Monday, December 22, 2008

Sharing

'Tis the season once again, for the sharing of tradition and memories and creation of new ones.

Tonight was a West-family-style pajama drive to look at Christmas lights. I taught the kids to "Bah Humbug!" the boring houses and "Ooooh, Aaaah!!" the pretty ones, just like my siblings and I used to do. They haven't been exposed to enough Christmas Carol, because there were a lot of Boo Hombugs and Bah Hoombugs. It was fun, but harder in the suburbs somehow...in Hays we knew right where the 1 guy with the huge display lived. Denver's so full of cul-de-sacs and such that the good ones were hard to spot and harder to get to. Good times though.

In other happenings, the Bean and I have been making up our own little stories over the last few months. There's this little girl in the stories we make up named Suzy Q, and she always faces problems remarkably similar to those being faced by the Bean. In one she didn't want to sleep in her own bed (until she tried the closet and the bathtub and the sink), and in a recurring story she was afraid of strangers (until her strong doggy protector proved he could scare off the Bad Guys). Tonight the Bean wanted to tell her own, about Suzy Q's friend (named "Koyla"...the Bean has a Kayla in her class...) who was being too mean and bossy and sticking her tongue out all the time, even though Suzy Q was super nice to her all the time. Poor Koyla got nothing but COAL COAL and more COAL from Santa. Hopefully that taught Koyla a lesson. We shall see...

Bed now. Santa is watching, and he'll know if I'm sleeping in my own bed like a good boy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sick day

Called in sick today. I haven't done that in quite awhile (for myself at least). Then I check the news and realize that today is the designated "Day Without a Gay," when our homosexual friends are s'posedly calling in to work in massive numbers. Huh. Maybe I just padded the statistics.

Back to the couch now. bleh.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lights!

I put lights on my house this weekend. That's cool. I had no idea how expensive that could get...just not something you think about I guess until you're standing there going "OK, a strand is 7 feet, and the front of my house is 50? AAAAAHHH!!!" When it's just buying a string to brighten up a dorm room or an apartment balcony, such things don't happen. Our house is cheery now though. We'll probably get more in future years, but for a start on a budget, it looks good!

Also we love LED lights. I don't know if those are new this year, since we weren't really in a place to look at other people's decorations last year, but the white LEDs have a beautiful bluish hue that's so much nicer and wintry than the harsh yellow we're all used to in our "clear" lights.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkeys in the mud

Obviously Thanksgiving was last week. We went down to Durango* to celebrate w/ Steph's family, and to meet our new 5-week-old nephew/cousin.

We started Wednesday, when we got off work and looked at the Thursday forecast over the south-eastern CO mountains...it was s'posed to start raining/snowing early Thursday, so instead of driving through that we left at 7 pm Wednesday for the 6-7 hour drive to the far corner of the state. Steph did most of the driving, but I got to take over at the end when it was getting to be 2 a.m. and we were exhausted and ready to sleep. But we made it to the in-laws place at 2ish and conked out, waking up to lots of rain, which turned their entire property into mud pit for the following 3 days. They're off the grid out in the country, so there's a LOT of space for mud to develop. Thursday was the traditional way-too-much-food and then hanging out w/ family. Jeff and Kelly and their 3 came over and we spent a lethargic day hanging out.

Friday was relaxed as well, with necklace-making for the girls, fudge-creation, and swimming in the evening. Saturday we went to Jeff & Kelly's place, then hit the road to come back to Denver. There was a massive storm set to hit early this morning so we got out ahead of that one as well. The news today told us that was an excellent idea, since travel conditions were a complete disaster all over the state today. Getting back a day early meant we had time to de-mud some things and go into the week not completely behind.

That's all for now. I get to sleep in a comfortable bed tonight and I'm looking forward to that!

*I say "Durango," but technically we stay in Ignacio at the in-laws place...Jeff and family are in Durango-proper.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Realization weighs a ton

I don't really know where to start this entry. I spent the weekend in Miami at an investigator meeting for a new depression trial. That's only significant because this is the 1st meeting I've been to alone since the weekend of October 27, 2007. For that meeting we'd just gotten married a week before, we were both starting new jobs, and Steph hadn't been feeling well, so she stayed home and I spent the weekend wishing she hadn't. As it turned out that was the only weekend of marriage we had before the diagnosis, and we spent it apart.

This weekend I was alone again with lots of time to think. The weight of past year finally hit me. I spent most of the weekend anxious to get home and see my wife, while feeling completely overwhelmed with gratitude that she's still around to come home to. I hope I never lose that appreciation for this amazing woman who allowed me into her life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The death of fear

First, a link to my uncle's blog post on this topic. It's good reading, and a lot of what I was going to say.

I wanted to add that this election was especially interesting to me in light of a couple of the more interesting books I've read in recent years. The first I'll mention is "False Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear." It's not really a political book per se, but it's about how the constant state of fear inflicted on Americans is really not healthy, and pretty silly. (Like...how many smokers ignore the odds of that damaging their health, while simultaneously panicking if a guy in a turban gets on the plane with them?) Fear is just such an innate, hard-wired response that it is incredibly easy to elicit and manipulate.

Which leads to the other book, "Conservatives without Conscience," which explores the right wing's assumption of the strong-leader role to play into the authoritarian sensibilities of their base.* For the last 7 years, the GOP has played up fear and claimed to have a monopoly on the answers to what scares you. In this election, Americans shook that off. Instead of giving into the fear of the "other" (which was the point of every whisper campaign against Obama), the majority of Americans went with Hope. That's a pretty incredible shift, biologically and electorally.

So in light of this...where does the GOP come from here? I'm going to stick with my pre-election prediction, that the GOP is going to be doing a lot of soul-searching, which is going to be quite confusing for their evangelical base.

And I thought I'd close with this...it's one of my favorite pieces of multimedia art from the 2004 election cycle, when fear-manipulation was in full swing. (The original this was mixed from is "Pet" by A Perfect Circle.) Hopefully we can put this kind of thing behind us and get on with the future!





*This is a fascinating book and I've blogged about it before, but the gist of the argument is that evangelicals are primed to buy into an us vs. them mentality and the idea of a strong leader who has all the answers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America gets it right.

There are many people who will have more eloquent things to say about what happened tonight. I understand that. But this is my blog.

What strikes me most about tonight is that this was the Howard Dean campaign writ large and executed to perfection. It was the goal of Dean to run a campaign from the bottom up, to ask a lot of normal people to buy in at the ground floor, rather than relying on the powers that be to carry the day. Beyond the racial issue, this is the greatness of this election. Obama has proven that a Democrat can win across large segments of the population, and that Dean's idea of going into 'red' states has real merit. At the moment, the Electoral College vote is at 338 Obama, 154 McCain. There are more states undecided of course, but that's pretty incredible. The country was ready for change and we'll get it.

And Colorado? We're not red any more. 2 years ago we were a 3/4 Dem/GOP split in our House delegation. Perlmutter made it 4/3, Markey tonight makes it a 5/2 Dem/GOP split, and we flipped a Senate seat this evening as well so we now have 2 Dem Senators. Add to that our Dem Governor, state house, and state senate, and you'd be hard pressed to make a case that this is a red state.

Time to turn the TV off. Stay safe Obama. The country has said loud and clear that we need you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween and politikin'

Halloween this year was spifftacular. It was my first year with children...Adam had the kids last year. So this year was our turn and we got to explore our new neighborhood with the dozens of other wandering chilluns. The Bean had a Wonder Woman costume that she wore to school and to the party at Mr. K's school. Then of course she jumped in a mud puddle on the way back to the car and declared her costume unfit for trick-or-treating. Fortunately the Bean has no shortage of dress-up clothes, so she quickly reset as a fairy princess. Mr. K was a clone trooper, and his school costume parade had a plethora of Star Wars characters, with the odd Indiana Jones thrown in. It was weird seeing so many costumes that would have fit in perfectly with similar parades in my youth.

Trick-or-treating was great, with nice mild temperatures and only a few falls in the dark. We ended up with a TON of potentially-peanut-laced candy that Mr. K can't touch. You would think that with the growing prevalence of peanut allergies, some candy makers would start separating non-peanut items in the factories. They'd increase their marketability quickly. As it was, by the time the evening was over Mr. K was itching and needed benadryl and a shower before bed, just from leaked-through-the-package peanut exposure. I can't wait until somebody nails down the peanut allergy vaccine.

