Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011

For my last post of the year, and the 100th of the year, just five pictures that described 2011:











Goodbye 2011, hello 2012. And happy new year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Spring forward?

The weather this December here in Salt Lake City has been odd. We started out with a crazy wind storm that blew shingles off our roof, followed it up with an early inversion (a pollution event in which a quiet weather system stalls over the valley and traps all the smog between the mountains -- we usually don't get them until January) and have gotten barely any snow all month. In fact, this has been the driest SLC December in recorded history. Today capped off the weird month -- it felt like March.

The sun wasn't out too much today, but it was still warm. We took Popcorn for a long hike on the dog trail, and when we got back to the car, the temperature gauge said it was 62 degrees outside. The thermometer does skew up a few degrees, but my guess was that it was indeed close to 60, which is a good 20 degrees above average. Tonight around 9 p.m., Lori's clock that gets a signal from a thermometer outside said it was 54. The sun went down and it barely cooled off. I threw a heavy sweatshirt on and took Popcorn for another walk to enjoy the mild weather and I actually started to sweat.

It's supposed to cool off to normal over the weekend, but the temperature is scheduled to climb back into the high 40s next week, with no snow anywhere in sight. I'm generally not a big snow fan, and I'm not sad that I haven't even had to take the shovels out of the garage yet (much less use them), but this is bad -- the valley needs snow in the mountains for our water supply. Last year, we had record snow, so this drought won't hurt, but it surely won't help. I'd be happy with rain and mild weather down here and snow at the higher elevations.

I'm going to enjoy the mild temps while they last. With my luck, we'll get the snowiest March ever and I'll be shoveling then, right when I want it to stay warm.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nobody did it better

After Lori recorded it on our DVR, I finally got around to watching A Football Life: Walter Payton (link shows a clip from the show) that aired on NFL Network. It brought back some good memories.

In 1977, as a second-grader, I started watching football for the first time. I collected football cards. I remember not only watching the Bears in the early game, but watching late games, usually on NBC, after the sun had gone down that dark November and December. My first lesson in my NFL education was an amazing one: Witnessing Walter Payton's incredible 1977 season in which he rushed for 1,852 yards (in 14 games) and helped the Bears to the playoffs.

CBS gushed over Payton all season, setting his runs captured by NFL Films to song: Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better." I hear that and still think back to that late fall and winter. I don't know how much local radio played the song (and this was a memorable winter for music), but CBS was all over it.

I remembered many of the Payton moments featured in the show, and I recall many that weren't. There was the game he passed Jim Brown as the NFL's all-time leading rusher. There was the game Doug Flutie threw a touchdown to Payton in the end zone, and Payton responded by passing the ball into the stands. There were a few passing touchdowns. There was the game in which he played fullback, giving rookie Neal Anderson (Payton's heir apparent) a chance to play halfback, all the while delivering intense blocks to the defense. There was the way Payton would get tackled, extend the ball as far forward as he can, place it on the ground, then spring up before the tacklers would even get to their knees. There were all the receptions -- he caught 492 passes, more than any player in Bears history (in five years, I bet Matt Forte breaks this record). There was his last game, a loss to the Redskins in the playoffs, with the Washington players patting him on the back as the last futile plays were for naught, knowing they were witnessing the end of a sweet career.

I've been wanting to read Sweetness, the recent biography that doesn't exactly paint Payton's life off the field, particularly after he retired, in a positive light. He was incredible yet mortal, human, at the same time. Thirty-four years after my first season of watching the NFL, watching clips of Payton's prowess still makes me want to cheer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's the end of the year as we know it

I have always found that the distance between Christmas and New Year's is not long enough. You get so focused toward Christmas, it passes, and you only have a week to reconcile yourself to the fact the year is ending. Many people judge the passing of time by the new year (as well as birthdays and anniversaries, of course, and I also get reflective every summer solstice). This is the week you get end-of-the-year recaps, end-of-the-year countdowns, best-of lists and all other things commemorating the fading year.

So yes, I'm surprised 2012 is almost here. I'm not surprised how 2011 went so quickly, though still a little amazed at how time seems to zip by -- I was reminded of that tonight when I realized we've owned Popcorn for almost five months now and Maggie for nearly a year.

What do I think about 2011? After a rough start (both cats dying), it was good. We have two new family members in Maggie and Popcorn, the boys are thriving in school, and we had a lot of fun. 2012 doesn't need as many milestones as it needs good days. The milestones will come naturally, but good days are something to strive for. We enjoyed plenty of good days in 2011. Can we top that in 2012? The quest to do so begins at 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1.

Century mark

This is my 96th post of 2011, making it by far my most prolific year of this blog. My goal is to make it to 100, hence, this post simply announcing that I'm trying to make it to 100. How's this for a goal for 2012: 200 posts. After all, I had some dry spells in 2o11, including the last three months. To reach 200 posts, I have to write about four posts a week. I should be able to swing that. Not only that, I should be able to swing that. Until the next filler entry to get to 100, I've hope you've enjoyed this post.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yuletided out

We enjoyed a nice Christmas two days ago. The boys woke us up far too early, and I had to work that night (and last night as well), but the holiday was enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite present might have been a banner displaying five classic Chicago Cubs logos (no, Steve Bartman looking sullen isn't one of them). Lori made a good Christmas meal, and I stuffed myself on ham before work.

