Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer 2015: days 37-38

I am sitting on my porch on a Tuesday night, with everyone else already asleep. The heat has been all but unbearable the last two days, but I can feel a slight breeze at my back, coming from the west. I took the dog around the block and saw lightning -- far away, but close enough to give the night sky a little flash -- to the west. And right now, I can smell the lake. Whenever something is blowing in, you can smell the distinctly salty, somewhat putrid lake from miles away. The heat may be breaking, even just for a night (the forecast still calls for high 90s the rest of the week, which is an improvement over the low 100s of the past few days). I'm looking forward to the break.

Tonight the boys had a swim meet at Lifetime Fitness in South Jordan. I think the heat played a factor, because neither boy swam the meet of their lives, but both did OK. Ben forgot how to do a backstroke flip turn in his best event, and Michael wore out on some of his races. They swam their last events -- legs in the freestyle relay -- well to cap off the night. The rec facility the meet was at let the parents and siblings of our team swim, and I actually jumped in for a few minutes. It felt great, especially after a long two days of driving the boys around and working.

Yesterday, I volunteered to help Ben's baseball league with a Cal Ripken tournament it was hosting. I worked the scoreboard in the heat. I liked doing it, but wow, was it hot. That's why the quick jump in the pool was nice tonight.

Going to Vegas in 11 days for work, and I am trying to eat smart and exercise a lot before then. I fear I gained a few pounds back that I had previously lost. Not being able to work out in this heat isn't helping. But at least that rotting smell blowing off the lake is giving me a little hope of a slight cool-off.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer 2015: days 30-36

So hot this past week, and it somewhat has coincided with my overall attitude.

The week was busy. Michael had a basketball tournament (alas, his team went 0-4) and practice every day. Swim team just about every day, including a meet on Tuesday. I pushed my way through work each day, not getting too much free time for myself. The weekend has been an improvement -- I got a lot of yardwork done yesterday -- and the upcoming week won't be so hectic. I did manage to write my usual solstice post, albeit a few days late. What I read after I completed the post got me in this restless attitude.

So I'm on the hillside, having hit the "publish" button on the annual reflection, when I started reading past years' posts. I discovered a common theme: I'm close to writing the things I want to write; I'm on the verge of something big; I'm really optimistic for the next year. This stretches back years. I walked back to my car thinking "What the f--- is wrong with me!" All that optimism, all those plans, and little to show. I'm 44 now, and I'm starting to get the sinking feeling that I'm running out of time to fulfill the writing goals and dreams I've had for a couple decades now. Sure, I had some minor victories along the way, but they aren't any sort of solace.

I did start up the second blog -- at least I got paid for the hosting and chose a theme. Just need to add some design to it and start writing. And that's good, but it hasn't calmed the restlessness I felt as I drove home Wednesday evening. The heat is just smothering any ambition I hoped to feel. Again, simply getting the second blog hosted was a minor victory, but at what point do I feel completely victorious? Maybe never, but even just a little victorious?

I'm hoping that evening's revelation is the kick in the pants I needed. With temps forecast in at least the high 90s for the next 10 days, I don't see an opportunity to cool off from this quasi-rage. Let's see what tomorrow brings ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Solstice (plus 3) sunset simmering

My annual tradition of reflecting on the previous 12 months on the summer solstice took a little delay this year. It's three days later, but here I am, back on the hillside of Donner Park, just as I was last year, writing my annual solstice post. A really nice breeze just kicked in off the mountains -- a welcome relief to the 97 degrees it was just two hours ago.

I'm writing on a new laptop, listening to my iPod on new headphones. These updates are a sign of the update in my life over the past six months: I'm back to being a full-time employee. Twenty-four weeks have already passed since I started the new job, which I'm lucky offers a somewhat flexible schedule and the ability to work from home or wherever (the new Mac helps). The full-time paycheck has been great. The job has had its ups and downs -- it was much more stressful four months ago -- but the benefits of stable work and a consistent check have been worth it.

