan on where to spend income from the business (for example, x% to advertising, x% to business investment, etc). Beckah and I are both getting to use our strengths together towards a common goal. We are learning how to not step on each other and the momentum is really starting to pick up. It's very exciting and fun. I love seeing Beckah smile when she tells me about a new client and her work is amazing. I mean, the experience she is getting is epic. She is so much better now than she was 3 years ago, and 3 years ago she was amazing. I'm nost just blowing hot air either. She is really amazing. I tell people about her all the time. Go check out her site. Or her blog.
London is an amazing girl. This whole section is going to be repetitive but I mean every word. She is so smart and bright and happy and social. She LOVES meeting people and saying hello. When she sees an older man she will call out--across a grocery store if necessary--"Hi, Grandpa!" And if he doesn't reply she will call out again. She loves learning new things; she is patient and will work on pronouncing new words. She plays with her brother and squeals with delight when he smiles at her, and that is often. She loves her apple juice. Yes, she gets grumpy every now and then, but I've seen other kid's version of grumpy. London is angelic even when she's having a tantrum. It goes away as quickly as it comes. That's the most negative thing I can say about that. Yesterday we were at Wheeler Farm while Beckah did a photo shoot, and London learned that the goats like to eat individual blades of grass. I have never seen that girl laugh as hard and for as long as she was laughing at those goats. She was beside herself with pleasure. She's really just amazing. She inspires me.
Speaking of Thatcher, little Mr. Mini-London. He has the makings to be the perfect little man. He is also patient. He is learning to crawl. Just on the edge of figuring out all the muscles. It's cute watching him push his butt in the air and hold it. Almost like he's thinking, "Ok, all the muscles are flexed, I should be moving forward. Why am I not moving forward? Maybe if I hold this a little longer." And then he crumbles back down, not at all frustrated, just like he's taking a break to get his breath back. Then his little butt pops back up. He is teething, and it bothers him every once in a while, but as long as he can chew on something he's pretty delighted to just sit there. The boy eats! My gosh. Putting down a serving of baby food is fast, and he basically demands a follow up bottle afterwards. His 9 month appointment was a few weeks ago and he's 97th percentile on head side, 75th for height, and 50th for weight. It's perfect dimensions. Show me that big, beautiful head! He is starting to be happy when I come home and pay attention to him. Last night London and I took turns feeding him. I would give him a scoop of food, then London would give him a scoop. And he just took it like a little steam shovel. Gulp, gulp, gulp! I love him little, but I am so looking forward to him growing up and being able to run and play and ask questions, just like London does now. The older these kids get the more I like having them around.
Moving on down the list, Father's day was last Sunday. Beckah made it amazing for me. She spoils me far beyond what I deserve. We woke up and went to church and came home and I was commanded to go upstairs and wait for further word. I proceeded to fall asleep. When I woke up Beckah had cleaned the house and brought home lunch and the table was full of wrapped presents. I was thinking, "Geez...it's just father's day. Not a big deal." She set it up so that each member of the family gave me an item. Kai gave me a gift card with a request for bushes to pee on, which I thought was hilarious. Thatcher gave me the new Weird Al CD with a note saying he wanted to be as weird as me when he grew up, about which I honestly just about teared up. London gave me a pancake griddle which is magic. Making pancakes on Saturday morning is something my dad did for us growing up and its one of the many golden memories I have from my childhood. I have been making pancakes on Saturday morning and London really likes it. So the griddle makes perfect sense. And then Beckah gave me a rice cooker, which was a serious item but also a bit of a joke. I mentioned that one might be a good idea and she rolled her eyes and its come up a few times since. I had forgotten about it but now we have one and I'm looking forward to non-instant rice. There was some flowers for the garden and a hummingbird feeder too. The plan was to go to mom and dad's for father's day and mom's birthday and Beckah mentioned there would be a small gift there too. I was thinking, "Man...so much stuff...it’s just father's day. At least its over. So we go to mom and dad's and we ate and were having fun. Dad unwraps his father's day presents, mom unwraps her birthday stuff. Then I unwrap a little gift. It's a Beatles book for mandolin. My first thought was, "Well, I guess this makes some sense if there is guitar music." Then Beckah feigns like a major mistake has been made and it was supposed to be guitar music. I was thinking, "I don't need a guitar book for Beatles stuff. (sigh)". Then Beckah exits the room and I casually look through the book. She comes back in and says, "Here, this will work," or something like that. In her hands was a brand new mandolin case. I opened it. I just about cried. It was BRAND new. The bridge wasn't even installed. The strings had never been tightened. She totally surprised me. I had no idea. And now I have a mandolin! I have been talking about getting one for years but I never did because it's low down the priority list. And, to conquer it I would have to learn stuff and spend time and it just seemed like something I would start strong and then give up. I was uncommitted. But now that I have one I will conquer it. I cruised through the Beatles book. It just has melody lines and it’s pretty basic. I want to learn the chords and be able to solo. I'm actually surprised at how fast I'm able to pick stuff up. I mean, it's totally different, but because I've been doing guitar everything is zipping together. I'm not ready to play anything yet. But I found a guy who teaches one free lesson and I'm seeing him Thursday.
