Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter- Final Draft




Dear Friends and Family,
           
We've never been very competitive people.  When it comes to races, although Kaerlig likes to run, if there's someone coming up on her Heels, she'll step aside and let them run on by.  When it comes to soccer, Little D and Lou would rather hang from the goal posts like monkeys and raycito would prefer that he didn’t get signed up in the first place.  The boys, both of whom are bright, waste their respective powers of logic and rage to argue on why cursive is outdated, doing homework is a waste of time, how two commands such as put on your socks and go get your coat should never be given at once, and how they should be driven anywhere further away than our yard.  As for me, at 13 I left my gear on the ground and walked off the field in the middle of football practice, and I've never looked back.
However, 2012 has been a year full of quiet achievements and personal milestones for us.  Lou turned eight over the summer and was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It was a great day for all of us.  She enjoys dance class, piano lessons, and is a wonderful artist.  She won the Reflections art contest again this year.  If you're keeping track, that's a three-peat.  Lou is also very generous.  It's not uncommon for her to save her pennies in order to buy a toy for a friend or cousin.  She loves to share.
Little D (10) also entered a really nice piece in Reflections and received an honorable mention.  Little D continues with piano lessons and has also begun to learn the trumpet.  He's a good friend and a very sweet boy and he gets along well with almost everyone.  Because of his kind heart, even when he’s been difficult it's impossible to stay mad at him for very long.    
Raycito will be twelve years old by the time you read this.  We've been amazed at the ways he has become more responsible and committed.  Though he didn't initially want to take piano lessons, he has made good progress; this in spite of his earlier assertion that music was a fad destined to go out of style.  He's also learning a little computer programming.  He’s been Patrol Leader of his scout group for a couple of months and has done a fine job.  He looks forward to being ordained a deacon and doing baptisms for the dead with us.  One thing about Rainer is that even though he appears to have thick skin, he has a very tender heart.  This is a boy who weeps when the Christmas tree is taken to the curb at the end of the season.  He has a strong sense of justice and loves to do what’s right.  Raycito even enjoyed a few hikes this year.  On one particular hike he did exceptionally well and led the way happily until he accidentally sat in a large pile of guano.  
One big surprise this year is that all three of our kids tried out for and got roles in their school's Christmas production of "Yes, Virginia."  Raycito has one of the leads.  And did I mention it's a musical?  Minds=blown.
Kaerlig has now been working as a pediatric nurse for 10 years.  Even though she spends most of her days working at The Scooter Lounge with me, the hospital is glad to have as much of her help as they can get because she's an excellent nurse.  Kaerlig was released from the Young Women's Presidency recently and made our ward's Primary President.  Her administrative skills are an asset to our home, business and church.
We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this year.  For some that would seem unlucky but for us, the 13th year was one of our best.  I know most of you reading this are still reeling with the shock that our marriage has lasted this long.  You better sit down.  Our business celebrated its 10th anniversary in October.  Who knew that one man's strange obsession with quirky two-wheeled vehicles would grow into something useful?  I'm as shocked as you are.  One of the highlights of the year for me was leading a group of scooterists, Kaerlig included, on a tour through Bryce, Escalante, Boulder and Torrey.  It was an epic adventure with amazing scenery and good company. 
One more thing:  Early this year we signed the boys up for ski school.  For six consecutive Thursdays they spent afternoons up at Sundance.  They both learned a lot and had fun.  Kaerlig went along each time as a parent supervisor and she convinced me to go a couple of times.  Having only skied once in my life, I was nervous.  By the time I made it halfway down my first run, I was ready to quit.  It was brutal.  The harder I tried to slow down, the less control I had.  I fell down many times.  But I could see other people enjoying themselves and knew there was a way for me to do the same, so I kept going.  Then something amazing happened.  Something just clicked and I stopped fighting the mountain.  I leaned forward in my boots, faced my fears and let go.  Suddenly I could cut and carve and relax a little bit. 
I didn't expect to get a life lesson while skiing.  And I don't want to be too heavy-handed with the symbolism here, but I will say this:  God is the mountain and he directs our paths.  I pray that we can continue to have faith as a family- to lean forward in our boots, face our fears, and let go. 
We love each of you and thank you for your friendship and support.  Merry Christmas.

