Friday, May 25, 2007

My Kids and My Country

I had a very interesting Encounter with Art yesterday, in a place I wasn’t expecting it. Some of you will recall my definition of art, that being some form of expression that makes me think of things in a new way.

Brendon’s third-grade class has been learning a bunch of patriotic songs recently, in preparation for an evening performance at a special “Servicemen’s Appreciation Night”. Actually, third graders from all the classes in both Eagle Mountain schools were participating.

Well, last night was the great evening of the performance. I rushed home from work to pick up the boys and take them to the town amphitheater. We got there, actually, with plenty of time, so Jake and I got our seats on the sloping lawn in front of the stage, while Brendon got ready with his classmates.

The show went off as planned, and the kids sang and did their hand motion choreography quite well. The songs were good, but pretty much forgettable. But at one point, the time came to present the colors, and a marine color guard marched out. Then the kids sang the national anthem, and signed it as they were singing it. And I actually teared up. It really got to me, hearing all those kids singing the song. It was amazing. I spent the rest of the program contemplating my own patriotism.

See, the right wing in the country has tried really hard to commandeer patriotism for a lot of years now, but especially as it relates to the Iraq war. They’ve tried to posture it so that if you don’t support the war, you’re supporting the enemy, and are, therefore, un-American.

But that’s not what American freedom stands for. That’s not what the flag stands for. I pledge my allegiance to it so that I CAN dissent from my government if I feel its choices are wrong. And I can use my most patriotic and American of all my rights to voice that opinion in many forms: spoken, written, sung, and most important of all, in my vote.

I do admire our soldiers for being willing to give such a sacrifice for what they believe is right. Just like I admire my own pioneer ancestors who left Nauvoo and risked their lives crossing the plains for what the believed was right. And those who have served and/or died in many of the other conflicts and struggles.

For that, I am very grateful.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, May 24, 2007


A long time ago, I was in a craft boutique with my wife, and I saw something that made me laugh. It caught me with that sort of cynical laughter that comes up when something is stated in a clever way and hits really too close to home.

It was a cutsie little cross-stitch, in two panels. The first had a sweet teddy bear, dressed in an apron in a kitchen. Underneath it, it said, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

The second panel showed another teddy bear, dressed in pants, shirt and a tie, sitting in a chair reading the paper. Its caption read, “If papa ain’t happy, ain’t nobody cares!”

Then a few days ago, a close friend of mine had an article published in Meridian Magazine about what happens to men when they go through sadness, depression, and trauma. So often, we are either ignored or told to just “Suck it up and get on with life”. It can be very isolating.

I remember when, after 8 years of hope and infertility treatments, we finally conceived only to lose the baby at 19 weeks to a miscarriage. At the time, I was working in an elementary school teaching music to other people’s kids. And my boss expected me back in the classroom the following Monday as if nothing had happened.

As we’ve been discussing this article on a forum I’m in, one of the ladies observed, “I am embarrassed to admit that in all the times when tragedy or difficulty has befallen a family, it has never once occurred to me to give solace or sympathy to the father or husband. I haven't avoided it or thought that the Elder's Quorum should or will do it, it has just NOT occurred to me. I manage to offer my sympathies and extend my understanding to the wife and kids, but well, clearly I have not finished the effort.”

Everyone reacts to stress differently. Everyone handles it (or mishandles it) in their own way. Still, I’m reminded of the admonition of Alma to be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort…”

Mark Hansen

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Where I've Been

Andy, over at 3 left turns, suggested that we do this map that shows the states we've been in. To the best of my (admittedly hazy) recollection, here's mine:

It's pretty cool when you think of it. My family, when we lived in Indiana, used to make trips to Washington DC so Dad could do some consulting work, and we used to make a family vacation out of it. We would always stop at sights along the way, like Kirtland, OH, and the Gettysburg battlefield.

