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Friday, November 6, 2009

Completion of My First Book

Yesterday, I accomplished something that has been on my “bucket list” of lifetime goals for a long time. I have finally completed my first book of about 76,000 words. I know I talk a lot, but I did not know I had that much to say about anything…I guess when you find what you feel is a good story to tell, it just happens…

I have to keep saying it out loud, “I wrote a book!”…Because it almost feels like I am dreaming. I’m not sure why it feels like a dream… I mean… I’ve worked really hard on this book…I’ve spent countless hours researching information… and developing characters… and giving them life.

In fact, now that it is done I find myself wondering what I will do with all of my extra time that I used for writing the book….But while writing it, I felt as if I had to steal away every precious minute to find the time to get it done. I guess that just proves that if you set a goal, you become totally committed to it, and you dig right in each day to accomplish it…dreams can become a reality.

I’ve been thinking about why this goal has been so important to me…Why do I find the art of writing so compelling? Well, for one…I love books and I love inspirational stories. I also love working with authors to realize their literary goals. I have watched authors I have known and some that I barely know, finish and publish their book…By the time they are done writing it, they are so engrossed and attached to their story and their characters because it has all been created from their mind and soul...Almost like making something from nothing.

Everyone loves a good story. Storytelling goes way back to the beginnings of man. Writing stories with pictures have been found on the walls of caves from as far back as the neandrothals. Even then, they were compelled to tell a good yarn, to make up a fish tale, to weave together a good plot. A lot has been learned about lost cultures from the stories that they managed to write down in any way they could.
From cave walls, to scrolls, to handwritten books, to the printing press…man has continued to satisfy his need to write stories. I wonder how many books have been written now….? Millions…? Billions…? With all the tools we have to write better and to write volumes and volumes of stories…is it no wonder that it sometimes feels like everyone is writing a book?

I have learned so much about the process of writing and I have also learned a lot about myself from this process. Frankly, I did not know for sure if I had it in me to actually finish. When I typed and reread that last sentence, I thought, “Wow! I did it.” What a great feeling of accomplishment…a feeling of great satisfaction.
I’ve come to know my characters in the book so well, that sometimes I even wonder what they are up to and how they are doing. Some of you authors out there will have to tell me if that is normal or if I have really lost my mind this time.

My book is being edited as I write this and I cannot wait to see my work polished and truly complete. And then, what will I do? Pick up the writer’s pen again…of course!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Appreciating Life’s Firsts

First Love…First Kiss…First Day of School…First Car…First Impressions…Life is full of “firsts!” Have you ever watched little kids when they experience things for the first time? I once observed a two year old boy discovering a caterpillar for the first time. He was truly fascinated! He got right down on his belly to lie on the cement and get a better look. The caterpillar was inching his way along the cement to nowhere in particular. He put his nose right up to it and examined everything about it. As he looked at it very closely, I could tell that he was taking in every little thing about the caterpillar; how it wiggled, how slowly it moved, its light green color and bumpy body, all of the many little legs wiggling so quickly yet moving so slowly along the cement. He was truly fascinated!

The child had forgotten about everything else going on around him. He was totally caught up in the moment and having a great time. The next time he saw a caterpillar, he was still very excited, but he did not get right down on his belly to watch it. He simply bent over, looked at it for a few seconds, and then went on his way.

I was going through a box of old pictures the other day and I found a picture of me holding my firstborn son, Jeremy. It was his first moments of life. He had been wrapped up tightly in a warm blanket by the nurse. Then, I had wrapped him up tightly in my arms as I held him for the first time.

As I looked at my face in the picture of me and Jeremy, I noticed how truly wrapped up” in the moment I appeared to be. In fact, as I looked at the picture, I was taken back to how I felt in that moment. I remember being nervous because I was a young, first-time father. I was afraid that I would not hold him correctly and hurt him in some way. As I had settled back into the chair to continue holding him, I began to calm down and start taking in everything about the moment. It was definitely as if everything else around me had faded away…and, it was just me and Jeremy.

As the surrounding of the hospital room around me faded away, I started to take in everything about this little guy… His little nose, mouth, and ears…his little fingers as they wrapped around my fingers and of course how good he felt and smelled to me… There is nothing quite like that moment for a parent. I am so glad that I was there to experience that moment. It was a “first” moment that would never be the same. Each time I held the next of my other four children, there was something about each one and their entrance into the world that was special and unique to them. From this experience, I have learned to be more like the child with the caterpillar and to take the time to appreciate the “firsts” in my life.

My son Nick and his wife are expecting their first child. I will be a grandpa to one of my children’s children for the very first time...Another important first in life for me. I can’t wait to take it all in and enjoy each moment.

To Nick and Cayce --- I watched you buy your first new car together a few weeks ago. It was so fun to watch you experience this “first” together as a couple. Now, I get to watch you enjoy a more important life-changing first and I am very happy for you. This is one of the firsts in life that is BIG!

My wish for you is that you will enjoy every single moment of parenthood, because as I am writing this, I realize how it goes by much too fast that your kids are grown and gone making their own way. I also want you to know that if this little one brings you half as much joy and excitement as my children have ---you are in for the first time ride of your life!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bad Luck Comes in Threes

I’ve heard that bad luck comes in threes. For example, if your cat Fluffy dies an untimely death, then, you will have two other kinds of bad to follow.

I have never taken too much stock in this superstition, but last week was the kind of week that just may make me a believer. Yup…Doug’s got a tale to tell!!!

Last Thursday, I was working at home…totally absorbed in what I was doing…when my cell phone rang and I heard the familiar ringtone for my twenty-one year old son, Nick. I talk to Nick often, so it was no big surprise that he was calling.

Do you know how parents just know when something is wrong with their child – no matter how old they are? I had that feeling before I even heard Nick’s voice on the phone.


As soon as he did speak, I was positive that something bad had happened. Sure enough, Nick had been in an accident in his work truck. Nick installs cable, so he is on the road driving all day long. Another driver making a left hand turn in the intersection hit him head on as he was going through the intersection.

Of course, I immediately felt my adrenaline start to rush through my veins. I began to consider all of the possible scenarios and ramifications of him having an accident. Was he all right? Was the accident his fault? What would that mean to his job if he was at fault? How bad was his truck damaged? How much would it cost to repair? You know – all the usual questions…

While I had Nick on the phone, I could tell that he was downplaying the situation. In fact, he sounded quite a bit like he was in shock.

Sure enough, when I arrived at the scene of the accident, I was amazed that Nick had survived the crash. The entire front end of his truck was crushed all the way into the driver’s side of the cab. The truck was a total loss.

Nick was walking and talking. His leg hurt and it looked as if he may have broken nose. I took him to the hospital rather than in the ambulance. We were in the emergency room for several hours listening to Spanish and broken English. Why? I have no idea why there were so many Spanish speakers there, but it just added to the surreal situation in which I had found myself that day. It was almost dreamlike.
Each member of the family arrived one by one or in small groups. So, I had to repeat what had happened to Nick over and over again.

Nick had called his wife, Cayce and she had come to the scene of the accident. It was difficult to see the fear on her face as she looked at the totaled truck and as she looked at her husband for signs of injury.

The previous morning, I had heard on the news about a fatal accident. I had thought to myself, “How terrible that in a few minutes, someone will have a Highway Patrolman on their doorstep to give them the devastating news that would change their lives forever. Nick and our family were very lucky –even though it was bad luck that he had been in an accident.

When the crisis was over, I was relieved and had a grateful heart that, “all’s well that ends well.” That thought was short-lived.

A couple of days after Nick’s accident, I was driving my old van on the freeway. My destination was about an hour and a half away.

I had my nine year old daughter, Kenna with me. We were having a nice drive together – and then, without warning – my tire blew out! When it blew, the van immediately began to bounce and heave violently. We came very close to rolling – as we had been traveling at about seventy to seventy-five miles per hour.

The look on my daughter’s face, and her screaming in fear, and grabbing for me was difficult to deal with. It took me a while to calm her down after I had safely pulled over to the emergency shoulder of the road.



As the fast-paced traffic continued to whiz by the van, I told Kenna that everything was going to be alright – that I just needed to change the tire. Then, we would be on our way again.

She looked at me as if I was absolutely crazy to even talk about continuing to drive in our possessed vehicle. I must admit, I was pretty shaken and rattled myself – Literally!!

As I stepped out onto the pavement, I noticed the large black skid-mark that the van had made while I was trying to control it as it pulled left and right and I wrestled with the brake and the steering wheel to gain control. A big black mark to show what had happened. How many times had I seen this kind of mark on the road and wondered who had made it and if they were in a terrible accident as they skidded across the freeway? Now, the mark was mine. I wanted to hurl!

