Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

It's late night on the 23rd/ early Christmas Eve, and I thought since I last wrote on Thanksgiving, I'd better do a little December update. I'm sure I'll post more after Christmas (with some pictures), but for those of you who care enough about me to be checking my blog, I wanted to make sure there was at least a message wishing you a Merry Christmas!

December so far has been busy and eventful. I've mostly just been working at Midwest and enjoying my time with the boys there. I'm at a place now where I feel like I know what I'm doing and have developed some pretty good relationships with many of the students and staff and hopefully are getting down to some good work in improving their lives. Iowa has been cold and I'm learning the meaning of freezing rain. If you've never experienced your car getting literally covered in a 1/2 inch shell of ice, it's something.....I wouldn't recommend you ever do. But life is good out there.
At the beginning of December I also had the opportunity to spend 5 days in Chicago attending a work-related seminar. You need to understand though that these "seminars" are in NO WAY anything close to what you would expect from a "work-related seminar". They are actually really powerful, life-changing meetings that make you really do some deep introspection into why you are the way you are, and then build a foundation from which transformation can take place. They are designed not just for the students in my school, but their families and anyone else who wants to attend as well. In fact, when parents and family and staff go through, we don't even talk about the's all about YOU, and what you can do to tranform your own life in a way that will make you a better and more effective person and improve your relationship with yourself and others. For those who know what's going on with me, it's probably needless to say that at this point in my life it was a very beneficial seminar and really opened my eyes to some things about myself that I want to change and do differently. So, I was excited for that opportunity and am anxious to start truly living my life in a way that I want to.

I also got lucky enough to take 10 days off to be with family for the holidays. I flew into Albuquerque on Saturday night (with a 3 hour delay in Denver because of the crashed plane there), and got in late for a BYU football game party I planned but never attended (and a game I never watched...not even on Cougars). But it was really fun to see Mom, Dad, Kellie, KC, Isaac and Eliza as well as a friend and his wife and children who came down from Santa Fe to visit. Sunday night I flew up to Salt Lake City for some business I had on Monday, and while there was also able to see Aryn and Quinn during the afternoon and evening, as well as my dear Grandma, before flying back down to Albuquerque early this morning. I'll stay here in Albuquerque until the 26th and then drive back up to Utah to spend a few more days with my kids before heading back to Iowa. It has been and will continue to be a bit of a whirlwind, but it's great to be able to be with loved ones during the Christmas holiday.'s probably appropriate to include one last note... the "business" I attended to in Utah yesterday was a mediation date for Sara's and my divorce. It has now officially ended, and although I have a lot of really mixed emotions about it all, it resolved quite reasonably and peaceably and we're both relieved there is finally some closure. We know we need to continue to work together to ensure our wonderful children are well-cared for and that they are very aware that they have two parents who care for and love them deeply. We are committed to that, and so far I think we are doing a pretty good job at it. And hopefully, both Sara and I can also now move forward with our new lives in a positive and productive way. I believe that we will.

Merry Christmas and may the spirit of this wonderful season rest with you all!

Friday, November 28, 2008


I spent the day at work yesterday for Thanksgiving. As you probably know, my "days" at work consist of a 6:30 am to about 11:00 pm shift. It was interesting to me to read students' "reflections" last night before I returned home. So many of these students--many of whom have been in this program for over a year, and many others who have not seen their families for several months--write something to the effect of..."I was thinking today was really going to suck. I woke up, realized it was Thanksgiving, and thought of how crappy it was I was in a program. But I was surprised that I ended up having a really good day." I found myself last night thinking similar thoughts. To maintain my own family's tradition, I had each student say something they were grateful for at dinner. Surprisingly, they took it seriously, and each student shared several things they were grateful for. For most of them it went something like this..."I'm grateful for my family, for being sober, and for having a second chance"...or some version thereof. As I tried to get through sharing my own thoughts of gratitude with them I couldn't help but choke up as I thought of my many blessings and found myself with similar thoughts to them once again. I figured since I wasn't able to be around loved ones yesterday, I would at least share some of my thoughts with you through here. So, here is my gratitude list for this year (both serious and a few a little less-serious):

