Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer, Day 39

When I walked on the pool deck to get Ben from swim practice this morning, I saw him sitting on the side, chattering. His coach told me he was frustrated today because he just didn't feel like swimming and was tired. She was proud of him and told him not to beat himself up so much if he is tired. He had mentioned being tired this morning before he left, then told that to Lori when he dropped him off. After I got him, he took a long, hot shower, got dressed, and watched Michael's diving practice. He seemed to exude more energy than before -- not doing cartwheels, but not totally a lump, either.

After we got home and after lunch, I checked to see if Ben's forehead was warm. He didn't seem too warm, but maybe warm is the new normal in this stretch of hot weather. But when I actually took his temperature, it was around 101. That would explain the chattering and fatigue this morning, and yesterday him wanting to come home from playing with his best friend (he was complaining of being sweaty). We got some medicine in him and let him take it easy the rest of the day. He never looked too beat, however, and he wasn't running a fever in the evening, so hopefully, he'll be OK tomorrow.

Ben's fever caused one little wrench -- Lori and I were to see the Avett Brothers tonight. We weren't going to subject a sitter to a feverish kid, and Lori really wanted to see this show, so I stayed home with Ben and she took Michael to the concert. They had a lot of fun. Ben and I hung out, with him first playing on the computer for a little while, then both of us watching the first 45 minutes of "Spider-Man" before he fell asleep.Michael and I had taken Popcorn for a hike after Lori had come home early from work, so the dog was thoroughly tired as well (though I did get her around the block after they got home from the concert). I really hope the little guy feels better tomorrow. Being sick in the summer sucks.

Double the blogging fun with days 40-41.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer, Day 38

Blessedly, today wasn't a lazy day. The boys had swim practice this morning, then playdates in the early afternoon. I was participating in a blogging webinar and was grateful to have the house to myself.

The webinar, hosted by Jeff Goins and Derek Halpern, was good in that it inspired me a little to really get going on starting the next blog I'm planning. Some of the advice was enlightening, but I was a little turned off when the webinar turned into a sales pitch for a longer course on blogging, seemingly more aimed toward bloggers using a blog to sell something. Though I'd love my next blog to get enough traffic to provide a few dollars off ads -- as well as providing more visibility for my writing -- I'm not looking to be an entrepreneurial blogger, which some of the strategies were aimed toward. Nonetheless, I'm glad I listened to the webinar, most importantly because it got me jazzed to seriously plan my blogs' direction.

Later in the afternoon, we took Popcorn to the vet, who confirmed what we knew: We have a healthy, active 1-year-old puppy. After we got home, I started grilling a pork sirloin roast for dinner, only to be thwarted by an empty propane tank. Lori came threw by finishing off the cooking of the pork (and it was delicious). After dinner, we watched the Olympic swimming trials, I played a little basketball with the boys, we watched an episode of "Tron" uprising, and I took the dog for a walk. A busy day for sure, but no complaints whatsoever.

Day 39 is here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer, Day 37

I've mentioned a few times in the past couple weeks experiencing somewhat lazier summer days brought on sometimes out of circumstance, sometimes out of necessity. I was accepting that these days are inevitable and not to get too bent out of shape when they happen.

Today was one of those days, and I'll be honest, I'm getting annoyed.

Tuesday was hot again. We usually don't get this much heat until July, suggesting that by August, I might be ready for winter. No, that won't happen, but the high temps are hampering what we want to do outside. We took Popcorn to the park for a little while to throw the ball to her, but without any shade, this much heat and sun is a little too much for a sprinting black dog. We stayed only about 10-15 minutes before going home and cooling her off.

The boys didn't go to swim practice this morning, instead going to the afternoon session. They have been reluctant to do anything in the heat as well, begrudgingly going to the park with the dog and me (not as if they had a choice). I dropped them off at swim practice, then went to work. I'm here typing on the balcony; the sun has set; and the air has cooled a little (unlike last night, when it didn't).

That was our whole day. We didn't do much in between. We were tired, put off by the heat, and not very ambitious. Tomorrow will be different because we already have plans. I think that's the key -- being ready to do something figured out the night before. I'm already planning Thursday.

Day 38 was better.

Summer, Day 36

Monday, Monday ...

I'm writing this Tuesday and trying to remember my Monday. The boys had swim and dive practice in the morning. Ben was upset during his swim time because his goggles didn't work the way he wanted -- his old pair broke last week -- so later in the day we went to the swim shop and bought him two new pairs (thinking at he'll be happy with at least one of them). I bought Michael a new pair as well.

The boys swam in a meet later Monday. Michael dove OK, then struggled a little during the meet. For some reason, he didn't swim a freestyle this meet, but instead competed in two backstrokes (one in a relay) and, for the first time, the breaststroke. We didn't expect much from the breast -- his time wasn't great, but the best part was the Joker-smile he appeared to be flashing every time his head came out of the water -- but thought he would do great in the backstroke after last week. He started both out strong, then lost focus. I was volunteering as a timekeeper, and during the 25 back, I told the other timekeeper in our lane that Michael could win this after seeing him swim the first 10 yards. Then, Michael slowed down and finished about five seconds slower than last week. As a parent, I want to figure out why he doesn't perform as well as he normally does in anything. I want to say I believe "as a parent," but is it just me because I used to analyze why I didn't do as well. Michael gave us some reasons: He was bored; he was tired; he's trying but just can't. Maybe he's just a typical kid who will experience his ups and downs. We want him to at least try, and thinking he's not is tough for me, especially when I compare him with Ben, who's not as athletic or wiry but tries so hard.

Ben's hard work is starting to pay off. After his morning meltdown, he swam phenomenal times (for him), knocking three seconds off his freestyle personal record and a whopping 10 seconds off his backstroke PR. He actually stopped once or twice in his freestyle, leading me to think he'd not break his best, but making me realize afterward is that he's just getting faster. And in the backstroke, he swam into the lane line and still won his heat. No, he didn't win the whole event, but against the five other kids in the pool with him at that time, he came in first.

