Sunday, December 16, 2012


Dear Spike:

Today you made me a blankie. And today I sort of needed a blankie.

So thank you. That was nice.


Friday, December 14, 2012


Dear Spike:

Nearly six years ago, in the wake of a mass shooting at Trolley Square, I stood outside that historic building, just three blocks from our home, and watched the coroner’s trucks line up to take the bodies away.

I wondered then, and for a long time afterward, if I would ever be able to pass that place and not think of the terrible things that had happened there.

And for a long time, I couldn’t.

But I have passed there nearly every day since, and we have been there together on many occasions, and time has done its work. I rarely think of that terrible night.

I did tonight, though. Of course I did. How could I not?

I did a few months ago, too, when a troubled young man walked into a crowded theater in Colorado and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.

And I did tonight, when yet another troubled young man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed at least 26 people, most of them children.

How can I explain such madness to you? How can I explain such hate, such evil?

I cannot.

But at some point — some time soon, I suppose — I’ll have to try.

There was a great man who passed from this earth not quite a decade ago, who said that a parent’s job, in the face of tough questions, is to find “the simplest truthful answers.”

Tonight seems as good a time to try to do that as any.

Sometimes people hurt. And sometimes they hurt so bad, that they feel the only thing to do is to hurt other people. That doesn’t ever work, though, and in fact it only creates more pain — pain that goes on for years and years and sometimes never subsides.

Time does not heal all wounds. But nor are we forever stuck on days like today. Find the simplest truthful answers for yourself and for others, and then do what you can to move on, while offering love, sympathy and compassion for those who cannot.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Dear Spike,

The latest round of fighting between Israel and Palestine has come to a temporary halt. And on this Thanksgiving Day, that's something for which we can all be thankful.

How long will this ceasefire last? I cannot say.

There was a time, about a decade ago, in which I would have told you that a lasting peace was on its way. Slowly, to be sure. But sure nonetheless. There would be peace in the Holy Land.

Now I am not sure.

Today, both sides are claiming victory. For neither is it so. Innocent people, including children, have been killed on both sides. A new humanitarian crisis reigns in Gaza. And Israel is as far estranged from the international community as it has ever been.

It's easy to say that war is not the answer to anything. It's harder to make the case in a world of violence, revenge, patriotism and extremism — not to mention the endless industries, big and small, that profit every time a rocket in launched from Gaza or a bomb is dropped from an Israeli jet.

And it's easy, of course, to say that these are values our family does not share. But it's harder to truly separate ourselves, as tax-paying Americans, from complicity in all manner of terrible warfare.

For this minute, at least, I am thankful for peace in the Holy Land. And if that peace holds for another minute, another hour, another day, I will be thankful for that, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Dear Spike,

By the time I finish this letter, this election could be over.
That's the way it works in our federal constitutional republic, where an unelected "electoral college" decides who will be president based on an antiquated formula intended to reflect the will of the individual states (which mostly, though not always, reflects the will of the general populace.) This and our equally antiquated two-party system have created a situation in which a small number of states and a much, much smaller number of so-called "undecided voters" (I prefer the term "idiots") will choose our next president, the most powerful man (yes, the big party choices in this and every year have always been men) in the world. The cable news channels are standing by, poised to call this thing as soon as they can based on what happens in Florida and Ohio, millions upon millions of other votes be damned.

Don't get it? No worries, my child, almost no one else does either.

Momentum and greed and apathy and ignorance and the generally disgusting attribute of our species known as "group think" have brought us here. And make no mistake, the good old days were no better, no matter what we'd like to believe. But treading water is not a sound political philosophy. Eventually, we shall tire and drown.

You can, I suppose, sense my general discontent with the two men we've been told to choose between. Both promise change. Neither can deliver much better that the other. Both make promises to my generation that your generation will pay for.
One is called a socialist. The other is called a corporatist. Neither is either, precisely. On the grand political spectrum, they are both American centrists, united by far more than divides them.
There is a lesser of two evils, though. There always is. Maybe he'll win. Or maybe it’ll be the other guy. Either way, the detractors will spin around in furious throes of agony. The sky will fall. The world will stop spinning. That’s what they’ll say.