I composed myself and quickly took a picture of the black skid-mark with my cell phone. Then, I began the process of changing my blown out tire.

“This will be no big deal!” I had thought to myself. I went through the process that I had learned way back long ago in driver’s education at Roy High School. (Yes, they had cars back then children.) “I’ve changed tires before. I’ll be on the road again in no time.” I affirmed in my mind.

I hopped back in the van when I was done and assured Kenna that all would be okay. I was very close to my destination when the blow out occurred. I knew when I arrived I would have a legitimate reason for being late and a good story to tell – with pictures!

After our visit, Kenna and I jumped back into our beast of a van and started heading back home. We hadn’t been on the road for very long before I could feel that the beast was riding very rough. “What now?” I thought.

Then it happened – No, not another blown out tire! – The entire wheel came right off and flew to the side of the road while we continued going forward. Poor Kenna! She must have thought her dad was trying to kill both of us as we almost rolled over in the old van for the second time in one day.

It was now after ten o’clock at night. I called a tow truck to take the van. I called my son Jeremy to pick us up.

Now the van is in a repair shop and will cost me $279 to fix. I am driving a small rental car. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’ll admit to you that I was at fault for not fastened and tightening the lug nuts well enough. As embarrassing as it was, I went back to the freeway the next day to find my wheel and save a little money on the cost of repair.

One piece of luck I had was that I did find the wheel. But, of course, the biggest piece of luck was that my family did not have a highway patrolman on their doorstep telling them that two members of their family were gone. Whew! What a relief!

After those two close calls, one would think that the drama was over. Not in the crazy and unpredictable world of Doug Johnston. Oh no!!!

Just a few short days later I received a call from another son, Riley. Riley had been saving all summer long to purchase a car when it was time to go back to school in the fall for his junior year.

Riley was thrilled with his new car. I was proud of him for earning the money for it and pleased to see the joy of him getting his first car. I remember that feeling from when I was sixteen and purchased my little red ride – a VW Beetle – What great times I had in my bug!

Riley had not owned the car for more than two weeks when he was traveling on the winding road of the Ogden Canyon and a deer ran right out in front of his car. Riley had a quick decision to make of two awful choices – a true dilemma. He could hit the deer – risking killing or hurting both him and the deer or swerve to miss the deer and take his chances. Of course, he chose the latter. He avoided hitting the deer but as he swerved to miss it, he lost control of his new most prized possession. He crashed onto the side of the canyon road. His front bumper was destroyed and the front end of his new car was damaged.

Once again, I realized – and I believe Riley did too – how quickly things can change and how lucky we were that nothing more than property was severely hurt. It could have been so much more tragic.

He will earn the money he needs to fix his car and in the mean time I will be his chauffeur in my rental car or Nick will drive him in his borrowed truck from work.
I truly hope that our bad luck on the road has come to an end at three because we are running out of our own vehicles fast!!

Even though I had experienced these three moments of bad luck, I know at the same time how they were also three moments of good luck. All four lives had been spared and that is pretty good odds. Three times we had been close to disaster and all three times we had come out unharmed even though our poor vehicles had not.

Someday maybe I will know the reason why we were all graced with good luck when we faced such bad luck. And hey – thinking positively – I think it may just be time for a new car! I think poor Kenna will be truly grateful for that bit of good news!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The funniest dog and tv host meeting ever!

If you love it when the pets are brought on tv, where the host of the show shows the pets and asks people to come adopt them, you will LOVE this video! PROMISE!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Is the Disney Wedding Proposal real or fake?

First of all, let me say I LOVE Disneyland. If I could go there everyday I would. Almost two million people have seen the video below. Is it real, or is it fake. After seeing it, I will tell you. If you don't want to know, only watch the first one.





Now, look at this version. When he gets the megaphone at the 1.00 mark, he holds it, not by the handle, as he did in the first video. The first version was a Disney filmed version, and the other was not. But it shows that it was done, more than once, and that is is completely staged. All of the performers were Disney employees, including the girlfriend. But it is magical!

In the Disney version, which is the very well produced one, he picks up the megaphone at 3.29 into it.


Angels All Around Us

Some of you know that this week is the anniversary of my mom’s death and those that do probably know that I am a complete and total Momma’s Boy!! What can I say, she loved me! She took good care of me and I hope that I took good care of her when she needed me.

I took care of her in her later years as she struggled with cancer. She beat the cancer --- even though the doctors told her she wouldn’t. She was pretty amazing that way. But, even though she had beaten that cancer, she still ended up in the hospital a lot during the last few years of her life. She also had to live in a care center the last three months of her life. During that time, her body just deteriorated to a point where it would not work. She slowly lost the function of her kidneys, her blood pressure became uncontrollable and she had many high fevers. The list of things wrong with her just kept building until her tired body had no more fight to give.

She passed away August 3, 2008 at home where she wanted to die. When she first arrived home from the care center, she seemed to do better for a while. We even took her to Colorado for a school reunion just a few weeks before her death.

I could go on and on about the life of my mother and the tremendous impact she had on my life. There are so many stories, but instead, I want to write about the angels that I met along the way as we struggled with all of her health problems….there were many, but I want to focus on one occasion in particular. It happened in a waiting room….Those that read my blog often-- know about the last angel I came across in an ICU waiting room – in fact, it was a whole family of angels!…Maybe that’s where the angles congregate or just hang out… I don’t know, but they seem to help me there a lot!

On this occasion, I remember it was around the end of ’07 or beginning of ’08… My mother was very sick this time…she was throwing up repeatedly (sorry if any of you are eating at your computers…but that’s the facts…) Anyway, I took her to the hospital emergency room as soon as I realized it could not wait…it was not going to stop without some kind of medical help. It was terrible to watch and I can’t imagine what agony she must have been going through.

Well, you would think that when somebody like that came through the emergency room doors, they would put them somewhere other than with the other waiting room patients. I have to admit, it was embarrassing – even though there was no reason to be --- it was totally out of our control how sick she was and where they told us to wait.

As I looked around the waiting room, my eyes fell on a young couple…the young woman looked like she was just as sick as my mom…although she was not tossing up her breakfast, lunch and dinner like mom…she was clutching her stomach in pain…. I felt so bad for my mother and her. This young woman was feeling so poorly that she began to cry. Man, it was getting brutal!!! My mom, being the amazing person she was, leaned over to me in between “episodes” and told me to “go check with that young couple and see if you can help them in any way.” I’m sure I gave her a funny look, thinking “how can you be worrying about anyone else but yourself at a time like this?” That’s just how she was… whether sick or healthy. I told her that there was nothing I could do and I was sure they would be taking both of them back soon.

Well, after over two hours of my mom tossing her cookies and this young woman clutching at her stomach and bawling, they called the young woman’s name. When she stood up, she did not go to the nurse that had called her. She came directly over to us. She told my mom that she should go in first because it was obvious to everyone other than the ER staff that she needed to go back immediately and before anyone else. It was obvious! We thanked her over and over as I took my mom back.

When we got to the back to be helped, they had to take my mom’s entire life history! After all, they only had it in their computers for the last thirty-seven visits we had made to that hospital. After I finished and they were finally helping my mom, I walked back out to the young couple and said, “Thank you again. You will be blessed for what you did.” I felt the tears starting to fall, so I just quickly turned and went to the back with my mom who ended up staying in the hospital for four days on that visit. This couple was just one more in a line of angels that helped me over the time I cared for my mother. Their unselfish gesture to help us meant so much to us in that moment…especially since they were also suffering like others that had helped us along the way. They were there for us when we needed help.

There are so many gestures (big and small) like this that happen every day that have a profound effect on others lives. I always hope that I can return the favor by helping someone when they’re in need…even if it is just a little bit of help that they need.

Last week I had such an opportunity to help someone. I found a little boy of three years old, outside of my very large apartment complex. When I drove up, the little boy asked me if I could take him to his mom. I asked him where he lived and he said, “On the top,” as he pointed up to the top floor of the apartment building. So, I asked him which apartment it was, and he did not know. There are nineteen apartment buildings in that complex. So, I asked him where his dad was. The little boy said that his dad was sleeping and that he was not supposed to wake him up. Then I asked him if he knew where his mom was and he said, “I dunno.”

So, I sat with this adorable little boy for a little while talking to him and keeping him calm. All of a sudden, he started to yell, “There she is! There she is!” Sure enough, his mom drove up, got out of her car and ran over to the boy. She was holding a pizza. I asked her if this was her son, and of course, she said yes. I went on to explain to her what had happened. She thanked me profusely and they walked into their apartment…..which was on the BOTTOM FLOOR! I was so glad I was there to help because in this day and age, you just can’t leave kids alone for the shortest amount of time. I’m sure the mother was horrified when she considered what could have happened! There is nothing worse than imagining someone we love in harm’s way.