What is giving me serious pause is that I'm feeling pulled away from the goals that I set for myself years ago. Goals I hadn't quite achieved. Goals I keep saying each year I'm close to, but never reach. Goals that now seem further off than ever as I pound my way through 40 hours of editorial work every week to go with countless hours of fatherhood. Lori wants me writing more. My friends who have read my stuff want me writing more. I want to write more. Yet here I am, writing more, but not topics of my choosing. The sun is ducking behind some clouds that are pushing across the west, and it's a good metaphor of where I feel I'm at: so close, but obstructed.

The reasons I'm three days late on this post are both good and annoying. Sunday, the actual solstice, was Father's Day, and I preferred spending my evening with my family. Tuesday, the boys had a swim meet that ran late. Both more important. Monday, I was just worn out from work. With the boys all over for summer sports, and Michael in a basketball tournament later this week, I needed to crank out productivity wherever and whenever I could. By 8 p.m., I was too exhausted to sit up here on the hillside and write. That's frustrating, and something I haven't yet reconciled with my situation.

A streak of orange is emerging from the top of the cloud line, so no sunset yet. I'm not actually going to see it dip below Antelope Island this year. These past 12 months have been the quickest of my life. I say that every year, but this year was ridiculously fast. I can't slow it down, but I can make the most of it while it's here. I've been contemplating another blog for sometime (not the one I've been contemplating for years, but another one), and I've been researching how to start it. Tonight, I sign up, pay my 60 bucks to have it hosted, and begin. It will take a few days to get it designed and get some content written, but there's no sense waiting anymore. I don't want to be hidden behind those clouds any longer.

I can see a little sliver of red between the tops of the mountains and the far west/bottom edge of the clouds. The sun is setting, I am barely catching it, but it's there. Maybe the sliver, the little glimpse, is all I need.

Until 2016, I depart from this hillside. I'm looking forward to what I'm going to write then.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 29

Father's Day.

Lori had asked me what I wanted to do this day, and as last year, go on a hike with my family. We started in the morning, around 9 a.m. -- a little later than we intended to but still early enough that we avoided the heat. Our destination was Jack's Mountain Mailboxes -- a small peak near our house that features two mailboxes full of journals that people have been writing in for two decades in memory of Jack, a 5-year-old who died of leukemia in 1995.

The hike was a bit of a steep climb: 1,200 feet over 1.6 miles, but we made it. I left a note in one of the journals and gave the boys a big hug. It was the perfect place to be on Father's Day. The walk down was a little treacherous, but we made it and went to Blue Plate Diner for breakfast. Of four diners, we ordered three sides of bacon to accompany our pancakes (at least the boys and I got pancakes, I added chocolate chips).

The rest of the day was mellow. I stopped at the comic book store to pick up the Marvel Secret Wars series (at least the two issues that are out and were in stock), and the boys got haircuts. I grilled burgers for dinner (which were so good on these pretzel buns we got from Costco yesterday). Michael and I played DC Dice Masters. I got Popcorn out for a short walk.

Like I said, Father's Day was perfect.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 28

My sleep schedule has me waking up before 7 a.m., which is a sort of departure from pre-2015. I didn't have to wake up this morning for anything, but there I was, not readily falling back asleep, and it seemed counterproductive to just lay in bed and play Candy Crush Saga. So, I woke up, put my Sauconys on, and took the enthusiastic dog to Liberty Park for a run.

I generally love morning workouts, but just hate waking up for them. After they are complete, I feel I have a whole day of possibilities ahead. We didn't exactly set the world on fire the rest of the day -- I took the boys to Pokemon league, we all went to Costco, I mowed the front lawn, and got the dog out for a short walk in the evening -- but I already felt productive before 9 a.m. I've been feeling the same way working for an hour during the boys' early swim practices. After two weeks of this summer schedule, I'm feeling generally good. I do miss the flexibility I had when I was freelancing, but I'm adjusting.

So, in conclusion, this was a good summer Saturday. I'm looking forward to Sunday.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 27

The long, busy, hot week finally concluded today. And it concluded well.

I got a lot of work done this morning, at swim practice and while Michael was at basketball camp (Ben and I went to a Starbucks), that eased the load enough later that I took the boys to the waterpark for the first time this summer. In between, we met Lori for lunch at Noodles.

