May 25-31: It ain’t over lentil it’s over!

2020 is now more than 40% through. Blows me away how quick it has gone.

Monday was Memorial Day, and I did spend some time reflecting on those who gave the full measure of devotion. I had nothing planned, but my evening was rescued by Dillon. He came by in the afternoon to bring some of the first spinach harvest from our garden. It’s been wonderful to eat, and does taste different from the spinach bought at the store. The leaves are also much thicker.

We talked for a while, and then Dillon invited me to come over later that night for a Memorial Day party. His father was a veteran and died in 2018, so the holiday is special to the family. The family was doing it with one of their neighbors, who I’ve referenced before as we had an EQ activity at their guest house. That is where this was held also. Of course, there was lots of amazing food. We numbered 9, and had no shot at finishing it all, so we brought leftovers home.

The ribs were great – but the beans were unbelievable and took the top spot in my opinion.

We ate and talked. Then we talked and ate. The day slowly turned into night, and we put Jumanji 2: the Next Level on the outdoor tv and watched that. It turned out to be a very fun and enjoyable night.

Thursday was my roommate Tyler’s b-day. We also had a new roommate, Logan, move in. He is very good friends with Tyler and I’ve gotten to know him throughout this last year. Spencer moved out in march due to covid, so Logan (who will be taking my room in the fall), moved in to Spencer’s room. Thursday also began summer swimming, as Porter’s pool at Glenwood opened up.

The pool was so nice, and Friday found me there again. This time, I stayed too long and got sunburned. I quickly fell into an easy routine of swimming and chess these two days. Though I haven’t played hardly at all recently, when the Utah Federation reached out to me for an online tourney, I was ready to jump into it a little more.

With Dillon on Monday, we had hatched a plan to watch World War Z. It’s a nice apocalyptic, pandemic-causing-zombies thriller starring Brad Pitt. John H., David K., Jacob C., Aaron R., Logan, Dillon and Dave all came over for it. Aaron brought pizzas and we had some other snacks as well. And 2 hours of suspenseful action until a vaccine was created to save the world. It was a fun night. Admittedly I was spooked, and didn’t want to go outside at all after. We were supposed to start watching at 7 so it would finish while it was still light out; however the pizza was running late as were a few others so the movie ended at 10. And it was dark. Although I resisted the temptation to move the fridge and couch in front of our doors before going to bed, I think that is the only zombie movie I’ll be watching for a long time.

Saturday night, Kami C. came over for a dinner date. We made the food together and settled on a course of salmon, rice, and zucchini. Everything turned out surprisingly well, cooked quickly, and I had a fantastic time. Kami is from Idaho, served her mission in San Antonio, and is studying nursing at BYU.

Sunday Porter came over like always. He did not get the salmon this time. Instead, I have been experimenting with some lentil recipes and he was the lucky recipient. He was a very good sport about it, and the food turned out better than either of us were expecting. That food being whole-wheat pasta served with a lentil sauce. I cooked some lentils, threw them in the blender, and started adding ingredients until it tasted alright. The winning recipe:

-3 cups (cooked) lentils

-1 Tbsp powdered sugar

-1/2 cup golden raisins (just in case you were worried the lentils wouldn’t provide enough fiber).

-1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

-1/2 tsp white vinegar

-1/2 tsp garlic salt

-1/2 tsp salt

And now a joke:

How do legume wars end?

With a peas treaty.

Lentils have been disregarded for too long. They are a super food in my opinion. The world needs someone to do to lentils what George Washington Carver did to peanuts. And I’m going to give it a shot!

Of course, as much good as lentils can do to our bodies, the souls of the world really needs the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The last few days have been filled with riots and protests over the death of George Floyd. In my 24 years, I have become fully convinced, that until we can comprehend how we are all sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, we will have cause to cry and reason to weep. No government can truly solve societal problems. We need the gospel. I love this quote from President Ezra Taft Benson:

“It is my conviction that the world needs, as it needs no other thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the people of the world want what the gospel will give, but they do not realize it. They want the anchor which the gospel provides, which gives them the answers to the problems that face them; that brings them a feeling of security and a feeling of inner peace. The gospel is the only answer to the problems of the world…Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite [people] of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family.”

may 18th-24th: I fell into a burning ring of fire

Yep, still reading the Inferno. And while the mutual dates have continued, I haven’t fallen in love yet.

There were three dates this week. The first was with Lauren on Thursday night. She’s from Arizona, served a mission in Montana/Wyoming, and wants to be a nurse. She came over to my house and we sat at the kitchen table and painted watercolors while conversing. It was a fun (and simple) date, and I then walked her home.

Saturday, I went out with Maddie. Quick background: Last week, Porter is good friends with her younger brother. They were all on a camp-out together and Porter thought he would get along well. All of this was happening unbeknownst to me though. I received a text from Maddie introducing herself and then a few minutes later one from Porter quite funny. I texted more with Maddie throughout the week than any one before, and I was quite excited to go out on this blind date. I called her and we marked a picnic for Saturday at Draper City Park. My friends Kimball and Aubrey met us there, and we played bocce ball and corn hole and ate some pasta and watermelon. Maddie is a student at UVU, studying business and currently works for the church in the Seminaries and Institute department. She served her mission in Atlanta.

And the third date was on Sunday. This one was with Fernanda, from Petropolis, RJ, Brazil. She is a student at BYU and LOVES to paint, so we also did watercolors. I picked up a couple of pointers from her and had another good time.

More than anything, I wanted to be more social this week and simply go on some dates. Mission accomplished. For those who may be wondering, I always like to note where people are from, what they are studying, and where (if applicable) they served their mission. I know that this doesn’t even begin to define who they are and the myriad assortment of talents and interests that they have. Yet, I am amazed at all the wonderful people I am constantly meeting and am blown away by how amazingly different people are, and that is in some very small way indicated by those three facts. The world is a lot bigger than I can imagine, and it’s filled with talented, hard-working kind souls who truly care about others and intend to leave the planet better than they encountered it.

Eating healthy, working out. The gym is open Monday-Friday, and then they close over the weekend for “deep cleans.” I’ve been going with David, and we made it all 5 days this week. My days have fallen in to an easy routine of waking up, having breakfast and free time until 8 am, then reading scriptures and studying until 10 am. At that point, I meet up with David in the gym and we work out for just over an hour, then I go running, and return home to shower. Lunch is at 12, and I try to be in the BYU Library at 1 to start studying.

The reality is, this is the most time I have put into working out and focusing on eating healthy, and I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Another benefit of quitting my job is that I’ve had time to ponder, meditate, and just think creatively. And yes, there are now 4 small-business ideas that I want to try. I’ve been working with my new friend Klaus, on golf tours in Brazil. He is from Vienna originally, but married a Brazilian, and has lived there for 18 years now. he leads tours, both for Brazilians wanting to go overseas to Europe, and for Germans to Brasil. I am partnering with him to try and get the american market. I think the key will be the corporate travelers who have a day or two free while they are there on business.

Porter came over Sunday and this is what we had for lunch. I kind of want to do a food blog, and so I’ve been working on presentation.

We played Scrabble again, and this time I barely emerged victorious after a furious comeback and lots of luck. The last letter I drew was the blank which allowed me to both take advantage of a triple word score and go out first.

The other notable event of the week was “The Re-Match.” I partnered up with Kimball and we faced off against c-i-l Mike and Bowen at Talon’s Cove Golf Course. We tried and we failed again. Bowen and Mike won the first two holes and we couldn’t ever catch up. When they won the 8th, it was officially over. These 2×2 matches have been a lot of fun, and I want one more shot at beating Bowen, so round 3 will be soon.

I’ve really been struggling this week to decide if I even want to go to BYU Law School, or if UConn is the right place for me. I’ve compiled a list of pros/cons to help me weigh the factors. It’s a tough call. In the midst of this, I am more  thankful than ever to know that God has a plan for each and every one of us. I know if we try and live worthy of the Spirit, He will guide our footsteps and all will be well. 2 Nephi 32:3

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”

What struck me reading this is that it is not enough to read good books. It is not enough to read the scriptures. We must be buried in the actual words of Christ.

May 11-17th: Potato Paradise

It’s been a great week! My inevitable 1/4 century crisis is still 45 days away, and I had an absolute blast these seven days.

Monday, I had planned to go to Salt Lake and have brunch with Emma, but she had work and cancelled last minute. I instead got some studying in, and then headed up to Boise. Yep, as in Idaho. I’ve been promising my friend Brian for almost 3 years that I would visit, and figured that now was the perfect time for a little golf trip.

