Thursday, April 16, 2015

Five books I'm grateful for

I've been thinking about the way a book can change a life--in a spiritual sense, sure, but just as often in down-to-earth sense, an everyday "oh, yes THIS is what it is like to be human" sort of way.  The kind of book that moves me the way natural and man-made worlds sometimes do--in small, unexpectedly beautiful ways; a view-from-Tokyo-Tower kind of book; a shore-thrashing-winter-gale kind of book; a Uinta-Valley-spring-meadow kind of book; a belly-laughing-five-year-old kind of book.  Here are a few on my list, with micro summaries.

1. Leaping by Brian Doyle

Micro-summary: Love God, and wrestle with your kids. Or is it love your kids, and wrestle with God?

Here's a selection.

2. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Micro-summary: Justice is the most important, and least attainable virtue in the world. Oh, and you're not a real cowboy unless you can break sixteen wild horses in four days while all the local villagers watch.

Here's a selection.

3. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Micro-summary: A beautifully lyric answer to one of many questions we don't ask nearly enough in this country--what does it mean to be a Latina woman from a poor immigrant family living in the urban United States?

Here's a selection.

4. Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

Micro-Summary: Poems that give voice to the families who fled from New Orleans, who stayed behind, who braved and were buried by the waters of Katrina, and to the dogs tied up by those families escaping the storm, and, in the opening poems, a voice to the Hurricane itself. Dazzling.

Here's a selection: 

5. Notes from no Man's land by Eula Biss

Micro-Summary: Essays on race in America, and the shockingly slow progress we are making towards equality, written in a sometimes lyric, sometimes analytic voice shot through with wit, clarity, and a bewildering ability to juxtapose seemingly unrelated ideas that reveal some old truths in important new ways.

here's a selection (click on the "play audio sample button).

These are five of min. What are five of yours?

Sunday, April 12, 2015


1. Air travel.  I left Minneapolis this morning at 7:30 and arrived back in Springville, UT in time for 1pm church. 

2. My boys. They were all very happy to see me come home (okay, so they knew I had some small gifts and a little candy for each of them, but still..)

3. Melissa. It just takes a few days on the road to appreciate her friendship and company. I went to the Walker Art Institute in Minneapolis and kept wanting to ask Melissa's opinion about the art. I have a good idea of what she'll like and what she won't, but I like to here her explanations of why (she took me to an art museum on our third date as a test of sorts to see if I could last an entire exhibit.).  The Walker was fantastic, but not as good without Melissa.

4. Sunday School.  We read Alma 7:11-14 today and talked about the broad scope of the atonement--not just Jesus's power to conquer sin, but the mystery of His ability to soak up sickness and sorrow, pulverize pain, eradicate infirmities, and mollify every malady. Class members talked about the challenges faced by loved ones -  everything from mental illness to drug abuse, and to hear their stories was humbling.

5. home.

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”  ― William Faulkner

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ― Maya Angelou,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On Portland cityscapes, Texas cotton fields, and Wasatch mountains.

I sat next to a man today on the airplane who runs cost estimates for highway projects.  He was born in Utah, has lived in Utah all his life, and he told me he will probably die in Utah.

Part of me wondered if it wasn't a shame for a person to stay in one place for their entire life.

Another part of me wondered why I have occasionally felt a lack of a man without a country.

Another part of me wonders if that is just my nostalgia for Portland talking.

If you ever lived in  Portland for any amount of time, and then moved away--you know what I'm talking about.

It is, I imagine, what nostalgia for "the old country," feels like.  Portland is my "old country," and I have irrational, sentimental fits of longing for moss and douglas fir trees and rain-wet streets that stay wet hours after the storm passes.

The other day I saw a photograph of Portland and just the image of it made me pine for P-Town as one might for an old lover. Sometimes that longing is visceral. Like a shadow limb.  A ghost of an embrace that has imprinted itself on my skin.

When I lived in Lubbock, it was worse.  The million acres of cotton fields--they were the culprits, those  billowy harbingers of discontent.  It was a two hour drive to the nearest wilderness--and that was dusty canyon land. Portland then felt like some forsaken Eden.

