Spinning in Place

Each morning as I walk into the gym, the whirring cries of 50 some treadmills and ellipticals greet my ears.  The users of these stationary instruments of cardio-based torture put forth maximum effort not to move forward, but rather to turn back the hands of time.  The time which, year after year, like the rings of a tree trunk, added pound by pound and roll by roll to hips and bellies.  The average American gains 1-2 pounds a year through his or her 20s and 30s and I am no exception.  But I realize now, as every 30 something has before me: there is no going back.  You can burn off the fat, but the person underneath is no longer 20 and a fit body is simply a thinly veiled disguise—a homage to a time when we all but glowed in our sexuality and the pride of knowing the entire world was wishing they were us.  But now we have joined the ranks of the demographic spinning on treadmills, running from time while watching a fresh wave of 20 somethings in the free weights area spending more time taking selfies and chatting than actually exercising.  And we have only the grim vindication of knowing that someday they too will be here.

But something interesting happens around age 30: a drive for personal growth.  Maybe it’s the fact that structured learning is no longer a part of our lives.  Or that our entire agenda is no longer based completely around sex.  But suddenly we crave challenges like riding a bike further than ever before, running faster than ever before, performing better at our jobs than ever before, or raising the children we got as a result of the activities of our 20s.  Many elite marathoners are in their 30s.  At 38, Constantina Diță of Romania won the women’s marathon In the 2008 olympics.  At our jobs, we have the advantage of both looking young, but also old enough to be taken seriously and the experience to back it up.  So make a goal to move forward, not backwards, and achieve something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.  Do we miss our 20s?  Absolutely.  But it’s not going to slow us down.

Family Fun vs. Strava

“Be careful, Daddy!” the little voice of my son Cade calls out from the trailer behind me interrupting my efforts at ignoring my burning legs.  I am pedaling hard, laboring my bike up a 3% grade that, thanks to Cade and his twin brother Grant in the Burley Bee Double I’m pulling, feels like at least 10%.  80 pounds of toddler and trailer make for a heavy load.  My legs are on fire and I’m breathing hard, but I manage a reply.

“What should I be careful of?”

“Wolves!” comes his emphatic reply.  I chuckle aloud.  We are riding through suburban Salt Lake City.  There are no wolves—only well manicured lawns and the occasional dog on a leash.  Cade is demonstrating his vivid imagination, a trait that has only recently emerged, and I’m thrilled and flattered to be included in the make-believe.

“OK, we’ll be careful,” I assure him.  “Let me know if you see any.”  And I can’t help but let my own imagination transport us to an epic Alaskan byway with a pack of wolves running alongside us.  Suddenly I’ve forgotten the burn in my legs.  I look up from the pavement in front of me and take in the fine spring day.  The grass has turned green, the trees are budding, and the flowers are blooming.  My eyes have grown accustomed to the grays and browns of winter, and this is a feast of color everywhere I look. 

I am excited for our ride today.  I have designed the ride over the past several nights using the BikeSLC.com cycling map and RideWithGPS.com.  I was able to incorporate some new areas of the city which I have never seen before as well as some of my all time favorites such as City Creek Canyon. 

It was not always easy for me to amp myself up to tie an 80 pound trailer to my bike and ride further than the ice cream shop just down the street.  The competitive side of me craves putting up big enough miles to make it to the top of the weekly leaderboard of the office Strava cycling club, but this is an endeavor that is clearly absurd with toddlers in tow.  Aside from the obvious resistance the trailer adds, there is the effort of hooking it up, putting shoes and helmets on the two little riders, attempting to democratically settle any disputes about who sits in which seat before giving up and forcefully buckling each boy to a chorus of nearly harmonized wailing.  By the time I roll out of the driveway, my heart rate is typically already at 160.  Overall, Cade and Grant really do enjoy riding in their “yellow trailer”, but I’ve learned through trial and error that they have a hard stop for sitting nearly on top of each other in a confined space at the two hour mark.  Any more and we enter a volatile territory which almost always ends with all three of us sick of the others. 

