“He lived life in crescendo” July 29th, 2018

Said of the prophet Joseph Smith, I hope to be worthy of those words as well. Ever onward and upward!

My departure from Texas was scheduled early Friday July 20th. The day before, I had taken in the minivan to be state-inspected. It passed, but due to not having insurance until the next day, we were told we had to bring it in the next morning for another inspection. I arrived as soon as they opened, at 7 am, and they started looking at it. After 20 minutes I was getting worried, and sure enough, after 50 whole minutes (whereas the usual car takes 15) I was told the minivan was spurting steering fluid and completely unsafe. The actual diagnosis wasn’t surprising as Mimi had said there was a problem with that, but I asked how did you miss that yesterday if its that bad? They retorted that the employee who conducted the inspection was not in fact certified to do so, which made me even angrier, because the boss who authorized it was before me listening to this. Oh well. That was the angriest I’ve been for a long, long time. Probably two years to be exact. After being inspected the previous day, we packed the car up, made final arrangements, as I needed to be in Utah on Sunday. I drove the apparently dangerous machine back home, ate breakfast, read some mechanic stuff on the internet, checked a couple things on the car, decided it was perfectly fine for now, and took it to another mechanic, who inspected it and deemed it a-ok.

And thus, I was off. Admittedly, I cried saying goodbye. I’ve had a good summer, and its hard knowing that nothing is ever the same. Nothing ever returns to how it was. I had written my route instructions on some sticky notes, I had dozens of cassette tapes, an Elvis CD and plenty of gas money from Mom. I was off.

After taking so many road trips through the years, I’ve developed some ideas on efficiency, and thought now was my turn to test them out. Turned out a lot harder than I thought to plan out stops, but I traveled with hardly any setbacks, besides a few road construction delays and detours. I loved driving through the beautiful countryside. I like going through the small Texas towns dominated by silos and co-ops. I love going through New Mexico with the green carpet stretching out for miles, framed by mountains in the background. And I love Colorado with the pine trees and conspicuous rock formations.

I had lunch packed with lots of snacks, and besides for gas only stopped in Colorado for some chick-fil-a. I made it to Uncle Zach’s house at about 10:30, making the trip in 13 hours. And I was tired! It had been a long day, exhausting mainly because of the uncertainty brought about by the failed inspection.

I enjoyed a beautiful sleep, courtesy of cousin Gabe, and the next morning was filled with lots of games, an inspection of the garden, and some moral support as Uncle Zach built some cupboards. I was impressed with the project and execution thereof. Lincoln won as my favorite for the trip. He was all smiles and giggles with lots of one-liners full of wisdom. And Uncle Zach not only made apple-pie bread pudding which was new to me, but also passed on the recipe. I do plan on returning to Colorado later this year.

By noon I was back on the road, heading up through Wyoming. The eastern half is beautiful, and I love driving through it, but the western half drags on and on and on and doesn’t have that same natural grandeur. I stopped for food at a Wyoming subway, and my scores for efficiency plummeted more, as after filling up, getting food, and returning to the interstate I was down 40 minutes. Unbelievable.

Co-pilot shout-out to Truman Madsen. I listened to hours of his tapes on the Prophet Joseph Smith, and being completely unencumbered by traffic and wanting to remember what I learned, near-perfected the art of note-taking on the steering wheel. I ended up with several pages.

I got some chills crossing the final state border and entering into Utah. Every year holds so much promise and adventure I always love coming back. Originally, I had planned to continue to Salt Lake City to catch the Pioneer Day concert, but I would have waited for tickets, and at this point I was tired and just wanting to arrive. So I meandered through Heber City which left me awestruck, and was incredibly beautiful. The city is set out nicely and the scenery is beyond compare. Utah is a lot greener than I imagined in summer. I arrived at Tanmarie’s apartment just in time to see them off to the temple and stand guard over the sleeping Nora.

They had recently moved to a new, temporary apartment and I had naively imagined, despite Tanner’s claims to the contrary, that it was quite spacious. They graciously hosted me, but within an hour of arriving I knew I would need a different place. Sunday involved lots of meetings and interviews and I was glad to be able to serve, where I am needed.

Monday morning I returned to the Crestwood and was glad to find a room I could spend the next few weeks. I immediately signed and started emptying my belongings into the new place. I have to say, my life seems so luxurious lately. I have records, I have my bathrobe again, slippers, golf clubs, etc.

All I need is a wife and an armchair. Well, and a job, but I am confident I’ll have employment by next week. It’s the other two that leave question marks.

For Family Home Evening we went to the Spring Garden Retirement Home in Lindon and played bingo with the seniors there. That place was oozing money! Indoor waterfall, granite everything and, (my personal favorite) they meet and attend church in huge armchairs. I helped a Congregationalist from Idaho, and although we didn’t win, I had a great time. And I was able to scoot to Uncle Ben’s after and pick up my stuff I had left over the summer.

Tuesday, being pioneer day was filled with recreation and remembering. I ended up playing a little golf (from the black tees!) and was ecstatic to reach the 9th hole, 578 yards in two shots. Even though I three-putted. I helped my roommate, Rory, move a couch and dining room set to his new house in Springville. He’s getting married in August. From there I ran over to a picnic with Tanmarie and the Pace’s. We ate well, including Rhubarb pie Annemarie made and played frisbee golf and Kan-Jam (my first time). I bailed that evenings activities deciding to read in my room, and only listen to the fireworks.

