A Month of Milestones – May 16, 2019

This time of life has been termed by leaders of the church as a decade of decision, with so many of the choices we make now having an outsized influence on our later destiny. This last month has felt like a month of milestones.

First, a shout out to Matt. He texted me yesterday encouraging me to write again, and that was a push I needed, to finally sit down and finish typing.

I suppose the first order of news is that I have graduated. Officially. Yes, it was a wee bit close. I did work hard this last semester finishing everything up. I had two concerns. One, for physical science 100, you can take the entire class or can rely completely on the final exam. I chose the latter route, and was challenged despite putting in hours of studying. I just needed a 60 to walk out and be done. I scored a 58 and when I saw that, I was crushed. However, turns out they curved the class 10 points, so I ended with a D+. By far my lowest grade in college, but I’ll take that without any complaints.

The second was my thesis, which if I scored sufficiently high would allow me to skip taking English 150. I pulled another all-nighter, my second in college finishing it up. I wrote until 6:30 am when I dashed off to take a history final, which was scheduled for 7, and when I completed that ran to the library for another 90 minutes and then quite literally sprinted to the advisors room to hand it in before the 10 am deadline. And my grade let me skip the basic english class.

So, after three years and six completed semesters, I’m done! I have loved my time at college, and believe that I’ve learned what I needed to during my time here, and am ready to keep moving forward. I appreciated my dad, Breyer and the Bach’s coming out to celebrate with me. We went to Toucano’s one night, and feasted on Brazilian BBQ. They witnessed convocation, with Elder Kearon and Arthur Brooks, as well commencement. When I walked across the stage, everything felt real; I am a college graduate!

Only a few days after graduation, I talked with Amanda about ending our relationship. She thought it best to take a week to think things through, and I agreed. I’ve realized lately that I do have a proclivity  to make quick decisions, and while I don’t think they are rash or impulsive, some could use more time to fully flesh out and gain a greater grasp of the complexities.

A STEEP mountain we hiked in Springville – before attending Amanda’s MTC work party

I talked with lots of people throughout the week, working through my feelings out loud and trying to do what was right. There was fasting and temple visits and above all else, a prayer that I would do what is right. Looking back more objectively, I can say that I know it was without question the right choice, but it was not easy. It could’ve worked, but I don’t think it should’ve. Even now, I can’t describe the exact reason why. And that made it hard because it was difficult to explain to Amanda. Thoughts are hard to put into words, and feelings even harder. Basically, I gave us a shot, but couldn’t see us together in the future. Once I realized that, I had to end our relationship. I entered dating prepared to be hurt, but never imagined having to hurt someone else. That was the worst. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the five weeks that we were together and for everything that happened. It was a great time, and I think I really grew and learned a lot. I met her mom, and do admire her family, and she was able to meet everyone who came to my graduation. Having been fairly serious, I’ve been able to take a step back now without any pressure and dig deep, thinking about expectations vs. reality and work on figuring out what love really means.

I love my Dad.

 

The week between first broaching the subject and then our return to talk was not fun at all. One of the worst weeks I can remember. I had just moved, moving closer, only one street away from Amanda, and also leaving the Crestwood, where I was comfortable and settled, surrounded by friends. I had gone from trying to juggle school, a church calling, a relationship, to having nothing. And time for anything. After a few rough days were I mostly lounged, and just in general lacked much discipline and didn’t act with much purpose, I got my act together and started trying to take advantage of my free time. I’ve complained a lot about school and have been frustrated by feeling that I often didn’t learn anything, or especially didn’t learn anything that I could not have taught myself. These few days made me realize that one benefit of school is the structure; you are paying in part for the class schedule, with its hopefully rigorous learning outline. So, I created one for myself, and went back to following the missionary schedule of sleeping at 10:30 and waking up at 6:30, with hours of instruction. Another reason I decided to forgo my last year is because the amount of classes you can take online for, both for free and others for a comparative pittance. Lifelong learning is one aim of a BYU education and I intend to follow that.

I’ve also been actively looking for a job. There have been about 30 applications and 4 interviews. This has been much harder than I imagined, and a wake-up call. I have another promising interview tomorrow, and from now on, am planning on mentioning my start-up experience. Before, I have been skeptical to bring it up, as I though it might appear that I am too independent and less corporate focused. I did have two other interviews arranged through a temp company and both offered me the job, one doing accounting, the other working on the phone handling customer service for an insurance company. However, they paid $15-16 an hour, and wanted at least a 6-month commitment. I can’t imagine it will take me that long to find something significantly better. I graduated college, and think I should get a better job now, not something that is roughly the same, with only the hours increasing. At times it is extremely frustrating feeling stuck and seeing others working. At others, I remember that last May I was golfing in Texas and try to just be patient, continue to search, and make sure I fill my time with meaningful activities.

I hiked the Y with Breyer. It was so fun! She talked the whole way up, and it was hard, but she was determined, and we made it to the top. She called the lights in the valley, polka dots.

 

Last week I logged 30 hours as a receptionist at an electric company in American Fork. This was a temporary gig as they had fired someone unexpectedly and  needed help staying afloat in the office. Their phone barely rang and I helped the company catch up with some of their accounting tasks. It was good to earn some money, and I found the financials of the company, with 3 owners, and some 100 electricians in the field fascinating. They charge a flat $65 per hour per electrician, but on average only pay their workers $30 an hour. Its also crazy because when I was working at Canopy, we were so happy to reach $7 million in ARR, and considered this a milestone, but this electric company had brought in $19 million in 2018. Obviously Canopy could scale much more than this electric company, but the electric company is still so much more profitable. Most of their projects are for schools and hospitals, but they did the electric for the Oklahoma City Temple renovation recently, and I enjoyed knowing that however small my role was, I helped, reconciling their accounts and helping to finish the paperwork off for that project. The temple will be rededicated and opened again this Sunday.