In fact, that leads to my next topic. Drum lessons are continuing. I've had a few people contact me and few quit. I have 2 students now, and one that should call me back soon. When I called about the mandolin lessons I found it that the place that teaches them is a whole dance and music school. But they are looking for a drum instructor! So when I go for my first mandolin lesson I am going to interview with them. I hope I can pick up some more students this way.
Moving down the list, the garden has been planted. I'm learning that, for me at least, every year I have some success stories and some failure stories. The strawberries are rocking. London will go searching through them to snack on. My parsley is exploding. It's 3 feet tall. I've cut it back twice all ready. Also I've had two lupines that are going crazy. Very bright and big blooms. The rest of the flowers are all hangovers from last year. I have a ton of Canterbury bells that seeded themselves from last year. They are little but if I let them live I'll a zillion of then next year. The snap dragons are back dependably, the English lavender is amazing. London and I planted some Sunflowers that are looking good. But there are failures as well. This spring has been so cold and wet. I think my corn and beans died. I've replanted the corn. Only a few beans came up. I can't tell if the zucchini I planted is zucchini or squash or pumpkins. Nothing to do but wait. My tomatoes are alive and green but not really growing. Hopefully things will warm up more and we can get some growth. I need to fix a problem I'm having with the drainage from the roof. Something is leaking into the window well. I need to replace a section of drainage pipe, which shouldn't be that expensive, just a lot of work. I got a tiller from my neighbor. I saw it in his yard and asked him about borrowing it. He said it was broken and I could have it for nothing. I took it to Eddie who helped me fix it and with a little work it runs perfectly. I was very excited to have that this year. Oh, and I'm afraid the ash tree died, which makes me very sad. It was a really nice looking tree. I think some beetles got to it. (Not sure if it was John or Ringo.) But it's dead, unless there is something in their life cycle where they look and act dead and don't grow leaves in the spring. I'll try to post some pictures if I can.
I haven't mentioned it on my journal, but my sister Ashli is pregnant. This will be baby Benjamin if everything goes smoothly and all is healthy so it’s a green light. Benjamin is due at the end of this summer. I'm sure there will be lots of pictures. When Abby and Ally were born I was such a moron. I was a single guy and didn't care too much. I got news they were born, and considered it fine news. The same way I would react if you told me you ate McDonalds yesterday and it was really good. I'd just think, "Great, good for you. McDonald's is great." But having kids really makes me interested in what is going on with Ashli. I have a much better understanding of what that really means. It's exciting and scary and fun. I truly wish them all the best and I can say that I am happy to finally be an Unclo. Unlco is spelled right. It means an uncle of a male child, FYI. I've been an unclette for years now.
Speaking of Ashli, Beckah and I are taking a road trip to MO and TN. We will be on the road with two kids for tw weeks. We looked at renting cars or flying. The most economical thing for us is to load up the Neon and hitting the road. It will be cramped but we will survive. We have the money saved up and we've been talking about it for a year now. So, there will be LOADS of pictures from that trip.
My last topic is the pond. I've really been into aquariums lately. I mean, I've had my aquarium for years now. The guys at work are really into aquariums. They have helped me do some things, like the moss wall, which is a story by itself. I'll update on that later! But Eddie built his pond a few years ago and I really like his set up. It's small, but serious. I've kind of avoided it because I don't want to get in over my head (never good when you're talking about ponds). But as I've been researching it a little I think I'm in a place where I can do it. It would be a project and it would be fun and hopefully pretty. Beckah is sort of into the idea but we both have the safety of the kids in mind. We don't want to have the 1/10,000 kids who trips and drowns. I mean, really, that could happen to anyone at anytime so risk is all around. I'm ready to do it I think, but I don't want to rush into anything. So I'm just enjoying exploring ideas and learning things about pumps and waterfalls and design ideas. Fun stuff.
Consider yourself updated! I will try to update more often. What can I say? Life is excessively busy right now!
