Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Note to BSTS

This is a personal apology to Better Safe Than Sorry for my lax continuation of the novel I began in November. I am in a personal writing funk and in an even more aggressive reading funk. I am reading everything I can get my hands on for two reasons.

A. I think my writing is pretty mundane and I am seeking inspiration and instruction by reading some of the greats. Before I continue on with my story, I have to get better. I spoke with my brother-in-law awhile ago and he felt that one of my problems (and I agree) is that I don't infuse my writing with any sense of location or setting. I am not descriptive enough. I struggle with this, so I have just finished two books (Angle of Repose and A Passage to India) in hopes of gleaning something from the techniques of both Stegner and Forster.

B. I am realizing just how long it takes to write a book and I am a little overwhelmed so I have taken a hiatus from writing. Oh, I still write, but I am focusing on place and character in short little bits.

All of this being said, I can honestly hope that Janie will not lose interest in my writing. She has been both a wonderful friend and a great cheerleader for my writing. I am sorry. I will try harder.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Memory of Lila

My dear mother has been this week in Southern California to attend to my Grandmother whose health is rapidly deteriorating. I admire my mother for her ability to comfort those in need of comfort. She is indeed a special person with whom I have not only a great deal of love but also genuine respect. I love you, Mom.

This post, however, is being written about my grandmother. For as long as I've known her, she has been a saint of a lady. We joke that we know Grandma Lila is destined to be in a celestial realm when she passes from this life, but we aren't certain we would want her on our block 'cause she'd make us all do good deeds all of the time. She is just that determined.

When I was just a tiny child, I received a little pillow in the shape of a monkey. It was a constant source of comfort just like a teddy bear is to others. Over the years, each one of my brothers and sisters received a similar pillow (elephants, tigers, giraffes, and cows were all possibilities). As we all grew and got families of our own, Grandma continued making these pillows for each one of her grandkids and great-grandkids. It was truly an honor to recieve a white pig pillow at the birth of my little Touchdown. We called it Wilson. When Baby Indy was born we were excited beyond belief to get another white pig pillow. It was purely coincidental that we got two in the family. We called the second one Spaulding (hey, they look like the volleyballs on the film, Castaway).

Well, the Teenager was not around for this tradition and she is quite jealous that she did not get a pillow. I now realize that my Grandmother's health may make it impossible for the Teenager to ever get a pig pillow, but I am tempted to have my mother snag the template so I can make her one in my Grandmother's behalf.

We all love you, Grandma Lila. We hope you feel better.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Note on Sisters

Touchdown: "What did they take, Daddy?"
The King: "What are you talking about?"
Touchdown: "They took it and they're not going to any more. What did they take?"
The King: "Ummmm...."

At this point, I was in a total quandary as to what she was talking about, but as I listened a little more intently the remainder of the trip, I realized what the little three-year-old was talking about. It began with a whisper but soon enough became a full blown howl from the back seat of the minivan.

Touchdown (with gusto): "We're not gonna take it. No, we're not gonna take it. We're not gonna take it anymore."
The King (to the astounded Wife): "That's it. We are going to ban Touchdown from listening to the Teenager's IPod."

In an obvious nod to Dee Snyder and Twisted Sister, the children have been singing this anthem for the last several days. I don't even pretend to know why the Teenager likes it or why she would search that song out (she is quite the goodie-goodie), but she finally found it on a sports rock CD that included Buster Poindexter's oh-so-annoying "Hot, Hot, Hot."

So the question remains. What did they take?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A List of Firsts

First job I ever had: Bus Boy/Waiter at a restaurant called The Bank.
First kiss: Girl (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) in the entryway of her house. I was 16 and she was 15.
First trip I remember: My father worked as a counselor at a boys ranch and every year we went somewhere in the U.S. to a NAHB convention. One year we went to San Angelo, TX in the middle of the summer without any air conditioning in our van. We kept dunking our shirts in ice water and then hanging out the window to cool off.
First birth of one of my children: I was so glad that Touchdown was mine 'cause the other kid in the baby room at the hospital was so ugly.
First Time on Foreign Soil: On one of the boy's home trips we went to Minot, N. Dakota and on the way back to Rupert, Idaho we made a little side journey to Lethbridge, Alberta. I remember thinking the girls were so blonde in Canada. I liked them a lot. I played penny poker with my brother and this kid named Shawn Bubb all the way there and back.
First Car: I know that I have mentioned this before on the blog, but the first car I ever drove was an AMC Gremlin circa 1973. It was red and had a racing stripe on it. It was pretty gutted out when I received it, but it functioned and was easy to drive. I am actually quite proud of my little car. I then upgraded to a red Ford Escort. I was so cool.
First Grade Teacher: Miss Murphy. I had such a crush on her I can't even tell you all. She may have been married but I think of her as being single (my memory is a bit hazy on this point). I remember that she was so kind and so friendly and told me I was very smart. She was the ultimate woman. She had long pretty brown hair and her smile was super-duper pretty. I am blushing as I type this.
First Full-Blown Crush: Dorothy Hamill. The hair cut. The nice athletic gams. The sweet, sexy voice. Yeah, I was pretty impressed as a seven-year old. She was a lot like Miss Murphy.
First Trip to the Emergency Room: I was six or seven years old and I was jumping off some playground equipment into my Father's arms at a park right on the Snake River. I was up pretty high and my father got tired of catching me. I still wanted to jump, so I asked if I could jump without him there to catch me. He said sure. I did. I broke my arm. Parents didn't believe I was hurt that bad. Parents didn't take me to emergency room for a couple of days. Nice one, Wizard.
First Fright: The monster in my closet. I was sure he was there. Late at night when I couldn't go to sleep, I would imagine him in my closet just peeking out to check on me and wait for me to go to sleep so he could pounce. I still don't like him.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Note on Los Lupes

