Thank you, Barbara Walters, for that immortal phrase that could only be used to introduce this blog once again to the masses.
What am I doing here? I’m not really sure.
All I know is that 2020 is now here, and it’s been years since I seriously wrote for myself or for others. Like a pop musician whose rhinestone microphone has been taken away, I’ve been pretty quiet on the airwaves in recent months/years.
And I think now is the time to change that.
Not sure if I’m going to call this a come-back or even a new year’s resolution. For today, it’s only taking advantage of a quiet moment on New Year’s morning when everyone else is still asleep and I have some time alone with my thoughts.
For fun, (or maybe as an exercise in masochism) I read back through my various new year’s posts stored on this blog. Ten years ago, I had been married for about 8 months and was still in a fairly twitter-pated and blissful state of euphoria. (and it sure showed up in my writing, boy howdy!) But as I I look back over the course of the last 10 years, I am filled with gratitude for Audrey, Mrs. Brows, who has been constant as the North Star to me. Secondarily, but not less, I feel gratitude for the three amazing kids who have joined our family since then, all with their very different personalities. These four people represent a foundation in my life that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, but which oddly now define almost every waking hour.
As I look forward, children also seem to be here to help us mark the passage of time. If, 10 years ago none of them existed, the next conclusion you must draw is that 10 years from now, they will all be started to enter adulthood.
In other words: this is the time.
Now is the time to enjoy every minute of their growing up. As our eight year old was playing with his little brothers the other day, I couldn’t help but notice how their ten year old cousin was withdrawn and doing her own thing. She prefers to hang closer to her older brother and the other adults than the rest of the kids nowadays. This led to the startling realization that I might have less time with these boys under the gossamer cloth of youth than I think. Soon, boyhood concerns of play and equitable sharing of toys will give way to adolescent concerns — and if I thought the last 10 years have been a challenge, I don’t want to start to guess at what the next 10 might bring in that department.
Which leads me to a reflection on 2019 that I should share, though I don’t particularly want to: change.
I hate change. I’m a fierce opponent to change. But this year was a year of professional challenge and change for me which ultimately led to me leaving Cisco and accepting a new position at USAA.
I have reams to write about that experience: why, what started it all, what it felt like to leave a company after 14 years, what it felt like to get out and interview after 14 years off the job market, as well as the insanely varying hiring processes I was subjected to during my journey. I’m sure I’ll write those stories, but maybe not here. I’ve tried to keep this space as workplace-free as possible (for a variety of reasons), but I think the important thing to note for this journal and for this audience (friends and family) is that I’m learning to embrace change rather than fear it, and I’m trying to embrace the present and let go of the future just a smidge.
Said another way, I need to let the future take care of itself for a while. My experiences this year have taught me not to try to predict the future or try to control the future. Rather, this year was a year I was able to harvest a few seeds planted years ago. So, now I’m turning my attention to cultivating the soil and planting more seeds, all while watching the other crops ripen and become ready to harvest as well. This requires patience and vision, two things I sorely lack when I’m focused on results for today.
About 17 of my friends are all spun up about a new controversy brewing about a service called VidAngel, a(nother) Utah-based video filtering company that promises to help you enjoy any film you want out Hollywood without offending any delicate sensibilities. Their angle on the well-worn debacle? They bring their flavor of filtering into the realm of streaming video, something not yet done by any other company. Because there is no technically feasible approach to doing this without violating copyright, they are, in fact, getting sued by a consortium of content owners for their methods — and here’s my take on it.
Before I begin, though, I will say that I’m not going to attempt to take on the morality of this subject. I don’t really care if you like or dislike filtering services or if you think they should exist or shouldn’t. Nor do I recommend VidAngel or not recommend it.** I intend to really just dissect the legality of the situation, strictly from an uninformed, lay-person-playing-lawyer perspective. I could be right, I could be wrong, and this is a blog so it’s just my opinion any way. You are entitled to yours as well, and if it’s different than mine — congratulations for rubbing two brain cells together to make fire, young caveperson.
Disclaimer in hand, is what VidAngel doing illegal?
They say no. (If you want their opinion on what they are doing, you can read this stuff, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.)
To sum up their claim, they claim their are providing a service to their customers whereby they acquire a physical copy of a movie from a retail source at retail prices on behalf of you, their customer. They then wave a magical technology wand and open a wormhole through the Internet from their datacenters into your household, where they play you that movie with their filters in place. Since you “own” it, you can keep the movie forever (they charged you $20 for it) in some digital locker (with the correlating analog version in cold storage somewhere), or you can choose to sell it back to them and get some credit on your account, which you can then use to buy other filtered movies from them. (What they really intend for you to do.)