A January Stroll in Snow Canyon

A January Stroll in Snow Canyon

In the past, I have attempted to balance my duties as a father and a husband while ducking out during down time for solo cycling outings, which worked out well enough, while I readily admit that the existence of parental “down time” is questionable at best.  But when we added baby number three to the fold in February, I unilaterally decided it would be best for the family and our marriage if I simply took Cade and Grant with me on all of my cycling adventures leaving Tara and Harper home for some much needed peace and quiet.

Riding with the trailer was extra work, but I told myself it increased my workout intensity making me stronger.  The internal conflict came from Strava, relentlessly logging all recordable stats from my jersey pocket all the while blissfully ignorant of the 80 pound bomb I was pulling with a two hour fuse.  Several times a week I would completely trash my legs with only 20 or so miles to show for it.

Ascending City Creek Canyon in Fall

Ascending City Creek Canyon in Fall

Then one day, while ascending a bike path gently winding along roaring Big Cottonwood Creek, Grant commented on the beauty of the water, and it dawned on me: Strava, by design, encourages quantity over quality.  Through its lens, an extra large fast food chain meal looks better than a tapas plate from the local joint down the street.  The clever algorithms don’t care if I take the scenic route up a mountain canyon and discover a stream-fed pond rimmed with wildflowers just feet from the road.  In fact, Strava actually discourages my rolling onto new roads by rewarding repetition in the form of achievements for competing against my previous attempts.  An entirely fresh route typically yields a big fat ‘0’ next to the trophy symbol.  I changed my outlook immediately.  Strava would continue to log the numbers, but the true measure of a ride’s quality would be the photos captured and the memories created.

Keeping a wary eye for wolves and other beasts, I pedal up out of the city and into City Creek Canyon.  The road here only allows cars on certain days and today is not one of them.  We have the road to ourselves and the abrupt transition from city to peaceful wilderness is profound.  As we ascend the gently sloping road, Cade and Grant have switched games.  I’ve missed the theme, but evidently it is hilarious and their rolling giggles mingle with the singing birds and babbling creek.

Snack Stop in City Creek Canyon

Snack Stop in City Creek Canyon

The road is lined with picnic stops and when I’ve had enough of the climb, we pull over at one.  In my haste to leave the house, I’ve forgotten our snack, but a search of the back of the trailer produces two granola bars that aren’t too old.  We divvy up the loot and sit at the picnic table chewing in silence as we take in the peaceful mountain setting.  Grant wants to know what the creek is called.  On a previous adventure, I had taught them all creeks have names.  I explain to them now how snow melts from the peaks above and feeds the stream we are looking at now.  I don’t know if they get it, but they listen intently with wonder nonetheless.

“OK boys, you ready to go fast?” I ask them, finishing my granola bar.

“YEAH!” They answer in enthusiastic unison.  We mount up and cruise down the twisty canyon road.  With the warm wind in my face and the satisfaction knowing my legs pulled us all the way up, a sense of euphoria comes over me.  It continues as we exit the canyon in downtown Salt Lake City. 

There are many ways to ride through downtown and Main Street is definitely not the fastest, but I choose it today because it is my favorite.  I love the narrowness of it and the way the buildings tower above on either side like an urban canyon narrows.  I have to dismount and walk through Temple Square, but the tulips are in full bloom and its worth it to observe them in slow motion.  The city is oddly quiet on this Sunday afternoon and it feels as though we have the whole place to ourselves.  South of downtown we pick up Parleys bike path and ride it up to Sugarhouse where Tara and Harper are waiting for us at Habit Burger with hot burgers and cold milkshakes.  It is the perfect conclusion to a wonderful adventure.