Its also been a great blessing to have some work with Uncle Ben and Mission Lawn Care LLC. I appreciate the money, and love doing some physical work and feeling worn out by the end.

More on this in a future letter – I was a groomsman for Kimball’s wedding

Historically when I have been tempted, or more accurately, give in to temptation to procrastinate, I’ve turned to chess. As a quick pat on my own shoulder, I am proud that my ranking has fluctuated between 1700-1750 since December, reaching a high of 1765 in April, the highest I’ve ever been. In an effort not to waste time, I committed to cutting chess out during finals. So I turned to Duolingo as the  mind still needs an outlet. One of my summer goals was to learn German,  so I got a bit of a jumpstart on that goal, and have diligently studied and practiced every day for a month now. Ich bin Hunter. Hunter Schenewark. Of course, feeling good about the progress I’ve made, I tried reading the Book of Mormon and knew almost no words, so there is a lot, lot, lot of work to be done before I’m ready to head to die berge Deutschlands.

Another goal that I am much less enthusiastic about is a half-marathon coming up. If you know me, you know I hate running just to run. If there is a ball involved that changes things, but to pound the pavement, I particularly derive no pleasure. Except for the feeling of accomplishment. So, with a friend I’ve signed up for a half-marathon in August just across the border into Wyoming. I’ve begun running, and am going to keep at it.

Two days before everyone converged for graduation, I went to part of Kimball’s bachelor party at TopGolf. We were there for 90 minutes, and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, on the way back, my tire went flat. I hobbled off the interstate, as an exit was near, but it was already 10 pm, and the tire would need to be replaced, so we (Lawson and I) left the van and I rode back with Kimball.  The timing was fortuitous, however, as Dad and Bro. Bach helped run me around town. Bro. Bach bought a new tire, and we were able to talk about marriage and other important things as we worked to put it in. It took two jacks, as the car was on an incline, but its good as new again.

Ok, almost done. I know this is a long post.

Since school ended, one of my favorite activities has been to attend the Provo Great Books Club. I’ve wanted to attend for a while, but have been too busy. We meet every Wednesday at the founder’s house, that of Karl Scott. He teaches the Great Books and works at the Constitution Center at UVU. He is also an Anglican, and its cool learning some of what he believes and he definitely provides variety to the group. There is usually 5-6 other people who attend. Most of the people are professors, either at BYU or UVU. We’ve worked through Aristotle’s Politics and are going through part of Plutarch’s Lives. 

Pres. Young had invited me to lunch a while back, and that happened May 3rd. We went to Costa Vida, and he bought me lunch and we talked. And talked. It was a really good time, and I appreciate his willingness to always meet with me.

The next day, he texted me unexpectedly and said that his company was unable to use his corporate soccer pass for the Real Salt Lake Game, and asked if I would like the four tickets. Having just returned from mowing with Uncle Ben, and not having anyone to go with, I initially declined, but then thought better and twenty minutes later messaged back and accepted. I called a couple guy friends and we had a blast. The game was fantastic, the atmosphere was exciting, and the tickets came with unlimited food. We ate our body weight in burgers and ice cream. Real Salt Lake lost 2-1, but we definitely won.

After RSL goal. The fans behind that smoke kept drums banging the whole time.

I’m still waiting for a calling, but my ward so far seems really good. I hosted a Come Follow Me discussion group Tuesday. Five people showed up, and we went over Matthew 19-20, and ate cinnamon rolls.

I also went on date on Sunday with Brielle from my ward. She is from New Hampshire, attending BYU, and served a mission in St. Louis. We went singing at Jamestown Assisted Living Center and then returned to my house where Robert W. and his girlfriend Hayley joined us for rhubarb pie and ice cream. 10/10. Brielle came over for the discussion group on Tuesday, but alas, when I asked for a second date,  she told me today that she has been going on dates with someone else for a while, and that they are going to start going exclusive. So I moved quick, but not quick enough.

Finally, golf. I’ve been playing once a week, limited not by time, but trying to spend conservatively. Its been lots of fun. I sold my sound system and some other items through facebook marketplace, and I’ve been using this as my spending money.

Champions birdie the last hole. It really is about working hard and finishing well, overcoming any obstacles on the way to reach the end goal. Here is a quote that I like: Carl Jung said, “No tree can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”  While I can’t complain about anything, and haven’t really had any hardships, I am grateful for the experiences that stretch me even a little bit.  I really am grateful for everything that has and is happening. Not everything occurs in the time that I want it to, but I do trust in God’s plan, and his timing. And I pray that His will be done.

“Here we go again!”

Our conversation ranges from “everything and nothing and all that’s in between.” Amanda’s words, and I couldn’t say it better myself.

Attending a BYU Women’s Chorus choir concert with other people from her ward. This was Jean Appleonie’s last time conducting before retiring, and she chose as her last number, an energetic medley from “Mamma Mia,” which was the perfect way to go out.

In any case, tonight will be our 36th time together, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

School is wrapping up and finals are looming, but we’ve both found the time for each other. Saturday, we were going to a game night, but turns out it was the wrong apartment and we awkwardly ran into a bachelorette party or something like it. Making a quick escape, we went to my apartment, painted some watercolors and listened to Simon and Garfunkel on the record player.

Friday was a really fun date night as well. Amanda was babysitting and had  cleared my presence with the parents so I joined her the last half-hour of that assignment, watching 3- month old Rose. Then we went to the Easter conference and listened to the historian Richard Lyman Bushman and Emeritus general authority Bruce C. Hafen bear their testimonies on our Savior Jesus Christ and and his atonement. Definitely got me in the easter spirit. We followed that by going out to dinner. Thinking chinese, we went to Panda Express to find out it was inexplicably closed for the evening. Going to downtown, the local chinese place had shuttered its doors at 8:30, and so in our conundrum, we were rescued by a kind old woman, Mrs. Wright who invited us to follow her to Joe Vera’s, where she promised the best mexican food in Provo. Leaving Mrs. Wright to wait for her husband to arrive, we found a booth, and both ordered a carne asado burrito. After meandering a bit to find our parked car, we went to her apartment and watched Sherlock Holmes defeat Lord Blackwood.