The drive took 5.5 hours, was uneventful, rather peaceful, and I loved seeing the countryside. I haven’t been to Idaho since I was a baby, so everything was new. i arrived about 4:30pm, at Brian’s office, and we left from there for our 5:05 tee time at Banbury Golf Course nearby. The course was fantastic and in great shape (although the greens had been aerated, so they were a little slow). We played 18, enjoyed the great weather and I learned lots about Brian and his business.

This is the tenth hole, which was our first of the day. It runs through a residential neighborhood, but the houses are far enough away that you can barely even see them, and they *shouldn’t* come into play. Key word being shouldn’t. I’m unfairly blaming my bad shot on the long car ride. I stepped up to the tee above, and the easiest hole on the course, a straight 370 yard hole, and pushed my drive so far to to the right the houses did come into play, and for what felt like a long time, I was muttering, “don’t hit a window, don’t hit a window…” Then we heard the satisfying smack off the roof, and I could breathe again. No one came close to hitting a house after that.

This is on the 8th, our penultimate for the day, and a short little par-3 over a lake.

After the round, we went to Brian’s apt, had some snacks, and then joined his roommate Mike and some friends at the hot tub. After that, it was off to bed. I crashed on the couch and slept like a baby. Brian and his two roommates all left for work by 8, so I was alone and cranked out some studying in the morning. They subscribe to National Geographic, and I did take a break to check that out. Oops. Once you read, “Hundreds of Tiny Arachnids are Likely on Your Face Right Now,” there is no going back. Here is the link for those interested:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/05/face-mites-the-tiny-tenants-that-likely-live-in-your-pores/

I had no idea all these mites were living on me, and don’t think I wanted to know either.

After studying, I headed to downtown Boise 15 minutes away for lunch and to sight see. I stopped at Westside Drive-In for a huge burger.

The size and deliciousness exceeded my expectations. They also have this on the menu:

Regrettably, I didn’t get this. It seemed a little expensive, the picture didn’t look appealing and 1/4 of the menu items were labelled world famous . I mentioned it to Brian later though and he said that the Ice Cream Potato is 1. huge 2. Beautiful looking 3. Delicious. So, if there are any Boise travelers out there, get the cold potato!

I continued my wanderings, and visited the Old Penitentiary compound, and walked around the capitol building and the surrounding area. Most everything was closed to visitors due to coronavirus, but I did check out a couple food stores and peeked at the state botanical garden as well.

The most interesting fact from the Idaho Capitol area relates to a statue of Frank Steunenberg that I stumbled across. Here is the inscription:

When in 1899 organized lawlessness challenged the power of Idaho, he upheld the dignity of the state, enforced its authority and restored LAW AND ORDER within its boundaries, for which he was assassinated in 1905.
“Rugged in body, resolute in mind, massive in the strength of his convictions, he was of the granite hewn.” In grateful memory of his courageous devotion to public duty, the people of Idaho have erected this monument.” 

The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) didn’t like Steunenberg to the extent that even though he had left office in 1901, the leadership under the direction of Big Bill Haywood called a hitman in, and had Steunenberg assassinated in 1905. It took a couple attempts, before Harry Orchard set a bomb and finished the job. Clarence Darrow represented Haywood at the trial and got him off the hook somehow, although Orchard, was sentenced to life in prison. He spent the next 46 years in prison, serving the most time ever in the Old Penitentiary, before dying at age 88. He never recanted his testimony, and and continued to admit that everything he had said (including the fact that he had killed 17 people for the WFM before Steunenberg) was true.

Talking about the penitentiary, here it is. Supposedly one of the better hikes in Boise, to Table Rock, is up a mountain nearby, and I went up a little bit before calling it a day.

This is the Bishop’s House, at the Penitentiary. Slightly more than 1/4 of the population of Idaho are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I thought that might be why this house is called the Bishop’s House, as perhaps there was a chaplain assigned to it, but it belongs to the Catholic Diocese.

After my short tour of Boise, I went to meet up with Brian at Shadow Valley Golf Club. They have an evening special of $9 for 9 holes, and the manager was kind to give us that deal, and then let us play a few holes for free on the back to warm-up before our 6:20 tee time.

We made it through 5 holes when the ominous looking clouds began to dump rain on us. We hid behind a brick restroom building, and thought about calling it a day. After 15 minutes, it blew past us, and the weather was perfect. The rain had also chased everyone off, so we had the course to ourselves just about. And, I made a slight adjustment in my stance, sliding my right foot back two inches, which led to me hitting bombs and really wanting to finish the round.

This is the fourth hole, a 558 yard par 5. The clouds are moving in, but we thought might slip by us. 25 minutes later, we would know we were wrong on that.

And, after the storm. It’s overcast, but not raining. This is the other par 5, hole number 7. Each hole had lots of undulation and variety. The architect did a great job providing different options and lots of risk/reward shots. This hole was my best drive of the day, a bomb that started right and drew back to finish on the right side of the fairway….345 yards away.

I was really playing good and looking at a great score before the last two holes tripped me up, and my greediness cost me some strokes. Still a great round and a great course.

We returned to the apartment, and went hot tubbing again. It was so relaxing and felt great. Mike had made us steaks, and they were unbelievably good. He gave me some pointers, which i will have to try. For these, he seared them, then slow-cooked them for 2 hours, and finally added a homemade honeybutter glaze on top. 5/5 stars.

Golf, hot tub, steak. It was a great day!

Wednesday morning, (after another deep sleep, maybe due to the hot tub?) I had the place to myself and studied some more.

Part of my reasoning for making this trip was because Oregon is only about 40 miles from Boise. I have never been, and it would make state number 44/50, (leaving Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Alaska, and Hawaii). The other 4 in the continental US are all adjacent – and I figured this would be my best near-term shot at visiting the Beaver State.

So, after doing my study time, I headed out and made it to Ontario, Oregon, where I figured I would play one more round of golf. This is farming country (the grocery store in Boise had like 10 apple varieties – Pink apple variety is a new favorite), and while I had looked up the place before, I was still surprised. When I called to get a tee time asking for something around “10 or 11 am,” the manager said, “well, Bill’s group tee’s off at 11 am. So don’t come then.” That was it though, which left me confused until I got there and understood that every other time was open. Bill plays with four friends every Wednesday at 11 am, but no one else was on the course. The course is called Country View, and when i got there, that made sense too. It is on the top of a small mountain and one can see for miles in every direction. It was beautiful!

 

Hole #8, a short par 4. Alas, I missed this short putt.

This is hole #3. It’s 165 yards, straight downhill, and has the smallest green I have EVER seen on a golf course.

I am a huge fan of Treasure Valley. I talked with the owner, Scott McKinney for a while, then went out to play. My step was light, and it just felt pure. It wasn’t overly manicured, but it was natural and followed the land. The first few holes were good, holes 5-9 were incredible! On 5, i lost my first ball in 24 holes, ending a good streak, and hooking one into a farmers field. 5 is a par 5, and you have to play over a huge gully to reach the green in two, or you can play way to the right. Hole 6 is a par 3, also over a huge gully, and I had my best shot of the day. I drew my 8-iron 190 yards into a slight breeze and finished 5 feet behind the pin. It was perfect.

Hole number 5.

I finished well this time too, and returned to the clubhouse to talk a little more with Scott, and hear some history of the area, before going on the road again. I was tempted to swing down to Jackpot, NV on my way home, but that was pushing it, and I figured I’d save that for another trip. I did make two stops though.

The first was in Bliss, ID, population 318. With a name like that, and no rush, I thought I’d briefly visit and am glad I did. It has amazing views of the snake river.

I continued further, and stopped in Twin Falls, ID. Evil Knievel tried jumping the Snake River Canyon here in 1974, but was unsuccessful.  I had no idea how beautiful the canyon is. Shoshone Falls, called the “Niagra of the West” is just outside the town, and after eating I went to visit.

Shoshone Falls. The dams control the flow, so it’s not as wide as it once was. It’s not as powerful as Niagara either. However, it is taller. I felt woozy even looking down. The falls are 200+ feet tall, and I was higher than that. The canyon is simply incredible.

Perrine Bridge, crossing the snake river Canyon. When it was built, it was the highest bridge in the world.

I’m at the Visitor’s Center here, looking out on the canyon. The picture simply does not do justice. This was one of those times my breath was taken away, and I could imagine living in a house nearby, in perpetual awe of the grandeur of God’s creations. This is a few miles upstream from the falls, and in my mind it is prettier.

I stayed longer than I anticipated, but less than I wanted, before finally getting back on the road again for the last few hours. The final leg was uneventful, and I arrived home about 9:30 pm. This was an unforgettable trip, and I am very, very grateful for how everything turned out, the opportunity I had to go, and the memories I’ll forever treasure.