In political news, I was able to spend 3 hours volunteering this weekend. Still nowhere near 2006 levels, but that will never happen again. (Rightfully so...I have a happy life now.) Saturday I hit the phones for an hour while Mr. K was at a party and today he and I canvassed. We got a nice concise walk list (40 units in an apartment complex) and did the whole thing in just over an hour. Nobody was home, and the people that were tended to be the new tenants, since the people on the list had moved out. He claimed to have enjoyed it, though most of the time he could hardly hold still while waiting to see if the tenants were home. It was a good 1st exposure though.

In other political news, just a few more tidbits of stuff I find amusing. The 7-11 7-Election has ended, and Obama won handily. The 7-Election has predicted the last 2 presidential races accurately. No word from 7-11 if there was a cup-affiliated creamer preference (Obama cup=black coffee, McCain cup= creamer?) For the real 'official' poll numbers...Gallup released it's last poll prior to the election. Their national popular vote number puts Obama at 53%, McCain at 42%. (MOE=2%) That looks pretty darn good for Tuesday.

Just please...if you're reading this and you haven't yet, VOTE. Don't let anything stop you. When Obama wins this, you don't want to remember this as the election that changed the country, but you couldn't find the time to cast your ballot.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

More posts in my head

but for now I just wanted to share my favorite ad of the season so far:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Politics, mostly

I think the hardest thing about being a step-parent is being reminded at times that you're an add-on member of the family. 99% of the time things are great, everybody gets along beautifully, then the kids get home after 4 days with dad and I'm a stranger again for a few hours. It passes, usually within the space of an evening, but for awhile I don't belong in my own home. It's a weird feeling.

In other news, the political landscape looks great for next week. The polls are all out there to be perused at will, but if things go the way they are now next Tuesday will be a happy day in American history. It's kind of funny to once again be in the spotlight of the entire nation...in 2006 CD-7 was the #1 race to watch in the country and we won that one, under intense national curiosity. This year Colorado is one of the states being watched carefully, since we may flip from our 2004 voting errors. The sign at Forward Colorado reads "To win the White House, we have to win the West. To win the West, we have to win Colorado. To win Colorado, we have to win Jefferson County." Sure there are lots of other races to watch and lots of other places where things need to fall in line, but my beautiful state definitely matters. (They mentioned on the news Saturday that we had all 4 candidates in the state campaigning in the space of 7 days.)

Of course Colorado has preferences. The Obama event in Denver Sunday had an estimated turnout of 100,000, then he went straight to Fort Collins, where 50,000 more waited for him (this in a city with a population of 130,000-ish). A McCain appearance a few days earlier had a whopping 4000 people show up. Palin's visit to the Springs (Home of the Fighting Fearmongers) whipped 11,000 into a frenzy. So if the rallies are any indication, Obama will win here in a landslide, just like the rest of the country. Of course all that matters is the final vote total. I finally got out last Sunday to canvass a bit and Steph's going to phone bank w/ me next Sunday. It's not as much as 2006 certainly, but then I have a somewhat hectic life now. I can't wait to see what happens Tuesday!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Homeownin'

Since moving in here, I have changed out 3 light fixtures, installed a swing-arm-enabled mirror, reattached numerous wiggly fixtures to walls, repaired a fence, repaired a toilet, and learned how to maintain a hot tub. In addition I have taken apart and reassembled an electric air filter attached to the furnace, 2 garage door remotes (remarkably simple contraptions), and most of the previously mentioned random fixtures. I'm glad I owned some basic tools before we moved in, thanks to my dad's insistence for several years in a row that Santa brought tools to grown children. I even found a use for the industrial-strength plastic clamps that I've moved 5 times from apartment to apartment. (Particle board destruction + wood glue + clamps = fixed filing cabinet!)

It's a little thing, but there's a nice sense of accomplishment after a day of tangibly fixing things that you just don't get from cleaning. When you clean, and especially when you do laundry, stuff just gets messed up again. But if you install/repair/replace part of your house, that sticks. That doesn't mean I couldn't do more to help with cleaning though. There's always more to do.

Monday, October 6, 2008

NYC #2

So Saturday, 9/20 in NYC was my sister's wedding. My brother's semi-official anniversary is 8/13, mine is 10/20, my sister's is now 9/20. Easy enough, eh?

We arrived at the venue about 2 hours before the wedding was set to start. This was designated Picture Time, but the bride's wedding dress was notably absent so that didn't happen so much. Instead we took some of our own pics.

The wedding was at the Palm House at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Nice place, nice ceremony, everybody was happy. The DJ apparently had some commitment issues and showed up a couple hours late, but it all worked out. Dancing was done, with the Grand March, the Flying Dutchman, and the Chicken Dance thrown in as a nod to our Western Kansas roots. The kids took advantage of the dancin' as well:
After the reception it was off to Coney Island. We rode the subway in all our wedding gear, which created quite a scene. Also it took forever. We had dinner at Nathan's, where the Coney Dog originated. The hot dogs were tasty as advertised. Then it was off down the boardwalk to the WonderWheel, where the happy couple was engaged. We rode in a "swinging" car, after being promised it wasn't *too* scary. It was fun, and the kids' screams of "WE'RE GOING TO DIE!!!!" were full of laughter. Here are the newlyweds on the Wheel:
No account of the trip would be complete without mentioning Rhiannon. She's a girl my sister knew and spent a ton of time with in San Jose, and she flew all the way to NYC to be a part of the festivities. She and Mr. K bonded in the way that kids in a crowd of adults will, and he developed quite the little 6-year-old crush on her. It was cute, and we can only hope he's able to move on since losing her to the ending of the weekend.Saturday was a laaaate night, with the longest subway ride ever back to Manhattan with an exhausted family, wife, and kids. But we made it eventually and crashed hard. Sunday morning was the final event of the weekend, a brunch hosted by Matt's mom. Steph and the kids stayed behind at the hotel for some much-needed relaxation prior to the return trip. The Bean was much much better on the trip home, and we made it back to bed in Denver without incident.

All in all it was a great trip, if a bit exhausting. My new family has now met the remainder of my original family and it all went well. It sounds like we'll all be together again for at least part of the holidays and I can look forward to that now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Supplemental pic post

OK, 1st of all I've decided that the K1 & K2 thing isn't working for me. From here on, it's Mr. K and the Bean. I'm sure you'll catch on quickly, whoever you are reading this.

So here are selected pics from the activities mentioned in the prior NYC post.

The morning Friday started with Toys R' Us. We had to take my parents along to ride the giant ferris wheel in the middle of the store. I wasn't able to get any decent pics of everybody while they were riding, but they got in a Nickelodeon car w/ Spongebob clinging to the outside, which was appreciated I think.
The we explored the store. This is my mom and the Bean leaving Jurassic Park.
Here's what the Bean was worried about. She wasn't quite sure what to think of it, showing some concern that it might break out of it's animatronically limited range of motion and try to get a bite of little girl meat. Luckily Mr. K was there to protect her.
From Toys R' Us we trekked home through Times Square with Tim & Erin.
And my lovely wife of course.
The it was off to Governor's Island. This is on the way to the ferry, after everybody had met my sister for the 1st time.
Governor's Island was fun, and photogenic.

And then there was the ferry back to Manhattan. It was photogenic as well.
So there you have it. The pics to go with the prior post. More to come! I'll finish blogging this trip eventually.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Light the Night

*I have to take a break from NYC stuff...pics are uploaded, but I have something else to talk about at the moment*

Tonight was the Light the Night walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. (At least this was the Boulder iteration. There are others coming up in the Denver area.) We went, because it would seem bad karma to not support a group that supports people just like you staying alive. K1 was with dad, so it was Steph, K2, and I walking with a few hundred other people around the CU campus.

