A Christmas Carol – the Untold Story

For most of us, when we hear the name Scrooge, images of stingy, bitter old miser spring to mind. We think of the man who called Christmas a humbug. The man who said, “If I could work my will, those who go around with ‘Merry Christmas on their lips’, should be boiled in their own pudding.” Through the story told by Charles Dickens, we see a man who detached himself from the human race in everyway that matters. He is neither charitable nor kind. His nephew asks what good does all his money do him? He doesn’t even make himself comfortable. The beginning and majority of the story show what kind of person Ebenezer Scrooge is, and how he became that way.

Sadly, it seems this is what most of us remember about A Christmas Carol. The beginning of the story we are told there is more, and we must understand that Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, had been dead for seven years, or the story to be told will make no sense. The story walks us through the life of Ebenezer Scrooge, and we see that when he was young he loved life. He had been betrothed. But somewhere along the line he had lost sight of the things that made life enjoyable. He chose business and money over people and the possibility of a family. Even as an old man, he now seems to somewhat regret his choices. As the story progresses we are shown a stubborn and unwavering man. We see a man, who can’t or won’t face his life’s choices, and therein, his mistakes. When he meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he can no longer deny where his life’s choices have led him. He begs for a second a chance. He says he will be better. He says he will keep the spirit of Christmas alive, that all three shall live within him, if he can just have a second chance. His plea his truly heartfelt, and he has truly seen the error of his ways. In this moment we see a man in despair, a man who regrets the choices he has made, a repentant man. We are led to believe that it is too late for Ebenezer Scrooge. But then he awakens on Christmas morning in his own bedchamber. His elation is full; he is as surprised, as we are, to find himself in familiar surroundings. He wastes no time, and sets out immediately to make good on his promise that he made in his moment of despair when he thought all was lost. As he goes about Christmas day with a song on his lips and skip in his step, we see a man who is full of joy and of life. A man who is aware of the mistakes he has made, and who ask for forgiveness of those he has wronged. At the end of the story we are told that Ebenezer Scrooge was better than his word. “It was said he knew how to keep Christmas and keep well, if any man possessed the knowledge.” We are told that he kept Christmas the whole year long, and that he became as good a friend, as good a master as the old city had ever seen. That he was like a second father to Tiny Tim. This is where the story leaves us, and this is what most of us miss. We miss the beauty, the miracle of what happened on that Christmas Eve. We are shown a man, who truly repented, a man who changed his ways. If we think about it, it’s almost like looking in a mirror. Aren’t we all striving to become a better version of ourselves?

As mortals it seems that we are drawn to the tragedy of life. As we go through life it seems that far too often we see pain of what someone endures and it becomes the only part of the story we focus on. Take for example the story of Job in the bible. Here was a righteous man who loved God. He was a faithful man, and yet what do we remember about Job? We remember all the tragic things he endured. I think most of miss that Job showed exemplary faith even in the face of tragedy. When he has lost everything, when his own family questioned his own faithfulness, he remained steadfast and true. He praised God, and knew that whether rich or poor he still loved God, and he would not murmur against God. As mortals we seem to have a hard time focusing on the good that can come from tragedy; the personal growth that can be a direct result of going through difficult and hard times.

More to the point how many of us miss the magical part of A Christmas Carol? We focus on the Scrooge at the beginning of the story. When we call someone a Scrooge most of us are indirectly calling someone a miser; implying that they have no Christmas Spirit. Are we doing an injustice to the story, to what Scrooge became? Aren’t we missing the beauty of A Christmas Carol? We seem to miss the miracle that we can change, that we can become better. It is my hope that we will think about Ebenezer Scrooge in a new light. That we will remember that he became a changed man. I hope that the next time we think about calling someone a Scrooge that we will reconsider. That if we do call someone a Scrooge, it is because we have witness the kindness, the charity, and the goodwill that Scrooge showed after his fateful night.