The Hurtado Family 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter-- first draft


Hey Fellas,

I've been trying like crazy to think of a really great Christmas letter idea, but with one noted exception I've come up empty handed.  The only really good idea I had was baseball themed and made little sense due to the fact that nobody in our family has ever (or likely will ever) play baseball.

So here we are.  Like two awkward teens on a first date.  Nothing to talk about.  

The last thing I want to do is resort to a formulaic, paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown of each family member.  You don't want to read that.  You want the juicy details of our exciting lives.  You've been waiting on pins and needles all year to see what amazing things we've been doing, while your own monotonous lives have droned on.  You've dreamed of the accomplishments of our fascinating children, yet your own kids have been mind-numbingly mediocre.

Well I got bad news for you.  We are just as lame as you are.

Here's what we did this year:  The same stuff we did last year, but with more gray hair.  

Truthfully though, there were a few standout moments:

Exxxx is our little angel.  She won the Reflections art contest.  This years theme was, "The Magic of a Moment."  She drew a bunch of fairies.  Somehow we missed the awards ceremony.  So much for that magical moment.  

Dxxxxx picked up the trumpet.  He put it down shortly thereafter.  Also he got a retainer to straighten his teeth and now his mouth smells like a cat farm.

Rxxxxx began demanding we drive him everywhere, even to his friends house three doors down the street.  So that's new.  Of course we refuse to do so because we don't want Maury Povich to have to rescue him with a bulldozer and a personal trainer someday.  

Kaerlig was released from the Young Women's Presidency and called to be the Primary President.  She promptly made me a primary teacher.  So now she's my boss at home, at work AND at church.

Merry Christmas
The Hurtados

Friday, October 26, 2012

Opportunity Cost

A few years back I had an employee who was an Iraq war veteran.  During his tour of duty his marriage had disintegrated and his life had fallen apart.  One day I noticed that there was faint writing on his toolbox.  Upon closer inspection I found the following quotes:

"There is no such thing as what might have been."
"It's never to late to be the man you've always wanted to be."  

I liked both quotes instantly.  As one who desperately wanted to be someone else, someone better than what I had become, I felt hopeful to think that it wasn't too late for me.  At the same time, giving up on the idea of what might have been was liberating.  After all, like pain, regret is only useful until your mind or soul gets the message.  After that, it's just redundant.

But I have since realized that there is also a contradiction in these two quotes.  If the man I've always wanted to be is also the man I might have been, then the quotes are incompatible.

This brings me to the concept of opportunity cost.  For every choice there is a cost.  We often forget this because so often we think of cost in terms of dollars, which like gold, have an arbitrary value and little intrinsic utility.  (Gold is a good conductor, dollars are good kindling.  Sometimes those functions are very useful, sometimes not so much.)

So if you buy something that costs one dollar, the price paid is not one dollar.  The price is the value of the best foregone alternative.  That alternative might have been anything else you could have purchased with that dollar, or the value of burning that dollar to kindle a fire.  In post WWI Germany, their currency was devalued so much due to hyperinflation, they did exactly that.  A bundle of Marks was cheaper than a bundle of wood, and some people literally heated their homes with money.



Purchase decisions are only a small fraction of our choices however, and as I said before, for every choice there is a cost.  The cost of everything then, isn't to be expressed with dollar signs.  The cost of everything is "what might have been".

When I think of all the choices each person makes every day, every choice a branch in space-time leading to infinite possible universes, infinite "might have beens," and I contemplate the magnitude of history, I wonder how it's possible for anyone to experience the best combination of circumstances or to be the best they could have been.

Maybe that's why I like the song The Late Greats by Wilco so much.  The line, "The best songs never get sung, the best life never leaves your lungs, so good you won't ever know, you can't hear it on the radio. . ." pretty-much sums it up.

Most of my life I believed in a God whose atonement made it possible to be forgiven and to make a fresh start.  I believed in a Savior who paid the price of my sins, but I quantified that price the way we quantify the price of material goods.  Dollars or drops of blood, it was one good in exchange for another.

