Friday, September 30, 2011

Careful what you wish for

I love being on the water. I purchased a boat so my family could enjoy the freedom of being on the lake and enjoy more time together. Some of our best times have been on the lake water skiing and fishing.

My daughter Betsy has always loved fishing. At the age of six, she had already proved her prowess by catching innumerable crappie with a $5 Zebco rod and reel. On one trip she came with my friend my friend Mark and I in pursuit of large mouth bass. I set her up with a jig and she immediately went to work pulling in the paper mouths.

Mark and I rigged our $100 rods and began the search for large mouth bass.  We were not having any luck for bass when Betsy yelled "Ive got a big one dad."  "Its a carp" I barked certain that no bass would bite at a crappie jig. 

After all, Mark and I, were the expert fisherman complete with the expensive rod and lures. Once again Besty cried  out "dad, really, its a bass".  Thinking she had a carp, I slowly rose to see the large mouth on the end of her line. She landed the 5 pounder on her own.  The only bass caught that day.

Deciding a more expensive rod and reel would improve her success, I began to teach  Betsy how to cast with an open face reel. Those of you familiar with this equipment understand that in order to cast, you must:
  • Trap the line with your index finger.
  • Lock the trap open.
  • Release the line from your finger as you cast the pole forward.
Betsy's eyes started to brighten as she brought the pole back for the first cast. I could see the visions of another five pounder dancing  in her head. Her first attempt ended up a mere 2 feet away.  Undaunted she repeated the steps. Two feet again. A third she started forward, I yelled "now let go."
She did exactly what her dad told her and let go of the pole. I stood speechless as I watched the $100 rod and reel sink to the bottom of the lake.  I stared at her. She could only reply, "I did what you told me dad."

So why am I telling you this story?  I LEARNED an important lesson that day.

If you want your kids to do everything you tell them to.....they just might 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Alcan Highway

The sounds of the freeway surround my Jeep as I drive home from a round of golf. The setting sun paints the sky orange as the heat of the day starts to subside. Its still hot and I long for the cool of the evening to soothe me on my long drive home. Thinking of cooler climes and times is the only relief I get until I pass the black Ford Expedition on I-15.

Inside I gaze at the trappings of our overindulged society. Two high tech car seats are securely in place in the back. In them two children, a boy and a girl, stare blankly ahead. Puzzled, I slow a little and see that they are watching different cartoons on their individual DVD players hanging on the back of their parents seats. As I resume my speed, I see Mom and Dad are both busily engaged in conversation..each on their own cell phone. Dad seems to be particularly engaged...."Hang up and drive, man!" I mutter to myself and continue on my drive home. The image stays with me. As I pull into the driveway I wished I could have said "hang up and look around you are missing out"

In 1968, the new Toyota Corona was parked in the driveway of our home in Anchorage Alaska . Dad had just finished packing the trunk for our first trip back to Utah. More than 3,300 miles separated us from our destination including 1,200 on a gravel road known as the Alaska Highway to most Americans but the "Alcan" to Alaskans. Five boys, ages 9 to 17, Mom, Dad and the family dog "Bandit", piled into the car and we began our journey. A little more than ten miles into the trip it was evident that none of us would have to worry about fighting because with 4 in the back and three plus the dog in the front, most of our time would be occupied with trying to breathe.

Three days was the time allocated to complete the drive to Utah. Seven days to visit, then three days for the return trip back to Anchorage. Dad thought nothing of driving 1000 miles a day. Once we acclimated to the confined space, we found ourselves alternately gazing in awe at the rugged beauty of the far north and engaging in conversations about food, relatives or any topic that came to mind. Nintendo, Videos and Satellite radio, were only dreamed of in science fiction novels. It was a simpler time and I often wonder how many sights and experiences our children miss out on today in the name of "mobile" entertainment/appeasement.

We crossed the Canadien border and the gravel road immediately started to snake back and forth like a switch-back up the side of a steep mountain. It made no sense why a road would do this on flat land . Dad explained that the "Alcan" was built during World War 2 to provide a land route to supply Alaska. More than 10,000 US Soldiers completed the road during a brutal winter when the temperature would often dip to 79 degrees below zero. In the summer heat and mosquitoes plagued the work. Still, the dedicated soldiers finished one of the modern wonders of the world in just eight months living in tents. The switchbacks in the road were to protect convoys from Japanese aircraft strafing runs.

By Midnight the pale twilight of the midnight sun cast a pink hue on snow covered mountains with no names. I woke the next morning, outside the gold rush town of Whitehorse. In 1896, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie discovered gold in the Klondike. By 1898 more than 30,000 fortune seekers came north to pan for gold. A railway was built from Skagway to Whitehorse, heart of the klondike to bring the gold to port.A long bridge spanned one of the many rivers we crossed. More than 153 major bridges were built during that amazing time of March-November 1942. I can still see the deer, moose, bear eagle and other wildlife in abundance on this thin line of road cut through the heart of a wilderness.