The waterpark was fun. We stayed almost three hours, with mostly the boys going on the tube rides on their own (the slides at Seven Peaks have not been kind to me over the years). The best part of our time was watching the boys swim together, having fun like they are supposed to as brothers. In one of the pools, there's a spout that shoots cold, cold water into the pool through a 4-inch pipe, and Michael was dragging Ben over to it to be chilled. Ben half-resisted, half went with the flow. It was just a happy moment to watch. They get on each other's nerves a lot, but they still are brothers, and hopefully, each other's best friend.

I'm so tired right now I'm fighting to stay awake and finish this post. Hello, weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 26

Today was a scorcher. Salt Lake rarely gets humid, but just very bright, and the sun was hot today. Thankfully, the AC on the car works, as does the AC in the house (though I really need to change the filter tomorrow). The boys are handling the heat fine, though, despite all the sports. At least one gym today was air conditioned.

The day culminated with "Buddy Night" for the boys' swim team -- a kind of party in which an older swimmer was paired with a younger ones for games and such. Afterward, all the kids got to swim, which is fun for them to goof around in the pool with their teammates after so many laps. We got to the pool early for Ben's swim practice, and Michael swam while I worked. I did manage to jump in, then got out to jump off the diving board and experienced a bit of a chill -- the board was in the shave, and the two kids in front of me were taking their time right as a breeze pushed through. The chill was so sever that even though it was 97 degrees out, I felt the need to sit in the hot tub for a couple minutes to warm up.

I worked the rest of the evening while the boys were enjoying Buddy Night. I took the dog for a longer walk when we got home, but the breeze subsided, and it's still warm outside even as I type. So much for the bright heat ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 25

Wednesday was much like Tuesday, just without the swim meet. But I did get a lot done work-wise today and managed to get the dog out for a long walk. The routine was the same: Ben had swim practice in the morning, Michael had basketball camp at 10:30, Ben had his own camp at noon, Michael had three more hours of basketball while I found a Starbucks to work. Michael skipped swim tonight, so instead, I worked some more and then we picked up dinner at Costa Vida.

I knew this week would be blurred chaos, but I just don't want it to be over for the sake of getting easier. I'm workin' for the weekend, but honestly, I don't totally like having to. Simply put, I'm still getting used to the work schedule in terms of summer. And though it is easier than during the school year, it's still an adjustment. After next week, things calm down, and then vacation looms. No rush, just a knowledge that this bit of time claustrophobia isn't permanent.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 24

If Monday was nutty, Tuesday was insanely busy. I actually worked during a swim meet tonight. I needed to finish something up, and it was the best place to do so after the long day. Michael played basketball for five hours today. The boys had the swim meet. We came home and watched the Warriors win the NBA title. I got the dog out for a short walk.

The meet was fun, at least when I wasn't editing. Michael at least swam a race faster than his little brother, who still managed to go faster in the other three. Ben's backstroke looked amazing tonight. But the highlight of the meet was the fact actor Gedde Watanabe, aka Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles," was in attendance. Turns out, he's a friend of a friend and came to watch the second friend's kids swim. Lori went up and said hi and got a picture, but I chickened out. I was afraid I wouldn't be able not to quote one of his lines to him instead of engage in a normal conversation (and I do know about every one of his lines from the movie).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 23

A series of thunderstorms passed through Salt Lake City today. Nothing too violent, but significant enough to remind me of summers back in the Midwest. Michael does not like the thunder -- he's just not used to the loud boomers. I walked the dog around the block when it wasn't raining, but when a storm loomed in the distance, and she was amazingly calm through it. For me, it felt familiar.

I wish I could have taken Popcorn for a longer walk, especially because this Monday was the first day of what promises to be a crazy, crazy week. I took Ben to swim practice in the morning, Michael to basketball camp at 10:30, Ben to his camp at noon, picked Michael up, eventually picked Ben up, and later made dinner. This might be the quietest day of the next four. Work was good, though, and I did watch the Blackhawks clinch the Stanley Cup. Ben and I finished the evening with a game of DC Dice Masters (he won), and then I got the dog out for the abbreviated walk.