Seems legitimate, no? Here’s why it’s not:
When you buy a video disc or VHS tape or any other copyrighted film from a retail store, you are actually NOT buying the film itself. You are buying a license to view that film a specific setting. This is made crystal clear in those ominous FBI warnings that are displayed at the beginning of all home videos. The work of art itself — the content — actually never belongs to you. Yes, you did buy and you do own a piece of physical media that was made to transmit the film, but what you purchased for $19.95 was the license to view the video in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
This is the fundamental claim that owners of copyrighted material have over the art they sell; it is never “yours” — it’s always theirs — and they are just giving you a temporary license to watch it. This is why it’s technically illegal to show a home movie in a public venue, like a park or baseball stadium, even when you have legitimately purchased a copy — it was not licensed for public performance. Now, jack-booted thugs will not come crashing down your fence if you choose to have a backyard showing of The Sandlot to kick of little league season, but if your local little league chooses to show it before the first game of the season, and sells tickets and refreshments, you’d better believe their going to have a Disney lawyer sending them love-letters in due course.
And what about modifying a legally purchased copy of a movie? That is also illegal — though illegal is kind of a strong word. It’s a violation of the owner’s copyright. They made a thing, which they then licensed to you to show your family in your home. They did not give you, as part of that license, cart blanche to modify the original source material they sold you. Pulling out the VHS tape, razor blading out a few minutes, and scotch taping it together is — technically — illegal — because you’ve altered the material and it can never be viewed again the way that it was licensed to you and sold to you. Also, if you ever re-sell your license (copy) of the movie, it is forever altered and now they are N+1 divergent copies of the original source material on the market. (You Mormons out there should now go ponder on the moral side of the question given what I’ve said here and our understanding of the ‘evil’ people who altered sacred texts over the course of centuries. They were just “filtered copies” they made for their own use, right?)
Now let’s apply our new understanding of licensed home viewing of films to the VidAngel service.
What VidAngel says they are doing and what they are actually doing are not the same thing. If every time an order came in, they rushed down to WalMart, purchased the DVD you wanted off the shelf, stuck it in a magical internet-connected DVD player that transmitted the signal via closed-loop broadcast to your computer in your home, with some carbon-based life form sitting there with a remote skipping and muting parts of the movie you told them you might not like — then perhaps it would be legitimate. But that’s not what they are doing, and their “model” is super-flawed. (P.S. they know it too, which is why in their defense they call out that this was the 4th thing they tried when they were looking for a way to provide filtered, streaming media)
What they are really doing is pre-buying a BUNCH of copies of the same movie to build an inventory of movies that can be “sold” to a customer at one time. Then they illegally decrypt one copy of the movie off of the disc. Then they edit it for content and create special, digitized copy of this edited version and store it in their cloud. (Presumably, they are also creating multiple copies with different variations of things cut out of them, giving their customer maximum flexibility in what they are willing to see and hear from a movie.) Then, on demand from a customer, they stream you this illegally created copy of the movie you requested.
So there are a few ways this is illegal:
They decrypt the source material. Breaking encryption is illegal. (unless you are the NSA or CIA) Sorry, charlie. Slam dunk on that one alone.
They alter the work and store altered copies of that copyrighted work for mass distribution. This breaks the fundamental rule about not altering the source content you paid a license to view in your home. Yes, you have the right to start, stop, mute, rewind, fast forward, or whatever you want in the comfort of your own home, but that license you purchased did not give you the right to permanently alter the content of the performance, nor does this company have a right to do it for you. ***
They do not properly transfer the license to their customer in an established, conventional way. Their claim is that they act as an intermediary, picking up a DVD at the store for you and then streaming it to you at your convenience. However, they do not transfer the purchased, retail license to view the content via any regular, expected, or established means of retail transfer. In real life, this looks like garage sales and flea markets and $5 DVD bins at Walmart. One purchases and transmits the original source material between parties in the original way it was purchased, not an impermanent, copied, transiently transmitted set of bits that represent the content that was on the DVD/media purchased. You don’t buy a DVD and then copy it to a VHS cassette, sell the VHS cassette and burn the DVD and claim that you transferred the license. Nope, you created an illegal copy, dude. Game over.
I don’t think they have a leg to stand on in this lawsuit, and I expect it to not drag on for too long.