I love my in-laws (Grandpa and Grandma H). I rarely mention them on my blog, because I am convinced that my wife will neuter me if I take them to task, but I am going to today. Why? Because they need to know the error of their ways.

Yesterday, the Wife's sister (Auntie H) and her husband and little girl blew through on their way to San Diego for a vacation and stopped in Mesquite, Nevada to spend the night at her parents' house. She, in turn, invited us down (a forty minute drive) to eat dinner with the whole clan. We accepted, and despite the suspect nature of the intestinal fortitude of both the Wife and me, we agreed to let the In-Laws (Grandma and Grandpa H) pick the poison. They chose their favorite Mexican food joint called Los Lupes.

Auntie H and her husband had warned us about this place so we weren't totally enthusiastic to begin with, but when G-ma and G-pa H seemed so excited to have us go there together we coalesced and figured we could get something pretty tame, you know, so that our stomachs would be saved.


We arrived to find the place packed. Packed. We were relieved to see so many people there. We thought it might indicate the quality of food had improved. We were also relieved to see so many people leaving satisfied with the meal. They were mostly older, retired folks, but still they seemed content and well fed.

After a thirty minute wait, we were seated and the chips and salsa arrived. They were delicious. I almost overlooked the fact that my salad was swimming in a pool of ice and water when it arrived. Really, though, the chips and salsa were awesome. The salsa wasn't too chunky but enough so that it stuck on the homemade chips. Really top-notch chips and salsa. Then it went horribly bad.

The Wife's beef chimichanga arrived. I noticed that it was not crunchy but soggy. I am quite a Mexican food aficionado and I know that chimichangas should be crunchy. My burrito and taco arrived with the requisite beans and rice. They were edible but barely so. I didn't know you could screw up Mexican rice, but this place screwed it up big time. It was a disaster, and yet, G-pa and G-ma were obviously smitten by the place. And so was everyone else! The people next to us were purring like kittens, they were so content with their meals. So what is the deal?

I am here to suggest that old folks in Mesquite have iron stomachs. They must. Either that or they love the chips and salsa so much they are blinded by them. I have determined that it must be something like that. Oh, I know. It is probably that the other Mexican place in Mesquite is even worse than this one, so the bar is set so low a pregnant caterpillar could hop over it without breaking a sweat.

If G-ma and G-pa H read this, I want them to know that I love them and I had a great time with them and I'll do it again and again if they want me to. I am nothing if not accomodating. But please, for the love of all things fried and sprinkled with hot peppers, don't suggest Los Lupes ever again. Here it is noon the following day and I am still sticking close to the facilities.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Note on Teenage Accomplishment

The Teenager threw down a 2:39.08 run in the 200 yd. Individual Medley yesterday to finish 6th in the regional swimming meet and put herself in the running for a berth at the state swimming finals. There could not be a happier stepfather in all the land. I am on Cloud Nine.

As a high school athlete, I participated in both golf and basketball and was successful at both but I have never been more jazzed about anything than I am about my Teenager accomplishing this. She has just plugged along all year and things are starting to come together for her now. I know it is because of her hard work and her great attitude. Congrats to you, Teenager. You deserve it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Note on Sick Little Indy

He is such a good baby. Really he is. He will laugh and play and tease, but if he gets sick, he is a very different little boy. Here at the castle we are just enduring the wrath of Indy's sickness.

Lethargic baby. Lots of vomit. Touchdown peeing her pants to get some attention. Crying from everyone involved. Diarrhea.

Yeah, it has been a trying few days. We need some good prayers.

Love to all....