Last bit I’ll share of dating has to do with conference. We watched all four sessions together, attending in person two of them thanks to Uncle Rich. It was a great experience. And I confess, we quickly figured out, that as Amanda is left-handed and I’m right-handed, with her on the left, and me on the right, we could hold hands and still take notes. (;

Sunday morning

In the Conference Center for the Saturday Afternoon session, I was anxiously awaiting the new area authorities to be called, having thought Uncle Rich would be called. The names are called in alphabetical order, and after a “hess” and a “Holmes” when they said Richard S. Hawkins, I figured he had been called, as there was no reason to return to the Ha-‘s. Hutchins it was.

Monday I got a call from Uncle Ben asking if I’d like to help him with a landscaping project. I jumped at that, needing to get out and do some physical work. I missed the last class of the day, but it was worth it. We went to Sandy and Uncle Ben pruned a bunch of trees, and I moved 3,700 pounds of rock from the trailer into the yard. The shoveling wasn’t bad, but the grass was soaked and it didn’t matter how much weight I put in the wheelbarrow, it was tough to keep moving on the grass. Uncle Ben was the BEST lawn care person I’ve ever seen. Not many people mix a couple college degrees, great customer service, with deep professional knowledge and yet carry themselves humbly but Uncle Ben did this and more. It was a fantastic time. And after I felt great – completely worn out, but like something had been accomplished.

Last week the high council member, Bro. Holmes brought me a 7-iron he had purchased. I lost mine before the mission and have played with one ever since. We’ve played once together, and this was very nice of him. On Wednesday I went with Michael and two of his friends to Sleepy Ridge to play  again. This was the worst weather in a month, with snow swirling, hail falling, and the wind whipping up to gusts of 25 mph. I didn’t honestly know if we’d make it, but we finished 9 holes. It was a challenge, and oh so much fun.

Yesterday at 1:50, I finished my last college class. Now, I’ll only be negotiating finals and I’m done. Crazy to realize how soon my collegiate career is wrapping up. I applied to about 10 jobs around here, and as time lessens, have widened the search aware that starting a dream job in May is becoming increasingly unlikely and it is more important to just have something soon.

Sunday I was released from my calling, ending my tenure as EQP. I’ve loved this calling, and the opportunities and challenges that have arisen due to it. I felt the mantle leave on Sunday, and will never forget this time. The Crestwood has become a holy place to me, because of the experiences here. My contract ends at the end of the month, and I’ll be off to somewhere new. (TBD).

The outgoing presidency, Nathan Folkman, me, and Porter Wright. I’ll never forget these two good brethren.

 

Saturday I attended the temple with my mission pal Lawson, and we went through a Portuguese session, which happens once a month. It was really cool, and definitely something I’ll do again.

 

I don’t quote Nietzsche often, but here it is:

He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.

At this moment there is so much uncertainty in my life. At times that can make me a little anxious. But I know the why, and I know that there is purpose. And above all else, I believe in Paul’s statement to the Romans, (8:28) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”

I do love my Heavenly Father and my Savior, and thus it is ever onward.

 

Marching On

Amanda and I are dating. You could say it’s been a good week!

Sunday night I had dinner with her, her roommates, and the members of her ward who minister to them. Dinner was delicious; chicken pot pie, rolls, and cheesecake for dessert.

After that, I picked up Abby and Michael and we headed to Kayla’s for a game night. She had prepared lots of food, and it was great to see Stevie, Kevin and Kaleb again.

Wednesday, after my classes ended at 2 pm, I met up with Amanda and we got ice cream at the creamery and then played people watching bingo. This was the first time for both of us. We filled out bingo sheets with characteristics like someone with pink hair, someone pushing a stroller, someone carrying a guitar, etc. and then tried to find people matching the description. She won.

Thursday I caught up on some reading and then went to a game night at the invitation of Jordan Pearson. He was in my ward last year, and we ran into each other on campus a few weeks ago and decided to get together. We played a few rounds of telestrations, and catchphrase, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Friday was a night to remember. I went bowling at BYU with Amanda. Lawson, his date Libby; Kimball and his fiance Aubrey joined us. We all goofed around the first game trying new techniques and attempting to spin the ball like Kimball. The second game everyone tried their best. Except for me. Amanda challenged me to bowl through my legs, so I took her up on the challenge, and what was intended to be a one-frame joke lasted the whole game. Incredibly I nailed two strikes, and finished with a 113.

Saturday morning I cooked for an EQ/RS combined activity. Which means a ward activity. I cooked fried dough and had help prepare a fruit bowl. The activity had changed from a yoga session to a murder mystery breakfast, which I was less than thrilled about, but it exceeded my expectations.

After completing some mundane tasks, I went over to Amanda’s and helped deep-clean her new car. It was an unexpected gift from her aunt and uncle, and had not been cleaned in three years. After nearly two hours on that, I headed off to finish some homework and eat dinner. And we decided to go to the Fishkiss Spa that opened one year ago in Provo. Neither of us like the idea of fish touching us, but that made it more interesting. The wait time was close to an hour, so we had time to walk around downtown a little bit. We visited Pioneer book and perused their offerings. She spotted a little poster of the President’s and challenged me to name them all in order. Of course no.’s 11-14 wreaked havoc on me, but overall I did well. After a good while looking around, we headed back to the spa. They cleaned our feet, and then we went to the tanks and plopped our feet in. It was the weirdest sensation at first! The fish nibbled and nibbled on the dead skin. The employees say that it feels like putting your feet in something carbonated, but I have to disagree and say that it feels exactly like little fish nibbling on your feet. Nevertheless, after the first few minutes, it was actually a tad relaxing.  