I was surprised at how emotional it was for me. Most days it's easy to forget that 3 months ago Steph was fighting for her life. Tonight she had the special blue "SURVIVOR" shirt, with the special survivor-specific white balloon. K2 and I had the red everybody-else balloons, and scattered throughout the crowd were gold balloons, representing people who had died from leukemia or lymphoma. I got hit upside the head with the realization that, had things gone differently, I could have shown up there and been forced to pick up the gold balloon. Instead I had my wife, with her blue t-shirt and white balloon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This salsa was made in New York City!

Last weekend my sister got married again. This is #2 for her. I only mention that because, growing up, it was always assumed that I would be 1st to get married. Instead, by the time I got engaged my little brother was on his 2nd engagement and my older sister had been married, divorced, and was engaged again. Fast forward a year and Tim & Erin have passed their 1st anniversary, Steph & I are almost to ours, and Meg & Matt are newlyweds. The end result though is that all 3 of us have found wonderful partners that suit us well. What more could you ask?

So Thursday we flew out. Delta was the airline chosen, due to flight times which they then modified to be not-as-convenient-as-hoped. We were set to arrive at 4:30, but our plane landed at 4:00 somehow. That was great, except that we spent about 45 min. sitting on the runway waiting to get to a gate. K2 had been somewhat fussy throughout the trip (really, really unusual for her...she's usually a much better traveler...) and sitting on the ground for an extra 45 minutes was not fun. After she finished her 3-year-old meltdown, we got off the plane, hopped in cabs, and headed to Manhattan to our hotel. We met up w/ Meg and my dad, then wandered down to Times Square for dinner on Mars.

The restaurant was Mars 2112, a theme place with pretty decent food and no traffic at all on a Thursday evening. There was no wait for our spaceship, a jiggly-simulation-type ride that took us through space and through a wormhole to land on mars, where we disembarked and ate in a very space-esque atmosphere. It was a perfect choice of place after the plane ride. The kids wandered around with my sister and explored, K2 talked to a woman dressed as an alien (as opposed to the ACTUAL alien who, the alien-costumed-woman confided in K2, was kind of scary...mostly he just danced and posed a lot) and there was even a DDR machine for post-dinner entertainment. Then it was off to the M&M store and a walk back to the hotel.

Friday started at Toys R' 'Spensive. K1 got his Nintendo DS for his bday and Steph got Halloween costume shopping done. Then it was subway time and we headed out to Governor's Island to explore, play very-mini golf, fly kites, and see civil war-era forts (a highlight for K1). The evening was spent at the "rehearsal dinner," which was drinks and finger foods in a swank place where they weren't used to small children or peanut allergies. K1 locked herself in the bathroom at one point and I got to talk her down through a door until she was able to unlock it. So that was fun. We left after the manager snapped at us.

More tomorrow. Bed now. I need to find my camera too...there are pics of some of this!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

History successfully witnessed

This post has been kicking around in my head for awhile now, but life's been busy.

On August 28, I got to take my stepson along to witness history being made. What's odd is that we knew it. This wasn't a spontaneous event on the streets, it wasn't a tragedy out of our control like flipping on the news the morning of 9/11, it was a conscious decision that "Hey, we're going to go witness a piece of history that will be talked about for years. Let's go!" That doesn't happen often. But we were lucky, thanks to the Perlmutter office who gave me 2 "community credentials" to get in the door.

The first time I saw Obama in person, he flew out in 2006 to do an event for Perlmutter, when he was fighting in what looked like a close election. This was the scene then:

That's Ed Perlmutter, Barack Obama, Sen. Ken Salazar, now-governor Bill Ritter, and soon-to-be-Senator Mark Udall. I was a volunteer for that event, and still have the badge that says so. The turnout was large, for what it was, especially considering we had made the decision to open it to the public just the previous afternoon. This is the crowd (notice the snipers on the roof, even back then):

I only mention this to give perspective on the difference 2 years makes.

*****

I picked up K1 at school at 1:00. He had worn his Barack Obama shirt to school that day, and had been telling his classmates that he got to go see Obama that night. He says many were jealous. At 1:00 he practically bounced to the office and we headed to parking. According to the official parking guide, all parking at Mile High was closed, so shuttles were running from Coors Field (only from 11-2 to encourage/force early arrival) and returning folks conveniently to their cars afterward. (Can you sense foreboding?) We got there at 1:45ish, hopped on a repurposed school bus, and rode to the stadium. Rather, we rode to the line, taking a circuitous route around the actual stadium, since reports of extremely long lines made this seem wise to the bus operators. They were not wrong. This is K1 after about 30 min in line (looking back toward the line behind us):
Behind the picture, the line wrapped up a hill to the right and stretched for about 1/4 mile that we could see. In front of us at that point stood about a mile of line, 2 security checkpoints, x-ray machines, and metal detectors. And we were in the short line. The one coming in from the north was about twice as long when we finally saw it from the stadium ramps. This is about 45 minutes after the last picture, with the stadium actually in sight!

Notice...he's still smiling! A pretty incredible task really. We spent about 2 hours in that line and he didn't complain once. Well, there was once, when he was getting thirsty. Luckily the Coca-Cola corporation had thoughtfully set up stands w/ free Dasani water along the line so we didn't die. Considerate, since all water bottles were specifically prohibited, so nobody had brought any. Mostly though K1 was so excited to go see Obama that nothing else really mattered. He made a game of finding fallen political buttons on the ground and hung out better than many of the adults who kept sneaking past people in the line.

Around 4:30 we made it to our seats. Hooray! We had a great view of the stage from the nosebleed seats. (This is zoomed a bit. And that's Ed Perlmutter again speechifying!)
And here we are, enjoying the afternoon.

The afternoon was spent enjoying speeches and scouring the concession stands for food. We got stuck in 1 line when Gore was on, but saw pretty much everybody else the whole afternoon. K1 hung in like a champ, and only spent about 20 min total playing the Gameboy he'd brought along in case of boredom. Of course people-watching in a crowd of 84,000 is always fun.

Finally after 4 hours of listening to music and speeches it was time for the big event. Flags had been distributed, placards passed around, and the excitement was palpable.

The speech itself...well, you can see that in a million other places. Hopefully it will come to represent an actual turning point in our country's history and K1 will be able to tell his grandchildren someday that he was there for the speech they're talking about in school. It was historic, and I was just honored that I got to be there for it. (I did have to watch it again online...something about 84,000 cheering people kind of drowned out the actual content at times. That's a price I was more than willing to pay though.) K1 got really into it, jumping up on his seat when everybody stood to applaud, waving his flag when it seemed appropriate, and taking it all in about as much as he could have. This is the view he'll be remembering:



Eventually it all ended and it was time to go home. We grabbed all of our souvenirs and headed out with everybody else. Now, remember that thing about the shuttles? When we had left the bus I had asked where to meet the shuttle and had been told 5th & Walnut. "Leave the stadium, go under the overpass, then follow the massive crowd." Great! We left the stadium [check], flocked under the overpass [check], followed the massive crowd [check]. Except at some point it became clear that the massive crowd was being led by someone who also didn't know where they were going. Or had been redirected...the way I thought we should maybe go, based on a hasty glance at the map, was blocked by several security personnel saying "Nope, can't go this way, keep it moving people!" So we walked. And walked. And walked.

Eventually the crowd started to thin out, with groups breaking off to go different directions. When we finally got to a map on the bike path we'd been following it became quite clear that we were nowhere close to the shuttle pickup. We were actually about 2/3 of the way back to our car by then. So we hoofed it, with K1 dragging at this point and me carrying him about 1/2 the way. Google maps puts the distance somewhere between 2.5-3.5 miles, and we certainly didn't take the most direct route.

After leaving the stadium at 9:30, we got to our car at 11:00. We had passed/walked with many others who had also missed the shuttle stop. We certainly weren't alone in that. K1 was asleep before we left the parking lot. I can't blame him. 10 hours of logistics and politics is a long day! But we went, and he was insanely glad he got to go. I am too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Corn blowin' in the Popo Agie

Last weekend was great. It was Death March 11...for some people. This group of 4 guys started doing an annual guys-only hiking/camping trip back in 1998 (when I was graduating high school). (John, John, Jeff, and were the original 4, I think). The group of people involved seems to vary from year to year (obviously. see also: I was invited.), but the nature of the weekend has not. It's just a group of guys, out in the woods. Pretty basic.