Looking forward to letting the storms lull me to sleep. May even turn on the radio to hear the static crackle with every lightning strike.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 22

Today, we enjoyed a Sunday that was anything but lazy, but not crazy either. I took Ben to a swim practice (a turn clinic, to be precise) in the morning and got some work done while lounging near the pool. We came home, but didn't stay long, as we were out the door to see a matinee of "Jurassic World" at noon. Michael had been asking for a couple weeks to see it as soon as it came out, then bugged me even more since Friday. The movie was entertaining -- I went in not thinking about the science and how predictable it was going to be (which it was) and just had fun with it. This was our first summer blockbuster of 2015; with "Pixels" on the horizon, it won't be the last.

I got a haircut in the late afternoon and got some more work done before dinner. Michael and I watched the Warriors beat the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. I took Popcorn for a long walk (I needed to work off the other popcorn, from the movie theater) and returned home. It's still a little muggy tonight as I write outside on the porch.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 21

With me working full-time, I need weekends to be productive in many ways. I need to get a couple work things done to get a jump on the next week, which is a jumble of chauffeuring and sports and time in front of my laptop earning a living. I need to get things around the house done that I might not have gotten to the week before. And I need to enjoy family time.

On this Saturday, I achieved all three. I got some work done, emptied out the Outback in advance of us selling it, bought a new thermostat and watched as our neighbor helped me install it (OK, he pretty much did it all, but I like to think I assisted ...), and I watched Michael's basketball game this morning and went to Ben's end-of-season baseball picnic. It wasn't an all-out fun extravaganza, but it was a good summer outing. Watched some of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup game (they won), socialized with the neighbors, and explained to Michael how the Outback worked.

Michael has a friend sleeping over tonight, and they were playing night games until a few minutes ago but are now back inside playing video games. They are letting Ben join in. I know they thought today was a good summer day, even if they don't recognize the significance yet. I hope they will someday.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 20

Today was a glorious summer Friday. I was still driving around a lot and a couple disappointing work moments (but was rather productive despite the goofy schedule), but for the first time all week, I didn't feel quite rushed. The boys had swim practice this morning, one after the other, and I worked the whole time, which was a nice little jump to the workday. I did take Ben to and from paleontology camp at the Utah Museum of Natural History, but that was mostly the only other driving during the day (don't worry, it gets super nutty next week ...).

Nobody felt like cooking, so we went to a ramen restaurant for dinner, then to TCBY for dessert. It wasn't even 8 when we got home, and I was going to take the dog for an earlier walk before the sunset, then came up with a better idea: taking her to the H Rock for a hike and to watch the aforementioned sunset from above the city. Ben came with me, and it was a great way to end a nice summer day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer 2015: days 10-19

One night passed in which I didn't blog. I thought I would get it the next day. I was tired after a long day of co-oping and baseball and whatever work I could squeeze in and walking the dog -- and I just wasn't alert enough to write a post.

One night became two, then three, then four ... and then nine. The last week of school was busy. The first week of the boys' summer vacation was busy as well. I'm going to try and recap as succinctly and thoroughly as possible. I don't like missing these days in my summer blogging, the chronicle of my favorite time of year. Allow me to catch up:

Day 10: My last co-op shift of the school year. I had to take a work phone call during my time at school and ran out to my car to do so. The entire co-op shift was a realization on how quickly this school year went. I remember trying to settle in way back in September, and helping out on field trips and getting used to the kids in new classrooms .... and then it's spring and June and 30-something co-ops had passed in a blink of an eye. The new job in January didn't help -- the weeks have flown by as I delved deeper into my work.

Ben had a baseball game in the evening -- it turned out to be his last of the season -- and the Giants lost 11-8. He walked once and made a couple nice throws from right field.

Day 11: This was a Wednesday. I had anticipated a good day of work and seemed to get overrun with fires all day. It was frustrating -- so much that Lori offered to drive the boys home from school to help me out -- and that's all I remember of this day.

