Monday, December 26, 2011

The Road Not Taken

2011 has been a good year. It’s been a breakthrough year for me. As the days dwindle down toward 2012, I think the words of a man who was born 100 years before me express how I feel the most. I’ve always loved this poem. You know it also.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thank you all for a fantastic year. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the adventure. Until then, good fortune.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Favorite Memory

Although it’s cold outside, every memory I have of December is warm. Perhaps it’s because of so much time that spent indoors. Maybe it’s heat from the furnace. On the other hand, it could be that I love this time of year the most.

Winter is the Earth’s sleep. At least it feels that way to me. Nothing grows; everything just stays hidden by the weather until spring—when life returns, fuller. The nights are clearer, have you noticed? As a star watcher, I love the fact that Orion is so obvious and distinct in the winter. The Orion Nebula is one of my favorite wonders to explore.

I have memories of Christmas in many different places. Various smells, sounds, people, and tastes fill my recollection of these fanciful celebrations. No, I’m not Scrooge—wishing I had lived different and remembering Christmas as it should be. I’m happy today, and surrounded by love and family. It’s interesting, though; my favorite memory of Christmas is also the loneliest.

In 1993, I was living in Paris, serving an LDS mission. Paris is a city that’s full of life and culture—most of the year. In December, it’s rainy, sooty, cold, gray, and well—it feels empty. Similar to any large city, there are holiday decorations, and sidewalk vendors offer their offering for the season. It’s the first place I ever saw people roasting chestnuts in kettles. That was cool. Because the weather was so awful, we spent a lot of time indoors or underground. The Louvre was a favorite place to mingle and talk to people. I love art, so that was a welcome treat. I sent postcards from downstairs—they put a special Louvre stamp on every letter they mail from the post office there. Did you ever read The DaVinci Code? Well, that post office is just down the hall from the inverted pyramid, one of my favorite places to hang out at the Louvre.

But I was alone. No friends, except for the other missionaries I was assigned to live and work with. No family. There weren’t presents for me. I don’t know if any were mailed. If so, I never got them. That’s okay—remember, this is my favorite memory.

On Christmas Eve, a dozen missionaries met and sang carols at different spots in Paris. It rained, a chilled, biting rain that soaked through my jacket and pants. I caught a cold that day. We stood in front of Notre Dame sharing music with tourists and locals. We couldn’t have sounded good, but it was fun. That night, a few of us rode with a family to a celebration north of the city. It was the strangest thing—we celebrated Christmas South American style.

That was the night I learned that “Oyo Como Va” wasn’t written by Santana. It played over and over and over during the party. To this day, every time I hear that song, it reminds me of Christmas in Paris. Weird, huh? We ate, and sang, ate more, told stories, and played games. I received a white scarf as a gift. That was my only Christmas present that year. As midnight approached, we headed home.

There was a point along the road where we came over a hill and saw the most spectacular view of the City of Lights. Paris was beautiful. It was dark and wet, but every scenic spot was bright with color. I had seen Paris every night for a month, and had always enjoyed it, but I’ll never forget that view. I could see the whole city. It was an image so vivid that I still see it in my dreams. At that moment, I realized how special the day had been. I didn't get anything for Christmas, except a white scarf, and I didn't care. At that moment, while accepting the wonderful view, I felt the love and peace of a perfect child who was born to save us all.

Christmas in Paris was perfect...and that memory is my favorite.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Who Would You Have Been…Once Upon A Time?

I don’t watch much television, but recently discovered a new show on ABC called “Once Upon A Time.” Without telling you everything about it, I’ll just say that there’s this cool little town in Maine filled with people who were once fairy tale characters. Everyone still has the traits of their former fairy tale persona, but no one remembers that life. With story based on existing fairy tales, you would think that every episode would be unpredictable. Well, they’re not. That’s what makes it fun for me to watch.