The Loss of Innocence

Sometime in the year 2012 there was a story that broke stating Lance Armstrong would no longer participate in the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation against him for the use of banned substances during his seven wins of the Tour de France.  Right away the speculation began – it’s true he doped, he used performance enhancing drugs – so many were so eager and willing to say he was guilty.  I on the other hand was not ready to accept those statements as fact.  I believed him when he said he never doped, never took performance enhancing substances. After the initial story, I never really gave it much thought.  Never kept up with what followed.  I heard that he was going to be stripped of his seven Tour de France wins, but I thought big deal.  WE ALL know who won.

Fast forward to Jan 18, 2013.  Oprah interviews Lance and point blank asks, “Did you use performance enhancing drugs?”  The answer given by Lance, “Yes”.  For the next hour and half to two hours Oprah and Lance discuss the whys, the why nots, and what it all means.  In the end the fact remains Lance Armstrong used a variety of performance enhancing methods during the time he won the seven Tour de France titles.  As he states, he was not the only one.  The use was prolific throughout bicycle racing.  It proves that he was better at it than the others.  Perhaps in one sense he still was the best, since once the titles were stripped from him, they would have had to go to the person that had finished out of the top ten to find someone who had not been doping.  Even this might be the case, it doesn’t make what he did right.  And to so vehemently deny using drugs, while knowing the whole time, he was – what does that say?  It says there is some serious character flaw there.

This has been one of the toughest things for me to write about.  I have  tried several times to finish this, but at this point I’m not even sure the effort is relevant.  What can be said?  When Lance won the first Tour it was the culmination of the ultimate come back and under dog story most people would have ever known.  Surviving cancer and the loss of one testicle to training and become one of the all time best cyclists the world would ever see; all while doing it drug fee – what could be better?  Unfortunately it turns out that it was not an underdog story of the ages, it was a one guy that trained hard, but used performance enhancers to make him even better.  True most people in cycling at that time were using some kind of drug to make them better, but the worst part was to have Lance so often and so fiercely deny using anything. All of it was one big lie. Of course there are all the cliches – cheaters never prosper and so on.  Personally I would have been fine never knowing that he had used.  Knowing that he used, and seeing seven Tour titles stripped from him does nothing for me. I don’t feel any sort of vindication.  I feel like a child feels when they find out the truth about Santa Clause for the fist time.  How could I have been so stupid?  So naive?  And in the whole scheme of things what does it matter?

I also wonder what it is with those who can’t stand to see someone succeed?  Become too successful, do it supposedly honestly, and you better be sure there are no skeletons in your closet.  And for those who say they have nothing to hide, I ask do you have blinds covering your windows? Everyone has something that is a little embarrassing that they’ve done in the past.  Something that is not necessary for public consumption, but in today’s no holds barred and scandal loving society it seems that tearing someone down, knocking them off their lofty perch is just irresistible.  In the end it seems everyone lost.  America lost a hero, Lance lost personal integrity and the Tour de France lost its winning-est champion ever.

Social Media – who needs it?

In this day and age where so many of us are connected through the Internet and social media sites, I start to wonder what the point is.  Recently I posted on Facebook a status notice that I was going to be in Phoenix the next day and that I was looking for a golf partner.  This is what I posted:

“Throwing this out there for anyone in the Phoenix area that might have tomorrow off or a half day.  I’m going to be in Phoenix tomorrow and would love to play a round of golf tomorrow afternoon, but I hate golfing by myself.  Anyone interested let me know – thanks!!”

Four hours since posting this, I’ve had one person “like” it and they are St. Louis Missouri.  Sometimes, I wonder why I even post stuff to Facebook, because it sure seems that I might as well be yelling into the wind.  The sound of silence is louder than the stuff I post.  Either I am not nearly as funny as I think I am, or those who are on my friends’ list really are more like vague acquaintances.  I don’t know, perhaps I am making a bigger deal out of this than it really is, but I know there are some friends on Facebook that like to golf; I’ve seen the pictures.  I’m just thinking that the majority of my high school friends that make up a majority of my Facebook friends are just that friends from high school, but that doesn’t mean they are really my friends now.

To that point, I will take the majority of the blame.  After high school I pretty much lost contact with most of them.  I served a mission in Korea for my church.  After coming home, I went back to community college and working full time.  I don’t know, life happened, and with it the loss of most of my friends.

