Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Grew Up 5 Miles from this Spot

washington 2008 193_a_b

I grew up only 5 miles from this spot but 2 weeks ago on a trip back to visit my parents was the first time that I was able to see something like this. Before I left Washington 7 years ago, a buddy and I would go to Boulevard Park in Bellingham for lunch and watch whales. We would often see them in August and September there in Bellingham Bay. Even then I couldn't imagine seeing one with Mt. Baker in the background. It was truly a remarkable moment. One that I will treasure always.

Washington Whatcom Falls Visit 2008

Whatcom Falls 053

They posted a sign this year at Whatcom Falls that stated that it was against the law to swim there. They said that there would be a $1000 fine. I was disappointed. It didn't stop me from jumping in. But I did not enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. It is still a gorgeous spot. When it is nearly 100 degrees outside who could resist jumping in.

When you hit that water for the first time and feel that rush of ice-water engulf your body. You pop-up and you can hardly catch your breath. You then look up at the cliff where you had so recently stood. It is a rush of exhilaration that runs through your body. It is the shortest moment that has a long lasting memory. This memory is connected through your life as a thread that ties that shortest moment to all the years in your past when you have enjoyed that very thing in that very place and had those very same feelings and emotion.

Whatcom Falls has a richness that can't be found too many other places on God's green Earth. It has a richness of sight, smells, and emotion. It is even combined with a richness of friends and family because a visit to Whatcom Falls is often accompanied by a picnic.

I don't know that a sign could ever keep me from jumping. There is too much life to be enjoyed in this spot.

Stinky Tofu


I went to Taiwan on my mission. After two months in the mission training center in Provo I left to Taiwan with 19 other missionaries. We were greeted warmly and then sent out on a scavenger hunt to put our newly learned Chinese to the test.

One of the 20 items we were sent out to find and bring back was Chou-Dou-Fu. The exact translation of this is Stinky Bean Curd. I was the first one back with all twenty of my items. I picked up the Stinky Bean Curd last. It wasn't hard to find. I only had to follow the smell of the dairy farm. Quite literally this unique street food smells like cow crap. I had them load it up with the hot sauce, and I hurried back to the mission office in Taipei. This was my first hot meal in Taiwan, and though it smelled horrible. It turned out to be a great way to eat hot-sauce. Fried to a crisp on the outside and tender and chewy on the inside. It gave the chili paste hot-sauce just the right texture.

In Taiwan old men would ride their 3 wheeled bikes through the neighborhoods yelling at the top of their lungs "CHOOOOOOU-DOOOOOOOU-FUUUUUU" and we would run downstairs and buy some. It became a favorite street-food of mine from Taiwan.

Since returning from Taiwan I have not seen it or tasted it or smelled it. For the first couple of years I would pass the dairy farm and smell that similar smell and my mouth would water.

Two weeks ago I was in GuangZhou, China. I walked outside one of my favorite wholesale jewelry markets and I smelled that smell. It was the first time in almost 20 years that I smelled that smell. I couldn't help it. I had to have a serving. It smelled as bad but tasted as good as I remembered. It was a pleasure that I had forgotten. It is so much fun for me to visit China. It feels like going home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Turning Points

DSC_4732b, originally uploaded by Ernest Pratt.

This is Kohl. Kohl is my youngest son. He is the most enigmatic child I know. I took Kohl, and his sister on a road trip to San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico immediately after my ex-wife and I announced our divorce. It was refreshing to be on the road with my children. It helped me to realize that I could be an influence in my children’s lives forever.
This trip gave me great perspective. On the way home we stopped at a McDonalds in Hermosillo. I think the kids got sick playing in the play place. The next day they both got sick all over my car. They got sick all over my car many times. Before my divorce this would have upset me. I would have felt put-out. This time though… it was an opportunity to show them how much I loved them. We made an unplanned stop at a hotel in Flagstaff, where we could clean-up and I could just take care of my precious children.
Helping my children was no longer something that ‘I had to do’. This became something that ‘I got to do’. This road trip became a huge turning point in my life. It represents a point in my life where I grew-up a little. Man! I wish I had learned these things 16 years earlier when I thought I was ready to get married.

Kohl was mesmerized by the beach and the sea. We were usually the only ones on the beach. We spent all day there every day for a week. It never grew old. With sunsets like this, and temperatures that allowed us to play in the water into the evening. It was a paradise with my children. This moment represents life altering epiphanies for me. It gives me the courage to move on and do it right this time.

San Carlos Road Trip

San Carlos Road Trip, originally uploaded by Access Granted.