Well, during that same week, on the following Saturday, I received a call on my phone that said that a person that I was very close to needed my help. The phone call was from a police officer from a city about an hour away. I told the officer that I would be there as quickly as I could be. When I arrived there, the person that needed me was there as I had been told. I went into the lobby to get him and take him home. When I saw the person that needed me, they looked terrible. Next to him were two people waiting for me, but I did not know that at first. I just looked at them and smiled. But when I looked back at the friend in need, I just started crying uncontrollably. He looked terrible and like he needed a lot of help. As soon as the couple saw me crying, they told me that they were the ones who had brought him there and were taking care of him until someone could come and get him.
My mind immediately went back to a few days before when I had sat with the cute little boy, watching over him until a parent could come and get him. The couple explained to me what had happened and I’ll just say that it was pretty upsetting and my friend was very lucky to be alive. This friend had not done anything that had gotten him into trouble with the law. He had only been brought to the police station because he was in need of help.

When I heard all of the details from the couple, it was clear that they were in the right place at the right time. Well, that made me start crying even harder as I considered the alternative endings to the story. I told them thank you at least ten times. Then, I asked them for their names so I could send them a thank you card. They smiled at me and told me that they needed no other thanks than seeing how much I cared for this person and that now the person was being handed off safely to me. They said that they felt they had been blessed by being able to help someone so clearly in need of assistance with no one else around to help. I was truly thankful for them and what they had done to keep this person that I cared about so safe. It could have turned out so much differently.

Well, the day after this drama, I was outside my apartment again and I saw the mother of the boy that I had sat with earlier in the week. She was with her husband and she was pointing at me. The father of this little boy came right up to me and said, “You will be blessed for what you did for my son.” I smiled and thanked him for saying it. Then, it came to my mind that I had said the same thing to the young woman in the ER. I also remembered that the couple from the day before had felt blessed for coming to the rescue of me and my friend.

It truly felt like each one of these situations had some kind of divine intervention. As I look back on all of the help my mother and I needed, I see now how many people came to our rescue right when we needed them. I couldn’t help but think about my mother and how she had taught me to believe angels are around us. She also said that I should be there as an angel for others when I saw that they were in need of help. Then I wondered…..Could it be that my mom and other loved ones are working from the other side to assist people and to be “angels” for those in need?… Are they working to help us when we need help and keep us safe when we need safety…? -- After my experiences with my mom when we needed so much help, and my experiences during this past week with others in need of help, that wouldn’t surprise me one bit!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Judging You Judging Me

“I think he must hate me.” I had this thought often when I saw, heard mention of, or thought about one subscriber to the newspaper I was running.

I ran two different newspapers for a total of nine years. I learned a lot about people during that time. It was my job to report the news and, obviously, the news is about people in the community. It is a relatively small community where everyone knows everyone else. When I would have a story to print that was less than flattering to one of my fellow citizens, I sometimes had a difficult time bringing myself to print it in the paper. However, as a journalist it was my job to write and print the story.

Running a newspaper in a small community, rather than a newspaper publication with a much larger circulation, has its own unique problems. When a story is printed in a newspaper written for a large population of subscribers, the chances are pretty slim that you would know every single one of the people mentioned in each article…whether it be the crime section, the business section, the weddings or the obituaries. In a small town it is very likely that one does know, either first hand or through an acquaintance, every single person mentioned in the paper. And, most of them are related in some way. This can lead to some very interesting challenges for the staff of the newspaper.

For example, say there is a high speed chase on the streets… At a large paper, it would be highly unlikely that the parents, or spouse, or the congregational leader of the perpetrator would call or come into the newspaper office to beg them not to print the story because it was so embarrassing. At my small newspaper, it happened all of the time.

During my time at the paper, I can think of only four incidences when people came into the newspaper office to cancel their subscription to the paper. That really is a low number. Three of the four people canceling were members of either the City Council or the County Council. It was the newspaper’s job to have a reporter attend and print what happened at the Town Council Meetings. These articles were for the benefit of the citizens to learn what was going on in their community. Since these meeting were open to all of the public, you would think that the members of the council would only say what they wanted the community to hear…wouldn’t you? Well, I guess when they saw their actual words in print they must have seemed different somehow. They were not always pleased with how it came across in the article, or it caused them to receive grief from others about things they said or did on the council.

I would explain to them that we were only doing our jobs and that it was, in fact, exactly what was said in the meeting. Why they were surprised was beyond me. Well, one of the council members actually went and read the minutes of the meeting and came back to apologize a week later and reactivate his subscription to the paper.

One of the other two people that complained definitely thought that I, personally, had something against him. He felt that I had some kind of agenda against him. He thought I was singling out his decisions on the council and printing what he said and how he voted on various issues. In a small town, this can be very uncomfortable as everyone sees everyone pretty regularly… You know the kind of town where everyone raises their hand to wave before they even know who they are waving at….because, of course, they will know them! So, you can imagine how uncomfortable it was when I would pass this council member on the street, or see him in one of the local businesses. It was quite obvious to me that he would see me and then hurry away so he wouldn’t have to speak….at least I thought it was obvious.

I made a mistake in judging this man as someone who would hate me forever. I assumed that because of this incident with the paper that he would always dislike me and avoid me. For six years I thought this. As it turned out, I must have imagined some of it.

How do I know he doesn’t hate me now? Not from me asking him…but from me needing something from him… and yes, I needed something from him in his role as a public servant. I needed a favor and he was the decision maker on whether my request would be granted. I was hoping to avoid him all together by going through another person in his office. While helping me, this person asked me if I wanted to see him directly. I laughed and said that I was sure that I was NOT a person he would want to deal with. So the lady that was helping me took my phone number and said she would get an answer for me and call me back.

It only took a short time, a few minutes in fact, for her to call me back and report the decision. It was good news. She said he definitely knew who was making the request of him, and he approved it anyway. It was a big favor and he easily could have denied it to me. It was clear that he did not hate me at all or want to take out revenge on me. I had thought for all of that time that he did not like me and that he would never be doing me any favors.

I felt quite bad about judging this person… and it was ironic because I thought he was making a judgment about me from one incident. If I only would have taken the time to talk to him and clear the air, I would have avoided a lot of uncomfortable situations….uncomfortable for me …obviously now I realize they were not that uncomfortable for him. He had clearly moved on. He was fine and I was the one carrying the assumption of hate around with me. It had bothered me a lot when I thought this person did not like me for doing my job.

So, what did I learn? I learned that I caused myself a lot of worry by assuming something rather than dealing with it head on. I am grateful for this lesson. In the future, if I have any doubt about how my relationship is going with someone, I will simply ask. If there are hard feelings about something, I’ll try to work it out. Maybe this lesson from my small town could be of benefit to the world at large?


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Learning from One of the Best (and Nicest) in Talk Radio

After my teenage years of constantly scanning the radio dial for just the right tune to crank up on my car radio, I decided to let the dial stop on a talk radio show rather than just skipping over it. I was eighteen, the age for me to “officially” be called an adult. Well, there must be something to that age because when I came across this program on talk-radio, I was actually interested in what I heard. I found myself listening to more and more talk on the radio after that…whether they were informative, insightful, funny or controversial these programs really captured and held my interest. I have been a big fan of talk radio ever since.

For the past twenty six years I have continued to tune into these programs and occasionally I have even felt compelled to call in and ask a question or give an opinion. I seem to spend a lot of time in my car at different times of the day. So, I have been able to listen to and get to know about most of the radio talk show hosts from one end of the radio dial to the other. There are definitely some talk show hosts that are better than others, but I admire all of them. It would be a very challenging job to capture and then hold the interest of a live audience for several hours a day without being able to see them. Sometimes I have to just sit in my car in my driveway to finish listening to a topic.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with one of the best on the dial. Alex Kirry is a co-host of a talk radio show called, The Nightside Project. It airs every night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and can be found on 1160 AM or 102.7 FM in Salt Lake City, or you can listen to it live online or listen to podcasts of the show.
The show reviews the day’s top news stories with a lot of light heartedness and humor… not to say that they are never serious. They also give well-thought out commentary on various issues and are able to get a lot of people calling to join in on the conversation. Alex’ co-host is Ethan Millard and the two hosts of the show carry on a friendly, fun banter back and forth throughout the show. Even though I am not in their target younger audience of those in their twenties or thirties, I have been listening since the show began and have really enjoyed it. (Maybe my mind still operates on a younger level? -- If that!)