And now I will say something they should start looking at… automated, cloud-connected eye covers and earplugs. You can program the device to the time code of whatever movie you are watching and when something objectionable happens, it can clamp down on your head like the Iron Maiden so you don’t hear or see anything you don’t want to. It will be all the rage, and that is a device that Hollywood can’t touch.
** What about Clearplay? So far, in my estimation, Clearplay is actually the only legitimate technology for filtering movies. I won’t attempt to explain the details here, but if you want a legal solution that will stick around, my money is on that approach.
*** Ok, so since I’ve never used it, I’m not quite sure on this one. I’m also imagining they are storing and streaming complete copies of the movies and allowing a specially created video player (in the user’s computer or other device) to automatically mute or skip what they have chosen to filter based on a ‘script’ of time codes that do certain actions at certain times. If that’s the case, then #2 doesn’t apply anymore. But if they are doing #2 it’s definitely more heinous than #1 and #3. If I were building a service like this, doing #2 is really a bad idea from both a legal and operational, so maybe they don’t actually do it. Again — I dont’ know anything, just a bunch of blather from an uninformed lay person. If you know more, feel free to correct the record in the comments.
It has happened. The election of 2016 is now over, and the American people have spoken. In the closest Presidential race since 2000, and in a similar electoral-map-only win, President-Elect Trump has won the election on a wave of populist, isolationist support led by white males from the “rust belt” of America; Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Candidate-Trump’s premise that he is a “winner” and that American would “win again” under his leadership will now be tested. Yes, he has won the election, and those people who had their front page spreads and Facebook memes ready with “LOSER” stamped across Trump’s face are sadly throwing away a lot of work this morning. Yes, Trump has emerged a “winner” again in a horse-race where there could be only ONE winner; a presidential election. For him and those that supported him, they can have today to bask in that glory of victory — but tomorrow, it’s time to go to work. “Winner” is the title we give to those who have reached the end of the race, but in this case, the race for our future is just beginning. In the governing that lies ahead, the challenge won’t be defining winners and losers, but will be finding a way for America to improve and move forward. And I wonder if Donald is up to the task of winning that race, or all our sakes?
I am really glad my sons are young enough that I didn’t have to explain this to them this morning. Honestly, I’m trying to make sense of it myself. Looking at the results and at how the rust belt played a critical role in this election, I can see in hindsight how Trump’s message resonated. While I and most of the people I live and work closely with in Texas, California, New York and overseas have mostly recovered from the Great Recession and feel positive and optimistic about the future of America, there are still great numbers of people who feel left behind.
In one sense I lay that failure at the feet of the Democrats. They have talked a good game when it comes to the “new economy” and “clean energy jobs”, but have failed to deliver that in a politically meaningful way. I think you can point to specific success stories, but nothing that moves the public opinion needle and soothes the anxiety for the production economy lost over the last quarter-century, particularly in this region of the country. And while we all thought that the palpable enthusiasm among women to elect the first female president could propel Clinton forward, she ended up hampered by her own history and her husband’s history — not in a fashion that was an outright rejection, but in a fashion that just couldn’t put her over the top. Too many places could only get behind her 48 or 49% of the way, which was — in the end — not enough when it counted.
Trump, for his part, is the first person we’ve ever elected to office with NO history of political, public, or military service. We know precious little about what he will actually do with this new position. Since 2006, factions of America have been on a witch-hunt to root out centrists and career politicians, and this perhaps is the culmination of their efforts — a complete unknown quantity with the temperament of a 3 year old who we’ve now elevated to the leader of the free world. God help us all.
The only positive thing I can see from this year’s rebuke of the Clintons — and for that matter Jeb Bush — is that this country is not going to be a country of political dynasty. The thought of giving our next four years to either of those families that already influenced 16 long years of American politics didn’t sit well with me, ever, though I will admit my support for Clinton grew as Trump descended lower and lower (rhetorically and morally) as the campaign wore on.
And that’s the part I struggle with the most.
I want to point to our country’s leader with pride. I want my sons to look up to him and want to be like him. I just can’t do that with Mr. Trump. He represents nothing that I want my sons to become. Can we go back to 2012? Romney or Obama would be about 1000000000% better — both family men, respectful, educated, distinguished. Standing at the end of this bruising 2016 cycle makes me feel all kinds of violated and betrayed, and trying to make sense of my new reality going forward — something like some of those women Trump has violated over his lifetime must feel.
