Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Budgeting with the Blakes

Living on a budget has its ups and downs. Christy and I have been striving to make due with just one of our incomes so we can throw the other one into savings and investments. It really makes you think twice before not returning your DVD rentals on time, or buying that third Mr. Goodbar.

For the most part it has been an exercise in self control. Is our spending governed by need or want? Is our lifestyle frivolous or sensible? Can I make it two weeks without buying a CD or eating at Café Rio? Can Christy make it two weeks without buying a pillow or a new cutest-skirt-ever? I’ve had to shut down my auto deposit to Wendy’s and Blue Bunny ice cream, and I actually look at the readout screen before recklessly swiping my debit card and pressing any old green “OK” button.

A new leaf has been turned over. We now have a snappy little budget, drawn up in Excel, complete with formulas and color coordination. We’re both looking for ways to cut back. I’ve decided to save money by not getting my hair cut anymore. That will save ten dollars every two months, which equals sixty bucks a year! A $3000 savings over the course of a well-lived life.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Paramount Drifter

There’s nothing like going into a movie expecting an uncomfortable two hour bore-fest, and coming out pleasantly surprised and even a bit moved. At the risk of sounding like someone who wears pink shirts, lotion, and hair product I’m going to go ahead and say it: I liked The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The premise was a little bit weird to me, but then again I’m not a girl, and I’ve never had a magic bond with any of my pants…except for maybe my “green jeans” but that is another story entirely.

Three of the four plot lines worked well for me, and the weak link wasn’t so bad as to ruin it for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments of cheesiness, and it was too long, but overall this is a good movie, and I will recommend it to anyone who got a lump in their throat at the end of My Life and Old Yeller. If you didn’t, then you’re better off sticking with Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

There are experiences you get in the theatre that you just can’t replicate at home. Right before the movie started there was a particularly scruffy looking drifter that sat down on our row a few seats to the right of Christy. We noted him because he was alone and outwardly didn’t seem like the kind of guy that would be taking in a PG teen chick flick. During a particularly touching moment, when tears were starting to well in Christy’s eyes we heard a loud discharge come from the drifter’s direction. Luckily we didn’t smell anything, but the sound was enough to break the mood. Later still, and at an equally inappropriate moment, he proceeded to yak on something, like a dog on a chicken bone, or a cat working a hairball.

When the movie was over a teen girl squad in front eyeballed us in a funny, accusatory way. Perhaps they thought we were the perpetrators.

I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel. I’m sure it will be as Little Men was to Little Women. They should call it, The Brotherhood of the Traveling Briefs.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Joyful Sound

Last night as I was upstairs reading I kept hearing these high pitched squeals coming from downstairs. “eeeeeeEEEEEE!!” Christy does that, when she’s happy about something. This would be a good example,

“Hey Christy, wanna go to the Love Sac theater and see a Julia Roberts movie?”


That, of course, was before we thought about what might really happen on the Love Sacs in those theaters.

Her joyful outbursts went on for several minutes before she exclaimed, “I LOVE THIS SHOW!” several times at the top of her lungs. I decided to go down and investigate. It turns out she was watching Fox’s new hit television show "So You Think You Can Dance?" You’ve seen portions of it, I’m sure. Lots of beautiful people popping and locking, pouting their lips into a mirror, and shooting disheveled looks at each other that say You-Got-Served-nah-nah-nahnah-nah!

I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I went downstairs. While the dancers flipped and twirled their way into my wife’s heart, I went into the kitchen to make a Chocolate Oreo milkshake, then sat down to watch a routine or two. One particular dancer, Craig, who could be on the cover of Straight Teeth magazine and the Ensign simultaneously, took the stage without a shirt on. Of course, he is cut and sexy and moves gracefully.

“Man he his hot!,” Christy said. “Look at his body.”

“Yeah, does my stomach look like that?” I tried to say, but I had a mouth full of milkshake.

As Craig danced his last routine shirtless, I could almost hear Christy holding back on the other end of the couch.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Perfect and Just Weight

Dr. Phil, there is brightness beaming from your bald head. I admit, somewhat sheepishly, that I watched an episode of Dr. Phil last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The theme was about “controlling individuals” in the home.

I’m just giving anyone who reads this a free ticket to punch me in the face if they ever see me do any of the following:

-Chastise my basketball playing son/daughter for missing those two shots in the game where he/she scored 14 points.
-Tell my wife that she needs to shut her “suckhole” because she is “stupid.”
-Ask my child, who brings home a 95% on a test, “What happened to the other 5%?”
-Make any sort of attempt to arrange the marriage of any of my children, because finally I have found an in-law I know I would get along with.
-Tell my wife, who has stayed home for years with the children, rearing them with love and kindness, then happens to earn $40 on the side, “Finally you have contributed something to the family.”