Saturday, I had my first date in 3 months. I met Haylie via mutual, and for our date we went to Kiwani’s park and played tennis. She won, and I had a blast. Then we went and got some ice cream at “Founding Flavors,” a new ice cream shop. It’s very historically themed, with the employees dressed up as revolutionary war soldiers and each flavor named after a founding fathers/someone from that era. I tried the “Aaron Burr Murderous Shot,” which was Madagascar black vanilla. Either flavors include “Franklin’s Black Raspberry Republic if you can keep it,” “Thomas Paine’s Peppermint Common Sense Concoction,” and “Give me Chocolate or give me Death.” Haylie is from Colorado, served a mission in Alberta, Canada, is finishing up her accounting degree, and justtjust signed her offer to work for KPMG. It was a way fun date.

Sunday, we had sacrament at our house again, and Porter came over for lunch. Then he whipped me, absolutely thrashed me, in Scrabble.

I went over to Tanmarie’s that evening, as Tanner had kindly offered to take some photos. He did a great job, then I hopped on the roof to take Tanmarie’s annual photo. While I was snapping that, they snuck one last shot of me.

It’s been a great week. I’m truly grateful for how blessed I am. What I am most grateful for however, are the things of eternity. So much of what we expend effort on, ultimately doesn’t matter and will be forgotten shortly. We must treasure the eternal.

D&C 132:13 reads, “And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me, or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain….”

Let us all seek to See his face, Feel his presence, and Trust his love.

May 4th-May 10th: resplenDENT times

The studying in earnest has begun. So far, my scores aren’t really increasing and I am looking at ways to change up strategies. And now for the rest of the week:

David has been a little under the weather some of the week, so I met up with Sonny and Kelson a few times this week for exercising. Sonny came up with a pretty good “prison workout” after doing some research, and I left SORE! It surprised me how much of a workout you can get with no weights and only household items. Perhaps the best was a tricep shredder that involved 2 people and one pair of (extra) pants. Person A, raising the pants legs over his head with his elbows bent, would then try to extend his arms all the way up, while Person B stood behind him, held the waist part of the pants and did triceps pushdowns simultaneously. I also went with Sonny to a local frisbee golf course and got some vitamin d that way. He showed me some new ways to throw, so Sawyer and Miller better be ready!

The only unfortunate side effect was that the soreness lasted longer than I anticipated and despite some stretching, I showed up still sore for “The Match: part 1.” It’s part 1 because we had such a good time, a day that will live in my hallowed golfing hall-of-memories forever, that we have a rematch coming up. We had some new people move into the ward, and I went around trying to meet them. One of the newbies is Bowen P. He is from Wyoming, won the golf high school AA state tournament there and then played his freshman year for BYU-Hawaii. After his mission, he transferred to BYU and missed making the team by 2 shots. So, he’s good. The teams were Dan R. and I vs. Bowen and Kelson L. We were at Spanish Oaks and playing a 2-man best ball scramble over 9 holes. After a few ties to start off, Bowen and Kelson got hot and were 3 up after 6. Now, the best that Dan and I could hope for was a tie. We won #7, and then won #8, an incredibly hard par 3, after I got lucky, blading an 8-iron that just made it over the water and finished 30 feet away, and the other team missed a 5-ft par putt. So it all came down to #9, which is a short par-4, that is only 317 yards long and plays slightly uphill. The green is nefarious, with multiple levels, and huge undulations. Not to mention its protected by some deep bunkers. Dan and Kelson both had poor drives, with Dan’s going into the water way to the right. Bowen launched his 30-yards right of the green, but over the water. I have been driving great, and felt confident in landing on the green or coming very close to it. Nope. The worst drive I’ve had in years, resulted in the ball being topped and rolling some 80 yards. I thought we had to have a birdie, so things weren’t looking good. Then, Dan hit by far the best shot of the day for him and the ball ended up 45 feet away, so we at least had a chance. I pitched it to 3 feet, and the stage was set for Bowen and Kelson. They were stymied and couldn’t go for the flag, but I was disheartened knowing that they only had to lob it onto the green and two-putt. Then the unthinkable happened! They were pitching through trees and over a bunker, but all they had to do was make sure they didn’t leave it short and end up in the bunker. And that’s exactly what happened. That was an impossible shot, given that the bunkers were so deep and their shot was great from there, but it left them an incredibly fast 45 foot double breaking putt downhill putt that had 10 feet of break. I thought we had the tie wrapped up, and then incredibly (after Kelson goes first and putts it off the green), Bowen sinks it, putter raised in triumph, and claimed the win. That was the first time I’ve played a match like that, a 2-man scramble, but we will be doing it again! Seriously one of the most fun rounds ever.

This was also the first time I’ve used my new putter, and as it will be around for probably the next 10 years, its worth showing. I ordered a super large grip, patterned after the Brazilian flag and had that put on. It performed quite admirably its first round. I love the balance and feel. 

Thursday, I traveled southwest to visit John Carlson. We meet up every few months to play some chess, but this time I went to Magna instead of having him visit Provo. The plan was to go looking for fossils, play chess, and have dinner. We played a few games, and then his dad left and acciDENTally hit the minivan as he backed out of the garage. He felt so bad, and the family has had some hard times, and I couldn’t rationalize filing anything due to those circumstances and the fact that the door was already broken. It’s something you don’t want to happen, and after doing a quick tour of the town with John and grabbing some food, I decided to head back to Provo. Not what I would call a successful visit, but definitely a memorable one.

I’m at the town’s library, where the statue of Mark Twain had a mask put on him.

Per tradition, ending my job meant that I compiled all of my financial stats for the last 10 months. I am proud to report that after excluding tithing and taxes (what I consider to be truly fixed expenses,) my savings rate was just over 75% of what I earned. (If I hadn’t paid about $1500 for law school expenses, the rate would be even higher). And now, here comes law school, which will destroy all those numbers. Finishing the calculations did make me stop and think about the fine line between spending more than is necessary and living your best life, and ponder how I have been walking it. The consensus (as Mark Twain said, never speak in the plural unless you are a head of state or have parasites!) was that I think I’ve been doing a good job, and am willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on what I think is important or will bring me joy, and which is beyond the bare necessities.

Saturday night, I purchased a one-month mutual (lds dating app) subscription and went live! The next 30 days should be interesting…

Sunday, we again had small groups to meet and partake of the sacrament. It is nice to have that back, and to see the restrictions loosening in Utah. Porter came over for some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, and it was nice to be able to talk with mom on Mother’s Day.

I love this quote from Eliza Snow (circa 1873) and agree with it completely:

“When you are filled with the Spirit of God, and the Holy Ghost rests upon you… do you have any trials? I do not think you do. For that satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that spirit my soul is satisfied and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just lest me  loose my hold of that spirit and power of the gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong. I am tried; and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy…Is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?”

April 20th-May 3rd: Velar comigo!

Week One: Monday morning, I let my boss know that I was officially going to quit. That left me with a week and a half to wrap everything up.

Funny how things work out though. Unemployment is sky-high, and it worried me to be quitting during a time like this. It was a blessing, and like seeing a metaphorical rainbow, to have a finance firm reach out to me and invite me to talk. I’m sure the position pays less, it is part-time, would start towards the end of the summer, and helped reassure me that things will work out alright. In other words, a great position during law school. Of course, (no pun intended), it also helped me to go golfing Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, a realtor I am friends with, cancelled our tee time in the morning, said he couldn’t make it, and told me I was welcome to instead bring some friends and use his corporate pass myself. So I called Tanner and Kimball, and we played in the afternoon at Sleepy Ridge. The pass is usually only good for 9, but it was getting dark, so I asked the course management if we could stay out a little longer, and they gave the thumbs up, only asking that we have the carts in by 8 pm. So we turned those in, and walked another five holes. It was a lot of fun.

I bombed this drive, going for the green, but it was just a tad right, and ended with a splash.

We finished playing around 8:30 pm, and it was a quick turn around as I had an 8:42 tee time Tuesday morning with cousin-in-law Mike. He brought two of his friends, and we had another good round. The pest control company he works for has a corporate pass, so I was blessed with two free rounds. That’s tough to beat!

Tuesday night we had our Come Follow Me zoom lesson.

Wednesday, I officially accepted UCONN’s offer and paid my seat deposit to become part of their Class of 2023.

We’ve begun having our Wednesday night book club meetings at my backyard around the fireplace. I’ve secured firewood from a few sources, aka ward friends, and its been enjoyable reading and discussing shakespeare while the fire crackles and with perfect spring weather. Also, Utah = no mosquitoes, so outside is quite nice.