Tuesday I had again attended with Amanda the weekly devotional. This one was by Elder Randall Bennett of the 70. He spoke about following the prophets and how that will lead us to success. Here are the six prophetic invitations that Elder Bennett again invited us to complete:

1. An individual must ask Heavenly Father how He feels about him or her and what their mission is on earth, and then follow those impressions with exactness.
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2. Learn ‘all you can’ about Jesus Christ and follow Him.
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3. Spend more time where the Spirit is present.
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4. Learn how to hear and follow the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
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5. Prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day.
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6. Serve your ancestors and others in the temple.

I know that by following God’s prophet on the earth, we will not be led astray. Through the fulfillment of these six challenges, we will draw closer to our Savior, and have the chance to change not just the world, but to be born again, and be changed ourselves.

“Now you may not come from perfect circumstances either but  I promise that if you will act with faith in your heavenly father and his plan and in Jesus Christ and his Atonement and follow God’s prophets, I promise that you will be given power to do whatever the Lord needs you to do, and to become whatever he needs you to become, despite  your circumstances.” Elder Bennett

 

A Connecticut Puritan in Happy Valley

I went to the temple on Friday just to go, with no specific question or need on my mind. However, as I walked out, it was obvious to me that I needed to end Victory Pizza for the time being, focus on graduation, and look for a job. I headed to the golf course to putt around a little, and made some phone calls. Spring has arrived, and Friday was my first day this year in shorts. Brian, in Boise, had some good leads, and sent me the info for Clearwater Analytics. I texted the guy, named JP, and we set up a phone interview for Saturday. The call went good, and he sold me on the company. I don’t know yet what will happen, but that shot into the running, and I should know pretty quick if I got the job. Besides looking at Idaho, I’ve also thrown some feelers out into Texas and Massachusetts. I’m not so set on staying in Utah past April anymore.

Its easy to think of the United States always as one country, instead of recognizing the wide disparity between states. Here’s one stat that made me think. The average person in Mississippi lives just as long as the average person in Bangladesh. And the average person in West Virginia lives just a little less than the average person in Libya.

My history capstone rough draft was due on Thursday. I wrote five pages on Tuesday in just over an hour, thought it was going way easier than expected, and put it on the back-burner again. Wednesday, I worked for another hour, and on Thursday I worked on it all day, finishing it before 5 pm, and turning in 20 pages. I remembered people like my mission president, President Young, who did not have the opportunity to graduate college, but would have loved to. Remembering those who would love to have the experience of college helped me continue and work hard, but I have to admit that at this point, I don’t appreciate it intrinsically, and am glad to be so close to the end.

Amanda invited me to the devotional on Tuesday and we listened to Elder Carlos Godoy of the 70. I put off any other dates because of my paper, but on Friday we had planned to go ice-skating. Then, as this was our day of spring-break, she went hiking that morning and slipped on a waterfall and broke her hand. Knowing that a fall ice-skating could cause a lot more damage, I brought some pizza and we watched BYU’s baseball team beat Gonzaga. We joked that she had taken “spring break” too literally. Alas, beware the ides of March. Saturday we went and played tennis, and despite being one-handed, Amanda played really well. Those were two of my favorite dates ever, and provided good opportunities to get to know each other. After playing tennis for an hour, her hand started hurting, and we just sat on the court in the sunshine and talked for another hour. Having played golf with Kimball in the morning, I ended up slightly sunburned which is a noteworthy accomplishment in March. Tonight, I’m going over to her place for dinner.

On Tuesday, when I decided to leave my paper for later, I ended up again at the golf course. As a single player, I ended up joining Adam for nine holes. There are times when I want to play alone, and others like on Tuesday where company is nice, and thus my invite to Adam. He was traveling from Minnesota to Arizona. His family was going on vacation there, and he was recently let-go from work, and was driving their bikes and other equipment down, having wanted to see this part of the country. He had driven from Jackson Hole that morning and was planning to continue on for a few more hours later at night. Adam works in insurance on the back-end and his company had massive, but expected layoffs. However, it came with a year’s worth of severance due to his past 28 years at the company, and he’ll start in April at a new one. This was his first time in Utah and we enjoyed talking about everything from life insurance premiums to Amy Klobuchar’s bid for president.

Tuesday I also went to a much needed therapy session with Tanmarie and Nora. It helps to have loved ones to talk and counsel with about concerns. I left uplifted, and especially loved spending some time with Nora and her unbridled enthusiasm for the small things.

Saturday night, after tennis, I returned home and cut my hair. Then I ate dinner, made some homemade ice cream, and read in my robe still feeling soaked in sunshine. Makes you wonder, can life get better?

“Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” 2 Nephi 2:25.

 

March 10, 2019

A Sunday letter! Yes, it is stake conference weekend. Our stake presidency was reorganized, and Pres. Swenson, a man whom I’ve greatly admired these last 18 months was released and Pres. Tooler called as the new stake president. In conjunction with this event, Elder Pearson of the 70 and Elder Staheli, an area authority visited. They provided me with a shot of energy and inspiration, and I left with a long list of things to improve. Once again, my testimony was strengthened and I know that these men have been called of God.

Thursday I had a date with Amanda. She is from Huntington Beach, California, and is studying communications at BYU. She served a mission in Finland, and we met through the app Mutual. We attended the Symphonic Orchestra and had a great time. The finale was Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto, which I’ve wanted to hear live for some time. It did not disappoint. I knew I wanted to go out again, and set up a game night on Saturday. After the evening session of conference, I picked her up, and we were joined by Lawson and Isabel again. We played Ticket to Ride and snacked on some fudge. Now, the tables are reversed and tonight I’m going to her apartment for a game night.