Unbelievable! I suppose you might not need the consent of a free ticket if you hear those things, and may punch me in the face anyway.

This morning I read in Deut. 25:13-15.
“Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.
“Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small
“But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

The word “perfect” that is used in here could be construed to mean that the Lord is exacting the 100% that psycho-death-mom was talking about last night. But rather, I think that that he is merely showing us that they key to happiness is in creating a healthy balance. That doesn’t mean we need compromise integrity, goals, potential, education, fun. But there is a divine stream of communication involved in achieving that balance, and it doesn’t involve the shutting of any suckholes.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Utah Culture

A conversation with some Nevada cousins got me thinking...what can we do to change the notions?

Utah = Zion
Democrat = Evildoer
Testimony = Instruction
Riches = Righteousness
Calling = Status
Beggar = Tramp

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Billy Sook

Today at lunch I walked into a Barnes and Noble and picked up the latest from Shel Silverstien, a children’s book called Runny Babbit. I read about ½ of it and found myself laughing. All the characters, which are animals, speak in a “topsy-turvy” language. Or rather I might say, a turpsy-tovy language. Silverstein reverses common letters in the sentence to play with rhyme schemes an annunciation.

At one point Runny get the “picken chox” and his friends nurse him better with “sea poup.” I couldn’t help laughing at a switcheroo like “Runny ficked his pood up with his ears.” It isn’t his most brainy work, but kids will love it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Song of My Father

Yesterday my Dad turned 63 years old.

Dad has those smiling eyes, the kind with permanent crow’s feet at the corners. He is a fan of cheap haircuts, however crooked. He knows his way around a kitchen, and makes a mean ensemble of dutch-oven cuisines. He loves German chocolate cake and Shwann’s Ice Cream. On a hot day he drinks lemonade with ice cubes. He was my Scoutleader, for a time, and devised terrific troop cheers while visiting the latrine. He loves the companionship of dogs, and a well cooked lamb roast. He knows the concept of good budgeting, and revels in driving an ugly old car into the ground. He has a contagious laugh that all of my friends recognized. He loves early mornings, and the smell of sage brush. Dad is patriotic, is fascinated by American history, and shakes with pleasure when he gets around military rifles. He loves his brother, and they get together often to laugh and cuss over BYU football. He’s never grown facial hair, though he probably could, and he’s now starting to turn gray. He labored many years on his own farm; he herded sheep in his youth, and knows how to do stoichiometry. “All roads lead through moles,” he would say. Dad knows how to tell a good story, and was adept at convincing his kids that there was a vicious beast called the Side Hill Gouger that lived in our potato cellar and ate naughty children. Dad is a father in the holiest sense of the word.

Dad would give the shirt off his back, the shoes off his feet, his bed, his home, and everything he owns if he thought you needed it. He’s got a head start on heaven based on his selflessness alone. Dad has always treated my Mom with love, respect, and flirtatiousness. He is the father of six children, all of whom have firm faith in Jesus Christ, which is saying something. Two of them have special needs, which is also saying something, because Heavenly Father arranged their care under Dad at some point prior to his birth. Whether he knows it or not he followed the Spirit on many occasions, saying something to me that I needed to hear, and certainly affecting the trajectory of my life for the better. He has a deep, full-bodied love of the gospel, and is my hero.

I love you Dad, Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When Friendly Crosses the Line

I’ve been trying to go to the gym lately because, you know, I’m not a beefy guy. Let’s not kid ourselves, if I spent an entire decade in the gym I wouldn’t be able to qualify as beefy. There were times in my life where I tried to overcompensate, like going out for football as a sophomore in High School. The water boy got more field time than I did. I know for a fact that I played at least one series of downs. I even ran the ball for 15 yards on one extremely lucky play. But in reality all I got out of that season was a calloused rear-end and some torn cartilage in my knee.

After my workout this morning I was in the locker room changing my clothes for the work day. Right during the draftiest portion of the change—one garment away from full-blown nakedness, a young fellow one bench away decides to strike up a conversation.

“Did you have a good workout today?”

Blink. An uncomfortable silence broke as I turned around to see who was addressing my pastey white backside.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.”

“Me too. Worked my legs today. That’s always a tough one.”

“Mmm Hmm.”

Luckily there was no follow up conversation. I should have flexed my bum for him, but that may have sent the wrong message. I love friendliness. I love friendly people. But, dude. Seriously. Could you wait ‘til I put some clothes on?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Origin of Life

Over the next few years Harvard researchers will conduct the “Origins of Life in the Universe Initiative” in which they will receive one million dollars in funds annually to investigate the inception and evolution of life in the Universe.