Maybe it was the goggles.

Ahead to Day 37.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer, Day 35

I had a Sunday off today. I usually work Sundays -- and will go back to them come NFL season -- so I was psyched to have an extra whole weekend day off with the family.

And ... we did nothing.

Lori woke up feeling sick this morning and needed to take it easy all day. The heat was simmering outside again, this time with clouds (I'm outside at 11:30 and it has barely cooled off), and I didn't want to take Popcorn out in it, especially after our long hike yesterday. I thought taking the boys to the pool would be fun. I put on board shorts, filled a small cooler with snacks and asked them if they wanted to go.

Amazingly, they didn't. Maybe they were tired, too, but they were content to stay inside and play all day. I was a little bummed -- I don't like wasting summer days -- but maybe the rest of the family needed the break. I said to Lori yesterday that we had nothing planned for today. Perhaps after busy day upon busy day, nothing planned equals rest. Lori surely needed it. The boys apparently did. After my 4-mile hike yesterday, my knee probably needed it, too.

Anyway, I did some writing, watched some "Law and Order: SVU" and took the dog around the block a few times. Michael and I watched "Space Jam" on Cartoon Network -- neither of us had seen it before. The boys and I played Game of the States, and I looked for an old Risk game that I can't seem to find.

The busy schedule resumes tomorrow, as does the heat. Sunday truly was a day of rest.

Day 36 ...

Summer, Day 34

Hiss. Rattle.

Oh my.

 I was hiking with Popcorn on the Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon when she looked to go down a slope to get to a little creek, presumably to get a drink. She edged down slowly while trying to find her footing when something caught her attention. That's when I heard it.

Hiss. Rattle.

Popcorn wisely didn't approach the rattlesnake after that, instead running down the slope to the stream. Though I never saw the whole rattlesnake, I did see its back half, including the rattle, slithering behind a gap between a board holding up the trail and the trail itself, away from where Popcorn just ran down. She ran back up straight to me, not coming near where the rattlesnake was.As we continued our four-mile hike, I wondered how I would have gotten her off the trail and out of the canyon to an animal hospital quickly. Thankfully, the rattlesnake just used its natural defenses to scare Popcorn, who got the hint.

The rest of the hike was uneventful. We were in Millcreek Canyon because Ben had a birthday party a little farther up the road. The dog and I caught the last part of of the party and brought Ben home into a blazing hot valley.

Of course, we had to pick the hottest day of the year to throw a barbecue. We hosted some friends and their kids for a small yet fun gathering. The kids played in the kiddie pool, and really, in the shade, being outside wasn't so bad. The barbecue went well, and Lori and I are thinking about hosting another one soon.

Oh, I did get stung by a bee this morning. Didn't even realize it happened until I was pulling a stinger out of my thumb, thinking the stinger was a thorn. I was worried maybe it was a tick, but the giveaway that it was a bee was the bee dying nearby. At least nature attacked me today and not the dog.

Here's Day 35.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer, Day 33

Today's recap is going to be as short as yesterday's. The boys had a long swim practice this morning, followed by Michael's diving practice. Afterward, we went to breakfast at The Original Pancake House, where the boys tore through their meals in less than three minutes. I fear the days when they eat everything in sight are near.

When we got home, I was still tired from last night's late work shift and zonked out for long enough that I started dreaming. After waking up, I mopped the floors, started inflating the kiddie pool, took a shower and came to work. The section is small tonight and I'm done laying it out, so I'm taking some time to write here on the balcony. The air is hazy from a wildfire burning about 30 miles away. The sun has set and the breeze is nice, even if its fanning flames in the next county south.

Day 34 got interesting ...

Summer, Day 32

The heat returned Thursday, but it wasn't as bad as last week. We weren't outside that much anyway, doing a little yard work in advance of our barbecue Saturday night. Michael had his last day of basketball camp. I took the boys to swim practice then went to work. I was so tired when I got home that I went right to bed without blogging (I'm typing this the next morning during Michael's diving practice in the sun). Not much to the day other than that, but those days happen in the summer. I'm ready for the weekend.

And for Day 33 ...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer, Day 31

Day 31 included my annual summer solstice jaunt to watch the sunset, but there was a whole day to enjoy before that. The boys had swim and dive this morning, and Michael had basketball camp again. Ben and I took Popcorn for a hike on the dog trail. After getting a few provisions from Harmon's, I made quesadillas for dinner. We went to Yogurt Stop for dessert, and I was a little paranoid after eating the peanut butter yogurt that emerged too fast from the machine (wondering if it was fully frozen). But I haven't thrown up three hours later, so I think it was OK. I went to the park, watched the sunset, came home, and sat on the porch posted my earlier blog entry and will soon post this one.

The heat returns tomorrow, and I'm back at work after eight days off. Astronomically, summer has officially begun.

A short post on Day 32.

The orange sky


I’m on the hillside. I’m listening to America’s “Sister Golden Hair.” I’m staring to the west at the descending sun still hovering over Antelope Island.

The only thing different this summer solstice is that I brought my laptop instead of a notebook. But here I am, partaking in my annual writing session at Donner Park at sunset on the longest day of the year. (Here are the links to past years' solstice blog posts: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.)

I’ve been thinking all day what to write about while reflecting upon the last year. I’m kind of at a loss. The last year has been good, but not so profound that I need to write an epic. I’m happy with my life and see even better things ahead. How boring is that? Boring is good. The boys are growing and are more fun than ever. Lori and I are coming up on our 15th wedding anniversary. Our family grew by one mammal – Popcorn, our dog, has brought much joy to our house. I’m writing more than ever and see even more words over the next 12 months (especially with both boys in school all day). 

And summer has been great so far, but so hot, to the point it feels like we’ve been summering for two months rather than a few weeks. That’s not a bad thing; it means there’s a lot of summer left to go. 

