Friday, October 24, 2008

Fixing the Disney Experience

After the debacle that was the combined family Disneyland outing earlier this year, we were left with a problem. You see, the Elquist family loves Disneyland. To have it tainted just wasn't sitting well. It seemed the only fix would be to get back down there and have a great time. A GetAwayToday flier arrived in the mail, showing a great deal on a hotel we hadn't tried, and before we knew it we were locked and loaded for another Disneyland adventure.

This time, we were all driving down. I was terrified of how Traven would react to spending that much time in the car. I bought a dvd player for the Suburban, and Lori picked up some of his favorite shows for him to watch. We were loaded with snacks and treats. We even picked up a hitch hauler, so we wouldn't have a mountain of luggage on top of the Burb. Even with that, we were loaded from top to bottom when we finally started off.

The trip down was smooth. We stopped in Fillmore for lunch, then Mesquite for fuel. After a dinner stop in Baker, we made it to the Staybridge Suites before 9:00 pm. I was amazed. Traven was so well behaved, and the other kids were nice to each other as well. The only time Traven complained was if both Kaylee and Alyssa tried to nap at the same time!

Some of my favorite memories of this trip are:

- watching Traven at the Pixar parade. He was on Braden's shoulders, and man did he love the music and action! He was dancing around on Braden, riding him like a bucking bronco!

- watching Traven when a ride would stop. He simply did not understand why it stopped or why he had to get off. He would pitch a 5 alarm fit, screaming, throwing his head around like a battering ram. It was ugly, but funny at the same time.

- observing Braden walk into a Mickey Mouse bench.

- observing Braden make fun of how noisy Jason was going up the stairs, then proceeding to trip on a stair and fall in a rather loud manner.

- forgetting to tell Alyssa that I was going to do laundry, Jason, Traven and Braden were going to check on the pool, and Lori and Kaylee were going shopping. Alyssa came out of the bathroom to find her family had vanished. She was not happy!

- riding the new Toy Story Midway Mania ride. The line was long, but it was worth the wait.

- watching the fireworks show with my family.

- going on the Haunted Mansion ride when it was taken over by "The Nightmare Before Christmas".

- riding Splash Mountain with Braden, Jason and Alyssa, and staying dry while Jason was soaked from head to toe.

- discovering there is something to eat in Disneyland besides a cheeseburger.

- listening to Alyssa and buying frozen lemonades on Friday. It was incredibly hot, and the lemonade did the trick to re-energize the gang.

We stayed so late on Saturday, that we didn't leave for home until close to 11:00 am. We made it to Las Vegas around 5:00 pm, and decided to crash there for the night. I think this was a great move on our part. I don't think I could have safely driven another 6 hours that day. I was so worn out from vacation!

My one regret is that we did not make it onto Finding Nemo, which is Lori's favorite ride. Next time, that will be a priority. I'd like to say that we will wait for a couple of years before going back, but I don't think I can resist the Disney magic for that long. All I have to do is hear a song from one of the rides and I am ready to go! Maybe I shouldn't have picked up that two cd pack of Disneyland songs.....

I guess my other regret would be not taking enough pictures. I need to invest in a quality, small camera that I can just carry around in my pocket.

This trip definitely fixed Disneyland for me, and I look forward to going again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


My children have been on me about updating my blog. I don't know if they enjoy reading it, or if they perceive it as my homework. Either way, a posting is long overdue.

Recently, I went through a bit of a job hunting phase. It's a hobby of mine. I like seeing what is out there, updating my resume and practicing my interview skills. With the way the economy is tanking, I figure it's a good idea to be ready for disaster. Maybe my company gets bought by a larger company, maybe my job is moved to overseas - you just never know what might happen.

During this exercise, I was reminded how lucky and blessed I am with my current job. Sure, things might be a bit on the edge around here, but the pay is great, the amount of time off is higher than most other companies provide, the benefits package is competitive and the ability to work flexible hours is awesome. Throw my 12 mile commute on top of that, and I am sitting pretty. Besides, I had some friends recently laid off from here, and they received a pretty good severance package. I plan to ride out this personal Titanic to the bitter end. Someone has to turn off the lights.

I've also learned a lot recently about family and children. I'd just like to thank each of my children for not messing up their lives. I think in this area I have once again been blessed and lucky. They get good grades, they have good friends, they attend their church meetings and activities. They play sports, help out around the house and are willing to serve others when called upon to do so. They are sweet, caring individuals with a great deal of potential. They aren't perfect, but they are 5 of the best kids around. I think a lot of that has to do with their awesome mother, my wonderful wife. It's good to marry "up" and pick a good one!

We keep getting phone calls from a company seeking to recover loans from a certain family member. Watching this individual struggle with the burdens of excessive debt is a powerful lesson for all of us to avoid the pitfalls of borrowing more than we can afford. I realize most of us have mortgages and car loans, but the real killers seem to be the credit cards and, for this person, the pay day loan services. The amount of interest they charge is simply obscene. It's like organized crime simply decided to go legitimate and throw up bright centers on every street corner, just waiting for the next victim to arrive.

I guess overall I'd say we should each take a moment and realize the many blessings we have had given to us. It's a truly humbling experience when you realize how little you are able to control, and how much you must depend on divine blessings and influence. We truly are nothing without Him.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

5 Days of Backpacking (was this supposed to be fun?)

Tuesday morning, Braden, Jason and I were up before 6:00 am to get ready for the big backpacking trip. We made our lunches and everything ready to go well before the Parkers picked us up around 7:00 am. By 7:30, we were all on the road headed up to the Chipeta Trailhead in the High Uintahs. It was a long drive, consisting of about 3 hours to Roosevelt, then another hour on dirt roads from there. We parked the vehicles, and started the trip in around 12:00 pm.

