With a New Year…

January is typically a time where everyone makes goals and plans for the upcoming year. I am not immune from this, and most Januarys find me doing the same thing. Last year, I wrote about the four things I wanted to do, which I mostly failed at, though I was mostly happy this year until my father passed away two weeks ago. Two years ago, I highlighted a lot of the previous years’ goals, which tend to repeat from year to year.

This year is no different. I have a lot of the same goals that have followed me from year to year, primarily because I fail at accomplishing goals. Things are a little different this year, because my success means a bit more with a new wife and being back in Utah for the entire year. For the most part, I’ll be sticking with the same goals as last year, though they are changing a little bit. Without further adieu, here are my goals for 2015: Continue reading

A Eulogy For My Father

I kept hoping that it was a bad dream. That I could scream and yell and wake myself from this terrible nightmare and he would still be here. But it’s not a dream. It’s real life, and pain unlike I have ever felt before.

My father died last night, surrounded by those that loved him, and I guess you can say it was a surprise. Sure, he was sick, but we all felt like we had a bit more time with him. Cancer can be cruel and strike without warning, and change a man who was strong and hopeful one day into someone struggling to live.

But I prefer to not think of my father at the end. He was much more than that.

Of all the things my father did in his much too short 72 years of life, there are two roles that he should really be remembered for: he was a husband to my mother for over 50 years, and a father to his six children for 47. Everything he did in his life, it was to be the best at those two things.

He often felt that he failed along the way somehow, that some misstep he took had somehow made him less than a perfect husband or father. This was farthest from the truth. No matter what he did, he made it a priority in his life to ensure that we had enough, that we felt loved and cared for.

When my mom went back to school to be a nurse, with long hours studying and going to class, many times at night, my dad quietly shifted roles, coming home from work to make us dinner and help with our homework when needed. Because my mom was able to focus on school and not really worry about us kids, she was able to achieve her lifelong goal of becoming a nurse, a goal she had postponed in order to raise a family. At the time, it was him just doing what was needed to be done, but it was also showing through actions what it meant to be a loving and supportive spouse. Little did I know that these examples would be filed away in my teenage brain, only to be used again later when I was married.

However, it was his actions as a father that had the most impact on me and my siblings. I hope that I am not speaking for them, but I think that we all have our stories that prove this, and these anecdotes will live long into the future as memories of a great man.

I still vividly remember heading down to Provo on a Saturday afternoon to go to a football game. I don’t remember exactly which one, but my memory likes to think it was the game in 1991 when the Miami Hurricanes came to town. We walked up to the ticket window to purchase our tickets, only Dad wasn’t prepared for the inflated college ticket prices at the time. No longer were they the $5 he paid while a student at the school in the ‘60s, but instead were close to $40 a piece. He offered to buy me a ticket so I could watch the game alone, while he would go sit in his truck and listen on the radio.

This was ridiculous obviously, so instead we went and got hamburgers, probably from Arctic Circle, and listened to the game as we drove back home instead. We got home just in time to watch Ty Detmer and crew finish their victory over the Hurricanes, which at the time was a pretty big deal. Watching that game on TV, and many others like it, were some of my favorite Saturday afternoons spent with my father.

Many people know that my dad served in the Army, first on active duty, with service culminating as a warrant officer, and later in the reserves, getting his 22 years completed and earning that pension. I was always impressed as a kid by his dress uniform that hung in the closet, looking at the ribbons and asking what they meant, finding unit patches in boxes from his years of service that truly told a story of service to our country.

When I turned 16, I started thinking of following in his footsteps, considering first going to West Point, and later enlisting and heading off to Germany. Though that plan failed to fully come to fruition, I eventually followed him to the reserves, serving 10+ years and left with a longing to go back. I finally had my own rack of ribbons, but it still pales in comparison to the one he wore proudly on his chest all those years ago.

He quietly mentored me throughout my life in more ways than I can count. Many little lessons along the way have added up to a lifetime of knowledge, knowledge that can only be paid back by setting the same examples in my life going forward. He was the man that taught me how to be a loving husband, even though it wasn’t through parables or stories as often shown on television. He quietly showed me how to be a father, how to struggle through adversity for the sake of your kids, and how you can always get away with not ordering food for yourself because the kids will never eat it all. While he won’t have the pleasure of meeting my children, at least here on Earth, they will feel the impact of his life through me, and I will be a better father because of the example that he set.

To the very end, my father quietly went about his life. When he raised his voice, it was mostly when the current Cougars quarterback made a stupid throw, or when the opposing basketball team was scoring too many baskets in the paint. He wasn’t one to openly show emotion, but you could see love in his eyes when he looked at my mom, or when his children achieved something.

I can only hope to be half the father he was. If I do that well, I can consider myself a success. The initial wound is still fresh, and I will miss him for the rest of my life, but I am thankful for the time that we had together. He was the best father a son could ever want, and he will be with me always.

I love you, Dad.

Today’s Movie Review – Tusk (2014)

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of Kevin Smith and his movies. While in high school, I remember going to see Dogma the first week it came out, laughing as a handful of protesters showed up to “picket” the movie. In the fall of 2001, during what was most likely my first off-post pass from AIT at Fort Jackson, we walked to the nearby shopping center, and after a meal at Golden Corral, watched the craziness that was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I have not missed a Kevin Smith movie in theaters – except for Cop Out which was released when I was in Iraq – since that viewing of Dogma, which to this day remains my favorite movie.

Starting with Red State three years ago, Kevin Smith has just decided to make the movies he really wants to make. While many Smith fans are waiting for Clerks III, or his detractors are waiting him to finally retire as he stated after Cop Out, he keeps coming up with original ideas for movies, things that don’t show up in movies these days, the majority of which seem to be adaptations, reboots, or sequels. And while Tusk itself is an adaptation, it is probably the first movie adapted from a podcast, or at least the first major* release. This unique origin probably adds to quirkiness of the movie.

*Even though Tusk is a independent movie with a relatively small budget, it is getting a wide release, and has the weight of Kevin Smith behind it, so it will get a little more attention than other independent movies.

Continue reading

Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success

What is an outlier? According to Malcolm Gladwell and his book Outliers, an outlier is a “scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience.” In the book, Gladwell points to various outliers in society, weaving a narrative that the people we see as successful are more a product of their circumstances and less a product of their intelligence and ambition.

The stories Gladwell uses to illustrate this point are broke down into two different parts: opportunity and legacy. In discussing opportunity, the first story, and one that I found pretty interesting, is the birth dates of a couple of teams of elite junior hockey teams in Canada. Of course the players are all around the same age, between the ages of seventeen and nineteen, but what stood out was the birth month of the players. The majority of players were born in the first six months of the year, which struck Canadian psychologist Roger Barnsley and his wife as odd.

Upon further investigation, it turns out the cut off age for youth hockey is January 1st of each year. Because of this, the older children tended to be bigger than those born later in the year, and in the realms of youth hockey, size often trumps talent, especially at the younger ages. This size was a de facto ranking system for some of the “all star” teams, and these all star teams had the best coaches. By the time the real talent starts showing, the bigger kids have had so many hours of additional top flight coaching that they perform better than kids that were born later in the year. Continue reading