Mom sent the most exciting text today: “Jodi delivered the family pic CD!!!!!” (And yes, there were 5 exclamation points.)
As per usual we had photo-shoot challenges, namely G and Dad were REALLY sick. Like G had to be rudely awakened from a three hour nap sick. Like Dad walked in the door and up the stairs and crashed in bed for three days sick. Despite that, G looks as cute as always and I think Dad is looking quite handsome in these photos. (We’ve decided he’s entering his “Silver Fox” phase.)
Oh, and the truck isn’t a prop. It’s the Crusty Bastard’s latest project.
In a couple of hours, Alek will be sworn in as a Firefighter Paramedic for West Valley City. I am amazed by Alek every day, but especially today. Today is epic.
All of that stuff that people talk about, about following your bliss, about going after your dreams, about the law of attraction, about putting your energy into what you want to get bigger, about putting what you want into the universe and having it come back to you, about God helping those that help themselves — whatever you want to call it — it’s TRUE.
Nothing that you want is upstream.
What I have learned from Alek is this: once you figure out which way your stream is going, and you decide you’re going to follow it downstream instead of fighting against it, you can’t just sit there and wait for what you want to happen.
First, you have to let go of your fear. And letting go of fear is HARD. Alek was really good at what he did. He had been doing it for a long time. He had lots of business. He was making a lot of money. He had just bought another company. This notion of Firefighting was irresponsible. It was crazy. It was too late, he was too old, it was something he shoulda woulda coulda done in his 20’s but not now. This raged in his head for a long time. But he still took that leap.
Once you’re past the fear, you have to turn your boat around and you have to paddle, and you have to paddle HARD. And you can’t.stop.paddling.(ever.)
I don’t think that anyone, even me, can really conceptualize how much work Alek has done in the last two years to get to this point. I’ll tell you what I can remember:
FALL – 2009: Alek found a program at UVU that would not only get him his Bachelor’s degree, but would get him the necessary Firefighter certifications (a.k.a. Operation Two Birds with One Stone.) So he changed his college and changed his major and mapped out the next two years of his life. I bring this up because I had forgotten what a complete and total colossal pain it is to do all of that. Oh, and he had to finish his Math and Computer prerequisites during this semester, which were both complete and total colossal pains as well.
WINTER – 2010: In order to get into the UVU program, Alek had to finish his Associates Degree at Utah State by taking six computer tests, pass an Anatomy Physiology Course at Salt Lake Community College, take a couple of online prerequisite courses at UVU, get his EMT, and get into good enough physical shape to pass the CPAT. This was in a single semester. Oh, and the EMT classes were all full at the 3 colleges he was already attending so the EMT had to be done at a DIFFERENT school. Yes, that’s right, 4 schools, 1 semester. Oh, and ALL of these things had to be done. If he didn’t pass one it didn’t matter about anything else, he didn’t get into the fire program. Full stop.
Oh, did I mention he was working full time this whole semester?
SPRING/SUMMER 2010: Alek would wake up at 6-ish, work all day, head to school at 3-ish, arrive at 4:00, exercise for 90 minutes, learn stuff, fight fires, head home at 10-ish, study until he basically passed out and then get up and start it all over again. This was five nights a week for an entire summer. And he would spend all weekend working and studying.
FALL 2010: Alek took twenty-three, yes TWENTY-THREE credit hours AND had two, yes TWO fire internships. Each internship was ten, 24-hour shifts. So that makes twenty 24-hour shifts. Oh, and he was not paid for these internships and one of them was an extra opportunity, so he didn’t get any college credit for that one. I think he squeezed a few paint jobs there too.
WINTER/SPRING 2011: Alek was accepted into the Paramedic program at UVU. I had no idea how intense this would be. Typical day: Alek gets up at 5:45 AM, Leaves for School at 6:15, School from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Get home at 6:00 PM, Study until he falls asleep. This was Monday – Friday. Saturday and Sunday he studied all day.