According to CNN the project “begins with an admission that some mysteries about life’s origins cannot be explained.” That being said, however, David R. Liu a professor & member of the research team said “My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention.”

Now, I’m no Harvard professor. I’m about the furthest thing from it, so take this for what its worth, but isn’t it a bit DANGEROUS to go into a multi million dollar study setting out to prove a preconceived notion? His wording of “my expectation is that we will be able to reduce this…” seems like another way of saying, “we will do everything in our power to eliminate any idea of divine intervention.” Fine. Fine. No doubt the will do just that. But at the same time they admit that there are some mysteries that cannot be explained.

I’m an open minded person. I certainly don’t discount evolution as a general concept, and believe that science and religion can co-exist wonderfully. I think many will be surprised someday at just how much true science and true religion are one in the same. I’m just worried that entering a study of this magnitude with the end goal of proving any one particular preconception is a step in the wrong direction. It is that kind of close mindedness that stunts scientific advancement.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Provo River Parkway

Provo River Parkway: Thank you for your leafy branches and squiggled path. Thank you for your wayside wheat, your swingset, and your swimming hole. Thank you for your shaded canopy, your calloused spine, your babywalkers. Thank you for your many colors, especially the green. Thank you for your timeless time and the columns of lolling dusk light. Thank you for your much needed and always cherished conversation.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Monarch of my Garden

Someday, I used to tell myself, I will grow a garden, and when I do it will have rows of peppers as far as the eye can see. What is it with these bulbously delicious fruits? They are fruits aren’t they? Everything with seeds right? I will have Green, Yellow, and Red Bells, Chile’s, Cow Horn’s, Jalapeños, and maybe even some Habaneros. They will color my back yard like the festive tulips of a Monet painting. I’ll eat them with every meal, I’ll make truckloads of salsa, I’ll give bushels away to hungry vagrants. I’ll use them as candle holders, drinking glasses, and wear them as necklaces. I would be the Pepper King.

This year I grew two plants that I mostly forgot to water. They’re just your standard green bell. One is pretty much dead. The other gave birth to a shrivelly little thing that looks like a golf ball in need of some Prozak. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try corn.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Steps of Expectation

I was thinking this morning of my dear friend Colby. Please take the time to visit his site. Listen to "Grown", close your eyes, and conjure the face of someone to whom you should become reconciled. Colby, I wanted to express thanks for taking the music in your heart & head and having the bravery to funnel it out to us all. This poem is that thank you.

There is something holy
In the life of a song.
The giving & receiving.

A creation waltz
Bends in unexpected steps
Stepping & not stepping

On toes. The lead hand
Pushing at something
Wanting a pull.

The lead foot curling off
Balance at each whim &
Yoo-Hoo! mandate.

Once my father opened a
Bunker door & a pewter
Prairie rat scampered out

In a rush of light.
A sixty-year-old-quick
Footsnap pinned its tail

Awkwardly, wedged under
The half-open black iron.
Just go around &

Stomp on its head, he said.
I wore Whites—
Heavy ash-flavored boots

You aren’t really
Going to make me do that
Are you? I said.

But it’s what he wanted.
I knew rat skeletons were
Brittle, even if still alive &

When closing my eyes
I brought my fast heel down
Expecting a whimpered crunch

That never came.
Life, at the very least,
Should end in protest, I thought.

Some crunch & cry of protest
I thought. And stomped, &
Stomped again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Preacher Went a Huntin'

I have a neighbor who was bitten on the leg somewhat recently by a pesky neighborhood dog. His daughter was in a stroller and he was shielding her from the barking animal. Can you imagine if the ill-behaved, leashless varmint would have bitten her? I’m not a father yet, but I would think that this would bring out my inner savage, would make me want to snap its neck, tear out its liver, and bite it raw like John Dunbar did with the tatanka.

Please don’t take me for a pet hater. I actually love pets. I grew up with dogs and cats (though I firmly believe they belong outdoors). The thing that irks me is that this dog has bitten other people as well and the owners know about it. My neighbor called animal control and they instantly recognized the dog in question, but NOTHING has been done.

When I was about 10 years old I was bitten by a dog named Blackie right on the back. This same dog had bitten my grandmother as well, causing a large unsightly bruise on her thigh, but the neighbors refused to put it down. This went contrary to our social code of pets, so my family, and friends of my family, made it their personal mission to end this Blackie’s life.