Our destination was Pearl Lake. There is no trail into it. We had to rely strictly on gps devices. This caused us to wander around a lot more than was needed. We turned a 3 mile hike into over 5 miles. The packs were heavy, and our going was slow. Poor Jason was really struggling to breath the whole time. At about 2 hours in, he tripped and hit his head hard on the ground. It was a struggle to get him in the rest of the way.

We finally found the lake, and set up camp. At this point, Jason was not doing well. The hit to the head had caused a concussion, and he was vomiting. This was causing dehydration, and he was also suffering from altitude sickness and exhaustion. Dr. Paxton was with us, and he was very concerned. I prayed hard that night that he'd be ok, as I was not sure what we would do if he wasn't. We were hours from the cars, at close to an 11,000 ft. elevation.

My prayers were answered, and he was doing better Wednesday morning. We spent most of the day catching brook trout from the lake and stream. This was a good day.

Thursday I was sick. I couldn't keep anything down, and was really struggling. Again I prayed, this time that I'd be able to get myself out.

Friday morning came, and I was feeling better. I was bored, and I didn't see the point in staying any longer. Doug Olsen and Brad Warnock agreed, and the 5 of us, plus McKay Olsen, headed for home Friday morning around 10:00 am. Jason fell twice on the way out, the second time messing up his right knee. We took turns carrying his pack, and I spent the whole time talking him through the pain. We pushed on, and he was tough. We made it out in two hours, and were at the Arbys in Roosevelt around 12:00 pm. We looked and smelled gross, but we didn't care. We wanted the food!

All in all, the trip was a roller coaster. I had fun, but was also either worried, sick or bored. I think I'd do it again, but I'd do a few things different. I'd set a base camp by the car, then do day hikes out from base. I'd bring more mosquito repellent and a better hat to protect my neck. I'd bring a better pad to sleep on, and a chair to sit on as well. I'd pay the money and get some good hiking poles. I'd bring strike anywhere matches and lighters. I'd bring some more snacks.

I don't think Jason will be going again any time soon!

Braden was a stud, and helped with getting Jason back out.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Pilot Backpacking Trip

With a week long backpacking adventure coming up, I thought it would be best if Braden and I took a test trip to see if we could even survive overnight. The only time we could sneak in was on July 4th. That morning, we ran in the Freedom Run 10k, so we started the trip off a bit tired anyway. We left home around 3:00 pm and arrived at the Crystal Lake trail head at 5:00 pm.

Since we saw a lot of snow around, we figured we'd best just hike into Wall Lake, a one mile trip. The first thing I learned was that my pack is HEAVY! I couldn't have left anything out, so I guess I better suck it up and get used to it. We made the one mile journey in just under 30 minutes.

It was impossible to find a flat, dry spot. Our options were flat and wet, or slanted and dry. We opted for the slant. Another lesson I learned is that my sleeping bag, on my pad, is like a slippery slide. I spent most of the night pushing myself back up to the top of the tent to begin the journey back down to the bottom.

I also learned I do not fit in my mummy bag. It's plenty long, but I can't move in the bag with it done up. Luckily, I brought in a long sleeve t-shirt, my running stocking cap and my running gloves, so that's how I slept - looking like I was ready for a long winter run.

The dehydrated dinners were actually quite good. The bacon and eggs for breakfast were beyond gross. My camp stove worked awesome. The waterproof matches burned too hot once they lit, but they were almost impossible to light. I didn't try out the water purifier. Something about drinking lake water still weirds me out.

The mosquitoes were horrible. The repellent I bought didn't do the trick. We didn't fish much, but that's ok. I did realize I had forgotten several things, so I added that to my list.

I called my Dad today. His only advice was to take some pepper spray. I guess I should not question his judgement!

It would be nice to bring in some sandals, if they don't take up too much space. Hand sanitizer would also have been handy.

We woke up around 5:00 am on Saturday morning, and we were on the trail by 7:00 am. All in all, it was a blast. Something about hiking and carrying everything you need on your back is magical. It was also nice to spend the time with Braden.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Rookies and Youth Rule

Wasatch Back 2008 was a different experience for me for several reasons. First, I had my oldest son Braden on my team. I was nervous for weeks for him. He is only 15, and this would be by far the hardest thing he'd ever done. His work up at scout camp had kept him from doing much training for 3 weeks. I just hoped his youth and enthusiasm would se him through.

Second, I was sick. I hadn't kept anything in me since Thursday at lunch, and it wasn't getting any better. Not to be overly gross, but this year the relay would involve over 20 bathroom breaks for me. I knew I would get dehydrated, but I just hoped I could somehow survive.

Third, half the team were rookies. These were for the most part people I had talked into doing this. I have to work with some of these people. What if they didn't have any fun? What if they were injured? What if the magic I had felt as a first time participant was not there for them?

Fourth, I knew myself and the other veterans were not in peak running shape. The first year, 2006, Terry, Gary, Jason, Ryan and I were coming off the St. George marathon. This year, we had done some running, but nothing like what we were pumping out two years ago.

Basically, I was a nervous, sick wreck. I was hoping for the best. My van conisted of Erik Gillilan, Gary Gillilan, me, Braden Elquist, Scott Shepherd and Cheryl Gillilan. We decided to rename Scott to Scott Gilliquist, so he would fit in better as a family member!

We started off at 9:00 am, with Erik running. His time was good, but he really seemed to struggle a bit. He was very tired after his first leg. This did not help my anxiety. Erik is our ringer, our stud. If he isn't feeling it, then what doom is in store for me?