As many of the followers of my site know, I have been working on a book about a talk radio personality for a while now. I am sure I was influenced to write a book about this because of my years of being a listener and fan. In order to make my book more authentic, it has been important to learn as much as I can about the radio business. As I have been researching information for my book, I have thought about an occasion I had listening to Richard Paul Evans. He was giving a speech on his writing experiences. He said that once when he was writing a book that needed a lot of medical information, he shadowed a doctor for a while. As they walked in a female patient’s room, she recognized him and she said, “I knew you were an author, but I had no idea you were a doctor too!” Clearly, his research was paying off. He looked and played the part so well that this patient actually believed he was a doctor…Either that or she was just highly medicated!

So, I know that in order to make my book believable, I need to take that kind of approach and learn as much as I can about the job of my main character…but, who to ask? I considered a few different radio personalities in the area. Then, I chose Alex Kirry because he sounded so approachable. He has also been a “friend” of mine on Facebook for quite a while now. I had added him as a friend because I am a fan of his show and I like to hear about what is going on with him. We have also followed each other on Twitter.

So, I sent him an e-mail. When I sent Alex the e-mail explaining to him about my book, I was not sure what kind of response I would receive. I’m sure he is very busy.

Alex immediately responded to my request and sounded more than happy to help me. I proceeded to make him a list of questions that I needed answers for to lend credibility to my work. When Alex received the list of questions, he replied that since I had such an extensive list of questions that maybe it would be better to meet at his work to answer the questions and that I could record what he had to say.
I was very impressed by his willingness to show me around the studio. I met with Alex yesterday at the KSL Studios in downtown Salt Lake City. He spent an hour and a half showing me around the studio, answering my questions, and telling me everything he could think of that might be helpful to me. He introduced me around to a lot of his co-workers and then showed me the various pieces of equipment and explained how it all worked. I had seen other studios before but it was truly fascinating to me to see this one now… not only as an author who needed the information but as a fan of talk radio for so many years.

It was also very interesting to meet Alex in person. It is funny how you form an impression in your mind of what someone might look like when you hear them on the radio. I’m not exactly sure what I expected but the tall smiling man that greeted me was not it. Alex was so professional and good to me that I wanted to write about and thank him in today’s post. Later, after I left the studio, I was thinking how grateful I was to have asked him from all of my choices of hosts. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he hadn’t even responded to my e-mail. He certainly did not have to…there would be no personal gain for him. But not only did he respond, he went the extra mile to help a virtual stranger.

This experience told me a lot about Alex Kirry. Clearly, what I heard on the radio was not imagined. He really was a great guy. He sounded approachable on the air, and he was. So, I just wanted to thank Alex again… There is no doubt I will be mentioning him in the acknowledgments of my book. Because of the information I received, the work should move along a lot quicker now. Then, maybe I will stop waking in the night with ideas for the plot or changes that I feel I need to make. My editor laughs about all of the ideas and changes that come across her desk. One of these days, all of my ideas for the book will run dry and I will feel comfortable about not having any more changes to make. At that point, I will know that my book is ready to publish and share with all of you.

Remember to listen for Alex on the radio, and then watch for his influence in the book. Thanks again to him for helping me in the creative process of writing….I sincerely appreciated him giving so generously of his time and wisdom.



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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Power of the Written Word

I love the power of words which is probably why I love books so much. The written word can make us laugh, reflect upon our life, bring out emotions-- whether positive or negative-- and words have the amazing ability to motivate us into action. Just think of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution… such masterpieces of the written word that they have literally changed the world because of the inspired words that are in these documents. The right to express thoughts and ideas was deemed as so important by our Founding Fathers that the right to do so was included in the First Amendment….Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. To have thoughts, words, or books banned is just unfathomable to me.

I had a wonderful opportunity during my career to work as a publisher and editor of two newspapers. I started the first newspaper and ran it for two years and then bought out the competing paper and ran it for seven more years. During that time, I also wrote columns for the newspaper. I did this for a few weeks and received a lot of positive feedback from readers. So, I continued to write articles for a long time after that – even winning some awards along the way. I was always surprised by the responses my articles received. With just a paragraph or two, I could inspire someone to do a good deed, or I could pick up the phone and have someone I didn’t even know yelling into my ear because of something I had written. That is the power of the written word.

Since my teenage years, I have always enjoyed writing…whether it was poems or journaling or letters to friends and family, I found the experience quite cathartic. Even though there are many better authors than I…I don’t let that stop my love of “putting pen to paper” and letting my thoughts pour out onto the page.

Sometimes I need the opposite to happen. I need to forget all of my problems and fall into the pages of a great story. A book can take me on a vacation to another part of the world, to another time in history, and introduce me to new people. With a good book, my imagination opens up as I mentally picture all that is taking place in the story. It opens my mind to a new place where my thoughts can run free.

It is amazing to me how many books have been written. When I go into a large book store or library, I almost hyperventilate with excitement with all of the possibilities. I somehow feel smarter just imagining all of the knowledge that is contained in all of those books. I feel as Thomas Jefferson who said, “I cannot live without books!” I look around the room I am in now and somehow feel comforted by all of the books that surround me. Am I just crazy?

I know that there are a lot of people that read this blog that are authors and also have a great love of books. I am sure they understand completely what I am talking about. However, every once in a while I run into someone who tells me that they don’t have any interest in books and they really do not like to read. I am always quite taken back by this. I feel that they are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures and advantages. Hopefully, someday they will pick up a book that speaks to them as so many have to me and be converted!!

The world of great literature offers so many beautiful experiences to the reader, opening and broadening the mind to untold knowledge and experiences. I recently came across this poem on the web which is what inspired this blog today… I hope you enjoy it as much as I did as it seems to sum up the love of books and the written word.

IN THE LIBRARY

Books, books, an ocean of books
Bursting with knowledge for me;
I delve in their depths
To fathom perhaps,
And drown in the billowy sea.

Books, books, dark, dusty books
Row upon row I can see;
They fill me with greed
As I ponder to read
And finger their leaves tenderly.

Books, books, volumes of books
Their titles around me glow,
And within me I feel
Their covers conceal
The things I have wanted to know.

Books, books, Life pulsing books
A spirit from out of them breathes,
And the voice I can hear
Of an author held dear
Who slumbers ‘neath laurels and wreaths.

Books, books, an ocean of books
Bursting with knowledge for me,
I delve in their depths
To fathom perhaps
And drown in the billowy sea.

Maude Elizabeth Jones Rigby (1924)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reflecting on the Reasons

I have been very fortunate to have a lot of good people enter my life…
Some enter and stay for a long time and others enter only for a short moment. There are those that left me way too soon and others that really outstayed their welcome. But, they all seem to have a reason for crossing my path when they did. Even with those that seemed to cause me heartache at the time, I can usually see later how they taught me something or fulfilled a need. Usually the experience of knowing them teaches me something I needed to know or helps me in some way.

There is no doubt in my mind that some people come into our lives for a reason. There was an individual who crossed my path a couple of years ago and I have not spoken to him since. Yet, I believe I will have the memory of him forever because of what we experienced. I think about him often and I hope he is doing well. This is an example of a chance meeting in my life with a great individual who helped me more than he will ever know.

Back in 2007, I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices and hospitals caring for my mother who had become very sick in her later years. It seemed to fall upon me to be the one in the family who became her primary caregiver. I did not ask for this job, but I loved my mother and was grateful that I was in a situation where I could help her. Anyone else who has had this duty knows how difficult and draining it can be. There are many more hours of worry and concern than of positive bright moment.

During the course of that year, my mom was hospitalized seven different times. I spent a lot of time waiting and worrying about her while she was being helped by doctors and nurses. If you have ever spent a lot of time in waiting rooms at the doctor’s office or in the hospital waiting areas, you know how uncomfortable it can be. It always seems too cold – probably because of nerves and worry. There is really no way to relax and be comfortable when you have to wait for literally hours.

On one of these occasions, my mother was in Intensive Care at the hospital. I spent many hours in the ICU family waiting area. The hospital had provided a microwave and a sink, but other than that it was seriously lacking for staying any long period of time. I questioned whether I should just go home several times, but it just didn’t feel right to leave Mom. Now, I know that it is not the hospital’s job to be a hotel, but after being there for so long, it was easy to complain.

To add to my discomfort was what was going on around me. I saw loved one after loved one come into the waiting area while their family member was being taken care of by the medical staff. Some looked like they were in shock, some looked like they didn’t know what to do with themselves, and some just looked totally distraught.

In between the times I checked in on my mother, I became an observer of these fellow “waiters” for several hours at a time. When the nighttime arrived on the first day I was there, another family entered the waiting room. I had given a casual, “Hello” to some of the people I had seen before them in the waiting room, but with this family it was different. We immediately struck up a conversation and I found out that the patriarch of their family was the patient. He was in his seventies, and he was clearly beloved by his family. He was brought in and put in the Intensive Care Unit after suffering a heart attack and a stroke. His wife, their adult children and their spouses, and the grandchildren all began arriving in little groups. Before I knew it, the room was full of this man’s family. Apparently, the heart attack and stroke was a sudden and unexpected thing, and the family was totally distraught.