I am thankful for all the pioneers in my family, especially my Father and my Grandparents for their decisions to accept the gospel and seek earnestly after the best things in life.

Wednesday and Thursday went by quickly. I was working on job applications and newspaper stuff. Unfortunately, we were turned down by the library for distribution, so that made our plans change slightly. With Annemarie’s assistance at Costco, I was able to take care of all my shopping needs. Over the summer, due to some pondering and the messages of some books, I had decided to cut back extensively on my meat consumption. Not that it is a lot right now anyways. However, the average American ate 4 oz of meat daily in 1970, and now that number has tripled. I think its causing most of our (nation’s) health problems. And of course, the supermarkets all have meat specials as soon as I get here. So there’s 18 pounds of meat in my freezer already. But, all packaged in neat 4 oz bags.

Wednesday night, I received a message at 10:45 pm for someone looking for a blessing. I went over to that apartment and helped, and shortly after returning to my apartment, I received another message from someone else, this one more urgent, requesting another blessing. I didn’t know who could help administer, but as I stood outside thinking about what to do, James, who recently moved in, walked by dressed in a white shirt and tie, and I thought, “that’s the guy!” We were able to go over and help, and we both had a cool experience knowing that the Lord was cognizant of each person’s needs.

Thursday I invited two friends over, John and Maddie, and we ate homemade pasta and spaghetti and sausage. I’ve long wanted to try making pasta, and it turned out okay. I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin, and it was a little thicker than ideal, but still tasty. Earlier, we had our first presidency meeting in a LONG time, and I attended institute class for the first time ever. We went over Moses 6-7.

Friday  I cleaned the car from the nearly 4,000 miles its endured the last three weeks, and enjoyed a free car wash. I helped a member of the ward run a few errands and then was interviewed by Northwestern Mutual over the phone. I’ll be going in on Tuesday for the in-person part.

And that evening I went golfing with Lydia. She had never played before, but I’ve decided that in dating I tend to focus only on buying instead of selling, i.e. learning who the other person is, instead of showing who I am and therefore golf would be an ideal activity. We went at 7:15 and the weather had cooled down sufficiently we watch the evening set against the mountains. She took some pictures and the setting was gorgeous. Provo is a big city (for me) but the golf course is on the outskirts of town and silent from city pollution. I had a fantastic time. We took turns hitting shots, catching up on summer activities and discussing what living a meaningful life would involve. And we’ll probably be going out again.

Saturday I had two mission friends over, Lawson Lighten and Kimball Hatch, both from my last area of the mission. I wondered why I was assigned to that area at the time, but its brought so many blessings and good times both while I was still there and now. We had the best Brazilian feast yet, and played Settlers of Cataan. I had told Tanner I would babysit Nora starting at 3, so we packed up the games and played for another two hours at their place before finally calling it a day. Nora slept from 3-4:20, and was the best baby ever until 6:20 when she started getting fussy. So, at 6:40 until 7:00 we walked outside and she was happy and calm again. And at 7 until Tanner came back at 7:15, she cried. And cried. And cried. Every idea I had to help backfired and made her screams even louder. Ah, the joys of unclehood.

Today, I played the organ, cranking out “O my Father,” “Father in Heaven, We do Believe,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Israel, Israel, God is Calling.” I continue to enjoy conducting interviews in EQ and we are making a lot of progress, both in becoming unified and in our ministering efforts.

I still don’t know why exactly I’m here. I know the Lord wanted me back, and like I told Uncle Zach, I don’t know if it was to help the Elders Quorum, for a relationship, or for a job, but I hope its all three. One week in, and I’m no closer to reaching a conclusion. But that’s okay. Boyd K. Packer related once how he went to Harold B. Lee seeking counsel, and was told “The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.”

I suppose I’m like that. I think it would be nice to know the outcomes before they happen. However, as trying as it can be, I really do know that the joy is most often in the journey. To say nothing of adventure. See here we go, off into the unknown.

Here’s something I do know as a result of this week:

A few years back, I conducted a long and extensive study on charity and concluded that charity is acting with someone’s eternal worth in sight. Regretfully, I used that to rationalize some stingy behavior. I still think charity could involve denying and does involve the long-term view. However, now, I understand that charity is doing for someone what they can’t do for themselves, as the Savior atoned for our sins.

I am so grateful to have a Savior who loved me enough to die for me, and hope that through my actions I can reflect at least a small portion of that love to mankind.

 

Avante, Avante Para a Vitoria!

That was my mission’s theme,

Brethren, shall we not go forward in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and ON, ON TO THE VICTORY!

And may it ever be our mantra as well! It’s said that to be successful, a man needs something to live for and somebody to live. I am so thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This last week has been one of transition- with the ending of old, and the starting of new. It was nice to rest a little from the summer trips and ever increasingly I am realizing I am not a traveler. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy seeing new places and making the occasional vacation. Yet, deep down I look forward to putting roots down and becoming a part of a community. One’s outlook does change, knowing that they are tied to a place. I want to feel like the land is mine, I want to feel connected deep down, to help build a town, and I even want to feel invested in every local bond issue that arises.

