Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A very fast year to get to another solstice sunset

I forgot to bring the iPod with. The sun might set behind a cloudy front that is moving in. But I still see orange to the west, and it undeniably feels like summer today. It's the solstice, and once again, I'm back on the hillside at Donner Park, reflecting on the year that just passed.

And oh my, did it fly by.

A year ago, I was coming off a big transition with work, the death of my friend Tom, and trying to make sense of the new direction I was headed in. But the year went fast. So fast. Too fast. As a writer, I try avoid using the word "very" because it's a useless modifier, but here it's applying: very fast.

This past year has been the craziest blur of my life. Not crazy bad, not even just crazy busy or unique. Just instantaneous -- more so than I can ever remember. Senior year of high school? Didn't go this fast. The first year out of college? Not this fast. The last couple years in Madison? Nope. The year after Michael was born. Not quite. 2011-2012, the time I generally am going to look back to when I think about the boys' childhoods. No.

The sun is dipping below the clouds; I'm going to get a good sunset after all. There have been 364 sunsets since the last one, and they all went by in the aforementioned blur. I don't know why it went so fast. I wasn't looking forward to anything ending or beginning. It just flew by.

Maybe it's the perception that as the boys get older, each day becomes more important because they are more finite. I just want it to slow down a little. I don't want them growing up so fast. I don't want to be on this hillside a year from now and wonder where the previous year went. I want to be here and think, "That took a long time -- good!"

But life doesn't work that way. Parenting sure doesn't work that way. As I queue up "Sister Golden Hair" on my phone and watch the sun creep toward Antelope Island, I remember that this song is 42 years old. And for my parents, that summer when I was 4 and Julie turned 3, I'm sure they don't think it was that long ago.

I don't think it's a matter of not appreciating every day, but rather getting caught up in whatever's next. Whatever now is what matters. Next will just follow as it always does. Now slows things down; next just has you looking to the subsequent next.

This is my 12th trip to this hillside to write on the solstice. The journey continues. Hurray for that journey. Boo that it's seemingly speeding up. At least this sunset will never change.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 27

Sitting on the porch tonight, and damn it's humid for Utah. Some clouds rolled in but there is no breeze at all, and it hasn't cooled off from this afternoon. We'll be leaving the AC on tonight ...

My Monday was productive. Got a lot of work done all day but also managed to do this 30-minute workout I've been sweating through lately and get the dog for a walk. I took Michael to his basketball practice and had pizza for dinner. Ben felt a little dizzy today, so he missed Scouts, but he should be OK for swim practice in the morning. It wasn't a perfect Monday, but it wasn't a bad one either.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summer 2017: Days 4-26

I'm a little disappointed. That was a long stretch without recording summer, and I feel like I'm giving up to easy. And in the meantime, two weeks have passed since school ended for the boys.

Out of the gate, the adjustment to summer is tricky, and I've just been tired most nights to want to write. We've been busy, but not that busy.

So here I am, Father's Day, June 18, my 26th day of summer, and I need to try recapping the last three weeks. Here goes nothing ... and everything:

  • Ben and I went to a Real Salt Lake game on Day 4. We hadn't seen a game since maybe 2013, and I don't think we've seen a game in which RSL scored until 2011. And they won! 1-0. We filled up on barbecue before the game (it was a team event for the boys' swim teams), and got out quickly after finding a good parking spot before game time.
  • We went to the JCC pool for the first time this summer on Day 5.
  • Memorial Day was Day 6. Actually worked some of it. Michael and I also cleared out the patio.
  • Chaperoned the upper grades on a field trip to Crystal Hot Springs on Day 8. Fun, old school water slides, and I got to soak.
  • Day 9 was the last soccer practice of the season, the parent-kid game that is always fun. Ben played his last baseball game of the season.
  • Day 10 was the last day of school. Egad, I now have an eighth-grader and a sixth-grader.
  • Michael played in a basketball tournament days 10-11, and his team went 2-2. He played really well but got beat up a bit (as he usually does as the tallest kid on the court).
  • Day 11 was the last soccer game of the season for Ben's team, and we had the end-of-season party at our friends' backyard pool. The kids loved it, and I got pushed in by my players. Brought three extra pizzas home; they were gone by morning.
  • Day 12 was a Sunday in which we worked on the backyard, pruning bushes and clearing vegetation.
  • Day 13 was Ben's first early swim practice of the summer. He also had his first official Boy Scout meeting.
  • Day 14 was a swim meet for Michael. He swam all right; his fly looks better than ever.
  • On Day 16, we spent the afternoon at Maureen's pool again, and each kid got to bring a friend. I was busy with work and never even jumped in.
  • Day 18 was a Saturday without any sports. Lori, Ben and I hit some garage sales, and then the boys and I went to Ben's end-of-season league baseball party. He won a water bottle. We pulled stuff to the curb for the bulk pickup.
  • I took Popcorn to the H Rock to watch the sunset on Day 19.
  • The boys had basketball camp days 20-23. I worked at some new coffee shops this week and tried some new teas.
  • The weather turned cold and rainy on Day 20, but we needed it.
  • The skies cleared enough for another swim meet for Michael on Day 21
  • On Day 22, I played pickup basketball with Michael, his swim coach, and a couple other swim dads. Damn, Michael is getting good ...
  • Ben had a swim meet days 23-25. It was a tough meet for him; he struggled in this same pool last year. After his last evening session, we went for handmade ice cream sandwiches at a new shop in Fashion Place Mall.
  • Today was Day 26, Father's Day. We all hiked to Bloods Lake near Guardsman's Pass. I lounged in the sun in the backyard, went to Smith's with Michael, then grilled burgers for dinner. We watched "Beauty and the Beast" and Skyped with my dad.
There was more. I promise, I'll make it a priority tomorrow night ...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 3