I had been alone in the waiting room and to watch this family come together to support one another was very moving. It became very interesting to see who would come in next to find out about the condition of their father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend. I was impressed by the huge showing of support by this family to one another and the patient and yet a bit overwhelmed at how much this man must have affected all of these lives.

At some point that night, during all of the people going in and out, I had a chance to talk with a lot of the members of the family. There was one member of this family, however, that I will never forget. His name was Steve and he was the son of the man in Intensive Care. He was of about the same age as me. As we talked about how difficult it is to watch your parents get older, we formed a bond.

The next morning when I arrived back at the ICU waiting room, many members of Steve’s family were already there and some had stayed the night. They looked totally haggard. They brightened up a bit when they saw my familiar face and immediately inquired about my mother and I asked about the condition of their husband and father. I found them so compassionate and empathetic to ask about me amidst all of their own suffering.

This was a family who organized and prepared and by day three they began to bring in food. They adopted me right in as one of their own and invited me to eat with them. I was so grateful to have something other than the hospital cafeteria food. Over the next few days, I also began to bring food to share and they continued to bring in food as well. We had a lot of good food and good conversation about our families – especially considering our circumstances. It was amazing how much this family came to mean to me after only a short period of time.

Before I knew it, a week had gone by. At the end of a week of watching this family pull together and support one another and me, they lost their beloved family member. I had entered the waiting room that morning and when I saw that none of them were there, my heart sank. Somehow, I knew. I went straight to a nurse and she told me that Steve’s father had indeed passed away. I had become so close to Steve and his family that I felt as if I had lost my own relative --even though I had never met the man. They had told me so many wonderful things about him that I felt as if I knew him. In many ways I did. If the memory of this man’s life was to be his family, he had a great legacy indeed.

I saw them later and saw how crushed Steve was. I cried with him and with the rest of the family. Their spirits were so broken, and yet, they were still concerned for my welfare and the welfare of my mother. As we parted ways, this family actually promised to pray for me and my mother. “What an amazing group of people,” I thought.

The following day, which was day nine of her stay, my mother was released from the ICU, and I realized how blessed I was to still have her with me. I recommitted myself to making sure she knew that I loved her and that I cared about her each day that she had left of her life. It was much easier after having this wonderful family as an example.

A couple of months later, my mom was back in the hospital again, but luckily, not in the ICU this time. A business trip came up that was very important that I take. I hated the thoughts of leaving my mom at the hospital, but she assured me that it would be okay and I should go.

So, reluctantly, I boarded the plane and found my seat. As soon as I was buckled in and had pulled out a book for the flight, I took a deep breath. As I thought about my sick mother back in the hospital, I felt like maybe I had made the wrong decision in going on the trip. I began to get tears in my eyes and I turned my head so the passenger next to me would not see them. As I looked out the window, I saw the usual things one sees; the baggage being driven and loaded under the plane, a few maintenance people checking the plane, and that was when a person I needed at that very moment was there for me…

I had thought a lot about Steve after our talks in that waiting room and I thought that I would probably never see him again. Sometime during one of our conversations, I had learned from Steve that he worked at the Salt Lake International Airport. I had even thought about him when I entered the airport that day but I knew there was a very slim chance I would see him there.

The chances were slim, but they were not non-existent. I looked down and saw an airport employee in his orange jacket with reflectors guiding the plane back out of the airport terminal. He was using paddles to guide the pilot. As the plane came to a stop, I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was not hallucinating and sure enough… there was Steve. He was standing directly below my window. He looked right up at me and I waved. It took him only a few seconds to recognize me and then he smiled widely. At first I wondered why he did not wave back and then I realized that flailing his arms around may not be the best idea considering his job. He did, however, give me a small “thumbs up.”

I cannot begin to tell you how important this moment was to me. There was the man that I had seen only a couple of months earlier so broken by the passing of his father, and he was smiling at me. His life had gone on and he had survived the ICU waiting room experience!

We both started laughing as the plane started to slowly move towards the runway. I took another deep breath as I realized that Steve was exactly who and what I needed at this moment in my life. I took a minute to thank God for his grace in sending a person into my life right at the moment I needed him. It was precisely at that moment that I needed a smile and a “thumbs up” by someone who I knew understood my pain. He had survived his “waiting room” experience and so would I.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Valor Publishing Group, LLC Signs with Little Red Ride Promotions

12 July 2009 – Orem, UTAH -- Valor Publishing Group president, Candace Salima, gladly announces its signing with public relations firm, Little Red Ride Promotions, LLC. Salima has contracted the PR firm to handle publicity for its authors and their books. “Little Red Ride Promotions has established itself in the industry as the author’s friend,” said Ms. Salima, “As such, Little Red Ride Promotions is uniquely qualified to represent and launch our authors into the national and global markets. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”
Doug Johnston, president of Little Red Ride Promotions, has always had a passion for the performing arts and the written word and plans to help Valor Publishing Group authors in their aspirations to expand their creative works.
For further information on Valor Publishing Group, LLC and its authors contact:
Candace E. Salima
801-358-6213
candace@valorpublishinggroup.com
http://valorpublishinggroup.com

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Beginnings

Like Oprah’s weight, my life has had A LOT of ups and downs. Currently, I am on the downswing as I am going through a divorce. I have been impressed by how many people have contacted me to lend their support and help me through this difficult time. Without friends, I don’t know how I would survive this change in my life.

A few years ago, I co-wrote a musical called “Lives Change”…In it the characters go through some significant changes in their lives that re-shape who they are and how their lives go forward. I learned a lot through that creative process. Now, I look at the changes I go through in my own life and evaluate how I can use what I learn from each to better myself and the world around me.

With this most recent upset in my life, it would be easy to head into a downward spiral. I refuse to let that happen. When you reach mid-life, you have to be careful to not fall into “crisis” mode. Also, when you are thinking about the second part of your life, you can take the saying, “It’s all downhill from here!” and look at it in two different ways. Either you are somewhat giving up and you are resigned to the fact that your health, career, and personal life will all deteriorate from this point – or – you can choose to take what you have learned over the years and put it to good use – using the knowledge and wisdom you have gained on the climb to shape a happier and more productive life.

The first step I am taking on the road of my new beginnings, is in the area of my professional life. With a divorce comes a separation of people and property. My wife and I had been running a company together…So, that specific company venture is now ending along with the marriage. I love my work and have no intention of stopping it because of this set-back. In fact, if anything, this has motivated me to do more than ever before for my clients. I don’t want my personal problems to affect them in their professional pursuits.

So, with the purging of the old (the old business name, old web-site, and the old ideas) I find myself very excited about this specific new beginning in regards to my work. I am taking all of the knowledge I have gained and rededicating myself to the successful promotion of clients. The concept to provide effective and personal service to clients remains the same. It is my goal to take the promotion of my clients and their work to the next level.

The new name of my company is, “Little Red Ride Promotions.” I have spent this last week working with an amazing web-designer to create a site that will explain exactly who we are and what we do. The name of the company was inspired by the very first car I owned as a teenager. Do you remember those years? – When you just knew you could take on the world and win?! I was so proud of myself for being able to buy and maintain a car. It was a good little ride that always got me to my destination. Aah!--- Those carefree days of driving down the road with the window down, the radio turned up and me, singing at the top of my lungs… It was that feeling of having an endless road of opportunities in life ahead of me. You can read more of the story behind our new company and its name at, www.littleredride.com .

I want to have this same positive outlook as I head into my future. I have set some new goals and I plan to make it to my new destination. I want to take as many others with me in reaching their own desired destinations as I can… While I am sure there will be some speed bumps and road blocks on the path ahead, I look forward to successfully navigating each one.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This is My Friend, Robert, & this is My Other Friend, Robert

I have had the good fortune in my life to be blessed with a lot of great friends. It is purely by coincidence that the two friends that I have been closest to are named, “Robert.” This has worked out well for me. If someone asks me who my best friend is, I only have to reply, “Robert.” Neither one can be offended by which one is the better friend, because they will just assume I am talking about him.

My first friend named, Robert, was my childhood friend when I lived in Mississippi. He lived next door and we were in the seventh and eighth grades together. During this time of growth and change, it was so awesome to have a best friend I could count on to be there. We did everything together. We bowled together -- a lot! We made googly eyes at the teenage girls. We played baseball and basketball. We played Ping Pong together every single day at the Youth Center. I think he beat me every single time… Someday, I am hoping for a rematch...Maybe old age – on his part- will give me an advantage! We worked together at our very first job – we bagged groceries at the Base Commissary grocery store. And, a lot of the time we just hung out together.