Bro. Bach suggested we call the white van, “The Great White Hope” for it’s death has been exaggerated far beyond Twain’s. This week saw it start and run for the first time in over a year. And for me, it’s been three years since I was behind the wheel. It sputtered, but stuck, its strength increasing, as I idled and then cautiously took it for a neighborhood tour. White smoke billowed as water or old gasoline burned off and I strained each turn as the power steering was out. The next day I took it in for an inspection knowing it would fail. And fail it did, but with passing colors! For again, there would be no immediate death, as all the problems were fixable. The plastic windows were ok, the bumperless front presented no problem, and the bent side was perfectly fine. However, there is a slight electrical problem, and we currently have no brake lights or blinkers. That’s on the menu to fix tomorrow. I’ve checked all the fuses so it must be a wire or ground problem.

On Thursday, I went with all the kids to visit the Merritt’s in Tyler. Amidst brewing clouds we took off, and by the time we made it to Dallas, the rain was absolutely pouring, we had our windshield wipers going at 100% and traffic crawled along at only 35 mph due to our inability to see beyond the brake lights of those in front of us. Thankfully, the weather cleared up for the last hour of our trip and we encountered no difficulties. It was again a weekend filled with lots of games and fun. Although this trip against Aunt Janel my record in ping-pong was 0-4 and it is quite frankly getting embarrassing.

Saturday morning we left the Merritt’s and helped at the temple grounds clean-up service activity. From there, Sawyer drew the short straw and while the rest of the family headed to Trader Joe’s and then home, he joined me on my excursion to Josey Record Store. Situated in a huge warehouse, they have tens of thousands of records and cds. Running short on time and  funds, I picked up 7 old records out of the bargain area (totaling $8) and two cds.

That evening, I worked for Mr. Clark one last time, weedeating for 2 hours. It’s such a blessing to be able to do that type of work, and not worry about poison ivy.

Sunday I taught again in Elders Quorum, facilitating the discussion on meekness, based off of Elder Bednar’s address from April’s conference. Here are two key takeaway’s that I had:

In Matthew 11:28-30, the Savior says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I find it very instructive that the Savior, among all the attributes that he so perfectly emulates, describes himself as meek.

Second, in my mind there was no differentiation between humility and meekness. Elder Bednar helped me understand the difference by saying, “Whereas humility generally denotes dependence upon God and the constant need for His guidance and support, a distinguishing characteristic of meekness  is a particular spiritual receptivity to learning both from the Holy Ghost and from people who may seem less capable, experienced, or educated, who may not hold important positions, or who otherwise may not appear to have much to contribute. ” Humility deals more with our relationship to God, while meekness is more about our relationship with our fellow men. Which makes Christ’s statement even more powerful. While our Savior, he still displayed incredible meekness listening to weak and fallible people.

Finally, I finished a book by Pres. Nelson and want to share this: In his BYU devotional (given some 30+ years ago) “Obedience and Sacrifice” he talks about how the word sacrifice literally means to “make sacred.” He then traces the history of sacrifice in the Bible, talking about animal sacrifices and the Atonement. I really liked this thought,

No longer do we think in terms of shedding blood or sacrificing animals. Rarely should we focus in terms of “giving up” time and means. Instead, we should now revert to the original meaning of the word – that we “make sacred.” For us to sacrifice, we should “make sacred” every thought, every action, and our very character…. The giving of our time and means should be the end in itself, but a means to the end of making ourselves sacred. Each, by living a saintly life, can present to the Lord one more sanctified soul to the honor and glory of his Creator.

 

The City of Sleaze

Yep, I’m talking about Seattle. My flight was without incident, and Alaska Airlines left a good impression.

I met up with half the students at the airport, and we took a shuttle 90 minutes to the Seabeck Conference Center where we stayed. It’s all the way on the other side of the bay from Seattle, and is located beautifully. Everywhere is green, rainforest-like luscious, except with lots and lots of pine trees. And of course different animals. We were 100 yards from the ocean, and there was also a pond on the property. I went boating almost every day, and saw deer on the shore as well as a majestic bald eagle flying overhead. Lovely.

The scenery was scintillating, but the purpose was politics. Daily, we dived into discussions debating liberalism. “What is liberalism? Has it failed?” That was the theme of the conference, and the professors who presented overwhelmingly declared, “I don’t know exactly” and “yes, and no” in response to those questions. Helpful, right? In all honesty, I learned an incredible amount. The topic is so nuanced an actual definition is tough, but I left feeling very comfortable with the opinion that I had formed and my understanding of it. I won’t bore with Jules Verne dry details of each day, but here are some key takeaways:

-Liberalism is constantly changing and advancing. (which makes it hard to define, because various groups like liberalism up to a certain point, while others are “progressives”.) We heard about 9 waves of liberalism, which showed how each wave is advancing a new freedom, except they are all in tension, and thus each new wave lessons the freedoms of the previous waves.

  1. Freedom from religious persecution
  2. Freedom from foreign domination
  3. Freedom from civil war
  4. Freedom from arbitrary rule/tyranny
  5. Freedom from government interference in the economy
  6. Freedom from rule by another
  7. Freedom from tyranny of the majority
  8. Freedom from exploitation by sub- political groups (both in the economic and social sphere)
  9. Freedom from biological necessities
  10. Freedom from ??????

What will the tenth be? I’ve an idea, but would love to hear any others. Basically, man has given up building a literal Tower of Babel, and instead is trying to become god, by freeing himself from God. Won’t turn out good.

Interestingly, 90% of the group this year (and every year) is Catholic. They have a philosophical tradition which is absent or nearly so in Protestantism.