The ride was barely 20 miles, but we rolled through the tree-lined streets and perfectly manicured lawns of some of the nicest houses in the valley, left the city and followed a mountain stream up a verdant canyon, and then soared down, gliding amongst the skyscrapers before arriving in Sugarhouse for dinner.  I have seen less on 70 mile rides.  The joy of designing a executing a bicycle-powered adventure such as this one is a metric Strava is not capable of measuring.  But my memory is designed to record it in high definition.  And the pure excitement Cade and Grant demonstrate when they see me hitching the trailer to my bike tells me they feel the same way.

Farewell Grandpa Newcomb

Lompoc, California, the quaint town nestled amongst the coastal hills and vineyards of southern California, and a second home for me as long as I can remember, forever changed on August 25, 2017 with the passing of my grandfather, Vance Newcomb.  In a lot of ways, it felt like his quick-witted and light hearted spirit defined that town making it my Neverland—a place where I will always feel like a kid.  I can still remember, as if it just happened, the utter jubilation I experienced as a young boy as I was getting ready for bed at our home in LA and my parents surprised me with the announcement that we would be driving up to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house that night.  I remember lifting heavy eyelids as the car pulled into the driveway, the headlights illuminating the little green stucco house with the ‘Z’s in the white trim on the garage door.  I remember waking to the smell of coffee the next morning as there was every morning with my grandparents such that to this day the smell reminds me of them.  My grandfather would have used at least three different goofy voices, sang lines from multiple songs accompanied by hand whistling, all before breakfast was finished.  Oh how I would try and master the hand whistle! I never did.  Not even close.

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The long closed drive-in where I saw Beauty and the Beast

Selfishly, I wondered how Grandpa’s passing would affect my Lompoc.  I feared his absence would leave a big hole in the utopia that I have tended to take for granted as if frozen in the year 1993.  It was with a heavy heart that I entered the little green house for the first time after his death.  The hospice bed that had dominated the living room for many months was now removed and the chair that he often sat in was unoccupied.  But the spirit was light, and even in the circumstances, there was joy.  I was reminded that it was not one man that defined this town for me, but an entire family.

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A quiet highway winding its way through wine country

After the memorial, at the luncheon at the Lompoc Historic Society, somebody had the idea to photograph all of the cousins together.  David, cousin of my father and aunt, asked if they could use props.  Not knowing what he meant, somebody said Sure, and he promptly picked up the pot that the beans had been cooked in and posed with it in the picture just because.  It was so much something Grandpa would have done, that it struck me in that moment how great an influence Grandpa had on his family and friends.  We all have a love for the outdoors and more than a few of us still climb trees as adults.  Some still insist on calling it a “Crick” instead of “Creek” and there is a little bit of a holy war on this (as there should be).  Some of us have a passion for teaching as well as introducing children to literature.  A few are just as sentimental as Grandpa was and insist on archiving memories only now in blog form while others get overly emotional about football games.  Some make beautiful music and sing from mountain tops, but nobody can do that damn hand whistle.  We all have a very recognizable nose.  But above all we are kind and loving, which I’ll admit is a little bit biased.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a family full of jerks proclaim themselves as such.

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One of Lompoc’s many flower fields

No, Lompoc will never be the same without Grandpa, but it doesn’t have to be.  As long as there is family (and wine) there, it will always be a second home and we’ll continue our pilgrimages there to backpack Manzana “Crick”, to go out to Surf beach only to find you can’t go down to the water that particular time of year because of the endangered Snowy Plover, to get afternoon Espressos at Southside Coffee, to walk along the “crick” bed, to play disc golf at Beattie Park, and spend time with the people with noses like ours that appreciate absurd puns as much as we do.

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Grandma & Grandpa (Vance & Maxine Newcomb) at First Baptist Church

2 Embryoes Born in Petri Dishes, To Wit: A Retrospective

“Our thoughts and prayers will be with you” the IVF doctor said one year ago today as, with delicate confident hands, he folded up the stirrups that Tara has grown so accustomed to and helped her sit up.  In less than 10 minutes he and the embryologist had pulled our two best looking embryos from a petri dish and transferred them to Tara’s uterus via a small catheter.  I watched him moments before put the perfect bend in the device BY HAND to perfectly navigate it up the… you know… and to the uterus.  And just like that, the IVF cycle was complete and Tara was pregnant.