I have been to Mexico many times. I have been there for business to places like Mexico City, Monterrey and Torreon. I have been to border towns Nogales, Tiajuana, and Juarez.

I love Mexico. I always wante to share it with my kids. I wanted to go to a place with out tourists and I wanted the freedom to drive. I wanted to be on my own schedule. I didn't want the typical Mexican vacation with cowds of drunk Norte Americanos and kitschy souveniers.

I had always wanted to drive my own car and take my children for a foreign experience.
San Carlos Sonora was the perfect place. It took 17 hours to drive from Salt Lake. This was really not too bad. It takes just as long to drive to the place where I grew up in Northwest Washington. The trip down was gorgeous great weather. Not too hot. Beautiful views of State and National Parks. Great Sunrises and Sunsets.

San Carlos was amazing. I think it may have been off season, because there were absoulutely no crowds. It was still warm enough for swimming in the sea and in the out door pool.

I have many adventures for work. I travel all over the world. This was my oppurtunity to give my two little kids a taste of that same adventure. Parts of it were hard. That increased the adventure was all. To instil in them the sense that we could plan and then accomplish something that not many people get to do is an invaluable gift that I can pass on.

I plan to do this again. It will leave an indelible impression on these two little kids.


I have been inspired by a friend tonight. Learning about her plans and pursuits to follow her passions has made me think about my passions and the point in my life when I stopped pursuing them.
I really wanted to be an Anthropologist . After my mission I really focused on just that. I took classes at the university, and with my background my professors fell in love with me right away. 

In the first few months of my mission I lived in a large area on the Pacific side of Taiwan. There were many villages where Taiwan aboriginal people lived. These were the Taroko, and Amoko tribes.  I was fascinated with these groups. I had no idea they existed before I landed in Taiwan. They had a language far different from Chinese. I found them very interesting. They were extremely friendly, and open. They were very physical people that almost tackled you when they greeted you.  The older generation were exceptionally friendly. They had tattooed faces. They loved to tell stories. We befriended this lady that swore she was over 100 years old. Everyone called her Auntie 100.  She would walk miles a day to the mountains to pick fruit of which she would eagerly share with us. Whenever she saw us she would almost tackle us with a big warm hug. It was common for her to slap the backs of our necks.  

This is me chewing on a betelnut palm fruit straight from the tree. Betelnut chewing is common in South Asia. It provides an alkaloid high.
I was so fascinated with their language I diagramed the grammar and started keeping a dictionary. By the time I left the area my Taroko was as good as my Chinese.

After I got back, I was called to be the ward mission leader. Right after that, our ward absorbed the Lummi Indian branch. (This was a branch that my Grandma had started in the 1960s.) It was my job to track down all of the branch members and find out where they were and let them know where and when we meet. Also I found out what we could do for them etc...

Many of the people were older and knew my grandma. These folks seemed to enjoy talking to me and I spent as much time as I could out there. When I realized these people still spoke Lummi, I was enthralled and I learned as much grammar and vocabulary as I could. I wrote it all down in those marbled Mead notebooks. This was all before Windows 3.11 was
sold so keeping it on computer didn't occur to me. I shared these notes with the Anthropology dept. at Western Washington
University. It wasn't long before I was in the Honors Anthropology program.

The next year I got married. I was young, and though I knew what my passion was, I also wanted to do the right thing. My ex-father-in-law found out what I was studying and he came unglued. He couldn't see how my family could survive on an academic's income.

Because of my naivety I succumbed and changed my degree to something I wasn't so interested in but would make more money.

At the time I worked at a Software company, and soon realized a career that most college grads couldn't get into. I was making more money than my already college graduated friends from High School, and to get ahead I had to learn things that I couldn't at college. So I quit college and focused on my software career.

I have worked for two companies since my mission. A company in Washington that sold Business Software and a company here in UT that sells Educational Software.

The good news is my dream has kind of come true. No, I'm not a professor who gets to study little known cultures. But... I work for a company who sells language learning software all over the world. I'm their International Technology Engineer. I get to travel around every once in awhile and experience some pretty cool things.

I am going to pursue my passions. It was a mistake to do anything else.



One of my favorite places in Beijing was a place just across the street from TianAnMen Square. This place was a maze of winding narrow streets. Cars could not navigate streets so narrow. Motorcycles even had a hard time getting past pedestrians during most times of the day.

There were little shops near the entrance where you could have silk clothes made. You could buy souvenirs. Further in there were old homes and restaurants. Everywhere you walk you could the older crowd speaking in their Peking Hua, a dialect of Chinese with a thick tongued accent.