Shout-out to my friend named Theodore ********, whom i met at this conference.  This week he went by Rod. This was his bio he submitted for the conference

“is a rising senior at Villanova university studying literature and oceanography. Hailing from Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, he frequents service trips which have taken him all over the globe, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Wilmington, Delaware. At Villanova, he takes great pride in his position as First Mate of the Carpathia Society, dedicated to locating the true wreckage of the RMS Carpathia at her watery grave in Davy Jones’ locker.”

Hilarious. What other kid would think about showing up at the airport with a sign that read “ISI’S meeting here.”

That said, I was disheartened by the lack of creative or original thinking. Everyone, with the exception of a handful of students, was clearly repeating what they’ve been taught.

Thursday we took the day off from discussion and went into Seattle. Instead of driving around the bay again, this time we drove to a nearby town and took an hour long ferry ride to the city. I stood on the bow and loved every second. On the way back, D+C 61 was hanging around in the mind and made it less enjoyable, but this was still one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire trip.

I visited the Pike’s Place Market, famous for its fresh fish but even more impressive with all the fresh produce being sold. Ranier cherries = 10/10. As were the golden peaches. There was so many jams that I taste-tested for an hour. There was also an “eastern medicine” boutique that I walked past and then ran by realizing immediately that this was not a place to buy essential oils. Oh no.

Then, a group of students and I walked into a bookstore. Which happens to be an extreme left-wing bookstore. The general title went something like this “How to start a revolution with no money and Defeat Capitalism.” Those two shop encounters in the space of 10 minutes crushed a lot of my american naivete. Add to that more gay pride than I’ve ever seen and innumerable homeless people, and it felt distinctly different than any city I’ve ever visited.

We split up, and I went solo, walking along the harbor, visiting the Klondike Gold Rush museum, the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks stadiums, Amtrak train station, a waterfall garden, the original starbucks store, another bookstore (only dealing with architecture thankfully) and some city parks. At 5, we met up at the harbor and enjoyed a group dinner at “The Crab Pot.” I ate some salmon, and finished the night off by bringing rhubarb cake and ice cream on the ferry back.

Above everything else, I was amazed that with all the discussions we held at the conference, no solution was available without a nationwide understanding of our identity as sons and daughters of God. We must understand that being “endowed by [our] Creator” is an essential part of being American.

I find it very informative that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in their testimony said

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

They testified first of God, and then our relationship to Him. I am thankful to know that we are all children of the Most High God, and draw strength knowing that He loves us and wants the best for us.

 

Rapid Fire- June 17th, 2018

Tomorrow I leave for Seattle. I am not packed, and have a bunch of things to take care of before then. So, rapid fire it is today.

-Dad, Cooper, Sawyer, Miller all went on a scout trip. They went to the Guadeloupe Mountains and to Carlsbad. The big news was Cooper having emergency surgery to remove his appendix. He’s doing well now, and they returned on Thursday night. He was funny with an appendix, and funnier without one. Go figure.

-I stayed with Mom and Breyer. First time in my life I’ve been outnumbered. Monday and Tuesday I spent 11 hours stacking and splitting wood. 7 cords. I enjoyed the work, and the solitary endeavor it was; however, allergies have been waging a horrendous battle since. I don’t recall ever having them as bad as now. The work was done for the Barton’s. I enjoyed becoming acquainted with Mr. Barton. Every other word he speaks is “man” and is very easy-going and friendly.

-On Friday, I took Sawyer and Miller to Tyler to see our cousins. The ride took 3.5 hours because of traffic, and despite no AC, we bonded and enjoyed every second. Many memories made. Once there, no time was wasted, and it was a fantastic trip. I hate to record it, but Aunt Janel thoroughly whooped me in Ping-pong. The first few games were massacres, after which I lost twice in overtime, and finally, mercifully, pulled out a win in the last. We played lots of board games as well, and Saturday morning I went with Anna and Aunt Janel to pick blueberries. Together we picked just under 15 pounds. Evan is planning a trip to Utah, which I am excited for.

-Today in church, I went for the grand slam. Blessing the sacrament, talking in sacrament, teaching elders quorum, and playing the organ (for priesthood). I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to serve here and have loved being part of this ward. I’ll miss it.

-Finally, a quick thought from the stripling warriors. I’ve focused so much on the outcome and their spiritual preparation and being taught by their mothers, that only recently while reading did I notice a very profound verse, in Alma 56:39-40.

It says that while being pursued, they turned neither to the right or left. They were completely dedicated and focused. I know personally, it is easy to become distracted, to lose sight of the end goal, to feel like we do not have enough time to accomplish everything, or to not give 100% 100% of the time. However, the Stripling Warriors did, and it is because of that intense effort that miracles resulted. Don’t stray to the left or right, but concentrate on that which is most important and in seemingly impossible times, all will be well, and the Lord will work miracles in your life as well.

Holy Mackerel! June 10, 2018

This week has been a little fishy.

As mentioned, Sawyer’s prize fish ended up in the trashcan. Monday morning the stink was noticeable and we couldn’t but laugh as trash is picked up on Friday. By Tuesday, no one was laughing, as anyone within a nuclear blast radius of our house could smell the fish. Needless to say, despite Dad dumping five pounds of baking soda in the trashcan, we were all thankful (and empathetic) to see the garbage workers come and pick it up.