1- My children. I love Aryn and Quinn so much! It's very hard to be away from them and when I think of them a tear (or more) usually wells up in my eye, but I'm so grateful they are healthy and well, and I get a chance to see them as often as possible. They truly are my little every sense of that word.
2- My family. Like many others, I feel like I am the most lucky person in the world to be born into a family that is so awesome! I know they can't all be the best, but I'm certain that mine it must be a tie at least. This year I've learned even more just how wonderful it is to be unconditionally loved and supported and I've leaned on that love and support a lot. Thanks Dad, Mom, Chris, Ellie, Brooklyn, Dave, Kellie, KC, Dane, Emily, Grandma, Sam, Sophie, Maggie, Cambria, Maya, Isaac, Eliza, Eden, Zia, and the two little ones to come. I also have some wonderful aunts, uncles, cousins, and ex-in-laws who expand my family network even further. It's such a comfort to know I have such a strong support structure and big safety net underneath me of caring, thoughtful, talented, and loving family members.
3- My friends. Similar to my feelings about family, I have some wonderful friends. When you go through some tough times you realize who your true friends are and the people you can really trust and rely on. I have some amazing ones who I know are always there for me, even if I don't communicate with them often, and see many of them even less. I often feel quite lonely and isolated out here, but I appreciate the connection I have with many good friends who help remind me that bonds of friendship transcend proximity.
4- My health. I'm very grateful that my health is reasonably good. I'm certainly on the decline as far as my athleticism, speed, "hops", recovery time, etc, but it's good to still be able to run and hike and play with relative ease. Nothing reminds me of how grateful I am for good health more than getting injured or sick, and since both happened to me in recent weeks, I'm especially thankful for my health.
5- My job. I have some ambivalence at times about my I think most people do. It's hard to be away from family and friends as well, but I am very grateful for my job. Considering my circumstances, I think it's very important that I be doing something from which I find meaning and gain fulfillment. Working with the boys here has been rewarding and I feel like I'm developing some good relationships with them and assisting them as they embark on this pathway of change. Of course there are always lessons I'm trying to teach that are relevant to me also, so it's therapeutic in more ways than one.
6- Technology. I was reading a friend's blog and poached this idea from her, but it rang true to me when she said how thankful she was for particular, everything DIGITAL. I'm old enough to remember having to do research at the library on microfiche, look in yellow pages for buisness addresses, and actually send hand-written mail in the pre-internet days; having to use typewriters and write drafts of things by hand first; having to be selective about taking pictures because of the cost of film and developing it and never knowing whether or not your pictures were going to even turn out or whose eyes would be closed when you finally saw the final product; replacing your cassette collection with a CD collection and then having to tote around your big CD collection everywhere, where now you can just stash your little IPod in your pocket and it's got your entire music AND photo collection conveniently organized on it; having to use pay phones, or better yet, manipulating the collect call system to get a quick message to mom without losing your quarter, and then having to have a different, expensive long-distance plan for your phone or call after 9 or 10 at night so it wouldn't cost so much. Oh, so many things that have progressed and improved with technology!

Anyway, my list could and probably should go on and on, but that will have to do it for now.
Hope you all had a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING. I love you all.