Then we'd also make trips out to Utah to visit my mom's family. When I was in jr. high and high school, we came out and attended BYU's music/orchestra camps. So, most of the states between UT, IN, and DC were just "passin' thru" kind of visits.

We've visited California a few times, my wife and I, as well as Yellowstone. I don't think we actually crossed into Montana when we visited the park. Still, If we had, we just bumped across the border, so I wouldn't really count it.

So, where've you been?

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back Home Again, in Indiana...

I never really liked that song much. Still, it's appropriate.

Last March, my Dad asked my Mom what she wanted for her birthday, and she said, "I want to have my whole family out." So, Dad got on the 'net and on the phone, booked us plane tickets, and we came out.

While I was there (even for just a weekend), one of the things that struck me was all the artifacts of my childhood. They really struck me, and made me remember. I shot some pics with my cell phone, and thought I'd share a few, with their stories.

This first one is our piano. I can't ever remembering a time when we didn't have it. My mom gave me my first piano lessons on it (even though at the time I didn't want them that bad). I used to sit on one side of it and listen to my sister play. I'm sure that bugged her, but that was probably a big reason why I did it at the time.

I did learn to play some cool songs on it, like "Nobody Home" from "The Wall", and Genesis' "Abacab". When I played that one it would drive my mom nutz. Once she said, "You know, you could vary the bass line, some..."

Once, while a boy scout at Camp Krietenstein, I found this dead tree that had a branch off at a really interesting angle. I cut it off, and brought it back to camp, where I spent several days turning it into this walking stick. This would have been in the later 70's. I brought it home, and mom showed me some oils to rub into it as a finish. I don't even know what kind of wood it is. I just thought it looked great, and made a great walking stick.

I'm not sure at what point it stopped being mine and started being hers, but we've both been happy with the arrangement. As her health and strength have faded, she's used it more and more, to the extent that she pretty much carries it wherever she goes, now. Even though it has a strange curve to the cane, it supports her weight well, and has never cracked. Kinda makes me proud!

This is the cookie jar that Mom pretty much kept full of homemade chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies most of my life. She tells the story that at one point I came up to her while she was working on something and pouted. When she asked what was wrong, I said, "The cookie jar is empty and all you do is sit there."

I learned to steal from this jar with amazing efficiency. I knew Mom was upstairs, so it required utmost stealth. I would sneak up to the jar (no easy feat, with creaky floors), grab the lid handle, and in one fast motion lift it straight up, so as to not make any noise. After retrieving the cookies, I'd gently set it back down and creep away. It took a lot of practice to get the technique down, but once I had it, no cookie was safe. Muahahahahaha!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Strong Verse

I used to write poetry a lot. And I mean a lot.

Back in college, in Indiana, I minored in creative writing. I took a bunch of poetry writing classes. It was over that time that my writing evolved. I used to think that obscure and confusing was cool. I had a really good teacher that showed me that the point of art was to communicate, not to obfuscate.

I still write poetry, but most of it is in the form of song lyrics. There are those who would separate those two into different camps. There are songwriters that say that poems can’t be lyrics, and poets that think that song lyrics are simply strings of clich├ęs. And, by the definitions in their own minds, they’re both right. In my mind, however, they are inseparable. A song is merely a poem written with certain rules of form and structure.

That does mean, however, that a good song should be much more “poetic” in its use of imagery and a good turn of a phrase.

Both, however, should be clear. One of my biggest gripes with both the poets I read and the songwriters I listen to is that they both seem to think, as I used to, that obscurity is the epitome of artistic expression.


If I don’t get it, you failed to communicate.

Today, I found a website that’s dedicated to poetry that reflects these values. It’s published by, no surprise, Orson Scott Card. The site is, and their slogan is “Great Poetry is meant to be understood, not decoded.” In their submission guidelines is the following rule: “If your poetry can only be understood by you or your close group of friends, share it with them.”

That’s so cool. I wish more mopey, angtsy, sappy “alternative” songwriters would do that…

Mark Hansen


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