The western sky has gotten a little more orange as the sun gets closer to setting. I write about summer and summers of my childhood, but today I realized something: The summers of my adulthood have been excellent as well. 

I tried ranking my favorite summers of the 1980s, ages 9-18, and came up with a predictable order. Then, for the heck of it, I tried it for the 1990s. The good ones were obvious (1993, when Lori and just started dating and falling in love; 1997, when we got married), but I wasn’t coming up with any bad ones. Or even any boring ones. In the ‘80s, though no summer outright sucked, there were a few that weren’t as memorable as the good ones. Granted, I don’t have as many specific memories from the ‘90s’ summers, and the songs might not stand out as they did a decade earlier, but my favorite season still ruled through my 20s.

I can only assume then that the last 12 summers have rocked as well. These summers since we moved to Utah have been such a blur that maybe I don’t take time enough to appreciate them (and there’s at least one clunker of a summer among them). I like to think I do, but they go so quickly now. I remember taking Michael to his first Salt Lake Bees baseball game, then realize it was four years ago already. Blogging summer has been worthwhile, if not just for this reason: I’m forced to appreciate every day. 

The sun has set, dipping below the mountains, then, obscured from my view, taking a few minutes to sink below the horizon. The wind has picked up a little on perhaps the only cooler day (70s) we’ll have this week. “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins just began on the iPod. Time to go home.

I got home and started linking past solstice posts and read last year's. I discovered that my reflection of the year past and what I was hoping for ahead was awfully similar. That means life has remained good, but it also suggests a little stagnation, at least on the writing front. I felt like I was verge of something next year but never took the next step. Reading that post was a little sobering. I can't wait forever to take the next step I so desperately want to take. This might be the most reflective solstice yet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer, Day 30

Blessedly, today was cooler and not as tiring as yesterday. But here I am late, thinking I should get to bed soon. So I will make this brief.

We skipped swim practice for the boys this morning after the late swim meet last night. I did have to take them to my haircut, but they behaved, and Ben marveled at the unique men's room (just spacious with artwork), declaring "This is incredible!" Michael had basketball camp in the afternoon -- just two more days, and though he's loving it, I'm ready for it to be done. Two hours from 12-2 is limiting what we can do around the camp, though today Ben and I did assemble our new portable fire pit. The boys did go to the afternoon swim practice, and I try to work out, but my brain and knee couldn't stay focused to get a coherent workout. I made Hamburger Helper for dinner, watched the Heat-Thunder game (Heat won) and took Popcorn for a walk

Day 30 over. Not so bad, and restful.

Day 31 here.

Summer, Day 29

I'm writing this a day late after a tiring, fun Monday that was Day 29. I was tired last night, then simply forgot to write today until now.

Day 29 started with the boys' swim practice. I picked up Ben while Michael stayed for diving practice. We went to my dentist appointment in Holladay, then drove over to Taylorsville to the condo of one of Ben's classmates. Her mom had invited a bunch of kids over to swim in the condo complex pool. Ben had so much fun, and the water felt good on a hot day. After lunch, we picked up Michael from basketball camp (Lori had collected him after diving), then went home.

That's enough to fill a day, but we weren't done. The boys had a swim meet that evening. Michael did all right in his dive meet, swam an OK 25 freestyle (he looked up near the end to smile at Lori but stopped kicking in the process), his fastest 25 backstroke ever and a blistering opening leg of the 100 freestyle relay. Ben did great, too -- he knocked off 17 seconds in the freestyle from last week and got a personal record in the backstroke (not by 17 seconds, but still a PR) despite looking tired over the last 10 yards.I volunteered keeping times at the meet and was on my bare feet for 3 1/2 hours. We got home and were exhausted, so much that I skipped blogging and went to bed. We definitely got the most out of Day 29.

Did we get the most out of Day 30? Click here to find out.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer, Day 28

Father's Day was great. But my family missed out on getting me the perfect gift -- a driver. However, they wouldn't know that until the afternoon.

Lori made pancakes for breakfast, and after a quick trip to Kohl's and Harmons, we went to Mulligans, which offers a driving range, a par-3 and an executive course, mini golf and batting cages. I thought this would be a cool Father's Day adventure: letting the boys swing a golf club for the first time. Ben managed to hit a few with the kids iron Mulligans loaned us. Michael was trying my irons, but when he switched to the kids club, he had more control and hit the ball well (not far, but straight and in the air) about one in every four shots. He keeps wanting to step into his shot like he's hitting a baseball (which, by the way, he rarely does while hitting a baseball ...) but I think with practice he will catch on quickly. We practiced putting -- Michael did well right away, while Ben was impatient -- and I showed Michael chipping, which he kind of got, too. I was almost tempted to take Michael and shoot nine on the par-3 course, but we'll save that for another day.

My shots on the range were terrible. I haven't played in a few years, I was wearing Keens instead of golf shoes, and I was wearing my knee brace. Yes, the excuses keep coming -- I am a golfer, after all. The knee wasn't hurting me, but I wonder if it affected my motion a little, because I barely lofted anything, much less hit anything straight. I finally did get a couple good shots with my driver, but only a couple. On my last good drive, the club suddenly felt lighter. I looked at it to discover I was only holding a shaft -- the head had sailed away into the range. We think we found it out on the range at least 50 yards out. I laughed for five minutes at the absurdity of what had just happened. The driver was old, so I'm not upset. My juices are now flowing to golf again, if not only to prove that I can hit a ball straight.

We played miniature golf afterward, with me winning by one stroke over Lori. The day was hot and Ben seemed a little overheated, so we just relaxed for a couple hours when we got home. The boys and I had a water fight, then I grilled a flank steak for dinner. We watched "Iron Man 2" on Netflix, and I took Popcorn for a walk. I wanted to get outside sooner to write, but got sucked into the two-hour season premiere of "Falling Skies." It's past midnight, and Father's Day is over. I loved every minute of it, especially driving my driver 50 yards.