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Quick Note on Armoires

After reading this, I have finally reasoned that Sony is to blame for a lot of things.

It goes in the garbage can this very evening.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Note on Customer Service

Seriously, does anyone at all feel that a forty minute wait in a check-out line at a Walmart SuperStore is excessive?

Yes, I know that I probably could have gone to Target or K-mart and probably got the same scrap of inferior plastic, but I was there and I'd already committed myself to the first twenty minutes, so I stayed to the bitter end.

In defense of Walmart, it was a Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. (hardly a critical high volume time) and it was a jungle in there. Every half-derelict in a three county area was buying Ho-Ho's, cheap diapers and power tools. It was White-Trashapalooza wrapped in a thin cloak of Mormon conservativism (i.e. We Mormons like our Blue Light Specials).

I guess I should have expected it. After all, even the mega-big-box stores have lost every ounce of customer service. Why? Because they can. Where else are you going to buy a DVD player for $34.95? The problem is that it is now so pervasive. The doctor's office (where my wife arrived for her 4:10 appointment only to wait for an hour and a half before being seen), the bank (where they voided my debit card without telling me only to have me look like a fool when I tried to pay for some treats at the golf course), and the city (where they promised the construction site right next to my home wouldn't work after dusk only to have them spend a full month working day AND night) have all dissed me in the last month because they can.

I feel fed up, but I am left with few options. Where else can I go? I don't want to move. My finances are completely tied to my bank. Finding a new doctor is a royal pain. So what will I do?

I will blog about it in hopes that you will empathize.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A List of Words that Touchdown Doesn't Understand

My wife and the Wizard will probably laugh themselves silly with this post, but I am sure that I am a good parent nevertheless. When Touchdown gets put in timeout, I always feel that I should use the timeout as a place to teach her proper principles. The problem is that I am no good at talking to three-year-olds that are smarter than I am, so I resort to big words. These are the most recent blunders.

1. Focus--I think she understands that I am asking her to do something, but she can't quite grasp what it is.

2. Responsibility--She knows she should take it for her actions but she doesn't know what it is.

3. Actually--I think she gets this one pretty well (she uses it in sentences)

4. Comprehend--I must have lost it altogether to even use this one in a sentence with her.

5. Discussion--She knows were having one but I don't think she knows just what it means.

I am sure others will show up to baffle and confuse and I am sure the Wife will remind me of a few others. I must be the most confusing father of all time, but I pity the debate teacher that gets her in 13 years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Note on Wizard Wisdom-Part IV

Wow, I am finally at the end of this little project, but I have to say the final installment is probably my favorite. Now here is numbers ten through 12...

10. I believe...

I must approach parenting as a master teacher approaches the classroom. If my children struggle to learn the lessons of life one way, I will devise a new lesson plan to teach them the concept another way.

11. I believe...

I will take the time to enjoy my children. I will play with them, work by their side, appreciate their individual work, and seek ways for them to develop their potential.

12. I believe...

God is all knowing. He has given us ample information on how to be a good parent. The key is for me to study His words, ponder the concepts, and practice His precepts. I will end each day on bended knee, thanking Him for my family, and the opportunity to learn to be a parent.

That's it folks. Parenting 101 from the mouth of the Wizard. I want to take this opportunity to relate one quick story about my father that will let you in on his parenting skills.

As a young boy of maybe 11 or 12, I lived on a boy's ranch with 35 delinquent children. My father was the director of said boy's ranch and hired his father to help with the livestock. I remember that one year my grandfather and my father needed help weaning the calves from their mothers and then castrating them and branding them at the same time. It was tough work. Real tough work. My brother and I were selected to be the helpers and cowhands. We worked one day for about eight or nine hours doing all and I mean all of the dirty work. We did it however, right next to my father. He was there the entire time helping and encouraging. I will never forget that opportunity to share a father/son moment.

I learned the value of work on many such days and at the end of each of them, we knelt in family prayer and wished each other a good night. I am truly blessed. I hope to share similar experiences with my son and daughters. These are the best of times, for sure.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Note on Wizard Wisdom-Part III

Over the last week, Touchdown has been fascinated with another imaginary cohort. As if she doesn't have enough grandparents, she has adopted another set of them. Yes, that's right. The Wizard has to compete against the fictitious and utterly imaginary Grandpa Nut. She wants to go to Grandpa Nut's home and likes him much better than the other Grandpas. I don't know if the Wizard's treatise addresses the imaginary grandparents issue, but today I present numbers 7 through 9.

7. I Believe...

I should teach, demonstrate, and practice the principle of service. I should plan often to participate with my family in selfless acts of kindness.