During some of this unstructured time, we probably did some things we shouldn’t have. Once, at about 2:00 AM, we were on the military base in the housing area and for some unknown adolescent reason, we decided it would be a good idea to set off bottle rockets. Why would we have thought it was okay to set off fireworks on a military base surrounded by military police? Your guess is as good as mine! …But, guess what! …We got away with it! How? I will never know.

Another one of our other capers was to steal the valve stem covers off of tires on the military base. Maybe we had a death wish…I just don’t know. Why we weren’t hauled off and sent to military school for discipline? I have no idea…. When you go through things like that with a friend and they still stay your friend, you know they can be labeled as the “best” of friends.

After I moved back to Utah, I lost touch with Robert. Boys are not too good about writing letters back and forth. Well, this past week I found my old friend, Robert, on Facebook. It was amazing to see his name and face appear right there on my computer after all of these years. The modern technology to make things like this happen today is truly incredible!

We had the best time catching up after all of those years. He reminded me about one Halloween when I dressed up as a nurse. He dressed up as his sister. We walked about a mile in our costumes to the Youth Center. All dressed up as such fine-looking young ladies, we had two different cars of men try to pick us up. I’m sure you can imagine the side-splitting laughter this caused in two silly young boys. I must admit, we laughed just about as hard last week when we talked about it again. He also reminded me that I won the “best costume” award and my prize was a camera. He told me that he thinks he has pictures of the occasion somewhere. I said a silent prayer that he would NEVER find those pictures…I have plenty of incriminating photos of me on Facebook already!

I missed “Mississippi Robert” terribly when I moved back to Utah. How do you replace a friend like that…A friend who knows you so well and has experienced so much with you. It was difficult to lose him at that time in my life.

But, somehow I was blessed. Not too long after moving back, I met my second best friend named, Robert. He was in a similar situation to mine in that he had just moved to Utah from Texas. It is always intimidating to be young, and in a new place, and without a lot of friends. It was only by circumstance that I met him in the first place. I had done a lot of bowling as a boy and a teenager. When I was a teenager, I was also employed at a bowling alley for quite a while. I made a lot of friends during that time of my life, but never did I become as close to any of them as I became to Robert.

Over the years that I had been learning to bowl, I must admit, that I seemed to have a natural knack for it. Robert and his mother had come into the bowling alley to get Robert signed up in a league. At some point, his mother asked me if I would teach her son some of the skills I had learned at bowling. I was happy to do it, and I am so glad that I did. It lead to a great friendship. Almost immediately after meeting Robert and starting to bowl together, we were friends. You know how it is with some people? You just meet them and automatically “click.” We were like that.

As with the first “Robert” in my life, this Robert and I started hanging out a lot and doing everything together. Of course, we spent a lot of times at the lanes bowling, but we did a lot of other things too. We went to school together and went to a lot of concerts together. We had many double dates and for a while, I even dated one of his sisters. Hey, if your friendship can survive that, it can survive anything.

I have stayed in contact with this Robert as we have gotten busier with the more serious things in life. I have watched Robert grow into one of the greatest men I know. It’s funny how one minute your friend is just as big a goofball as you are, and the next, he is married and has an important job and being an overall responsible citizen. When does this happen? It feels like it just happens overnight!

His work has taken him back to the state of Texas. We have been able to stay in contact over the years by communicating on… you guessed it…Facebook! We talk on a pretty regular basis. He is coming to Utah in a couple of weeks and we have already made plans for me to help him move his mom and to do something fun together.
I am so glad to have both of these Roberts in my life. When I was a kid, I was just being a kid. I just wanted to have someone to accept me, hang out with, and have a good time. But, as I am getting older, I realize how much more these bonds truly are. They have helped to shape me into the person I am today, and I thank them for that. Also, I truly believe that if I ever needed either one of them, they would come to the rescue immediately. That is a good feeling to know I have developed two great friendships like that.

And, one more thing --- I have been thinking a lot about how great the power of technology is in my lifetime. Without the internet and Facebook, I may have never hooked up with my childhood friend, Robert and without Facebook; I may have never been able to stay in contact with my other friend Robert who lives in Texas. I am very grateful for that.

I look forward to continuing these friendships and to have them as lifelong connections. We have made many memories together and I hope to make many more with them. Hey, maybe at some point I’ll even be able to introduce them to each other. Then, we can all hang out, and I will introduce them to others as, “This is my friend, Robert, and this is my other friend, Robert.” How great would that be?

Friday, June 26, 2009

End of an Era

Well, if you haven’t heard about the passing of Michael Jackson, I’m assuming you are pretty much brain dead….Wow, how did you all react when you heard that news? I know, we’re not talking about the death of a Kennedy or anything, but I really think that I will remember where I was when I heard the news. I was in my truck going to pick up my daughter, Kenna, when KSL radio sent a news alert to my phone saying he had been taken to the hospital and it didn’t look so good.

Now, I am not what you call a true blue, fanatic kind of Michael Jackson fan, but I did like a lot of his music and videos. When his songs come on the radio, I know the words, and most of the time, they make me want to get up and boogy. (Okay, stop laughing!! You get my point!)

There is no doubt that he was, and is, an American icon. He has made a huge impact on pop music in my life-time. His career has spanned about the length of time that I have been alive. So, I can hear a Michael Jackson song and be taken back to a time and place in my life when the song was a hit. Music is very powerful that way.
I remember when the Thriller video was made. It was like nothing I had seen before. It was so creative and fresh… set to a catchy song he had written and recorded -- it had a story behind it, a horror movie screen legend – Vincent Price -- doing a voice over, brilliant dance moves, great choreography, and wonderful special effects. I was riveted every time I saw that video. His music has always been there playing as part of the soundtrack to my life and to many people of my generation. Each decade seemed to have another song that became a hit and played over and over on the airwaves. I don’t think that anyone would argue that Jackson was a musical genius.

It is very unfortunate that he had so many problems in his life. Rather than think about all of the accusations and his legal troubles today, I have been thinking more about the man. I was thinking about when he was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey several years ago. Some of you will remember that interview. That was the first time I had seen the artist’s vulnerable side. It was clear that no matter how much fame and fortune this man had achieved, he still did not like himself. He talked about not being able to look in the mirror and how unhappy he was with his skin and the color of his skin. In the following years, we all watched as he went in for surgery after surgery to change his appearance. This man had so much going on inside of him… so much music to be let out… It is a shame that he was so uncomfortable with his face… even going so far as to hide it under a mask when he went out in public.

As I thought more about the span of his career over the past few decades and the fact that his light has now burned out, it left me feeling a little empty inside. It just felt so much like the end of an era. It made me feel old even though I know he died relatively young. The thing is that pop culture icons like Jackson become so immortalized by their music, that it is really difficult to believe he is actually gone. In a way, he never will be. There is no doubt he will live on through his music. Like other icons--such as --Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and James Dean, the images of Jackson will forever live on in American culture and around the worldpermanently. So, to the man Michael Jackson, I say, “Rest in peace.” And to the musical legend, it is clear, that his image, icon status, and music will live on forever…Like him or hate him, he is permanently sewn into the fabric of American pop culture, and that, I can respect.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I love baseball! Like many boys, I was signed up for my little league team when I was seven. Ever since then, I have played either baseball or softball. Yes, when I became an old geezer, I had to change to softball. (It was getting just a little too difficult to drag that bulky oxygen tank around the diamond!) The bases in softball are closer together, so I didn’t have to run as far. The ball was bigger, so I could see it with my bad eyes. Even though playing the game has gotten a lot more difficult for me, I still love to play. I hope to be playing for a long, long time – even if I have to pull myself around the bases with a walker!
It is not only playing ball that I love. I love the whole atmosphere of a baseball game. I love to be a part of the crowd and root for the home team. I love to watch all of my surroundings at the ball park. The thing that is different about watching baseball from other sports is that there is a lot of time to observe things. I have mentioned that I really enjoy “people watching.” I like to just sit back, get comfortable, and watch people. I like to consider who they are and what they are thinking and why they behave the way they do. The baseball diamond is a great place to do this because there is so much going on – on the field and off.
Last night, I went to the Salt Lake Bee’s game, a triple AAA team. Watching the players of each team and their coaches and managers always gives me a lot to think about. Everything in baseball is done so deliberately. Everything is given so much thought – from the batting order to signs given by the base line coaches, there is always something to consider. As I watch, I enjoy watching all of the subtleties of the game.
I observed that all of the first and third base coaches NEVER stand inside the nice little white box that has been so carefully drawn for them. It is almost as if they cannot, “think outside the box” unless they are actually standing outside of this box! I noticed the umpire watching the third base coach out of the corner of his eye. It is a lot like watching your kids push a rule a little farther… then, a little farther to see how far they can break the rule without major consequences.
There are a lot of superstitions in baseball, a lot of routines that are followed by players in order to not mess up a winning streak or a no-hitter. I noticed that about half of the players on both teams will jump over the base line going to and from the dugout. Was this some kind of game like, “Don’t step on the crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back.”
These are just the kinds of things I observe and am curious about. Like, when the Bees were on the field and would throw a player out, they would do the traditional routine of throwing the ball around the horn before getting the ball back to the pitcher. Why do they usually leave the first baseman out of this? Is he too tired from catching the ball just a few seconds ago?
At professional games, players take time to throw balls to the fans in the stands. Some of the players always throw the balls and some players never do…is this a little clue into their minds and personalities as to who is more friendly and outgoing and who is more reserved or arrogant? I also have some theories about all of that scratching going on down there on the field, but that is for an entirely different kind of blog….
Then, there is the crowd that I am able to observe at the game. Baseball has fans from all different walks of life, so the crowds are usually very diverse. There is always something interesting to see in the stand if you are looking. It is an interesting study into human nature to watch the different loyalties of the fans. Some are so anxious to support the home team that it seems as if their entire life depends on the outcome based on how they are screaming and yelling and carrying on. But this love can be fickle and very conditional… they show the love until a member of their team makes an error or the other team gets a hit. Then, you would think they had their entire lives riding on the game by the way they turn on a player. And, of course, the players on the other team are just sheer evil to them. No matter how much physical ability they display, because they are on the other team, they are truly the enemy. That is one part of professional sports that is difficult… what do these fans then do when their favorite player signs a contract with the rival team?
In the crowd, there are also those who seem to come just to relax in the summer-time air. They don’t seem to have any interest in the game at all. I observed one lady reading a book and didn’t even look up when the home team hit a three-run homer after the game has been tied for seven innings. Another girl in front of me was casually watching a movie….the ballpark is a good place for movie snacks… I must admit…
And then, there are those who have one eye on the game and the rest of their attention on the person(s) they came to the game with. I can tell that lot of really great conversations and connections are being made in those stands. There is just something about the atmosphere at a ballgame. No wonder it has been dubbed, “The Great American Past Time.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Was I that bad of student