I was thinking. If that really happened—if the world we know was once a fairy tale—which character would I have been? Based on the person I am today, which character do I match in personality?
I think I’m like Aladdin. I know, he’s not really part of the traditional fairy tale character cast, but I’m like him in many ways. I can relate to the kid. So, that’s who I would have been.

What about you? Which fairy tale character would you have been? Who would you want to be?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Make it so

Look under the cover of a great novel and its pages will pull you into another world. There, you’ll experience a fantastic story that changes you forever. Filled with magic, mystery, suspense, action, and love, each carefully scripted phrase will linger in the back of your mind and influence your actions back in the real world.

The real world. Well that sounds boring, doesn’t it? After chasing an imaginative adventure, who wants to drum out their heartbeats in a somewhat boring reality? I do.

Life isn’t dull. I believe there’s a connection between the things we can imagine and the things we can experience. The challenge is discovering what is possible and having the courage to make it so. That part isn’t easy.

In my first post on this blog, I opened with a phrase about crawling out of the Snake River. That day was one of many great adventures of my younger life. As the reality of what I had just survived sank into my system, I promised myself that I would write about it in a book. I never did.

Although I had almost died that day, it turns out that I feared sharing the story more than experiencing the terror of the event. Most people have it the other way around. A part of me wishes I could have been so lucky. Death, it seemed, wanted me badly. As life progressed, my collection of extraordinary experiences grew at such a pace that I was no longer surprised when I faced a mortal challenge. I always survived, though not always unharmed. The old saying is that one could fill a book with everything they’ve lived through. I could fill several.

Still, I never acted on my intentions to write the book. Over time, death grew bored of me and my adventurous reality faded into the expected life of someone who had stopped following their dreams. I had forgotten what adventure was and stopped using my imagination. I even stopped searching for it in books.

The title of this post is “Make it so.” I love the line from Star Trek because it tells us everything we should know about imagination. Don’t just dream about great things; make them happen; search for them. I feel like I’m living again and rebuilding the connection between what I can imagine and what I can experience. I hope you will do the same.

Monday, November 14, 2011

These Dreams

I love sleeping—not for the rest, for the world that opens in my slumber. It’s odd. It doesn’t make sense. And it’s fantastic.

I’m one of those people who have crazy vivid dreams. Colorful moving images filled with magnificent sounds and voices. Sometimes there are people I know in them; other times, I discover new and interesting characters. My mind likes to conjure memories of places around the world where I’ve been and place me into them while dreaming. It adds to the realism and often I wonder if the event was just reminiscence. I remember my dreams and, at times, revisit the same ones after several years.

Last night I dreamed two magnificent stories. They seemed to make perfect sense inside my mind. When I tried to share them, my words smashed together and made a mess of the story. It’s like that with my dreams. Nothing makes sense when I’m not in them.

I’ve read stories of authors who base their books on their dreams. I’m jealous. Although there is plenty to capture and put on paper, these stories just wouldn’t make sense in reality. Once, however, I dreamt about two of my characters. It was well after the story was created, and they were in a place that doesn’t exist inside my literary world. I woke up excited that I was able to see what they looked like and hear their voices. I’ve tried many times to revisit that dream, but alas, dreams don’t work that way.

There are theories about what dreams mean. I don’t think they apply to mine because I know my mind. It’s just having fun with all the information I’ve stuffed in there. It’s kind of like a computer defragmenting the hard drive. It’s trying organize and store things for retrieval and then make room for more. There can’t be any hidden meanings for me. If so, world would be odder than those dreams inside my head. That’s what I think anyway.

So, I’m gonna write some more words, read a bit, and then close my eyes and sleep. Whatever dream finds me tonight, it’s bound to be exciting! How about you? Are your dreams in color? Do you remember them? Do they mean things?