Recently it became necessary to believe in an atonement infinitely more expansive, and a God infinitely more merciful.  I don't want to just be forgiven, I want to be plucked out of this universe, and inserted into the one where I made the right choices.

That's the thing about Grace-- it isn't just reformative, it is also regenerative.  The atonement doesn't just pay the price of our sins.  It pays the opportunity cost.  In spite of all the opportunities, blessings, and richness foregone, the atonement enables us to become the men and women God has always wanted us to be, and to be the people we might have been.

Sometimes when I pay close attention, I catch myself enjoying a golden moment, when I feel the overwhelming warmth of "all is as it should be".  For a moment I find myself standing in the other myself's shoes, the ones that walked the right path.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chicken Pox

The early 80's found my siblings and I, like so many of our peers, trying to survive the shrapnel and explosions of a family in crisis.  Divorce itself wasn't new, but it became much more widespread during those years as American society accepted the false notion that what was best for the parents was, in the end, also best for the children.  Also accepted was the idea that if two people couldn't manage to coexist peacefully, severing ties with one another would alleviate the co-morbid symptoms of depression, isolation, anger, and spite-- and usher in a new peace for the individuals involved.

As subjects of this social experiment, we spent a lot of time with a neighbor babysitter.  Each day we went to Sister Wilson's house, along with a disparate bunch of other snot-nosed refugees of their own families' domestic warfare.  We were latchkey kids without a key, and for a nominal fee, Sister Wilson would take us in and provide us with all the cartoons, trampoline time, and peanut butter sandwiches we wanted.  While we waited for Mom to come get us, for toast to pop up, for ourselves to grow up, and for life to somehow make sense; Sister Wilson played solitaire and read romance novels.

If I remember right, among the other urchins under Sister Wilson's care, there were a brother and sister who spent a lot of time there.  One day they showed up with Chicken Pox.  After learning that Chicken Pox was an illness that you only got once, and that in all probability I was going to catch it someday anyway, I insisted that the boy breathe directly into my mouth.  My seven-year-old logic dictated that it would be best to just get it over with.

Soon we were all covered with sores.  My brothers and sisters and I itched together, we picked scabs together, we scarred together.  It was painful, but it got better.  And knowing that that particular pain would never ever come back to any of us was a small measure of comfort when the rest of the world was exploding completely out of our control.



I was thinking about this experience today as I contemplated the recent news that someone very dear to me-- someone who shouldered his bayonet beside me all those years ago in the trenches of the War of Our Family-- has been diagnosed with cancer.

I know he's going to get better.  He will.  But I also know it's going to be hard on him.







And I wish I wish I wish Oh I wish he could breathe it directly into my mouth.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

H.B. 363

Utah lawmakers recently passed what is being called an "abstinence only" sex education bill.  You can read it here.

A childhood friend of mine recently posted about it on facebook.  At first I hesitated to comment on his post, but finally I jumped in because I feel it's an important issue and I strongly disagree with his premise.

As a result, I may have lost a friend, though that was not my intention.

I want to share here our conversation, transcribed verbatim, but with names changed, in order to make my case to the wider world.

Governor Gary Herbert will soon decide whether to veto this bill, which I sincerely hope he does though I also highly doubt he will.  Here's why I think it's a terrible piece of legislation.

I'll call my friend Nephi, and me Me.

Nephi's original status update:

I support HB363 and encourage you to also. It is the parent's responsibity to talk to their children about contraception, not the State's responsibility. Some argue that teens will not talk to their parents or ask them questions about the subject; therefore, the State should. The logic is flawed. They should argue for the State offering courses or training for parents/guardians who don't know how to talk to their children about contraception. However, that is not their goal. Do not be confused by the rhetoric! Parents have the responsibility, the right, and priviledge to educate their children on extremely sensitive moral matters, not the State.