Fast forward eighteen years and along comes this new website – Facebook.  All of sudden people I hadn’t talked to in years were showing up as friends or people I knew.  Next thing I know, boom I’m now connected to all these people from high school.  At first it was pretty cool.  I got to find out how people were doing, what they had been up to.  I even went to a St. Patrick’s Day party and met up with a bunch of them.  It was kind of like a high school reunion, but soon the magic kind of wore off.  There they all were still partying like back in high school.  It seemed like we didn’t have that much in common anymore.  I’ve never been to another party that they’ve thrown.  I still see their status updates and so I kind of see what is going on with them, but clearly I have gone in a different direction than they have.  I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that my general invite to go golfing received no response.  I was just hopeful that perhaps a chance to do something together would be able to bridge the gap.  Oh well, it is what it is.

The Price of Gas

Today I was driving back from taking Trulie to work and I passed a gas station, and the price of gas was $3.59. That is a twenty cent increase over the last two weeks.  As I drove past I think at the same moment or just moments before I heard something on the radio talking about how gas was headed past $4.00 a gallon, and it hit me – why?  Because some there is one more thing going on in the Middle East?  As far as I can remember there is always something going on in the Middle East.

No, it feels more and more like some kind of price fixing.  Right now oil companies have been posting record profits.  So, if they are already making money hand over fist, why the need to raise prices?  Simply put – they can.  And what can we do about it?  Nothing.  There is nothing that we can do about it.  Sure we could all get more fuel efficient cars, but is that really the solution?  How much is the payment vs. just paying for the  extra gas?  Is it a wash, will you really save money?  Probably not.  And besides, what if you can’t afford to buy a new vehicle right now?  I know I certainly can’t.  It’s not cost efficient.  The increased price in gas will cost me about $60.00 a month, but a new car payment will be around $360.00.  And the amount saved on gas will be about $160.00, so it will cost me an extra $200.00 a month to save $160.00 on gas.  No thanks, I’ll just pay the extra money for the gas.  But you see, so many people run out and get a new vehicle thinking that they are going to be better off.  Right now I don’t have a car payment, so adding that to save $160.00 on gas, doesn’t help me come out a head.

I’m very frustrated by all of this.  It seems like more and more we the people are getting the shaft, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.  But this is just my opinion and know what they say about opinions; something to the effect that we all have them.  So, thus the title of this opinions are highly overrated.  Should I be more actively involved in the community?  Should I write letters to my congressman?  I ask what good will that do?  Politicians do not care.  They only care about getting re-elected.  I’ve written to my congressman in the past, and it got me exactly nowhere.  There was a time, maybe ten to twelve years ago, when I cared deeply about political things.  I used to listen to talk radio.  I cared about what tax laws were being proposed, what social laws were being proposed, and what congress was likely to do.  But after a while I realized  that I was frustrated and that I was on edge.  I would express my opinion so forcefully that my family members didn’t want to get caught up in any kind of conversation with me.  I was so sure I knew what was wrong with the world, and I wasn’t afraid to share it with anyone.  I don’t know when it happened, but I realized being frustrated all the time was hurting  me.  All that frustration didn’t do anything as far as changing what was going on.  I also started realizing that all the stuff talk radio kept saying was going to affect my life wasn’t.  I started weaning myself off of talk radio and off of the network news.  Suddenly my frustration level subsided dramatically.  With time I was able to have conversations once again with family members.  Although it seemed like there was less to talk about at first.  But now at least we can talk about things.  We all avoid the taboo topics – politics and religion.  I personally just keep quiet if one of those two topics comes up now.  Sometimes I just leave the room.  Sometimes it is difficult, I still have opinions, but I work hard at keeping them to myself.

From time to time I wonder if I have done a disservice to myself.  On one hand my life is a lot less stressful.  On the other hand, I am so apathetic it is pathetic.  I mean really is it that good of thing to completely withdraw from life?  I am so disillusioned by the people in congress and politics in general that I just have a  very very hard time convincing myself to care.  And then today I drove past that gas station and I heard the new report and it all of a sudden I felt that old deep down anger start to rise up.  Surprisingly it made me feel just a little bit alive.  I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but hopefully, I will still feel slightly alive.  Here’s to hoping.