One more note...I was thinking of the many times I've had to be away from my family for Thanksgiving, and realized it has been way too often. If I remember correctly, here's a list of places that I've spent Thanksgiving away from home:
- MTC in Provo, UT
- Fresno, California
- Hanoi, Vietnam ("Where is the damn cranberry sauce?" inside joke for Brooke)
- Boston, MA
- Philadelphia, PA (twice?)
- Park City, UT (I think actually we were on a road trip with the kids in the school to either Bend, OR or the Grand Canyon and Moab)
- Seattle, WA (twice?)
- Hualien, Taiwan
- and now Keokuk, IA

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Visits to see the Kids

October 4th - 7th
I never posted about my trip out to Utah to see the kids in October during conference weekend, but I figure it's better late than never. This trip was especially fun because my Mom and Dad met me up in Utah so that I could see them and they could see Aryn & Quinn as well. We had so much fun together! Thanks Mom and Dad for making the trip and helping out so much while I was there. Here are a few pictures from the trip including a few from a little trip to Cascade Springs Sara and I made after Mom and Dad left.

November 15 - 18th
I just went out to Utah to see the kids again and had such a wonderful time with them. They are as adorable as ever and we had so much fun together. The weather even cooperated and gave us warm sunny days to spend out at the park, in the yard working and playing, and at Grandma's house jumping on the trampoline, swinging, and exploring. We went swimming one day, did some Christmas shopping, and had some yummy meals together including a great Sunday dinner Sara made that we ate with Grandma-Great (my Grandma) along with Grandma and Grandpa Clement (Woo-hoo Grandma, as Aryn calls her). Big thanks to Jed & Megan Beck for continuing their hospitality to me while I'm out there, and thanks to Sara and her family for being so hospitable and kind as well. It was a great trip!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quick Update

So after 9 days of hobbling around, and taking in all the comments from friends and family that I should "get (my ankle) checked out", I went and had it x-rayed. Turns out I have a "chip fracture". There's nothing they can really do it about it, so I'm back hobbling around the school; and, as is typically my experience with doctors, I'm out a few bucks in order to know something that I pretty much already knew and can't really do anything about other than wait for it to heal. But I guess it's "peace of mind", right? Yeah, right.

Oh, I'm heading out to Utah to see the kids tomorrow morning. Can't wait!!!! It's been since the first weekend of October since I last saw them, so I'm very excited. I'll post pics and an update upon my return.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I end up doing a lot of activities with the boys at the school on my days off. (What does that say about my social life?) Yesterday morning I played basketball with a bunch of the seniors at the school while everyone else was taking tests. At the end of the game a few of us were playing "21" when I came down and landed on a kid's foot. My ankle rolled hard and I heard a pop, then my knee kind of buckled the other direction. I hit the floor in pain and had a bad feeling this was more serious than other times I had rolled my ankle. As I squirmed around on the floor, with the boys just kind of watching with concern and not knowing what they should do, I tried to figure out how I was going to get the boys' back to the facility and get myself to the doctor. A few minutes passed, along with the initial pain, and I decided I would try to get up and put a little pressure on it and see how badly it was hurt. Fortunately, it seemed to be OK and I walked the kids back to the facility and hobbled home to put some ice on my ankle and try to stay off it. The swelling started to go down a little bit, and I went and voted and got things ready for an election night activity I was doing with the boys that night. It's still swollen now, but I don't think it's as serious as I initially thought it might be, so that's good....probably just not much ball for the next week or two.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Technology Challenge

Sorry for the lack of blogging and blog responses...I've been a little out of the loop lately. For about the last two weeks I've been without internet for the most part. Occasionally it will come up-- sporadically and slowly while I'm at work; but the problem with that is sporadic, slow, and I'm at work. From what I hear, the problem stems from our provider. Since Keokuk is in the middle of nowhere, and since the school is on the outskirts of "the middle of nowhere", our options for internet pretty much comes down to one satelite provider. Apparently, sometimes this provider/server seems to not pay its bills, and when it doesn't, they get shut off and we are left high and dry and with no other options. Quite frustrating. Additionally, my satellite TV was down for about 2 weeks a while back, so for a period of time, I was without much contact with the "real world". Fortunately, my school-issued phone worked, least until it's battery would die, which usually occurs about 8:00 pm.
I often hear my siblings or others say how "lucky" I am, or how "nice" it sounds to live such a simple life free form the nuisances of technology and busyness. I'm not sure I agree. If you think so, here is my challenge.....