Yard Sale – On Saturday the 26th, I went to pick up a putter I bought online via facebook in Cedar Hills. It was located about two blocks from my Bishop’s house, so I brought a banana cream pie and delivered that to him. On my way to his house, I noticed that many of the houses had piles of stuff outside on driveways and were apparently being given away for free. i have no idea if this is an annual event organized in the neighborhood or what, but I ended up going by probably 25 of the 40 that I saw. I was there in the afternoon, so perhaps the best objects were already taken, or perhaps given that it was free, people were getting rid of what they (and most people) would classify as junk. Regardless, I picked up a few books for myself and a few for Nora. And a giant desk, in great shape. It’s huge, and I was unsure if it would fit in my van. I recruited a neighborhood person to help me lift it to my van and we managed to put the biggest piece inside, and while I pondered over what to do, just about ready to relegate myself to leaving with only 1/2 of of the desk, the donor came out, bringing a philips screwdriver and helped to disassemble and load up. I much appreciated his help and generosity, and look forward to using the desk for years to come.

Scrabble – After our Sunday dinner, Porter and I mixed our normal games up, and after a few rounds of chess, brought out the scrabble board and played a great game. I was cruising before he put down a 90+ point scrabble. That looked to be decicive until I drew great letters and played my own scrabble that put me back in front and helped to close out the match. We each averaged well over 25 points per turn and it was a great game.

Other Developments this week: -I want to do a white water rafting trip this summer (after LSAT test). I am looking at the Rogue River in Oregon or the Salmon River in Idaho. Any tips/suggestions are welcome.

And, I’m planning a return to online dating in the near future via the LDS app Mutual. It’s tough to meet people with nothing happening due to Covid-19.

Week 2 (April 27th-May 3rd) was much of the same. I had Come Follow Me, and book club, and the workouts that I’ve been doing with David Kaiser are continuing. He bought exercise bands, and we supplement those with milk jugs filled with water and cement blocks to lift, etc. We are trying to stay in shape. I’ve also been running up and down lots of stairs and can feel a difference in my legs.

Thursday was my last day of work. It felt surreal, its been an important 10 months in my life. Tuesday, I was interviewed by the CEO during our company meeting, and we talked about how we all need to find the area we can make a difference, what our superpower is, and double down on developing that skill. These 10 months have been quite amiable, yet it can be tough as when both sides know the end is coming, there is less reason to work and get along. Little disagreements that in the past would have quickly been brushed over now become sticking points. I have had that happen with roommates at the end of a semester too, and it is hard to power through some of these challenges and try to leave with all still good. Most companies still pay a commission check the month after, but ListReports said that this would be my last paycheck April 30th. That was unexpected and not what I thought was right, so I did bring that up, and had it increased $150, so we could all shake hands (virtually of course) and have both sides leave with good memories.

My first day off was not filled with studying. I haven’t had a day off since Christmas vacay, so I enjoyed reading and gardening most all of the day. We also started a little walk ‘n talk with book club. We meet up at a local park and walk around talking about Dante’s Inferno. Its quite nice – both the book and the sun.

Sunday, Porter invited me to join him at the house of a Brazilian family. They recently moved here from Campinas, and were members in Porter’s last area. Another Brazilian family joined us too, and incredibly they are from the stake in which I spent half my mission, that of Campos dos Goytacazes. They were due to return by now, but have had their flight delayed by one month. We reminisced about many mutual friends and the work in the stake. It brought back many memories, and while quite unhealthy, our meal of fried pastries, “Coxinhas” and cake and ice cream hit the spot. It was also a challenge to try and keep up with the 3-4 conversations that were going on constantly. Really, really good practice for me. We stayed for almost five hours, and as Porter and I went to leave, we were struggling to talk in English again.

Here I am with Irma Maria das Neves Rangel. One of my favorite areas was Quissama, a small town of 15-20,000 and remarkably Maria had  her husband were assigned by the stake to help the small branch there. We talked and talked of this small town, unknown to the world, but which has blessed innumerably both of our lives.

Admittedly, I don’t take very good food photos. But, there was definitely a lot of oil involved!

We left to return to my house and watch the YSA Devotional with Elder (of the 70) and Sis. Gay speaking, and made it back in time for it to start at 6 pm. The food did a number on us though, and within minutes, we were both out, missing the vast majority of the devotional. It was a great nap.

I did listen to a recording of the devotional and LOVED IT! Elder Gay told some stories that hit a nerve with me. His main theme was “Covenants over Convenience.” He talked of one time meeting with a general authority, who asked him how it would be for him to serve as a mission president. Elder Gay was working in investments and had cofounded a company for this (read: he closed a $1.1 billion fund in 2009),  and told the general authority that in a couple years it would be ok, but it wasn’t a good time then, as he was about to really make it big and then could help a lot more people. Elder Gay was still serving in the church and trying to serve, just not ready for a 3 year full-time mission. The GA replied that the Lord was trying to save his life. It’s never convenient to serve the Lord, but we must put our covenants before convenience. Elder Gay related how those three years as a mission president altered his life’s trajectory forever.

The scripture in Matthew 26:40 has long been meaningful to me. Christ is in the garden of Gethsemane suffering for all of our sins, and it says,

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”

I’ve often wondered, how could Peter not stay awake? This week I had an insight that left me realizing I’m much more like Peter than I would care to admit in this regard. We have long been commanded to study our scriptures, and I’ve made the goal to do so for one hour each day. And it is hard. Occasionally I feel myself being lulled to sleep after a few verses but much more often than this though, I find myself rationalizing that I can sleep a little bit longer in the mornings and do a quicker study.

Elder Richard G. Scott testified,

“Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”

Amen! I implore everyone to make study of the scriptures a priority in your life. Start with a few verses a day and you will notice the difference in how you think, and how you act. If you feel yourself feeling sleepy at night before you study, or want to hit snooze on the alarm clock, listen to the echo of Christ’s words that will come to you too. “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” 

I know, as I have seen the blessings in my life, that if we make scripture study a priority, we will be able to accomplish more in the time remaining in the day than we could have in the whole day without study. We will have more energy, clarity of thought, and the Holy Spirit to lead us.

 

April 5-19: The Sycamores are cut down, but I walk Magnolia Lane

I’m playing catch-up again. No bueno. Here is a quick recap of the last two weeks, and then I’ll send out this week’s blog tomorrow.

First, I returned from Texas late Saturday night, April 4th. I stopped in Price, Utah on my way up the canyon and grabbed some groceries. I had sent a survey out and gathered some responses from ward members as I wanted to provide a little service, and we weren’t able to meet for anything. I decided to make pizza for anyone who wanted one between sessions of General Conference. More people were still in town than I imagined, and so David Kaiser and I made 21 pizzas in a little over 2 hours, running them out the door and delivering them and keeping the oven cranked to 500 degrees the whole time. They all turned out really good, i.e. none of them burned, we had enough ingredients. Everyone was very grateful, and David and I (joined by Porter towards the end) enjoyed the chance to serve and cook – both things we all like to do.

Until 1752, Great Britain – and by extension the American Colonies, celebrated the New Year on March 25th. Of course, this was with the Julian Calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. So, for millenia, New Years was celebrated on April 7th. I think that April is a month of rebirth, the month that spring arrives, the world rejoices and blooms, and the promise of a brighter future is before us all. It is my favorite month.

Additionally, for me, April perhaps more than any other, is a month of tradition and history. For whatever reason, some major events are inscribed in my memory, and I think about them a lot in April. The start of the Civil War: April 12, 1861. The end: April 9th, 1865. Sinking of the titanic: April 15th, 1912. (Mom actually met a Titanic survivor as a child, who lived nearby them in Colorado). Also April 15th, (but in 1865) is when Lincoln was assassinated. And of course, April 19th  marks the anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War. Now, we celebrate Patriots Day on the 3rd Monday of April. (April 15th has marked many horrible events; besides the two listed above, it was April 15th, 2013 that the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. I can still remember where I was, it shocked and surprised me so bad. I left school and was just pulling up to play Sugarwood Golf Course in West Virginia when the news came over the radio. I immediately called Mom to see if she knew. Beware the ides of April).

That was a very long digression; the whole point of this is I want to say that there are two events I look forward to, that have become a tradition in my life.

The first weekend is of course General Conference. I look forward to two days of hearing the words of the prophets, and this is the first time while living in Utah I haven’t attended in person, as all sessions were closed to the public, and only broadcast. Even the Tabernacle Choir didn’t sing, but had recorded songs played to make sure they kept under the governments 10-person or less guideline. I loved the messages, and will be reviewing them again. There was released a new Proclamation, entitled, “The Restoration of the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.” It’s a powerful message.