For Day 29, click here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The stopwatch that never stops

Today is Father's Day, my ninth as both a father and a son. After reading a great post from Bill Oram, a co-worker of mine at The Salt Lake Tribune, I was a bit inspired to write my own Father's Day post.

My father is 62 and I am 41. You don't see many father-son combos that close in age. I read and hear about sons who strive to connect with their fathers, and I'm surprised because I've never seemed that disparate with my dad's interests. He liked sports when he was younger, so I naturally wanted  to play and follow sports, to the point that I don't think I would have become a sports journalist if I hadn't seen so many of his softball and basketball games as a kid. When I hurt my knee over these past days, I knew exactly from whom to seek advice. I've never resisted or dreaded just hanging out with him.

In 2000, Dad sprung for a two-day golf instruction in Lake Geneva. I learned much golf-wise that weekend (including a change in my grip that curtailed the endless slicing I had endured since 1984), but my favorite moment of the weekend wasn't on the golf course -- it was hanging out in the hotel bar, drinking a few beers, watching a baseball game. Three months later, Lori and I moved to Utah, and we see him only a couple times a year. Not being able for him to see his grandsons as much as I'd like is tough, but simply not hanging out with him is tough as well. Of course, I never appreciated that as a kid because I didn't understand it. Perhaps because I was a boy, he took me to all those ball games, more than he took the girls. He came to all my sporting events, never disappointed that I wasn't that good an athlete.

My father has three teenagers from his second marriage, and they got much more of him than my sisters and I did when we were growing up. I'm not bitter about that -- Dad in his 40s and 50s was a wiser, different man than him in his 20s and 30s -- but I hope they figure out soon how lucky they are to have him around.

When Dad came to visit last month, he played catch with Michael after the boys' baseball game. Michael wanted to play on the playground, so Dad and I started playing catch. His youngest son, now 16, stopped playing baseball a couple years ago, so Dad doesn't get these catches anymore. Pardon me for descending into a "Field a Dreams" moment, but playing catch with him was great. The boys aren't quite competent enough to do this with the ball being caught by them and getting back to me every time (though Michael is close), so that day, I was the kid again playing catch with his father instead of the father throwing to my kid. It felt as easy as it did 30 years ago.

And that's where my father and I share a common bond -- not as fathers and sons, but as fathers. His oldest teenager leaves for college in a couple months, and all three will be out of high school in a couple years. His first divorce notwithstanding, Dad didn't have much of a break without having a kid still being a kid. My little sister turned 18 in 1993, and my first half-sister was born a month later. Does he hear the stopwatch ticking? I hear the stopwatch ticking -- a stopwatch that can't be stopped -- and I'm 12 years away from both boys being done with high school (though with the cost of college climbing, who knows when they'll actually move out). The ticking must be so loud for him. This part of fatherhood is finite, and he's gotten more than four decades out of it. I want to ask him how he's preparing for it, if he's scared, sad, proud, confused, ecstatic, melancholy. I want his wisdom on this, just like I wanted his wisdom on knee pain and being a good coach and being a good dad. I want this wisdom to give me a decade to prepare when Michael grows up and grows out of the house. But, I'm thinking, on this he doesn't have the answers. At least not yet, maybe not ever. He'll know when he gets there, and I guess I will, too, when I get there.

Dad and I are fathers. This may be the most important thing we have in common.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer, Day 27

Summer, according to my calculations, is a quarter over.

When I started blogging summer in May, I declared it to be 108 days long this year. Twenty-seven days in is 25 percent. I'm hoping the remaining 75 percent are better.

I shouldn't complain -- the last 27 days have been fun, sunny and eventful. I just wish the last week had been better. The Wasatch Back completed today, so it's time I stopped feeling sorry about myself and look forward to the rest of the summer. More good times are ahead. I missed one, but now it's time to move on.

The boys had two birthday parties today, which consumed much of the Saturday. I mowed the lawn this morning, grilled pork chops for dinner, and took the dog for a walk to one her favorite play spots next to Red Butte Creek. I'm trying something different tonight by letting Popcorn sit on the porch with me while I type.

Tomorrow is Father's Day, and I'm itching to get in some more exercise than I've had all week, maybe getting the bike out. Tomorrow is also the first day of the rest of summer. I'd best enjoy it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer, Day 26

Today, I figured out how to fully straighten my left leg out, which I haven't been able to do for days because my knee is swollen. All I had to do was not fully step on the stoop with my whole foot, thus letting the back of my foot sag down, thus stretching out my whole leg. I yelped so loud I think the neighbors heard me.

No, I didn't mope today as much as yesterday, but I am wishing this weekend would end and the missed Wasatch Back was behind me. So this is what a Friday night before Father's Day at home is like?

The day started early with the boys' swim practice. They didn't get much breakfast, so we met Lori at The Other Place to eat. Our afternoon featured a hike on the dog trail with one of Michael's friends (and his dad and dog). We shopped for two birthday presents, then came home and made dinner. Lori and I watched a little of a classic "Dallas" episode that is unintentionally being DVRed. We all watched "Iron Man" after dinner.

And here I am, 11:30, wondering where my Ragnar team is in the mountains. On the bright side, at least I will get plenty of sleep tonight.

Day 27 ...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer, Day 25

Today was for moping.

Still bummed out about my injured knee and missing this weekend's Wasatch Back, I wasn't too keen on enjoying the gorgeous summer day presented us. I could have taken the boys to the pool but didn't. I could have mowed the lawn but didn't. I could have spent more time outside in the sunshine but didn't.

The day wasn't a total display of self-pity, however. The boys had swim this morning, and Michael had basketball camp at noon. I went to Kohl's and bought a new pair of New Balance cross-trainers -- anticipating the increased walking to strengthen my knee and get more exercise over the next eight weeks. Michael and I did take advantage of the nice weather by taking Popcorn on a hike on the off-leash trail, which she loved. I grilled Polish sausages and two cheeseburgers (for the boys) for dinner. And here I am typing, outside on the porch on a pleasant summer night.