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Spring and Money
May 5, 2011
What a whirlwind life has been. It's been hard to update the journal, but I have not forgot! There is so much going on. Nothing major though. I mean, job is the same, house is the same. Life is very good in general right now. I mean, the action is with the kids. Today is London's third birthday. I can't believe she is three! But she is. When we take her places the most common comment we hear is how smart she is. She counts and identifies color and alphabets. As Beckah says, she doesn't know a stranger. She is social with everybody. She's simply amazing. I got her a bike for her birthday. She is still getting used to it and figuring it out but she will get there. If I was at all respectable I'd put up pictures of the birthday but I want to at least get out the words in my mind.
Thatcher is nearing 9 months of age. The Dr. says that he's chunky every time we see him. He's 20 pounds. He's bright and alert and doing the whole "strawberry" thing. He laughed and jumps in his Johnny jumper. He is amazing, like his sister! He is not crawling yet, but he can roll over whenever he wants to. He's strong too! I'm so looking forward to him growing up and going hiking and camping and fishing and teaching him the bizarreness that life is. But I am enjoying him right now just as much.
Now, recently I've been all into this concept of entering contests. I've entered a lot and lost a few, but I'm surprised at the ones I win. Currently I am in two contests that both end on Saturday. One is with McArthur Homes. They had a contest for a photo shoot. I just had to write a paragraph saying how much I loved the home. The winners (10 of them) won a photo shoot. I won that, we did the photo shoot and now the photoshoot that gets the most votes or comments wins $500. We are winning as of now but we are getting some stiff competition. We've done a few things to get comments like post on blogs and bother our friends on Facebook. But, hopefully that will pan out.
But the more important contest is the KBER contest. They ran a contest where if you listened to three songs during the day and could identify them at the end of the day you were entered into a drawing for $25,000. That amount is life changing! So I was very motivated. I set up alarms on phones to remind me of the songs, I made Beckah call along with me. I was getting worried but we got through. More specifically Beckah got through after about 5 or 6 weeks of calling every day. Beckah named the songs of the day, winning us $303 dollars, which resulted directly in London's bike and party! The drawing for the $25,000 is this Saturday. Nothing we can do other than show up. I truly, truly hope we win. The money will likely go towards something serious like paying the 2nd mortgage and a new car. I would like to open college funds for the kids, but my little Mazda, strong as it may be, has 196,000 miles on it. I would still like to see 200,000 in it. But before I make too many decisions I will probably wait to see if we win it. There is a 1/50 chance which is better than the lottery at least. All depends on fate at this point.
I'll keep everyone updated. Coming next is mother's day, father's day, my birthday, summer, gardening, and all kinds of fun things. Hopefully I'll be able to keep my journal updated with all that stuff.
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March 3, 2011
I have been sick the last month with a cold. Not fun. I think I am mostly out of the woods now. Thatcher is growing up. He is almost six months old, 18 pounds. He’s playful and happy and moving more and more. He has rolled over. His growth is blazing by. With London we really noticed every little burp and gurgle because it was all so brand new. With Thatcher we still notice but it’s less of a show stopper. This past 6 months has just flown by. Thatcher ate baby food for the first time last night. I don’t remember all the little milestones with London, though I’m sure at least some of them are on this journal.
London is growing. Her preschool started and she’s doing great with it. She’s the youngest in her class but she comes home with new songs and her teachers love her. They are working on single letters. Last week they worked on the letter “N”. London comes home and sings the entire alphabet though so she’s way ahead of that. She probably sits there in class and thinks to herself, “Yeah, N. I think we know that. What? You guys don’t know that? Are you serious? Ok. Well, that’s an N. Can we go play now?” That girl loves her armpits. That’s her favorite body part because she likes getting tickled. Beckah bought her a map board game that introduces her to the states. I think that’s going to be great for her to play with. When she does enter school I think they are going to push her to the next grade. I’m not academically pushing for that specifically. But I am teaching her all I can and the rest will be details.
Recently I found this series on the Roku box called “Universe”. It was really cool. It talked about the planets and recent satellites. I remember studying planets in school and thinking, “That’s really cool and stuff, but whatever. It doesn’t really matter.” But when I thought about it further I concluded, “Well, it must matter on some cosmic scale, but I still will never understand it, and it doesn’t affect anything day to day, so again, who cares?” But I am the way I am, so I watched this show and simply enjoyed it. Pretty pictures, big ideas, real science, and amazing technology. I really enjoyed it. There wasn’t a ton of new information. I knew the order of the planets, I am aware of Pluto’s story, I am aware of the history of the telescope, I am familiar with Galileo’s controversy with the church over a heliocentric solar system as opposed to the geocentric theory of the day.