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Lost My Words

Life took me from my dreams, or, I forgot them. Either way, I stopped writing. Long ago, I wrote all the time. I wrote poems mostly. Nothing great, just a few words weaved together to express what was on my mind. There wasn’t a story to tell. There were no characters.
Or were there?
Truthfully, I can’t remember. When I stopped writing, I lost my memory of the words I had penned. There was a little green journal where I kept everything. It was a gift I carried to France with me. I was supposed to document my experiences there, but I wrote poems instead. I lost the book. Somewhere, I hope in my garage, is that little green journal. It might be full of garbage, but it might also have a treasure. That’s the fun of lost memories: their secrets are the fantastic part.
I’m feeling adventurous today, so I’m going to venture into the garage and look for my past. I’ll update this post when I find my words again…

…Found it! After just ten minutes of searching, I discovered my cache deep in the bottom of a bucket. I also found some old postcards from Paris. I’ll save them for another post. At the moment I’m writing this, I haven’t opened the journal. It’s been over fifteen years since I peeked inside. Let’s discover this together.

No dust on the cover—probably because the book has been hidden so well. The first entry is from April 12, 1993. It’s a poem about serving others. Short and to the point. The next entry is about Halloween. It’s somewhat cool, especially since I was living in a place that celebrates Halloween differently than the U.S. Nothing special, yet.
I’m amazed that the written words flood back to me as I read the poems. They weren’t lost, just buried deep inside. This is an emotional experience. Wow.

I didn’t write in order. Apparently, I had taken some of my earlier works with me to France, because some of the dates are before I graduated high school. These are cool to read. I’m going to share one in a moment.

14 Janvier, 1995. “I write to find my secrets.”

That's the last date I've written in the book. There's a few notes in French after that. I must have given the journal to people to read before leaving the country, because they've written me short letters in the pages. Then there's nothing. The rest of the journal is blank.  Here's the poem I promised. It's titled only with a date.

November 5, 1992
Thunder shakes the earth
Beneath my feet
Lightning breaks
The blackened sky
Night awakes my soul
While, as I sleep
My feet stay planted,
My thoughts fly
I am the inner soul of everyone
Could be I resemble day
I come and go with no regard
Imagination is my name
Travel far into the heavens
Into ocean, into sea
Leave the common grounds
Of boredom
Let me in, I’ll set you free

Thanks for sharing this experience with me. I’ve noticed a theme to my writing then that matches the style of my books today. That makes me happy. I’m also grateful that my words weren’t lost. Sixteen years after the last entry, I'm rediscovering myself.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Back to the Beginning

Many years ago, it's been too long since, I crawled out of the Snake River and decided I would write my story.
Then something happened. Like the violent rapids I had just escaped, life pulled me downstream and kept me from grasping my dream. I wanted to write. I could see the images in my head and plotted a way to eventually allow them an escape. Eventually is an evil word. I hate it. Eventually turned to tomorrow, and then to next week, and then to next year. Every day, the stories inside begged me to release them, but I kept telling them that the moment wasn't right, that eventually, I would find the time. That was 1989.
So, what has happened between then and now? Well, that's all back story.

My Novel is Finished.
I finished my novel, On Fallen Wings, a couple months ago. It's not my first book, in fact, it wasn't supposed to happen. While completing an edit on another book, I wrote a page of words about the sister of a main character. They were wonderful, the best words I have placed with keystrokes. Suddenly, I saw her in my mind. She was sad and beautiful. I wondered what her story was. On Fallen Wings was born.

What About the Other Story?
I learned while writing my first book that sometimes you have to cut the parts that get in the way, even if they're good. That story is good, but it keeps me from the direction I've chosen to travel. It's like a stone in the river. By the way, they hurt when the water smacks you into them. Stories will come, words will form. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

This is Halloween

I love this time of year. The air turns cold, the leaves add color to the landscape, and the yard work ends! I also love Halloween. I enjoy haunted houses, scary movies, frightening stories, and yummy food. With five children, our candy supply never seems to disappear after October 31st.