Let's see how long you can live without the following: 1) TV (shouldn't be too hard for many of you); 2) Internet (now we're getting a little more difficult); 3) Turn off your cell phone and see how long you can go before turning it on, and 4) When you think you're OK with any one of the previous three, do them all at the same time, and see how long you last. Yeah, it's really "nice". haha

I've got my money on Dane and Emily to win this one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


So, living in Keokuk isn't all bad, but one does have to get creative at times in finding something entertaining to do. I've discovered that I really do not have a whole lot of free time, especially if I use some of that free time that I have to catch up on some much-needed rest. However, when the creative juices aren't flowing, I'm rested, and I'm not swamped with things to do...I have to figure out SOMEthing to keep me occupied. One Saturday afternoon I realized I just needed to "get out of Dodge". My cosmopolitan side needed some nurturing, so I figured I'd head up to the biggest nearby city and spend the weekend...and that would be Chicago (although St. Louis is actually closer, I figured Chicago was more interesting, plus I had a free room to stay in since my brother was getting trained for his new job up there). Five hours later I was nervously veering through the speeding traffic on the busy interstate system, and just enjoying the pace and speed and intensity and combustion of a big city. It was already really late so I ended up just locating my hotel and getting some rest so I'd be ready to explore the city the next day. I really had no agenda other than: 1) see people, 2) eat ethnic food, and 3) see something interesting for cheap. I checked the first thing off my list by wandering into a Vietnamese section of town and eating some good "pho". Yum! (The only "ethnic" food in Keokuk is a quite average Chinese restaurant and Mexican restaurant...unless you count Taco Bell as Mexican and Pizza Hut as Italian). I then wandered over to Lakeshore Drive and noticed the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline and hundreds of people playing beach volleyball, jogging, picnicing, and enjoying the beautiful autumn day. I decided to park my car about 5 miles north of downtown by Lincoln Park (so as to avoid any exorbitant parking fees) and got out and just started walking toward downtown. I was so impressed by the lively scene along the waterfront and how nice the city skyline was. I ended up walking miles down the shoreline and into downtown, stopped to window-shop at a few stores (even though I had no money to buy anything it was nice shopping at something other than Wal-Mart), and watched street-performers with the same amount of awe and entertainment as I remember doing as a naive and sheltered high-school kid the first time I went to Boston. It was so fun to just be in a city. I ended up probably walking 12-15 miles that day and loved every minute of it. When I finally decided I needed to head back to Keokuk that evening, I realized I had basically just driven 10 hours to "go on a little (urban) hike". I laughed at how it seemed in the past I had to find the perfect time, and have a 3-4 day weekend, to justify a trip down to Arches when I lived in Utah, or to go to Martha's Vineyard when I lived in Boston, or to go to Olympic Peninsula when I lived in Seattle. And here in Keokuk, I hardly thought twice about just getting in my car and heading up five hours just to BE in Chicago. With gas prices what they are, I don't know that I'll make a habit of that, but it sure was fun.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chris and his Amazing Catalina Crossing

On September 18th-19th, I had the fortunate experience of watching and participating in the most incredible athletic accomplishment with which I've ever been personally involved. The best part about it was it was my 14-month older brother , Chris, who did it. Back in early summer, he casually asked me if I would like to support kayak for him as he attempted to cross the Catalina Channel. I thought it sounded fun, and it was an excuse to get out of Iowa and go to Southern California, so I promptly said "Sure, if I can work it out". I really didn't have any understanding of what it really meant though, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pull it off with my work schedule and finances. However, as his targeted day grew nearer, we revisited the idea and we decided we would really try to make it work. With some help from Chris and a little negotiating at work I was able to get off and fly out to Orange County for the big event. Prior to the big day, I worked three straight 18-hour shifts, then got off my last shift at 11:00 pm and drove 5 hours to Chicago to catch a 5:30 am flight to Orange County. By midnight that night, Thursday the 18th, I was on a boat watching Chris jump into pitch black waters and swim to Catalina Island to begin his Channel Crossing.