And then it won't.
Instead, we will tread water. Tread water. Tread water. And somewhere in our nation's capital, a man in a curiously small office will call out to us in the most inspirational voice he can conjure.

"Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."

But if I sound despondent, know this: A decade ago I would have had trouble imagining that our nation would elect a black man to the presidency in my lifetime. You live in a world where that is simply what is.

Things can change. Rather quickly, when we need them to.
When will we elect our first female president? Our first gay president? Our first president in a long, long time who isn’t a Democrat or a Republican?

Probably in my lifetime. Definitely in yours.

When will we elect our first president who cares more about the needs of the next generation than the needs of the present generation?

Probably in my lifetime. Definitely in yours.

When will we elect our first president who can say, without fear of political consequence, that our nation is special, but not divinely special? That we must not only live with our neighbors but truly love our neighbors?

Probably in my lifetime. Definitely in yours.

Maybe I’m a romantic. Maybe I am fooling myself. But I still believe this. We can and must and will get better.

Not because of our politicians, but in spite of them.

We will not drown tomorrow, but nor will we be closer to the shore. We will still be treading water. Still swimming against a current, but not gaining on it.

Eventually though — and much sooner than later — we must put our heads down and begin to kick. 

Furiously. Fervently. Audaciously against the current.


Monday, October 29, 2012


Dear Spike:

Halloween is next week. You wanted to be a superhero princess.

I’m not a big fan of that second part, but that first part rocks the party, so I’m looking past the tiara. The mask and cape are awesome.

People say, sometimes, that girls are pre-programmed to like “girly” stuff, and same for boys. As evidence, your grandmother recounts a time, when I was a little boy, that I bit into a peanut butter sandwich, noticed the resulting L-shape resembled a gun, and began to pretend it was one. I didn’t have any gun toys and wasn’t allowed to watch violent cartoons of any sort, but there I was pow-powing away.

I don’t buy it.

From gender-separated toy stores (where dolls are “girls toys” and trucks are “boys toys”) to gender-specific colors and clothing styles to his and hers bathrooms, we’re told from the earliest of ages that boys and girls are different and should seek to group ourselves by sex.

There is no gene that makes boys intrinsically know what a gun looks like or does. I’d seen it somewhere. I’d seen it associated with other “boy stuff.” And I emulated what I thought boys should do with something that looks like a gun.

Likewise, there is no gene that makes girls intrinsically want to dress up as princesses and play with My Little Ponies. Your genetic map doesn’t include instructions on how to wear your hair or what to think when you see the color pink.

Look, if you want to be a princess for Halloween right now, fine. And if I had a son and he wanted to be a princess, that would be just as fine. It’s all pretend for now, anyway.

But a few years down the road it’s going to be become all too real. A recent study shows men and women coming out of college receive vastly different salaries, even when adjusting for work experience and job types. I’ve bucked at such analyses before, but the latest research is extremely compelling. And extremely sad.

And so I hope you’ll forgive me if I fight back, a bit, against make-up, high heels and gender-separated sports (you scored another awesome goal this week against a team stacked with boys, by the way.)   

I know I won’t win all of those battles, but I hope I’ll get you thinking, from an early age, about what it means to “be a girl.”

For my money, it should mean just one thing: Someday, should you so chose, you will have the right, the privilege and indeed the blessing of carrying a new life into this world.

And that’s it.

If introspection and self-determination draws you toward so-called girly things, so be it. But the choice is yours.


Sunday, September 9, 2012


Dear Spike,

You were a little tough to rouse out of bed this morning — at least until I reminded you of what we were doing.

“Soccer,” I said.

“My game?” you asked.


You rolled out of bed and hit the floor. I did your hair — “racing pig” tails — and helped you slip on your shin guards. We went to the park, passed the ball around a bit, and waited for the other players to show up.