So, that’s where this thing stands this morning. I want America to move forward, and I take comfort in knowing our political system doesn’t depend on any single person. Trump will have to go to Washington and work with all those “establishment” people to actually get work done. I am curious to know exactly what that work will entail, since we didn’t really have many practical policy statements as part of his candidacy, so there’s a HUGE dose of un-surety that comes now, because none of us know really what we just signed up for.
As for the future of the Democratic party, I will say this: Hillary came within single digits in Texas. Hillary had a campaign headquarters in Utah, which did not support Trump anywhere near the level it supported Romney or Bush. States like Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina were swing states. The Democratic party is the party of growth and inclusion, and still appears to be the party of the future. The GOP has a huge mountain ahead of them in terms of coming to terms with what this new Trump coalition means for them and for whatever rebrand or reframe lay in store for their future. We are still unsure of what platform will come to power in January since the Trump policies don’t exactly square with the rest of his party, or whether relationships marred by lack of support and enthusiasm for his campaign will devolve into petty grudges held within the GOP for years to come.
And finally, for those of you still staring at the ceiling today, wondering what happened and how you will solider on, I offer Stephen Colbert’s very raw and heartfelt analysis, which was finally the thing that helped me snap out of it this morning:
Here I sit, at the end of the first day of a new year, staring at this blank screen and wondering what I am doing here. “Leave that blog alone,” that inner voice whispers. “You have 8 posts in draft state that you never had the patience to get to the second paragraph,” they say. But I’m feeling somewhat like a runner who hasn’t run, a singer who hasn’t sung, or whatever other practice-oriented thing you can come up with — I need to get back on this horse. So… I’m going to do my best, here, to get through a whole post. Whatever comes out, whether it’s 3 paragraphs with incomplete sentences, or a magnum opus will stand as a testament that this isn’t just a dead corner of the Internet.
So what happened, you ask? No, I haven’t resorted to private blogging, or even another form of journal writing. I suppose you could say I fell victim to micro-blogging — facebook posts and tweets — that take a lot less thought and effort (although a brief review of my history here suggests that not so many posts here had that much thought or effort, either). But, in the last few years I’ve even slowed that down to a crawl. I suppose I’m one part out of time, two parts out of energy, and three parts out of brain power to compose something coherent on a regular basis. That, and, at times I was reminded that people don’t like to read words as much as they like to look at pictures (which, I hear, are supposed to contain at least 1000 words or more), and — well — the truth is that I dislike pictures.
Whatever the reasons, we find ourselves together now. As I look back at the last two years since I posted anything substantive here, I am immediately hit with how much our lives (and we) have changed. When last we met, Noah was a newborn, we still lived in Dallas, Audrey still worked at JCPenney, and pretty much everything about our lives was different. Here is a summary of what the last two years has brought, some thoughts and feelings that I’ve experienced along the way, and what I see coming in 2016…
The Wreck that Was 2014
March 2014 – Audrey accepted a new job at Petco. It wasn’t news that JCP was on a major decline for years, but the stuff finally hit the fan in her world with a large changing of the executive level of her department. Some of her most trusted and valued coworkers were fired, forced out, relocated, or otherwise displaced. While her job wasn’t under particular threat, we chose to make a leapt that would (hopefully) provide a more positive work environment and outlook for her. We made plans and preparations to move to San Antonio where her new job would be based.
For the record, I thought this was a spectacular idea and supported her 100%. We would just move, right? People move all the time. No big deal. Turns out, it was a major-big deal. It first hit me in March, when we came house hunting. We feverishly searched the inventory of new and pre-owned homes over the course of 3 days. We had a specific wish list and the world’s most patient, understanding realtor. After an all-encompassing search, we found the perfect home for us. The morning after we decided to purchase the home and signed the contract, I woke up a complete mess. It was at that moment that I realized we were moving from our home in Wylie. The deep friendships, memories made, and close family relationships would not follow us here to San Antonio. We. Were. Moving. Yikes. That was an ugly, ugly day. (Poor Audrey probably didn’t have any idea what to do with me…)
After getting over that little hump, we made our final preparations to close on our house (remind me some time to tell you the story on how we took a bath on the stupid buyer’s VA loan terms), and moved to San Antonio in June of 2014. Correction — moved to Bandera TX — to live with Audrey’s parents while our home was being finished (completion date late-July, early-Aug, according to the salesman). Living with Audrey’s parents was definitely a blessing, but it was also a difficult few months, as we both were commuting 45-60 mins each way to our jobs in San Antonio every day. By the middle of July, we were ready to be closer to work, and out of their hair — and our house was nowhere near completion.