Gary was up next, and he ran great. He seemed so happy, so confident. He was amazing. We also noted at this point that we were being blessed with great weather. The temperature was lower than expected, and we had cloud cover off and on.

Now I was up. I had nothing. I had projected myself at 10 minute miles, but I could tell that wasn't happening. Maybe I could fight through and come up with 11 minute miles. I was so dejected. I didn't want to let the team down. My first three miles were great. I was actually just under 10 minute miles for them. At that point, my body really had taken all it could. My legs were gone, I was cramping up from dehydration and I was mentally beaten. I somehow made it through the last 2.3 miles and kept my pace under 11, but it was one of the hardest runs I have ever done.

Handing off to Braden and watching him go picked up my spirits. That was my boy out there! His run seemed to be 5 miles of steady climbing. He surprised me by gutting out the whole thing. He found his pace and just got after it. I was so proud of him.

Scott had the next leg. It was a climb up Avon pass. It is a brutal run of over 7 miles climbing over a dirty, rocky road. He just kept going and going and going. His pace was incredible. He is one of the strongest runners I know.

Cheryl had our last set for this cycle. It was about a mile climb, then a bone jarring descent into the Ogden valley. She was great. She is also a strong runner. I would guess she and Erik's son Logan will be a super athlete.

We made it through our first legs and down to the park in Liberty. I waited in a long line for a shower, and ended up with a sunburn and an ice cold shower for that. The line for the free lunch was long and in the sun, so we bagged that and went to Subway. I continued to try to refuel and rehydrate, but I wasn't getting any better.

Sadly, we were back up way too soon. Erik was up to get us down into the Morgan valley. He was awesome and Gary was awesome. Lots of awesome going on this time - the only problem was I was next. I felt so weak and was cramping up before I even started. I told them to check on me each mile, as I wasn't sure if I would make it.

Something about running along Morgan Valley Drive really helped me. Maybe it was all the memories. I recalled who lived in many of the houses along the way. I saw several roads I used to take down to the Weber River to fish. I ran along the corner where I nearly rolled my car when driving too fast. Before I knew it, I was in front of my childhood home! I did pause to walk by it and check things out. The new owners have really fixed it up nicely. I was sad to see all the changes, but also happy my home was in good hands. I picked up running again, passed my grandparents home and my old church, and handed off to Braden in Milton park. I survived, and actually completed my run. I felt like I was going to collapse, and was cramping like never before. My pace was not good, but at this point for me it was more about completion and survival.

It was dark at this point. It was Braden's first dark run, and he loved it. He met his 10 minute mile goal and was so happy when he finished his leg. He was really having a good time.

The second half of our team consisted of Jason Neuwirth, Terry Wong, Karl Debrine, Sara Robertson, Ian Robertson and Wendy Busath. I didn't see them running, but from the phone calls and text messages I could tell they were having a great time. I had driven up Ian and Wendy's first legs of the race, and they were steep and brutal climbs. The information I was getting from the others was that they were both amazing on those runs. I so wished I could see those other six running. I just knew they would be great.

My part of the team made it to dinner in Coalville around 1:00 am, and then we tried to get some rest from 2:00 am to 4:00 am. It was finally at this point that I ate and drank and actually kept it in my system. I didn't sleep any, but I rested and physically felt a bit better.

We started in again just after 5:00 am. Erik was struggling. A snickers didn't do it for him, but some Gu sure did. It was like a magic potion! He went from down trodden and struggling to the Energizer bunny.

Gary should get the award for happiest, steadiest runner. I was so happy he did so well. He had complained a bit before the race, and had worried about everything from the weather to his conditioning. In the end, he proved to be rock solid.

For my last leg, I felt a bit better and had some energy. For the first time, I averaged just under 10 minute miles. I was sad to have let the team down twice before, but at least I finished strong.

Braden took off now. I was so worried about him. This was a 5 mile climb up and over Jordanelle, and he just hadn't trained like this. I have to tell you, he proved himself a stud. He found a pace and just picked away at the run. He gave it all he had. I really think he amazed himself. Scott and Cheryl finished things off for us. We were done!

It was already getting hot. I was very concerned about my runners in the second van. I wished I could drive along the course and cheer them on, but van one is not allowed on most of the course from this point on. There is also not much cell reception for van two at this point, so it's about 5 hours of waiting and worrying for van one.

Scott had to take off to attend a wedding, and the Gillilans met up with their family, so Braden and I were on our own. We had breakfast, then spent about an hour cleaning the Suburban. We then took some treats to my three volunteers - my daughter Kaylee, my sister-in-law Emily, and Kaylee's friend Jessica. They got stuck directing traffic, so they were kind of disappointed about that. I sure am grateful for them being willing to volunteer for the event. It really helped me out. They made the most of it, and found some ways to have fun while baking in the sun for 6 hours. They were good sports.

We met up with the rest of the team and waited for our 12th runner Wendy to come in. Everyone was so happy. I was so proud of them. I heard reports about how strong Karl and Sara were climbing up over Guardsman's Pass. What a collection of warriors I had assembled! Jason and Terry were the veteran leaders I expected. Karl, Sara, Ian and Wendy had the rookie enthusiasm that really makes the event fun. My team was awesome! We finished in 30 hours 30 minutes, which was about a 10 minute pace. We definitely met the under 11 minute requirement.