So Friday we headed out. Jarrod picked me up at 7:00 to head up to Wyoming. Jarrod, Curtis, Jeff, and I rode up together, planning to meet the rest of the bunch in Landers, WY at noon. After meeting up, eating, buying fishing licenses, etc. we headed up to the trailhead at about 2. That's when we met the Snot Road of Doom, a.k.a. the 6-mile road up to the trailhead. Apparently they're getting ready to pave the currently-dirt road, because the road was entirely stripped down to perfectly-flattened dirt. The parking lot full of heavy duty road-making equipment was a clue as well. See, it had rained the night before. A lot. For a long time. The old-timers we later met said it snowed in the higher elevations from 3 am to 3 pm. So the road was a muddy, slippery disaster. We aborted 1 climb after 1/4 mile, due to a Honda Odyssey not quite being up to the challenge. We returned to the base parking lot, consolidated into 2 4WDs, and headed back up. An hour later (for a 6-mile jaunt remember), after seeing several cars with panicked drivers heading down ("I don't know where the 4WD button is and I can't call my husband because it's a new car and he'll kill me!"), we made it to the trailhead. We saddled (strapped?) up and headed up the trail at 4:00.

By 9:15 we had hiked almost 6 miles with all of our gear. The trail was muddy and we were muddy and we were sore and we were tired and the sun was down and we were hiking by flashlight through marshes of questionable density-of-ground. At 9:30 we finally found a spot to camp. Tents were pitched, crackers eaten, bed achieved.

Saturday
we awoke to frost and fog. We had a big breakfast (people really do use those half-dozen egg containers they sell at REI! Who knew?) and by the time we were done cleaning up (11:00 AM) the clouds had broken, the sun was out, and warmth was seeping in. We spent the day doing...whatever. Really. It's not often you get to just do...whatever without worrying about if you should be doing something or cleaning something or cooking something or saying something or being somewhere else. There were no expectations and it was great. I spent the day mostly hiking up a ridge on the opposite side of the valley from our camp with various groups of guys. The evening was cooking and hanging out, then sleep.

Sunday we basically got up and left. The sun was out, the day was great, and the downhill dry trek took 3.5 hours, compared to the 5.5 for the long slog in.

Of course this is the short version of the weekend. There are other stories, but I wanted to get something down before I let it slip too far out of my head. It was a really good time and I'm glad I got to go. Hopefully I'll be included next year too!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The tragic demise of moles

I currently have 4 dermatologist-inflicted holes in my body. I had some moles, went to the doctor, lost some moles. It's such a non-event, for a surgical procedure. "OK, I think I'll take off...that one...that one...hmmm...not that one...that one if you want..." It's a strange experience. She took the 2 I wanted her to, the ones that have actually noticeably changed in the last year, plus 2 more that looked at her funny. Terribly exciting, I know.

In other news, Fri-Sun is my 1st weekend out in the woods with a bunch of guys since Boy Scouts all those years ago. Jarrod invited me along with him and some of his friends for a camping trip in Wyoming. It should be a good time. The impending trip has already given me an excuse to buy new hiking boots and a new frame pack (which are SO MUCH CHEAPER than when I was 14!!) Now I just have to see if I can get out the door at 6 am Friday. Damn mornings.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Things on the tubes

I thought I'd update my links over there on the right to include some things on this series of tubes that make me laugh. Links over there---->
(graphjam and totallylookslike are new additions)

In other news, our carpet has taken a beating lately. First K2 decided to open a vial of unidentified red powder in the basement* and it got on the carpet. Using my crack cleaning skillz, I grabbed the #2 vacuum that lives in the basement and tried to vacuum the spot. High speed brushes + unidentified substance = more mess that K2 had made in the first place. So I pulled out the attachments and tried to use those to clean up the mess, forgetting that the brushes were still spinning, leaving another red stripe a foot away from the giant blotch created by the spreading of K2's initial 3" wide spill. In the end #2 vacuum is pretty much ruined and the carpet had 2 giant patches of stain.

Then last night K1 was sick. Some sort of stomach bug that caused the contents of his stomach to rush for the nearest exit repeatedly over the space of 10 hours or so. This was also not good for the carpet. So a Rug Doctor was rented today and lots of cleaning done by Steph, who stayed home w/ K1. Neither happening has been totally eradicated from the carpet of our home, so I guess they will become a permanent (until the carpet is replaced at least) record of mishaps. That's what makes a home a home though, right?

*note to self and other parents...if your child receives any presents which include learning activities with potential messes hidden inside, make sure you complete these ASAP!! Otherwise you're asking for trouble. At least I was.

Friday, August 1, 2008

TGIF- Bird Flu edition

Well the bird flu vaccine trial has been enrolled as planned. Good times. Busy times, but good. Up next is the insomnia trial that has been pending for awhile now. Late August is the new projected start (pushed back from next week, which was revised from mid-July, which was the declaration when late June didn't happen.) We'll see when that really happens. In the meantime I have a bit of breathing space to catch up on the big weight loss trial and close out 4 other studies in the next 2 weeks. Really breathing space is overrated.

In other news, Obi continues to assimilate. We've had a few issues...at some point he decided that his pooping places were either out in the backyard or in the basement, so the kid-gate the previous homeowner's left here went back up so he can't get to the basement unsupervised. I've lost a pair of shorts and a pair of PJ pants, and a Darth Vader mask was destroyed (don't tell K1. He doesn't know yet!). That's just stuff though. He's a really great doggy and wants to be loved...it's a constant PET ME PLEASE!!! sort of wanting to be loved. We've been out for walks or visits to the dog park almost daily since we got him and he loves to get out and see the world. He also started refusing to go in his crate after only a few days, so now he has the run of the house during the day and does really well with that. He hasn't destroyed a single thing while home alone during the day...that's only happened at night when we're sleeping. He's come a long way in the last month!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Funeral/Wisconsin

Last week Stephanie's Aunt Jackie passed away. This was her dad's (step-dad technically) twin brother's wife. The passing was somewhat expected...she's been sick for a long time...but nobody really knew it was coming so soon. So we took a quick family trip to Madison over the weekend for the funeral.

First the good stuff...I got to meet a lot of the family that I hadn't yet. I met Steph's other 2 brothers and their families, her grandma, and Charlotte & Bob. All were wonderful and friendly and such, and I'm glad I got to meet them all finally. They all thanked me for updating the cancer blog and it really sank in for me how important that had been to people I had never met. I also got to experience some important Madison stuff...we drove by Steph's childhood home and high school and went to a Friday Night Fish Fry (it's capitalized when Steph says it...). We (the kids & I at least) were only there 40 or so hours, but we got a LOT in during that time.

The funeral itself was quite surreal.
First, it was a Catholic service. Having been raised Catholic, and having been an altar boy for years (no, I was not molested), I have been to more than my share of Catholic funerals. That was always from a perspective of an insider participant. This was the first one I've been to since I left the Catholic church. Aside from 1 wedding, I have not been to a Catholic mass since 1998. The ritual of it has all changed for me. I know all of the appropriate audience answers, I know the sing-songy responses to all of the prayers, and I know almost all of the songs. But I can't participate. I don't believe it anymore, and I don't want to cheapen it for those that do, so I can't just act clueless and play along. I know what it means and I've chosen to allow my beliefs to go in a different direction. That makes for an awkward service.

The other thing that got me this weekend was the fact that Stephanie is alive. Jackie's husband had 45 years of marriage with her. Sitting at a funeral for someone who had that kind of love for that long, it really sank in for me how close I came to losing Stephanie prematurely. I cried at the funeral of a woman I had never met. Not out of sadness, but out of relief and the realization that I was going to get to live that kind of complete, loving life with my wife.

When it's our time to die, we will be judged by the love we gave and the love we received. I am overwhelmed with relief that I get to continue building that kind of bond with Stephanie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

C-boy

I'd like to introduce a character in my universe. He's the neighbor kid, known here as C-boy from here on.

C-boy was not a planned child. This is apparent. His older siblings are 18 year old twins, destined for college in the fall. C-boy is therefore in the unfortunate position of ruining his parents' empty-nesthood through no fault of his own. Not that they notice his presence. When we come home he's often in his driveway playing, many times in the old Jeep that sits in the driveway and doesn't move. (His "fort." He sleeps in there sometimes.) He'll come running over within 45 seconds of our arrival home and want to play with the kids.