Response from Jennifer: 


As a Mother of teenagers I agree and disagree. I know what it is like to experience 1st hand having a teenager NOT wanting to discuss the issue with either parent, reason for feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, etc...not because she couldn't come to us or because we didn't go to her but she would of rather hear it from teachers or peers or even her Doctor compared to talking with us. Now on the other hand our teenage son has no problem coming to us with questions ( mainly his step-dad) but he also is learning in school. We as his parents got the exact same workbook that he did so we could follow along with him and know exactly what is being taught. Here in PA it is not like Utah was when I was in school, sex education is an 8 week course and there is a permission slip....the one thing that I disagree with on his workbook in which he will not be a part of is when they talk about same sex attraction and that it is OK. That feeds into their minds way too much and is immoral to be teaching in public school no matter how different the world is today or how liberal. I am thankful as parents we were able to see the material BEFORE allowing him to participate.
It is somewhat of a catch 22 some children will seek out their parents and some won't. Some parents are more than willing and comfortable to dicuss this with their children and some aren't. So either way I would hope that the education would come from somewhere if not at home....and correct education at that.



Nephi:

Young people do need to be educated. I think if my own children were not comfortable talking to me, I wouldn't default to the State or other representatives to teach them about sensitive moral issues. I would still want to direct them to someone that I choose, someone that holds the same values, not a State representative. Even with your points you make, I still see this as a parent's choice, not the State. The State can teach them how the human reproductive system works, the dangers of STDs, and then say, "Talk to your parents, or another trusted adult on matters of birth control."


Dingleberry McNuggetbottom:


You fool. What makes you think you know what is best for your family? These are professional educators you know. Especially those that lobby for the UEA.


Jennifer:


Dingleberry McNuggetbottom you made me laugh. All I have to say is good luck in what you want to have happen & what will really happen. It's a tough subject no matter what and every parent is different, I know I never would of gone to my own parents about any of this. Just thankful that at least one of my children has no problem coming to us...it's almost like an issue of taking prayer out of school and the pledge.


Nephi:


Let the Utah House of Representatives know that you support parent's rights by supporting HB 363. Do not defer your privilege as a parent to the State. Let them know!
http://www.le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Me:

Nephi, parents have always had the privilege of teaching their children about sex and they always will. They have also had the privilege in this state, of opting out of public sex-ed. Historically, only 10% have opted their kids out. Your rhetoric implies that the state is trying to take something away from parents, when in fact what this legislation takes away is something 90% of parents have gladly accepted. You are warning people not to be confused by the rhetoric, but your rhetoric is itself confusing.


The real issue at hand is republican lawmakers fear of being replaced by ever more conservative tea-party legislators trying to bolster their street-cred in a race to the right.



Nephi:



David, I would agree with you if I had not attended the conferences and met so many of these professional educators. They have an agenda that doesn't correspond with my values nor with my definition of a just society.


Jennifer:


Hey now Kate is a "professional educator" LOL just imagine what its like living outside of the Utah box. I mean really teaching 7th graders that same sex attraction is OK and perfectly natural if you feel that way. Ugh! Don't think so!!!



Nephi:




The issue is what I have stated, parents should not defer to the State to teach their children about extremely sensitive moral issues. Teach them how the human reproductive system works and let the parent guide from there.



Jennifer:


Wait a just society? When you find one let me know :D


Question? Did your patents sit down and talk with you? Curious. And you know nothing I say is in malice towards you or your thoughts, we go eons back.


Me:


So don't defer to the state. Opt your kids out. Problem solved. Where is the justification for new legislation?



Nephi:




I guess I'm viewing this from more macromoral lenses than myopic preferences.



Me:

I'm not sure if you're insinuating that I am myopic or not there Nephi, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt since I know and admire you. But it's very clear from your original posts that you feel a parents right to educate their children about sex is somehow in jeopardy. My point is that you are wrong about that. There is no legislation either on the books or under discussion that would in any way infringe on your rights as a parent. If that's what you're really concerned about, don't worry, because it isn't happening. If on the other hand your real contention is something else, you should say what it really is make your argument based on that rationale-- whatever it may be. Throwing out a fear-based facebook firebomb that isn't remotely factual is not productive political discourse.

Nephi:

I say myopic preferences in general, not as an attack on you.

Dave,
I think you have misunderstood my argument. First of all, I am not referring to a parents right to decide IF their child should participate in sex education. As you have stated, that is a mute point. Further, I am not referring to merely an issue of contraception. I don't see this so much as about narrow minded views from either side of the issue of contraception. This is about whether you feel it is okay for the State to educate your children on extremely sensitive moral issues which traditionally remained within a parent's realm. What other sensitive moral issues would you defer to the State to educate your children on?