As I write this Sunday morning, I am filled with mixed emotions. My left ankle is completely swollen and my legs are sore, yet I want another shot at this, when I would hopefully be in better health and could train better. Braden fell asleep on the couch around 7:00 pm last night, with his medal still around his neck. I would love to experience something like this with him again. I would also like to actually be able to experience this with the members of van two as well. Yet experience has shown me that these moments are hard to replicate. I guess I will just see what life brings me for my next adventure. I'm sure something will pop into my little brain soon.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Personal Moments of Glory

Fame. Fortune. Glory. How many of us have dreamed about achieving these for ourselves? In truth, reaching the pinnacle of success is an elusive goal, one which few reach. However, the reality is each and every one of us have personal moments of success, in which we can embrace these euphoric feelings, if only for the briefest of moments.

Recently, I attended a Utah Blaze arena football game with my children Kaylee, Braden, Alyssa and Jason, as well as 4 of Jason's friends. We were celebrating Jason's birthday. Our tickets came to us via Jason's aunt Emily, who is doing an internship with the Blaze. The free nature of the tickets made the experience sweet in and of itself!

Just before the game, Emily called to invite me to participate in a tug of war contest at the end of the 3rd quarter. The idea of going down in front of thousands of people did not really intrigue me. However, she mentioned a free jersey, and I was in! Being the resourceful father I am, I immediately asked if Kaylee and Braden could also take part. Even though the participants were supposed to be 18 and older, Emily said Kaylee and Braden were on the team. We were all in! It was at this point, when we were committed, that Emily broke the news that only the winning team would get jerseys. I had this feeling of panic come over me. It would be me, my 16 year old daughter and 15 year old son, up against what would most likely be three, 20 something year old men, hopped up on adrenaline and Budweiser. We would be lucky to survive. A vision came to me, of my shoulder being torn from my body, Kaylee with missing fingers and Braden lying in a pool of blood. This would not be pretty.

We stewed about our upcoming death match for the entire first three quarters of the game. Finally, like the innocent going to the Roman coliseum floor to face the lions, we marched down to the arranged meeting place. My eyes scanned the people around me, looking for the three behemoths we would be facing. Braden was still optimistic, Kaylee looked like she might be sick. Finally we saw the other team. A feeling of power washed over me......

The other team was composed of a young woman, a bit older than Kaylee but definitely shorter and weaker. That's one for our team!

There was a tall young man. He was older and a bit taller than Braden, but Braden has been training hard for our upcoming race, so I had confidence in his legs. That's two for the home team! Our fate would rest in my personal matchup......

There he stood, all 5 feet something of him. I hulked over him, like some sort of twisted Goliath vs. David reenactment. Only this time, I'd put my money on the big guy. I must have outweighed him by over a hundred pounds, and my own legs have been churning out miles and miles of training for years now.

The quarter ended, and we were led to the arena floor. My mind was definitely lost in the moment. I was unaware of the cameras on me. I could not hear the thousands of spectators. One would think I might have even noted the Blaze cheerleaders, but this was not the case. My mind was focused on one thing only, and that was the yellow rope at my feet.

My game face on, I reached down and entwined my right arm into the rope. Two times wrapped around my arm. That should do the trick. My left hand caught up the slack. I leaned back, firmly planting my right leg slightly to my back, my left leg positioned like an iron rod to my front. I didn't hear anyone say "go!". I felt the rope go completely tight, and it was on!

I took first one step backward, then two. Then we stalled, neither team making headway. The other team was nearly sitting on the floor, they were leaning back so far. This was not going to be easy. Kaylee relaxed for a moment, and we took one small step forward. She looked back at me, her eyes pleading for help. It was then that I went into the zone.

I played the other team like a fish on a hook. I leaned forward to give the rope a little play, then took two quick steps backward. I did this again, and we made more headway. The girl on the other team gave up and let go. We had them. I powered back more and more, and soon it was over. The other team was defeated, and we were victorious! I razed my arms in triumph, letting out a primal yell to announce the king of this jungle had arrived!

It was then that the flow of blood was restored to my hands. The pain was awful. I could not easily bend my fingers, and my left hand had rope slivers all over in it. I was sweating, my arms ached and my legs felt a bit tired. This truly had been an epic battle. Kaylee, Braden and I collected our jerseys, and ascended the stairs in triumph. A flurry of text messages ensued, as we each eagerly wanted to share our story of battle and conquest. This had been a personal moment of glory for all three of us. A simple football game sideshow, with little or no importance to anyone but the six participants, had turned into something great for Kaylee, Braden and myself. It will be a story that will live on in family lore, which might even grow as the years pass.

Take what life gives you, and celebrate your own moments of glory. It's what makes life fun!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

I was recently asked to speak at my church for Mother's Day. To be honest, sometimes I panic. I do not always make good split second decisions. In hind sight, when the Bishop asked me to speak, I could have come up with any number of excuses. Saying a prayer last week for Sacrament meeting – piece of cake. But speaking, on Mother's day? There is such a high potential for disaster. I am not a gifted public speaker. I tend to ramble and not be coherent. I could end up embarrassing not only myself, but my wife, mother in law, daughters, mother, oldest sister, who knows who all could go down on this personal Titanic of mine?

A quick research of Mother's Day reveals that almost every society has a desire to revere and honor Mothers. It might be called something a bit different, or fall on a different day or even last more than one day, but some sort of annual celebration of Mothers occurs in almost every nation. What is it about Mothers that brings about this desire to honor them?

If you look at men in general, we are one step from reverting back to cavemen. We have a need for mothering throughout our lives. This motherly influence can come from many different women. Not only do we receive this from our own mothers, but it can come from mothers-in-law, daughters, wives and sisters. What is it about these remarkable women that make them so crucial to each and every one of us?