Random Pictures of Life

Yes, I know.  It’s been forever since I’ve posted anything, well at least two weeks.  Recently the fall semester started and I have been busy getting ready for that and going to classes.  Oh yes, and doing homework.  The weekend before going back to school, we, as in my wife and son and I, went to Phoenix and spent the weekend with my sister and brother-in-law.  We went to see the Diamondbacks take on the Padres.  Yes, I know the quality on this want that great.  Phone cameras sometimes they are great and sometimes not so great.   But the game was a blast.  Best seats I’ve ever sat in.

A special thanks to my sister and brother-in-law for letting us spend the weekend with them and for inviting us to go to the game with them.

So in one of my classes I have a professor who is knew to Flagstaff.  He took an informal survey from the class of places everyone likes to eat.  Well, I like a good place as much as the next guy.

So, one day last week we took a trip to downtown, and went to Diablo Burger.  Perhaps one of the best burgers I’ve had.  The place was a little tough to find, we walked right past it.  If you go take cash, and your appetite, cause they don’t take cards, but they do feed you.






Lastly, just this past weekend we went to the Coconino County Fair.  They had some old farm equipment that I took some pictures of.  They had the typical Ag exhibits and some rides and fair food.  It was the first time taking my son to one he seemed to have a good time.









At first he wasn’t so sure about this, but when the ride was done he didn’t want to get off.



More tractors and farm equipment.



Northern Arizona Drought – Part 2

So sometime last week, I drove back out to Mormon Lake, and took my second set of photos. There wasn’t much change. The grass on the lake bed was now green, but the water level had not made any kind of dramatic change. It would seem that it will take much more than an average monsoon season to make any kind of dent in the drought that is on going here. Take a look and let me know what you think.

This was not the dramatic conclusion I was hoping for, but sometimes, I guess that is just the way things go.

For now, it would seem that there is no immediate relief in sight for the drought that we are going through.  Hopefully one day I will have a chance to see Mormon Lake with water in it.

Some Place New–Bearizona


In July we had the chance to go to some place new.  My parents were visiting from Phoenix, and so we were looking for something to do.  My wife had seen a billboard for this new place – Bearizona.  I on

Bearizona, Entrance, Williams, Drive through park

the other hand had missed the sign every time.  We looked it up and found out when it was open, and they said the best time to see the animals was in the afternoon.  Bearizona is located in Williams, which is about 38 miles west of Flagstaff on I-40.  So, we all piled into the truck and drove to Williams.  We had lunch at diner on historic route 66, and then we went through Bearizona.  It is a newly opened drive through animal park.  They are still in the process of building it,  but it is still pretty well done and you don’t see a bunch of construction equipment.  The staff was great and getting to see the  animals from with in your own vehicle was an interesting experience.

American Burro, Donkey, Mule, Bearizona, Williams AZ
An American Burro (Donkey)

Bearizona, Amercian Bison
 Here we have a couple of examples of American Bison, commonly known as buffaloes.  I have to give credit for these pictures to my father, James.
American Bison, Bearizona
It was raining off and on as we drove through the  park, but we were able to see most of the animals that were in the park to be seen.
Grey Wolf, Wolf, Bearizona, Williams AZ
Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Bearizona, Williams AZ

Everything from wolves to big horn sheep.

Black Bear, Bearizona, Williams AZ
Black Bear, Bearizona, Williams AZ

In the area where the bears are, you must keep your windows up.  There was a game keeper at the entrance gate, he gave a few instructions for driving through the bear enclosure, and was friendly.  Driving through we saw some bears just lying around, others were up and moving and there were close to 14 or 15 bears in the area.  Upon leaving the  bear area there was another game keeper and he asked how we had enjoyed the park.  He also answered some questions, most of the bears at the park are rescued bears, as are most of the other  animals there.



There is a walk through area that you can go through after the main park.  Aiden was having a pretty good time.  He was excited about all the animals we had seen while driving through.

They had a petting area that we went through.  While we were there we heard more and more thunder and soon we were waiting out the down poor in the double gated entrance to the petting area.  The staff was so nice that they brought a golf cart and picked us up, and drove us to our vehicle so we didn’t have to walk in the rain and risk getting our cameras wet.