As we left the clinic, we had a 10 day wait ahead of us to find out if either (or both) of the embryos had actually implanted, but we were brimming with confidence and elation.  24 hours later, the embryologist called to inform us that five of the remaining 6 embryos had failed to develop further (died) and only one would be available for freezing.  In the scheme of things, this news was inconsequential.  All that really mattered at this point were the two embryos currently in Tara, but the blatant fragility of life cut through our thin veil of optimism and we simultaneously sunk into a deep gloom so debilitating that it was a daily battle to accomplish anything productive.  We had completely latched onto the 30% chance it would fail and simply could not reason with ourselves that the successful outcome was far more likely.

Ultimately, distracting ourselves from the elephant in the room was the only option.  Writing about our feelings only made it worse, which is something I have never experienced before.  So we did our best not to think about it, and focused instead on Thanksgiving, Tara’s family visiting, and taking a day trip up into the mountains to cut down a Christmas tree.

On the morning of day 10, Tara went in for the blood test that would reveal the news we desperately needed to hear.  The hours after the test felt like the longest of all as we waited for the call with the results.  Used to rejection by this point, I had cleared my afternoon of meetings and responsibilities and was prepared to immediately go home if that 30% were to rear its ugly head.

Tara, meanwhile, being connected to the medical community, was trolling her own chart hoping to catch the results prior to the phone call.  But it was still not posted, even an hour after we were promised it would be.

Finally, in the early afternoon, Tara called me.  Heart racing, I slammed my office door and answered the phone.  The second I heard her voice I knew.  Her joy jumped through the phone and enveloped me in a warm embrace as I sat alone in my office but had never felt closer to her.  He HCG levels were quite high.  She was definitely pregnant.

2 weeks later, during what would normally be called week 6 in a normal pregnancy, we returned to the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine one final time for a viability ultrasound.  The visit started like so many before it: Tara strips from the waist down, puts feet in stirrups, doc comes in, squirts massive dollop of gel onto a device that I like to refer to simply as “The Probe”, then “Slight Pressure”, and we look at obscured images on the screen.  Only this time, instead of seeing ovaries or eggs, we saw two beans with perfect little heartbeats.

As I looked at them, I anticipated Becky’s gloating face.  We had a heated debate a few nights prior when she tried to convince me that since we now knew that Tara was pregnant, it was more likely that she was pregnant with twins than with a singleton.  Several drinks in and perhaps in a bit of denial, I was obstinate.  This is what happens when nerds drink.  The fact that the twins actually happened would be icing on the cake of her ego.

Despite Becky’s ego boost, we were delighted.  We had been hoping for twins since we decided to do IVF back in the spring.  The nurse brought in a box of adorable knitted baby hats that a former patient had made and let us pick two.  Then the doctor lingered to answer any more questions we had.  I wanted to know if there was any need for me to provide further contributions, but the doctor assured me that was no longer necessary. And before we knew it we were saying goodbye and walking out of UCRM for the last time.

 

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Taken at some point during IVF

IVF In Pictures

April 19th to 25th is Infertility Awareness Week.  As Tara and I were going through IVF this past Fall, I found myself picturing each step of the process in fun, obscure ways and decided to try and articulate it photographically.  These have all been published on my flickr, but now seemed like a good time to actually present it in a single body of work.  So check them out, and then go find someone who is suffering infertility and give them a hug.

Shoot Up

The number of syringes pictured here is only a fraction of the number of shots I had to give Tara over a span of 4 weeks leading up to the procedure.

Shoot Up

 


Sharps Refuse

We were given a legit Bio-Hazard sharps disposal bin, which we basically filled up. 