This year, our neighborhood held a chili cook off and costume contest. Let's talk about chili first. I love chili, but it's hard to find a perfect bowl sometimes. So a few years ago, I made my own recipe and have been tweaking it ever since. I decided this would be the year to introduce my creation to the neighbors. I'm glad I did. I won! In honor of my achievement, I'm sharing my recipe with the world. Take it, enjoy it, share it. I won't mind a bit. If you make money off it, give me credit.

Jamie's (Award Winning!) Chili

1 Pound          Bacon                    chop into 1/2" pieces and fry
1 Pound          Ground Sausage           
2 Each            Onion, chopped          
7 Clove           Garlic, minced          
1 Each            Green Pepper, chopped    coarsely chopped
1 Each            Red Pepper               coarsely chopped
1 Pound          Tri Tip Steak            smoked and cubed
1 Pound          Turkey Breast                smoked and cubed
2 Tablespoon  Brown Sugar             
2 Squirt           Honey                    or 3
30 Ounce        Tomato Sauce            
30 Ounce        Tomatoes, diced          do not drain
2 1/2 Tablespoon      Cumin Seed, ground      
2 Tablespoon   Chili Powder            
1/2 Teaspoon   Cayenne Pepper          
1 Teaspoon      Oregano                 
15 Ounce          Black Beans              drain and rinse
15 Ounce         Chili Beans              DO NOT DRAIN

Combine first 6 ingredients in Crock pot and set to "low" until sausage is cooked, then set to "keep warm."
Add smoked meat and set for "keep warm" overnight.
Add rest of ingredients and simmer on stove (unless it fits in the Crock pot) so ingredients can infuse into each other.

There it is. It's that easy. I also made some dutch oven cornbread as a side dish. That recipe isn't my own, so I won't share it here. This is how everything looked:

Yes, it was tasty. I won a cool apron and a golden bowl of chili for my efforts. Yay!

Now, for the really cool part. Our family went to see Tron: Legacy this past winter on IMAX 3D. It was the first 3d movie I had seen in the theatre, and it was a lot of fun. My kids enjoyed it so much, they asked if they could be Tron characters for Halloween. They designed their costumes, my wife did the sewing, and I added a few final touches(including the technical headache work of all the lights).
They won the costume contest! I'm sorry the photos aren't great. The costumes look so much cooler in the dark, so that's where we took them. We also added some light to our Suburban window, to complete the effect.

However you celebrate Halloween, I hope that you enjoy it. We are so far.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Magic of Discovery

Last night, I dusted off my telescope and took it out to the front porch. My wife and children joined me and, together, we enjoyed magnificent views of Jupiter and a handful of its moons. Jupiter is my favorite planet to explore, because it’s bright and colorful—the bands of clouds look amazing.  I also enjoy exploring Jupiter because it offers something different every time.

When I experience something for the first time, it feels magical. Whether my expectations are exceeded or failed, the discovery of what I previously didn’t know holds a special place in my memory. It’s that magic that keeps me exploring, keeps me trying new things. There’s nothing like it, and this is the only way I know how to describe it.

I remember the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower. The van driver providing the tour had driven specifically so that no one had a view of the tower until the exact moment he wanted. As we passed a row of trees on our left, there it stood—GIANT and right in front of us! We had arrived at its base and I had to crane my neck just to see it all. I lived in France for two years and saw the tower hundreds of times after that. None of those times matched the feelings of the moment I described.

I have this same experience when I see a great movie for the first time, or eat at a spectacular restaurant. Yes, I also feel the magic when I read a good book. As I progress through the story, I sink my face into the pages, digging for each word, unwilling to miss a meaning. I imagine the characters in my mind and can watch them, hear them. I gladly give up sleep just so I can get to the end. Then I gasp in surprise at the finale I wasn’t expecting.

