Twenty Sixteen – Two Years of Catch Up (Ketchup?)

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…)

Lots of cousin time in Bandera!

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.

Aug 3, 2014

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.

We love the hospital, we hate the hospital. Last hospital visit, Jun 2015!

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!)

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.59.43 PM

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.


IMG_1928I 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.

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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…)

Twenty-thirteen is over?

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.


We are blessed to have Noah in our family.

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.

This is how we look when we're cold and have just enjoyed a sleigh ride!
This is how we look when we’re cold and have just enjoyed a sleigh ride!

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.

All the Anderson men celebrating the last bachelor left in our family!
All the Anderson men celebrating the last bachelor left in our family!

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.

a fish on a plate
a fish on a plate in Guatemala.
Eli and Noah with Grandpa Grape (Reed)
Eli and Noah with Grandpa Grape (Reed)

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.

Family in attenance at Noah's Blessing
Family in attenance at Noah’s Blessing
Debbie (Sam's Mom), Ruthann (GG), Audrey, and Debbie (Audrey's Mom)
Debbie (Sam’s Mom), Ruthann (GG), Audrey, and Debbie (Audrey’s Mom)
Randy and Debbie with Noah
Randy and Debbie with Noah

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.

I love these two!

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!”

Eli walks on the front porch with Papa Ron
Eli walks on the front porch with Papa Ron

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.

Tigger makes for a good pal when you're in the hospital.
Tigger makes for a good pal when you’re in the hospital.

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!

And then we were four

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.

New Family Picture
New Family Picture

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.

Ron’s Retirement

Last weekend, we took a whirlwind trip to Houston to attend a retirement party for Audrey’s dad.  Ron retired from ConocoPhillips after 36 years of dedicated service.  We are very happy for him and proud of his accomplishments – foremost of which is staying with one company for so long and thriving through every up and down.  (At one count, he said he had made it through about 20 layoffs)

I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous that he gets to sleep in as long as he wants every morning and work on whatever he wants all day with no deadlines looming and no manager hovering over his shoulder.  Only 29 more years until I cross that threshold!  🙂


Growing Up

Our little WEJr is growing up too fast.

This week his new trick is to knee crawl and push himself into a standing position (under the right conditions).  He hasn’t yet learned to pull himself up by things – we can wait longer for that one as far as I’m concerned.  His head has already taken a beating in the last few weeks as he’s learned the harsh reality of losing his balance around the house.



And the blog languishes

You know what happens when you’re not looking?  Life happens.

Wow – what a crazy, crazy run of no blogging for me.  I’m not quite sure why I haven’t blogged in so long.  I’ll admit, there were a few blogs I started, then stopped, due to laziness, over-sharing, or self censoring.  Blogging never should be a chore.  It never should be something you feel like you have to do, right?


Well, so tonight – because I probably drank a diet coke a little too late, I’m still up – wired – and ready to write.

My first thoughts go to my little family.  WEJr is growing up so quickly.  If you don’t follow him on Twitter or his blog, you should.  He’s quite verbose for a kid who still can’t talk.  🙂

WEJr is changing so quickly.  Just tonight, I told A2 that she should ‘enjoy it while it lasts’ (I’m just a walking platitude these days – fatherhood must be getting to me) – it being him being small enough to hold for extended periods of time.  He’ll be 6 months old here in just a few days.  *Sigh*  He is sitting up now on his own, and is starting to scoot a bit.  He’s just getting his knees under himself when on his tummy – and he can move around – but doesn’t quite go anywhere yet.  We’re working on him going to bed without being held now.  (He’s been quite spoiled in that regard.)

The best part, though, is that when he’s happy, he lights up the whole room with his gigantic smile.  When he’s sad, he just kind of whimpers.  Yes, he can scream – but he rarely does. Overall, he’s a generally happy, happy kid. We are sooooo lucky and blessed to have him. He is like a little piece of heaven right here in our little family.

How about a little video?

Oh… and we got new family pictures…

30th Birthday Party

So, when I started waxing philosophical in my last post, I forgot to mention one other thing about this birthday – and that’s the EPIC birthday party my wife threw for me.  Now, for the record, I insisted there should be no birthday party – but she ignored my wishes and threats of retribution and really went all out.

Somehow she kept the theme a secret, and she managed to pull off a BUNCH of photoshop work without even one consultation.  (If that auditing thing doesn’t work out for her, perhaps I can get her a graphic design internship somewhere…)  The theme was PLAYBILL (the broadway programs) – she had black and yellow balloons, a playbill cake, playbills with me on them, and – the most cool – a playbill of my life with all the major scenes, players, contributors, supporters, and even advertising.

It was epic.

Continue reading 30th Birthday Party