This started out innocently enough. On the day we moved in, K1 noticed that hey, he KNOWS THE KID NEXT DOOR!!! HOORAY!!! He and C-boy are (were) in daycare together and were delighted to live next door to each other. C-boy's mom came over and introduced herself and welcomed us to the neighborhood and gushed about how we'd have to get our kids together to play!! Oh boy!! Since then that conversation has changed significantly in my rememberance and taken on a weird tone in my memory. I haven't talked to the mom since, or ever met the dad. I've spoken to both of the twins randomly, but not the parents.

The level of inattention to their child frankly scares me. He'll be playing in the driveway, see us, wander over, and spend 2 hours in our home without his parents ever noticing that their child isn't outside any more. He's wandered off with us on adventures and walks with Obi without ever telling his parents where he's going and they have never noticed. Maybe I'm weird, but I like to know where my kids are, ya know? And if they were ever going to spend time at a neighbor's house, I'd want to meet the parents, talk to them, make sure their home didn't have sharp knives for doorknobs...something. Knowing who your kids are hanging out with just seems (in my mind) to be such a basic function of being a parent. I guess they have different ideas.

So all of this puts Steph and I in an awkward situation. We feel bad for C-boy. His parents ignore him obviously. K1 asks us if he can come over all the time, citing the fact that "his parents don't pay any attention to him. They give him hugs and food, but that's about it." But Jesus...we have 2 kids, we have enough going on, and C-boy NEVER wants to just hang out. He comes over and demands that the kids change what they were doing to fit his whims. If the kids want to play, he wants to watch TV and vice versa. He'll ask K1 to show him Lego Star Wars and then 5 minutes later be playing in the corner with the kids' toys. We've fed him dinner and he's questioned what we're eating. If you're going to crash a party, try to blend in! I don't think he's ever come over when someone hasn't ended up crying by the time he went home. So he's not an easy presence. And he's not our responsibility. But I'm afraid there is always going to be a part of me that feels like I should just function as a fill-in parent for this kid too.

The world would be such a better place if people of all races, colors, creeds, and genders would fulfill the function of Parent to the children they bring into the world.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Changing the map vs. changing your life

In 2006 I was an active part of the Perlmutter campaign. Starting before the primary, I was at Perlmutter HQ at least 10 hours a week, gradually increasing to where I was spending 30+ hours a week volunteering. (And 12+ hour days in the week before the election.) I got to know Ed and his family, got to serve as his back-up driver when the regular guy wasn't available, and became a go-to volunteer around HQ. Eventually I got paid a bit, for the last month of the campaign, but mostly I was there because I wanted to be. I believed in his candidacy and worked my butt off to get the guy elected and flip the district from (R) to (D). In most cases this has proven to be well worth my time. He's been a solid vote on almost everything (with the exception of the recent FISA debacle. I don't know what happened there.) He's also done some neat stuff with encouraging 'green' construction nationwide.

So now we're in the middle of another election cycle, if you hadn't noticed. I find myself strangely uninvolved. Thinking back it's pretty obvious why 2006 was so different. Back then I was in a crumbling relationship with my roommate and girlfriend of 5.5 years. I didn't want to be home in the evenings and time at HQ (.25 miles down the road) was time away from awkwardness. It was an escape for me, in addition to being something I believed in. For all of her political leanings, Sarah didn't want to do much to actually get a candidate elected, so that became my escape. At the time I was also working a job that required me to actually show up zero hours/week.

2 years later, I'm a husband to a wonderful woman, a step-daddy of 2, and I actually have to go to work. This leaves pretty much no time to get involved politically. People from the old campaign are asking me constantly to help phone bank or canvass...things I absolutely loved doing. I hate saying No, but at the same time my responsibilities are so much greater at home. It would be nice if I had time to be idealistic and do what I could to help get Udall and Obama elected and (I believe) create a better country and world for my kids.

It's obvious to me now why the politically involved tend to be college students and retirees. When it comes to changing the world, there's so much more immediacy and intimacy in spending time your family than in struggling to convert voters to a candidate you believe will promote policies that will eventually create a better life for said family. I haven't lost my idealism or anything, but the expression of it has certainly changed with the changes in my life.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Honeymoon!

A couple weeks ago Steph & I finally managed to sneak in a honeymoon. With the way things went right after getting married, we hadn't had a chance to get away together and enjoy being married. So we scooted off to Riveria Maya, just South of Cancun, and spent 5 days doing...nothing. Absolutely nothing.

If there was ever a case of taking the perfect vacation at the perfect time, this was it. Steph finished radiation a week before we left, so she was still recovering and a bit run down. As for me...well, not to brag or anything, but I've had a pretty full plate myself since taking on a family last October. Lying on a beach was just about the best thing I could ask for.

We stayed at the Grand Sirenis, a really new (opened last year) all-inclusive place. The food wasn't great, but we never went hungry or ran out of options; the alcohol was free and readily available; the pools were large and quiet; and the beach was beautiful and relaxing. The days were pretty much wake up, eat, go to the beach, eat, float in the pool or go back to the beach, eat, go watch the evening's entertainment, go to bed, repeat in the morning. It was pretty perfect. Occasionally somebody would walk by and try to talk us into an excursion or snorkelling or some such and we shot them all down. "Nope. We'll be sitting right here for the next 3 days. Thanks though!"

We came home relaxed and rejuvenated, with more fun memories to share. I'm sure more stories will trickle out later (the cokehead from England, Carlos the Hyperactive Entertainer, etc.), but for now here are some pics...

I'll start with me because I'm the least interesting to look at. On the little outcropping behind me was some sort of old ruin, probably a lookout of some sort. It had a tiny little toilet in it.


And then there's my lovely wife. This is standing on the outcropping looking back toward the beach (you can see one of the bars by Steph's head)And then some pics of us (taken towards the end of the trip, hence the sunburned raccoon look I'm rockin'):

And that's almost all of the pics I have actually. I'm very bad about remembering to take my camera along, and when I do I'm horrible at remembering to take pictures of things that I'm enjoying or might want to remember. Oh well, at least there's enough for a blog I guess!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The family grows!

The West/Smith family is proud to announce the addition of our newest member:

Obi-Sid Kenobi

Obi came to us from a German Shepherd rescue. He was given up by his old owner for unknown reasons in Arizona a couple months ago, sent off to Utah where he was not adopted, and then made his way to Colorado courtesy of the Rescue group (whose name I will track down...) who thought he'd have better luck finding a family here. He did that within a week! Overachiever.

From what we know he's a German Shepherd/Malamute (or Husky) mix, about 16 months old. He's a smart puppy, but still a puppy in many ways. Whoever owned him before didn't take the time to teach many manners, so we've started that. The place where we picked him up (I'll get names when Steph's awake tomorrow...) is a daycare/training facility that takes in rescue animals as a community service on the side and socializes them for adoptability. They're great folks, and have offered to keep working with our Obi for a couple days to help with some of his puppy-ish traits (jumping up on things, bowling you over when he wants petted, etc.) We've been keeping him home in the evenings and Steph has been dropping him off at 'school' on her way too and from work.

I guess I should explain his name...he was Sid when we met him, but to me that sounds too much like Sit (which he was just learning and has now mastered). It's hard to ask a dog to master hard consonants at the end of words. Also Steph had Sage and Summit along with Arlo and another S-name was confusing her up front. On the drive home we settled on a name we could all agree on...Star Wars for Kade and Kaia (yes, she watches it too...) but Steph and I retained veto power. Retaining part of his heritage, he is now Obi-Sid Kenobi, a.k.a. Obi, Obi Kenobi, Obers.

He's a smart boy. In the 3 days we've had him he's figured out his name (he never responded to Sid, according to the rescue folks), mastered the Sit thing, learned how to get along with the family and walk on a leash, and started on Stay and Shake. As with any puppy there are things to learn, like Don't Pee On Mom's Jewelry Armoire, and Don't Poop In The Basement, but you can tell he's an intelligent pooch and it won't be any trouble helping him learn these things. Now some pics, and bedtime for me...