Mothers are blessed with unconditional love. A very good example of this to me is my wifes Grandma Orton. Grandma Orton had several children. As with all families, each of them was unique and had their own challenges. One son was challenged by poor decisions as a youth. He was caught up in a life cycle that drew him away from the church and the blessings of the gospel. Grandma Orton used to frequently say that if she continued to love him he'd come back. She continued to support him and show him a Mothers love. As his life choices brought him down to humility, she was there for him. As he began to journey back towards God, she was there for him. I remember well the day he went through the Jordan River temple. There, surrounded once again by family and the light of the gospel, we could all see how right Grandma Orton had been. A mother's love had helped a son get back on the path of salvation.

Mothers accept us, no matter what our physical or mental disabilities might be. There is a Disney movie from the late 1990s about a boy named Tarzan. In a tragic accident, Tarzan loses both parents while he is still a baby. Tarzan is found by an ape mother named Kala. Kala takes one look at this baby, and realizes he needs a mother. Despite her husbands outrage and the other apes ridicule and scorn, she takes this baby in as her own. She didn't care that Tarzan looked different or didn't have the same traits as the rest of the ape babies. She loved him. She nurtured him and taught him the best she could. Tarzan survived, and as we know eventually became king of the jungle. All because he had a loving mother who accepted him.

Mother's are protective. My wife had a brother named Bryan. Bryan was born with cerebral palsy. His case was very severe. He had basically no physical abilities. He could not speak. The easy thing to do would have been to put him in an institution, or simply keep him at home. This was not the life Bryan would live. His mother dedicated her life to him. Bryan was cared for constantly by a loving mother. He was treated just like any other child. His mother scheduled her life around him. He was never left alone or wanted for anything. The family home was built to accommodate him. The family vehicles were specialized to allow him and his array of wheelchairs to fit. His mother made sure he went to school. When he became too old for school, she found other programs and activities for him. He attended institute as an adult. It was not easy to take care of Bryan. He had to be lifted onto a special table to be cared for. He had to be fed several times a day. He did not sleep well, and had many sleepless nights. His mother never wavered, never complained. Bryan was her life, her pride and joy. Despite his condition, Bryan enjoyed a quality and length of life few would have predicted. When Bryan recently passed away, his mother was devastated and lost. Those who did not know her or the details of her relationship might have imagined she would have felt relief at this time, like a burden had been lifted. In fact, one of her greatest joys had passed. What a wonderful example of protection, of service, of unconditional love.

Mothers are tough. They can do things that seem almost impossible. When our daughter Alyssa was very young, she came down with chicken pox. For most people, this is not a huge ordeal. For Alyssa, who is blessed with the ability to take even a common cold and turn it into an ordeal, it became life threatening. The chicken pox went into her lungs, which caused pneumonia, which landed her in the hospital, clinging to life. For 3 weeks she underwent treatments and surgeries. Most of this time was spent in the ICU. For all but one day, her mother was by her side 24 hours a day. I don't know if any of you have tried to sleep overnight in an ICU, but it is not a quiet, restful place. It seems the nurses are constantly coming in. Alarms are going off, monitors are beeping. Add to this a young child who is sick and scared, and you are not getting any sleep. Lori maintained this sleep deprived schedule for 3 weeks. I attempted to spell her off for one night. After that, I went home and basically collapsed. I then came down with a bad cold, just from one night. It was then that I realized my wife was indeed a lot tougher than I am. She showed me this once again when Traven joined our family. He contracted whooping cough at one month of age. He was in Primary Children's Hospital for nearly a month. Once again, Lori showed me the toughness of a mother. She was with him constantly. I think this time was even harder, since she was further away from the support of her family. Also, the parent beds at Primary Children's just aren't as comfy as the ones at Mountain View. And the number of beeping alarms and caregivers is dramatically higher up there. She did not complain, she did not waiver. She cared for Traven up there, and of course the story had a happy ending.

Mothers are supportive. Growing up, I was heavily involved in sports and music. I had many early and late practices, games, concerts and other events. Since I grew up in the small community of Milton in Morgan county, I did not have a lot of options for the 5 mile trip to school. I never had to ask. Despite the earliness or lateness of my schedule, my mother was there to drive me. She had breakfast ready in the early mornings, and she had dinner ready for me regardless of the hour we would get home. I'm sure she had other things she could have done, like sleep in another hour or two. But she was there to support me.

Mothers are also smart and clever. There was a time when we were chosen for some government survey. I don't recall the details, but I remember the good stuff. The agency called to set a time to come over and complete the survey with us. Lori wanted to get the house presentable, and on this occasion the children were not being overly helpful. Despite her gentle efforts to get them to clean up their rooms and put away their clothes and toys, it just wasn't happening. She came up with a clever idea. She told them that the appointment was really with the health department. They had heard how messy our house was, and were coming to inspect it. If it wasn't clean, well then who knows what might happen? Toys might be hauled away, the home condemned or for one particularly rebellious young boy, children might even be hauled away. Now, I'm not saying this deception should be practiced by all mothers, but in this case it did get the job done, and quickly. That was one clean, organized house. Of course, Lori did tell them the truth at some point, and we all laughed about it and watched a movie together as a family afterwards.

Mothers are brave. Have you all heard the story about a baby named Dumbo? When the people at the circus were making fun of Dumbo, his mother stood up for him. The odds were against her. She was greatly outnumbered, and she must have known she would lose. But she was brave. She did the best she could to protect her baby. She knew the consequences. She was going to end up locked up a crazy elephant, but she did not care. Here baby came first, despite the consequences.