While on this writing journey, I'm trying to keep the magic of discovery in mind and understand that I'm writing for the audience. Yes, it's my story and my characters play their parts, but I have an obligation to give you that magical moment when you read. It's not easy, and I have wonderful people around me to keep me on track. As I write, I want you to know that I'm doing everything possible to keep you turning the pages.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Don't Trust My Dreams

I stood near the campfire, surrounded by darkness, while rain fell that never touched me.
Then the voice spoke—that American Idol contestant from Hollywood week two years ago—saying, “I’m going to tell you a ghost story.”
 Am I dreaming?
The man told his story and then another. He asked my son to make a howling noise for everyone gathered. Then he asked a stranger how to say “Happy Halloween” in Japanese. She knew how.
I had told my wife I didn’t want hot cocoa, but my mom arrived and handed me a Gatorade. Next to her, it was all so strange, I recognized a woman with a small child.
What is happening?
That woman babysat me when I was a toddler. I remembered my 3rd birthday party in her kitchen.
“I haven’t seen you since you were that small,” she told me.
I didn’t blink. There was no need to blink since I was dreaming. “It’s been a long time,” I answered.
My children walked up to me, drinking hot cocoa. When I told my wife about the woman, she admitted she knew her, and they started talking. Then my nieces were there. They grabbed my arm and said I should take them through the haunted castle. I followed them, but it was a maze inside the castle. As they pulled me through it, one of them started speaking Chinese.  
Where am I?
I wanted to find my wife, but my daughter and my son played tether-ball with a pumpkin head. Then an announcement came.
“Pig races in ten minutes.”
I found my wife and told her I wanted to see that. I had never seen a pig race before, especially in a dream. When I arrived there, my children left me.
“We have special seats up close,” they said.
Then my neighbor arrived. I told him it was a strange night. He understood. I stood in the dirt, confused and hungry, and watched three little pigs race.

I don’t trust my dreams, because sometimes they aren’t. This story happened tonight. None of what I wrote was fabricated or imagined. I think. If I wake up, I’ll let you know otherwise.


Monday, October 3, 2011

What if I Never Try?

I’m usually a positive person. I smile. I wave back to people. I don’t speak ill of anyone. I open doors for strangers. I’m hopeful about what could be when I’m daydreaming. That’s most of the time

Every so often, a little bit of self-doubt creeps into my being and ruins my day. While my intentions are to pursue constructive thoughts, that menacing demon takes over and makes me feel like I’m not good enough. “Everyone else is better than you,” that creature tells me. “You’re wasting your time. Hard work leads only to exhaustion.” The longer the thoughts linger in my mind, the more negative they become. Finally, these two damaging words enter my mind: “Give up.”

I wish I were making this up; I wish this were just a story. Sadly, it isn’t. This happens repeatedly. Over and over, the doubt returns and forces its way into my consciousness. It’s not often, but it doesn’t have to be—once the words enter my mind, the damage is done. I start believing my thoughts and sink into despair…

Fortunately, that’s the point where my inspiration comes to rescue me. “I’m the worst,” I tell myself, “so I need to work harder. If I’m wasting my time, well, at least I’m committed to something. Give up? Never. If I’m worth this much trouble to discourage, then I’m worth equal that in promise.” Like the sunrise after a starless night, my own words rescue me from hopeless abandonment. I start to believe. 

As my spirit lifts and my confidence regains its tread, I remind myself that no one knows what they can achieve unless they try. I’ve had my share of failures. That doesn’t mean I’m worthless. It means that I was willing to try. If I never try, then I’ll never know. And it’s in the unknown where fear resides.

Whatever you seek, whatever you do, please keep working hard at it. There’s satisfaction in the effort, no matter what happens in the end.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dreaming Again

Find yourself in your creativity.
For many years, I kept my creativity locked inside so that I could work, work, and do the many things that paid the bills and kept money in my wallet. As I grew older, I felt that creative part of me grow smaller and smaller, until it was barely a flicker of thought. I knew it was there; but there’s no glory in art, so why create? That’s the argument I gave myself. I believed it. I lived it. I stopped dreaming.
Then something happened. My life changed. The world I had built through all that working came crashing down. As chaos enveloped my existence, I looked inside to escape my fears; I looked to my dreams, but they were empty.
So, I started writing again. At first, it was an exploration. I wanted to discover a piece of my past and see if it was relevant. As I wrote, my dreams returned. They were vivid, bright, colorful, odd stories that filled my mind with beauty.
I found myself and remembered: I love writing.
So, I kept writing. I wrote one book, then a second. Now I’m finishing my third book. Life has changed again, but it’s not a bad thing. I’ve found harmony between my writing and world that pays the bills. I’ve discovered a new path, a new journey. It’s not easy, but I like it.