They did. And promptly kicked our butts. Oh well. Afterward, we voted on a team name. The contenders were “Sharks,” “Ninjas,” and “Cosma-Cats.” I couldn’t get a majority for any of those names, though, so I made an executive decision: Our team is the Ninja-Warrior Cosma-Shark Cats. Yup, that’s what happens when democracy fails — a dictator shows up and makes ridiculous decisions.

After the game, our family went to the Downtown Farmer’s Market. We ordered coos-coos and lentils from our favorite Sudanese vendor. We picked up peaches, plums, a few pears and plouts, some onions, poblano peppers, a canary melon and cheese. We walked by a man with no arms who was playing the guitar and singing.

We when got home, we rode our bikes to your gaky and papa’s home to harvest some tomatillos, then returned so that I could grade some papers and you and your mother could work in the yard. A few minutes later you came inside with a pumpkin that weighed nearly as much as you do.

It’s harvest time, around here, and the community garden was holding its annual tomato sandwich party. So we all took a walk to the garden and joined a couple hundred other people listening to music and eating some fresh tomatoes — and pesto! (It should really be a crime to write pesto! without an exclamation mark, you know?)

Back home again. We racked the wine from the grapes you stomped last weekend.
Then you read some books. I graded more papers. You and your mother headed to the farm supply store to pick up some chicken feed and pet some bunnies. I was just happy you didn’t come home with any.

After that, you and I headed over to our friend Bill’s house to watch the second half of the Oregon State-Wisconsin game. The Beavers won in a big upset. The fans stormed the field. You and I sang the Beaver song.

Back home again. Burgers for dinner. (Meat for you and your mom, black-bean patties for me.) Grilled onions and mushrooms. Fresh tomatoes. Toasted mutli-grain bread. Yum.

After that we made roasted tomatillo sauce. A half-gallon of the stuff. It’s good.  

I rode my Harley to the store to get some milk. You took a bath and got ready for bed. When I got home, you and your mother were playing the “World of Zoo” video game.

And then, finally, it was bedtime. Your mom told you a story. I sang you a lullaby.

Usually when I write you I have some higher purpose. Maybe sometimes I try too hard.

Today, I guess, I just wanted to remind you of what a great day we had.

And tomorrow, I’m guessing, you’ll be even tougher to rouse out of bed.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Dear Spike,

Tomorrow is a big day for you. A big day for us all, really. It’s the first day of kindergarten and, as such, the first day of a new stage in your life.

It’s not your first time at school. Last year, you attended a lovely pre-school — three days a week plus two days on either side of daycare in the same location. On most weeks, you were there for at least a few hours each day.

But you didn’t have to be. There were plenty of days that you and I decided to head up the canyon for a day of snowboarding, or take a hike in the foothills, or just stay home, turn on a movie, and snuggle on the couch in our pajamas. It was lovely.

But come tomorrow at 8:10 a.m., you’ll be expected to be in Ms. Gallagher’s room. And you’ll be expected to be there for the entire school day. And on Thursday you’ll do it again. And on Friday. And then again on Monday. And so on and so on and so on. And it won’t be so easy to skip out as it was last year, when on more than one occasion I recall you asking, “Daddy, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

I often was.

Look, this isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re growing up, just a little bit. And when we grow — if we’re doing it right, at least — we take on greater responsibility. We learn to pick up our own toys. Then perhaps we earn a chore or two. Then we go to school, where we are expected to be cooperative and polite and curious and to play well with others. We learn and learn and learn.

Little by little we begin to accept more responsibility. And ultimately, we are able to give more care to others than we need ourselves. 

And if there’s a point to this life, I think that really must be it.

Already, you’re on your way. At your bedside tonight, after singing your lullaby, I leaned in, kissed your head and told you that I am proud of who you are and who you are becoming.

“Why?” you asked.

“Because,” I said. “You are smart, brave, beautiful, tough and very, very kind.”

“You always say that.”

“I always mean it.”

“And you always will?”

