Since Moving to Utah

A few things that have been on my mind the past month since moving from Washington to Utah.

  • One of the best side benefits of moving is not being able to bring everything that’s accumulated in your home over the years. Sure, I’ve had to replace a few items, but starting with a clean slate is good for the mind.
  • I wasn’t looking forward to the 20+ hour drive in the moving van, but being able to spend those hours with two of my sons was fantastic. We stopped along the way to look at rivers and bridges, and take in a few sunsets setting over this gorgeous country of ours.
  • Travel tip: don’t stay at smoke-filled hotels just to save a few bucks. Part of the fun was staying a nice hotel that’s nicer than our home.
  • Four of my last five bike rides have ended with a flat tire. I’m certain I’ve walked my bike more miles than I’ve peddled around town. In Auburn, I couldn’t go out for a ride more than a few miles without someone yelling or throwing a water bottle at me. Nothing like that has happened here.

Splash Pad in April? You bet!

  • The elementary school my kids attend has four large bike racks out front and all four are filled with bikes each morning. The city of Ivins has built bike lanes that feed each of the schools in the area which is a wonderful idea and makes it much safer for the children to ride to school. And ride they do!
  • Facebook, Twitter, texting, and email don’t begin to replace seeing my friends in person. I knew leaving friends would be difficult for my kids, but had no idea how much I’d miss my friends in Auburn.
  • Everyone should have a chance to live a few years in a small town. People tend to treat you differently when they know they will see you again at the school, church or grocery store. There are a goodness and honesty that rubs off on you. Life slows down. What you give up in big city excitement you gain in a peaceful calming of the soul.
  • A bigger home sounds wonderful on paper, and most of the time, I’m thankful for the additional square footage compared to our home in Auburn. But it also means you see and hear less of your children which means you know less about how they are doing.
  • I don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent shooting hoops in our backyard. The two spotlights off the back of the house allow me to play at night when the temps subside from the upper 90’s.
  • I don’t know if we made the right choice to move to Utah. But I stopped second guessing my decision the first time I saw my kids playing hide-and-go-seek with their cousins outside while their baby brother was asleep in grandma’s arms inside.

A Week Left

I had a lot of time to slow down and think this past week as I packed box after box in preparation for our move next week. A number of items were still in the same box from our last move over seven years ago. I’m at a loss to explain why I held on to a number of items including a broken VCR and DVD player. I tossed both in the trash and moved on.

We arrived in Auburn in 2005. Or I should I say, I arrived in Auburn and bought our current home while Kim and the kids were still in Utah. That’s not a decision I would recommend to anyone, regardless of how many pictures you take and send. But overall the home has worked well for us. We arrived as a family of five and will be leaving as a family of seven minus one boxer.

But one thought I had today was how blessed I have been to have lived in the Seattle area for 17 of the past 18 years. A number of events had to line up  to get and keep me here including taking a job in Wyoming, going through a divorce, and meeting Kim in Las Vegas. I hope my children have a chance to live away from the area where they were raised. I believe that moving outside your comfort zone and familiar surroundings can make a person stronger in many aspects.

I can’t imagine living in the same area or home for 20 or 30 years. Not that I want to uproot my children from their schools and friends, but I want them to have some of the same experiences I value such as making new friends and seeing different areas of our country. Ideally, I’d like to move to a different area of the country every four or five years.

I’m certain my family could be happy living in many states. But we know we like the weather and slower pace of southern Utah.  Our children are at ages that match up well with with cousins whom they will be able to see often. And Kim’s parents are close-by as well so the kids will be able to spend a lot of time with their grandparents. Both my mother and my mother-in-law have health issues that prevent them from doing much travel so it will be nice to be closer to both of them.

In just over a week we’ll be making our way through parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and then on in to Utah.  I hope as many good memories are ahead of us as those we’ve made here.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

On Christmas morning I checked my family’s Facebook page expecting to see pictures of decorated trees or excited cousins opening gifts. Or maybe a picture of my mom and dad who hosted a Christmas day party at their home.

But that’s not what I found.

The only picture that had been posted on Christmas morning was a picture of my sister holding a large assault rifle in her home.