Sharps Refuse

 


Trigger Shot

Nearly all of the syringes were small, un-intimidating needles for subcutaneous injections.  But the last one, the trigger shot, was a massive intramuscular injection.  The nurse drew a target for me on Tara’s hip and gave instructions to pull the plunger back after inserting the needle to ensure I had not hit a vein.  If I had, blood would be pulled into the syringe and I would have to remove and inject in a different spot.  That’s if I had not already fainted.  Thankfully, I did not hit a vein.

Trigger Shot

 


Retrieval

The most invasive part of the process is the egg retrieval for which Tara was sedated and the eggs were removed from her ovaries in a manner that will not be described here, but involved the uterine wall and some kind of needle…

Retrieval

 


ICSI

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection is the process in which the sperm is injected into the egg used for those whose sperm can’t do it on their own either due to Motility or Morphology issues.

ICSI Concept 1

 


Tara About to Become Pregnant 

Arriving at the clinic to have 2 fertilized eggs implanted back into her.  

Tara About to Become Pregnant

 


Twins

We were fortunate to get twins on the first round of IVF.  Does that make us awesome?  No, it makes us damn lucky.  Here’s to those still waiting for their luck. 

It's Twins!

Sex, Drugs & Infertility

I sat in our living room during a power outage and listened to Tara tell her sister Becky the tale of our infertility.  I could see Becky’s concerned face on the other side of the sectional couch at the edge of the light thrown out from a small camp lantern on the coffee table, but I found it more comfortable to stare at my feet while Tara explained that my sperm lack the protein necessary to penetrate the egg.  Becky was one of the first people we shared our situation with and I was still a little embarrassed about the details which we had only recently gotten closure on after a year of failed attempts at conception and several months of doctor visits and tests.

It is impossible, or at least statistically unlikely, for me to naturally father a child.  The primordial basis for my existence is nonexistent.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised—I was never one for the ape-like assertions of male dominance or cat calls, and perhaps the inability to get a sperm into an egg is indicative of my complete and utter ineptitude at basketball.  Damn you, Darwin.

Fortunately, society has advanced from chest thumping and there is a procedure called Invitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) for men like me, where IVF removes the entire opposing field from the court and ICSI is Michael Jordan whom I pass the ball to and puts it into the hoop in an amazing slam dunk  all while wearing comfortable, tag-less underwear.

As I proofread that last passage, it occurs to me that the literalist may assume Michael Joran will be fathering our child.  No.  MJ, in this case, is a sort of syringe capable of grabbing a single sperm from a petri dish and injecting it into a single egg in a new petri dish.

As Tara completed our story and Becky gently berated us for not telling her sooner, it occurred to us that she did have a point.  And in the weeks that followed, as we shared with more of our family and close friends, we realized that nothing but positive things came from it.  On one level, it allowed us to reconnect with those dear to us whom we kept our struggle secret from for so long. But on a much bigger scale, it allowed us to connect with others that were also silently enduring and share laughs, hugs, and tears.

Society has brainwashed us into thinking that it is not appropriate to discuss baby making.  Couples happily announce they are expecting, but the details of how they got there are glossed over and unmentioned aside from a euphemistic joke or two from the more free-spirited friends and family.  Even the timing of the announcement is regimented: Not before the 2nd trimester, minimizing the risk of an unpleasant miscarriage announcement.

We talk about sex, even going as far to share notes with close friends, but we limit these conversations to the enjoyment of sex and try not to think about its actual purpose.  Consider the contrast between “Dude, my wife and I had the best sex last night!” and “Dude, my wife and I had the best unprotected sex last night!”

I’m going to break the walls down.  My wife and I had unprotected sex for a year and a half.  The quality was superb, but no baby.  18 holes of golf and not a single sunk putt.  We have not conquered infertility and we never truly will.  But today we had science on our side.  They pulled 11 eggs from Tara’s ovaries while I went into a special room and delivered millions of sperm to an unsuspecting cup.  Now, as I write this, there are 11 embryos developing in petri dishes up at the hospital.  They will grow there for 9 1/2 months at which point we’ll go pick out or favorite ones and take them home.