“Yes,” I said. “I always will.”

It came upon me, the other day, that true happiness is feeling as though you are where you are supposed to be. I’m happy a lot, lately.

I’m happy tonight. Happy for our family. Happy for you.

I know this transition might be a little rough. But I have a strong feeling that soon you will feel that you are right where you are supposed to be.

And if, on occasion, you don’t feel that way, don’t fret. Just turn to me, smile knowingly as you do, and say, “Daddy, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

I often will be.


Saturday, July 21, 2012


Dear Spike:

About an hour after you went to bed I came into your room, as I promised I would and as is my custom, to check on you.

And there you were, hands behind your head, knees propped up and eyes wide open.

"Hello," you said.

"Hello," I said.

And that was it. I sat beside your bed and ran my fingers through your newly cut hair. And slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, your eyelids began to fall.

You were asleep for many minutes before I finally got up to leave.

I loved that so much. Maybe tomorrow night we can do it again.


Saturday, July 14, 2012


Dear Spike:

In a few days, I'll leave you and your mother for a return trip to Ethiopia.

This time around I'll not be working on a specific journalistic project, but rather helping three of my students to complete projects of their own. We'll explore the lives of street boys in the throbbing conurbation of Addis Ababa; we'll watch the Summer Games on black and white television sets with athletes who are worthy of being Olympians, but couldn't afford to get there; we'll visit with refugees from the wars throughout Africa; and we'll leave with more questions than we had when we arrived — because that is how it always goes.

Both Lao-Tze and Socrates have been credited with some variation of the revelation that "the more we learn, the less we know" — and I've certainly found that to be the case.

I vividly remember the day I left Iraq after my first visit to that war-torn nation. I recall standing on the Baghdad International Airport tarmac, waiting to get on a C-130 en route Kuwait, Germany and ultimately home. I was tired. I didn't like being at war. I didn't like getting shot at. And I missed my wife, so much.

But as men and women slowly lumbered forward, I wanted nothing more than to hold back. Over the preceding two months, I'd done some of the best work of my young career. There are so many stories to tell, and we only live so long.

That, I suppose, is why I do what I do. And that's an experience I'll be trying to share with my students while I'm away from you and your mother. Someday, if you wish, I will proudly share this story-telling tradition with you, too.

For now, you're off to other adventures. Your mother, upon contemplating my impending trip to Africa, decided there was little reason to stay at home and wait. So she bought two tickets to Cancun, where the two of you will swim, snorkel and sun for a few days while I'm away.

A girls' trip. And another stamp for your passport. I'm very excited for you.

This is a very big world. And I hope you explore it. Set your sails. Write your adventure.

There are so many stories, but the world can always use one more.


Monday, June 11, 2012


Dear Spike,

In the end, your arms were shaking. Your hands were unsure. Beads of sweat had formed on your brow.

But you just wouldn’t give up.

It struck me as strange. You’d been working at the playground rings for a few days. And finally, today on your second attempt, you had completed the challenge. A little leap from the platform. Six swings forward. Six swings back. One last swing and you were back on the platform.

You ran to me, jumped into my arms, nearly knocked me over.

“Did you see that?” you asked.

I most certainly had.

“Were you proud of me?” you asked.

I most certainly was.

But you weren’t content to do it just once. And for ten, then twenty, then thirty minutes to come, you tried to repeat you playground triumph. But your hands were slipping. Your arms were quivering. You fell and fell and fell.

Your mother arrived. “How long has she been doing this?” she asked.

“A long time,” I replied.

We sat and watched as you worked your way across the rings. In one attempt, you made it to the end and almost back, but could not grasp the final ring. You fell.

Ultimately, we had to pull you away. Not for your sake, but for ours. We were tired of sitting in the sun and wanted to get home to start dinner. But I suspect that, if we’d let you, you’d still be out there right now.

And that is good. For this grit will serve you well.

You’re smart and athletic and artistically skillful. Many things in life will come easy to you. But proficiency and expertise are a grain of sand and a glass of wine. And the latter only comes with skill, determination, craftsmanship and practice.