First the side view for scale...he's about 80 lbs at the moment:

Here's me with Obi in the kitchen:

Obers on his first ever walk with Steph (he picked up on the leash thing quickly with the help of a "naughty boy collar"):

And on his first (brief) hike, cut short due to thunder and rain:

That's all for now. I'm sure there will be many more Obi pics in the future!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thoughts on my wife

Stephanie has her final radiation treatment today and I want to dedicate a post to her.
--Feel free to skip if you're not in the mood for mushy. It's that kind of post.--

I was madly in love with this girl already when I married her. I must have been...we got married 8 months earlier than planned after all. And then came the cancer and all of the trials of the last 8 months. Through it all she has been amazing. She has bulled straight ahead through cancer like it was just something on her to-do list. Her attitude has been positive, and she has managed to simultaneously grapple with a life-threatening illness, incorporate a new husband into her world, acclimate her kids to a new stepdad (and vice versa), learn and adjust to a new job with expanded responsibilities in a new therapeutic realm, buy and move into a new house, and deal with the loss of a 14 year companion doggy. I thought she was a tough cookie when I fell in love with her. I had no idea.

That's not all there is though, obviously. She's just a wonderful person, loved by (almost) everyone in her life, smart, happy and fun to hang out with, kind, loving, caring, a great mom and a wonderful partner (not to mention damn sexy). I had suspected back when we got engaged that this was the case, but I didn't have the perspective on it then that I do now. The surreal feeling of "Wow, this girl married *me*?!?!" has only grown with time, and I feel lucky every day to be included in her life.

I'm glad we got married when we did. The last 8 months might not have resembled the First Eight Months Of Marriage I envisioned in my head growing up, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. We have grown stronger through this, individually and as a couple and as a family. The post-cancer years will only be sweeter for having been through all of this up front.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

KS 107.5 Summer Jam

The big Summer Jam was last night...Lil Wayne, Ice Cube, Wyclef Jean, Danity Kane, Day 26, Ray J, 2 Pistols, Colby O'Donis, Flo Rida, David Banner...basically this was the hip-hop event of the year for Denver. Stephanie gets free 'events' from the Diana Price-Fisher foundation due to the cancer thing, so she requested 2 tickets. There's something intensely odd about being among the older demographic in the place, in the minority racial demographic, and in the handicapped seating section for the gang-banger event of the year. But it was an entertaining evening that was certainly memorable.

First the music...I've never been to this kind of show before. I'm used to rock concerts, with instruments and such. Obviously this is not the case with rap, but what a difference it makes. Instead of getting up on stage and creating music, the performers (specifically Flo Rida, Ray J, and David Banner) get out on stage and show off their CDs. The DJ plays the hit track, and the rapper sings along with himself, throwing in the odd Unnh or unhhuhh. That's weird to me. There's the occasional freestyle moment, but that's not the same as musicians jamming, at least to my admittedly raised-on-rock ears. To me it felt like the show was more about the artists showing off (look at what I recorded!) than musicians sharing their music with an audience. It's a totally different vibe. Later in the evening Wyclef and Ice Cube performed in the "old skool" way, actually rapping the lyrics to their music over a music-only backing track. So maybe it's just a generational shift, and the newcomers to the music scene are just more afraid to forget the lyrics. Wyclef even got out a couple different guitars for various songs!

So then there were the people...it was an amazing evening for people watching. Memorable folks:
The mid-40's ish white woman who sat down next to me for 10 seconds while she dumped what looked like an 8 oz. bottle of vodka into her coke before running away.
The 13-15 year old gangsta wanna-be girls who intruded on our space for almost the whole show, until I snapped at a girl who decided that she could jump up on Steph's seat to watch a fight.
The Mexican kid in front of us...so many memories of him. His girlfriend started the evening shoving her tongue down his throat, but by the time we left she wouldn't touch him. He was flashing the "Westside!!!!!" sign constantly (including persistently to show support for Wyclef...who is from Haiti...by way of New York). He bonded over something gang-related with a couple big-ass dudes next to us and spun a purple bandana over his head off and on (the Crips are in Aurora. Yep.). His girlfriend was not amused.
The attitude of most people was quite respectful, notable only because most rock concerts I've been to have inevitably involved some asshole being an asshole. Looking back Steph thinks this might have been because so many people recognized the potential for a violent outbreak and didn't want to piss anybody off. But the crowd was cool, until some guys behind us on the lawn started messing w/ the event staff. We saw a trashcan lid thrown at one point but we couldn't see the whole drama. By the middle of Ice Cube's set the crowd was starting to get louder and more tense and it felt like something could break out at any minute. Steph was exhausted anyway from the radiation, so we headed out. (Neither of us were there to see Lil Wayne luckily.)

All in all it was an enjoyable afternoon/evening. It was a fun experience, if a little out of our element. Good time though. I don't know that I could do a Jay-Z concert though, as much as I'd like to.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

History is made

I haven't mentioned politics on here in awhile. Tonight though...wow. Obama has clinched the nomination, by all counts that matter. His speech from Minnesota this evening was everything that it needed to be and the man has proven once again how eloquent and inspirational he can be. Put up against McCain (or Clinton for that matter), there is no question who is the more electrifying presence. It's 28 minutes, but watch if you can spare the time:



There are moments where you just *know* that you're watching history happen. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the chaos of the 9/11 coverage...there are moments that have that sense that kids will be learning about them for years, and political science classes will be dissecting them for a generation. Tonight was one of those. K1 and K2 sat down with Steph and I for a good 10-15 minutes to watch Obama speak, and I think K1 at least will remember this for a long time. It's a magical feeling, knowing that a chapter in history is beginning before your eyes.

I don't know what will happen with Clinton. She practically submitted her resume for VP consideration this evening, while refusing to concede. We'll see where that goes...a joint ticket would be a dream for party activists, but whether that would appeal to people outside of the Democratic Party is a different question. Obama may have to look elsewhere for a veep, and after her comments tonight Hillary would be hard pressed to NOT bust her ass on the campaign trail supporting him. Her actions will have an impact on what her followers choose to do. I hope that if she's not the VP candidate she'll do the right thing with respect to Obama.

So we'll see what happens in the general election. I think I'll request the Monday and Tuesday of election week off so I can do my part on those days at least. This is going to be an exciting election, and I have to get involved where I can!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tattoo forthcoming

Way back when I started this blog, I mentioned that the image over there to the right was going to be my next tattoo. This is still true, but the meaning has evolved a bit.

The original reasons for the tattoo still hold true. Humans are amazing creatures. There's more now though. When I sketched the artwork during staff meetings, I always started with one person in the middle of the image, bearing the brunt of the weight. At one point that was the person leading the effort to lift the burden. Now though I think it's the opposite...the person in the middle is far too close to being overwhelmed with the burden placed on their shoulders. That person has realized that they can't achieve their goal alone...they need the support of the people on the sides, or they will inevitably be crushed by the task they have undertaken.

The sun now seems to represent cancer. The person in the middle...well, depending on your point of view it could be Stephanie or anyone fighting such an illness. It's all about perspective. Any major stress in a person's life is made easier to bear and overcome by the presence of outside help and understanding. For me, on my body, if that guy in the middle is me, the people helping are Stephanie, K1, K2, and my family and friends. I haven't been going through chemo myself, but I've certainly had my own stresses with my new wife doing so. It would have been crushing, had I not had the support of amazing people in my life. This definitely includes my new family, who have supported me through this with acceptance and love. I can't think of a better thing to commemorate in a tattoo.

Heard louder than a gun
The sound they made was love love love love love love love love

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Trees, apples, and the distance between

When I was younger, oh so long ago, my father purchased an electric lawnmower. I think it may have been one of the earliest non-gasoline-powered mowers. It was a quietly humming Black & Decker that ran on an extremely long extension cord. My brother and I complained mightily about this contraption, deriding the choice and lamenting openly about the hassle of dealing with a 75' extension cord whilst doing laborious yard work. My opinion of my dad's poor decision making in lawn-care equipment was solidified when that mower died and he went right out and bought ANOTHER Black & Decker mower that ran on an extension cord. It was the silliest thing I think I ever saw him do.