My parents and I, along with a support team that included an Ironman triathelete, an English Channel crosser, and the world-record holder for most miles swam in one month, were all there to cheer him on and provide motivation, direction, and nutrition. Because I wasn't as experienced of a kayker as others there, I was told to not go out at night...when the ocean was so dark, vast, and formidable.
But at about 6:00 am, when the sun crept over the wet horizon, I went off the boat onto my ocean kayak to paddle up to my brother who was still just moving along with a rhythmic cadence.
For his swim to be officially recorded and accepted, he had to have an observer there to "officiate" the swim. He was not allowed a wet suit, or any kind of physical assistance at all (no one was ever allowed to touch him, or him use the boat or kayak for support).
Every 30 minutes he would have a "feed" where the kayaker would reach out a water bottle and a little "gu" (power gel) to him. These feedings would last all of 15 seconds before he would get back into his stroke. They were told to be so quick for two reasons, because they didn't want to add on any extra time or have him expend any extra energy that wasn't propelling him towards his destination and safety; and secondly, so that his metabollic heart rate would not lower which would cause his body temperature to decline. The water was usually mid-60s and any stopping would cause his temperature to drop quickly, in which case he would be at risk of cramping and even hypothermia.
The conditions of the swim were good to start, with moonlight casting a glow on the water so that we could see his arms escaping the dark ocean and his head turn for his breaths. However, by mid-morning, winds had started to pick up and the currents had changed as well....not good things for open-water swimmers. The swells and waves became much larger than expected posing problems for both he and myself, the kayaker, and the current the boat was trying to follow had shifted as well. This caused him at one point to be swimming for an hour straight with literally no progress. He was swimming on a treadmill essentially. They had to re-route him to find a current, and after he finally got to a better current, he had lost valuable time and added essentially four extra miles to the swim.
Eventually we saw the coastline and the beach-front hills began to get a little bit larger and larger. My brother continued to go strong, with his arms churning in a steady motion like an oil rig, moving up and down, up and down, for what seemed like an eternity.
We all worried about him, considering how long he was in the water and how much energy and strength he would be able to sustain, but his stamina and perseverence were incredible. We finally made radio contact with an on-shore lifeguard to help us find a place he would be able to safely come into the coast since his landing spot had been changed multiple times to account for the current and conditions. He helped us find a little cove in which he finally, almost literally, crawled ashore....25 miles and just under 15 hours later.

I was truly amazed and inspired at what he had just done. He became the 156th person to successfully cross the channel since 1926. His feat was the equivalent of running almost three marathons back to back to back. I felt blessed to have been able to assist in some way and to share that incredible accomplishment with him. Way to go, Chris!!!
Not only was I so glad to be able to share in that experience with Chris, but it so neat to see my Mom and Dad, Brooklyn and her family, Chris's family, and I even got a 4-hour layover in Salt Lake City on the way home, in which time I was able to meet Sara, Aryn, and Quinn again for lunch and a little visit. It was a WONDERFUL weekend!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Summer Update

All right, for those of you who have endured the same posting for the last few months, I've finally decided to update my blog. It's going to be a "MEGA-posting too", one more thing to test your patience and endurance. As you know, it's now officially autumn, and I've given you very little information about my summer; are a few of the highlights:

Aryn and Quinn

I think it's a no-brainer that seeing my kids is always the highlight. It's been really hard being away from them, but fortunately I've managed to get out to Utah to see them fairly regularly. They're doing really well, and Sara has got them comfortable in their new home in a great little neighborhood in Alpine. Quinn is growing up so quickly and is now crawling everywhere, climbing up stairs, pulling himself up to anything he can, and walking along, around, or pushing it. He has a wonderful, easy-going personality and is almost always smiling as the pictures show. He likes to laugh, stick things in his mouth, play with his big sister, and from what I hear has been a relatively easy child to raise. His health has improved substantially and hasn't proven to be too much of a problem (other than some expensive medicine he has to take).