Friday I worked really hard to get everything done, got a good workout in, and was home by 4:30. I did this so I could change into my bathrobe, cook a nice dinner (fish, cranberry sauce, salad, potatoes) and spend some time painting. I painted two pictures, read for a little, and got to bed early. Just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday I went and got kolaches (a polish pastry) with Elizabeth and was amazed at the turn in the weather. Friday had been blustery and snowy and COLD. Saturday reached the mid 50’s, and I felt myself drawn to the golf course again, to pitch and putt for an hour. I cleaned the house in preparation for Amanda coming over later that night, and then it was off to conference.

I learned that Canopy fired 40% of its employees, over 100 people, including 83% of the sales team. While I did not see Canopy as turning out successful, maybe this is the reset that they need. I was surprised as it comes less than two months after they moved into their new building. I have ben awed by the unity that the people who were let go as well as those who stayed have showed. I do see that as a sign of the good job that CEO Kurt Avarell has done in building company culture.

Other events of the week include more EQ restructuring. We changed lots of ministering assignments to better address struggling individuals, and I had the privilege to participate in a couple blessings, where the love of the Lord was evident.

One of the things that will change with my graduation, is Mom’s calling my letter, “The College Correspondent.” Perhaps a Pizza Periodical is in the near future…

 

Ok, I’m signing off. I’m beat and need a quick nap.

 

“Remember, in the end it is the merciful who obtain mercy.”

Phill-ing Good

The city of brotherly love. I loved my visit to Philadelphia. I arrived Thursday afternoon (Feb 21)  and used Lyft for the first time to arrive at my hotel. The Historic Wyndham, it was perfectly located and my bedroom window looked down upon Benjamin Franklin’s grave, along with four other signers of the Declaration of Independence. Nightly, I could not help imagining what they must think of the United States, all the pros and cons, and if we are living up to their vision. The conference I attended was entitled, “Liberty and the Declaration of Independence” and was different from previous conferences. There were 16 students and two professors, and we had six discussions in which we were arranged into a square and debated various issues dealing with the Declaration such as equality and consent. Beforehand we had read a few hundred pages and this helped ground our arguments historically and we had great discussions, that always carried beyond the 90 minute sessions into our free time.

Site of the my first birthday party. aka the signing of the Declaration.

And admittedly, knowing I’d be in Philly with free time was what got me to the conference.

On Friday I made my way to the main tourist spots, including Independence Hall. Saturday, I went with a couple other conference attendees, Bradley and Shelby, to Pat’s and bought a philly cheesesteak. Ignorantly, I did not know the classic includes cheese whiz. Nevertheless, it was good. And the experience priceless. They only take cash, and have their system perfected so from the time I said “cheesesteak” to my first bite, less than one minute elapsed.

Feeling good after lunch

Bradley and Shelby took an uber to go see the Rocky statue, but I opted to walk instead. The weather was a bit chilly, but not bad, and I wanted to get to know the town better. I walked a few miles, through markets and deserted streets, past an African dance rehearsal, seeing lots of street art, and made my way to the Philadelphia Temple.

I was surprised because it is in the heart of downtown, on the main city square. And it was beautiful! From there I went to the public library. I was supposed to play an online chess game with another BYU student and I proceeded to park myself in their humanities section. Even in the cold February weather, tourists were everywhere, and the Rocky statue and the Love statue had long lines to take pictures.

Independence Hall

Sunday morning I left earlier to catch my 7:30 am flight, and happened to pick up an inexperienced Lyft driver who was terrified driving in the rain, going 15-20 under the speed limit on the highway. A couple tender mercies got me through security much faster than anyone else, and I caught my flight with a few minutes to spare. After a brief layover in Chicago, Tanner was waiting for me in Salt Lake City and my travels were over.

Concluding a weekend of being pampered.

I can’t believe I graduate next month! This semester is speeding by. There is lots of work left, but it simplifies to basically my capstone paper, and a final exam in Physical Science. I’m not worried about any of my other classes. Alas, I did cancel my trip to Brazil as I reasoned that missing 9-10 days out of country was too much.

In terms of dating, I had my second date with Camilla on Thursday. We went to the Bean Museum, marking my first visit there. Admittedly, I was inspired by video of Nora enjoying the exhibits and thought I needed to see it for myself. Although the main draws are the African land animals and the largest collection of waterfowl, I was most interested in Pres. Packer’s dozens of carved birds and paintings.

I also went out with Caree. She transferred from BYU to UVU, for their aviation program. In fact, her parents met while working for Delta, and flying runs deep. She served a mission to Tahiti, and is always traveling. We went to Bruge’s waffles, in downtown Provo, for their $2 Tuesday.

Sunday, after church Tanner alerted me to dinner at Uncle Ben’s. I drove over with Tanmarie, and after helping put Ethan’s Eagle Scout project birthday boxes together, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner. The best part was seeing family. Aunt Becky was there with Brady, and Kayla and Stevie. Michael and Abbey were both there, and I learned of their recent engagement. Because of that event, Sarah came down from Idaho with her boyfriend Riley. And Emma came down with her friend, Emily, from Salt Lake City.

We did bow out before the laser tag fun started, as I had scheduled a double date. Lawson was with Isabel, and Camilla came over, and we played a game and had pumpkin pie.

Despite some stubborn snow, winter appears to be over, and I went golfing a couple times. Getting out into the sunshine, onto the grass was just what the doctor ordered.

I said goodbye to store bought shampoo, having experimented with a couple recipes and satisfied with the result, have begun to use my own conditioner and shampoo. Now if I go bald in the next few weeks, you’ll know why.

Hello Spring!