Now I live in Utah, in a valley that sits below Mountains that I once thought were brown.  The day we drove back into Utah County after living in Texas for a few years--an August afternoon in 2012, I remember thinking, ""the mountains look so green."  This is not a word I would have used to describe them 13 years ago when I moved to Utah. This is not a word anyone associates with the Wasatch Front.

But this is home.  For now.  Forever? Who knows.  The sun breaks over those mountains every morning on my way to work, and in the evening, that same light makes the mountains glow a gentle pink. The predominant natural image of my childhood was the everygreen tree--or trees, really. Thousands of them, a legion of green pines and cedars and firs; always the threat that they might take over.  For my boys it will be these mountains--and the way they watch over us like giants, asleep on the valley's edge.

Mountains or trees? Cotton or Cottonwood? Oak or Douglas fir? Endless horizon or endless mountain range? Does it make a difference? has it already?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Night at the theater for Night at the Museum

It's spring break here in Springville and that means lots of family fun for the Franklin Fam.  This morning Melissa took the tikes and their nickles to the nickle arcade, then to the BYU Museum of Art where I met them for a half-hour of musing over the Museum's many masterpieces--mostly magnificent miniature Origami originals by avid artists from around the world. I went back to work to get a bit more work done and they stayed at the museum to fold some of their own origami originals (this is not one of them pictured here, but rather the work of a right swell paper folder named Richard Sweeney). Then about dinner time I came home for dinner and Nolan and I played a little baseball and we all ate a lickety split meal of split pea soup and ham before climbing in the car and (Dodge) caravaning over to Provo to watch Ben Stiller Ham it up in the third installment of the Night at the Museum franchise which, frankly, was not as funny as the first, but better than the last, and will, quite possibly, be the last of the NATM franchise. Which is too bad, because Ben knows how to bring the funny, if you know what I mean.

And when the movie ended we hurried home to end the day with a sweet snack (at least for the boys, who ate left over chocolate cheese cake from Easter Dinner), and then got themselves to bed.

okay, enough of that....

On the way home from the theater tonight, Melissa and I mused about the fact that ten years from now we will only have Ian at home-that Nolan will be 18 and Callan 21, and that ten years ago we were just getting started on this family ride. It's all a blur really, so I'm glad we took some time today to slow down and do more than get things done.  Love the wife. Love the kids. Love Springville. 


Monday, April 6, 2015

 God was displeased with those who built the tower of babel, but this tower of general conference was a big hit. Every six months we have a marathon TV event and watch ten hours of conference sessions where we hear from a variety of church leaders from around the world, including the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It's a feast of good council, and the boys have learned to play quietly and listen (more or less).  Blocks are a popular activity during the conference.

Some great lines from this April's Conference, courtesy of the internet meme factory.

The boys are also taking part in a memory study that analyzes there brain activity before and after physical activity.  This meant a 7 am trip to BYU on Saturday morning and some time laying very still inside an MRI machine.

 Here's Nolan's brain and 3-d image of his head, sans hair.

 And Here's Callan.  They both earned a little money and we got to see proof that they have brains. Ha ha ha.

 Nolan had a pack meeting this month and they did a funny skit that involved pantomiming fishing.

 Grandma came down to visit on Wednesday this past week to see Callan's school program (above).  Afterward she and Nolan played around a bit together on the piano and violin.  So fun to have family close.

For St. Patrick's Day we got together with Melissa's side of the family. We had corned beef, potatoes, Salad and lots of green.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Franklin Family Photo shoot 2014

One cold morning in lat December...

we convinced the  boys to put on some coordinating outfits and head out into the snow for a family photo shoot...

They all had great attitudes, but the photos don't was COLD!!!! 

You can Photoshop red cheeks...

bunt you can't Photoshop clenched fists and chattering teeth...

We all took turns getting our photos taken by the big tree in the front of the house while everyone else waited inside.

And Callan had his first practice as family photographer.  He did pretty good.

And no family photo shoot would be complete without a few goofy shots.  Notice Nolan doing the "Steve Walk" from Minecraft.

He might actually be doing an impression of Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf doing the big foot walk...


Or maybe an impression of his older brother who did a similar pose about a month earlier at Nolan's baptism.

