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Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings 2018 and the Scythe of Sinister Intentions

Oh yeah … I won first place at the Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings contest on Monday, the spookiest event of the year. The prize was this beautiful work of art, “The Scythe of Sinister Intentions,” which has been great to lug around town. Not only is it a good conversation starter, it gave me an instant Halloween costume without even realizing it. I put on a poncho, because I was cold, and soon people were identifying me as the Grim Reaper.


This was the best and fiercest scary storytelling contest I’ve been a part of. Everyone did a bone-chilling job, and I did not envy the predicament of the judges. It was an honor to rub shoulders with so many talented artists, and Mikaela Hansen did a wonderful job in organizing the event.

My story, “Queen of the Flies”, was based on the following premise: what if everything you’ve ever killed were to come back? According to one audience member, as I described a girl’s horrific encounters with bugs, people all over were subconsciously scratching their bodies (the best compliment I could have hoped for). If you’re afraid of spiders or creepy crawlies, then you definitely don’t want to hear my story:

Believe it or not, the story has a strong element of truth. When I was about eight or nine, I was writing in my journal one night when a spider crawled onto it. My older brother happened to be in the room, and he promptly slammed the book shut. Then he wrote around the slimy remains: “Rest in Pieces.” For years (four or five, if I remember correctly), I didn’t want to touch the book. When, as a teenager, I finally confronted my fear, I opened the book, and a spider actually leaped out. I swear it happened. I know what I saw.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may recall that “Queen of the Flies” is a recurring theme of mine. Years ago, I, Teresa, and my brother Eric made this silly movie for my sister Deanna’ birthday (Deanna had a fear of flies, which fear the protagonist confronts):

Teresa also performed a modern twist on the spooky Mexican folk tale, La llrona, the deranged ghost-woman who will drag your children to watery graves. As I’ve said in previous posts, my wife is scary. And beautiful.

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The Benevolance of Grandmas

giotto_angelAfter Teresa and I returned from a lovely excursion in St. George, we went to pick up our children from Grammy and Gramps, whom we were shamelessly exploiting for their free babysitting services. Upon our arrival, Grammy did the following:

  1. Fed us a gourmet lunch
  2. Presented both girls with new pairs of shoes
  3. Gave Teresa 1 shirt and 2 dresses that allegedly didn’t fit herself … allegedly
  4. Gave us a container full of sugar cookies
  5. Gave us frosting and sprinkles for the sugar cookies
  6. Gave us three hot shortbread cakes, fresh out of the oven
  7. Gave us strawberries and a container of whipping cream for the cakes
  8. Gave us the rest of the cake batter so that we could make more at home
  9. Helped us carry it all to the car
  10. Waved us goodbye until we were completely out of site

How could anyone not love such a woman? Posterity will need to remember their Grandma Gashler.

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"I think he likes me!"

When any manner of insect crosses paths with our four-year-old Ariah, she screams bloody murder and cries for the deliverance of a parent. As for our two-year-old Aspen, on the other hand, when she was sitting outside at Grammy’s house, an insect landing on her finger, and she replied with a bright smile, “I think he likes me!”

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Independence Day

Teresa and I wanted to run the 10k this morning, but our little Aspen woke up with a fever. Though when she started feeling better, we dropped off the kids at Grandma’s house and ran along the parade route as the parade was going. It was actually more fun than the race usually is to be a part of all the hubub. This might become a new tradition.

I’ve always had a notoriously bad throwing arm. But if there’s a chance that a projectile hurled from my fingers, such as a water balloon, could land itself against, I don’t know, the ear of a defenseless eight-year-old girl, not only is my aim impeccable, but suddenly I have the force of a major league pitcher. Then, as that water balloon guides itself to the target of greatest damage like a heat seeking missile, I find myself watching in slow motion, questioning why it’s always been my fate to make little girls cry. Oh, the woes of the physically awkward.

Tonight was strangely reminiscent of last year’s Independence Day. We were in the same parking lot, where fireworks were exploding all around us, and my now four-year-old Ariah was wailing from the horror of it all, while my now two-year-old Aspen took it all in without reservations. Though this year marked a new level of absurdity for the State of Utah. It being the second year since the legalization of bottle rockets, the things were going off everywhere. I mean everywhere. In every neighborhood, on all sides of us, things were exploding, making one feel as if they were under attack. After an hour or so of this craziness, our family had no reservations in retreating.