It turned out to be a semi intelligent mutt, however, because when anyone approached it with ill intent, he scampered up and parked it on the front porch wagging his tail and panting with smiling eyes. The owners had a dozen kids in their family, so there was always someone home, and not much could be done with it sitting on the front porch. This went on for months. One day my father hatched a brilliant plan. Blackie’s owners were a very religious family. Each Sunday they would take up an entire row near the front of the chapel, and my father was the Bishop of the congregation at the time. He knew that the one time he could approach the house without the interference of a single soul, was during the church services.

So on a bright and cloudless Sunday, as the birds chirped and butterflies danced, my father, the Bishop, slipped unnoticed out of the chapel, drove home, and retrieved a pistol from his gun safe. As he approached our neighbor’s home Blackie jumped, like clockwork, onto the porch wagging his tail and panting with smiling eyes. My father raised his gun, and in my own imagination I like to think he drew his eyes into slits, twisted his mouth into a grin and said something like “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well? Do ya, punk?” But I know my father, and he said no such thing. He just put the gun to the dogs head and did the necessary thing—pulled the trigger. The dog’s blood and brains splattered onto the porch, and for a moment my father’s heart sunk as he doubted the likelihood of covering up his deed. There was no “Wolf” to call upon. He had to pull the mafia grunt-man-labor himself and hose the porch clean as best he could. He then took the carcass out into the sandy desert fields near our house and dumped it in an unmarked grave. He was back in church an hour later with clean hands and a happy heart. That family doesn’t know to this day what became of Blackie. My father didn’t tell us about it until years later, and after he was no longer Bishop of the congregation. Now that, my friends, is the epitome of discretion.

I suppose that if you are going to own a pet you need to go into it knowing that if it does something to violate established social norms (like biting people 'till they bleed) you must be prepared to reconcile it by any means necessary. By that I mean eating its liver raw. Or at least getting it put down. Your choice.

Monday, August 08, 2005

She Gave Me the World

Christy gave me a globe for my birthday. The colors are good--deep and saucy, not the familiar pastels common to most globes. We sat up late looking at it. It was interesting to look at places like Djibouti and wonder what the people are like there, or imagine how it feels to stand on the banks of lake Baikal.

I started thinking that I would like to see someone invent a multimedia electronic globe. One that comes with a little pencil-tipped pointer, wherewith you would touch any part of the globe (be it a country, state, city, mountain, gulf, etc.) and then it spits out a variety of encyclopedic information at you. It would play exerpts of their language, the songs native to the location, interesting facts, and stories about them. While I was writing this I thought, "Doi, you aren't a genius. Surely someone has thought of this already and is making millions of dollars off the idea." True enough. That someone is "Leapfrog" and for just $99.95 (plus tax & shipping) you can have your own talking globe.

I don't need a talking globe though. It was enough for Christy and I to sit next to each other, spin it around, and point to places we wanted to visit. She likes Madeira, Greece, and Thailand. I liked Jerusalem, Egypt, and the Canary Islands. Ahhh. I love my globe.

I think we might visit Cedar City sometime soon, but we're not sure.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Quarter Century Plus Two

Tomorrow is my 27th birthday. Typically I've always scoffed at all those people who gripe, moan, and whine about their birthdays. Suck it up, I always think. Everyone gets older, its not like this lessens your value as a person (90 year olds = Two-bits and a haypenny, 60 year olds = $5, 40 year olds = $100, 25 year olds $1000, Teenagers -- Priceless). The Age! At least I thought that's what all these crybabies were talking about.

But that isn't it at all. Old schmold. The heart of the matter is something much nastier. Two depressions:

1) Nostalgia on Steroids. I'll never be able to drive to this mountain stream again and not see condominums. I'll never see my baby girl take her first steps again, or say things like, "Daddy, does the sun shine all around, or only on us?"*. I wish I could go back to being 17 again, I'd take my shirt off in front of a group of girls and watch them blush, not because they were embarressed for me, but because they thought I was attractive! (these are just examples of course, I wouldn't really do that, would I?) And, in the future (trust me, this will be the worst), I remember when my wife was alive. What I wouldn't give for one more hug, one more laugh, one more silly dance.

2) What have I done with my life? By the time Einstein was 27 he had published his miraculous paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" giving birth to the Theory of Relativity and turning the Physics world on its head. By the time George Washington was 27 he had advanced to the rank of Colonel and defended a 350 mile frontier with 700 men defeating French forces. By the time Joseph Smith was 27 he had spoken face to face with God, Jesus Christ, and numerous angels. He restored Christ's church to the earth and translated an ancient book of scripture that would fill the world and change millions of lives.