To make a long story short here, we decided to back out of that contract, and after a very patient realtor took us on the circuit again, we found another house nearby that was only a few months old, move-in ready, and a quick close. We signed everywhere we could possibly sign to get that closing on July 31.
Eager to put the summer of transition behind us, to get our stuff out of storage, and to get into our new routine, we scheduled an all-day move-in on Aug 2, 2014. I was to be at the house supervising the movers while – for a reason I can’t recall – Audrey stayed with the boys in Bandera. I say this day specifically, because it was a day that would change my life forever. At about 6pm, content that we had enough beds put together and boxes open to bring the family back to stay the next day, I headed back out to Bandera. I decided to call my mom to share an update, only to hear some devastating new; my father had passed away that day, taking his own life.
With the support and love of some of the greatest family and friends a family could ask for, we somehow made it through the subsequent week. Time froze. I spent a lot of time staring at the walls and ceiling, trying to make sense of it all. My mom was incredible through it all, being the rock that she always has been, and carrying us all through the ordeal. I also can’t say enough about the incredible in-laws we have in our family (including my wife), and particularly my brother-in-law, Scott, who were there to support us, tell us where to stand, hold our hands, and lead us through everything we had to go through. Looking back, it all feels so surreal, even now, 18 months later; and part of me keeps expecting for Dad to walk in one morning, blearing at the top of his lungs, “Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day! I got a beautiful feeling, everything’s going my way!” as the alarm clock for Saturday morning breakfast.
Life changes. And there isn’t anything you can do about that. And though it’s not fair, and it doesn’t make sense (as hard as we try to make it make sense), events like these serve as huge milestones in our lives and define, shape, and give perspective to our lives. (If you want to hear more about my perspective on this, and how I felt about it from a spiritual perspective, feel free to peruse this talk I gave in church shortly after the event occurred).
We returned to San Antonio, still in a daze, but ready to get situated and into our new groove. This hardly lasted, though, because God had a different plan in mind for me. And in September 2014 I was called to serve as a counselor in the Bishopric of our ward. Yes, it all happened less than a month from when Dad died. It was insanity.
For those non-Mormon friends who might read this, each congregation of Mormons is presided over by a Bishop who is assisted by two counselors. They are lay-leaders – regular members of the congregation, who are asked to volunteer for a period of time. It’s a fairly large responsibility, encompassing both and administrative (making sure logistics of meetings and organizations run smoothly) and ministry (serving those with special physical and spirtual needs) responsibilities.
Without going into too much detail, here, I will say that this calling ended up being the miracle that saved our move, for me. Besides grieving for my father, I was still having acute feelings of homesickness for Dallas, and – because God knows us all best – he also gives us what we need to move forward, and though I’m a weak instrument in his hands, he knew that I needed the challenge that this calling would be to re-focus my energy here in the present, and be here for my family in this place and in this way. Through a series of special, personal experiences this experience demonstrated yet again that God knows and loves and cares for each of us individually in our own, personal way.
After a wonderful seasons of Thanksgiving (in San Diego) and Christmas (in Saint George), we were now ready to tackle 2015, with great hopes for the year to come.
The Dawn of 2015
This year proved to be full of both triumphs and tribulations.
Looking back, our biggest challenge was with health issues. Everyone in our family, except me, had some acute issue this year (which is ironic because I am the one who exercises the least and eats the most unhealthily). Audrey had the great pleasure of enduring two fairly unexpected and emotionally and physically taxing surgeries this year. This was extremely disheartening, as she is actually in the best shape she’s been in since college.
We did have one health triumph, which was to find a great pulmonologist for Eli who has finally gotten us trained as asthma parents, and on a set of medications that has, knock on wood, kept Eli out of of the hospital since June of this year. This has been a huge relief and blessing for us, as we were constantly feeling like repeat customers, with upwards of 10 ER visits between Eli’s 2nd and 4th birthdays for acute asthma attacks. For now, we’re feeling some relief there.
Another long-running saga that played itself out over the course of 2015 was related to my work. In Sept of 2014, my boss at work was laid off, which put our team of 8 or 9 in an odd position. As one of the more senior members of the team, I and another person took interim responsibility for the team during the transition period, which ended up lasting until March of 2015 when we hired a great replacement. We spent the spring and summer doing great work together, thinking all was well, until a huge organizational change upended everything and landed us in a new, unfamiliar organization doing somewhat similar work we had been doing previously. After what felt like an eternity of transition, and two manager transitions later, I was asked to take on the role as manager for our team of 10 designers. Professionally, it was a year full of constant change, and now lots of opportunity for growth in a new role. It’s been a year of saying good bye to many great professional relationships – with people leaving the company and people moving into new roles – so that has been hard. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be upset if 2016 saw a lot less change and a lot more stability, though I’m not putting any bets on the table just yet if history is any guide.