We don’t know if this will work.  In fact there’s a 30% chance it won’t, but life is too short to wait for victorious status updates, and the internet is way to saturated with people appearing much more super human than they actually are.  I have been trying to write this for seven months.  My latest draft, scribbled in a leather-bound journal that I bought specifically for this purpose, is a maze of x-outs and insertions.  It doesn’t  have to be pretty, and in fact it really isn’t.  After 3 long weeks of dreaming 40% twins, 70% one, 30% nothing, we will know, and for the first time in forever, may go to an actual OBGYN. Kenobi.

If you are going through this, you CAN talk about it.  Each and every one of us is surrounded by friends and family capable of more love and support than we’d have ever imagined.  Broaching such a topic can be awkward, but it is not more awkward than conveying to family why you need your own room on a family vacation without telling them that it’s that time of the month.  Lastly, be strong and remember that for every five couples boasting about pregnancy on FB, there is another one exactly like you, wondering why it hasn’t happened yet, but sure as hell loving the ride. 

 

IVF Retrieval

Day of Retrieval (Pre-Sedation)

2013: A Facebook Perspective

Here is how 2013 looked for Tara and me if you only go off of FB and blog updates.  I took the liberty of filling in the dots.

I started working at Lockheed Martin as a technical sales and manufacturing lead in January.

FB is misleading here.  I did start a new position at LM the beginning of the year, but I’m been employed by LM since January 2012 when they acquired Procerus.  The new position has been both challenging and exciting, which is exactly what I would like it to be.

Tara continues to enjoy her job as well.  Her group recently started a Newborn Screening Research Study.  The implications of this are very exciting, but it is keeping her very busy.

Isaac & Leah visited in January.

We like that Leah is from Boise because it means they pass through Utah a couple times a year and we get to see them.  This year they stopped by in January and in August.  In August, we had a little more time and were able to take them up Millcreek Canyon for a campfire and drinks.

I tried my hand at some home maintenance.

It does not feel like we did much in the way of traveling or camping in 2013.  I have often said this is because we spent more time on home projects.  This begs the question: What projects?   To which I draw a blank.  What did we do all year?  It certainly was nice having all those weekends free.  Heres a few projects we did:

  • Got permission from the neighbor that owns the empty lot behind our house to garden on it.  We tore down the dilapidated chain link fence that separated our yard from the lot and cleared a 10′ x 10′ plot to garden on.  The results were so-so.  Next year we hope to do better with watering.
  • Ben and I made a rugged shelf for our home-brew supplies and the fermenters.
  • I built a storage bike rack in the garage.  I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
  • We did a lot better keeping up with yard work.

We got into Pilates.  Although I found it quit awkward at first, it quickly grew on me.

We attended an Oscars party at Court & Annette’s.  Tara’s ballot won.

My parents finally sold our minivan.  This was apparently noteworthy enough for both a Facebook post and a ceremonial last drive.

This is the vehicle that took us all over the country on many family vacations.  I still remember waiting at home with anticipation while my parents bought that van in 2000ish. Once I got to college, they were gracious enough to let me and my friends take it on several rode trips: Hell, Detroit Lakes, and Breckenridge to name a few.

I got into home brewing and spent too much time on the labels.

Brewer-friend Gavin told me that making fun labels for your brew is one of the best parts.  I didn’t believe him, but decided to give it a shot just for kicks.  He was totally right.  It’s a presentation thing!

We took a vacation in Cozumel, MX in March and posted way too many obnoxious lovey-dovey photos.

We dubbed this our first “real vacation” since our honeymoon.  It was really nice.

The trunk-mount bike rack I inherited from old roomie, Chet Henry, was stolen off my car.

Sad day.

We went camping in Moab in May.