I’m thankful that I released my creativity and found my dreams. If you’ve buried yours, let it out and start dreaming again. You’ll be amazed how much your world will brighten.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Somnium Perfecta Imago

I see the mirror glass, but it’s not my room on the other side; there’s rampant, swirling fog. And her. This must be the dream. I’ve been here before. The same eyes, the flaming hair, her voice calls the same angelic words as before. But I don’t know them. Are they a warning, or a blessing?
“Cursum Perficio,” she says.
My heart pounds its response and I catch myself not breathing. It’s impossible not to oscitate—I’m transfixed.
“Cursom Perficio.”
I mouth the words with her. Who is she? What is the meaning of this synchronicity? As I ponder, she beckons to me. The fog changes from gray to crimson in a brilliant miasma of warning while her words envelop the space.
“Cursum Perficio.”
I lean close and draw a breath. Then I reach to touch the glass, to break the lacuna between my wanting and her.
“Please,” I whisper. “This is perfect.”
I interrupt. “Please.”
Brilliant light blinds my vision, forcing me back. I collapse on the bed and close my eyes. I sleep. When I awake, the dream is gone. I am alone again.

If you enjoyed my 200 word blog entry, please like it here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Moments you can't Buy

I’m on my bed, staring at the laptop screen with my 2 yr old next to me. “What should I write about?” I ask.
She scrunches her nose and answers, “um, bunny rabbits.”
“What about bunny rabbits?” I ask.
“And teddy bears,” she tells me.
“Do you like bunny rabbits or bears the best?”
She smiles. “Teddy bears.” Then she covers half her face with a blanket and grins from underneath.
“I can see the moon,” she says.
“Really?” I move my head close to hers.
Out the far window, across the hall, the full moon greets my gaze.
“You were right!” I tell her. “The moon is there. Let’s take a picture.” I grab the camera and snap a photo.
Here’s to moments you can’t buy:

Find your inspiration, capture it, then share it with the world.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Door Swung Open

Here's my attempt at a short story. If you're wondering what I'm doing, Rachael Harrie has this wonderful author networking challenge. I'm required to write a short story, limited to 200 words, and use the door swung open as the opening line. If I'm brave, I'm to use the door swung shut as the closing words. So, at 200 words, here's my story: THE ZOMBIE LIFE

The door swung open and a pair of hands grabbed my ankles.
“Get out here,” commanded a sharp voice that scarred my ears as it passed.
Scream. Where is your scream? I clawed at the walls with my fingers. “No.” My weakened rasp barely broke my breath. “Let go.” As I slid, against my wanting, my body left the shadow of my home. My feet burned from a blaze that I couldn’t see. I wouldn’t look; I needed my eyes for the darkness. When my ankles met the pain, I howled. There’s my scream!
“He’s fighting me,” yelled the voice.
More hands gripped me. I pulled one leg back and kicked the enemy, but the motion twisted me and my face struck the floor. More pain. My legs met the fire. I clawed again, this time at the floor.
This was no way to die. First, the fevers, then the shakes. When the poison of daylight ended all hope for a normal life, I had promised myself I would live. In darkness, yes, but I had lived so long.
Removed from my home and completely exposed, I dared a final defying glance at the sun before the door swung shut.

* * *

Well, there it is. If you like it, please LIKE it here. Oh, and I'm not really into horror or zombies, but it was the first thing that came into my mind when I read the contest rules. Thanks for visiting!