We passed thru Dawson Creek, Milepost 0, then traveled through the vast wheatfields of Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. Prairie so wide you could see the curvature of the earth. Further south back into the U.S. and finally to Utah and family.

On the way home to Alaska, we stopped by Watson lake. Today this lake is a world class sport fishery. A small truck stop Chinese restaurant lies on the outskirts of town. The site of our huge family falling out of such a tiny car must have left quite an impression on the owner. We ate there every yr we journeyed to the "lower 48", and he remembered each of our names.

For 7 yrs until dad passed away, we repeated the journey. So much to see. So little time. Every yr as the time grew near, the excitement built in our family. Imagine, 7 people and a dog crammed in a tiny car excited about driving 6,600 miles in 6 days.....

The garage door shut, and as I entered my home a smile came to my face. Grateful for childhood memories filled with the people, conversations and wonderment of nature instead of the Xbox, MTV and Vampire Wars......

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Road To Victory

As I continue my journey back to running, I spend most of the time on the road in reflection.  Believe me; with the times I am running, I have lots of time to ponder on life….
Yet as I stagger and sputter down the road, a shadow of my former self, I can see progress.  A month ago success was measured in yards.  After 100 yards, my lungs burning and gasping for air, I had to rest for another determined attempt…small successes followed…yards turned into quarter miles…quarters into half’s. 
Today I ran 1.5 miles before my struggling lungs gave out.  I staggered home but completed the 2.5 miles in an earth shattering time, 28:53.  That right…11:33 miles.  Some might see that as disappointing to someone who in his prime ran sub 4:20 miles, but disappointment doesn’t enter my mind.   Besides, I am 52 now not 29…and as a result of several heart attacks, my heart only pumps out half the amount of blood it takes in…so my goals are different now.  At this point, completing a 5K without stopping would be a major victory and is my goal.
The failures I suffer running now will help me succeed later.  Like most things in my life, if they come to easy I fail to appreciate them. 
I attribute my successful professional career to lessons I learned about victory from running.  It started slowly, and I constantly struggled.  By age 25, I had yet to finish college and accepted a job outside my major with low wages, but good benefits that my young family desperately needed.  At first discouragement and feelings of failure overwhelmed me until I determined to be successful in my job.  I started to strengthen my resume and engaged fellow employees who became mentors. Many failed interviews followed but, after each failure I learned and focused on my weaknesses until they became strengths.
I have only had 7 promotions in 26 years and more than 100 failures.  Yet I stand at the top of my career and am considered an expert in my field…I conceived, developed, implemented and continue to lead the disaster recovery testing program for the Internal Revenue Service…and yes I was able to move back in to my chosen career track.  
As I think about running, my health, and career I realize that my road to success and victory has been paved with the many stones of my failures along the way.  Yet each stone of failure provided a base for me to reassess and make myself stronger.
The road to victory is paved with failures….but I will get there….look out 5K…you’re next

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random Thoughts on Family, Friends and life

1.       My first vote was for Ronald Reagan, much to the dismay of my grandfather…an FDR democrat.
2.       I have voted for a Democrat ever since except for Dukakis
3.       He was a man of great spirituality…even though he thought all religions were BS. 
4.       He offered to pay for my mission if I finished college first…I turned him down…years later I realized he was the one person who cared most about my success in life.
5.       He was a hardnosed pain in the ass but it was he who taught me compassion and charity.  I watched him fix cars for widowed ladies then  tear up the bill.
6.       Because of him, I give money to street people… helping is what matters
7.       I rarely see or talk to my 4 brothers , but we are always there for each other
8.       A part of me will always remain in Alaska…It was the last place my family was whole.
9.       My children amaze me….I am proud of them.
10.   My Granddaughter makes me laugh uncontrollably
11.   My wife saved my soul…
12.    I hated High School, but, still love the great friends I made there…even though I haven’t seem most of them in 30+ years.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My little girl got married today...

As if I needed another thing to make me feel old....Kristen, my youngest daughter got married today. 

My emotions covered the spectrum:
  • Joy that she was was so happy.
  • Sadness to see my little girl had grown up.
  • Shock that she had grown into a beautiful woman overnight.
  • Gratitude that I was still around to walk her down the isle
  • Contentment that her dreams were coming to fruition after many years of struggle.
No matter what you think, you are never prepared to be a father.  You realize that when you first hold your child in your arms and see that radiant little face beaming back at you.  You realize at that moment nothing else in life really matters. 

As I watched Kristen and her new husband Chris pledge their love to each other, I also realized I had been replaced by another man.