And practice.

And practice.

This weekend I left you and your mother for a cabin in Montana, where I spent the better part of three days with an incredibly gifted band of writers from across the western United States.

Among us was a young and brilliant scribe named Jamie Rogers, who shared an essay he’d written about fly fishing, family and a certain novel, regarding those two things, that means a lot to many Montanans and plenty of others, too.

He wrote: “It wasn't just about catching fish; it was about the going, about the time spent and about the idea. Fly fishing offered the opportunity to know about something, and in knowing about something, to become an expert. And being an expert feels good.”

That night we stayed up late, drank good and bad whiskey, and spoke about our craft.

“Do you think that becoming an expert in one thing allows you to more easily become an expert in others?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” he said. “Absolutely. Once you know the dedication it takes, the struggle, the pain — but also what it feels like once you’ve succeeded in mastering something — then you know the way.”

Already, you appear to know, my determined daughter, that even when you are doing something that you love, the way to mastery is not always fun. It can be drudgery. It can be lonely. It can be exasperating. It can be maddening.

But being an expert feels good.

So practice. And practice. And fall. And fall. And when you fall, remember that you must fall. Your hands must slip. Your arms must quiver. Then you must practice some more.

Then, you’ll succeed. And when you do you must do it again. Again. Again.

And then you’ll know the way.


Sunday, May 27, 2012


Dear Spike:
Five years ago, at this very moment, I was in the newborn intensive care unit, waiting to hold you for the first time.
Now you are five. Still tiny. Still tough.
And still loved. Unconditionally. Always.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Dear Spike:

I’m a Beaver. Damn proud of that.

But Oregon State University wasn’t my first choice of schools. When the Navy told me, mid-way into my enlistment, that I could choose to attend virtually any school in the United States that has an ROTC program — tuition free — I first sought enrollment close to my parent’s home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But after I applied for admission at my first choice, the Navy decided that its program at the University of California at Berkeley was too full and asked me to choose another school.

The University of San Diego?

Nope, the ROTC program there was also full.

I was a bit discouraged, and asked what university was actually open. That’s how I ended up at Oregon State.

I’m so glad I did. That’s where I learned to be a journalist. It’s where I grew the intellectual and ethical foundations that led me away from military service. And most importantly, it’s where I fell in love with your mother.

My time at Oregon State also coincided with a historic shift in the school’s football fortunes. After a record-setting 28 straight losing seasons, the team earned its first winning record in 1999 and then, in 2000, finished 1st place in the league for the first time since 1964. That same year, the Beavers beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, 41-9, in a clobbering I was fortunate to witness first-hand.

The Beavers have generally been a middle-of-the-pack team ever since. And that smarts, given the recent fortunes of the rival team to the south — beneficiaries of an enormous inheritance from a shoe-making sugar daddy whose money has secured a dynasty of sporting success for his alma mater.

Ooooh, they make me so mad.

But I was at said school, this week, to receive an award honoring the work I did last year in Ethiopia. While I was there, I visited the newsroom of The Emerald, the university’s storied student newspaper. And that got me thinking about what a rivalry is, and — at its best — what it should be.

Oregon State doesn’t have a journalism program. So when I attended that school, the staff of its student paper, The Daily Barometer, was a motley crew of English, history, political science and other majors who simply had a passion for journalism. We also had a hunger to prove that we were just as good as the students from that other school. That was part of what drove us to work as hard as we did. It’s what drove a big part of my success and the successes of my friends, too. And for that, I suppose, I really must appreciate the great work being done in the Department of Journalism and Communication at that other school.

That’s what good rivalry does. It makes people work harder and get better.

So while I might gripe about the shoemaker and his personal sports kingdom, I also accept that his largesse is likely helping my alma mater get better, too. (He’s actually given rather generously to Oregon State, too.)

Fair enough. Let the competition continue.