I thought the picture was odd, but figured maybe that’s what she wanted for Christmas. Only later did I find out the picture was several months old and posted as an obvious statement to the few (OK, just myself and Kim) who don’t believe the answer to violence against children should be met with even more weapons in our schools.

A few years back I wouldn’t have known the political views of most of my friends or family. Sure, my close friends would know where I stood on some issues, but Facebook has made it incredibly simple for everyone to share where they stand on any issue.

And sometimes it’s not pretty.

I’ve seen people I though I knew well express racist and sexist views. I’ve been told I’m not a “good Mormon” because I’m not a Republican. And last week I was told to stay in Seattle because my views on gun control don’t match up well with those who live in Utah. One benefit of having written a blog for so many years is that I’ve become accustomed to such criticism when I’ve written about my views that weren’t universally popular among my family or friends.

I’m certain that I’ve posted links to articles or expressed views that offended others as well. Although I’ve written about many of my beliefs here on this blog, Facebook makes it easy to jump into the middle of a discussion and voice a dissenting or unpopular opinion. Add in difficult to understand privacy settings and you have an environment that’s ripe for misunderstandings.

There’s not going back to how it was though. Most of the time I enjoy keeping in touch with friends that I’d otherwise not hear from if Facebook were not around. In fact, I have very little interaction on Facebook with my closest friends. Most of the people I follow and those who comment on my updates are former coworkers or distant acquaintances from high school or college. I text my closest friends.

Last night I sat at the dining table laughing with my two daughters, one of whom had convinced me it was a good idea to warm a can of chili at 11:30 pm. Neither of them have asked to join Facebook. I’m sure they will eventually, but I’m glad I have some time to think about it.

Before I went to bed last night, I took another look at the picture of my sister holding the assault rifle.

And then I uploaded a video of my daughter playing “What Child Is This” on the piano.

Butter Mints

The only time of the year mom bought butter mints was for Thanksgiving. She poured them into a crystal bowl that appeared far more fancy than needed, but no one can blame her since it was be the only day of the year the bowl would be used.

When mom placed the bowl full of mints on the table we knew the turkey was almost ready. No matter how early my father arose to start preparing the turkey, we always sat around the table and chatted about football and food, while waiting on that bird. 

I spent many Thanksgivings with my grandparents. When I was younger, my parents hosted Thanksgiving, and my father’s parents were always invited. As my mother’s health deteriorated, her father would invite the family to Salt Lake for brunch at the Marriot Hotel.

But the hotel didn’t have butter mints, nor were we able to sit around the table and chat for hours. The early years were more about the conversations while the later years were mostly about the food.

This year we drove north to spend the afternoon with Kim’s brother and his family in Lake Stevens. As we left home, I handed Luca my phone and asked her to read aloud the tribute my uncle wrote about his father.

I hoped the others would find the stories of my grandfather interesting enough that they’d listen, but was surprised when it actually happened. I filled many summer days working alongside him on his farm he tended to after he retired from Hill Air Force Base, yet most of what my uncle wrote was new to me.

It’s natural to think about my extended family this time of year, and I still can’t get used to the fact that my grandparents have all passed away.

We’ve begun our own Thanksgiving traditions, like staying up late the night before making pumpkin cream pies. We made five of them this year and all that remains is a bowl of left over whipped cream.

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of conversation, good food, friends and butter mints.

Joyous Chaos

We arrived at Auburn Valley Medical Center at 7 pm.

The nurse attached a heart monitor to Kim’s belly.

The soothing sounds of our baby boy’s heart beat emanated throughout the room. Thump thump…thump thump…thump thump.

Although this is the fifth time for both of us, moments are tense, and I’m still not entirely certain what I should do so I pull a chair close to Kim’s bed and rub her feet.

And suddenly it’s chaos.

We are moved to larger room, machines are rolled out and instruments unveiled. Voices become louder and within minutes people in uniforms are pacing around the room. 

Someone who seems to know what she’s doing yells out, “You can do it!”

“No, I can’t!” Kim replies.

But this isn’t the time for negotiation because he’s coming. He’s coming right now. And the doctor who is stretching gloves over her hands had better show a little hustle.

“If you want to deliver this baby you had better get over here RIGHT NOW!” she implores.

In a flurry of coaching and groaning and maybe some yelling, Kim squeezed my hand and suddenly a baby boy was born just after 9:30 pm.