SUMMER 2011: Paramedic Clinicals. 1,040 internship hours in 14 weeks. Unpaid. When he wasn’t working he was studying. Studying studying studying. I tried not to stress him out with wedding stuff, I really really tried.
SEPTEMBER 2011: Alek starts work at West Valley. The first five weeks of the job are a Fire Academy. Everyone keeps me asking the same question: “How is married life?” It goes something like this: Alek leaves by 5:15 AM and gets home around 6:30 PM Monday – Thursday. He studies until he falls asleep. He studies Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He’s squeezed a paint job in there. So married life is pretty much the same as engaged life and dating life.
The thing is, during this ENTIRE time of stress so intense it borders on insanity, Alek is HAPPY. Truly happy. Even when he’s puking his guts up with the flu while trying to finish a 25-page paper on the relation between black-market commerce and terrorism for his homeland security class: HAPPY.
I think he’s still in disbelief that he is actually getting paid to do this job.
HAPPINESS. BLISS. DOWNSTREAM.
The last thing I’ve learned is that you can’t get your boat downstream without a lot of love and support and advice and help and more love. Love makes the world go ’round.
So, I wanted to share my love by saying THANK YOU to all of the people that jumped in Alek’s boat and helped him get downstream:
To Leanna: Thank you for getting Alek through math. Getting through math started it all. That witty, sharp, photographic brain of yours is truly a gift. We probably owe you something like thirty grand for tutoring and I promise to get it to you, payable in wine, over the course of the next fifty years of our lives together.
To Adam: Thank you for covering for Alek at Harley for two summers. Alek loves that job and you have made it work for him. I know it has made your life stressful and shortened your summers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To Wendy Farnsworth, Academic Advisor at the UVU Institute of Emergency Services & Homeland Security: You are hands down the reason that Alek was able to put together this program, follow it, and finish it. Alek could not have gone this far in such a short period of time without your guidance.
To DA, Atwood, Rock and All the Guys on Two’s; To Penick, Butler, Roberts, Reardon, Howard and Williams: Thank you for the countless hours spent in carpools and tutoring and in study groups and creating test prep guides. Thank you for access to ECG machines and for letting Alek practice IV’s on you. Thank you for believing in Alek as much as I did. Thank you for all of the advice and encouragement and day to day support. Alek is still learning and you are still teaching and I cannot tell you what that means to him. And I had no idea when this all began that it would end with so many friends. I am excited that you are a part of our lives.
To all of our family and friends and everyone that I forgot: THANK YOU. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. Thank you for understanding why Alek hasn’t been there for Holidays/Birthdays/Special Events/Brunches/Dinners/Lake trips/Parties/BBQ’s and countless other events. Thank you for your constant love and constant encouragement.
To Alek: Can you believe that this is the last link in the chain? I still can’t believe it. I am so incredibly proud of you. I am so in love with who you are at your very core. Thank you for moving past your fear. Thank you for going after what you really wanted. Thank you for working so hard. Thank you for being yourself. Thank you for showing me what following your bliss really means. Thank you for inspiring me to follow my bliss, and most of all, thank you for showing me what it takes to get it.
92% of business dinners with fun and interesting people end up with everyone telling their crazy stories about business travel. The other 8% end up with all of you going out and doing crazy things together that you can tell stories about later. And then eventually you become friends for life with those people and that’s the best part of business.
(Sidebar: Business dinners with boring people that only want to talk about business all night may just rank #3 on my list of what I would consider to be “Personal Hell.” I have about a 14 hour threshold for business talk and then I want to explode. I feel like this is an acceptable level that would get me through a long-ass day followed by dinner. But at some point you have just got to STOP with the business talk because life is short. But I digress…)
Thursday night I had a business dinner with some new people that turned out to be interesting and fun. I mean, how often do you run into someone who has the same passion for really great homemade pickles as you do?
Anyways, as predicted by my super-scientific method, the meal ended up with some crazy business travel stories and I heard the BEST description of Chicago Business Travel EVER:
“So we were wandering around Michigan Avenue and I was trashed and they were trashed and it was ri-dic-ulous…” (drifts off) “…But not like Las Vegas. I mean, that’s a whole different kind of crazy.”
Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
We randomly got free tickets to see the Foo Fighters in concert last night. And then Alek’s brother had a hook-up in a suite so we had some free popcorn with our free tickets. And then we noticed that there were a bunch of open seats in front of the suite and yada yada yada, we had some really great free seats at the Foo Fighters concert last night! Thank You West Valley City!
The Foo Fighters are a part of Alek’s identity and therefore, a part of our story. See, the reason Alek didn’t show up to meet me to talk about painting The Chocolate Loft was because he and his brother were on a cross-country motorcycle trip to see the Foo Fighters in Washington D.C. Then, when he called me about said paint job later, we ended up talking about his trip and I distinctly remember Alek saying something about having a “man crush” on Dave Grohl. I remember this because I thought it was hilarious and I wanted to keep talking to him. Thus, we ended up on our first date.
As we were driving downtown on our first date the radio was on and Alek stopped mid-sentence to say: “This song will be played at my wedding.” It was the Foo Fighter’s Everlong. (I filed that little request away for possible later use.)
Fast forward to our wedding. We were so so incredibly lucky to have our incredibly talented cousins there to play the violin. (Anna and Alex are currently at Juilliard and Chad is under contract with IMG and performing with symphonies around the world as a soloist WHILE HE FINISHES HIGH SCHOOL. Yes, High School!)
These three are not only incredibly talented musicians, they are incredibly lovely people. (This is no surprise really, because their parents are also incredibly lovely people.) They are bright and funny and smart and polite and spiritual and articulate and poised and well-traveled and interesting and I just adore them.
I would say that overall I’m not a very sentimental person, but I’d like to think I remember the stuff that is REALLY important. Like that comment on our first date. So, Anna and Alex and I plotted for months about a surprise performance of Everlong for Alek that would be played after our toasts at the wedding.
Anna and Alex and Chad created a special arrangement of the song and IT.WAS.BEAUTIFUL. It was stop-you-in-your-tracks beautiful like the pure sound of laughter that Future Boy makes when you tickle his belly and the devastating silence in the middle of Death Valley all rolled up together.
It was beautiful because it was so unexpected. It was beautiful because it was just SO Alek. It was beautiful because he loved it so much. It was beautiful because it was the most perfect gift they could have given to him. It was beautiful because they are beautiful people. It was beautiful because they work so hard to be a channel for beauty that we all get to enjoy, and they make it all seem so effortless. It was beautiful because it brought our first date to our wedding night full circle. It was beautiful because there was so much love for us in that room.
It was perfection. It was easily the best part of the best day of my life.
Alex and Anna and Chad: THANK YOU for your time and your talent and for the best part of the best day of my life.
And to Alek’s Man Crush Dave Grohl (P.S. after seeing him live last night, he might just be my man crush too. He is a talented, hilarious, BAMF.) THANK YOU for writing the greatest love song of all time.
All firefighters have some sort of part time job. Why they do is beyond me. Alek will end up with a schedule that is 48-hours on and 96-hours off and, according to the orientation night at West Valley, will work about 56-hours a week doing his “regular” firefighting job. Plus he can pick up overtime shifts.
Despite what people might think, firefighters don’t just work when they go out on calls. They cook meals, clean the station, clean the equipment, do building maintenance, equipment maintenance, yard work, regular physical fitness training, regular hazmat training, regular evolution training, keep up on all of their certifications, train new hires…the list goes on and on. From what I can tell, most people are just jealous that firefighters get to cram an entire work week into two-ish days. But make no mistake, they work their asses off in those 48-hours.
I tell Alek all the time that I expect that in his 96-hours off he will be a “Man of Leisure.” One, because he will have already worked 56-ish hours and two, because he deserves to relax. My current crusade is to get him to purchase a season pass at a local resort so he can snowboard his brains out this winter. While I think I will be successful in getting Alek to purchase said season pass, he insists on having a part-time gig (I guess I’ll hold off on investing in that silk smoking jacket and slippers.) We have, however, come to an agreement that he will narrow down his current six (yes SIX) part time jobs to one.