But this is not a free market metaphor, because there comes a point in which the decks are stacked so far apart that competition doesn’t work to make competitors better. And you might see this, in time, if the recently divergent fortunes of these rivals continue long into the future.

Ultimately, when that happens, people stop believing in the spirit of competition. They stop believing in the fairness of the situation. They stop being rivals.

I want you to work hard. I want you to be smart and tough and tenacious in everything you do. I want you to be industrious.


… well …

… a beaver.

And when you are successful — and I know you will be successful — I want you to be proud of your success. But never forget that your success is just as much a product of things outside your control.

Accept that. Be appreciative of that. And consider the obligations it entails to everyone.

Even to your rivals.


Monday, May 7, 2012


Dear Spike:

Frankly, I’m glad I missed it — for it was, by your mother’s account, the worst behavior she’s ever seen from you.

A little context before I get into the details: You’re a really good kid. You are polite, courteous, generous and kind. You mind your parents.

At least in part, we like to think, that’s because we try very hard to address misbehavior quickly and sternly. When you do something wrong, we identify it, correct it and, where appropriate, punish you for it. Finally, we ask you to account for what you did and why it was wrong.

As such, we don’t have to punish you very often.

But this week, we had to throw the book at you.

Here’s why: You mother last week invited you to the thrift store and, while there, suggested that you might find a small treasure to take home. But nothing struck your fancy and, despite your mother’s prodding, you failed to find anything that you wanted. And ultimately, you just ran out of time.

But when your mother tried to take you by the hand to lead you from the store, you refused to budge.

Someday, maybe when you’re in high school or college, there may be an issue — racism, sexism, classism or some other “ism” that ills this world —of which you feel significantly passionate that you might choose to stage a sit in.

Not being able to find a second-hand treasure at a thrift store is not one of those issues. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s selfish. It’s greedy. It’s spoiled rotten. And that’s just not you.

You cried. You screamed. You flailed.

In re-telling this story, we’ve found, there are plenty of people who have said, “well, she is four years old, after all.”

It’s true, you are four. And that means that we expect that you will approach certain situations more emotionally (and sometimes irrationally) than you will when you are older. But a public tantrum is wrong at any age. And today you’ve been reminded of that.

The week before the fit, you had been pleading with us to purchase a duck to join the chickens on our growing urban farm, and we had been considering it.

That ain’t happening now.

We took away many of your favorite stuffed friends. We took away your computer and television privileges. We took away sweets.

Frankly, you still live a pretty charmed life. But it was a little less enchanted this week, and that seems to have driven the point home.

Little by little, you’ve earned your privileges back. Today, the slate is wiped clean.

But do it again, little one, and we’ll not only throw the book at you.

We’ll throw the whole damn library.


Monday, April 9, 2012


Dear Spike,

It’s been a while since I’ve written you — and I’m sorry about that. When you read these letters, someday, you might wonder what happened over the past few months.

Let me start by telling you what hasn’t happened: I haven’t stopped loving you. I haven’t grown disinterested in you. I haven’t grown disinterested in sharing with you the best advice I possibly can give to help you grow into a smart, brave, tough, savvy and kind person.

And no, I haven’t forgotten how to write, either.

I have been blessed with a little girl who, at just four years old, can understand things in ways well beyond her years. You understand subtlety, humor, cause and effect, direct and indirect consequences and even irony — and, quite importantly I think, compassion.

In short, it’s becoming rather rare that I have anything to write to you that I cannot simply tell you. But the details of what’s happening in our family’s life right now are still important. And since you’re still not old enough that you will remember most of these events and experiences, I should share them with you.

Admittedly, I’ve also been busier over the past few months than I have been at any time since you were born. Not even when I was a full-time student, a full-time journalist and your stay-at-home daddy was I as constantly occupied (and often pre-occupied) as I am today.