All in all, we had a great time.  I would highly recommend taking a drive through the park if you are  in the area.  It is growing and expanding and we look forward to visiting the park again and seeing all the new editions and changes.  It is worth the drive and the experience.

Hope you enjoyed – Dave

Northern Arizona Drought–Part 1

On a sunny afternoon in May I decided to take a drive.  I decided to drive down Lake Mary Road, which is on the South side of Flagstaff.  The Southwest section of the United States has been experiencing a drought for the past ten years.  Many people have seen the evidence of the drought with Lake Meads’ 100 foot level drop evidenced by the bleached rocks of where the water line used to be.  On my drive down Lake Mary Road, I past Lake Marry, which is divided into Upper and Lower Lake Mary.  Lower Lake Mary is nearly dried up at this time.  Upper Lake Mary the larger of the two still has water, but it low.  I continued past and on towards Mormon Lake which is about 25 miles south of Flagstaff.  It is the largest natural lake in Arizona, and at the moment is nearly dried up.   What follows are some pictures that I took with my phone’s camera, so please excuse the lack of quality.

The following series will constitute  Part 1 of my series.  Since taking these photos the monsoon season has  kicked into to full gear.  It has not been an exceptionally wet monsoon season.  I will be going out to Mormon Lake and taking more photos to see if there has been any change.

Mormon Lake, Northern Arizona Drought, Low Water
 
Mormon Lake, Northern Arizona Drought, Low Water

Mormon Lake, Northern Arizona Drought, Low Water
Mormon Lake, Northern Arizona Drought, Low Water
 
It is hard to describe how I felt after seeing this.  After doing a little research apparently this is not the first time the lake has been this dry.  Hopefully soon the  drought that we are going through will be over and the lake will fill with water again.

Three National Parks – One Day

Sunset Crater, National Parks, Lava FieldLast weekend my family and I had an opportunity to visit three National Parks, and because of their proximity to each other we were lucky to be able to do it all in one day.  We set out from home about 8:00 AM and we arrived at Sunset Crater around 8:30.  We are lucky to be living in Northern Arizona at the moment.  We started out by visiting the visitor’s center and getting our National Park’s Passport stamped.  Then we drove to the base of the crater where we hike through the lava and cinder fields.  For those that don’t know what Sunset Crater is, it a dormant valcano that was formed through a series of eruptions and explosions between 1040 and 1100 AD.  It is still a rugged and sureal terrain, but some life has started to return.

Sunset Crater, National Parks, Lava Field
Looking back at Humphrey’s Peak






















 

If you go:
Take water, sunscreen and comfortable walking shoes.  The hike through the lava field was maybe a mile long over some uneven terrain.  It was a pretty easy hike and we took our time stopping and looking at different things along the  way. It took maybe about 40 minutes or so.  Oh should be aware that the elevation is over 7,000 feet, so if you are not accustomed to it, it can make the hike a little more difficult.


Sunset Crater is attached to Wupatki National Monument.  For your five dollar per adult entrance fee you can visit both Sunset Crater and Wupatki.


Wupatki, Pubelo, Native American dwelling, ruins



After taking a look at were the native people of the Colorado Plateau had lived 800 years ago, we drove for about 80 minutes to see one of the natural wonders of the world.


The Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon, Natural Wonder, National Park, Colorado River

The Grand Canyon is something that everyone should see at some point in their life.  The Grand Canyon is nearly 300 miles long, a mile deep and on average 10 miles across from rim to rim.  We came in on the east side of the park and it is about a 25 mile drive along the rim of the canyon to the Grand Canyon Village and Visitor Center.


Crand Canyon, national park, natural wonder, colorado river

We could have spent more time at the Grand Canyon, but by 5:00 that afternoon we had two very tired young men and so we drove home.  It was a wonderful day and saw some amazing sites.  Three national parks – one fantastic day.

Summer Vacation


This summer we took a vacation to the White Mountains of Arizona to escape the Phoenix heat for a few days.  My parents went with us as well as my sister and her kids.  My youngest nephew also went with us.  We had a good time.  We hiked, relaxed, and took some photographs.  It was good to escape to the mountains for a fews days.