I have had fantastic meals in this market. Restaurants were not proper restaurants, they were just homes open up to the public. To walk down these streets was to step back in time. Most of the buildings were more than two hundred years old. To walk into one of these restaurants put you in another world. You would have an old man snoring in the corner wearing his 'mao suite' on his table would be a pile of spit out bones, by his side would be an equally slumbering dog. There would be a group of men at a table getting drunk playing a drinking game, voices getting louder with every chug. There would not be menus every dish would need to be discussed by the girl taking the order.

To me this was always the 'classic BeiJing' the 'classic China'. This was where in the middle of international class modern city, you could take a short walk and experience the beauty and feel of times past.

Last year on a trip to China with my oldest son. This was one of the places I just knew would be a highlight. I wanted to show him this 'classic China'. I wanted to step back in time with him to this place that time forgot. 

Gate to the Old City 

Of course I had talked this place up. I told Dylan all about it. When we got there... we were three months too late. The whole area had been bull-dozed but for the gate at the entrance.  This was a real let down. I understand the need to modernize. I understand the need for progress. When large historic areas are removed... you can not help but have feelings about it.

Romantic Love

I wrote this months ago... My thoughts my have changed a little bit on this subject: Please read with a grain of salt.

This year has been tumultuous for my life. There have been many experiences around this idea of Romantic Love that has drawn my attention and my thoughts. I have put a lot of energy into figuring out what Romantic Love is to me. I am feeling deep love for another person right now. I am trying to figure out what makes up those feelings.

A person does not fall in love with another through altruism. Romantic Love is a selfish emotion. Selfish in this case is not a negative trait. Selfishness can be a virtue.

You fall in love with a person because you regard them as a value to you.

You can't fall in love with a person by saying... "You mean nothing to me. I don't care if you live or die, but you need me so I am in love with you." That isn't love. No one that is conscious of who they are, where they are going and what they want would desire this kind of love.

Romantic Love is the choice of another person as a great value. What you fall in love with is the same values you treasure embodied in another person. These values can be beauty, intelligence, actions etc...

You fall in love with a person because they contribute to your personal happiness. I say this very carefully. Someone who determines their happiness based on what another person does or does not do is destined for misery. I believe that happiness is a choice, but people find that they enjoy some things more than others. People find that they have affinity for some things more than others. If you find that another person contributes to those things that you enjoy or have affinity for, then they contribute to your happiness. The key is not to expect these contributions from another person. Un-met expectations kill Romantic Love.

If you try to base your life exclusively on your relation to another person. It doesn't matter how wonderful or however much in love, it will end up to be a relationship of dependence.

Each person should be free to choose their own creative goal or purpose. If they are like two individual people traveling on the same journey and happen to find that they are traveling on the same journey together then love is a fantastic supplement to their individual creativity.

Romantic Love is that selfish emotion. It is that choice to be on that journey with another. When felt for the first time or in new ways this causes excitement. This excitement is a fun and magical thing.

Whatcom Falls - Bellingham, WA

falls Whatcom Falls Park is this spectacularly wooded city park not far from downtown. Through the middle of the park runs Whatcom Creek which runs from Lake Whatcom to Bellingham bay through a series of beautiful mossy waterfalls. The word Whatcom comes from the Lummi phrase meaning "Noisy Waters".

As winter snows melt and the sun begins to once again warm the earth my heart always drifts to thoughts of Whatcom Falls. To me Whatcom Falls represents the best part of summer.

mossy_tree The forest here has a primordial quality. The trees are dense, especially along the creek. The rays of the sun do not touch much of the ground. It is thoroughly filtered by the trees. The sides of the trails are covered by bushes weighed down by bright sweet tart huckleberries. The first water fall is merely 100 feet from the parking lot. It really is beautiful. You can see where the creek has cut itself into the stone. All around the falls are vine maple trees and a thick layer of moss and ferns.

A minute walk from the parking lot is a little slice of heaven. There is a waterfall that empties into a wide pool with cliffs on either side. There are ledges up to 50 feet tall to jump or dive from. It is a fantabulous place to spend a hot summer afternoon. After a day of working in the sun, I would look forward to going to the falls with friends to cool off. We also had a blast trying to show each other up, to see who the bravest was. On the top of the biggest cliff you could climb a tree and jump from a limb into the frigid waters below. You could also dive into where the waterfall hits the water. The walls of the cliff here are more narrow. It only gives you a 10 foot diameter hole to dive into. Nothing beats falling into the froth where water hits water. After touching the bottom of the pool the force of the waterfall spits you out into the wider pool.