While recovering from my first heart surgery 13 years ago one of my first activities was to go to the 4th of July celebration in North Ogden.  I struggled from the car to the pavilion area to listen to my two daughters sing.  Betsy (then 14) performed "I dreamed a dream" from Les Miserables and Kristen (then 11) sang "The Rainbow Connection".  Both received standing ovations.

Imagine my surprise and joy to hear the first notes of that song as Kristen approached me for the Father/Bride dance. Thirteen years later, tears streaming down my face I realized I hadn't really been replaced...I had just begun a new chapter in my life's journey.  What joy my future holds watching my children grow and continue their young journeys

I guess its what every father feels at this point in their lives.  I always thought I understood the meaning of  "life is not about the finish...its the journey".

I really didn't get it.....until today...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Adapting: The mind is willing but the body...

When did I get so old?  I spend a lot of time remembering lately.  I do this alot.  Every time I sign on Facebook I see and remember simpler times and places. 

Grade school friendships that started in my childhood.  Gene and Kurt are two friends I have reconnected with on the FB...It seems like yesterday when I was hanging out at Kurt's house, during the 22 hour alaskan summer days or skipping church with Gene to talk baseball and hit rocks with stick in back of the church.

My high school friends are too numerous to mention by name here, but I remember each one and  have great memories about all of them. Hilarious times in class, wrestling and running.

Sometimes I think I never grew up in my mind...34 years later I still want to do the things I did in high school...Like running.  As you all know last week I ran what can only be described as the slowest 5K in the history of mankind. Sore, yet somehow proud  I was determined to run again...first two times a week then 3, then well who knows...

I began my second run sore but (literally) determined to make steady progress and not stop.  The Goal was two miles and on the recommendation of my Doctor, keep my heart rate to no more than 140.  The location was Bear Lake, Utah.  At the one mile mark, I was forced to walk due to my heart rate but proceeded with a variation of the Swedish training regime called "fartlek" that I can only describe as "walk slow, jog even slower"...

Being last is a new experience for me...Uncharted territory.  Running, which was always so easy, is much more difficult than I had ever imagined.  I have a new found appreciation for all those who struggled to finish races and the courage and determination they all had.

Two miles in 24 minutes, a new certainly felt faster in my mind, but, still was somehow satisfying. Adapting is difficult, but, we all have to do it at some point in our lives...and I am more appreciative of the gifts I 've been given.

I accept that my body will never return to the fitness of my youth...age and CHF have taken care of that...yet, my mind still thinks I'm 18....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Small victories; my return to running

I ran today.  Another victory on my road to recovery.  It was hot.  It was Ugly.  It was frustratingly slow. It was satisfying.

Running, one of the joys in my life for almost 40 years appeared to be over after I staggered and gasped my way to the car after my latest heart surgery 2.5 years ago.  I was unable to get in the car without the assistance of my wife Karen.  Broken and humbled, I felt there was very little left for me as far as quality of life.  I watched my fathers health deteriorate from heart desease and felt I would soon be joining him.

I began Cardiac rehab after a few weeks  and could barely walk 50 feet without my heart racing and my lungs gasping for air. Slowly I progressed.  As my health slowly returned I returned to some activities, water/ snow skiing and golf.  All with limitations, but enjoyable.  Yet every time I attempted to jog a few steps, I was reminded of the damage that my heart had sustained....lungs burning, heart racing and fear gripping my soul I was paralyzing.

Today I did was probably the worlds slowest 5K (Maybe I should say 2.5K...I only ran the middle half and walked the front and back ends), but, it was just as satisfying as running that 8:34 two mile in Germany at age 30.

Maybe more.....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day Dad!

Happy Fathers Day Dad!

Even though its been 38 years since you passed, I still remember everything you taught me.  Your influence has made me the man I am.  I have tried to follow your example and be a good father, husband and provider.  At times I have fallen short, but, I have no regrets.  I have done my best, which is all you ever asked of me.

I remember the great vacations we had growing up.  Even when there was very little money you always found enough for us to do something fun that helped us stay close as a family.  Yellowstone, the Black Hills, you even found a way to buy a boat so we could enjoy Flaming Gorge.

Alaska was a very happy place and time for us as a family.  I shall never forget weekend drives or the 3,000 miles trips to Utah every summer.  I shall never forget fishing on the little Susitna with you.

I shall never forget your heart problems or the strength you showed up to the very end.  Little did I realize how much your strength  and stoicism would help me through my own problems with heart disease.  You taught me to strong to the very end and I haven't forgotten.

I love you dad.. and honor your memory on this Fathers day 2011

Your son,


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Keeping Promises...or if you brake(sp) bought it...