The moping ends tomorrow while I focus on the yard, writing and doing something fun with the boys. And continued icing of my knee.

Onward to Day 26.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer, Day 24

For the whole summer so far, go to Day 1 and follow the links.

The knee got shut down today. I'm not running the Wasatch Back this weekend.

I saw a sports medicine specialist, who within five minutes diagnosed that I likely had a meniscus tear in my left knee (the general practitioner on Monday had theorized this, as well as gout or a Baker's cyst). I was given a knee brace, instructed to ice it often and take naproxen, and not to run for eight weeks. But, the doctor, knowing I was going to run the Wasatch Back this weekend, said I probably couldn't do any more damage to it by running three more times, but that it would hurt a lot afterward. I had hope.

Later in the evening, Michael and drove to the East Bench neighborhood beyond Foothill Drive looking for some long downhills to test the knee. My last scheduled leg in the relay was a 6-mile downhill, and this is what I feared would be too hard on my failing knee. The first downhill we tried was long and not too steep, and the knee in the new brace held up. So far, so good. We found a steeper hill, and that's when my pessimism began to swell like the inside of my knee. I can't run slowly down a steeper hill; I need to stride at least a little. In fact, striding is what I like about downhill runs -- it's what made the 7-mile leg I did last year down from Guardsman Pass enjoyable. However, striding meant I'd potentially plant my left knee painfully. This happened at least once on every downhill I tried tonight. On the last one -- a long, steep one that Michael said we should try, I felt good for 50 yards and even said so out loud. Then, I planted wrong and yelped in pain, though I kept running. Michael, who was running ahead of me, stopped, concerned I had really hurt myself. I finished the downhill, convinced I was not going to run this weekend. The downhill leg I was scheduled for was my third of the relay. I would be running it already tired, with my knee already aching. If I'm gingerly trying not to step wrong, but still doing so once every hundred yards or so, it would be a long, long six miles.And trying to go slow would just screw up the other knee. I finally accepted my fate.

Needless to say, I am bummed. The rest of the day wasn't so bad, though. The boys had swim practice this morning, then haircuts. Michael enjoyed another day of basketball camp. We all went to the doctor, then to Walgreens. I took Popcorn for a short walk after Michael and I got home from my running experiment. I got sucked in to some of the new "Dallas" on TNT.

After I made my decision, my knee reconfirmed my choice while I was setting up the sprinkler to water the back lawn. As I was turning on the spigot, I sneezed and instinctively braced my legs to absorb the violent body reaction (which is, in its essence, what a sneeze is). I twisted my left knee ever so slightly, but enough to aggravate the swelling within. If I can't sneeze without pain, I probably shouldn't be running, either.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer, Day 23

After the tiring day yesterday and me working tonight, I wasn't expecting a moderately productive day today. True to form, it was lackluster.

I'm typing at work again on my break, out on the balcony on a pleasant summer evening. I tried sleeping late this morning, but the boys' class lists were emailed for next school year, which woke me up. Michael had basketball camp again, though I didn't watch as much today. I walked Popcorn around the block a couple times, and I did manage to get some laundry put away and make myself a dinner (ramen noodles and a salad) for work rather than buy something. The boys annoyed the heck out of me by not being ready to go to swim practice, and I forgot things I needed to take for work after I dropped them off. So, I was a little stressed when I arrived at work, but things have calmed down.

My knee felt better today, and I'm hoping to be able to run the Wasatch Back and deal with it after the weekend. I am seeing an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow, and I am hoping for the best. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Day 24 here. Meh.

Summer, Day 22

I'm writing this a day later because last night, hell, I was tired. A good tired, but tired nonetheless. The boys were exhausted, too. It was a busy, fun Monday.

The boys had swim practice in the morning, with Michael following that up with dive practice. Ben and I ran to Smith's Marketplace to buy a new basketball and replenish or sunblock stock. We picked up Michael and came home, where we tried out the new basketball on the new hoop, which Lori and I raised to 10 feet. We were practicing because Michael started basketball camp that afternoon.

The camp, held at nearby Highland High School, was for third- to sixth-graders. Michael, now a third-grader, looked taller than all the other third-graders as well as all the fourth-graders. Ben and I stayed and watched for a little while, went home, then picked him up later. He looked like such a big kid, and he said he had fun -- so much that we are going to sign him up for another week of it next week. We returned home and prepared for the next sport: the boys swim meet.

This was Ben's first meet, and he had so much fun and swam pretty well, at least for him. The pool that hosted the meet gave all the 5- and 6-year-olds a participation ribbon after finishing their races, which made Ben so happy. His better event is the backstroke, and he took second in his heat (I'm not sure where he placed overall; the little kids don't score points anyway). He might have won his heat if he hadn't started the race, stopped, looked at Lori and asked hurriedly, "What stroke am I doing?" He also veered into the lane line, which slowed him down as well. He didn't care. He came out of his first meet perhaps more enthusiastic about swim team than he had before.

Michael swam so much better than in any meet last year. He led off the medley relay that won his age group by half a pool, swam a P.R. in the 25 freestyle, swam a P.R. in the backstroke (though he hit the lane line, too; he might have won his heat if he hadn't) and led off a freestyle relay that took third. I'm hoping he's seeing that practice is paying off. The meet hosts made root beer floats for all the swimmers and the parents, and we grabbed some and went home. I took Popcorn for a walk at home and wrapped it up for the night, though I did get sucked into "Death Race" on cable for a little while.

The day wasn't all fun -- I visited a doctor about my left knee, which I still can't straighten out fully. He suggested shutting it down but was going to refer me to an orthopedic surgeon. I had X-rays taken, which confirmed I didn't tear anything. I think it's a Baker's cyst, which I might be able to run through at least for this weekend. I was so worried about not being in good enough shape for the Wasatch Back, but I'm just hoping I can run it, period. The knee was feeling better as the day progressed, but damn that dog, she pulled on the leash a wrong way that caused me to plant on my left leg, making me howl in pain. I'm going to ice, take Advil and hope for the best.