Moab is notorious for being packed out, especially in May.  A group from Colorado was kind enough to let us share their campsite with them because everything else was full.  Good conversations, good beer–this is what camping is all about.  This was also the final trip in our 12 months, 12 camping trips project.  I may post about this someday if I get around to it.

My Grandpa Ploetz passed away in May.

Tara’s Grandma Heimes also passed away in February.  These natural deaths are hard because you’ll miss the loved one that passed, but also because they remind you that you yourself are getting older and passing into new phases of life.

I posted Christmas photos 6 months late.

I started commuting via train.  Women riding the train tend to have bad gas.

Hyperbole, of course.  And I’d be lying if I claimed I’d never let one fly on the train.

I work with a bunch of nerds.

I’m an engineer.  This shouldn’t be news to anyone.

We climbed at least 1 mountain.

Several, actually, but the most noteworthy was 11,000′ Deseret Peak.

Laura, Bridget, and Tyler visited us.  We spent time at the LDS temple with Court and Annette.  Annette converted us to the LDS faith.

It was wonderful having everyone and showing them around Utah.  We also hiked to a mountain lake and went swimming in the Great Salt Lake.  Nobody actually converted to Mormonism.

We spent time on what appears to be a sand pit lake in Nebraska with the extended Heimes family.  We played disc golf, presumably during the same trip.

The biannual Heimes reunion took place at Mahoney SP in July.  We drove back with our bikes in tow.  I was able ride some of my old haunts which was super fun.  Uncle Terry’s family has a lake house near Ashland.  We spent a day there doing water sports.  I snuck away briefly to visit my old employer, KZCO.  So good to see those people again.

We celebrated our 4 year anniversary.

We celebrated with a trip back to Nebraska for a home football game.  See below.

I took engagement photos of Jason & Becky and Bryce & Sarah.  I also mentioned frustration with photos on Facebook and make noise about switching to flickr for photo sharing, but I never shared the link.

I learned photoshop.

I took a community education class.

We went to Oktoberfest with Court, and rather pregnant Annette.

Just one of the times we took advantage of Annette’s required sobriety and used her as DD.  I’m kidding.  Oktoberfest was a blast and Court & Annette are great friends.  We’re so glad Laura forced us to meet one another.

We traveled to Nebraska for a home game.

It was really cold, but great to be back for a game.

I was featured mountain biking in an artsy vimeo film.

Bike buddy, Patrick’s brother used some of our footage for his short film.

I tried my hand at baking with Ben Newcomb.

Tara and Annette started doing weekly “craft nights”.  While they were doing that, Ben and I decided to make protein banana bread following a recipe that came with the post-workout protein shake mix we use.  It turned out really good.

My parents visited Utah in September.

They came out for Labor day weekend and stayed at a condo in Park City.  We had fun hiking with them and doing a PC parade of homes.

Tara’s family also visited this year, spending a week in June.  Her dad and I shopped for home brew supplies while the girls shopped for Becky’s wedding dress.

***

This coming year, we’re making a goal to spend less time on social media and more time actually catching up with people via phone and email.  We may even do some volunteering if we get particularly ambitious.

I think I say it every year, but our greatest blessing is always our friends and family.  Being a sentimental type, I love looking back over the photos, blog posts, and Facebook messages throughout the year remembering the moments we shared.  We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and get a chance to stop and relax even if only for a moment.

The Time I Didn’t Realize Kurt Cobain is Dead

When I was 16, I discovered secular music.  I don’t mean to say that my childhood was devoid of The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, InSync, and, of course, Smashmouth.  It just wasn’t until I was 16, driving in my car, feeling that euphoria that comes with the freedom of first operating one’s own automobile, when a song came on the radio that spoke to me.

