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Archive for January, 2007

rpotd 1/31/2007

shutterbug in action

Today’s random picture of the day is part of a little series that is a rather off-and-on sort of project for me. For my birthday last year, Michelle gave me this little Lego photographer that has an accompanying stand and a long-ish stick that can hold a picture. He also has a camera for his other hand. I have him on my desk at work, holding a wallet-sized, vintage portrait that we had done of the two kids that I absolutely treasure. But, at times, he starts jonesing for some of his own photographic action.

So, I started taking him around to see the sights and get a few shots. Here he is in my classroom at my last place of employment. He’s standing on top of a composition journal located on top of a TV on a cart, with the whiteboard in the background. What he might spy with his little eye that’s photoworthy is beyond me.

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Every week our local newspaper, The Smoke Signal, the largest circulating newpaper in Pottawatomie County, with the smallest staff (one reporter), comes out with a handful of adoption ads. These ads are pleas from local families to fill their empty homes. They usually begin with “Financially secure, healthy, married couple, looking for a baby to provide loving home for… Please call such-and-such adoption agency for more information.”

I know what they are feeling because I feel it too. Being diabetic, my chances of having another child are very slim. It’s heartwrenching. And so, we too hope to adopt a baby.
Our ad, unfortunately, is not quite so glamorous. But, in the spirit of prayer and love, we’ll post it anyways. And, though knowing it might not produce the results we are looking for, we hope it at least brings a smile to those who might suffer from the same excess of love in their homes that we do.

Financially unsecure family of four with one chronically ill parent, hope to provide a shared room with two other rambunctious children who may or may not be willing to also share their toys. We have our own home that won’t fall apart for another year or so, and food on our table everyday, which is proof that the Lord still provides miracles in our lives. We can cloth your child in the latest consignment store fashion, and can provide him or her with the best in children’s literature from the local library. While we can’t give them a private education, we can give them love. And after all, that’s the best education a child can get. We cannot provide financial care for the expectant mother, and if our credit is not accepted, the birth parents may have to split the cost of legal fees. Unless our phones have been turned off, please contact us directly. Rik and Michelle

But seriouslyI have a probelem with the current adoption system. There are so many children in this world in need of a good family who will love them eternally. Yet, the price is so steep. Are we selling our children to the rich and famous and those who can otherwise afford it, or are we really trying to place these children in homes where they will be loved forever, no matter the income? If the price of adoption was less, wouldn’t you think there would be less children living their lives alone? I hope that there aren’t children stuck in the system because their would-be adoptive parents can’t afford the rising costs of legal fees, home studies, state fees, child rearing classes, red tape, etc. Mine is.

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Oh so many years ago, as my 18th birthday was fast approaching, the time remaining for me to achieve the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts of America was dwindling just as quickly. Due to the combined efforts (read: loving and well-intentioned browbeating) of my parents, church leaders, and scout leaders, I somehow managed to eke out the requirements and earn my Eagle (the highest rank a boy can achieve) before time ran out.

Part of earning your Eagle rank is completing a large service project amassing more than 100 man-hours of service to your community. For mine, I went to Irvine Park and organized the restoration of the Harding Nature Trail. It is a self-guided nature trail, where you get a pamphlet from the ranger’s hut, follow the trail, and stop whenever there are numbered signposts to read your guide and learn about the plants next to that post. The trail was in pretty bad shape: part of it was badly eroded and difficult to maneuver, lots of signs were missing, or the plants that they were marking were long dead, and the whole thing was grown over with weeds. So, over the course of two Saturdays (if I remember right), we took out old signposts and dead plants, replacing them with brand-new signposts and live plants, weeded the whole quarter mile, and repaired the trail. It was a pretty large endeavor, and as I sit here remembering it, I can’t believe I pulled it off.

Because I completed it so close to my 18th birthday, then left to serve a mission for my church around my 19th birthday, then left for college fairly soon after returning from Spain, I really never went back. I have, however, always wondered what became of all the work we put into the trail. Did it survive? Did the next big rain wash out all the new dirt we put in? Did the transplanted plants decide they didn’t like the new view and give up the ghost? Did teenage vandals find the signposts too lacking in graffiti? I have no answers.

Until today. During a routine ego search on google (putting your own name into google to see what comes upcome on, you know you do them, too) , I found an article about the trail in the OCParks.com newsroom archives. Guess who gets mentioned by name.

I’m pretty glad it was a good thing I’m being remembered for. I simply had no idea that anyone even remembered.

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Bump.

Bump.

Bump.

Bump.

You’re awake. The darkness has subsided some since you first turned out the light. And rightly so, you suppose: your eyes should be accustomed to the dark after spending a few hours asleep in it. But, has it been a few hours? Or just a few minutes?

All you know is that it’s dark, your wife is sound asleep next to you, and you’re not. You turn overgently, so as to not wake her upand close your eyes.

Bump.

Bump.

Bump.

For the briefest of moments, you think that you’re listening to your heart. Your mind races wildly, chasing the ephemeral traces of what you were dreaming about just before waking, searching for something, anything, that could make your heart race. But it’s no use–it’s gone, a cool mist dissolving before your very eyes, it’s particles ricocheting off random bits of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, until they are so widely scattered that they are indistinguishable.

Bump.

Bump.

And then you realize. The bump is not your heart. It isn’t racing. It is slow, paced, rhythmic, but solitary. Not bah-bump, bah-bump. Just bump.

Bump.

And then you hear nothing. Perhaps a faint rustle, as of leaves in the wind, or of fabric brushing past fabric. You wait, straining, trying to catch a sliver of whatever it might have been. But no. There’s nothing. Again, you try to clear your mind and deliver yourself to the void.

