Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Apologies...

It is absolutely necessary that I start this blog post with an apology, because what is to follow is undoubtedly influenced by what you see here. I'm fully aware that the image of me at the computer is a pathetic one, but this is my life, day after day, week after week, FROZEN ETERNITY AFTER FROZEN ETERNITY!!! (By the way, what do you get when you cross Iowa and February? The most beautiful landscape hell ever froze over...). You know their is something wrong with your locale when cats and birds start living together...Anyway, because I have been trapped in my little garett for the past several months and because it is so cold and because my dissertation seems impossible to write and because I can't imagine that I will ever get a job given the downturn in an already horrendous job market, the posts that follow are all a little bleary...I've tried to take the edge off (especially for the last new post), but I'm not making any promises...things are just a little too frosty right now and warmer thoughts will undoubtedly emerge with spring.

Lucy the Princess has a Birthday

My brother recently gave me a copy of "The Last Lecture" which turned about to be a rather profound book (thanks Jas). In it, the author, Randy Pausch, comments that one of his dying wishes (he is a professor with terminal pancreatic cancer) is that his daughter come to know that he is the first man who ever fell in love with her. I hope Lucy will always know that I am the first man that fell in love with her, and so no matter what dorkus comes along later in life (just kidding, my future son-in-law will be awesome, right?, right?, oh please, please, please...) she will always know that her daddy loves her without reservation, and without end. My daughter is not only beautiful, but she's tough - like her Mom. I'm glad to see this because it is one of her mother's best qualities. I have said this publically before, but Tiffany is one of the strongest and most willing people I know. Tiff does not give up, she does not relent, and she bears burdens that would probably crush me. Lucy is a little young for this, but the tenacity with which I watch her beat-up her brothers while wearing her best princess dresses and carrying a wand smacks of Tiffany all the way. When you couple beauty with what I've always called "piss-n-vinegar" (excuse the vulgar expression) you get sheer perfection!!! You go Luce!

Christmas at Home - after two years away...

We decided last June to go home for the holidays, after missing the last couple of Christmases. As you can tell from the look on Noah's face, it was the right choice. Their is nothing like being home for the holidays for us. We spent time with the Summerhays family (we were all together again - twice in the same year, which is without doubt a record!), and we spent time with the Bradfords. The kids got all sorts of fun stuff, but the best part of the whole trip was merely being together. We spent the entire two weeks simply hanging out with family members, and couldn't have asked for a better Christmas gift than this. I think it was especially valuable for the kids. I have to keep reminding myself that they experience time differently than we do. If I don't see my brother for six months or so, not much changes. He's still bald, I'm still good looking, but for the kids, six months is an eternity. Driving home stinks (especially when you get two speeding tickets in the same day - Wyoming and Iowa Highway Patrol cost me about 5 liters of plasma), but there is no question that it is worth the cost in time, treasure and tears (ooooohhhh, there's some alliteration for you, too bad its so cheesy).

Sing...Sing a Song

Noah has decided that he wants to become and actor and sing and dance in the next High School Musical. With Tiff's looks he might actually have a shot. In preparation for his career in show-biz we enrolled him in the Iowa City boys choir. What they lacked in membership they made up for in enthusiasm. It was really a lot of fun to listen to them sing, and Noah was probably the loudest, and certainly the most animated, of them all. The kids got a good set of pipes and a lady-killer smile. He just needs his big break!

Everybody was Kung-Fu Dancing!!!

Lucy has started dance classes with her sweet friend Tilly...Tiffany couldn't be happier. I have to admit that seeing Lucy running around in her little leotard and tutu cheers my heart, warms my proverbial cockles. She loves it, calls herself a ballerina princess, and pretty much melts my heart whenever I see her cavorting around the dance floor. I will say, however, that the whole thing generally resembles a royal Kung-Fu class gone bad, with hoardes of uncoordinated princesses in all manner of flouncy dress running around jump-kicking each other and twirling their arms to effectively karate-chop the other little princesses in their button-noses. I'm just glad my princess is one of the biggest...and most beautiful. She doesn't go down easy, and she always looks good in the end.

Why Are We Doing This?

Since it is February in Iowa Tiffany and I often find ourselves asking the same question we've been asking for the last several years...Why are we doing this? It's a pathetic question (and anyone reading this is probably saying what my inner critic is saying - "Because you wanted to moron, now shut-up and deal"), and in reality life is good and we have no room for complaint. But after a couple of months of brutally cold weather we tend to find ourselves wondering why we are here, and whether we've got the stamina to see it through...that's when we find ourselves drifting a bit and trying to remember what motivated us to embark in the first place. Four reasons why we decided to give up a good job and a move away are pictured here (although we only had two when that decision was made). But if I told you that the only reason we did this was because we wanted a more secure life for our children, I'd be lying.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about coming to Iowa has been the realization (after the fact) that a lot of the reason for us being here is probably my pride. If you have talents, abilities, desires, you should follow them, magnify them...right?
Generally, I would say this is true -- but not entirely, and not always. The only problem with the line of thinking I just spelled out is that there is always something more to achieve...MA not enough, there's a PhD, that not enough, how about a law degree on top? -- constitutional law sounds interesting to me...But at some point in time ambition starts to taste a little too much like raw lemons, and I find that satiating it is a souring experience. At times like these I'm left wondering whether a desire to do "good things" might, at times, be less wholesome and fulfilling than originally thought. And I can't help but think that I'm asking those I love to pay a rather high price for my cup of lemonade...My apologies for the maudlin I said, it's February in Iowa, and everything, including the bedroom window I'm looking out of, seems a bit glazed and icy...And lemons are particularly sour this time of year.