Mothers are brutally honest when it is needed. A favorite story of mine comes from a friend at work. As a youngster, he discovered he had a talent with penmanship. As with many abilities, he had a choice of using it for good or evil. He established a little school yard business for himself. If a student needed a parent's signature on a bad grade, or an absence excused, well my friend took care of that for a small fee. This went on for a few weeks, until the principal caught on. Of course, sending a note home with my friend would not really accomplish much, so a phone call was made. The wise principal left it up to my friend's mother to dish out the punishment. Remember, this was back in the days when a good paddling was standard for bad behavior. You should also keep in mind that this took place in the rough section of a big city, so criminal activity and jail time wer sadly very common. My friends mother wished to impress upon him that she expected better out of him. She waited patiently, hiding behind the front door, for her son to get home, a paddle in her hand. He never saw her coming. When all was said and done, her message had been sent. I don't know that my friend ever got in any type of trouble after that.

In an attempt to contribute something somewhat spiritual in nature to this talk, I'd like to end by reviewing some points from the first presidency message from the April 1998 Ensign. The message was titled “Behold Thy Mother”. In it, we were challenged to consider four types of mothers: first, mother forgotten; second, mother remembered; third, mother blessed; and finally, mother loved.

As President Monson pointed out in the message, mother forgotten is observed all too frequently. President Monson said “The nursing homes are crowded, the hospital beds are full, the days come and go—often the weeks and months pass—but mother is not visited. Can we not appreciate the pangs of loneliness, the yearnings of a mother’s heart, when hour after hour, alone in her age, she gazes out the window for the loved one who does not visit, the letter the postman does not bring? She listens for the knock that does not sound, the telephone that does not ring, the voice she does not hear. How does such a mother feel when her neighbor welcomes gladly the smile of a son, the hug of a daughter, the glad exclamation of a child, “Hello, Grandmother!” end quote

He continues: “There are yet other ways we forget mother. Whenever we fall, whenever we do less than we ought, in a very real way we forget mother.

I recall talking to the proprietress of a nursing home. From the hallway where we stood, she pointed to several elderly women assembled in a peaceful living room. She observed, “There’s Mrs. Hansen. Her daughter visits her every week, right at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. To her right is Mrs. Peek. Each Wednesday there is a letter in her hands from her son in New York. It is read, then reread, then saved as a precious piece of treasure. But see Mrs. Carroll: her family never telephones, never writes, never visits. Patiently she justifies this neglect with words that are heard but do not convince or excuse: ‘They are all so busy.’ ”

Shame on all who thus make of a noble woman “mother forgotten.”

“Hearken unto thy father that begat thee,” wrote Solomon, “and despise not thy mother when she is old.” 2 Can we not make, of a mother forgotten, a mother remembered?” end quote

With regards to mother remembered, Pres. Monson pointed out that, when we remember our mothers, we are less likely to yield to evil and bad behavior. He related a story from the Civil War, in which a regiment of men were gathered together for a champagne supper. Most of the men were becoming quite intoxicated. One man, who was well liked among the group but chose to abstain from such activities, was called upon to offer a toast. This was done in jest of course, given that the young man did not drink. He rose and stated “Gentlemen, I will give you a toast which you may drink as you will, but which I will drink in water. The toast that I have to give is, ‘Our mothers.’ ” Instantly, a strange spell fell upon the group, as mothers and their influence were recalled. The drinking stopped, the boisterous behavior ended and one by one the men left the room.

For mother blessed, President Monson offered a beautiful, reverent example. In Luke chapter 7, verses 11 – 15 we read:

“And it came to pass … that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.

“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

“And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

“And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” 3

President Monson stated “What power, what tenderness, what compassion did our Master and Exemplar thus demonstrate! We, too, can bless if we will but follow His noble example. Opportunities are everywhere. Needed are eyes to see the pitiable plight, ears to hear the silent pleadings of a broken heart. Yes, and a soul filled with compassion, that we might communicate not only eye to eye or voice to ear, but in the majestic style of the Savior, even heart to heart. Then every mother everywhere will be “mother blessed.” end quote

Mother loved. This is the last type of mother listed in the message. A well-known poem by Joy Allison is titled “Which Loved Best?”

“I love you, Mother,” said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
And left her the water and wood to bring.

“I love you, Mother,” said rosy Nell—
“I love you better than tongue can tell”;
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.

“I love you, Mother,” said little Fan;
“Today I’ll help you all I can;
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep!”
So she rocked the babe till it fell asleep.

Then, stepping softly, she fetched the broom,
And swept the floor and tidied the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as a child could be.

“I love you, Mother,” again they said,
Three little children going to bed;
How do you think that Mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

On this day we celebrate Mothers, may we each challenge ourselves to be mindful of our mothers, not just today but every day. May we be mindful that one of the best ways to show our mothers love is through respect and by obedience to their wise teachings. May we each reach out and show kindness and love to all the mothers around us, in particular to those that might find themselves lonely or wanting. Let us each do our part to reduce the number of mothers forgotten and make more mothers remembered, blessed and loved.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Making Traven eternal

As most of you reading this blog probably know or realize, I have some strong religous beliefs. One thing I truly believe in is the eternal nature of families.

On Saturday, we journeyed down to the Manti LDS temple to have Traven sealed into our eternal family. The temple workers were fantastic! They said they didn't get to help with this particular ordinance very often, so they were making the most of it. We were escorted around by several different people. There was a team of old grandmothers who watched the kids while Lori and I took care of some paperwork. They also helped the kids get changed into their white clothing. We felt at home and well attended the entire time.
The actual ceremony was short, but powerful. Now, Traven is officially a member of the family!
We had a lot of family and some friends there to witness the sealing. Missing from the above photo are Brian Anderson and Kandi Jensen. They slipped out before the photos!
To me, it just rings true that a family unit would have the ability to go on forever. There is so much love and such a strong bond in the family. Would a loving God really want that to end with death? I don't think so. That would mean He would provide us the ability to "eternalize" our families. A power that would seal in Heaven what is sealed on earth. The key then is to seek out these truths while on earth and embrace them.