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The taste of blood

Teresa and I have been sick for a few weeks now. It started with fevers, then progressed into lots of coughing, and now it’s just intolerably sore throats. Unfortunately, I’m expected to sing at the top of my lungs each night at practices for the Scarlet Pimpernel. Hence I’ve become accustomed to the taste of blood in the back of my mouth. Thankfully I have a day off tomorrow.

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Time to get entrepreneurial

It’s interesting how many times I’ve noticed themes in my life. Right now the theme is entrepreneurship. Even more broad than that, it’s a theme of awakening my mind, taking control of my life, and fulfilling my calling. I’ve felt a real need for this over the past few weeks. Not long ago, I was content with my job, and life seemed fine and dandy. Then I remembered a goal I’d set almost two years ago when I first became a full time slave of the corporate machine. The goal was to liberate myself within two years, to spend my hours following my dreams instead of prostituting my talents for things I had no passion for. Do we not too often devote ourselves to something we hate, hoping to, at some future time, free ourselves for that which we love? Lately I’ve been of the opinion that this future time of fulfilment is an illusion. Now is the time to live the life we want to be living, and if there’s a will, there’s a way. The words of a Newsies song come to mind:

Open the gates and seize the day
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Nothing can break us
No one can make us
Give our rights away
Arise and seize the day

Back in December I was faced with the difficult decision of choosing between a well-paying job doing something I’m not passionate about or teaching music (something I’m passionate about) at a high school for a lot less money. Part of me now wishes I’d taken the latter offer, though I knew I made the right choice. Aside from getting more real world experience and sharpening my skills, Teresa and I agreed that we needed the cushy job in order to get out of debt and pay back my parents (who were coming upon difficult financial times) the money they’d given us to help purchase our house. Just a couple weeks ago, we gave my parents a substantial sum of money (having to give it in cash and hide it in a card so they’d actually accept it). It was at this same time that I was beginning to have strong desires to quit my job and try something entrepreneurial. Thus giving up the money was a challenge, because I knew how much it could help in the cause of my liberation.

Still, as the days went by, I got to the point where I couldn’t sleep, because the thought of going to work in the morning was too depressing. Not that there was anything wrong with my work. As far as real jobs go, it was very good. But I just knew that, come morning, I’d spend my most valuable hours working for someone else, and almost the rest of my hours in commuting, house choirs, family responsibilities, etc., leaving me few precious moments for following my dreams. Of course I realize that such has been the fate of untold millions of men since the world began, and I should be grateful for what I have. And yet, if there’s a better way, should we ever accept a less than perfect fate?

I asked Teresa if she’d be okay with me quitting tomorrow. She voiced her concern that this wasn’t wise, as we’d just given up nearly all of our savings, and we didn’t have a ready alternative for making money. Though soon she caught my bug, and a night or two later, she said, “Steve, if you want to quit your job tomorrow, I support you.” But by then, the powers of Lord Bore had worked me into saying, “No, let’s wait till September. We need to build a savings.”

Then a funny thing happened on Friday. First, before I went to work, I checked the analytics on a little project I’d begun months ago, a website that could potentially bring in money. To my surprise, the site had reached a new record of hits by a substantial margin. Turning the site into a source of revenue appeared more plausible than I’d imagined. Then I got to work, and I got laid off. The company was falling upon difficult times, and with the bringing in of a guy whose expertise outshown my own, I’d become expendable. This certainly caught me by surprise, but it by no means depressed me. In fact, I sang for most of the way home. How Teresa took the news was another matter, though she now shares my vision.

I began this post with saying that my life happens in themes. To me it’s clear that my feelings of needing to be independent, my challenge of giving up my savings for a greater good, the sudden growth of my website, and my unexpected unemployment, are not coincidental but have been arranged by the master storyteller, who has reaffirmed to me that my time does matter on this earth, that now is truly the time to seize it, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

So what am I going to do exactly? I don’t know. But I do know that whatever it is must meet three conditions: (1) I have to be in charge, (2) I have to work at home, and (3) I refuse to work more than twenty hours per week. My time is mine. I will not give it up so easily again. Sound crazy? Good.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. And thus all progress depends on the unreasonable man” (George Bernard Shaw).

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I broke another blender

Well, I did it. I broke another blender. This will be the fifth blender I’ve broken in six years of marriage. This one was probably the most epic so far. I accidentally left a metal spoon in the blender, and when I turned the blender on, the spoon burst through the glass, flying across the kitchen and almost hitting my daughter Ariah in the head. A minute later, Teresa walked in with the babysitters for the evening, and Ariah ran up to her, exclaiming, “Mom, dad broke another blender!”