That’s tough in some ways, but in most ways it has been very good for all of us. The most important thing that you should know is that you and I still spend a lot of time together. During the winter recreation season, which appears to be coming to a close this week, we snowboarded together at least once a week. (More on this, I think, in another letter — but it suffices to say that you shred the pow like no other four-year-old on the mountain.) We still do breakfast together several days a week (including, still quite regularly, at our favorite haunt, The Park Café.) I regularly drop you off at school and pick you up a few hours later. When the weather cooperates, we play an imagination game called “Pick the Fruit.” I am coaching your soccer team and we stay for a few minutes extra, after your teammates have gone home, to continue practicing together. Your mother joins us at every Real Salt Lake home game and, on the weekends, our family regularly makes it a point to visit Liberty Park, the Hogle Zoo, The Tracy Aviary, Red Butte Gardens or the Utah Museum of Natural History. Sometimes we visit the symphony. We also love the library.

And sometimes, I admit, we just curl up together under a good blanket on our comfy couch and watch a movie. Your favorites, as of late, are Winnie the Pooh, The Muppets and The Wizard of Oz. (We’ve set aside the Star Wars movies, for now, after I finally accepted that years of exposure, nostalgia and simple stupidity had left me completely numb to how very violent that series is. (“Here, let me slice off your hand with this laser sword, and oh, by the way, I’m your dad.”) It took your very understandable paranoia around our toy lightsabers (and your mother’s admonition for me to wake up and smell the blue milk) for me to realize that you might not quite be ready for Star Wars yet. Sometimes I can be quite a half-witted nerf-herder.

I’m sorry. Where were we? Oh yes — I’ve been a bit busy.

As it turns out, I’m no less obsessed with being a good teacher as I was with being a good journalist. And as it turns out, it’s been hard to separate myself from my obsession with being a good journalist, so I keep taking on freelance projects. And that little side-job I was doing for the dropout recovery group in Salt Lake City? That’s turned into a nearly full-time gig (and I’m very proud of the work we’re doing, turning dropouts into diploma holders.) And in my spare time, I’ve been trying to run a little community news organization. And in the time that is left, I’ve been trying hard to be a good husband to your mother by taking her on dates and staying up late to watch adult movies…

… wait, no, that’s not what I mean…

… I just mean movies for adults — as opposed to films about stuffed bears, big puppets and fantasy lands located somewhere over the rainbow.

But in truth, it’s your mother who has probably gotten the shortest end of the stick. And she never complains about it. If I’ve got five minutes to spare in my day, she’d prefer I spend those with you or together with our whole family. She’s taken on more work around our home so that I can manage several jobs. Someday I’ll think of someway to repay her for what she does for us. You should too.

You meanwhile, are growing in all sorts of amazing ways. You’ve always been a reflection of your mother and I — and in many ways you always will be. But since beginning school, last fall, you’ve also begun to develop a personality and identity that is an amalgamation of your parents, your teachers, your classmates and your own unique characteristics.

It’s not always pretty. You’ve become a bit whinier. A bit pickier. A bit stingier. You’ve become a bit less brave and a bit more prone to screaming.

Just screaming. Over nothing.

Still, your mother and I marvel at the rarity of the moments that you give us grief. And set against the majority of times in which you simply impress the hell out of us, it’s hardly a trifle. (Nonetheless, it is our job to prevent trifles from becoming more than trifles, so we’re working with you to unlearn some of what you’ve learned.)

And yet, all these other wonderful things that you're learning are just, so...



... wow.

Perhaps the most exciting recent development in your life is an insatiable desire to read. You’ve always liked books — but mostly for pictures and for us to read to you. We’ve forced you to practice actually reading the words yourself, and it’s always been something of a chore.

Until just a few weeks ago.

Then: An explosion. Suddenly, it seems, everything just clicked. You read and you read and you just won't stop. Pages and pages. Chapters and chapters.

Just for fun, when it all began, I took out a copy of A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times,” you read. “It was the worst of times.”


We’ll get to the rest of the words in that book in due time. Meanwhile, there are marvelous stories about Frog and Toad, Stuart Little and James and the Giant Peach.

You can read those stories now. And, in due time, these letters.

Which gets me to thinking…

… maybe I should write more.