One of the assumptions of my argument is that you can teach how the human reproductive system works without making the instruction a moral issue.

Me:

Sounds like what it's really about for you then, isn't whether I feel that the state should teach MY kids about sex, but whether YOU feel the state should teach MY kids about sex.

Nephi:

Your missing the point.

Me:

What is the point? First you aver that I should stand up in defense of parental rights that aren't in question. Second, you reiterate your first point. Third? What is your real contention?

The fact is, there are unfortunately lots of kids who are going to have sex, even here in Utah. Many of those kids are not going to go to their parents with questions, and many parents are not equipped to answer those questions. I would rather they had an educator to turn to for information, than leave them to their own devices. Any kid can get all sorts of information about sex from google, and you can bet they'll go there for it. In an ideal world it would be parents that did all the teaching. But we don't live in that world and there are kids that need help. If this bill passes, it will be illegal for a teacher to answer a sexually active teens questions about how to avoid pregnancy other than to say "stop having sex." A teen with a disease won't be able to ask a trusted teacher for help, it would be against the law for a teacher to even discuss it.

Legislating ignorance will not make the problem go away.

Nephi:

Deferred morality is ignorance.

Overall, I would caution you to be careful not to legislate away your parental rights to the State.

Me:

Again, nobody is deferring anything. I wish you would just make your case. For all I know I may agree with you. But you haven't made an argument. I'm left to assume here. I assume you feel that if the state teaches sex-ed they will teach something that goes against your morals. Maybe you fear they will teach kids about homosexuality or abortion, I don't know. And maybe they would. And maybe I wouldn't like that either. But you haven't made that case. The only case you have made is that parents should be afraid of losing their rights to teach their kids, and that somehow if something is taught in schools, something you or I or anyone has the freedom to opt out of, that somehow it still is deferring the teaching of morality to the state, which is simply not the case.

Your caution is appreciated but it is moot Dan. You agreed that it was a moot point when you said, " I am not referring to a parents right to decide IF their child should participate in sex education." My rights as a parent will not change one bit whether this legislation passes or not. It's a laughable assertion. What your argument then becomes is not one of keeping the State out of my rights as a parent, but one in favor of the State deciding whether my child should have access to sex-education. In other words, you're talking out of both sides of your mouth. You say I should be afraid of the State taking over, and the solution? The State should take over.

Nephi:

Maybe I have been too abstract. Here is the curriculum I support: "Here's how the human reproductive system works. If you want to know about contraception, ask your parents."

Me:

Ok. Knowing that you have a right as a parent to opt out anyway, you are making this argument based on larger "macromoral" lenses. You believe that it is immoral for contraception to be taught in schools for everyone. Now we're getting somewhere. So let's just dispense with the "State is usurping parents rights" argument right there, it's a red herring. Let's assume this law passes and it becomes unlawful for any teacher, staff member or volunteer in any public or charter school in the state of Utah to even so much as admit that contraceptives exist: What do you expect the net result to be? Will it further your goals or be congruent with your moral compass? Will fewer teenagers have sex? Will teens all just go ask their white moms and dads about sex during family council in their upper-middle-class homes? I doubt it. Will fewer teens use contraceptives? Most likely. If fewer sexually active teens use contraceptives what will then be the result? Is it moral according to your conscience for more teenagers to be pregnant or infected? Is that the recipe for a better society? Will that build up the kingdom of God?

Nephi:

Must... stop... facebook... argument... So... hard... not... to... respond... to... fallacies...

Me:

Nice rebuttal. I'm not trying to argue with you. I only wanted to reason with you. The fact that I disagree with you in no way diminishes my esteem for you or my love and appreciation for your friendship all these years. I haven't meant any insult in this discussion.

When you posted your first comment, I felt it was important to call you out on it because the position you took there is indefensible. I hope we've finally gotten to the heart of the matter. If so, then we simply disagree about what a moral society looks like.