Saturday we had our best day selling pizza, and I even managed to sell three sodas. Now that I’m not going to Brazil, I think I’ll redouble my effort. I added a BBQ chicken that everyone has loved so far, with the homemade BBQ sauce perfectly tangy. Next type I’m planning to add is a balsamic + peach pizza.

May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung, and may you stay, may you stay forever young

I mailed something to Tanmarie’s house, as the mail service is spotty at best, unfortunately and inconveniently, at the Crestwood. On my way to pick it up, I called to see if I could do a quick wash before my trip, at their house. Sure they said. Then I asked if Tanner could read my paper I was writing. Oh, and how about a ride from the airport on Sunday? Mwahahah.

The only thing more dangerous than giving a mouse a cookie, is trouble with a capital T, that rhymes with P, that stands for Pool! Yes, family is wonderful.

My tires have been having some issues all winter, but this last week, I awoke to another flat tire, on my return visit to the DENTIST no less. I noticed some screws around my TWO flat tires, and having parked near the Crestwood’s maintenance shed, I couldn’t take any more. Steamed, I stormed in, to discover that management hadn’t arrived yet, even though they should have. I was now already late for my dentist appointment, but I waited until someone showed up a few minutes later to show what I found. He acknowledged their complicity in allowing the screws to be left loose, but offered no resolution, so I left to confront another nuisance. Aye the teeth. Cue the pain.

This chain of dental offices has billboards all up and down the valley and most advertise their willingness to sedate you for your anxiety. If only I could trust them enough for that. But I can’t, and I don’t want to be put under in any case, so eyes wide open I went in. Knowing that there was literally no place I’d rather avoid as much as the dentist, I asked him where was his least favorite place to go. The DMV. PUHLEEEEEEASE. Tell me if the DMV has ever dropped a screw down your mother’s throat. Disregarding my hesitance, the dentist tells me it’ll be a quick and easy fix to fill those high falutin cavities, shoots some numbing agent that makes my cheek bones tickle, and turns me over to the young, inexperienced hygienist who calls a veteran over to help ratchet my mouth open to attack these side holes. The dentist must have shot me with some elephant tranquilizers as I couldn’t feel anything, but being fully aware mentally, I was annoyed to no end to be the guinea pig for this hygienist, working on her technique. Laying near helpless with light shining in my eyes I impatiently pondered big questions. A visit to the dentist always turns existential.

Finally, the wedges were in and the hygienist went to get the dentist again. My face felt like a slug taking a nap, and as if on cue, the music switched from Elton John to American Pie. Yes Doc, I’m ready. I don’t feel anything. If you don’t have dental anxiety already, go when Don McLean is singing the chorus. “This will be the day that I die, This will be the day that I die!!!!!!!!!!!”

Everything turns out alright, and I’m sent on my way. He tells me not to eat for a while, and I try to ask about drinking water, as all my saved hydration from 6 months exited my sweat glands in 20 minutes, and he seems to understand, gives a chuckle, says maybe from a water fountain, but good luck. Sure enough, this slug isn’t quite ready to wake up, and I walk curiously to the bathroom. I look normal, maybe some slight swelling, but the muscles have gone on strike and don’t respond to the simplest command. I head over for a scheduled meeting with a professor, after slurping from all the water fountains on the way and force a few sentences out with tremendous effort, mentally making my lips do the harlem shake to get any movement. That done, time to go home. I’ll be upping my brushing and flossing to new levels.

In all seriousness, I felt great empathy from my two hour experience of facial paralysis and could not imagine enduring more than that. It was completely foreign not being able to control something so normal, and I did not enjoy the frustration.

The next day, Wednesday, I went on a date with Camilla. She is from a small-town (like under 300 people small) in northern Wyoming. We went and got ice cream at the Creamery, and were joined by Lawson, his date, and Kimball and his fiance. Camilla is studying dietetics, and served in the Riverside California Mission. I had a great time, and our schedules didn’t work out this week, but next Thursday we’re going to the Bean Museum together. Which I’ve never visited before.

Upon learning that I live in the Crestwood, she asked if I knew a McKay. I said only by name. Turns out he is from her town, and was one of the 20 kids she graduated with. I look him up, trying to remember if I’ve met him before, but its a negative. Then, on Saturday, while waiting for pizza orders, I run down to check the mail and run into him! We chat and on Sunday he came to church with me, his first visit in almost a year. McKay is studying film at BYU, and was incredibly nice, full of character, and will hopefully continue to come to church now.

Pizza was slow, as I expected. I only passed out a handful of flyers, and thus only got a handful of calls. I did this because turns out I’ll be going to BRAZIL!!!! This was an unexpected development, as I had applied for a grant on more of a whim than anything. I’m finalizing plans, but will be leaving in March to go do research in Rio de Janeiro. So, pizza is on a bit of a pause. In addition, I’m leaving tomorrow morning (Thursday) for a conference in Philadelphia.

Saturday morning, I went to Wal-Mart and was dismayed to discover the tires couldn’t be fixed, but would need to be replaced. Of course, after a week of pumping them up every time I needed to go somewhere, I knew the only option would be to bite the bullet and buy them. Even for the cheapest option, the total for two new tires came to just over $200. Ah the joys of adulthood. I don’t know if spending money makes me upset because I’m too attached to money, or because I feel like I’m overpaying. I returned home, went again to the Crestwood, and this time they ponied up $150 for me, which greatly helped, and made me keep my generous online rating of them.

Yesterday I attended a speech given by Ryan Anderson, a renowned defender of the family who works with the Heritage Foundation. I ran into Deseret News columnist Hal Boyd, and he fondly recalled his scouting days with my dad as his scoutmaster.