One day after school many from our senior class left to go jump the cliffs. Me and several other guys decided to jump off of the cliff at the same time. I was on the far end. I guess it was the shallow end. When I hit my feet sunk deep into the gravel at the bottom of the pool. My hair didn't get wet though. I had jumped into an are that only had a few feet of water. It was enough to slow me down... but not enough for my head to go under.

I enjoy taking my kids here now. There are few places on earth like this. You have unsurpassed beauty and spectacular recreation.

A summer day spent at Whatcom Falls was a day well spent.

Life is Now

summerpalacesunsetcrop01 The more you are focused on 'time' past and future the more you miss the now (the present).

The eternal present is the space in which your whole life unfolds.

Life is now.

Eckhart Tolle - The Power of Now

Peace Comes When I Accept What I Can Not Change

Nearly 12 years ago my wife and I discovered through an ultrasound that the daughter we were expecting had a problem with a valve in her heart. The valve did not close all the way and it made it so that her blood didn't pump effectively. She was fine as long as she was inside her mother, but we knew that soon after she was born we would have to take some sort of action to save her life.

We didn't know what we were going to have to do to save our daughter. We didn't know how severe our daughter's problem was. There was no way to know until after she was born.

There were priesthood blessings. I gave my wife Kathleen more than one blessing. I blessed our daughter Cheyenne through Kathleen. Every time I gave a blessing I knew that everything was going to be okay but I could not ever say the words that I wanted to say in the blessing. I had wanted to say that the doctors would recognize what needed to be done. I wanted to say that the doctors would be directed by God's hand and be able to fix the problem with Cheyenne's heart and that she will live and grow and have a long and happy life. I couldn't add that to the blessings. I wanted to. I was told not to. The only thing I could say was that it would be okay... I could say that Heavenly Father knows and loves Kathleen, I could say that Heavenly Father knows and loves Cheyenne and has important things for her to do. I listened closely to other blessings that were given to Kathleen by her dad. Similar things were said. Never was said the words that I wanted to hear.

As the delivery day got closer the apprehension got worse. We did not know what was going to happen and that was the worst thing. The not knowing was devastating to our morale.

When Cheyenne was born the apprehension was not over, it got worse. The first thing was that the doctors had to determine what the options were for a treatment plan. We were given three options. We could have them operate and try to fix the valve.  We could keep Cheyenne at the hospital and let her die. We could take Cheyenne home and let her die. We had no idea how long it would take for her to die, but it was almost
a guarantee that she would die if we did nothing. If we had her operated on, that was
probably the only way she could have a chance. Knowing these options did not bring peace.

We decided to have Cheyenne operated on. Deciding this did not bring us peace. We still did not know what the outcome of the operation would be.

We gave Cheyenne a priesthood blessing... Again I was not allowed to say that she would heal. I was able to say that everything would be okay. I was able to say that Heavenly Father knows the desires of our hearts and he did know what would be for our benefit. I was able to say that the best thing for us would happen. This did not bring us peace.

We had to wait for Cheyenne to be healthy enough for the operation. In the Pediatric ICU she had been losing strength. She finally rallied and she strengthened and she would be operated on the next morning. That night in prayer, I poured my heart out to Heavenly Father. The answer came to me to accept the inevitable. I prayed that if Cheyenne was here on Earth only to get a body, that she would be taken soon so that she would not have to continue living here in pain.  This prayer was my outward expression of accepting what was to be. It was my acceptance of the situation right then and my inability to change it.


This brought peace.


I was at peace throughout Cheyenne's operation the next morning. I was at peace when the came and told us that she had died on the operating table. I was at peace throughout the funeral.

The only time I did not feel at peace after I had decided to accept the inevitable was when I realized that my wife was not at peace with what had happened with Cheyenne. I think that she was able to understand it intellectually. But she refused to accept that it was the best thing for Cheyenne and our family. She was not at peace, and I let myself hurt for this.

This last year has been very tumultuous. My marriage fell apart. My wife divorced me. I dated and let myself fall in love a couple of times. These relationships were great and loved being in them but they were not long-lasting and I am sad that these relationships did not last.

It took me a long time to accept my divorce, and that my ex-wife would prefer to date another man than focus on fixing what was wrong with our relationship. It was difficult for me to accept the loss of the new relationships that I had since my divorce. The more I accept these losses though and accept my situation as it stands right now the more at peace I feel. This allows me to focus on my life now and it gets me out of the unhealthy concerns of 'what broke' in the past.

My acceptance of me, my acceptance of my situation right now brings me peace.

Monday, August 18, 2008