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.

 

 

The Wondrous Gift of Mortality

Last semester lasted the full 10 rounds, split decision, but I’ve won. That was a tough one though – my last night before break was no night at all, as I pulled an all-nighter finishing a couple of projects, and then taking three finals in the morning. Nevertheless, knowing that I was heading home to see family and relax for a couple weeks, saw me through more easily than I foresaw.

My time at BYU is drawing to a close. In fact, this will be my last semester. After talking with mom last night, (Jan. 12) I thought about graduation, and decided that this was the right thing to do. Its funny that if you had asked me 6 months ago, I was leaning towards graduating April 2020, then it slowly shifted to December 2019, then perhaps August 2019, and now its April. Repeat: I’ll graduate in April. I have not felt rushed at all, and as this is only my 6th semester, wasn’t worried about taking another year, but my opinion as to what I need to do has changed. I’ve had a great run, and absolutely loved my time here, but now I need to move on. I think my education has reached the level I hoped and I’d be spinning my wheels more than anything else, if I stayed. And having made that decision, my remaining time in Provo, not knowing what the future might hold, feels extra important to me.

I ate out for the first time this year. Over the break, two of my roommates moved out, so we planned a meet-up on Saturday January 5th. Derik is getting married, and I know he’d be leaving over the break, having sold his contract, but Jeremiah’s exit was a surprise. He decided to move north, to American Fork, to be closer to his work. We hit up Kneaders, and took advantage of their $6 unlimited french toast. This week (Jan. 8-14) I’ve tried a few new foods. I made fudge for the first time, as well as croutons, and then returned for a sophomore iteration, changing the recipes slightly. In addition, I’ve enjoyed some acai, and have vowed to never buy salad dressing again, making homemade poppy seed, caeser (two thumbs down first try) and balsamic. Someone better stop me before I buy a sewing machine. Or spinning wheel.

Not much to report on with dates. I went out on Friday with Macey. Originally we had planned to go bowling but after my friends had to bail, and unwilling to contemplate trying to get to know someone while we would inevitably be on our feet taking our turns bowling, we went to the classic Soap Factory. Thankfully, the bill came out lower than every other time I’ve went, and we had a good time there. I suppose also of interest is my redownloading the mutual app. Not much to report there yet, but it should set up a couple dates in the near future.

The first few Sundays of the year have been AMAZING. While I was ecstatic for two hour church, I didn’t foresee a noticeable change in church , just one hour less of attendance. However, Sundays feel completely different. Sacrament meetings have been fantastic, with fast Sunday especially remarkable as perhaps 20 members got up, bore their testimonies, with no grandstanding, irrelevant story telling, etc., only pure testimony. And the second hour has been just as good, with lots of participation, from a vibrant audience, as even I am not checking my watch every five minutes, but feel engaged with the lesson. For the first time in my life, church feels short, and leaves me wanting more.

Saturday was another ISI conference. This one was held at BYU, and we welcomed students from UVU, Utah State, U of U, and BYU-Idaho. The theme focused on  religious belief and secular learning, and while worthwhile, i confess, I am tiring of conferences. And I am already on the books for a few more. No more applying though.

I am currently unemployed. I left Canopy, left Northwestern Mutual, did actially put some hours in with event staff, but given I’ve worked five hours for them in two months, can’t really count that as a job. I even turned over the majority of responsibility to another student with the MaeserLaser. Uh-oh. What could I possible be cooking up? Not much. I’m almost consigned to getting a real job after graduation, for at least the rest of 2019 (almost). I’ve made my return to chess club, in preparation for one more shot at the intercollegiate tourney. In two weeks, I’m 8-1. And think the level of competition has gone down significantly. My love of painting continues to grow. And I spent hours yesterday with Tanmarie tickling Nora, eating dinner, and playing games. Finally, for the lunar eclipse, we clambered onto their roof, I brought my telescope and we contemplated the wonders of the infinite. As Immanuel Kant said,

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me, and the moral law within me.