Making Traven Legal

On Friday morning, the date finally arrived for going to court and making the adoption legal and binding. We met before Judge Laycock over in Provo. It was a very unique experience.

We arrived at 8:20 am and went into the court house. As soon as the guards realized we were there for an adoption, they just waved us through the metal detectors. We went up to the 2nd floor and met up with our lawyer, Paul MacArthur. Paul and his staff were outstanding throughout the entire process. They were extremely helpful, very informed and on top of all matters pertaining to the adoption.

At 8:30 am, the doors opened and we went into the judges court room. The recorder was there, busily doing about 5 things at once on her computer, and the bailiff was there. In walked the judge, we all stood up, then Lori and I were sworn in as witnesses. There was a very formal process as the judge acknowledged she had reviewed all the documents and they were entered into the official record.

It was then time for Paul to ask us some questions. They were all very easy - basically making sure we realized we were both taking over legally as Traven's family and severing any ties he had to his birth parents. This part felt strange to me, as I have felt like Traven was officially in the family for months. It was a series of easy questions.

The one question I enjoyed the most was the last one, asking me to share my feelings about him with the court. I love him, every bit as much as the other kids, which is TONS! To me, he just fits right into the family. I can't imagine life without him. He seems to bring out the best in all of us.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Time for a family update

A few things have transpired lately which would seem to warrant some commentary.

First off, Traven's health has been getting gradually better. He usually sleeps through the night, and is coughing less. He is 6 months old now, and full of personality. When he gets excited about something (usually singing on the tv), he sticks out his arms and legs and kind of sounds like a monkey. It is very amusing. He is good for about 30 - 40 minutes of church, before he gets bored and wants to be walked around. He is sitting up, and will spend a little time on the floor, but usually prefers to be walked around or put in his jumper.

I am trying to get ready to run the Ogden marathon in May, but am really struggling. I am slower than I have been in years and just can't seem to find the groove. I am worried about Ogden and about the Wasatch Back in June. I'm not sure what is wrong with me.

Lori's brother Brett has decided to divorce his wife. This is a painful process to watch, especially considering they have 3 young children. It is heartbreaking to see the problems being caused for them because of parental decisions. I continue to hope and pray for the best, but I honestly am not sure what the best solution would be.

Now that Kaylee is 16, we see her a lot less. It makes me sad and happy at the same time. The sad is just a bit of missing her being around. I am happy that she has made good friends and enjoys getting out of the house. She also has a job, which she doesn't exactly like, but does enjoy the income.

Braden has grown several inches and has been playing basketball and getting in shape to run on my Wasatch Back team. He has changed a lot over the past year.

Jason is still working hard at school. I feel bad sometimes because it feels like I am constantly having to remind him to do homework.

Alyssa is still doing great in school. She has some good friends and is constantly wanting to be on the go as well.

All in all, I feel very blessed and lucky to be where I am at in life. Sometimes I let things get to me. I live in fear of my company either downsizing me out of a job, getting bought out by another company, or simply fading into oblivion. I worry about the state of our economy and nation, and wonder what type of future my children will have. But then I remember the important thing is to do what I can to help them, and to have faith that things will work out as they should. I am grateful to have a great wife to keep me in line and help me out. I am very thankful for five wonderful children.

My sister Charlotte tells me my sister Patty is moving back to St. George and will be staying with my parents. It should be interesting to see how that works out. I don't hear much out of my sister Karen.

I am really excited to go backpacking with Braden and Jason this summer. I think I will try to sale my trailer, since it looks like the young men will be doing a lot of backpacking over the upcoming years.

I am also excited for spring. Winter sucks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Showgren California Adventure

We just returned from a week long vacation to southern California with the Showgren clan. The trip produced many lasting memories - some good, some not so good. Here's a brief recap of the adventure.

I drove the Suburban down with Braden, Jason and Alyssa. We listened to some books on cd to pass the time. The second one was a terrifying tale with a dark chasm of damned souls and a big, booming voice for God. It kept us awake for sure. We made good time, but as soon as we arrived we had to leave to pick up Lori, Kaylee and Traven at LAX. All of this went smoothly, and we were resting at a reasonable hour. Traven even slept through the night, which was amazing. Incidentally, he has done this now for over a week in a row!

Wednesday we were off to Disneyland. I was amazed at how well Traven did. He loved to be held out so he could watch everything. He was good about taking his bottle even when it wasn't warm. He even didn't complain when I bundled him into about 20 layers of clothing!

He was getting a bit tired towards the end of the day, so Lori and I took him and his cousin Caleb back to the hotel to relax. Caleb must have been exhausted, as he just laid on the bed for close to an hour.

It was awesome vacationing with Glenn, Allison and their kids again. It reminded me of the fun we had on our trip to Houston last year. They are easy to get along with and our kids get along well.

It was also nice to have the grandparents along. Sally paid for most of the trip, which was a fun Christmas present for all of us. Eric helped with watching all the grandchildren. Jeremy was a riot, and Emily seemed to enjoy herself.

I won't go into the details of the less-than-enjoyable portions of the trip. I don't want to offend anyone. See me for details.........

The lines were not bad at all on Wednesday or Thursday. Friday we went to Knotts, which in my opinion is not worth the money. The atmosphere is just not as fun as Disney or even Universal. I don't know that I'll bother going back there.

The crowds at Disney were AWFUL on Saturday. I have never seen it so crowded. We could hardly move at all. Traven was still awesome. Man, he was a good baby. Actually, all my kids were awesome. There was not much complaining at all.