So last weekend Steph & I had to acknowledge that we desperately needed a lawnmower. I'm on the liberal-tree-hugger side of the spectrum, so I didn't want a gas mower. Battery-powered mowers (at least the ones available in nearby stores) were all a bit more money than we wanted to spend. So I consulted the ever-trusty Consumer Reports (a purchasing habit I learned from my parents) and came up with...the Black & Decker corded electric mower. Which I now own. With a 75' extension cord.

While I was dealing with lawn-care and other home-owner-related things that used to be my dad's job, he was participating in the Colorado Democratic Party Convention. This is a fairly significant thing...up until the 2006 election my parents had both considered themselves Republican. One evening I asked my dad "So, what is it that the current Republican Party believes that you agree with?" I don't know if that was the exact conversation that changed his mind, but shortly after that he became a Democrat and is now to the point of being a delegate at the state convention. Not only that, but being an ALTERNATE delegate, which means showing up and hanging out all day waiting to see if anybody even cares that you're there. I was impressed, and I like to think that I contributed to one person's delegate-hood even if I couldn't actually go to the convention this year.

Life is funny sometimes.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A proud moment in daddyhood

While going through K1's backpack last weekend I found a project from Earth Day at school. It's a standard kindergarten worksheet: "I can help the earth by..." with a blank page underneath. His response was "Git red av bad on gas cars" Get rid of bad on gas cars. There is a large vehicle with flames coming off of it, that has apparently been 'sploded by the eco-terrorists (it says 'CABOOM' and there's a smiling guy saying 'YAAA!') Around it are the non-flaming good cars, including HOONDA, TODAYOODA, and SLG BAG (Honda, Toyota, Slug Bug) all with smiling people and their own "YAAA!"s.

I don't know where this started, but K1 developed an interest in fuel efficiency several months ago. While driving from the old apartment to the daycare, he would point out cars on the road and ask if they were a "bad on gas car" or not. Obviously we established that Honda and Toyota made more efficient cars than others, generally speaking. The Slug Bug thing came up literally once, about a month ago when we were out exploring our new neighborhood. His friend in the car with us did the "Slug Bug no tagbacks!" thing and K1 just said "Anthony, is that a bad on gas car?" It was an old diesel Beetle, so I told him it was not a bad on gas car. I guess that was enough that it stuck.

I will do my best to teach him that blowing up Hummers is probably not the way to accomplish his goals, but this is still a piece of kindergarten artwork we will be saving.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Arlo

Yesterday it was time to put Arlo to sleep. Steph and I took him to Adam's so the kids could say goodbye, then we took him to the vet and let him go.

To understand what this meant to me you have to understand my relationship with significant dogs in my life. There was the boxer we had in Topeka until I was 4 years old...he was such a non-presence that he didn't move with us to Kansas, and the only memories I have are from the pictures. There was the little dog next door who bit me on Thanksgiving one year as I played in the street. There was the dalmation who attacked me on my paper route and would have torn my throat out if I hadn't gotten my arm in the way. Then there were my grandparent's various moderately-insane boxers I dreaded being in the same room with every Thanksgiving in McPherson. Because of these early examples I was afraid of dogs until 2001 or so...that was when I met Freckles, Sarah's dog, and decided that canines as a whole maybe weren't entirely evil. Freckles was still kind of there but not terribly significant. She lived w/ Sarah's parents and I saw her occasionally, but that was it. In my years in Oklahoma I took her for one walk, and that was to escape the house on Christmas one year.

Then there was Arlo. He was there early on when Stephanie and I started doing things outside of work hours. He went on those early hikes with us, and watched us fall in love. He was the only other living creature on the trail with us when I asked Stephanie to marry me. He was there the night we got married, sleeping in the car as we signed on the dotted line and panting on the floor of the pet-friendly Loews Cherry Creek when we slept that night. He was the first dog I ever let out to pee at 3 am, picked up poop for, fed, watered, petted endlessly, snuggled with on the couch, told to shut up at 5 am, and took for more than one walk. He was the first dog I ever referred to as "mine," and the first dog (second animal) that I would say I loved.

It was his time to go. There is no doubt about that. In the past couple weeks he stopped eating his dog food, then ground beef, then the chicken thighs I boiled for him. He started falling on the hardwood floors and gave up on climbing the stairs under his own power. For the last days of his life Stephanie and I had to carry him up and down the stairs so he could be near us when we slept. The decision that is was time to do the humane thing had to be Stephanie's, but I didn't realize how much it would affect me until it had been made. Arlo was a wonderful dog, and a loving member of my new family. I loved him and I miss him, and it will be a long time before I stop shuffling my feet in the dark so I don't accidentally step on his massively sprawled paws. The old boy is in a better place now, but that doesn't mean it was any easier to let go.

This post needs a picture. This is Arlo, smiling approvingly (in my mind) from the back of the CR-V on the night we were married:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

There is no point to this post. This image (from the lovely world of icanhascheezburger.com) just made me laugh. I miss Falkor.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scouts

Last Thursday K1 came home with a sticker on his shirt. See, with the little ones you don't send notes home anymore...those get lost, forgotten, used to blow their nose, something. So this was a sticker reminding parents about the Cub Scout Night at the school at 6:30 that very same evening! (Yay for temporally proximal reminders!) So when Steph got home we decided that K1 and I would go to this thing and check out the local Scout troop.

See, my relationship with Scouting goes back a ways. I started as a Tiger Cub, as the son of an Eagle Scout who had 3 brothers who were also Eagles. My dad was my scoutmaster or assistant scoutmaster for much of the time I can remember, and I don't recall there being much question about whether I would stay involved. I worked my way up through the ranks to Eagle, which I got at 14 (pretty darn young for an Eagle Scout.) Then we left Kansas to move to Colorado and I never got involved again. Band took over my life and I spent my high school years mostly as a music geek.

Since I left, Scouting has been kind of a fond memory as well as something that other people do. I have several uncles currently involved in leading Scouting groups at various levels with their kids, and they all have a great time. So now my stepson wants to do Cub Scouts. This could be really fun and really good for us as a bonding sort of thing. I'm excited that he's interested in this. At the same time though I have my reservations. The Boy Scouts were all over the news a few years back because they had fought for (and won!) the right to exclude any of those Gay folks from their ranks. Also they've never been shy about the Christian and military undertones of the whole experience. So I don't know how I feel about that.

I'm not about to let my personal potential political qualms get in the way of being supportive of K1 and his friends. It's just strange to be conscious of the fact that this very unique experience comes with these lurking undertones of things that I won't always agree with. Which in itself is somewhat silly, because the things I remember most about my own Boy Scout days are the camping and the dirty jokes I pretended to understand and the hiking and the day camps and the kids who were always pushing the rules to see what they could get away with. I'm glad I did it though, and I'm glad my dad was there and willing to support me in my Scouting days. I wouldn't deny K1 that for a second, if this is something he's wanting to try out.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Another anniversary

Tomorrow is K2's 1/2 birthday. One year ago when she turned 2 1/2 Steph invited me over to meet her kids for the 1st time. I was still adjusting to the idea of dating a girl with kids and it was a big step. A year later I love both of the kids like my own and I'm proud to call myself a stepdaddy. Who knew?

In other news The Office is back on next week. That's exciting. It's been gone too long. What happens next?! Also in entertainment news, I discovered last night that Gnarls Barkley released a new CD and failed to personally tell me. Bitches. Thanks to iTunes and instant gratification, I have it now and it's great. I think better than the first, but without a real breakout single. It's a more consistent batch of songs, and they seem to have found their groove. Good stuff all the way through.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Anniversary post

One year ago tomorrow, our fathers brought forth on these tubes a new blog, conceived in Hope, and dedicated to the proposition that breaking with the past was an appropriate way to move forward.
One year ago yesterday, this amazing woman I now call my wife took a chance and went against her own utter distaste for intraoffice romances to date a younger guy. Over a pizza at Old Chicago.