I was surprised to realize that there are no institutions besides religious ones that really help people get and stay married. I appreciated Anderson’s rhetoric, that marriage should be viewed as a cornerstone and not a capstone. In his speech, he went through the cycle of life twice, walking us through an idealized version (i.e. conceived in a marriage to loving parents, etc.) and then through a realistic one, where not only is early life affected, but so is later life, which I admittedly have not thought about much. He attributed the lack of children and loneliness to the push for assisted suicide, and noted only with the advancement of medicine society has pushed for this, and said that is because this is not a medical problem, but a community issue. Interestingly, there are now places in Europe where the birth rate has been so low for years that there is a generation of people who do not know what it means to be a brother or sister. They have no aunts or uncles, and thus no cousins. I could not imagine growing up without an extended family, but I also thought of the scriptural implications, and perhaps because of my reading of East of Eden this last week, my mind fixated on Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I am so thankful for family, for its eternal nature, and for the truths we know to be true, in accordance with The Family: A Proclamation to the World that we are all a “beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny….The Family is ordained of God. Marriage between a man and woman is essential to His eternal plan…Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Merry February

Monday for FHE we had a family history scavenger hunt. The activity was fun, and turnout was fantastic. Talking about family history… my ancestry dna results are in! My ethnicity snapshot is:

-61% England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe

-24% Germanic Europe

-13% Ireland and Scotland

-2% Norway

Interestingly, this is quite different from Tanner’s results.

On Tuesday per usual, I attended the weekly devotional, this time given by Elder Ulisses Soares (from Brasil!). Upon concluding, I went to the Wilk to see if my black leather right-handed glove had been found. Alas it hadn’t, but from Lost and Found only twenty steps separated me from the bowling alley and faster than prune juice makes its exit, I had made my entrance. Not having bowled in 11 months, I was pleasantly surprised with a score of 156. This was my free game of the year, given to students, but with shoes already on, the temptation to score higher was too much, and I bowled another two games, my score successively creeping lower. I had a really good time.

Strike!

Tuesday I also went to Costco to look at potentially getting a card. Turns out their mozzarella and pepperoni are not cheap, so it doesn’t make much sense to. But I walked around (and around) looking as that day their samples were fire. Traditionally I haven’t been a sushi guy, but even that was delicious then.

Wednesday I had Jeni over for a dinner date (only my second time ever doing dinner for a date) and we were joined by ex-roommate Derik and his fiance Mandy. We had corn chowder, rolls, salad, and chocolate pie for dessert. Jeni kindly brought lemonade, limeade and croutons.

The Dentist – visiting is when i feel like i’m actually adulting, as its still hard to do without my mom or someone supporting me, BUT I DO IT! My appointment was on Thursday. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, as I know not a single person more fanatical over mouth care than me, I had 3 cavities. Which means a return visit. Ah the joy.

Saturday morning, after a slow night of pizza on Friday, I drove the 260 miles to St. George to attend Derik and Mandy’s sealing. I could only stay for about an hour, but it was worth every second. The sealing was at 12:40, and was beautiful and inspiring. This was a small turnout, as their families couldn’t attend, and I knew that it was the right place for me to be. They had planned a ring ceremony at 4:30, but I left right after the sealing. Needing to get gas, I ended up taking the smallest of detours to visit the Pioneer Museum in town. I rushed through, and would enjoy visiting again. Best artifacts that I saw? Both coincidentally involved weddings. The first was a hair wreath. Made to be worn by the bride, the wreath was made of human hair. And while perhaps it looked better 140 years ago, I felt nauseous. There was a slightly younger wedding fruitcake preserved there as well. I’ve heard said in jest that only one fruit cake exists in the whole world and is simply passed around because no one wants it. This exhibit refuted that, but I’ll admit 1- I don’t like fruitcake. 2- 100+ years the cake was going strong and makes the McDonald’s Big Mac and fries look utterly lame when it comes to preservation.

My feels on V-day.

 

Sunday night I attended a devotional by Doug Callister, emeritus member of the second quorum of the seventy. This was without a doubt one of the best firesides I’ve ever heard. He ran a law firm with his brother Tad, in Glendale, Arizona, and they would serve concurrently as General Authorities, before Doug’s release 10 years ago. He spoke humbly, yet powerfully, with rhetoric of yesteryear, speaking eloquently with plenty of literary quotations and the like. Oh, and without any notes.  My favorite lines he quoted from an Elizabeth Browning poem, Aurora Leigh:

Earth’s crammed with Heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

The main theme revolved around prayer, and he promised that if we would choose only one blessing we would like, and one blessing we are grateful for, and follow that pattern for 40 days, choosing something new each day, each time conversing with our Father in Heaven about only those two things, then the way we prayed would change and we would draw closer to our Father.

He talked about being called as a stake president at age 31, by then Apostle Spencer Kimball. Elder Kimball called him in, said he was called, and said he’d leave for 10 minutes so Pres. Callister could choose his counselors. The lesson: The Lord can inspire you in 10 minutes as easily as two months, but you must get on your knees.

Of everything I miss from my mission, most of all, I miss testifying of eternal truths constantly. Elder Callister noted that Heavenly Father has only spoken a handful of recorded times, but every time He bears testimony of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are never as near to our Heavenly Father as when we bear testimony of our Savior.

 

Goodbye Rockwell’s

This week was signing day, and I’d like to announce that I’ve signed with Victory Pizza. That’s right, I’ve stopped looking for a job post-graduation and I am going to give this a real shot. Friday was our first real day selling, and while it didn’t go as I hoped, Saturday was a hit, and I stayed busy,  making and delivering and ironing out the bugs in the system. Friday afternoon I had canvassed my apartment complex with flyers, putting one on each of the roughly 90 apartments. I had put that flyer together on Friday afternoon in 30 minutes, and while I was pleased with the end result, Tanner redid it and this week I plan on putting out 500. And if this weekend goes well, (my goal is 30 pies a night) then I’ll have a quick turnaround and be ready with a heart shaped pizza for Valentine’s week. I’m already making a profit, but beyond that, it’s been so much fun learning and solving problems and legitimately running my own business. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time someone called, asking, “Hi, is this Victory Pizza? I’d like to place an order.”