And now, for Day 23.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer, Day 21

I'm out on the balcony at work, waiting for the sun to set and enjoying a slightly crisp summer evening. Everything going on in the sports world today is about done, and I didn't go for a walk tonight, so instead, I'm taking my dinner break outside with my laptop. The sun is inching its way downward to Antelope Island. I love summer nights such as this.

I slept late this morning and woke to a lot of knee pain. My left knee hasn't felt right for a couple months, and just in the past week, it's hurting more. This morning, I couldn't straighten it out. I think something inside is swollen, and though running on it didn't hurt yesterday, doing everything else seemed to hurt today, including just bending it sometimes. I've resigned myself to the idea that I should see a doctor about this. I don't know if it's just inflamed ligaments or something worse, but I'm tempted to wait until after the Wasatch Back, which starts Friday. I worry a doctor would tell me to shut it down and not run, which is wise but would also be a bummer. But it would suck more if I did more damage by not shutting it down sooner. I iced the back of my knee (where it's hurting) and took ibuprofen today, and I avoided taking a long walk at work. Tomorrow morning, I may try running downhill on concrete, mirroring one of my Ragnar legs, and see how it feels. If I rest it all week, I may be OK for the race. It's not hurting when I run (at least, it didn't yesterday, just after).

Our Sunday was uneventful otherwise. We did a big (and necessary) Costco trip. We raised the rim in the new basketball hoop so Michael could practice on a 10-foot basket in advance of basketball camp, which starts tomorrow. And here I am at work in what I hope will be an early night.

The sun just set. A busy day is in store for us tomorrow, with basketball camp and a swim meet. And possibly, a visit to a sports medicine specialist.

Click for Day 22.

Summer, Day 20

Soccer season ended last Saturday. This Saturday, baseball season ended, smack dab in the middle of a busy day.

For the first time in weeks, we had nothing going on Saturday morning. I went for a long run that felt good, but my left knee hurt afterward. I iced it while coming up for a lineup for the boys' baseball game. Their head coach is out of town, so I was running the team for the season finale. We played OK, but lost 3-2. The best part of the game was that some of the Twins who hadn't gotten hits in a while did in their last game, including Ben! He hit a rocket (for him at least) down the third base line and stared for a second or two at what he had just done. After Lori and I simultaneously yelled "Run!" he beat the throw to first base for just his third hit of the season. He was so excited that he was still celebrating a couple batters later. A few other kids got key hits, too, but unfortunately, our good hitters were striking out or not hitting the ball as hard as they normally do (including Michael, who went for 3-for-3 but couldn't get a ball out of the infield). As a coach (even an assistant hoping), you have to look for the positive things -- and four kids who hadn't reached base in weeks getting hits was great. Still, it's tough not to feel bad when you lose a close game. But you put on a brave face, praise the kids and tell them how proud you are of them. And we were proud.

We got home and got ready for the second big event of the day: our neighbors' wedding. Of course, Michael had a birthday party at the same time. The boys weren't invited to the ceremony/dinner part of the wedding but were to the reception/DJ part after. A sitter watched Ben while Michael went to his classmate's pool party (he got a ride home from another parent). We drove up Millcreek Canyon to the wedding. The ceremony was nice, and dinner was good, though it was all outside and a little chilly before the staff of the inn deployed heat lamps. We drove back down the canyon, picked the boys up (and were impressed they were dressed) and returned to the wedding. Michael hung out with his best friend (the son of the bride) while Ben brought his dancing skills, including some faux breakdancing (which is new) to the floor. After a couple fun hours, both boys were worn out, so we went home.

I watched the final episode of the first season "Game of Thrones" while everyone else fell asleep. I was going to get  up and type this post, but I was exhausted, so I went to bed early (for me at least). I knew I wouldn't forget anything about this Saturday and could write about it Sunday.

An easy Sunday awaits: Day 21.

I am a writer

A couple days ago, Lori directed me to a blog she thought I might like: Primility. From that site, I found my way to a Jeff Goins writing website,  the author of which is challenging his readers improving their writing. The challenge (admittedly, a little overly motivational speaker-esque, but I'm giving it a try anyway) is made up of 15 stages. I came in a little late, but I'm starting with this post: Declare.

I am a writer.

I have been a writer since I was 11 years old -- probably even earlier, but around 11, I began realizing I liked it and could be good at it. Around 11, I started getting an inkling that I wanted to be a journalist. Sometime in high school, I realized that English was my favorite class -- seeing how others wrote and how to improve. Sometime, in college, it occurred to me that I could write my way out of tests and term papers that I really wasn't prepared for.

Also in college, I wrote my first article for a major newspaper and was paid for it. At age 20, I became a professional journalist.

Along the way, my newspaper career veered into editing. I was good at it, it paid more and offered more opportunities and security (not anymore). Besides, I always felt I was a better writer than a reporter. Despite the editing road taken, I still wanted to write. And over the years, I have. There have been short stories, blogs, freelance articles, poems, a NaNoWriMo victory, and plenty of little inspirations and startups. I was a writer, but not at the level or proficiency that  I wanted. Not at the level that  I envisioned over the decades.

When people here I work for a newspaper, they sometimes say, "Oh, you're a writer." I usually correct them, telling them I'm a copy editor and explaining how important my job is. I do this partly because I'm a journalist and strive for accuracy, partly out of respect for the reporters who work their butts off. But I also wonder if I do this because I don't feel that I fulfilling my writing dream. Yes, I'm a copy editor, but my job does entail some writing. Writing headlines. Rewriting. Taking awful sports information releases and turning them into something of quality that can run in a major daily newspaper. And hell, without the writing prowess, I would have never been good enough with words to be a proficient copy editor. So why do I resist the writer tag when someone asks?