The song was “How you Remind Me” by Nickelback.  Did this song apply to my somewhat privileged, Papillion Nebraska life?  Not in the slightest.  But it somehow called out to the teenage angst I was experiencing.  You know, the I’m-mad-because-somebody-told-me-I-shouldn’t-be-so-happy-and-the-girl-I-like-in-social-studies-class-doesn’t-know-I-exist angst.  I was immediately hooked on Nickelback and alternative rock in general.

It wasn’t long before I discovered Nirvana.  Nevermind, with the naked baby on the cover, became one of the first secular albums I purchased.  I plucked it from the stack of jewel cases amongst the retro concert posters and incense smell of Homers record shop in Downtown Omaha (Either that, or I got it at Super Target in Papillion…).  “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became my anthem.  I immediately set about trying to learn to play it on my guitar.  “Lithium” with its religious theme told me that my new musical taste was alright with God.

It is safe to say that I didn’t really get Nirvana or grunge rock back then.  It did not occur to me that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is not a tribute to teenagers, but rather one of the most epic caricatures of teenage angst of all time.  Nor did I realize that “Lithium” was never intended to be a Christian song, but rather just Cobain’s twisted sense of humor as he observed a friend become a born-again.

My love for alternative rock and pop punk continued to grow through high school.  I grew my hair out and tried to learn guitar, dreaming of becoming a rock star.  When I went to college, in an effort to express myself, I got a Kurt Cobain poster to hang on my dorm room wall.

One day, a friend, (I’ll use her actual name because this is no doubt one of her proudest moments) Amanda, was hanging out in our room and she noticed my Cobain poster.  A conversation started about Nirvana, and I was about to find out in the most embarrassing possible way that the artist I’d been idolizing for the past several years had been dead since long before I even knew who he was.

I don’t recall the specifics of how it happened.  If Amanda leaked it or if my roommate Dusty had overheard the conversation and started it, but the gossip immediately went viral and soon everybody knew.  I don’t know how I missed such a blatant fact about one of my favorite bands, but to my credit, this was before Youtube and Wikipedia, so one actually had to work to study up on social doctrine.  Licking my wounds, I vowed to never again be the fool that doesn’t know an obvious fact about the music scene.

When Wikipedia became popular, I spent hours reading about my favorite bands.  My taste matured as well.  The summer after my sophomore year of college, I discovered Pink Floyd.  I listened to them so heavily that summer that hearing the music now brings back crystal clear memories of events and people.  My dad and brothers were also obsessed and we used to quiz each other on band facts while waiting in line at the super market.

The Floyd was my gateway drug to classic rock.  I took History of Rock as an elective and paid more attention and took better notes than any of my engineering classes. Naturally, The Beatles would become my next obsession.  Sure I was brought up on Rubber Soul, dancing to “Drive my Car” in my undies and knock-off Ray Bans, but I had never experienced Magical Mystery Tour or the White Album.

When Tara graduated, we planned a road trip to California just the two of us.  The morning we left, Isaac solidified himself as best roommate ever by giving us the entire Beatles discology.  We drove over 3,000 miles on that trip, and I’m not sure if we listened to anything but the Beatles.  I remember driving through rolling pastures and green hills on our way to Rifle Falls in Colorado while listening to some of the earlier takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” on Beatles Anthology.

A few years later, after moving to Utah, I was out at lunch with a group of coworkers and Crosby Still Nash & Young’s “Ohio” came on the radio.  One of the guys who hired on about the same time as me felt a certain allegiance as we had similar tastes in music and turned to me and said: “I bet you’re the only one here who knows who this is”.  I reeled, remembering that fateful moment Freshman year, but as the guitar riff came in, I immediately knew and answered with confidence while my colleagues looked on in awe.  In that moment, I realized I’d made it.

States I’ve Visited

I saw people doing this on fb and thought it looked fun.  Looks like I need to spend some more time in the Northeast.

States Visited

 

  • red for states where you’ve not spent much time or seen very much.
  • amber for states where you’ve at least slept and seen some sights.
  • blue for states you’ve spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
  • green for states you’ve spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.