The weather cooled, and with it, my energy for summer. I felt tired all day and never was as productive as I wanted to be, yet never seemed any time to just relax. I did get a good workout in and walked the dog, and also got my hair cut finally. The boys took it easy most of the day, too. Lori made pork chops, salad, and rice for dinner, and we all watched "The Amazing Race" recorded from last night. Memorial Day weekend gets into full gear tomorrow, and the weather will warm up. I'm ready.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 2

Two kids, two different places to be. One parent for each, missing the other kid's event.

This is a situation Lori and I know all too well. Today, it was me taking Ben to a swim meet in Kearns and Lori taking Michael to school to help with the eighth-grade graduation dance.

The boys' school is a K-8, and it's a tradition for the seventh-graders to organize and execute the graduation dance. Many of the parents volunteered to help as well, so Lori was at the school all afternoon, came home for a little bit, then returned to chaperone and help take everything down. The theme was 1950s' sock hop, and Michael was a soda jerk. He never actually came home from school today, and he was exhausted by the end of the night.

Ben's swim meet went well, though it was long as well. He swam three races, doing well in the 100 fly and the 200 freestyle and just OK in the 100 back (normally his best event). I got some work done in the long spaces in between, and we finally got home around 9:45 p.m.

The long Memorial Day weekend is up next. I think we are all going to sleep late tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 1

The annual summer blogging tradition begins anew ...

Honestly, I've been a little slow to begin the summer blogging again. In past years, I couldn't wait to pick a day in May, say it was summer, and dive in. This year, I helped chaperone Ben's class trip to the Teton Science School and experienced quite a cold snap (the entire mountain region did). I was going to start when we got back, but it just didn't feel right.

Today felt right.

Temperatures reached the 80s and our house is beginning to heat up. A shower grazed our side of the valley, and the gray skies screamed summer rainstorm. I'm sitting out on the porch at 11 p.m. without a sweatshirt. And Memorial Day approaches.

Let summer begin!

I'm counting 106 days from now until the Wednesday after Labor Day, when I officially call summer. So what happened on Day 1? Not a whole lot. I worked on the porch for some of it. Ben was at a swim meet with Lori, so I was Michael's chauffeur from school, to swim practice, and to basketball practice. The Westminster gym was a sauna, so I worked outside in the cloudy breeze. Took Popcorn for about a half-hour walk. And now I'm typing. When I conclude, I'm putting the headphones on and will listen to some music in the pleasant night air.

Until tomorrow ...

Monday, March 20, 2017

It happens every spring

Baseball season is almost here. I'm still giddy from the Cubs winning the World Series not five months ago, and another baseball campaign is just about upon us.

Ben still plays organized baseball and loves the sport, and it's a good sport for him: methodical, cerebral, and not fast-paced. He's an OK hitter (and he struggled for so long but persevered to get to OK) and is always enthusiastic.

Tonight, we got the baseball gear out and played catch for the first time. We had a gorgeous 70-degree evening to throw the ball around after dinner, still more than an hour removed from sunset. It felt so spring.

Ben graduated to Michael's old glove. I need to buy some glove oil, but it held up fine, and soon he was catching everything I threw to him.

We'll play catch again tomorrow. I will buy the new season of Strat-o-Matic baseball because no way can I not own the cards of the World Champion Cubs. I'll listen to games on my phone and iPad, and I may even pull out some old baseball cards to peruse. Spring is here. Play ball!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pocatello 4

We got back from a weekend in Pocatello, Idaho, today. This is an annual trip for us -- our fourth -- for a little Catholic parish basketball tournament for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. Michael played in it for three years, and this is Ben's second. The trip is always fun, win or lose. Most of the kids who play in this tournament will never be more than rec basketball players, so this gives them a chance to travel, hang out with their teammates, and participate in what, for them, is a big event.

Alas, Ben's team went 0-4 for the weekend. The tourney is set up with fifth- and sixth-graders in one division, and his team is all fifth-graders -- and it seemed we played all sixth-grade teams. The kids played hard, though, and were close in three of the four games (going to overtime in one). The parents got to hang out as much as the kids. This tournament always seems to be on the first or second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, so it's hoops aplenty.