I went part-time five years ago, not only to ease our family's crowded routine, but also to write more. And though I have written more in the past five years than the 10 years previous, I'm still not satisfied. I expected I'd be writing 10-20 hours a week, and I'm not even close. I was at work a couple weeks ago, and on a break, standing on the balcony, staring at the mountains, listening to "Against the Wind" by Bob Seger (with the classic line, at least for me as a journalist: "I've got so much more think about, what to leave in, what to leave out."), I had a little epiphany: I was sick of reading other people's writing and not producing the words for myself. I'm not going to suddenly drop my limited hours at the newspaper, but this "aha" moment did remind me where my priorities should stand.

I've been feeling on the verge of a writing explosion for weeks now. I think that's why I'm trying this challenge from the writing blog, no matter how hyper feel-good it appears on the surface -- if it helps drive me toward my goals, it will be worthwhile. And I need all the nudges I can get. So here is my declaration:

I am a writer. Writing is what I am best at. I am incomplete if I'm not writing. I'm closer to the best person I can be when I am writing.

I am a writer. I would like you to believe it, but most of all, I need myself to believe it.



Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer, Day 19

The clog is history. This great summer day is history, too.

The plumber arrived early to unclog the tub, and while he was here, he cleaned out the bathroom sink pipes as well. He was done by 9, giving us an early start to the day.

We went to the waterpark and met one of Michael's friends and his mom there. Conditions were warm even at 10 a.m. (though the breeze was chilly when you got out of the water). The boys had fun, as expected, and having season passes takes a lot of pressure off the need to stay all day and get on every ride. I suffered a little sunburn on my back -- not too painful yet, but somewhat noticeable in the places I missed with sunblock. I usually don't have my back to the sun; I must have been angled that way on the lazy river or the wave pool.

We left Seven Peaks and picked up Arctic Circle for lunch. The boys got value meals instead of kids meals -- the two cheeseburgers meal. In the seven minutes home, Michael ate both and Ben almost knocked off his second one. Nothing like the waterpark to send their appetites into hyperdrive. We got home and rested, but not for long -- the day was far from done.

A friend of Michael's from preschool had a birthday party at Classic Fun Center -- kind of a non-animatronic Chuck E. Cheese on steroids. After buying a present at Shopko, we arrived at the Classic Fun Center, where Ben wanted to play. The birthday boy's parents were nice -- they had extra guests available and invited Ben to stay. Michael had fun with the older kids, including the friend he doesn't see often, while Ben played a little with a couple other little brothers and also amassed tickets from the arcade (and got three prizes). They both liked laser tag as well.

Three hours at the Classic Fun Center was tiring for the kids and the adults. We got home, and I was beat. But I did take Popcorn for a walk, and here I am outside in the cooling night, writing. Tomorrow promises to be just as active.

A long Saturday awaits: Day 20.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer, Day 18

The first full day of the boys' vacation started with a clog.

Lori woke me up to complain that the bathtub drain was backed up. Water was trickling away very slowly. She went to work crabby after not taking a shower, while I did what I could to alleviate the clog.

Unfortunately, nothing worked all day, no matter what I tried. Hot water didn't work. Vinegar didn't work. A snake didn't work. Plunging didn't work. Liquid Plumr didn't work. Some combination of these methods might have made the clog worse -- dislodging sludge from the pipe farther down into the barrier and slowing down the trickle even more. Finally, I called the plumber, who is coming tomorrow to hopefully break the dam.

And that was pretty much our whole day. We did go to Smith's Marketplace to buy the Liquid Plumr and found two Skylanders the boys didn't have. I did some housework in between unclogging attempts. I took the boys to swim practice, and then I went to work. I managed about a 3-mile walk for my dinner break on a nice, if not a little cool, evening.

Onward to Day 19.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer, Day 17

After Ben's last day of school Monday, Michael enjoyed his last day today. This was a short-day party too. Brunch, recess, class awards and some pictures, and that's all she wrote. Michael is now a third-grader, and a tall one at that.

We went home after school, let Popcorn out, then headed out for some needed shopping and some discretionary shopping. We bought dog and cat food at Petsmart, a used Wii Guitar Hero drum set for $4.99 at Savers, clothes for the boys (mostly Michael, who is outgrowing things) and swim trunks for me at Kohl's, and a few more shirts and flip-flops for the boys at Old Navy. We had to buy Michael the flip-flops, which were cheap, after trying them on -- he was wearing his Keens today, which needed to be washed, and his feet were so stinky, it transferred odor to the flip-flops, and I felt a moral obligation to finish the purchase.

The boys had a good swim practice later in the afternoon while I ran a short speed workout around the JCC indoor track. After dinner, the boys and I went to Nordstrom Rack hoping to find new Keens for Michael (because his old ones are getting tight on his feet, not because of the smell -- I washed those shoes tonight), but we didn't see his size, so we completed a quick search of the stores in the shopping center selling Skylanders (none had the ones we are missing) and finished our day with TCBY. It was the first day of summer vacation for both kids. They deserved to stay up a little later.

Catching up on my hyperlinking: Here's Day 18.

Summer, Day 16

Since we moved to Utah, I've noticed that June produces one cold snap before summer really sets in. Even after consecutive 90-degree days, that cold snap made an appearance in 2012. After a nice morning, the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and it felt like November.

But that was OK for today -- a kind of lazy day I think we needed (at least for Ben and me). I did some housework, picked up Michael from school, eventually took them to swim practice (yes, they had swim practice outside; the water was warmer than the air by 30 degrees) and came home for a boring night, capped with watching "Schoolhouse Rock." We'll be more productive Wednesday, but for Tuesday, it was perfect to not get outside. As much as I want the sun to return, I needed one cloudy, cold day.

Click here for a warmer Day 17.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer, Day 15

By noon on Monday, I no longer had a kindergartner.