Painting did not make the cut.
See, Alek has been painting, and been really successful at it, for over 15 years. The money has been really good, and has financed his many Hawaiian and European and Costa Rican and cross-country-motorcycle-riding adventures, but, well, he’s tired. And it’s just time. 15 years is an awesome run but I think that the minute Alek decided to follow his heart and pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter he wanted to stop painting, so he’s slowly tapered off. But until he got his first paycheck last Friday, firefighting didn’t seem real.
But Friday it WAS real, and he’s decided that when he’s done with the paint job he’s currently working on that he will officially be done painting. So I’ve declared this current job to be the Last.Paint.Job.Ever. (I suppose you can never say never, and maybe in a few years when things have settled down a bit Alek might want to pick up a lucrative faux finish job here and there, but for now, it’s 1 part time job down, 4 to go.)
Don’t get me wrong, I have much respect and much love for Alek’s paint work. He is very VERY good at what he does, and his work is beautiful. And if he’d wanted to stay a paint contractor I would have been totally happy with that. In a way, this last.paint.job.ever. is a bit sad, the way that the ends of eras always are, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from Alek in the last three years:
1. Measure twice, cut once.
2. Contractors need to pay someone that they trust to manage their business affairs. This is especially important if you are the one actually doing the contract work. It’s insanely difficult to execute a project AND be the one to figure out schedules, hire people, prepare bids, invoice clients, actually get general contractors to pay you, reconcile bank accounts, file taxes, create a website, keep the website up to date, drum up new clients, keep the LLC registered, etc.
3. Bidding jobs is very VERY hard and takes more time to put together than you’d ever expect. It requires lots and lots of experience, gut instinct and complex math equations. (You know all that algebra you thought you’d never use in real life? Well, you need it.) So, if you’re a general contractor, and you already know who you want to work with for paint and you’re having paint sub-contractors bid out a job just so you can get the three bids the homeowner requires: you’re a dick.
4. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just buy the Green Frog Tape. Yes, I know it’s more expensive than the blue tape. Yes, I know it’s A LOT more expensive than the blue tape. Yes, it is TOTALLY worth it.
5. Always look for a fan tip on a spray paint can. If there isn’t one, find a fan tip and swap it out.
6. Never, ever finish cabinets or furniture with a vinyl based paint product. You want a LACQUER base. Do you hear me? LACQUER base!! (This is something that Alek and his friends are quite passionate about. I don’t question it.)
7. The world has yet to invent a “Green” product that can hold up as well and as long as a LACQUER based product. Once they do, contractors will buy it, until then, you want LACQUER!!!
8. Never, ever buy Venetian plaster at Lowe’s. Only get the Venetian plaster from Home Depot. But don’t ever buy regular paint at Home Depot (or Lowe’s for that matter. I know, I know, but I don’t make the rules.) Oh, and call Alek once you get your Home Depot (NOT LOWE’S!) Venetian Plaster because there are only a couple of people in the valley that know how to mix the color for the Venetian plaster product correctly.
9. While spreading the colorful paint flecks on an epoxy floor may look like something any ding dong could do, it is actually part art, and part science. And it’s a lot harder to do than you’d think. Still, it looks like fun, no?
10. The quality of the paint product has a direct effect on the quality of your finished project. And quality product (especially epoxies, metallic paint and Venetian plaster) is expensive.
11. And finally, if you’re going to call a paint contractor and basically brain-rape him into to telling you EXACTLY which products to buy and EXACTLY how much product to buy and EXACTLY what the correct process is to epoxy your garage floor and he is kind enough to spend an hour on the phone with you discussing this because he’s a nice person, just buy the $100/gallon epoxy that he told you to buy. Don’t go to your local construction superstore and get discount epoxy (see #9 above) just to save a few bucks. And if you do decide to ignore his advice and buy cheap product, DON’T call him later to complain about how you spent two days on this project only to find that the cheap epoxy is peeling up off of your garage floor. Just sayin’…