The second event I eagerly wait for, is the Masters Tournament, held the second weekend of every April. This year the tournament will be held in November. The final round television broadcasts from 1970-2019 are online though and free to view and if I could only watch one thing on tv for the rest of my life, I think I would choose these. Sometimes when I am painting or if I am cleaning the house, I will put one on and let it play in the background. So so good. One that I watched recently was the 2012 final round. This brought back a ton of memories. The Masters for me ends on Saturday (usually – 2019 excepted), but in 2012 I visited Bro. Parrish in the hospital and we spent a couple hours together watching the broadcast. He was interned as his diabetes had worsened and the doctors were cutting off the bad areas in his toes and feet. I will forever remember those hours there. Louis Oosthuizen (from South Africa) made an incredible double eagle from 260 yards on the second hole, the first time anyone had made a 2 on that hole. Most importantly, I sat and absorbed a lecture on mortality and living well. I sure miss Bro. Parrish.

Absent the actual playing of the tourney, I have been able to go out and play a few times at least. I went to Hobble Creek with Lawson and Kimball. Social distancing was in full effect there. No carts allowed, only walking, and the flagsticks couldn’t be removed, nor were there rakes to rake bunkers. The clubhouse was locked besides for the bathrooms and all tee times had to scheduled and paid for over the phone. We had a great time, and played the back nine on April 11th, and the front on April 18th. I also went with Kevin Ford and played at Sleepy Hollow. Pictured below is Hobble Creek, hole #9. This year I’ve been driving it so consistently its not fair. I put the ball on the tee, swing, and go find it 320 yards away, dead straight. I LOVE IT!

The weather has been beautiful and it has been perfect for golf and gardening. While I was in Texas, Utah had some unseasonably cold temps and even some snow fall and accumulate. While this might have prevented some seeds from sprouting, not all is lost. The carrots are struggling, the spinach doing ok, the beets even better, and we have a bumper crop of radishes on its way.

My garlic is still inside, and I have a bunch of cloves growing in separate jars, which allows to me conduct lots of experiments in terms of sunshine and watering and soil depth, etc. These two are the highest so far.

This is the start of a garlic empire!

Tuesday has traditionally been our EQP meeting, and even though we don’t have much going on in the ward, we still meet. Of the different presidencies I’ve been a part of, this with Dillon and Reigen has been my favorite. We really jell together, work hard to get stuff done, and always have a great time. Tuesday April 7th resulted in lots of laughs, culminating in a hilarious leg-wrestling competition in my front yard.

Here, Shandi is about to flip Dillon’s brother Dave.

On Tuesday the 14th, Carson came down from Bountiful and we made and ate pizza, then played pickleball. We strung Carson’s slackline between two cars in the church parking lot, and played with that as our net. It actually worked fantastically and we had a few good hours of play before the sun set.

I was hoping for a pic of the actual set-up, but some of me being a ham will have to suffice.

We are all trying to be safe, with plenty of handwashing and keeping group sizes small. Also, I do avoid visiting older people, and definitely won’t be going to the nursing home to sing anytime soon. Otherwise though, my life hasn’t changed much with all the government mandates going on. I am so, so glad that Utah is one of only a few states that don’t have a “stay at home” law in effect. Our book club still has walk-n-talks at a local park, and I am grateful I can be outside without any problems. One thing that has changed is going to the grocery store. It’s a pain. Rancho Markets has had a line going down the sidewalk every time I want to go, and I finally sucked it up and waited my turn to enter.

The benefit was after waiting for my turn, the store was super empty and I found some items I’ve never seen before. Some of the basics like flour, baking soda, yeast, and olive oil have been tough to find still in Utah, but I only get produce at Rancho Markets and they had everything stocked.

I’ve had some more culinary adventures. This is a a yellow lentil and rice recipe I tried out. And ate for lunch+dinner two days in a row. 0/10 would recommend. The smoothie however has been a repeat hit, with cranberries, limes, coconut flakes and evaporated milk combining into one delicious drink.

I was craving burgers, and made some, cut up a bunch of fries, made homemade bbq sauce, and some wheat bread for the bun. 10/10 on these.

Besides the lentils, another first was bruschetta and a lemon pasta that Porter and I had for a Sunday dinner. Sundays have been fun. I’ve been taking 3 mile walks and doing lots of studying of the scriptures. Kelson usually comes over for a few games of chess, and Porter always has supper with me which is a highlight every week. Dellan and David joined one week for giant burritos, and our discussion ended up lasting from 3:30-8 pm.

Monday nights are also great; we’ve settled into our family “Come Follow Me” discussion via zoom, comprising the Bach’s, Texas, and sometimes Porter+Tanmarie. I love seeing the fam and hearing their gospel insights.

I heard back from BYU Law School – they said that the class that applied has record high LSAT scores and a record number paid their deposits – so no one was admitted from the waitlist. There is a slight chance that I’d get in after the second deposit deadline in June. However, the dean of admissions basically guaranteed me a seat if I got a 166 on June’s LSAT. When I heard that, I figured UCONN is where I’ll be going. Then, the dean emailed again and let me know that if I got a 166, I’d get a 1/2 ride scholarship, and a 167-168 would most likely mean a full-ride. That was unexpected news, so I signed up for the June LSAT and will give it one more shot. UCONN did increase their offer, and I think it would be a great place to end up; the idea of a 3 year full-ride though makes me salivate, and I talked with my work manager the next day about quitting. Part of me thinks its crazy – in this job environment, and with no guarantee of getting a higher score. It was a night of tossing and turning weighing the options, and I talked with the manager, Ben Stokes, and asked to let him know of my final decision on Monday. The reasoning being, if I quit my job and studied full-time, I would have 5 weeks before the test to study and if I get a higher score, the scholarship increase would more than make up for anything I could earn while working.

Additionally, my stimulus check and tax refund both arrived and have helped me reach my May 1st savings goal, and I think I might even hit my June 1st savings goal before I quit, which helps give me some room to chase my goals.

I have a small-list of movies that I want to watch, and I crossed one of them off on Saturday the 11th, as I went to Casa Picante, and joined the ladies who live there, as we watched Casablanca. We had planned to watch it outdoors via a projector, but the sky looked ominous, so we moved inside. Sure enough the rain began to pour halfway through the movie. This movie is famously what Mom and Dad went to see for their first date. I’d heard it mentioned my entire life, and I’ve seen it on all the lists of best movies, and amazingly, it exceeded my expectations. I really, really enjoyed the film.

To close, here are a few important verses from the book of James, 4:1-4

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence even of your lusts that war in your members?

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lust.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 

 

 

 

March 23-April 4th: A Season for Everything

I spent March 23rd-April 4th in Texas. Here are some highlights:

We met regularly as a family and went through the “Come Follow Me” manual. I really enjoyed being with family and being able to talk about the gospel together. We did this at night and it was the perfect way to wind down a day.

Waggie- he is such a great dog! He’s still in puppy mode and I loved seeing him so excited. Every time I would pick up my car keys, he’d start prancing around, and when I would open the front door, he would sprint out ready to go anywhere with me.

We played lots and lots of games. I’d take 10-15 minute work breaks and we would play knockout and almost every night we would play a board game or two. I think parcheesi was the favorite this trip. Pictured below, is a game we made up. It’s called, “How fast can you run to the Counts’ mailbox and back?” Sawyer, Miller, and Breyer were all excited to play and estimated how quick they could run to the top of the hill, touch the Counts’ mailbox and return. I gave Breyer 3 minutes, Miller 2, and Sawyer 1:45. It was hilarious, and everyone enjoyed the challenge. Breyer and Sawyer just made it, and Miller was a few seconds over. Smaller races happened throughout the visit. Another favorite repeated 10 times, was the race around the outside of the house, a la Sophie and Uncle Aaron. I gave them a little head start and then would release Waggie, and he would chase them down and beat them back to me. Amazingly, when we would go out the back door, Waggie loved it so much, he would line up on the start line, ready for another race.

Another game that has arisen due to the coronavirus, is risk. Over the last few weeks, we’ve played many a round on our phones with Tanner and Porter, as well as cousins Luke and Evan. Now that I’m back, Breyer calls wanting to play, and sometimes texts using Mom’s phone or Dad’s Ipad. I get lots of unicorn and cat pictures during the games too. One of her texts went like this: “Risk tonight?” and when I didn’t respond right away, she followed up with, “Join us” “Please” and “You might find a girlfriend there”. Every game we do play is started off with her asking “Want to be allies?” Its a good time.

Another memory owed to Breyer is that of Karaoke. I’ve never sang karaoke, nor wanted to, but she loves her karaoke microphone and so we had a few karaoke nights. Breyer and Cooper were the best. Cooper did a hilarious Barry White impression, and Breyers best was Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love you.” She sang it with much gusto and passion, but kept throwing in her own absolutely hilarious lines too, including near the crescendo this unforgettable line,

“I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of
And I wish to you joy and happiness
But above all this, I wish you looooooove and a kitten!”