Today's was Ben's last day of school (Michael goes through Wednesday). We can now call him a first-grader. This school year went so quickly, yet we've seen Ben grow and learn so much these past nine months. He will do great in first grade. But Lori and I will never have kindergarten again.

I took Ben to Seven Peaks (formerly Raging Waters) after his short day ended, just to say we went to a waterpark on his last day of school. He's not tall enough to go on everything, including Cliffhanger, which scared the heck out of me last summer. He wanted to try  it, but I went first so I could watch him. I told the lifeguard that this was his first time, and she asked if he was a good swimmer. I said yes, he's on swim team, but that I'm still a little nervous for him (and me). I went, got a little water up my nose, swam back to the side, and waited for Ben's turn. I don't know if he was nervous, but he went, flew into the water, swam back to side and declared how great it was. "Let's go on again, and this time, let's battle!' he said, meaning let's go side by side. I thumbs-upped the lifeguard, then we walked around and rode again. We didn't stay at the waterpark too long -- going on a few more slides, spending some time in the wave pool and taking a lap around the lazy river. But we achieved our goal -- going to a waterpark on the last day of school.

This wasn't the end to our watery day, however. The boys had swim practice in the 90-degree heat, and I sat by the pool and watched. Michael partook in diving practice while Ben and I swam some more. After diving practice, Ben wanted to jump off the diving board several times while Michael wanted to play with his dive team friends whom he hadn't seen since last summer. We finally went home and ate dinner. I took Popcorn for a walk, then came home and watched "The Sting" on TCM.

Day 16, brrr!

Summer, Day 14

Blessedly, Sunday was a much less busy. I'm still tired tonight, but it feels like we got over the busy hill. School ends this week, as does baseball, and soccer is over.

The heat was back with all its simmering glory, but I got Popcorn out for a hike on the dog trail early. She was happy -- we haven't got her out for as much exercise as she needs the last few days. After getting home, our neighbor Matt helped (actually, did most of the work) putting up a new ceiling fan in our bedroom. Lori took the boys to Ikea and came home with a new chair that Michael picked out. He's a little bummed that we're getting rid of the old, big chair (now not needed with our new couch and love seat), so this was the compromise: Buy a cheap chair all his own. Lori and I got the old chair outside, and she assembled the new one. The living room looks good.

I worked tonight at the newspaper, but didn't get out for a walk beyond Costa Vida to pick up dinner. Still, it was an uneventful shift. I came home and was craving an Time/Life infomercial, and found one with Mickey Dolenz hawking music from the '60s. I'm typing this before going to bed, looking forward to sleep and a fun Monday (Ben's last day of kindergarten!).


Day 15 ...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June

June is daylight. Hours upon hours of daylight. June is late sunsets and early sunrises. June hates the night.

June is achievement. The school year is complete. The long trek from winter to summer is complete. June is success.

Summer always feels so damn new in June. But it comes with a price -- come the summer solstice, the days start to get shorter again. But June isn't a time to worry about that. June is a warmth that doesn't look ahead.

June is all about sunsets. June is "Sister Golden Hair" by America, the opening riff of which just sounds like a sunset.

June is that first jump into the pool. It's reruns, too -- reruns you won't bother watching because you are outside, thinking about walking to get ice cream or a snow cone.

June is Madonna's "Borderline" and Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me." It's the best beer you will taste all year, imbibed outside on a warm night with the warm city getting into your skin. June is Zaxxon and NBA Finals and reading a book by the pool.

This is June.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer, Day 13

This Saturday started early with Ben's soccer game at 8 a.m.and Michael's at 8:30. Both games were their last for the season. Ben and the Crushing Tigers, who I coach, played well against a team with a maybe the best player in the league. When I finally looked at my phone after the game, I got a text from Lori saying Michael had scored a goal, his first of the season. It's not that Michael isn't a good soccer player, but rather that he has five teammates who are phenomenal at soccer for this age, and as a result, get most of the goals. Plus, he's played a lot of goalkeeper this season, reducing his chances a bit (though he had two assists on dropkicks from back there this spring). He had been stressing out about not getting a goal, but today, he finally got it, along with hearty congratulations from his teammates. Unfortunately, I missed it, but such are our Saturday mornings.

A couple hours later, with temperatures reaching the 90s, the boys had a baseball game -- a tournament game against the best team in the league. The heat affected the Twins, and though we played a smart game in the field (the smartest we might have played all season -- the kids are finally starting to get what to do on defense, even if they aren't quite making the plays), we lost but weren't shut out. Michael went 2-for-3, striking out on a last at-bat on which I could tell he was tired, and made some good defensive plays. Ben struck out twice but his swing, which goes in spurts, looked better.

We came home and prepared for Ramona Avenue's block party. This annual event is low key -- nothing elaborate -- but was a good time nonetheless. I filled a bucket full of water balloons for the kids while the adults ate and talked. The heat decreased early in the evening as well.

Oh, Popcorn turned 1 today. Happy birthday to my favorite puppy!

Click for Day 14.

Summer, Day 12

(I'm writing this a whole day late. I worked late last night and had to get up early this morning, then was busy all Saturday, which you can read about on Day 13 ...)

After Ben's Water Day on Thursday, I helped out with Michael's on Friday. This one was for the rest of the school and was held at the Northwest Rec Center. I was skeptical that the school could pull this off with so many kids, but it did, with a third of the school outside eating lunch, playing sports and careening down a makeshift water slide, a third swimming, and a third in the indoor sand pit. The groups got rotated, and everything went quite smoothly. I again must be all the kids' favorite co-oper, because after getting pelted with water balloons the day before, this day the kids all wanted to tackle me in the water. Lori brought Ben, who got to swim as well. I took him home while the rest of the kids got bused back to school.

I got home and rested before my work shift. First, I took the boys to our friend Maureen's house, and she took them to another pool for more swimming. Needless to say, they were exhausted at the end of the day. Work was fine, just late.