By Sunday, we were all worn out. This was when things got to be the worst. Again, see me for details. Let's just say it wasn't anyone I've mentioned by name that made the day miserable.

Monday, everyone but our family left for home. We slept in, spent a few hours at Disney, grabbed some dinner at Cocos and got ready to head home.

The drive home Tuesday was hard. I started off with two hours of driving to get Lori, Kaylee and Traven to the airport. We ended up leaving around 10:00 am. I was so tired, and suffering from a bad cold, that we stopped a lot. We arrived home around 10:00 pm.

I thought I'd list my favorite rides, but I actually enjoy everything at Disney. I guess if I had to pick my very favorite I'd go with Soarin' over California.

Some things I learned:

  1. Plan in a rest day. 6 days in a row of theme parks is way too much.
  2. 22 people might be too big of a group with which to vacation.
  3. 22 might work if the group did not include any immature, irrational, insane or unstable people.
  4. Use a sling or some other carrier to help with transporting a baby. Traven started to feel like he weighed a 100 pounds by the last days.
  5. Food is dang expensive at theme parks.
  6. Fast pass rules. Did you know you can have more than one active at a time? At one point, I had three of them.
  7. The parades are lame, but the kids love them.
The best part is sometimes watching the kids have fun. There was a ride at Knotts that was called something like the 720 degree spin. Braden's face was priceless. At first he was thinking it was no big deal, but then that ride started throwing them around in small circles while rotating in a big circle. I laughed so hard at them.

I also got a kick out of Nick and Zack on a kiddie ride at Knotts. They were such big chickens. They were screaming like they were going to die. Allison was laughing so hard she forgot to hold onto her stroller, and Caleb started rolling downhill. It was priceless.

All in all, I look forward to more family vacations, but I'd like to reduce the number from 22 to 17. Yeah, that's a good number!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Frog is Dead

The Frog is Dead

As you might recall, some time back I took a somewhat philosophical approach to life here at work. I felt a tear form in the corner of my eye as I remembered the good old days. Quarterly bonuses. Year end raises. Compensation for on-call coverage. Hundreds of hours in accrued time off. Training. Employee stock purchase plan that actually made money. Stock options that were usable. Life was good. I suggested that we were like a bunch of frogs in a pot of water. As each benefit was stripped away, the water temperature rose. However, since the changes were strung out over years, we didn't notice the change in the water. It still felt good to be in the water. Who cared if it was getting hotter?

This train of thought missed a piece of the puzzle. I failed to realize the benefits of working in a sane environment. We used to do things that made sense. It didn't require a committee to make a decision. What we did made a difference. People listened, and we got things done.

Now, we live in sad times. When a project or need comes up, we have no input. In fact, any sense of sanity has been tossed out.

Let's say we have a need for a wheel. We've been using wheels for years. They are round, they are useful for moving things around. Everybody knows how to use the wheel. We have years of experience with wheels.

We check into things, and sure enough, the wheel still works for this new need. We even decide to use an existing wheel, thus eliminating the need to purchase an additional wheel.

Word of this recommendation goes up into the nebulous hierarchy. The decision is made to no longer use wheels. Our new model requires the use of only square solutions. We try to explain the shortcomings of the square approach, but to no avail. We will be using the square.

Things are worse. All our wheel expertise has been moved off to other projects. We have basically no skill sets with the square, but are expected to use it. Our customers are confused. They paid for the wheels, they want to use them, and now we are telling them no more wheels?

Worse yet, we have lost most of our contacts with our customers. They are all gone. We now have no direct voice with the customers, and no developers with which to team up.

Far worse is the fact that we have lost our voice in our own hierarchy. The voices of reason have been squashed. The square regime is fully entrenched, and we lack the power to do anything about it.

We have been shackled with chains of gold. We can't afford to go find another wheel shop. We are now enslaved wheel experts in a sqaure world. Our only choice now is to ride this ship until it sinks. We will continue to arrange the deck chairs on this Titanic, even as the ship tips farther and farther. The life boats are launching for some. We've seen a number of good people escape recently. Sadly for most of us, there is no life boat. Just a giant square hole waiting to swallow us up.

The water boiled, and we didn't even notice.

The frog is dead.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Work ramblings

I thought I'd start sharing some thoughts on my work with whoever wants to partake. Some things just really amuse me. Take this for an example. We have this thing called quarter-end "blackout". This is a time frame in which NO changes are to be made to any of our systems. This is to ensure our financial numbers come out without any glitches or delays. This seems like a noble effort.

So, we all get an email instructing us that the quarter end "blackout" period is being extended. From now on, we will be in "blackout" for over 50 percent of the year. However, in the same paragraph, it also states that we have a procedure in place for doing changes during this "blackout" period.

Wow, maybe it's just me, but this seems kind of pointless. If we say we are going to extend the blackout period, but then in the same paragraph we state we have a process in place for doing things during blackout anyway, then what's the point in having the blackout period? I'd say tighten things up to make it a true blackout and shorten the period, or maybe have some sort of "grayout" period, where we pretend we are in blackout but keep churning along on our merry way!

Or maybe we should have a different color. Black and gray are kind of boring. Maybe we could use gainsboro or lavender? Ooh, or ghost white. That's a nice one. Or perhaps we go with something bold, like a nice fuchsia or indian red?

And what about the word "period"? It seems so final. Let's be honest - it's not accurate. Perhaps we could go with a semi-colon. It marks the end, but not really THE end. I propose we change from "blackout period" to "fuchsia semi-colon". I think this will really clear things up and make for a happier work place.