Next year will be our last Pocatello (and we may not even go if the state swim meet is back to being the same weekend; we lucked out this year). Our first was one fantastic -- even though Michael's team went 2-2, he played great, and it convinced us he was ready to play comp. But wow, it was three years ago already, serving as a sobering reminder how fast these past three years have gone. Two years ago I remember sitting in the hotel room working on a Saturday afternoon between games. Last year, I motored back on Saturday night so I could fly to a work event the next morning. Two years ago, Michael's team struggled because we only had five fifth-graders and a third-grader. Last year, Michael romped through some of the younger teams who couldn't match his height.

Milestones and memories. They happen, and before you know it, you're on to the next one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The anti-Valentine's Day

Ben asked today how many Valentine's Days that Lori and I have celebrated. This was our 24th, but we have our tradition of not overly putting much effort into the day. After all, shouldn't you treat every day like Valentine's Day toward the ones you love? Somewhere in the mid-'90s, we decided not to buy into the pressure of making the holiday perfect. And thus, we came up with our perfect Valentine's Day dinner: fish sticks and macaroni and cheese.

Fortunately, we ended up with two boys, so our anti-Valentine's Day meal indeed turned out to be the perfect celebration. Today, Michael actually made the mac and cheese. We sat around the kitchen table and ate, and though it felt informal (it was still a busy day all around for us), it was all I wanted from the day.

That's not to say Valentine's Day can't be special. I think the one I remember most is when Michael was maybe 2, and I took him to Lori's work, where he brought his mommy a Valentine's Day card. Special is what you make of it, every day of the year. And today, special, once again, was fish sticks and macaroni and cheese ... and a Ho-Ho from the box of Ho-Hos that Ben got from school today. I think I need to add that to next year's meal.

Monday, January 30, 2017

This Monday

This Monday, I was tired. I didn't sleep well last night and dragged a little all day. I'm typing and drinking some tea now, looking forward to a better slumber tonight.

This Monday, the inversion is bad. Still, I took the dog for a longer walk because she needed it. So did I, even if my lungs didn't.

This Monday, I took Ben home from swim practice and we ate the dinner Lori made for us -- a sausage, potatoes and spinach dish. I took him to Webelos and worked at Starbucks for a little while.

This Monday, I took Michael to basketball practice. He had one with his comp team earlier, then the one with his parish team I help coach. Michael might be getting his shot back after the latest growth spurt that put him past 6 feet. We scrimmaged, and my shot, unfortunately, was way off.

This Monday is over. This Tuesday is on deck.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Workplace conditions

I love working remotely. I love working at home. During the summer, I love working on the porch or in the backyard. I love getting out to a coffee shop, settling in, and pounding out tasks perhaps more efficiently than I do at home.

And I prefer working at the kitchen table -- our new table especially -- over the basement. Only one problem: The kitchen also contains food. And when I'm working in the kitchen, grazing all day becomes far too easy.

Needless to say, there are extra pounds.

The best remedy for this, of course, is warmer weather. This happened last year as well -- November rolled around and I worked strictly indoors until spring.

When I first went to full-time two years ago, I was exclusively working in the basement. Maybe because I started in the winter, it felt too much like a tomb, and I took my Mac upstairs.

Again, I don't want time to rush by (reinforced by the fact Michael has now reached 6 feet tall), but spring will be more than welcome when it eventually arrives. In the meantime, more coffee shop excursions, more tea instead of snacks, and more willpower when the fridge is sending signals to my stomach.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The January Man

I've never been shy of declaring how much I dislike January. Easily, it's my least favorite month. The joy of Christmas has dissipated, the days are short, the sun is barely offering any benefits, and though Salt Lake City doesn't suffer from the debilitating Midwestern sub-zero temperatures, we are forced to endure inversions -- smog fests that are sabotage the air quality and mask an otherwise blue sky. I don't want any time of year to go quickly simply to be done with it, generally because I don't want these years to go by any faster than necessary. That said, I won't be that sad when February arrives (and then, eventually, March).

But something odd happened this January -- a weird winter break for the boys. Their last day of school was Dec. 23, they got two weeks off and didn't return until Jan. 9. After just one week back in school, they were off today for MLK Day. Tomorrow is Jan. 17; my least favorite month is more than halfway over without it quite feeling it ever really begun. Yes, still two more weeks, but hurray, this might not feel like a typical January. Never mind an inversion is starting to set in (it's not supposed to be bad). Never mind the days are still short, though getting longer every day. Never mind the cold temps (still not as bad as Wisconsin ...). I knocked out the first half of the month without a sweat.

The boys enjoyed their days off; both hung out with friends and didn't bug me too much while I worked. I managed a long walk with the dog tonight -- chilly, but it felt good. Looking forward to the 17th!