I didn’t take any vacation time, although in retrospect I wish I had. Instead, for two weeks, I worked in the garage, setting up my equipment and making a bureau into a standing desk. It functioned well, and I loved working outside-ish, hearing the birds and feeling the breeze. I put up really good numbers and had good success working during this time, but I should have taken advantage more of the time I had in Texas instead of working from 8:30ish-5:30ish every day.

I introduced some new foods which has us in stitches. First, after hearing Dad talk about some stuffed peppers he made, I offered that stuffed radishes are also quite delicious. Of course, I was then questioned what do you stuff radishes with? Stammering, I muttered peanut butter, and my bluff was called, which meant I had to make some. I scooped out the center, put a dab of peanut butter in, and this is the reaction I received:

Those brave enough to try, all agreed that the combo actually wasn’t bad.

Breyer really got into the spirit of April Fools and had pranks going all week, but I think I took home the prize. I had nothing planned, but while preparing some beets, I realized that the tail of a beet looks very similar to that of a rat. With my hands all bloody looking from cutting beets, I dropped the end on the floor, shouted rat, and mimed slashing the ground, then stood up and announced that he got away, but I got his tail. Skepticism turned into amazement as I held up the beet end. Miller proved most gullible. That was only with my siblings though, and when I tried it that night with Mom and Dad, they didn’t fall for it.

The meal I was making at the time has since entered family legend. Mom was working and I thought I would help out and make dinner. Its tough when its not your kitchen, and I hadn’t prepared anything in specific. Inspired by my quest to cut down on meat, I used some leftover pinto beans, and blended them up with some milk and a powdered cheese packet. I then added this mixture over scalloped potatoes. For a side, we had beets and butternut squash, both roasted. The vegatables were received well, but the bean/potato dish was not. At all. The taste wasn’t bad, but I neglected to realize that while the blended mixture looked okay, after being baked for 45 minutes, it looked completely unappealing and added a crusty brown layer to the top. That presentation left 1/2 the family boycotting the dish, and relegated me to eating leftovers for two days.

Veggie pizza at least was a success.

I wanted to go canoeing, and Breyer was the only one who wanted to go. We went to Lake Granbury and paddled around for a little while Dad fished. The weather was beautiful, and she talked and talked, as she is apt to do, while we appreciated the serene setting.

As I mentioned, Waggie would come running every time I went outside. He wasn’t the only one who loved going on rides though. While I never really went anywhere, Breyer also loved hopping into the car for a quick loop around the neighborhood. During our drives, she would talk and talk and I would listen and listen and learn. Lots of funny sayings and stories came from these trips, and I also learned that Breyer wants a sister. Who knew! It was eye-opening to hear her open up about new subjects and talk so frankly about what she wants to do and what is important to her. She isn’t sure if she wants to live in Montana when she is older, but is still leaning that way. Modeling is the dream career, but 12+ kids remain her ideal. So many times she would have these boy/girl twin name combos she would share, which always made me chuckle.

We played lots of basketball and foosball. The ping pong table is in need of some repair, so it sat this one out. I acquitted myself quite well, winning a majority of knockout games against Sawyer and Miller. Miller and I also were rivals in foosball, with lots of close games. During my visit, in two weeks I went once to the gas station to fill up, and once to play frisbee golf with Sawyer, Miller and Waggie. The city park course was still open and fairly empty. We played 18 holes, had a good time, and in this, I admit both Sawyer and Miller whooped me.

Me and Breyer had a spa night, and used some face masks I brought. Face masks and risk is a great combo for the record. A ward member stopped by and dropped some clothing off, and Dad snapped this candid of me:

I wanted to do one movie night, and we were able to gather as a family and all watch “Life is Beautiful.” I’ve talked about the movie before, so I’ll just add that once again there were lots of laughs followed by lots of tears. You know its a good movie when 13 year old Miller and 9 year old Breyer both enjoyed a foreign language film, having to read subtitles for 2 hours.

I heard back from UCONN and the University of New Hampshire regarding law school. Both offered around 75-80% scholarships. I am very grateful for the offers and have absolutely no idea what I’ll be doing. I bought a ticket to visit New England April 9-14th, but that looks like it will be cancelled.

This was truly a great trip. I loved literally every second.

Nevertheless, I felt like I needed to return to Utah, and it wasn’t quite time for me to spend the rest of the summer there.

Dad helped me tune the car up, topping off lots of the fluids and buying a spare tire. Alas, the DMV was closed as I had hoped to renew my registration, and I was left to drive 1170 miles back with expired tags.

I was cruising again and making very, very good time until I hit New Mexico. Sirius XM had just made their services free due to coronavirus, so I was able to get BYU radio and listen to General Conference. I was looking at a 9:30 pm ETA until outside the town of Waterflow, New Mexico, population 1600, I hit a giant pothole hard going on a curvy one lane road, and knew immediately that I was in trouble. 1/4 mile ahead was a 4-way stop sign, so I passed that and pulled over. Sure enough, I was losing air rapidly. At this moment, I was so very, very grateful that the day before my Dad put in time and effort to help me secure a spare tire. For there I was, in the middle of nowhere, and the thought of having to be towed (especially with so much closed due to corona), makes me shudder.  If I didn’t have a flat tire, I can imagine an angry word or two, and a great feeling of despair. Instead, I was filled with gratitude and timed myself, making the change and getting back on the road in 15 minutes. The highways were mostly empty and I avoided all trouble. Near Moab, the car in front of me was pulled over for speeding, going only 6 or so over, and I counted my blessings, as I was doing about the same speed. During the trip, I couldn’t help but feel how this trip was different than all the ones I’ve taken before.

Always, when I’m going to Utah, I feel the anticipation of so many adventures, and so much promise in the upcoming semester/months ahead. This time, I don’t know what I’m going towards. Everything is shut down; I am not returning to any dates, or to school or even to church activities. There is a huge probability that my time in Utah is coming to an end and I’ll be leaving to New England soon. There is great excitement in the unknown, but still a longing for the path that inevitably will not be taken. Time will tell what will happen.

One of the best parts about my visit was having church with twice with the family at home. I have reflected often recently on a discussion that President Lim and I had years ago. While living in Proctorville, President Lim was my hometeaching companion. I recall the visits we made together very fondly and am grateful for the many lessons he shared with me. On one, on our way to the household of Jamie Wolfe, he talked about how the church has made spiritual self-reliance more of a focus and shifted the responsibility to the individual. Mind you, this was sometime in 2012-2013 and he talked about how much has changed over the years in terms of scheduling. Church used to be split up over many nights. When we talked, we were attending only a 3 hour block every Sunday. This allowed more family time and allowed the individual more time for personal study, etc. He predicted a time when church would not happen, and everything would happen on the familial and personal level. Now, church has not happened for weeks, and this status will likely last for many more weeks. I am confident that similar events will play out in the future, whether another pandemic or something entirely different, like the restriction of religious liberty, and we will need to be self-reliant. Now is truly the time to prepare for then, and to make sure that we are in a position to be ok during a long-lasting shutdown.

March 16-22: But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep

One of the reasons I graduated early was because i thought it would be hard to get a job. I thought a recession was coming (never in my mind did I imagine a pandemic being the cause), and now that we are in the midst of one, I am very grateful to be employed still. During our company meeting on Tuesday March 17th, we were informed that everyone would be taking a 10% pay cut, in an effort to cut expenses and not have to lay anyone off. 10% doesn’t seem like much, but it does make a big difference. And yet it seems so small comparatively. 10 million people filed for unemployment in two weeks. That number is hard to grasp, and leaves me praying that relief will be found quickly.

I’ve continued to work from home. It’s been a pretty easy adjustment for me. My work station is set up on my desk and I have everything I need. I am sure there will be a time when there is a different vibe working without having any coworkers physically present, but that hasn’t hit yet.

Below, this is my favorite work-from-home snack.

I volunteered to drive Cooper home to Texas. Because he has campus housing, they released him from his contract and he had no job or anything holding him here, and I’m always up for a visit. He packed up and on Friday night, with a cold rain falling, we loaded all his belongings into the van. I couldn’t help but reflect back almost exactly five years ago, to April 2015, when I was the freshman loading up my belongings, heading back to Texas, leaving BYU, and getting ready to serve a mission. My goodness, so much has changed, and the time has gone by so, so quickly. As a kid, I used to wish time would speed up and I could be an adult. Now, time passes too quick and I wish it would slow down a little. There was a flood of memories as I thought about what my dreams when I left BYU five years ago, and what has happened since then. It felt more poignant as my time in Utah is almost assuredly ending. Cooper stayed the night at my place, and helped get us on the road early. We left about 7 am, and started on the roughly 1168 mile trip.