Part of the preparation in passing the inspection as a “cottage food” producer required that I have a separate fridge to keep ingredients just for pizza. I found one on Facebook for free and I went with my Tocqueville friend Henry Wright to pick it up in Pleasant Grove. I’ve cleaned it, and it works like a charm. Moving it up to the third floor was horrible, as the fridge was perspiring, we were all freezing, and the fridge was so hard to grip. But we did it.

Tuesday was the College Republican’s Opening Social, which I attended. The club president, Tyler Clancy, has done a fantastic job and gave a great speech on this night. I left early to go make visits with the Bishopric again.

Wednesday I had Aunt Joy and Uncle Ben over for dinner. They asked that it be gluten free, and we had yams, rice, delicious steak cooked with tamarind sauce, and a fruit bowl. Fudge was for dessert.

On Thursday I had a mutual date, going out with Colleen from Colorado. For whatever reason, I really struggle to say that name. We went to Rockwell’s, and talked for a while but I think both of us weren’t really feeling a connection. I’ve decided that this was my last visit to this place. It’s served me well, but I’m tired of going there, and think that in the future when I want an ice cream date, I’ll just make it.

 

 

 

New Beginnings

Choosing a favorite season is hard. I love them all, and for different reasons. One reason I love winter – besides the snow, and its cleansing effect, and the nostalgia for warm hearths, and lazy days inside – is because of the promise of spring. Even in the darkest part of winter, one always knows that sooner rather than later, spring will gloriously begin. It is a time of new beginnings.

For MLK day, I celebrated by having Kayla and one of my friends, Maddie, over for lunch. My loaf of bread tricked me, and while I won’t say we suffered, I can’t say we delighted in our grilled cheese sandwiches. But the salad was good.

Tuesday I accompanied Bishop, and my counselors went with the other members of the bishopric as we continued our visits. I love making them and talking and more, listening, to my apartment neighbors.

Wednesday evening Michaela, Greg, and Kayla came over for dinner. A few months ago, (as recorded) I had steak with tamarind sauce and blue cheese dressing. I recreated that for us, and it turned out AMAZING! I’ll definitely be making this again. Given that I essentially crashed their wedding a few months ago, it was nice to actually become better acquainted with Greg and Michaela. They are delightful, and were extremely gracious. I’m impressed with their desire to make the world a  better place.

I had signed up for a creative writing class, and while I unfortunately had to drop that in order to graduate in April, a love of creative writing was rekindled, and I’ve read more novels this month than almost all of last year already.

Thursday I went and saw Senator Jeff Flake. He was visiting campus and gave a few speeches. I only attended the one for the College Republicans. After a brief outline of his career, he opened it up for Q+A. I was thoroughly impressed by both the Senator and his wife. I trust them. Perhaps the most interesting question dealt with the Kavanaugh hearing (asked by a somewhat bitter Dem for the record), and Senator Flake spoke quite openly about his thoughts throughout the ordeal and how he has never suffered such abuse from both parties before. I don’t think either he or his family will miss much about D.C. Above all else, he seemed genuine in his words, and in his love for the USA.

Friday was our opening social for this semester, held at 7 Peaks Ice Arena. Some members of the ward heard I was starting a pizza company, and decided to give me a shot, ordering five pizzas from me, and five from Domino’s. My boxes had arrived that day, and after a final practice run at 6 with Kimball, we were ready to go. Kimball had other commitments that night, and the other helper, Lawson, was in San Diego, so I was going solo. In 45 minutes, I made everything, the dough, cooked the meat, etc. and finished all five pizzas. And they turned out WAY better than I imagined. I put them in boxes and hustled out the door. I am proud to say, that not only did they look better than Domino’s pizza, the consensus was they tasted better, and my five were finished well before Domino’s. With just a little prep time, I feel confident in producing 12 pizzas an hour, in our conventional oven (my poor roommates!!!). Ah, yes, the life of a pizza man. I do enjoy it. Check out our Facebook and Instagram page. Victory Pizza. (After my mission). My goal was simply to validate the idea spending the least amount of money possible, and I feel good about what happened, and will be moving forward with this. Plus I still have over 100 pizza boxes I don’t want to keep forever.

Saturday I had planned on selling more, but that did not happen as our EQ activity went much longer than expected. But it was worth it. We went out near Utah Lake in Springville and shot guns. Lots of them. Mostly shotgun, 9 mm, and 22’s, but Derik brought his 45-70. The weather was beautiful, the ammo plentious, and a good time was had by all. That said, never, EVER again will I plan or participate in a shooting activity. Too risky in today’s society. Thankfully everyone who came this time was well versed in guns and stable.

 

The Tronson’s (Bro. Tronson is 2nd counselor) bid farewell to their son, who left to serve in the Philipines a few months ago. He unexpectedly had to return for a surgery, and decided to leave his suits. And Sis. Tronson kindly gifted them to me. I will pass one on to someone who needs it more, but I did keep one, and it fits perfect, and has been a blessing. Its a color I’ve always loved – light blue.

Tuesday’s Devotional at the Marriott Center was given by Elder Corbridge, of the 70. Here is the URL to it. Please, please watch it. He succinctly and powerfully reminds what knowledge is most important in this life, and how to overcome doubts and find answers to questions.

“Stand For Ever”

On my mission I quoted innumerable times, Galatians 5:22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”

However, as I was reading from Doctrine and Covenants 11:13, I was struck:

Verily, verily I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill our soul with joy.

The Spirit is all about bringing joy – real, lasting, honest to goodness, JOY. This life is about happiness, and thus this life is about receiving the Spirit, and learning how to keep and live with its influence constantly.