I remember my kindergarten teacher by name. I remember my first grade teacher by name. I remember my second, third, and fourth grade teacher’s names. I had had a good experience with all of my teachers up to that point.
Then, when I entered the fifth grade, I met, what would become, my all-time favorite teacher! Her name was Mrs. Roberts and she was like a “saint” to me. She took the time to get to know me and understand me. She knew I had a difficult time sitting still. (I still can’t sit still.) She knew that I spent time daydreaming. (I still daydream.) She knew that she would have to remind me that I could not count the number of tiles on the floor or ceiling out loud and disrupt the class. She often had to remind me of the rules of the class. She had a unique way of getting her student’s attention when she needed it. She had set up her classroom so that the students were seated in a large circle. On her desk, she had a whole bunch of bean bags. If a student misbehaved, she would pick up a bean bag, take aim, and chuck it at the rule-breaker. (Yes, I know, she would have been fired in today’s world!) Her methods were effective and her students loved her and wanted to please her.
I was able to enjoy Mrs. Roberts class for the first half of the year. Then, in the middle of the school year, my step-dad was transferred to Spain for his work with the U.S. Air Force. So, our family packed our bags and moved to a strange new country. Then, I went to strange new school and was assigned to a strange new teacher… yes, she was very strange indeed!
To this day, I could not remember her name, and I certainly could not have picked her out of a lineup – not even if I was paid to do so…. Must not have “felt the love” as my kids say.
“What sparked this memory?” you may be asking. I was going through some old papers of mine that my mother had held onto for me… In those papers, there were report cards, Christmas cards, art projects from school… you know… the usual stuff a proud mom would keep on her favorite son….There I found my report cards from the 5th grade.
It was very eye-opening to see the difference in comments between my two fifth grade teachers! My favorite teacher, Mrs. Roberts, had written, “I have had the greatest pleasure to have Doug in my class. He is a smart young man and will go far in life. Good luck in all you do and remember that your teacher loves you.” As I looked down the grades I received in her class, they were all A’s and B’s, and I had “Outstanding” on everything except for “paying attention.” For someone with ADD, that was no surprise at all!
Then, I found my report card and information from the second half of my 5th grade school year. The first thing that I noticed on the cover was that by “Student’s Name” it read, “Johnston, Douglas.” I started laughing. No one calls me, “Douglas,”… no one! I think I have only been called Douglas two or three times in my life… All of those times, it was by my mom when she was VERY, VERY angry at me. And so, today I see that my least favorite teacher had that as my name a well…. Coincidence? I think not! But, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, thinking that she may not have known me well when I first signed up for school. Then, I opened the report card and began to read what she had written. Science = D, Spelling = C (Okay, if you read my blog often, you realize she may be right on this one!) Reading = D, English = D, Communication = D, Handwriting = D, Social Studies = D and finally Host Nation Language and Culture = B. Now, remember here, I had just moved to Spain from America. In my entire life, I have only known about 20 words in Spanish, and about fifteen of those are swear words that I picked up on the soccer field. It was amazing to me that these grades were given to me, the same student who had just been getting all A’s and B’s a few weeks earlier.
So then, I read the three comments she had written on the back of the report card to see why the grades were so low. The first comment reads, “Needs to be doing more class work on reading skills and logs. DOUGLAS can do good work but he must but forth consistent effort. Needs extra help at home with division.” The second comment, “DOUGLAS doesn’t always use his time wisely and has failed to complete many long term assignments.” Finally the third comment, “Best of luck next year. I’m sure you’ll do well IF you try harder.”
I found out at that point that her name, that I could never remember after all of these years, was “D. Sedrish,” from the signature on my report card. I am sorry that I was such a bad student, and I will take the responsibility for bad grades, but I will not take what she wrote so seriously, and here is why….
I am someone, like most people, that likes and responds well to being praised. I am someone who does his best when he is not being cut down because of his religious beliefs. I have written another blog about what happened to the only other LDS student in the class…. Not Nice!
When I moved back to Utah from Spain, I had the chance to go to my old home town for a day… Guess where I went! That’s right… straight to see Mrs. Roberts, my favorite 5th Grade Teacher! By now, I was in the 8th grade. When I walked in to her classroom, she looked straight at me and without missing a beat said, “Hi Dougie!” She knew me. She was excited to see me. How refreshing. It was so nice to visit with her. After that, I moved to Mississippi for two years. When I arrived back in my home town after those two years, my first person to visit was, you guessed it, Mrs. Roberts! I visited with her on many occasions after that. She truly was a positive influence in my life and really made a difference as my teacher.
Over those years, I visited with other teachers, but none had touched my life like Mrs. Roberts. I could always tell which teachers loved me and taught with love and a desire to make a difference. I have the report cards and notes from a lot of them, and they tell the story of which ones helped me to succeed and which ones did not.
For example, when I had a speech problem in the second grade, I had a speech teacher. I could not speak well at all. I went to speech therapy three times a week, and it was not making any difference. I did not really like the lady that was my speech therapist in the beginning. Then, she went on a leave to have a baby. While she was gone, in walked the prettiest speech therapist in the world. I was smitten! It wasn’t so much her looks as her smile and friendly demeanor. She immediately made me feel at ease and told me I had beautiful blue eyes. That little bit of praise was all it took. As one who now makes part of his living doing speaking engagements, you can see that she was successful in turning my speech problem around.
So, was it some miracle that my speech improved? And, was it just by chance that I remembered my fifth grade teacher’s name and her so well. Absolutely not!
Most people work better when they are in a positive environment and surrounded by happy people. As the evidence from my box of school memories proves, one little boy had his life changed forever by these types of individuals. Thank you Mrs. Roberts for taking the time to get to know me and understand me and thank you for loving and accepting me… just the way I was…..

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Best Present Ever


A few years ago I won some big awards for a column I wrote about my three fathers. My dad, my step dad and my Heavenly Father. I wanted to share that with you today, but I can not find it. So, I am going to tell you about my Father's Day.

When I got divorced from my first wife, we went to church all of the time, and it seemed that after the divorce the children decided that they would not go as much, or at all in some cases. I also quit going for a long time, blaming a lot of people for things they said, and things they had done, and I won't get into the feelings and the reasons right now, but someday I will share that.

For the last year or so, I have had a huge desire to go to church again, and it has really been hard to go by myself. So, when each of my five children asked me what I wanted for Fathers Day, I told each of them, for you to go to church with me. Some laughed, some said maybe and some said no way.