Having been on so many road trips, during which there is a lot of time to think, I’ve developed a “traveling philosophy,” and this trip was chance to test the latest iteration. The estimated driving time is 18 hours, 30 minutes, which means that we had to be efficient; 18 hours is about the limit and there is no room for mistakes if we wanted to make it in one day. Our Food: 4 pounds of celery, 3 pounds of radishes. The celery hydrates without you having to drink water and thus have more bathroom stops. It also keeps you chewing, useful for staying completely aware. The radishes also are great for hydration and have enough of a kick to eliminate any drowsiness. Those veggies along with fruit kept us feeling full, and around 3 pm we stopped for a Little Caesar’s pizza in Bernalillo, NM. Opting for a “Hot N Ready,” so we wouldn’t have to wait for it to be made, we went through the drive through as Covid-19 had left only that option available. Add on 3 bathroom breaks/gas fill-ups, and we were stopped driving for only 20 minutes, which is a fantastic number. Put another way, we were on the road for about 59 minutes and stopped for only 1 minutes of every hour.

We kept the windows open, not because one of us had the dreaded radish burps or the feared celery gas, but because it was a beautiful day.

We made good time, and had to unfortunately pass on many interesting historical sights, as the clock was ticking and we also lost an hour going from mountain time to central time. Cooper was an excellent companion. Around 4 pm, I was worried when I saw a sign and read “Repent drunk drivers!” before getting closer and reading “Report drunk drivers!” A radish or two later though, all was well, and despite an intermittent drizzle and then a constant rain over the last 5 hours, we successfully, and safely made it to Granbury at 1:20 am.

Sunday, I woke up to cinnamon rolls and kisses, so life was good. It was wonderful to be with the family. I loved having church at home with them.

That afternoon, Mom had a test for her search and rescue team and Breyer and I went along. The dogs needed to find someone and I was curious to see them at work. While admittedly I was tired, it was fun to see the dogs go through all sorts of brush, nose down, and be able to find us again and again. The test was to be conducted at a “park,” but that meant something much different than I imagined, so I wasn’t quite dressed the part. Breyer and I still willingly went through the creek, which moved fast from all the recent rain, but wasn’t enough to hide our scent. The bloodhounds performed admirably, and Wagner seems to have the ability but needs a lot of training still to reach their level.

 

Another sign that caught my eye was in Clovis, NM. We were driving slowly through the town when I saw an old building. It was apparently named Integrity something or another. That word was visible and right below it was a sign on top of the company one reading, “For Sale, $100,000.” Taken together, I read “Integrity – For Sale, $100,000.” Are you willing to sell your integrity? An old story relates how the devil came to some one and said, “For $1,000,000 will you cheat on this?” The person rationalized and thought about how much money that was, and said sure. The devil then countered, “Fantastic! I’ll offer you $20.” The person, confused asked what happened to the million, and the devil replied, “You showed that your integrity is for sale, now we are just negotiating the price.”

Here is what James E. Faust said:

“Complete and constant integrity is a great law of human conduct. There need to be some absolutes in life. There are some things that should not ever be done, some lines that should never be crossed, vows that should never be broken, words that should never be spoken, and thoughts that should never be entertained.

Yet there is a place for mercy, for equity, and for forgiveness. Even the stalwart Peter, the chief Apostle, was forgiven for a moment of weakness (see Luke 22:54-62)…. I believe this incident strengthened Peter’s commitment. He was never to be weak again. the resolve borne of that disappointment in his own temporary weakness tempered his metal in the hardest steel. he proved his devotion every day of his life thereafter and in his death. So it can be with all of us. When we have been less than we ought to be and have fallen below our own standards, we can have newfound resolve and strength by forsaking our weakness.”

 

 

March 9-March 15: sodium bicarbonate, where art thou?

In last weeks letter, I neglected to mention that on Sunday the 8th, I went with Porter and Cooper to Tanmarie’s house. There, we enjoyed delicious burgers, Nora time, and seeing Tanmarie.

This picture is from a poetry reading I was invited to:

On the second Tuesday of every month, the Rock Canyon Poets meet in the Pioneer Book bookstore and read works written by the members or any poem that they want to share. This time, there was a guest reader, Natasha Saje, and the bulk of the time was devoted to her reading and expositing on her own favorite poems. I’d like to go again; it was enjoyable to mix up my normal activities.

Earlier that day, we had our company-wide meeting and it was announced that on Thursday we would all work from home as a test and in anticipation of having to do that due to the coronavirus. Wednesday things had changed so quickly that instead of a test, Thursday was deemed the day that all would begin working from home. I lugged home my monitors and lots of cords and set up a little area on my desk. Then headed to book club where the situation was forgotten momentarily and we discussed the comedy, “Much Ado about Nothing.”

After 8 hours of working from home on Thursday, I needed to leave. I go tin my car not sure where I would go, but as often happens, I ended up at the golf course. While paying $10 for my round at the register, in fortuitous timing, Mike showed up with his friend Tanner at that exact moment, so all three of us played together.

With no cases of Covid-19 near Provo, feeling safe, and knowing that things would shortly be shut down (BYU had just cancelled all classes), I went ahead with a small pie night on Friday. It was just going to be a little game night, then someone pointed out that the next day was pie day, 3.14. We had ice cream, key lime pie, and I also made a Cranberry pie, completely making up the recipe. I used 1.5 cups of cranberries, blended, and everyone really liked it. This picture isn’t much, but I didn’t think of taking a picture until Porter went to finish the last few pieces off.

We played a few rounds of codenames as well as the “word game.” Miranda, her friend Lela, the Jensen Bros., Dellan, Mikaela, Mattie, David, Justice, and Porter, were all there.

Saturday. I had planned to go the temple, garden, and finish my UCONN law school application. Then, Jacob C. asked me if I could come with him. He was going on a date from Mutual, and the girl had just told him some of her friends wanted to go hiking with them as well, and asked Jacob to bring some guy friends and even things out a little. Before meeting up with Jacob, I went to the temple, knowing it would be my last chance before it closed. I am grateful I did and can testify of the blessings one receives and the spirit of the Lord one feels there.

Turns out only myself and Jacob’s roommate Dalon were going, so the male/female ratio was an uneven 3:6. Oh well, right? We hiked Battle Creek Falls in Lindon. It was a lot of fun, and the group had some good cohesion. 

On the picture below, I do love the shade of blue peeking out from behind the clouds. The day stayed overcast, but not chilly. Dillon offered his backyard as a new garden for me, and I was sold, as unlike last week, there would be no threats.

We planted much of the same: Radishes, beets, carrots, lettuce, and LOTS of spinach. I’m looking forward to that. Dillon also got starter potatoes and we planted red and yellow ones. This is the first time I’ve tried that. The pots also have herbs in them.

I still had some seeds left over, so when I got home, I put in a few rows in my backyard. This wasn’t my first option because the way the fences and neighboring houses sit, not to mention the shade from the trees, the sun is scarce in the backyard. So anything that I can harvest will be a bonus.

Sunday at 10, I met Caroline and the bishopric and we worked out a plan to make sure everybody still in town could get the sacrament. For this week, we divided by FHE group, and Bishop and Bro. Salazar made a few trips blessing the sacrament for each group. They will be getting released soon most likely, and it was a special experience to watch that. Truly, if you would lead, serve.

Cousin Kevin, and Cooper both came over for dinner along with Porter and his roommate Peter. It was funny as the last time Kevin came over, which was a few months ago, we had chicken legs, and had them again this time, but not once in between. Scalloped potatoes (lots of ’em) and ice cream rounded out the menu.

We played a quick game of Cataan and Peter played the organ for us. He is classically trained and can play any song you want by ear. It was very impressive and his medleys of two completely different songs that we tossed at him, awed all as well.

We left Kevin and Peter to head over to Tanmarie’s for some brownies and games. Much of the time was spent looking at recently unearthed photos from our time in Texas and Ohio. What a hoot. Then it was “Ticket to Ride: European Edition.” The game lasted until 11:20, much longer than I had anticipated, but well-worth the time. It was a fun night.

I’ll spare most of my thoughts on the Covid-19 pandemic. Everybody is sick of reading about it. Admittedly, I don’t trust much of what is going on and I think a lot of repercussions will be felt much longer than necessary because of how it is being handled here in the United States. Yet, I am very thankful. Two weeks ago, I thought I had bought plane tickets to Europe for my father and I. The high cost triggered a fraud warning from my bank and the purchase didn’t go through before the sale ended and prices were more than doubled. At the time, this was frustrating, but now I see it as a huge blessing. In January, I felt like I needed to get my food storage together, and by the first week or two of February, felt good about where I was, with 15 months of food storage. In another stroke of good timing, we have 47 rolls of toilet paper. I didn’t need to go to the store for anything except baking soda. And that wasn’t even a necessity, just a desire to replenish my stock of it so I can keep using it in my shampoo. (Like elsewhere, everything is cleared out here. I went Saturday night, and it took me 3 stores before I found some small quantities of it).