Day 12: A much better day. I helped out with Ben's class' (and the other younger grades) field trip to a swimming pool, which was a lot of fun and so exhausting. I was so in need of energy that I stopped at Burger King on the way home. In the evening, I coached Ben's soccer team's last practice of the long season, capped off with pizza and ice cream sandwiches afterward. Needless to say, I didn't eat well all day ...

Day 13: Last day of school! We went to both boys' end-of-school brunches, where they got their awards (Michael received the Air Jordan Award, Ben the Mathematical Wizard Dynamic Dancer Award). I walked to a coffee shop to work for a couple hours while the boys finished their school day, with Michael going with a friend after for last-day-of-school hanging out session, and I took Ben home. His game was canceled that night (not enough players), which was a disappointing way to start summer vacation, but honestly, I was ready for an easy night.

Day 14: Last soccer game of the season! The Penguins lost 2-1 but played really well. I was looking forward to seeing Michael's basketball game -- first game of the playoffs after his last regularly scheduled spring game in the morning (which I missed to coach soccer). On the way down to Sandy, he called me and said the other team had forfeited and wasn't even showing up. Ben was at a birthday party that I got him from, then went to Walmart. I grilled for dinner.

Day 15: Sunday, and I woke up and took the dog running. The rest of the day was relaxed. Got some work done. Wanted to bash a guy's head in who yelled swear words at Michael and his friend while they were riding their bikes, but my cooler side prevailed (this ruined Michael's day, by the way). Mowed the front lawn.

Day 16: The crazy schedule begins. I took Ben to swim practice in the early morning and worked while he swam, then got Michael to basketball practice. Ben and I went to Barnes and Noble so I could work a little, then we took Michael back home so Lori could get Ben to paleontology camp. I worked the rest of the day and took Michael to swim practice later. Sound nutty? It was, but it wasn't so bad. Actually, it was productive. Ben got the board game Galaxy Trucker in the mail -- a birthday present late and an exchange -- and we played it to close out the night. It ran late, but I managed to get the dog for a walk. By the time I got home, I was too tired to write.

Day 17: Tuesday was even nuttier. Michael had three hours of basketball in the afternoon, and I stayed in Murray to work, going to Rumbi's for lunch and Starbucks for tea. I hurried Michael over to the first swim meet of the season -- an intrasquad meet at the JCC. I volunteered as head timer for the meet, and Ben ended up swimming four faster times than Michael (I'm trying to figure out how we'll deal with that all summer). A long, long day.

Day 18: Not quite as crazy as the day before. I worked at a Starbucks again while Michael was at basketball practice. I took him to swim practice and worked by the pool, but for the first time this summer, I took a break from the poolside working to actually jump in the water. Took the dog for a long walk in the evening after losing a game of Galaxy Trucker to Ben.

Day 19: I managed to get out for a run with the dog this morning, which felt good. Again, took Michael to basketball practice and worked at a Starbucks, and it was Ben I took to swim practice. The skies were alternately stormy and sunny, which is frustrating because it never quite rained and I needed water on the lawn. We watched Game 4 of the NBA finals, and here I am, finishing up writing this long blog post.

Until Day 20, I'm caught up.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer 2015: Day 9

The heat is back after a long hiatus, but I'm not complaining. We turned on the AC yesterday, and though we aren't running it at night (Lori and I both still like having the windows open as much as we can), it's provided some relief. The boys had swim practice in the indoor pool, and I sat by the outdoor pool and worked. This may sound dreary, mixing leisure time with work, but it was actually nice to earning a living while wearing swim trunks. Unfortunately, the wind picked up and blew some clouds in front of the sun, and I put my shirt back on and never actually jumped in the pool. No matter -- I still got a lot done all day (not just at the pool).

We returned home to the Ramona Avenue block party, which was in full swing. The boys and I didn't stay too long, but we did eat and congregate with our neighbors. Took the dog on a good walk in the comfortable evening air. I'm now on the porch finishing up some writing before going to bed.

Today was June 1, and I had a realization that was a bit sobering: Michael is seven years away from college. As the summer hits it stride, we have about four good years -- four good summers -- before he becomes a disinterested high schooler. We have six with Ben. As a family, we need to make these years really count. We've had some great summer memories over the past decade. It's time to make some more.