And just like that, Christmas was over. Is might be terrible to say this, but hurray! Christmas was wonderful. I'm glad it's Dec. 27. In a few days, we'll take the trees and lights down, and we'll go headlong into the new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The eve

Our Christmas Eve was somewhat uneventful today. With our niece coming into town, we prepared the house for her arrival. Michael and I took the dog for a long walk, and I watched football in the afternoon. We went to church -- the children's Mass, which is still as long as a normal Christmas Mass but geared more toward families (including it's 4 p.m. start). We came home for dinner, watched a little bit of "It's a Wonderful Life" and put the boys to bed. Lori started wrapping presents while I picked Dakota up from the airport. Here I am, the last hour of Christmas Eve, blogging before I go to bed.

Even after two months of holiday music, it's still difficult to believe it's already Christmas. The lack of snow hasn't helped. Make no mistake, I prefer no snow to lots of it, but I can deal with it around Christmas, particularly after weeks of hearing "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride." Instead, we get a brown Christmas here in Utah. That's OK -- it's still Dec. 25, the boys will still wake up far too early, and I haven't had to shovel.

Every December, I think I hope for some idyllic, 1950s Christmas complete with shopping trips in some large downtown, perfect snowy nights to frolic about in (that might be more 1890s out of some Carl Sandburg/Norman Rockwell collaboration) and no stress. That's a different era, perhaps a different reality. The present Christmas is even different than the holidays of the 1970s and '80s. Times haven't just changed -- I've changed. Christmas is still joyous, but from a different angle, one of a parent instead of a child. Tomorrow morning, none of that will matter when Michael and Ben excitedly open their presents. That's their angle, and I hope they love it for as long as they can.

About this time on Christmas Eve, I prefer hearing the religious Christmas songs as opposed to the Santa/winter/New Year's tunes. Looking out the window into the cold, dark (though not snowy), I can't help thinking of the songs commemorating why we celebrate Christmas. Maybe I'll hear "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as I try to fall asleep tonight.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A long December

I don't remember December being this crazy.

Of course, when I was young, December wasn't crazy. It dragged as Christmas approached. As a high schooler, I was in between cross country and track seasons and never had much to do in December. In college, after finals ended (around mid-December), I had a whole month, either at home or in Milwaukee, and even though I worked, December was time off. After college, December was a mildly busy time at work, and we might travel for Christmas for a couple days, but that was it.

Then I had children. December has never been the same.

Possibly it's just crazier because we have a son whose birthday is in December and we have to plan that as well as Christmas. Perhaps it's just nuttier because we have a puppy and technically still a kitten who need attention. Maybe it's because Lori has blasted through a busy month at work and I've had freelance projects all month.

The boys have been off school all week (their break started rather early), and I hoped this would mean life would settle down a little. Nope. Starting the week off with a cold didn't help, but I got over it quickly. All the Christmas shopping and grocery shopping and work and errands are done. It only took all week.

We did have fun this week, visiting Santa, seeing "Arthur Christmas," taking Popcorn for a long hike and looking at Christmas lights. The inversion that has been polluting the Salt Lake Valley finally cleared out, giving me a little more incentive to get out. And all the preparations this month, for Michael's birthday and for Christmas, has and will be worth it. It's just been so tiring. Were my parents this tired every December? I can remember the joy in their faces every Christmas morning as we opened our presents; what was the rest of the month like?

It could have been worse. For December, we've barely dealt with any snow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reactivated

With November over, with a busy November over, with the first week of December that has been just as busy over, I am resuming my blog. It's been a busy six weeks ...

-- I got about 16,000 words into Nanowrimo before I surrendered. I started off strong, then got sidetracked by a cough that was keeping me up nights (and tiring me out too much to write the subsequent day), a steady stream of freelance work and the usual craziness of being a parent. With about a week to go, I realized I'd never have enough time to make it to 50K. I was somewhat happy with what I wrote, and when I really got going, I felt I produced some good stuff. So though I didn't write a 50,000-word novel in November, I'm happy I made the effort. Any writing I can undertake is worthwhile.

-- These last few days have been especially crazy. Michael's birthday is Friday, and we're trying to get ready for his party Saturday.

-- Oh, it was my own birthday last month. I had to work, but we had a nice lunch at Sweet Home Chicago (a Chicago-style pizza restaurant in SLC's suburbs) before I went in.

-- The cough I've been dealing with was a pain in the throat. Usually, I get a cold, it travels into my throat, I cough there for a couple days, then it settles in my lungs. This malady included no cold and stayed in my throat for two weeks. I'd get a tickle in my throat overnight and not be able to stop coughing and resume sleeping. Finally, the combination of gargling with salt water and antibiotics my doctor prescribed seemed to tame the cough. Alas, the antibiotics made me break out ...

-- Soccer season ended for the boys, and basketball season has begun.

December might not get less busy, even after this weekend, but I'm going to find time to blog again. It's good to be back.