Last week, on our way to the YMCA, I noticed a hiring sign at Farmer’s Insurance. Monday morning I ran over there, and after being intercepted by the receptionist, I dropped my resume off with her. One hour later, I was surprised by a phone call from the head honcho there who wanted to interview me ASAP. That made me hopeful, and I returned with heady dreams and ambitions. Lets be honest, their commercials are funny, and that’s half the prestige of working for someone else. Unfortunately, el jefe had only seen the first item on my CV (working for GPS Capital Markets) and was way excited to meet me. After finding out I wasn’t graduated, and would be leaving town shortly, not so much. Thus, I left unemployed once more. I’m getting comfortable with these interviews and nailing them. Going in, I knew the history of the company, and all the pertinent statistics. He was impressed, but there is no way to waive the accreditation and certifications necessary to sell insurance, and that is what they were hiring for.

Back to the fish saga. Breyer played a game on repeatedly this week. As soon as anyone would walk outside, she would astutely run to the door and lock it, and laugh hysterically at our plight as we were stuck outside with the decomposing fish. Eventually, her mercy always let us back in.

We finally finished planting the garden, and brought the Aiello’s rototiller over. When we got there, he was busy picking up wild plum seeds that had been digested by a fox. Apparently, for the seeds to grow, they must be passed by an animal. Cool stuff, but I’ll pass on the handshake. We’re pretty good friends though.

I have ended my letter reading. What is most interesting is to see how my relatives faced their early twenties. I made it to 1997, and ended with Uncle Ben dating Aunt Joy, and Uncle Aaron marrying Aunt Rachael. However, one of the most interesting stories was reading about Reed and Rob Nixon’s accident that left them paralyzed. It was incredible to see in depth the outpouring of the  church and community as large. To read about Pres. Hinckley’s blessing and see how they were prayed for the world over. Earlier in the week, I played Monopoly with Miller and Breyer. They didn’t know this, but our game (a baseball themed version) was gifted to Tanner and I by Reed some 10-12 years ago. I missed his funeral as I was in Brazil, and I distinctly regret having scheduled a time to visit him in 2015 before leaving and then being unable to make it work. I am truly thankful to have known him, to have associated with him, and to have seen his optimism and faith in the midst of some incredible trials. Above all else, I’ll remember his purposefulness. While being a quadriplegic, he  didn’t let that stop him. He earned a college degree, worked, and simply lived. Despite his countless problems, he served. He cared. He loved. May we all be more like Reed Nixon.

 

6/3/2018 Summer Vows

I’m close to taking my vows of poverty. The job hunt continues-ish. At this point, I’m essentially cutting my losses, and preparing for July-August and the Fall. I’m almost done with my financial analysis for next school year, and right now, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work, I’ll buy a car and stay even for the year. However, if a ring comes into play, it could get a little dicey. Nevertheless, I’m still praying it gets dicey.

Memorial Day Monday, we had FHE, visited a flag of fields and watched “Taking Chance” a perfect, and touching movie for the day.

Tuesday I picked up some cash by helping Connor move to Ft. Worth. And doing some yard work on Friday.

(Long golf story next, for those who wish to skip this sublime round, proceed to the next paragraph.)

Pres. Nelson called out the golfers in his devotional, but my membership ended and the clubs are in the garage, so no pleading guilty here! For the record, on my last round on Thursday, I desperately wanted to shoot under par. It started inconspicuously to say the least, for after hitting the first green, I proceeded to 3-putt. Bogey start was not what I wanted. The second hole, some onlookers watched me crash my drive, 320 up a hill, and then chip the remaining 20 yards, and make a 7 foot putt. Back in it! Mostly pars followed, with  birdies (reaching the green in two) on both par 5’s, and one bogey on a par 4. I turned in 35, -1. However, it took me 80 minutes, and it was now 8 pm. The group in front wasn’t letting me pass, so I played number 10, (another bogey dang it!) then jumped to play numbers 14-17. I added another birdie to move back to -1, before going to play the tough  11+12 holes. Getting up and down on both, I moved to 18, (historically the easiest hole on the course for me, a straight 460 yard par-5) needing only a par to achieve my goal. By now, it was way dark, and hard to see. I briefly considered playing 8-iron, 8-iron, wedge to the green, to secure my goal, but thought no way! I’m not ending my golf season with a wimpy layup! I smashed my driver again, avoiding the dangerous out of bounds on the right side, and leaving me only 150 yards . Choked down and hit my clutch shot, a baby draw, with my pitching wedge, and knew I hit it to perfection, but couldn’t see at all where it landed. So, I walked up to the green, and lo and behold my ball was 18 feet behind the flag, right in the middle of the green. Whatever happens, don’t leave it short, so I struck the putt, playing more off memory than sight, and boom! the ball broke three inches to the left, hit the cup, popped up and popped in for an eagle! It was the best possible way to end my summer playing, and I signed for a 69.

Of course, the more memorable and important event of Thursday happened earlier, as I left with Mom at 4:35 am to head to Dallas. I dropped her off at work, and headed to the Dallas Temple. Two weeks ago, I had also attended, doing two endowment sessions and a bunch of initiatories. It was an incredibly important day in my life, and I returned hoping for more of the same. And did not leave disappointed. From there, it was lunch on the grounds, and then going downtown to be an uber driver. That failed, with the phone dying, so to be productive while waiting for Mom to finish her work, I visited Wells Fargo and Chase Bank, opening up an account at Chase. Gotta diversify, right?