So, maybe I'm becoming more sympathetic to all the whiners, but I'm going to try and do my best not to join their ranks. I may not be a great scientist, a revolutionary general, or an inspired prophet, but I've got a beautiful wife, loving family, wonderful friends, and life before me. Now excuse me while I blow out this bonfire of candles.

*thanks Colby

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Zion is Fled

Last night Christy and I finished recording a version of one of my songs, based on the prophet Enoch. These are the words:

Why is it that I have found favor?
Counted worthy to stand, worthy to labor?
Bearing the youth of a man
Hated for all that I am
Yet I know flesh becomes clay when in His hands

One heart and one mind, one as a people
Found under one roof, under one steeple
Safely taken home
To heaven's high abode
Zion is fled and taken into His own.


(Moses 6:31-32, 7:18, 69)
Anyone interested in hearing it, drop a comment and I will be happy to email a version of it to you.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

In The City of Light

This is a poem by my favorite poet, Larry Levis. I'm posting it for my dear friend Sam Larson, and for anyone else out there who has lost a father.

The last thing my father did for me
Was map a way: he died, & so
Made death possible. If he could do it, I
Will also, someday, be so honored. Once,

At night, I walked through the lit streets
Of New York, from the Gramercy Park Hotel
Up Lexington & at that hour, alone,
I stopped hearing traffic, voices, the racket

Of spring wind lifting a newspaper high
Above the lights. The streets wet,
And shining. No sounds. Once,

When I saw my son be born, I thought
How loud this world must be to him, how final.

That night, out of respect for someone missing,
I stopped listening to it.

Out of respect for someone missing,
I have to say

This isn't the whole story.
The fact is, I was still in love.
My father died, & I was still in love. I know
It's in bad taste to say it quite this way. Tell me,
How would you say it?

The story goes: wanting to be alone & wanting
The easy loneliness of travelers,

I said good-bye in an airport & flew west.
It happened otherwise.
And where I'd held her close to me,
My skin felt raw, & flayed.

Descending, I looked down at the light lacquering fields
Of pale vines, & small towns, each
With a water tower; then the shadows of wings;
Then nothing.

My only advice is not to go away.
Or, go away. Most

Of my decisions have been wrong.

When I wake, I lift cold water
To my face. I close my eyes.

A body wishes to be held, & held, & what
Can you do about that?

Because there are faces I might never see again,
There are two things I want to remember
About light, & what it does to us.

Her bright, green eyes at an airport--how they widened
As if in disbelief;
And my father opening the gate: a lit, & silent


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Me for One.

Who, at some point, hasn't yearned to be a poet? A painter, a sculptor, a cartoonist? A scientist who discovers a cure for humanity? A believer, an athlete with a pulse rate of 40, a lover so loving that your mate never leaves the bedroom? A musician, a revolutionary, a book worm, an architect? A singer of loud and heartfelt songs, a trapeze artist? An inventor, a hero, a friend of man and God? A thinker, an astronaut, a chef, and a designer of all things comfortable and lovely? A pianist, a ballet dancer, a grower of green, green gardens? A mother, father, and kin so close your hearts are zipped together?

...and not paid the price?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Star Bright

On the radio each morning as I drive to work there is this stupid and pretentious advertisement for starregistry.com that tries to convince me that there would be nothing more romantic, more eternal, more symbolic than naming a star after my special someone. Birthday? Mother's Day? Christmas even? This is the gift.

I'm sorry but, this is pretty much like walking along the beach with your girl, picking up a grain of sand and saying,

"Baby, this grain of sand I call Christy. Happy Anniversiary!"

"Really? Wow, I didn't know how much you cared. By the way, you'll be sleeping on the couch tonight."

There are upwards of about 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone and there are billions of galaxies. Whoever invented this star-naming scheme was onto something. Think about it. You get to pay between $54 and $135 (depending on your level of foolishness) to attach some arbitrary name to a heavenly body and in turn you will recieve the telescope coordinates, and a genuine certificate authenticating your gift. Just hope that none of the other billions upon billions of planets with intelligent life don't have star registries of their own, otherwise somewhere down the road there is going to be a huge mess, not to mention a lot of confusion. Just imagine, alien beings visiting Earth for the first time publicly and declaring to a worldwide audience:

"Thank you for welcoming us. We come in peace. My wife and I were just visiting Rodger and couldn't resist stopping by."

"Pardon? Rodger? We don't follow?"

"Yes, the star around which you orbit?"

"Oh, you mean the Sun."

"No, actually, its called Rodger. Twelve-thousand years ago it was named on our star registry by a woman for her husband as a late Lunar Day present."