Due to the amount of organizational transition, and in an attempt to be a player and not just an observer, 2015 also was the year I traveled the most in my professional career. This was a great advantage for me professionally, but also a huge burden on our family. Audrey and Evie (our awesome nanny) did such a great job shouldering the burden of me being gone for at least some part of about 20 weeks last year. (33% travel? Not in the job description. 🙂 )
Our boys have grown and changed significantly this year. Having a four-going-on-five and two-going-on-three provides new challenges and adventures every day. The good news it that I think (and I’m not biased) that they are some of the best kids around, and have such great hearts and budding talents (already). We frequently get comments in public about how much Noah looks like me, which always makes me feel good (and some sense of dread for him as well).
One of my only resolutions I remember from last year was to spend some more quality time with the boys. To facilitate this, we bought season tickets to the San Antonio Missions. It was surprisingly affordable for the ticket package, but the $100 in concessions every evening sure did take its toll! 😉 All-in-all, we really enjoyed this great new tradition, and hope to continue it this year.
I also made significant progress in 2015 toward my master’s degree. Perhaps one of the contributing factors to my stopping the blog has been my return to the classroom. However, I am now more than halfway through my program, and we’re looking at how I can get it done by the end of this calendar year. It will be tight, but I think it can be done. (And there will be much rejoicing when I do!)
With new perspective from 2014, we tried to enjoy family more in 2015. We took a week-long cruise to celebrate my mom’s milestone birthday, we spent a week with my extended family for Thanksgiving, and spent Christmas with Audrey’s grandmother.
I also had the great experience of being invited to sing with the BYU Men’s combined choirs (as an alumnus) during April’s general conference, a wonderful 15 year bookend to the last time I sang in the conference center in April of 2000.
It was ironic that we sang “For the Strength of the Hills” because that was the hymn I auditioned with in 1999 to get into this choir…
And this one was nice, too…
If you only watch one of these, make it this one. This one kind of sums up much of 2014 for me… And it’s a very Staheli-esque arrangement.
Looking into 2016
Looking ahead to 2016, I have no idea what to expect. We used to spend time making lists of “stuff we’d like to do” at the new year — an exhaustive, uninhibited list of things we send out to the universe to see what we can actually have happen that year. We started one the other night, but have yet to really get into it, but we need to.
For now, I guess I just have a few — let’s say — ‘hopes’ in mind:
I hope for a year filled with health for my kids, my wife, and myself (if there’s any good health left over after those 3)
I hope for a year where relationships with friends and family grow and blossom. I guess that means I should nurture them more than I have in the past…
A year of professional success and growth for both of us (and maybe a tad less travel for me).
A breakout year for our side-business, so we can get that Tesla!
A presidential election where sanity prevails and reality TV ends… (ok, not really holding out hope there, but trying to keep the politicking down this year)
I hope to be more present, and happy, in every context and every moment of life. (I had to throw in something esoteric!)
Maybe I’ll pick up an old hobby again… like writing on the blog?? (Don’t count on it, and don’t hold me to it, either…)
I watched the new Mitt Romney documentary last night and really, really liked it. It’s no great piece of filmmaking, but it does a lot for me on a lot of levels:
This is the first real glimpse we have behind the scenes, to the “off the record” stuff that goes on between a candidate and his family. you can see it really does matter to them, and you can see how invested they are. you can see what happens on a good day and what happens on a bad day – and how hard these guys take it when things go wrong.
It shows Mitt as a real(er) person. Everyone who watches this movie is going to say, “Where was THIS guy during the campaign?” Maybe people who went to fundraisers and rallies saw it up close, but most people just saw a very wooden, rich, white guy through the TV cameras, whose fate was sealed with the 47% comment because it confirmed everyone’s worse fears about Mitt; that he was totally out of touch with middle-class and poor America.