6 month old pictures

When asked how old she is, Aryn now consistently answers "eleven"...and in some ways she acts it. :) She's very intelligent and continues to amaze people (at least me) with the things she does and says at such an early age. Sara has her enrolled in gymnastics classes, and she also gets to have Sara practice music lessons on her, and is doing really well in both. In fact, she has repeatedly assured Sara in all seriousness that she is ready to perform a piano number in sacrament meeting. She loves playing with her neighbors and having friends and cousins over to play. She likes hiking, especially in the "high, high, high mountains", and is a great big sister to Quinn.

Playing at Sliding Rock with her friend, Brinn, during my last visit out September 11th.

Other than going out to Utah to see Aryn and Quinn, the highlights of my summer were definitely being able to have guests come out and visit me. I've felt very blessed to have already been fortunate enough to have several people go out of their way to make a visit to Keokuk, when there are probably a lot more exciting vacation destinations.

Bob Neal

My guests started on the 4th of July weekend, when my best friend from my freshman year of college, Bob Neal, drove up from Lexington, Kentucky to spend the weekend with me. He works for Lexmark and had a few days off, with his wife and two daughters in Utah, so we took advantage. It was so good to catch up, and we had a great time riding around on four-wheelers, playing a lot of basketball and showing a few of the students here that a couple of old guys still have way too much game for them. haha The 4th of July is also a big event here at the school, and an annual tradition has been started to have a barbeque in which many former students come back and visit, followed by an impressive fireworks display that easily surpasses the city's fireworks show. I'm appreciate of Bob for taking the time to swing up here in a time when I could use a friend.

Kellie, KC, Issac, and Eliza

At the beginning of August, KC and Kellie and their kids drove from Albuquerque all the way out here to see me and visit Nauvoo, Carthage, and other historic church sites, along with whatever other random place of interest Kellie could "google". They got to see Historic Nauvoo, and Carthage, where Joseph Smith was jailed and killed. We saw the Nauvoo Pageant, which actually wasn't too cheesy (KC was a little disappointed I think in the lack of cheese). We all developed a better appreciation for our pioneer heritage and church history, as well as the way kids played back then (and I think Kellie thought that this "country living" wasn't too far different from how the pioneers did it 160 years ago). Isaac and Eliza were great spending all day in Nauvoo, but their favorite day was just hanging out at my house and playing with their cousins, riding bikes, riding 4-wheelers, jumping on the trampoline, and having acres and acres of open area in which to explore, run, and feel free. Thanks KC and Kellie for making the sacrifice to come was a lot of fun! I should have at least let you beat me in golf, right KC? :P

Chris, Ellie, Sam, Sophie, and Maggie

In the middle of August, Chris, who had been training in Chicago for his new job, came down with his family to visit. It was so fun to see them all as opportunitites to see all of them have not been too frequent. I wasn't sure if these Southern Cal kids would be down with the midwest, but they all loved seeing the church sites, and also playing around the school. We spent a day in Nauvoo learning, playing, and seeing various shows. We also spent some time here at the school. Maggie got a "scared straight" tour of the school; Sophie was in butterfly heaven and literally could have spent weeks chasing bugs and butterflies in the fields out here; Sam discovered a new love on the four-wheeler and was a real natural talent; and Chris and Ellie were the best and helped me to celebrate my 36th birthday with family and a birthday cake with candles. It was so fun to be able to spend some time with them before the embark on their family adventure for a few years in Abu Dhabi. Thanks guys!

I'll stop there for now, but stay tuned...I'll try to get up at least one more summer events posting. Thanks to everyone who still periodically checks this blog, I appreciate your dilligence. :)