We Get By With A Little Help From Our...

I should probably say that this is the last time you will have to put up with my juvenile thought-ramblings since Tiffany has promised to take over the blog from here (please refrain from posting your ebullient hallelujahs on the comments board). Apparently she is tired of hearing from people about how we never update our blog - which is true. I don't update this, it was never really meant to be a blog in the first place. Just a space for a few pics so family could see what we are up to. Besides, with the kind of posts that are on this round-o'-blogging you've got to feel grateful to think that I don't post more often. The last six months or so have asked from us patience perhaps more than anything else. Seems like the road is a bit long, but we're getting by...we've got good help.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Vacation, Vacation, Vacation (explained?)!

We're Back! First - my apologies for what I am calling the extended vacation from blogging... I last blogged on Christmas Day 2007 and haven't updated anything since - largely due to the crazy, crazy 2008 we have had here. The blog pics will point some of this out. I know you will cringe to see me actually quoting a literary figure here, but I feel like invoking Whitman when trying to sum up the last seven months of our lives. He said, "Do I contradict myself? / Very Well, I contradict myself. / (I am large, I contain multitudes)." Life has been rather contradictory for us - containing multitudes of positives and negatives - sometimes experienced with frightening rapidity and frequency. Great successes - disheartening setbacks, much-needed reconnections with family, and sad separations from other loved ones. In having a conversation with my brother-in-law recently I told him that it seems more and more to me like life is becoming less black and white, and the decisions I am faced with and the value judgments I have to make are less and less cut-and-dried. I rarely get the kind of answers I used to - the definite "yes" and "no's" that were once quite common. I can't decide whether this is somehow a spiritual failing, or the Lord trying to teach me understanding, compassion, humility, and faith in intuition. This sometimes spiritual vagueness seems to be an apt metaphor for what our family seems to have collectively experienced over the last little while. Striving to keep faith, move forward, choose good, and remain hopeful in spite of success and setbacks - trusting we're on the right path even when the light seems somewhat dim. It's a struggle, It's all good - we are pleased, we are tired.

Because of this, we desperately needed a much anticipated VACATION! Which is what we just returned from. Rather than beginning with the happenings of last spring and working forward, I've arranged a series of blog entries that tells you what we've been up to most recently and then looks back over the last seven months. (This is in keeping with the already established chronology of the blog - which for some reason seems important to preserve - OCD? probably...) . We just returned from a long, long vacation out West. I start with vacation photos. We spent ten days in Island Park, Idaho where my parents have a cabin. Most of our family were there (we missed Aubrey, Matt and most of their family - but Claire was with us! Hi Claire!), and we spent ten days in God's country (I mean that - He certainly must love it more than any other place on earth - you can sense it in the sunsets, the smell of water and sage, the row after row of lodgepole pines). The Tetons to the Southeast, the Henry's Fork of the Snake outside your front door (with lots of big fish to catch - although the whopper you see pictured below is a poor representative), Yellowstone a stone's throw to the Northeast - bliss in landscape. If I thought I could support my family catching fish there I'd give up grad school right now and move us all West - no kidding, deadly serious. After the time with the Bradfords in Island Park, we traveled to Salt Lake just long enough to meet up with Tiff's fam and head to Vegas - from God's country to the City of Sin! (Probably a much more appropriate place for the likes of us hooligans!). We went for a family reunion with the Summerhays family - and it was awesome. This was the first time we have been together with all of this side of the fam since Frank and Alora were married two years ago. It was so nice to be together. We spent most days lounging around the pool, playing with kids, making sand critters (I haven't shown you the obscene ones - after all what happens in Vegas...) and Adam spent his nights with lady luck at the roulette table (just kidding - its a felony to use student loan money for anything other than school purchases, and the stupid roulette guy wouldn't let me bet food stamps...). Tiff was able to see baby Kate (Cory and Jesica's little one) for the first time, and some much needed bonding and connecting occurred. We went without any preconceived plans of what we were going to do in Vegas, and that proved to be the perfect way to reconnect. We love our family - it was so good to be with all of you and we hope to see all again soon!!!

Before moving on to the real Vacation photos, I would like to interject one last note. We arrived back to Iowa grateful to be among old friends that love us, and new friends we already feel deep affection for. In arriving home, we've been humbled -
seeing that the challenges of the first seven months of the year seem pale and miniscule compared to some of the challenges those around us have been asked to deal with now. I think if there is one motto/creed/thought that I will be holding onto over the next little while as our little family struggles with the vagaries and inconsistencies of life - and watches/helps those around us with the vagaries and inconsistencies of theirs which are unquestionably deeper and more painful - it is that sometimes in life, "all things must fail" (and I believe this to be true...all things are subject to breaking down, running foul, misfiring, failing to connect even in the moments when we most need them to), but I know that the other half of this motto is true - unquestionably true - that "charity never faileth," and that this charity is the "pure love of Christ" which if we emulate brings us happiness and peace even when all else seems dark and unsure - which is why Tiff and I will keep trying to "cleave unto charity" - the love we have for you, that you have for us, that Christ has for all of us - until we reach that time and place where everything is made sure, and life's failings of all kinds simply don't exist anymore... We Love You!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vacay Photos

The view down the road from our cabin

Our Motley Crue at Yellowstone Lake

Forget the Geysers and bring on the milk!

Our pretty, pretty princesses (James, Lucy and Claire)

Woweee! Hot Mama (and Papa?)