8. I Believe...

In holding my children accountable for their behavior. I feel that opposition, trials, and set backs are fundamental to our growth. I will teach my children how to overcome them, repent if necessary, and be responsible for them. In allowing my children to overcome their mistakes, I will provide opportunities for my children to try over and over again.

9. I Believe...

I need to teach my children the proper value money plays in our lives. Money can provide for the necessities of life. The real value of money is to enable us to further the learning of correct principles and to provide emergency relief to the truly needy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Note on Wizard Wisdom-Part II

As promised I hope to continue posting the axioms that were written down back in 1998 by the Wizard. Today I present four through six...

4. I believe...

My love for my children is eternal. I must be cautious not to let this love excuse their behavior, or deny them valuable lessons they need to learn to become responsible people.

5. I believe...

The law of the harvest has practical implication for me. I will till, I will remove the weeds, and I will prepare a garden spot for the rearing of my children. I will use correct principles in planting the ideas, values, and concepts I feel my children need to know. I will water and nurture those seeds so that they will grow and flourish with the proper "Light from the Son."

6. I believe...

The Lord instructed Adam and Eve to leave the Garden of Eden. They were told to earn their keep by the sweat of their brow. This was not a punishment, but it was an introduction to the principle of work. All too often I buy things for or give things to my children and I think I am being a good parent. I need to see that I continually provide opportunities for my children to learn the principle of work (by the sweat of their brow). By doing so I will teach them to be responsible, I will build their confidence in their ability to do things in a constructive way, and I will instill in them an appreciation for the value of work.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Note on Wizard Wisdom--Part I

I am so sorry that I have be so lax in posting this week. I think it is one of those "I need a break from the blog" moments that we all seem to have every so often. Nothing serious, just a break in the old routine.

This week for some reason I have been very interested in a little document that the Wizard wrote a few years ago. It is entitled, "I Believe in Parenting: A Commitment to our Children", and it was written as kind of a code of ethics for parents in general; as envisioned by my father. I tease my father on this blog relentlessly (for good reason), but I have to tell him that since I have my own children now, I have found this little document profound in the deepest sense.

For the next several days, I wish to share this document with all of you. It includes 12 simple axioms that, if adhered to, will lead to a great deal of happiness in your life. Do with it as you please. I present here the first three...

1. I Believe...

It is important I understand my eternal relationship to my God. This understanding should direct my thoughts and deeds.

I am a Child of God.
I have the responsibility to act like one.
I deserve to be treated like one.

2. I believe...

It is essential to truly love my marriage partner, and it should be evident to my children by how I treat her/him.

3. I believe...

I must learn to know the hearts of my children. I will listen to their words. I will observe their actions. I will not judge their behavior prematurely. As I learn to understand their hearts, I truly can serve as a resource for them as they encounter life's experiences.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Note on Knighthood

As many of the citizens of WilkeWorld are aware, my real name is Tom Jones. I find that my name is both a curse and a blessing. A curse because about a thousand people a day find it delightful to offer up their best rendition of "My Delilah". A blessing because it is so easy to remember.

Well, today, it is an even more wonderous name than before as I found out that I was officially knighted by the British Royal Crown and now I shall be known here at WilkeWorld as not only the King, but also as Sir K.

The details can be found here. I am especially fond of my namesake's picture in this news blurb. He is the man.

I also find it quite interesting that a man named Tom Jones came into my store yesterday and I helped him find a sofa. Kinda weird if you ask me. The day Tom Jones the singer gets knighted, two of his tocayos meet in a furniture store out of the blue. Strange indeed.

BTW...Tocayo is the Spanish equivalent of namesake.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Memory of New Year's

It perhaps occured a half dozen times or so as I was growing up, but New Year's Eve in our family was an occasion to have a party and invite all of our friends to it.

For some reason, (I just think it was the sheer goodness of their hearts) my parents hosted a New Year's Eve Breakfast just after midnight every year as I grew up. In my little community in Southern Idaho, the church would sponsor a New Year's Eve Dance that was the social event of the entire year, but it would end promptly at 12:30 a.m. and everyone would make their way to mischief or to the Jones abode for the party.

I remember the Wizard with his apron and a huge skillet of scrambled eggs. I also remember my dear mother churning out waffles on the waffle iron. Twenty or thirty at a shot. We had everything from sausage and bacon to pancakes and waffles, from scrambled eggs to hash browns. It was quite the shindig.

There was never any booze and the movie playing in the basement was always rather tame. I loved that my friends felt comfortable enough to want to come to our house growing up. In fact, they still love visiting my parents.

I am hopeful that the friends of the teenager will do the same in the coming years. I hope they will find our home a safe refuge from the world. Plus, this way I can keep an eye on what they're doing. Hmm, maybe that is what the Wizard was doing...