To continue the previous point – It does actually confirm that Mitt is kind of a stodgy, rich, white guy from the northeast. The way you see him relate to his family is in stark contrast to the way you see him running his campaign. And it’s no wonder people can’t “be themselves” when running for political office at that level – a truly middle class American would be so uncomfortable and out-of-place riding around on a private charter, dressing in 3 different sets of clothes all day long, putting all your energy into pretending to be interested in everything everyone said to you at a rope line or fundraiser. Politics is a rich man’s profession. And let’s not pretend that’s new, either. All of our “founding fathers” were rich, white men – and nothing’s changed since. (Except the “white” part.)
It confirms what I’ve long believed about the Republican party – that it’s a party of old white men who all get in line to run for office. I can’t remember which brother said it, but he basically confirmed that the 2008 defeat was simply Mitt’s preparatory performance – that it was McCain’s turn – and that it would be his “turn” next time. In my mind’s eye I’ve always been able to see Mitt’s call to McCain before conceding the race. McCain would say something like, “Mitt, if you throw your support behind me now, I’ll be there for you with an endorsement in 4 years” — and I can see that same phone call happening between Mitt and Rubio or Ryan at the end of Mitt’s loss as well.
On the more positive side, it shows an awesome Mormon family being totally,normally Mormon. We see a well-functioning family with members being helpful, members keeping him grounded, grandkids being part of Mitt’s life – and Ann keeping it all together. A couple of very sincere, very un-staged family prayers are shown. It actually kind of makes me want to be a Romney in a way – that they have such well adjusted relationships to each other that they can so easily relate to each other and that parents can take so much counsel and rely so much on their grown children. It’s really something to envy.
The “flipping Mormon” segments are HILARIOUS! Such a double entendre for the Mormon crowd… For those who may be reading this who are not Mormon. “Flip” or “flipping” is a somewhat famous euphemism in the Mormon crowd for the real F-bomb. When Mitt was getting hammered in the 2008 primary race for being a flip-flopper, we get to see his reaction to this with his family — who at the time was really worried about the way Mitt was being introduced to America — and their concern that America would only know Mitt as a “flipping Mormon.” Then they said it about 20 times. Funny inside joke.
Finally, I really identified with Mitt with one single thing he did during the movie – picked up trash. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen video of Mitt doing trash duty. There was some footage that got into official campaign stuff – which might have seemed staged or purposeful – but let me say from one Father to another and from one Mormon priesthood holder to another – I can relate to Mitt picking up trash. I feel like I spend most of my time at home milling around the house picking up trash. I was taught from a young age the importance of picking up trash at Church, and spent a lot of teenage years setting up chairs and picking up trash as a young Mormon priesthood holder. In this thing, Mitt is a man after my own heart. When you’re bogged down, trying to figure something out, stressed, tired, or just bored – you can always find some trash to pick up or take out to the curb.
Wow! Where did the time go? I swear, just yesterday, I woke up on Jan 1 and now it’s Dec 31. Either time is moving faster or my mind is moving slower. You take your pick. Either way, it doesn’t look very good for me.
We had a splendid year this year. Above all, we added another little soul to our family. Noah was born on Aug 27, 2013. We are very excited (and very exhausted) to have an infant in the family again. He and Eli are 2.5 years apart, so we were just getting used to some autonomy with Eli – and then the infant dependence hit again. Oh well, it’s totally worth it to wait that 2-3 months to see him look at you and smile.
Each year we try to spend some memorable time travelling. This year was no different, though much of our travel was toward the beginning of the year due to our special delivery in August.
We went to Utah in February to celebrate several important occasions. It was a milestone birthday for Audrey, so we treated her to a vacation in snowy Park City! We went on a sleigh ride, had spa treatements, and had a few moments away from kids to reconnect with each other.
We then migrated south to St George to attend my brother’s wedding. We’re so glad we have Flora in our extended family now. She and Tyler make a great couple. Hopefully 2014 will bring us many more opportunities to get to know one another and hang out together.
Audrey took a business trip in April to Guatemala, and toward the end of the trip, I jumped on a plane and went to spend some time with her. It was interesting to get to know a new latin american country, though I will say that Guatemala was in pretty rough shape. We were glad to be walking in the “American” section of town where there were security guards on every corner brandishing shotguns and assault rifles. When we did venture out into the neighborhoods, we were glad to meet up with a fellow American who was able to give us a ride in an armored embassy vehicle. (the door weighed a ton!) Overall, it was a memorable trip to a place we otherwise wouldn’t have had the pleasure of getting to know.
We also welcomed a lot of visitors to Wylie this year. My parents came a couple of times, we saw Audrey’s parents and Grandmother (GG) a few times, and also got to see our Grandpa Grape. We love that they can all be a part of our lives and are so grateful they make the effort to come see us, especially in years like this one where we can’t make it to see them.