I was not aware that there is a hexagon on top of Saturn. I was not aware of storms on Neptune. I was not aware at the distribution of galaxies across the universe. There are lots of things of which I was not aware.
Meanwhile, at church, our pastor has been doing a series of messages about atheism and science, and I’m enjoying that. My thoughts on science and religion are that they are the same thing. Or that they are two sides of the same mountain. Both lead to the same conclusions. What men think about God is sometimes wrong. What men think about science is sometimes wrong. Both are corrected where possible and it’s always dangerous ground to insist you know something about either subject when in fact you don’t. Wars have been started over such things. I am comfortable saying I’m not an expert at either.
So as I finished watching most of season 1 of this show I learned there were 3 more seasons. Those shows go into comets, moon creation theory, galaxies and so on. Even the history of the Milky Way. Honestly, even now, I roll my eyes at this. How can anyone know such history to even take a guess? But as the show goes on they are careful to say what is a theory, why they think it’s a theory, other alternatives and state they are still researching. In other words I am comfortable with their research.
Of course I am watching this with my Christian faith fully in tact. If you show me the vein pattern on a leaf I see the fingerprints of God. If you show me the migratory path of monarch butterflies I know that somehow their navigator is God. If you show me the electrical patterns in a human brain I see God. If you explain DNA as the map of life I see God. If you tell me how intricate the earth must be placed in its orbit, speed, weight, mass, tilt, in relationship to the moon it becomes obvious to me that none of this would exist without God. This is no accident.
If you tell me the distance from the sun to its closer stars I start questioning, “Why would God hang stars in the universe? It really doesn’t affect us in any way.” Then you tell me about billions of galaxies spread as far you can imagine. I start retreating into my box and say, “Well, I don’t know how any of that came to be, or why.” I think Beckah stated it better than I have ever heard any astronomer or philosopher state it. Imagine a piece of art. If you look at a sculpture of the human body, you start making inferences about the artist. You might say, “Wow, Michael Angelo really knew the human body because the statue of David has shape, but also muscles and veins and that’s really amazing. Everything is proportioned to perfection. He must have been a great artist.” So great in fact that hundreds of years later his work still brings in crowds. That’s an amazing artist. And when he sculpted it (and did all his other work), for better or for worse, he was practicing his art and he must have wanted people to recognize that he was a great artist.
Take that thought and apply it to the universe. Why would God create such intricate, intense, seemingly useless detail to creation? So that his creation would know how GREAT the artist was! I mean, these modern day astronomers talk of masses the size of earth’s orbit that are billions of times more dense than the sun that rotate once every eleven minutes that serve as the center of galaxies. You are welcome to ask how they know those details. You are welcome to question and challenge their conclusions. Even if they are off by a little or a lot, there is SOMETHING serving as the center of these galaxies regardless. At least they are trying to figure it out at worst, and chances are high that they are at least on the right track. I don’t think they have motivation or reason to lie about it. Whatever the facts are, God created these and they must serve some purpose, even if I can never fathom in this life what that would be. But, holy cow! I intend this as nothing less than praise to God.
At the same time my faith is challenged by such things. The doubts creep in. What if there is no God and this all really is an accident? What if our good intending religion really is just an ancient idea from when such things really were mysteries and there was no way to explain them? That’s intimidating. I don’t want to be wrong about my faith in God. When I conclude my thoughts God always makes more sense. But I see case after case of atheists taking on Christians and winning debates, making Christians look like fools. It’s easy for an atheist not to believe in God. It’s easy for a below-average IQ holder to believe in God because they have not looked at the grandeur around them. It’s challenging to be (humbly) intelligent and loud and proud about God. I think humility is the key. Anytime anybody stands up and shouts anything with enough certainty to go to war, or leave a church, or mock another person, they are almost certainly wrong.
I think that as we humans learn the mysteries of the Universe we should be as humble as the things we discover are amazing. And the universe is just one facet. Explain to me how cells know how to reproduce, or how fish gills work and on and on. I cannot WAIT until some of the why questions are answered, and I think they will be someday. In one sense the amazing truths of this universe make this life so not important. One of my favorites Bible verses says, “See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” In other words, God put such beauty, power, precision and control into his creation of nature, and you are more important to God than nature. Therefore, God loves you and has his hand on you daily whether we realize it or not. That concept is so humbling to me. God created something so massive to drive a galaxy and I am more loved and important than that. Whoa.
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