Bah-bump.

It’s here. In the room. Your eyes open just in time to see dark shapes dart from your doorway to below the foot of your bed, out of sight. This was no dream, no synapses firing randomly as you transitioned from dreams to reality.

There is Something in the room.

And the worst part about it? You think you know what it is.

(more…)

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rpotd 1/29/2007

good to the last drop

This is kind of one of those odd shots from my stream that doesn’t really seem to fit what I normally shoot. This was taken for a group that I belong to over at flickr called the “Squared Circle” group. All pictures sent to the group must be of a circle that is transcribed inside a square, closely cropped to the edges of the circle. It must be a perfect circle. And it’s nice to have something creative.

While we were enjoying the 4th of July carnival that Simi Valley had put together for 2006, I also enjoyed a bottle of water. When I finished, I set it in the grass next to me, where we were waiting for the fireworks to begin. I looked into it, and realized I had a good candidate for the squared circle group. I really liked that I got the camera to focus on the bottom of the bottle for this one, titled “good to the last drop.”

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My sweet wife would like to file a complaint.

You see, she is a journalist by trade, trained in the fine art of reporting the news. When she writes, she aims at third graders. That’s right: journalists put their stories together so that third graders can understand them. Actual third graders may not give one flying hoot about Iran’s developing nuclear program, but reporters want them to at least comprehend what gets said about it on the news. Her mantra“shorter, sharper, stronger.” Extra words mean extra space or time which means something else has to get cut or not developed fully.

This training affects every part of her life: when we were taking our Advanced Writing course together at BYU, she was terrified of writing papers because she could never put together complex sentences (third graders don’t handle subordinate clauses and conjunctions that well, I suppose). It simply wasn’t in her nature.

This nature of hers also translates to social situations we find ourselves in. She listens. She observes. She says her two cents. She repeats, but only as absolutely necessary.

I, on the other hand, come from the other side of the galaxy as far as language is concerned. Beginning in middle or high school, when my best friend “Greg” (yes, that’s his real nameomitting the quotes would be a misspelling) introduced me to the wonderful Douglas Adams, I have always had a love for language. For the way it flows, feels, sounds. For the way it paints pictures. Along with this love of language came a love of great storytelling. Those masters that craft words as skillfully and beautifully as veteran sculptors hold a high place in my heart. I have tried throughout my life to imitate those that have particularly inspired me. And this, too, has affected my ability to function socially.

When I have a story to tell, it’s no simple recollection: it is a performance. And by performance, please do not let any community theatre production of Our Town obscure the vision here. By performance, I mean a Broadway classic, an epic, a magnum opus. Details are the lifeblood of storiesto abandon even one along the way would leave the tale scarred, wounded, incomplete. Plot is crucial. Suspense and timing are everything.

Time, on the other hand, means nothing.

I could hardly count the number of parties, dinners, or random encounters on the street during which I have been the recipient of some form of a swift but subtle kick to my shins under the table. It might be the briefest of glares, a firm squeeze of the hand, or an elbow to the ribs. Whatever form it takes, the meaning is typically the same:

Rik, you have been talking for the last eternity without any semblance of a point forming and I really think that the looks on their faces either mean that they are fighting back tears of boredom or that they are doing everything humanly possible to stop themselves from gnawing their own legs off in an attempt to escape so would you wrap this thing up as quickly as humanly possible? Please.

I always try to bring my finely crafted narrative to a close as quickly as can be accomodated by the story, but that’s probably never been fast enough for my sweetheart. And bless her patient heart, she’s still here.

For the most part, we’ve made our peace with each other. I try to watch the clock a bit more closely during social encounters, just to make sure I haven’t delayed our prearranged departure due to my prolonged storytelling, and she tries to find another party down the street whenever I look like I might be entering the prologue of another epic anecdote.

The problem, though, is that these self-imposed controls tend to relax whenever Michelle is not around. One recent example highlighted this, along with the fact that my wife might, once again, be right about me.

A co-worker of mine, that surprisingly still talks to me, asked me about something at work that I am fairly familiar with, and part of my response directed her to ask another co-worker, my carpool buddy, regarding a tracking method she used with her students. She thanked me and went to go find my carpool buddy; I started eating my lunch.

When she returned, she was far too excited for just having discussed student progress charts. Apparently, she and my friend had discussed me quite a bit as well, particularly my propensity for extended narrative. And what, exactly, did my carpool buddy have to say about this?

When he tells a story, it’s just like he’s unraveling this massive roll of toilet paper, unrolling it and unrolling it, and at the end, he hands you this intricately wrapped gift constructed entirely of that toilet paper and you say, “Where’d this come from?”

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this, but if there was ever such a thing as a toilet-related compliment, this might be it.

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rpotd 1/25/2007

my brother

I’m so in awe of this random set maker I’ve got working for me over at flickr. Everyday, it randomly selects ten pictures from my stream (of over 400 photos as I write this) and assembles them into a set. The first picture listed is the one that is used to represent that set. Usually, it does a great job of finding some really random shot on my stream to put first. And that’s the one I’ve been posting here, when I remember.

Today, however, it reached deep into my heartstrings and pulled one out that means a whole heck of a lot to us at our house. It is, quite likely, our absolutely most favorite picture of the two of them together from the past year.

And the kicker is that we produced it.

We didn’t have to go to a high-priced studio and hope that we got matched with a qualified photographer. Nope. We took the kids to A Day Out with Thomas and rode the train. Like most parents, we brought a camera. And then we took pictures.

Did I mention that the planets happened to align at the moment I snapped this one? That always helps.

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