Friday we continued our near daily YMCA adventures, had dinner with the missionaries, saw Sawyer hook himself and head to the hospital, before settling in to watch the “Be One” 40 anniversary celebration of the Priesthood announcement. SO to my pal Andre Johnson. Pres. Oaks did a great job (as always) clarifying potentially sticky issues.

Today, Miller woke up with a headache, so we left him, and Sis. Page took us to church. Breyer liked the idea, and started saying she was sick, but to her chagrin, I called her bluff, and she ended up at Elder’s Quorum with me. I was also set up apart in my new calling, as EQ teacher. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying getting to know and love my fellow ward members. As they say about me, if you’re over 70, we’ll probably be friends. And Granbury is perfect for that. Bro. Sullivan was called to be another teacher, and I met his wife, who is from the Azores Island. Her cousin is an LDS district judge in Boston.

After our Fast Sunday officially ended, I made some bbq chicken pizza and while it was in the oven, we facetimed Tanmarie and Nora.

We held a spontaneous floss-off (culturing me) and Annemarie and Miller were declared the unanimous winners.

Random thought that came to me (after being invited to play a a card game tonight): Card games- the social media of the dark ages.

We watched the Nelson’s devotional tonight, and wow, they always blow me away. In case you missed it, here are the invitations extended by the Prophet.

1-Do a 7-day Social Media Fast

2-Weekly time commitment to the Lord

3-Keep on the Covenant Path (Complete a thorough life assessment)

4-Pray daily for all to receive the blessings of the Lord

5-Stand out. Be different. Be a light.

Follow the Prophet, accept this challenge, and join the Lord’s Battalion!

This entire week, I’ve been thinking about what is most important and eternal, and two answers – family, and building up the Kingdom of God- repeatedly strike me.  Don’t waste time, and help build that which shall never  fall again.

 

May 29, 2018

I made some pumpkin muffins, and went to put some cloves into them. Mom organizes her spices alphabetically, and as I went to get cloves, I realized that for the entire last year, I’ve inadvertently put chives into my muffins, instead of cloves. Whoops. Got them confused. Every time I made them (or pumpkin pie) I thought it was strange to be putting these green things in, but hey, everybody liked how the food turned out.

Update on my Summer60: These last two weeks I’ve only finished one book, Teach Ye Diligently, by Boyd K. Packer. What a fantastic book. I have such great admiration and love for this man. His humility and sincerity and putting God first, are apparent in all he did. He truly was a witness of Christ. I also found, in my scrapbook, a Boston Stake Conference that I attended where he presided. Cool.

The book that I’ve been laboring over for close to two weeks now is The Closing of the American Mind, by Alan Bloom. Can’t say I understand everything fully, and its informed me (not that I didn’t already know) that my knowledge of philosophy is pitiful. Still, gained some good gems from it. Forty pages left.

What’s really been slowing my summer reading down is my discovery of previously unknown (to me) family letters. I’ve read over 1000 pages, from 1986-1992 so far. Its been incredibly entertaining! I love my family, and these accounts are truly priceless.  Especially interesting has been the relationship rollercoasters of my aunts and uncles… and parents, as they worked on finding their soulmate.

The Celtics are finished for the year, but the Red Sox keep getting better. We’ve been following them pretty closely, and with the return of Pedroia, we’re planning to keep watching all the way to November. Lets go Boston!

I thought this last year of college, being the first back from the mish, would be the hardest,  but boy oh boy was it a breeze. Frustrated and tired by the ease, I began asking for challenging opportunities in my life. New church calling upped the ante a little, but now, I finally feel stretched. And of course, now that it happens, the temptation is to back off.

I suppose most of the hardship is financial. I believed that this summer would be a financial windfall, and instead its been a financial free fall, being a severe struggle to save some lettuce. Nevertheless, I know I’m in the right place, and trust all will be well.

I’ve enjoyed going out with the missionaries. We’ve been teaching a family, who while they have some normal struggles did attend church last Sunday. I’m most excite about a young investigator, Juliette, who actually knows Porter and was in his graduating class. There’s a great work to do here!

I also went with Bro. Dewey to Fort Worth and we administered to one of his co-workers who had been severely injured, paralyzed, in a motorcycle accident.

 

Ok, I’m fading here. The eyelids are getting heavy.

Joke of the week: What happened to the cannibal who arrived home late for dinner?

His wife gave him the cold shoulder!

 

Seriously though, life is good. Its the rough times that make the smooth sailing so much fun.

And, as Elder Maxwell said, as Jesus comes to have a real place in our lives we become less and less concerned with our place in the world.

 

Mother’s Day — May 13, 2018

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

We skipped the line and talked to Elder Schenewark on Saturday. He is looking and sounding good, with lots of crazy adventures still happening.

For my mom, I painted a picture of the Washington D.C. temple to commemorate their wedding day. She is truly an example, an inspiration, a mentor and a friend. Like Lincoln, all that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. This year was the first time since 2014 (aka high school) that I’ve been with Mom to celebrate this day.

Azalea Advertising has unofficially died. Unofficially because I still have lots of business cards printed already. Otherwise, its gone the way of all the earth. I believe in the idea, but need to face the music and confess I’m not a salesperson, and to have any sort of success in this field in such a short time frame, salesmanship is essential. So, I’m now looking for a job. And have scaled back significantly my summer financial goals.