There is much to be grateful for, not the least of which is health in general.

I am reminded of the Battle of Kohima, nicknamed Stalingrad of the East, in which combined Indian and British forces outlasted the Japanese siege. It went from April 4th to June 22nd, 1944. There is a monument there, with words credited to the Brit John Maxwell Edmonds. The epitaph reads,

When you go home tell them of us and say: for your tomorrow we gave our today.

On a smaller measure, that is what we are doing now. I have done more than my fair share of grumbling, but making small sacrifices and doing ones part to prevent the spread of the virus, can help someone else have a tomorrow.

 

 

 

March 2-8: Buongiorno Principessa!

Notwithstanding a few hours of turmoil Saturday evening, this has been an amazing week.

WeWork opened another building, right next door to ours, and we were invited to participate in the grand opening on Monday. Similar to when ours opened, there was lots of swag (t-shirts are still hard to pass up) and free food. They had advertised korean bbq, but when I got to the line, I saw that it was self-serve with a bunch of rice and veggies available. And a fried egg. There was no meat! I’m cutting back on meat, so it was ok, but it did seem like false advertising to say come get your bbq, and then walk away with a fried egg. Some of my co-workers were not thrilled to say the least. We had all forgotten that WeWork doesn’t pay for meat to be served. They allow food trucks to sell and companies can cater anything they want, but when WeWork is paying, there will be no meat (for environmental reasons). Here’s the real takeaway: WeWork stood up for their values. And that is always impressive. They don’t do what is convenient and serve meat to help people feel more welcome/comfortable. This was an inspiring example of living at all times what you believe, and made me think of times I focus more on convenience than values.

Later that night, I went to the gym for the traditional post-FHE lift with Dillon and David. And set a record I didn’t see coming. My goal has been 250 for bench press, and I’m happy with that, as I’m just trying to stay fit not be huge or an unnaturally weird looking bodybuilder. This is veggie power we’re talking about, not creatine or protein powder induced strength. Monday though, I benched 265 twice, unassisted, before needing help to finish the 3rd rep. I was ecstatic!

This photo was taken doing deadlifts Friday (always the least busy day), and it serves to show what the gym looks like.

I love Super Tuesday. The excitement over politics runs deep. Watching results trickle in is a blast, but I tried to stay productive, and helped Emma B. with her stake RS meeting prep., and we had our EQ meeting that night as well. Biden swept the night, and it was ridiculous the bias showed by the broadcasters, but I still think Bernie is alive and well. I can’t imagine Biden being able to survive one round of debates with Bernie mano-a-mano. Biden’s looks young but really does seem to have lost his mental acuity.

Wednesday was book club and our discussion of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. I hadn’t read this one before, and enjoyed it immensely.

It had been a long day, I didn’t get home until 10, and I decided to cook some rice and prepare for my lunch the next day before going to bed. And I started reading and completely forgot about the rice on the stove. I went to get ready for bed some time later, and the entire house was filled with smoke. I ran to the kitchen, pulled my now blackened pan off the stove and started opening all windows and doors. It was the worst burning I’ve ever done, and needless to say, I ended up having to cook a new batch of rice the next day. Finally, after two days of airing out, the house smelled smoke-free again.

For the second week in a row at institute, we were graced by the presence of James Allen, former assistant church historian. This week, we spent the entire hour doing a Q+A with him, which I loved.

Immediately after, I went with Dillon to visit J. He texted us that morning at 4 am, and was struggling. Thankfully, a good friend was awake and able to go over at that hour, and when I awoke we texted and set up a time to go over at night. We talked for close to an hour, and I left feeling uplifted myself and having learned much from him.

I started reading a novel dealing with life in Parma, Italy, including much about pizza, and by 9pm Thursday night, I said enough is enough, its time for a pizza party! Scheduled to go from 6-7 pm on Friday, (at 7 I was supposed to go to the monthly concert next door), 11 people showed up, we made four pizzas and played a few games until 8:30. This is pizza number 4, with pepperoni, purple onion, spinach, and sauteed radishes. Delicious!

I tried a new veggie type (I hadn’t planned the best, so it was kind of just making do with what I had) that included potato slices, radishes, onion, spinach and tomato slices and it turned out well.

Kobe and Reigen Jensen were two of the people there. They mentioned how they were trying to decide between going to a movie night or a pizookie party. I wished them well, and having missed the concert headed to the gym for a quick workout and content to spend the rest of the night reading. Not 15 minutes later, right when I’m doing deadlifts, and honestly not feeling the energy, Kobe calls. Reigen went to the movie night, and Kobe wanted a wingman for the pizookie party. These are the invites I normally turn down. I wasn’t feeling any desire to talk to more people or have pizookie and ice cream. But, I hadn’t met many new people, thought about my goal to set a new high in my personal wellness stats, and said what the heck, I’m in. I hustled home, quickly showered and changed, before walking a few blocks with Kobe to the apartment that was hosting. The organizer is named Brielle, and she and Kobe were part of a volleyball intramural team in the fall. The invite was unexpected for Kobe, as she had been dating someone then, but apparently broke up with her boyfriend and now, a few months since seeing him, wanted to get to know Kobe better. The party started with a bunch of dumb games (to each his own, but I thought the games weren’t interesting or useful at all), and most people there were with a significant other. We got there on time, and there was a group of 8-10. It started at 9:30, and about 10, hordes started showing up, and I’d guess there was 25-30 people all talking in this small apartment. It was exactly the situation I’d dreaded. I saw one lady I wanted to talk to, and as luck would have it, she ended up a few feet away. For a time, both of us mostly just sat watching the chaos and eating our pizookies. Finally, I thought, she is the one in the room I do want to talk to, and it just takes a little courage. And it was wonderful! Our conversation couldn’t have been more perfect. We talked for 10-15 minutes, and I thought that was enough to see if she would be interested in going out, and then I could get the heck out of Dodge. S.P. served in Cape Verde so we both speak Portuguese, and she is currently a teacher in the MTC. She is a junior, majoring in English Education and minoring in History. I thought, 10 more seconds of courage is all it takes, and sure enough, it looks like I will be seeing her again! At 8:45, I was at the gym without energy. At 10:45, I was running around the neighborhood, stoked, trying to burn off some energy so I could sleep.

Saturday morning, Cooper and I were unable to get a tennis court, so I dropped him back off at his apartment, that plan shot, and after quickly doing some shopping, went into my backyard, sat in a camping chair and read while enjoying a smoothie and breakfast croissant. The trees were gently blowing and creaking above me and most of the world seemed asleep still. It was a beautiful time!

At 2, I met with M. B., my next door neighbor. Last year in the fall, we had talked about gardening and she offered her yard if I wanted to use it. Her family owns the house and had rented it out in the past. A previous tenant gardened until leaving one year ago. The before photo:

We spent a few hours working the soil and digging up the weeds. The previous tenant composted a lot, and the soil was wonderful. My shovel went 18 inches deep and it was all pure soil that turned over easy. I ran over to Home Depot and purchased some seeds, and we planted four rows of spinach, three rows of lettuce, three of beets, three of onions, three of carrots, and two rows of radishes in the two plots on the right hand side. In the back along a cast iron fence, we planted two long rows of peas and one of broccoli. I felt so good, and loved every second tilling the ground and pulling weeds and getting dirt under my fingernails. At 4:45ish, we called it a day, and I returned next door to my house. The after photo:

At 5:30, M. B. came over, sobbing. I had been with my roommate in the kitchen, and when I opened the front door, she just immediately unloaded. My roommate was still in the kitchen listening, as surprised as I was. One thing I found out was that her ex-boyfriend knew I had been over, (I had no idea this was a problem) and had sent me a message on facebook messenger, and she was so sorry he did that. For purposes of confidentiality, and to keep this short, I’ll wrap this up quick. Here is the message I received:

“Stay the &*^&*&^#& away from my girlfriend!

(her name)

I don’t care if she told you, you could use her garden, you go back there again or so much as look at her again you and I are going to have a problem.”

After discussion yesterday, and further discussion today with pertinent trusted adults, I’m submitting a police report, and that’s the end of my involvement. I am perfectly safe, and am going to abandon my investment in the garden. That’s finished for me. A lot of the story is left out, but hopefully that is sufficient to understand the gist. Who knew trying to grow some radishes would lead to this!