I am trying to be the kind of parent my kids will talk to about anything. I am also trying to teach them to make wise choices, including abstinence before marriage. I recognize that they have moral agency, and at some point in their lives they will probably make critical decisions that I will disagree with. I hope these decisions involve which brands of cars they buy, or whether to become vegans. I allow however, that no matter how good of parents my wife and I may be, there is an outside chance one of our kids will have premarital sex. And no matter how much I insist that I will love and support them and they can talk to me about anything, I probably won't be at the top of their list of people to talk to about it-- I know that. I hope they have a trusted adult they aren't afraid of to give them advice--good or even not so good-- because if I have succeeded at teaching them anything they will be able to winnow truth from error and though they may stumble they will turn out all right. This law has very little to do with these ideals except for that it precludes my hypothetically screwed-up kid from talking to a teacher. But that doesn't matter because this legislation isn't really designed to do anything of any material significance other than bolster our republican representatives chances for re-election in an environment where the tea-party, republican/libertarian/mutant/hybrids that they are, has hijacked all moderation in an insane race to the right that has taken them right off the edge. And it appears that you have bought a ticket to watch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Help!

I have a problem and I need some help with it.  It's about our dog.

I know I've blogged and facebooked about this before.  The thing is, I've always joked about this in the past, but it's no laughing matter.

Lately I've been watching episodes of Monk on Netflix.  My kids have watched it with me sometimes.  One day, after hearing me complain about the dog, my daughter said, "Dad, you're just like Mr. Monk.  You're afraid of dog germs."

The thing is, it's true.  More and more I see it in myself.  And I know that the problem isn't the dog.  It's me.  And it's straining my relationship with my daughter.

Here's the lowdown:

Sometimes I pet the dog when I leave the house in the morning.  Just a pat on the head.  When the weather's cold this is easy because I put my gloves on first.  If it's warm outside or I haven't got gloves on yet I usually just don't pet him.  If I do, because his sad face makes me feel guilty, I usually wash my hands immediately afterwards.

Sometimes I challenge myself to pet him with my bare hands and not wash them.  I can sort-of deal with it because if I'm going to work anyway my hands are going to get covered with grease, scrubbed, and covered with grease again several times throughout the day.  But I can't bear to leave my hands unwashed if I'm staying home.  In fact I swear I can feel the residue from his fur on my hands for hours afterwards and I'm very conscious about what I touch.  It just about drives me crazy.

It gets worse.  The dog likes to happily roll around on our living room rug.  It literally turns my stomach to watch him do this, snorting and shuffling and slobbering all over.  Usually my feet are the only part of me that touches that rug.  If I sit down on the floor to play a game with the kids I wash my hands afterwards and my clothes usually go in the laundry.

The dog also sits on one of our couches regularly, so I never sit on that couch except when the home teachers come over.  While they are visiting with us, I feel acutely conscious of my body position and the parts of my body that touch the area where the dog likes to sit.  I don't dwell on this too much and it doesn't nag at me for very long, but It's definitely outside my comfort zone.

If I feed the dog, touch his food or food bowls, touch the doorknob to the room where his food is kept, or if heaven forbid his wet nose or snout ever touches my skin, it goes without saying that I immediately wash my hands.

I know that this is irrational.  I know that he isn't toxic and that living with a dog is not dangerous to me.  But I can't stop feeling this way.  I've even prayed about it some.  I've tried to train myself to be nicer and more affectionate with him.  The best I've been able to do is coexist without too much vocal complaining.  My daughter made a deal with me that I owe her a dollar every time she hears me complain, so I've kept my mouth shut lately.

A couple of months ago I had a serious talk with the kids and I tried to explain this problem to them in at way they'd understand.  I told them that we had to sell the dog because he deserved to be with someone who could be affectionate with him and play with him.  There was weepingandwailingandgnashingofteeth.  I backed down.

Since then my daugher has been extra affectionate with Midnight.  She is constantly hugging and nuzzling and petting him.  She really loves him.  This morning as she was leaving for school she came to give me a hug (after just hugging the dog) and inside I kind-of cringed.  I hugged her anyway, but it wasn't easy.

After she left I sat and thought about this problem.  It comes down to this:  Either I get over this phobia or I damage my relationship with my daughter.  I don't know how to do this.  So I'm sending a request into the vast ocean of stupidity we call the blogosphere.  Somebody help me please.