I stood next to Kim, amazed at what I just witnessed trying like crazy not to let the doctor see the tears of joy streaming down my face.

Half My Life

Give or take a few years, about half my life is over.

Of course, I have no guarantee I’ll live to be 90 years of age. None of us do. But I suspect most of us can picture ourselves living into our 80’s or 90’s. I tend to see myself living at least as long as my grandparents did.  That’s the best case scenario anyway.

Certainly genes have a say in it as does my level of exercise and diet. I’ve read that those who own a pet or believe in God also tend to live longer. If that’s true, then I can tack on a couple more years.

Speaking of diet, I took my kids to McDonalds for breakfast this morning. Don’t worry, I ordered a fruit and yogurt plate with walnuts which was just too healthy so I added a large Diet Coke to my meal after telling my children could not have root beer because nobody should be drinking soda for breakfast.

While we sat at our table waiting for our breakfast to arrive, my daughter commented that we were “surrounded by seniors” as she calls people who look older than her grandparents. She was right. Most of the tables were taken by people about twice my age. Between sips of coffee, many were in lively conversation. And they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I sat there wondering what amazing things these people had accomplished in their lives. The advances the world has seen since they were my age are mind-boggling. I wondered how many of them knew their way around a computer. I figured my kids probably knew more about the web than they did.

Our food arrived. Once the kids stopped fighting over who took greater portion of syrup we played a game where I ask them oddball questions such as, “Would you rather be chased by a bear or a hippo?” Of course, the answers are even less rational than my questions.

As we began to clear our table,  I heard my phone ring. I was about to pull my phone from my pocket when I heard an older man answer his phone. I turned around to see he was speaking into an iPhone 4. I guess his hearing is better than mine.

If I live to be 90 years old, I can only hope that I’ll be hanging out at McDonalds with my friends, taking calls on my iPhone 45.

The No-Fly Zone

A few months ago caught up with a friend with whom I served a mission with from 1987-1989. He told me about his schooling, career and family. Over the course of twenty minutes he brought me up to speed on what he’s doing today and we laughed about our many shared experiences trying to convince German we weren’t crazy for attempting to teach them about our beliefs.

When it was my turn, I began telling him what I’ve been up to for the past dozen years or so.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I told him what I did when we immediately returned from Germany before skipping ahead six years to 1995. I’m certain this isn’t the first time I’ve done that because I’ve worked hard to erase that six year period spanning from 1989 to 1995 from my mind.

But talking about it again would give it life. Possibly even meaning.  I’d better slice it off like a cancerous tumor before it returns.

For the past sixteen years I’ve tried to forget about period because it’s a reminder of the darkest time of my life and ultimately my largest failure. Of course, it’s foolish of me to assume I can simply erase a stretch of growth and conflicting actions. We tend to remember the spikes.

Then last week Kim and I had lunch while the kids were in school. On the drive home I referenced a concert we attended together. The long pause that followed give me time to reconsider my memory of the event which, on second thought, took place a few years before we met. I’d accidentally referenced an event that took place during the No-Fly-Zone of my life.

In years past, I would have quickly changed the subject or done anything to remove the awkward silence that follows a miscue of that degree. In all honestly, I would have done that on this day as well.

But that wasn’t how it worked out because Kim giggled, then turned to me and said, “Ha! That must have been someone else!”

The levity she brought to that drive home was much appreciated. And what I’ve realized since is that she’s always accepted not just the person she’s known since 1997, but the person I was before we met. Including those six years.

We accept not just the person we’ve known for a short period of time, but also the years and experiences leading up to that time. I’m slowing coming to terms with that time of my life I’ve tried to erase. Yet I understand that many of the decisions I made back then are a directly related to where I am today.

There’s time to sort through it. And I need to sort through it because I know the day is coming where my children will have questions, and I can’t just skip over that part of my life like I did with my friend.

Yesterday I brought up a video of Wonderwall from Oasis on my computer. Luca pulled a chair next to me, and we watched together. I told her this is one of my favorite songs, and explained how it reminds me of the year I left Utah for Seattle. She recently began playing the cello and was thrilled when one showed up on screen just before the chorus.