Today in church I played piano in Primary. I was asked to yesterday, and while agreeing to, was internally hesitant. Oh boy, this was the most fun I’ve had in church in years! Granbury has the biggest primary I think I’ve ever seen, some 50 kids, and without any of their normal teachers there, it was a riot. A few boys, probably age 4-5, sat in the front row and were acting like zombies to each other. I couldn’t stop laughing! There was so much constantly happening, and all the answers given were so different than what I’m used to hearing, and yet so profound. Truly, from the mouth of babes.

I never thought I’d be a pianist of any sort, and feel grateful to be able to share any degree of talent I might have in that category with others. During sacrament meeting, the priesthood sang “Teach me to Walk in the Light” for all the sisters in the congregation, and I also accompanied that. I remember having the goal of learning 6 hymns to be able to play on my mission, and how that simple goal has led to today.

On Wednesday I played in a local golf tournament, a short 9-hole skin game in scramble format. We eagled the hardest hole and I thought we’d be walking away with the money, but alas, another group equaled our feat. I do plan to keep playing in this weekly tournament. I love my new driver, and enjoy out-driving everyone else by 20 yards.

Saturday, I went teaching with the missionaries. Unbelievably, this is the first time I’ve gone with missionaries since being home. I’ve been bugging them about teaching with them, and finally they invited me to go along. We went and taught a family, Angela the matriarch (50’s) her daughter Candice, son-in-law Joe, and granddaughter. Angela has studied theology before and seems sincerely interested. We had a great lesson, and the Spirit was strong. I loved teaching in English, and hopefully can go out with the missionaries again soon.

Today in Sunday School we continued our discussion about the Israelite’s wandering in the wilderness. It’s incredible to think that they repeatedly complained and wanted to return to slavery in Egypt. However, I started thinking, are we not often slaves? Slaves to our work, to phones, or other entertainment, to wasting our time,  or a million other habits and actions?

Do we forgo our wilderness of affliction and trial and principally of growth for some eternally meaningless comfort? Tough questions that made me reevaluate some of my actions. And, as Pres. Packer taught in the book Teach Ye Diligently, “Nothing is truly ours until we can give it away.” Lots of applications, but for this, let us note that we cannot help others, until we ourselves are free. I know that to make it to the Promised Land, we will have to leave our comfort zone, follow the Lord in faith, make sacrifices and trust in His promises.

Idyllic Industriousness

This has been a week filled with moments of indescribable beauty. I believe idyllic describes it best, as it has been filled with dream-worthy moments not to be forgotten, where I am left in my garden-less Garden of Eden to contemplate. And the garden is on its way.

Annemarie thought that I was returning to Texas mostly to golf. I plead the fifth, as on May 1st, I was on the course negotiating a monthly membership. Best deal yet. While the greens aren’t in the best shape, I’ve enjoyed again playing alone in the early morning. I listen to discourses from General Authorities while I walk, and pause to meditate on their counsel. I bring sufficient snacks that keep me energized, and after nine holes, I am accustomed to find a spot to sit and eat and read some poetry. Does it get better? When you can see the dew glistening on the green grass, the birds are singing a song and the Texas wildflowers are winking at you, I hesitate to answer.

I have been astounded by the household bureaucracy. I’m even talking about paperwork! When I asked to build a garden, in my mind, I was asking for a 20 ft by 20 ft plot of land. That’s it. I know the native soil has lots of clay, and that lack of water could prove troublesome, but that’s okay. I wanted a challenge, and more than anything just the green light to create and to be involved with the land. Instead, when I arrived, I was tasked with creating a design. And when I saw Cooper, my partner-in-projects, designing an outdoor fire pit on graph paper before building a diorama, before receiving permission to continue, I knew the challenge to actually start a garden would be tough. There are four people pushing their own plans,

Breaking update: Inspired by a neighbor rototilling his land, my parents have now passed me on to the next phase, that of preparing the land, no capital improvements necessary.

And our fire pit is nearly done after a few hours of work on Saturday. The first batch of cement was mixed a little dry, but otherwise its gone off without a hitch. Pictures shall be forthcoming.

On Thursday, Mom, Breyer, and I took off to Tyler and watched cousin Moriah’s nurse-pinning ceremony. It was a testament to her will to finish, and I was impressed. It was nice to see Aunt Janel, Uncle Brad, Luke and Anna as well.

What else is idyllic? Eating meals from Mom and Dad. Teaching Breyer how to sing from a hymnbook. Seeing Sawyer and Miller forgo baseball all-star tryouts to honor the Sabbath, and to join together with my siblings in fasting. Mixing mortar with Cooper, and falling asleep each night to the cooing of the crickets and the croaking of the bullfrogs. Life is good. I’ve also founded another company, Azalea Advertising Agency. My foreign friend came through again, and he said “Awesome experience. Love to work with you. I wants to work with you again and again.” I hope he’ll come to my Christmas party one day.

 

Elvis has left the Building- April 29, 2018

I’m gone. Or rather, I’m home.

I said goodbye to lots of people, this last week, and I realized as I’ve done that, I’ve never returned. From one move to the next, I’ve never really gone back. Sure there was a quick visit to West Virginia and even to Hutto, but I’ve never really returned. All through grade and high school, the last day of school was always the last time I saw friends. While the situation will still change, I feel like I will be coming back. I will be in the same ward, same apartment complex with many of the same friends.