I could never have predicted how the year would turn out from that point forward. Anything I write here about it would sound cheesy and repetitive. So I won't do that. If you know anything about me you know what an amazing and mind-boggling year this has been. There are lots more wonderful years to come.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Nancy Reagan endorses McCain

(!?!?!)
I am perplexed as to why this is Front Page News on msnbc.com. I mean really. Richardson endorsing Obama was news. It was unexpected, going against his former boss Bill Clinton, and much needed considering how Obama has fared with the Latino community. So it's not that an endorsement can't be valid news...but this? The former Republican First Lady endorsed the Republican candidate for President? Why not "Pot endorses color of Kettle"*?

And yes, I know why these things happen. But it's amazing to watch my 2nd post-political-awareness Presidential campaign and the blatant media manipulation. McCain has an endless list of high-profile Repubs he can call on as needed to get him back in the headlines while we Dems have to endure the neverending saga on our side. If only Clinton would just agree that she's not going to win and step aside then we could all go ice skating in hell, since it will have frozen over at that point.

*These days, wouldn't the pot have to call the kettle "African-American"?

Also...great article from The Onion

Sunday, March 23, 2008

First post from home

That title is more profound than it sounds really. Since this blog started just under 1 year ago I have been living in temporary circumstances. At the time my brother was my roommate, after my ex had moved on and out of the apartment we had shared. From there I moved into a one bedroom place down the road from Steph, signing a 7 month lease with the hope that by the time it was up our relationship would have stabilized and grown enough to move in together. 2 months before that lease ran out we were married and I was living with my new family in an apartment that I never quite came to think of as "my" place. It was always Stephanie's apartment and I just felt lucky that she was willing to share it with me.

Now we have a home. We purchased it together, legally and emotionally. Decorating and furniture purchasing decisions have been made together and I've done my fair share of moving/unpacking/organizing chores. This is really the first time in my life that I haven't had some sense that I would eventually move out of a place. My parents' house, of course I was going to move out someday. Since then I've been in a constant rotation of knowingly temporary apartments. It's a very new feeling, unpacking things with the thought that wherever I decide the silverware goes may end up being where it is for the next 40-80 years of my life. No pressure!

I love the house. We did really well for ourselves with this transaction and I'm happy about that. We have a beautiful view of the mountains across Standley Lake on the drive home every day and that's what we all want in Colorado, isn't it?

I love my life. I love my kids. I love my wife.
What I have right now...it's my 42.*



*Because I know there are people reading this who won't get that...in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "42" is the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Last post from here!

As of Sunday I will be sleeping under the roof of my new home. I had a long mushy post in my head just now, but instead I'll say this:

I hate it when rappers rhyme a word with itself.

Jay-Z:
I don't surf the net
no I never been on Myspace
too busy letting my voice vibrate
carving out my space

Ludacris:
I stroke so good, like Tiger Woods
and I ROWR like a tiger would

I like some of the hippity hop sometimes, but this reminds me why rock is better. A quality rock lyricists would NEVER stoop to rhyming a word with itself.


Today I figured out how to maintain a hot tub. Kind of...I read the instructions and got the colors to match the "OK" range on the UA strip you dip in the tub. I'm sure I have more to learn, but we should be able to get in tomorrow and enjoy it a bit. It'll be a nice escape for Steph for the last 4 cycles of chemo!

Which brings this up: I have no concept of what it will be like to own a home. It's exciting, but it's a strange concept to be living inside of something that you basically put a majority of your investment dollars into. It seems like a weird, exciting challenge/adventure/totally normal thing to do. (If that's the right word.) I've also realized recently that somewhere in this process I haven't ever really thought about what it will be like to live in the house with a healthy Stephanie. All of my thoughts have been about how nice it will be that the kids can play in the basement and mom can still sleep after chemo...and other things about how this will improve the recovery process. Little time has been spent on how wonderful it will be to go forward in my life having a house with my lovely wonderful wife. But that's down the road too!

Onward to HOME!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Object permanence and you!

Somewhere between 6-12 months old, most of us learn about Object Permanence. This is the not-so-earth-shattering concept that an object you can't see still exists. A ball that goes behind a wall is still a ball, just now behind the wall. Mom leaving the room doesn't mean that she has ceased to be, just that you can't see her at the moment.

This is a concept easily forgotten in certain cases. How many times do you check your pocket for the tickets on the way to a concert? How many times is it necessary to make sure that that vital document of attendance still exists? I personally do this all the time, but I didn't realize the bizarre obsessiveness of it until Friday, when I noticed the frequency of my unzipping the zippered pocket of my coat to once again check the existence of the cashier's check contained within. Throughout the day I did this probably at a minimum once every 15-30 min.

Said check led to the closing on our new home and the successful transition of my status from perpetual apartment-dweller to homeowner. Everything went quite smoothly, and we will be moving into our new place in a week. It's been less than a year since we started dating and we've come a long way, eh? We further solidified the officialness of it by going to Home Depot for the first time today to buy our first home improvement materials. (The house doesn't need much, but we thought we'd give K1 a blue bedroom instead of making him sleep in the all-pink girl's haven in the bedroom which is to be his.) It's a vastly different experience from the hypothetical Apartment Depot ("which is just a big warehouse with a whole lot of people standing around saying, 'We don't have to fix shit!'"-Mitch Hedberg)

I am rapidly running out of ways to upgrade my life. It's been an amazing year.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The easy fix

Yesterday my little girl came to me with the words no parent wants to hear. "Anthony, my heart is broken." I asked her how we could fix that and she calmly replied, "A teacher would use glue." Oh, ok. So I got the trusty Elmer's and we glued her Valentine's Day heart project back to the construction paper. All better, all fixed, not a tear was shed. I hope it's always that easy.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pressure and space

My head hurts. I told Steph this morning when I woke up that it felt like it weighed 10 lbs. I quickly realized this wasn't a very descriptive statement, give that the average human head weighs 8-11 lbs (depending on which hastily googled reference you believe). The point being I have a cold and that sucks. Not as bad as, say, chemo or the flu to pick a couple examples off the top of my head, but it's just enough to be yucky. Not that I have any room to complain, or time to do so, but my head feels like it weighs...oh, let's say 20 lbs., with a midget pushing on the walls trying to get out. Blah.

In other news, everything is officially in place for the home purchase. We close in a week and 2 hours. It's starting to feel like a real thing that's happening! It is going to be very nice to have space, especially when Steph is needing to convalesce and the kids want to scream and go nuts. Hooray for a basement! Moving plans are still somewhat up in the air. We want to be in our house ASAP. There's a good 2 month overlap between the apt and the house, but why stay in a 1000 sq ft apt when we own an almost 3000 sq ft house? I mean really?!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A month?!

Yeesh, time flies when you're busy as poop.

The first thing I must share is a little book called "The Monster at the End of This Book." I would hope that everybody reading this has had the joy of sharing this quintessential tome of childhood with someone they love, but if not the basic idea is this: Grover is afraid of monsters, so he REALLY wants you to stop trying to get to the end of the book because there's a MONSTER there. It's really best told by the pros (though this obviously wasn't *filmed* by a pro...the room isn't built for video capture):
video

Another fun moment in daddyhood occurred at the mall today. K1 was at a Build-a-Bear party, so Steph and K2 & I were killing time in the food court. K2 had requested an ice cream cone, and like millions of parents before me I kept eying the tilt of the cone vs. the meltiness factor of DQ soft-serve and bracing myself for the moment when the entire works went either on the floor or all over her clothes. I realized my concern was misdirected when Steph knocked over her glass of ice water and made a much more spectacular mess than K2 had been able to manage. It was great.

In other wonderful news, we close on our new home in under 2 weeks now. It's a gorgeous house in Westminster, close to Wads and Hwy 36 so we'll have good access to major highways. We've done the inspection and the appraisal and all that and everything is progressing smoothly towards closing and moving in. It will be my 3rd time to move in 10 months, and my friends have already started telling me they won't be available whenever we get the truck (I think they're serious too...). The upside is that I will be living in an actual HOUSE for the first time since I moved out of my parents' house in Arvada in 1998 to go to college in Illinois. And once this move is over I won't be changing residences again for a very long time. That's a good thing. I'm ecstatic to make this step in adulthood, but I can't quite wrap my brain around the fact that "Homeowner" will soon be a title that applies to me. It's right up there with people calling me "Mr. West."

Cancer continues to suck, but chemo is progressing and seems to be doing the trick. If you don't know where to find those updates and would like to, leave a message or email me.