When the song ended, she asked me two questions:

“What year was it when you moved to Seattle?” and “Will you play that again?”

Perfection is Overrated

I’m not interested in perfection especially when it comes to people. Like the girl I had a crush on in high school who seemed entirely too perfect. Certainly too perfect to ever notice me.

Years later I found out out that she struggled through life like everyone else. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but she now seemed far more interesting.

Tonight over dinner my brother shared an experience with me about running a business. He probably doesn’t realize it, but I feel more connected to him than before. He’s always seems so calm, but underneath that exterior, he has the same questions I’ve had during my career.

Being perfect is boring.

Friends and family who go to great lengths to hide challenges and the rough spots end up with less intense relationships because it’s difficult to relate to perfection. And it’s exhausting keeping up the facade that nothing goes wrong.

As a young boy my father seemed perfect to me. I began to wonder if he’d ever made a mistake until I watched a cop pull him over for speeding in his Plymouth Duster, and he let a “damn” fly.

The wrapper of perfection was off, and I began relating to him as my father, imperfections and all, instead of the robo-dad.

I gravitate to bloggers who are not afraid to detail the bad with the good. I wish I was able to balance this better with my own blog, but I seldom feel like writing when a part of my life is spiraling down the drain.

Yet those are the times I should capture and share.

Family Vacation

This is the first family vacation we’ve taken where I haven’t had a boss breathing down my neck, waiting for my input on a critical matter such as the color of our new company shirts.

Or the bored coworker who adds me to the cc: line of every email so I know how hard he’s working in my absence.

Or the client who ignores my OOF and expects me to attend a meeting to discuss a project six months from now.

The most difficult part of this vacation was leaving our 11 year old boxer at home. She has a tumor above her right eye, and we know it will likely end her life. Before we left our home Kim and I gathered the kids and said a prayer asking God to comfort her.

It worked because our neighbors have provided her with excellent care. I know some may shrug, but we can’t wait to see her.

Spending 22 hours in a minivan with four children probably sounds like more nightmare than vacation to many. I knew it was time to pull over for a break when, after watching my 3-year old son toss his flip flops at his sister, I began reaching for my own shoes.

We spent the last week in St. George visiting with Kim’s family. As I sat in the van calling for the kids to get in their seats, I watched them hug their grandmother and grandfather, their arms forming a circle around their legs. Nobody wants to be the first to let go.

That’s the scene I’m replaying in my mind 14 hours later. It helps erase the memories of the arguments over the Nintendo. Or the “I have to go the bathroom” five minutes after the last stop.

One day I want to be the one the grandkids form the circle around.

Trust Issues With The GPS

“Only 799 miles to go”, I said as I looked at Kim who was already giving me the “shut up and drive” look.

I started off our trip to Utah giving mileage updates. Every few miles.

The Magellan calculated 804 miles from our home to Utah which I sort of trust. But it also says the trip should take about twelve hours which means the engineers at Magellan must not travel with children.

And yet I have only myself to blame.

I’ve lived in Seattle for seventeen years. In that time I’ve made the Seattle to Utah trip at least twenty times. One might assume I know the shortest route between these two points.

And yet when the GPS told me to turn right I turned to Kim and said, “Screw it, I’m taking a left.”

That ill-advised left added at least another hour to the trip as we backtracked through towns I’ve never heard of. Kim made sure to read the town names aloud so we’d all know that maybe my directional instincts are not as powerful as a network of global satellites.

The problem comes down to the fact that I don’t trust my GPS. Each year I read about the driver who blindly followed the polite GPS voice right into a lake and drowned. And each time I see a makeshift memorial near a body of water I think to myself, “Another death by GPS.”

So I follow my Magellan just enough to get pointed in the right direction, but not enough that it saves me time or an ounce of grief. I’ll follow the sultry voice like a lemming from my home to the freeway making every right and left turn as if my driver’s license was on the line.

But put me in a city I’ve never been to and I’m muting the GPS, cranking the Zep and proclaiming, “Stand back, I’ve got this one!”

Less than 400 miles from our home, we pulled off the freeway and into the parking lot of Best Western. I called the reservation line and was thrilled to hear they had a room for us. I must have been tired because, when asked how many children I have I replied, “Three”.

For the next twenty minutes our four children debated who had been booted from the family.