Last night, my eighteen year old daughter Chelsea asked if I was going to church today. I told her I was, and she said she would go with me. I must have had a very strange look on my face. She told me that if I wanted that for Father's Day, then that is what I would get.

I KNOW that it is hard for Chelsea to go to church. She is my child that has tatoos, a nose ring, and an eyebrow ring, and I know she knew that people would be looking at her differently than people look at people that don't stand out.

We got there, and sat down, and we had a good time. The primary sang "We're so glad when daddy comes home" and she mouthed the words to me and kissed me on the cheek when it said they do so in the song.

Her cell phone was going off, luckily she had it on vibrate only and she was texting to her friends that she was in church. Most didn't believe her. After Sacrament Meeting, all of the dads were given Sweet Rolls. I gave mine to my daughter. That was the least I could do for someone that did something that was so hard for her to do.

I told her that she will be a Relief Society President someday and she will use her tattoos as lessons of when she was young. She told me that someday I would have hair... Hmmm.

And she and my nine year old made me breakfast today too.

I am a very happy Father this Fathers Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back

I have been gone for a little while because I have not had an internet connection. I am back now, and I also see I have 11 followers. All of them are women. That must mean all of my male friends are too good to read my ramblings.

Tomorrow is Father's Day and I will blog about Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Reviews

I am going to start reviewing some books on this blog. If you have a book you want me to review, just email me at doug@sublimeexpressions.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Drive with Chlesea


Today I drove with my 18 year old daughter Chelsea to Heber City, Utah to fix my wife's car. My wife was in Heber City to cheer on her best friends daughters at the Utah High School Rodeo finals.

So, as we were heading up there, Chels found my cd's and I knew we were in for a treat. We started with Journey, followed by Colin Ray, followed by Kelly Clarkson, and then Wicked. She loves Journey, I then MADE her listen to the Colin Ray song, What if Jesus Came Back Like That, and then we listened to Kelly Clarkson and then the cd of Wicked.

Chelsea is a singer. She has sang her whole life and I love it. She has been in musicals, plays, concert choirs and is on a cd for a musical I co-wrote. Since she has threatened me if I tell everyone what song and cd it is on, I will not.

She sang loud and beautiful. I listened and smiled. That is how we operate. Me and Chels.

She tells me something and I smile, and sometimes the things she tells me I just shake my head. She is so much like me it is scary.

I hate it that she has tatoos, and she hates it that I have a big belly. I hate that she hasn't finished hair school, and she hates it that I keep bugging her about it. I don't like her piercings, and she doesn't like that I am grumpy some times. But life goes on. We all pick our battles. I have people that say, "My child will never have a tatoo, or my child will never have an earring in their nose or eyebrow". I used to say that same thing. I know that my daughter is a good person.

We are the same, and yet we are so different. But we understand each other. People tease us because we get along so well together. I love that girl! And she loves me. It makes the world go around!

Oh, and she is happy, and very positive. So, I guess I have done something right!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Followers of my blog

I now have seven followers of my blog. Some I have known for a long time, and others I have known only for a short time. This post is here to thank you for following my ramblings.

If you don't follow my blog and you would be interested in doing so, please do! Thanks

Mr Positive

Some of my friends gave me the name Mr. Positive. Not because I am always positive, but because I try to be so. I swear more than I should, just drive with me and you will hear it. I really try to find positive in people.

Right now I am going through a very tough part of my life, but I have to keep positive. It is hard. At times I cry, at times I am depressed, but I keep getting up each day and telling myself that today is going to be a good day.

So, it is 12:30 at night and I am going to go to bed. But you can bet on it, that when I get up, I am going to look for positive things to fill my day.

One step at a time. One breath at a time. Keep striving to fix the bad and make it good.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ground Zero, Freedom Tower?

I really wanted to go see Ground Zero when I went to New York and I got the opportunity. They are now building buildings but it will take many more years before they are completed. It is now projected to be completed in the fall of 2013. Every tour guide we talked to complained about the fighting going on about how much it is going to cost, the time it is taking and how everything keeps getting changed, including in late March the name of the main building.

The tallest building that is going to be built has been called Freedom Tower since 2003, and in last March, it was decided it will be called One World Trade Center. The Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg said not so fast. He likes the Freedom Tower name and said it may be up to the residents to vote on the name. He also has said that 3 BILLION dollars of public money has and will be put into the former Ground Zero sight. The tower, whatever it will be called will stand 1776 feet in the air. The significance of that is that it represents 1776, the year of the Decoration of Independence. It is stated to be 102 stories tall.

Scared so bad in New York, I almost puked!


So, there was this taxi ride form the airport that about made me mess my pants. The guy was a driver that had to be somewhere soon, and nothing was going to stop him.

Wait, that is not the almost puked story. The almost puked story happened when I was on the top of The Rock. Rockefeller Center. I think it was 90 floors or so. I can't remember for sure, but what I can tell you is that I was near the top of Empire State Building and I was fine. I have rode the rides on top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and I was fine, but I got very sick on top of The Rock.

I think I got sick because I was standing behind glass, and I know that glass was very thick, but I also know that glass breaks. As you can see in the photo is that the glass has small gaps in it that people put their cameras through to get better photos. Once I saw my son jump into a very think glass table when he was young and shatter it and that kept coming to my mind. He was fine.

So I sat on some chairs and waited for my wife to tell me it was time to go. And it was a long time.

In fact I have been bungee jumping and it did not scare me as bad as that.

So, yes I am a whimp.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

God Bless You and the Blessing Box


New York was fun, and from previous posts you can see that. But two things that happened to me will stick in my mind for a long time.

First, we were on a boat cruise around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The host was good, and told a lot of history and told some good jokes. The tour lasted about and hour, and when the boat was heading back to the dock, he told us that if we liked his as a guide, that he would be holding a Blessing Box as we got off of the boat. Then he told us if we did not give a tip, that me may still be blessed. I looked at my wife, she looked at me and we just giggled. I have had some high pressure people want money from me before but this one took the cake. And I left a five dollar bill for him, because I know I need all of the blessings I can get.

And the God Bless you moment came after we had dinner at Olive Garden at Times Square. Outside our dinner table was an amazing sight. As I at my dinner I was not very hungry and had a lot of food left over. I didn't want to waste it and our hotel didn't have a fridge. So I had them box the food and hoped that I could find a homeless person to give it to. It only took two blocks and I saw a homeless man going through a garbage. I walked up to him, held out the bag and told him that if he wanted some dinner he could have it. He took it, gave me a toothless smile and Said, God Bless You. I looked at him and told him the same thing.

As I was walking back to the hotel I was smiling, knowing that for a few minutes I made someone very happy. Isn't that what life is about. The little things that make people happy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Broadway shows!

I saw some Broadway shows while in New York. And I will tell you about them below.

9 to 5 the musical. 9 to 5 is headlined by the great actress Allison Janney. I loved Allison on t.v. and as the mom in Juno. I LOVED her acting in this musical, but not her singing. The other stars in the show were Megan Hilty and Stephanie J. Block and they can sing and act very well. I really liked the entire show, and it was very close to the mega hit movie with the same name, but it is very PG-13. I would not take my teen to this show. That is sad, because if they changed two or three scenes only slightly, it would be a great family view.

Mama Mia. First let me say I never saw the movie. I know I may be about the only person left in America, or the world that hasn't seen it. The musical was very, very good.
Brandi Burkhardt led the musical playing Sophie and has a very special voice. But who really sold the show for me was
Gina Ferrall as Rosie. A great voice, a great actress and if I went back to New York I would find where she is acting and go see her.
Once again, there are some scenes that I would not take a teen to, very PG-13 and other than that, they had the audiance really into this show.

Chicago Chicago was good for me, great for others. I only watched half of the movie, and although I loved the actresses and actors in the broadway show, including great dancing, I don't like the story. The singing was great, the acting great. So if you like the story of Chicago, you will love this musical.

Next To Normal I really wanted to see this musical, and everyone that saw it said it is the best musical on Broadway right now, but it was sold out when we were there. Someday!

Avenue Q First, let me say that we saw the outside of the building when we walked by it, since it was right next to our hotel everyday. On the last night before we came home, we went to it. On the outside of the building it shows smiling actors with hand puppets, like on Seseme Street.
Ok, so I should have read up on it before I went. ALERT. If you don't have an adult sence of humor, DON'T SEE THIS. If you can handle adult humor, where they make fun of just about every living thing. YOU WILL LOVE THIS SHOW. So, did I like it, NO! I LOVED IT. Will most of my friends love it, about half would, and about half of them would be offended. It has won two Tony Awards, and let me tell you that the lead actress is amazing. A very stron supporting cast also.

Well that is the rundown. I would love to hear from you guys about these musicals. There are so many that we wanted to go see that we couldn't. Shrek The Musical has rave reviews also.