Goodbye Provo

Monday-Wednesday were consumed with finishing my preparations to leave. Monday I attended FHE, where we hiked up Rock Canyon, then quickly met up with Lydia for a quick walk and a goodbye. Tuesday, I had a couple friends over, and we watched a movie, “The Tree of Life,” and ate some steaks and ice cream. Just cleaning out the fridge. The movie was interesting and thought provoking, and I want to watch it again. Coming highly recommended, I was not disappointed and was blown away by the cinematography. Wednesday I handed over everything for Elders Quorum with the understanding I will help in any way possible, but the 1st counselor, Josh will be taking care of most everything now. And then Tanner came over and helped me bring a few tubs to Uncle Ben’s. That afternoon I resigned my contract for the same apartment, and decided to leave most of my books and dishes there to simplify the moving process. And I grilled some burgers, successfully finishing all of the meat I had.

Texas

The trip went well, security didn’t stop me, and no one sat next to me on the plane. With no layovers. My marvelous mother picked me up, and we talked for three hours on our way back negotiating our way through some awful traffic. I’m increasingly identifying Texas as home, and with the pending change happening at 91 Brigham St., Mass, this feels more permanent than ever. It helps that I do love Granbury, and envision my parents staying here indefinitely instead of wondering where the next homestead will be.

First thing Friday morning, Dad, Sawyer and I left for a fishing trip. We had a wonderful time, fishing for a couple hours, and catching lots of fish. Sawyer must have bagged 5 or 6, Bro. Dixon another 6 or 7, and his son 3 or 4. I caught two, and my Dad had no luck. Although, the other three all used a whopper plopper lure for each catch, while my dad and I tried lots of other kinds to little success. Nevertheless, that was the first fish I caught in what must be 10 years. I was a little hesitant at first, but by the second was putting my thumb onto his sandpaper teeth and taking the hook out. All were bass, either striped or large-mouth, with the Guadalupe variety remaining elusive. We’ll definitely be back. I confess, despite imagining myself as one, I am not some great sportsman. In fact, after so little fishing in the last ten years, my value on such trips is little, and I relegated myself to helping by at least carrying our equipment, while Sawyer and the Dixon’s blazed ahead. I even needed help in tying the knots and have much to relearn before I stand confident with a group of fishermen. I tip my hat to Sawyer. He taught me a thing or two.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the yard, the frontier that is open to me, as part of our summer beautification plans. Lots of work left. I’ve not been here in Granbury for this time of year, and am loving the wildflowers that are in bloom all throughout the town, including coloring our backyard.

The fire pit design masterminded by Cooper has now been accepted by the parents. I never imagined beauracracy could be that bad here, but the necessary paperwork has been pushed through, and we have the green light.

Tending to act without much formal planning, my garden is still in limbo, but I’ll sketch up a design or outsource to Cooper again, and we’ll get final approval this week.

Finances

Speaking of outsourcing, I’ve traditionally only spent money on church donations and golf. The rest went into the bank account. As I’ve aged, the complexity has increased, and with college I’ve been spending on -church -golf -dating -school tuition -school supplies -rent -food -laundry. Lately, I’ve added another expense category, -Indian outsourcing.

After reading about outsourcing to India using the website, YMII, Your Man in India, I became somewhat enamored by the idea, and have loved outsourcing projects, and appreciate the help they were in inexpensively launching my last venture.

Movie

Saturday night, we (Breyer, Cooper, Sawyer, Miller and I) went and saw the Avengers Infinity War at the Brazos Drive-In. For those who haven’t seen it, count yourself blessed. That was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Granted, I’ve missed the last 15 superhero movies so I didn’t know who most of the people were. Apparently Black Panther made an appearance, and I didn’t even know it. In short, it was non-stop action without a compelling story. All good art has an agenda, and since we’ll kindly assume that this was good art given the $300 million to make it,  I’ll confess the biggest agenda I saw was pagan indoctrination. With action movies, I am generally inspired to go save the world. This time, I didn’t even commit to working out more let alone run for POTUS or something. Give me Sound of Music any day.  Nevertheless, it was fun to be with my siblings. We had snacks galore, Cooper cracked us up draping himself in his mosquito net for a while until realizing the pests weren’t being bothersome that night, and simply being out in the beautiful Texas night was relaxing.

Summer Goals

I’ve become frustrated by my incredible overuse of “um” and “like.” In many ways I’m proud of my colloquial speech, and I don’t want to sound stuffy or pretentious or academic. Yet, I need to use less fillers and be more concise. #summer goals #I’m-on-it.

Here are some of my other summer goals:

-save $25,000

-read 60 books (hereafter referred to as the Summer60)

-Build a garden

-Visit some ancestral sites in Missouri

-Discover what town in Germany the Gerken and Schenewark lines come from

-shoot under par in an 18 hole round of golf

-plant some fruit trees

-paddle Lake Granbury

-write daily in my journal

-read the Book of Mormon twice

complete Pres. Nelson’s challenge to study about Christ in the standard works.

-Get a car

I read my first two books for the Summer60. Admittedly, I started out light, with Golf Course Design, by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and The Voyage, by Phillip Harris. I accomplished most of that during the lull at Sawyer and Miller’s baseball games. Both played great and helped carry their team.

In full gardening mode, and having finished reading about environmental golf course construction, it seems appropriate I end with this quote from a recent article on the church’s newsroom website, about stewardship of the earth, and from T.S. Eliot,

“a wrong attitude towards nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude toward God.”