This year was also a year of transition for Eli. We had to say good bye to Megan, his first nanny, in January. Uncle Ben took up the slack for a few months, which Eli loved and we were very grateful for – but then we were able to hire Emma to watch Eli over the summertime. She was perfect for him, and he absolutely loved playing with her every day. The amount of energy those two had was just incredible to me. We really missed her when she went away to school – which coincided perfectly with Audrey’s maternity leave from JCPenney.
Speaking of JCPenney. It’s been a rough year for them. I’m sure you heard at least one or two things in the press about their fired CEO, public war between members of the board, and disappointing sales results. All of that has translated into a lot of pain and uncertainty in the home office. Lots of people left the company, moved jobs, or were otherwise relocated. Audrey is weathering the storm well, though, and was actually promoted this year to be an Audit Manager. As always, I remain constantly amazed at her abilities and fortitude. She is an excellent mother, a great auditor, and now also a great manager. She seriously does it all. I’m still waiting to find something she can’t do.
It’s also been a year of change at Cisco. There have been lots of ups and downs, but mostly ups. My job feels secure, the work is compelling and challenging, and I work with a very fun, unique cast of characters — in short, I probably couldn’t ask for a better gig. For those who don’t know what I do, I design the user interfaces for administering all the back-end systems that run phone calls and video conferences over large, corporate networks. To say it in code, I’m a Collaboration Infrastructure User Experience Designer. If you still don’t know what that is, that’s OK. I’m still figuring it out as well. 🙂
We were able to be a part of another large project that happened this year, with Audrey’s parents building their dream home (and grand-kids paradise) in the hill country outside of San Antonio. We visited a few times over the course of the year to hold a make-shift groundbreaking ceremony and see progress on construction. We also enjoy hanging out in nearby Bandera, “The Cowboy Capital of the World!”
In fact, we just came back from the inaugural christmas celebration there, though we were only able to stay a few days. It was nice to visit with 3 of audrey’s siblings and their whole families and to give Eli and Noah some time to play with their cousins.
Our year hasn’t been without challenges, though. We’ve had to take Eli to the emergency room twice now for acute asthma attacks. We’re learning how to be parents of a child with asthma, which is new for both of us. We’re now flush with daily inhalers, rescue inhalers, nebulizers, and every tool you can possibly get your hands on for fighting off asthma attacks. Hopefully we can figure it out and it can be a manageable condition for him.
Other than that, we’ve had a relatively healthy and happy year. We feel incredibly blessed and love each day of living in our little family. We wish you all, our friends and family (cause that’s all that’s left checking this blog), a very happy new year, good health, and prosperity in 2014!
Life is now completely different — again. We’ve just returned from the hospital, having our second baby, Noah, and we’re just getting settled in. No matter how much preparation you make, it always seems like these things never quite become totally real until they do – and now it has.
The good news is that, up until now, #2 has been way easier than #1 was. Labor was short and comparatively easy. Audrey has had an incredibly speedy recovery, and Noah passes every test with flying colors.
We have had excellent support from Ben and Emma, so Eli was totally covered for the couple of days we were in the hospital, and now that we’re home and sitting here staring at each other (ok – actually everyone is asleep but me right now) it is all becoming real to me.
Being a mom is really hard work, and Audrey makes it look so easy. She is never over-worried, always takes care of the things she needs to, and runs pretty well on low amounts of sleep. She’s incredible, and I do my best to play whatever role she needs at the time. (mostly as a specially trained assistance dog, willing to fetch anything at a moments notice)
Being a Dad is awesome. I love my boys like crazy, and there’s nothing quite like sitting in the hospital room, cuddled up with one, feeling like a small piece of heaven came down to be with you – especially when they are newborns. They are so tender, and fragile, and dependent.
Eli is doing good, so far. He had a great visit to the hospital, but we can start to see the first inklings of big brother jealousy – starting with the baby getting to use the boppy pillow. We’ll see how this plays out over the next few days and weeks. Hopefully we can find way to help him feel special during this time as well. We’ve had lots of good advice in this area.
I guess that’s about it for this post. I’ve got nothing else fancy or poetic today, except that: family is awesome. Birth is a miracle. Life is wonderful, and full, and rich, and our relationships are what it’s all about. I’m feeling pretty happy and blessed right now, and that’s about all I can string together by way of coherent thoughts.