In every war this great nation has fought, we the people have been asked to make sacrifices of blood and treasure.  Every war except two, the war with Mexico (1846-1848) and the Iraqi war (2003-present):
  • Property taxes were raised by the individual colonies to raise money to fight the American Revolution.
  • The income tax was first initiated during the Civil War...on the wealthiest 10% of households
  • During the first and second world wars, the income tax became the 16th amendment to the Constitution. It expanded the income tax to virtually all Americans... in part to support the war efforts to win victory and secure the lifestyle that we all enjoy.
At the start of the Vietnam war, John F. Kennedy tried to cut taxes while conducting war in southeast Asia.   The staggering costs of the conflict forced the congress to rollback..  then increase taxes to shore up the budget and reduce the deficit.

Here is my question to all of you...WHY SHOULD WE NOT MAKE THE SAME  SACRIFICES our ancestors made?

I recently was reading about my family history in the old Park City, Utah newspaper (the Park record) and found the following:

Note this was the 4th war bond drive...every year you were expected to buy a $200 bond $2400 today...

In addition to income taxes, every American was expected and given a quota of war bonds to purchase.  If you hadn't signed up for your were sought out and and visited until you made the commitment to support the war effort. In addition to gasoline rubber and other items were rationed. Americans stood together. Those sacrifices built the worlds greatest democracy and economy. 

How many bonds have you bought?

Today we have been at war eight long years,  thousands of lives and one trillion dollars later, we are not asked (nor are many willing) to buy bonds or pay more taxes......we see this:

My god, we can't even spell
We allowed congress to extend tax cuts....even to the wealthiest among us...
We allowed the passage of a an additional 2 percent cut on our Social security tax..
Rather than reduce the deficit we added another 600 billion...just in December.

What set me over the edge and prompted this blog is the proposal to cut Veterans health care 42% by 2021.

I submit to that we the people have not been at war.  The US armed forces and their families are.  We have selfishly pushed the fight on the 400, 000 service men/women and have gone our merry way for 8 years..Now rather than pay the bill and cough up a few more coins people want to REDUCE by nearly half all veteran..

It is the time to settle that debt.  If we are not willing to at least make the sacrifices (taxes) to take care of our troops...we are hypocrites...our patriotism is not worth the 2 dollars spent on that yellow ribbon we so proudly display in our car bumper

I hate paying taxes as much as the next guy but freedom isn't free...someone has to foot the bill...We cant blame the excesses on presidents or lies on us..we allowed a war and said charge it...

Is it really a surprise to anyone why we were so united during WW2....and so divided today?

We wonder why

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My search for meaning

We are born naked and helpless.  We survive only because of nurturing parents and a loving family who guide us till we are ready to begin our own journey.  Recently a heart attack taught me that when we die, it is the same...only we are fully aware of our predicament. 

Two years ago, I sat calmly reading the paper when the deep heavy pains in my chest took me to the ER. Naked and helpless on the operating table, I could only lay and watch as doctors and nurses saved my life.  I am still amazed at how these strangers fought for my life encouraging, beckoning me to live.  Why did I survive and not die?

 It is so easy to offer simplistic answers.  Religion is full of them. but, what is life?

As we grow our family nurtures us and loves us.  They provide the foundations of our belief systems and instill in us the values that we carry thru life. The religion of my youth provided me the answers that satisfied my mind. Yet as I grew, I found it provided more questions than answers.  Leaving organized religion behind I became a searcher, striving to live a life of value and worth. This provided comfort to me until the the heart attack again opened the question.

Now I ponder daily the meaning of life and ask what is lifes value.  What does our existence mean?

On the operating table, I had brief glimpses of eternity.  Were these real, or, anesthesia induced dreams? More questions.  Is there life after death?  In these glimpses/dreams, I saw and conversed with my parents, grandparents and old friends who passed before me. I can not explain the calm and love I felt. At some point I felt it was time to come back... or did I just wake up.  No disrespect to my family and friends who are believers...but, organized religions simplistic answers to my queries just do not work for me.

Through life, strangers influence and move us.  Sometimes they are the flicker of a candle in our life.  Other times, they become a part of our family, enriching us till we die. Jordan, one of the nurses at the hospital, came into my life for a brief moment yet saved my life.  Our interactions were brief, perhaps a few hours over a period of three months.  Yet, it seemed that whenever there was a moment of extreme despair...from the operating room to the painful difficult cardiac rehab that followed, she would appear out of nowhere. A caring look or the firm but gentle squeeze of a hand would raise my spirits and give me strength to continue.  What is it in life that makes total strangers instant friends?

I have been told that life is a circle.  John Lennon said in the end the love you take is equal to the love you gave. I have seen and felt the love many have given me. 

Of one thing I am certain, at the end of your life, though naked, helpless and surronded by strangers; love is there and goes with you.