And just to prove they were tough, the boys decided they wanted to take this shot out in the snow.  Ever since, they've been walking around the house and without warning they strike a muscle man pose and say, "Check out the gun show!"  (I think we can blame that one on Uncle Chad... :-) )

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Our Busy Fall - 2014

Here are the boys on an indian summer walk in late September. They spent most of the month saying, "I can't believe how nice the weather is."  We've spent most of the past few months saying, "I can't believe how big you are all getting." The boys started school, got back into their music, and I started classes at the Y. Melissa is serving on the PTA, running the book club at the library, and serving in the Relief Society at church.
We dressed as cowboys for Halloween and went door to door holding up neighbors for candy.   We usually dress up as a family for Halloween in some way (see below), and sometimes that can be pretty time consuming and expensive. This year, we really didn't want to spend a lot of money, so we came up with this idea...we ended up buying two or three shirts at the thrift store--the neckerchiefs the boys took home from a work party, and the vests are made of felt and hot-glued together, and we borrowed  hats (it helps to have a cowboy for a grandfather).

One year in Lubbock the boys were sharks.  The sweaters are still around the house, and every once in a while a shark is spotted swimming through the house.

Our busiest year in Lubbock we opted for bat hats.  I can't believe how little Ian is!

 I think this was my favorite year...And Nolan as the clock toting crock! You just can't beat that.
Not our best year in terms of theme.  But again, Nolan as a duck? This is why Halloween exists. For duck costumes on babies.  Oh, and for chocolate.
The Franklin gang...they specialize in stage coaches, west-bound trains, and snack size candybars.
Completely unrelated to Halloween, but a fun photo. We stopped in at a military surplus store in Orem and they wanted to try everything on. 

And Fall photo dumps have to have pies. Right? Cranberry pie.  I was totally unoconvinced that this would be any good.  Mostly I was grumpy that we weren't going to make a chocolate pie.  But this...this was good pie.

We ate up in Salt Lake City with Melissa's family.   Their apartment has a great social room with a kitchen and fun dining area.

After dinner we took a walk through memory grove, which is just a few blocks from their apartment. 

A few weeks later we had Nolan's baptism.  A bunch of family came over to the house afterward for brunch.  

Okay this jumps us forward to Christmas eve. Our ward to a "truck stop Christmas" service project inwhich we baked 480 cookies and bagged them up along with a small Christmas note and then delivered them to semi-truck drivers parked at truck stops near our neighborhood.

About 15 people came and helped assembled bags and then on Christmas Eve night about eight o'clock we delivered the bags with the help of Melissa's parents and two families from the ward. We met a few truckers, but most were tucked into their cabs or out of their trucks, so we hung the bags from their mirrors.  We delivered 96 bags.
Also that night...we all put towels on our heads and pretended to be Israelite shepherds watching flocks by night...

And Ian put out cookies and carrots for Santa

And Nana and Papa stayed the night on Christmas Eve.  We actually had to wake little boys up on Christmas morning.  We could't believe it.  

Ian's favorite present was his new guitar.  He's been asking for one for years.

That two-fist celebration is Callan, excited about his six-week community rec fencing class.

The boys spent a lot of time in the heavy snow that fell on Christmas.

 And we made Christmas Cake for Christmas Dinner dessert.  This is a popular Christmas dessert in Japan and we try to make one every year.
Saturday after Christmas we had a white elephant party with a lot of Melissa's family.  
And that same day I took Nolan, Callan, and Cousin JT to the BYU game vs. Gonzaga.  

This december we also got around to bottling some rootbeer with a homemade root beer kit that we got for Christmas last year.  It was the best root beer we'd ever had.

We did some sledding at Rock Canyon Park and two of our sleds didn't make it home.

 and Callan got to go skiing for the first time.  

That was our busy Fall..  What I didn't mention above is that over the thanksgiving Holiday we spent almost every day from Friday to Friday with somebody sick at the house.--really sick.  First Ian, then me, then Nolan, then Mom, then Callan.  We had a brief break long enough to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, but we spent the entire time feeling pretty awful.  So our bar for Christmas break was pretty low--if no one got sick then that would be a success. And we did it. No one got sick.  We did some meaningful service, made some great food, and saw a lot of family with no major drama anywhere.