I suppose the one project that I have devoted some considerable time to is the formation of a pizza company. Its called Victory Pizza, as some mission friends are helping me do it, and just so our motto could be, “Conquer Your Hunger.” Pans are in, boxes on there way, recipe finalized (or nearly) and our first day to sell is this Saturday. During one recipe test, I made a guacamole like paste, and used that instead of a tomato based sauce. The avocado one was amazing, and we’ll be expanding on that concept if our normal pizza sells. 

Reading Moroni 1:4, “Wherefore, I write a dew more thing, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but i write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren..”

This hit home for me – and reinforced the idea that I can do more. The Book of Moroni is one of my favorite books of scripture, and we have it because Moroni went above and beyond what he expected to do. When we go above and beyond what we think or expect, our efforts will likewise bless the lives of many, even if we are not present to witness those effects.

Hallelujah! Dec. 2nd 2018

The Hallelujah chorus was sung at the end of the Christmas Devotional, and was the most majestic ending I could have imagined. Immediately prior, Pres. Nelson had spoken and touched us all with his tale of a young girl struggling with cancer, and needless to say emotions were close to the surface. I brought McKinney, and was joined by Lawson and Kimball together with their dates. Having barely had time beforehand in the rush to get to our seats, upon leaving, we slowly meandered through Temple Square, admiring all the Christmas lights and feeling the spirit of Christmas, and of Christ throughout. Snow was again falling, and we endured a 90 minute ride back from SLC,  in which I am thankful to have arrived without incident, passing many accidents on the way. Even though we shall not be going on another date, I had an incredible time, and will never forget this night, and treasure the experience. This is year three for me, and the Christmas Devo never disappoints.

In other news, what a week! I spent part of my Sabbath morning sitting in the SLC airport. My ride accidentally forgot me, and the reason I mention it is because of that wonderfully comforting scripture, Isaiah 49:15-16:

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

I’ve personally forgotten many things and commitments, but know that the Lord, with his infinite love, and despite his many children and many concerns, will never forget us. He is the Savior of the world.

And needless to say, upon realizing the error, my ride did quickly come pick me up, braving the snow that was heavily descending.

Tuesday I called off of work to go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City again. My fh projects are due soon, and work remains to be done. Once more, I was sucked into the lives of my ancestors. I found out one of them, who I mentioned a while back, George A. Kingsbury, served in the Civil War. He enlisted in August 1862, and went by train to New York. After training there for a couple weeks, his regiment shipped down south, going around the eastern seaboard stopping in North Carolina, Key West, and New Orleans briefly before arriving to participate in the Battle of Galveston. From there he served in Louisiana and the record states, “Before he ordered his men to take care of themselves, Sergeant Ballou was severly wounded by a rifle ball in the left arm, near the wrist, and Private Cook reveived his fatal wound. Ballou asked Private George Kingsbury, Company B, to assist him in binding up his arm, and while doing so about twenty Texans made a rush upon them, with a demand for their surrender. A Confederate lieutenant gave orders to shoot them down, because their was a flag of truce displayed while the firing continued. An appeal to Major Hunter was necessary to prevent this barbarity, the sergeant not being aware of any flag of truce having been raised, and informed the major that he did not raise one. This was settled satisfactorily, and the few men left with Ballou were taken prisoners.” After spending some time in prison, and being released on parole, the record continues, “Many convalescent and sick soldiers not able to march, but anxious to reach the federal lines, attempted to do so with their fellow prisoners. They gave out day by day from sickness and fatigue, caused by debility, hot weather, poor drinking water, and insufficient rations, to be left on the line of march all the way from Brashear to new Orleans. Quite a number died. Many were in a condition to give out any moment, but pluckily kept on and reached the lines. From the 42nd detachment Privates Henry Richardson and George Kingsbury, Company, sickened, and had to be left at Thibodeaux.”

For some context they made it 30 of the 80 miles to New Orleans. Eventually George made it back and his regiment was mustered out August 1863. Incredibly, when Pres. Lincoln asked for more volunteers one year later, George again enlisted, serving in Maryland and Virginia.

Could you imagine negotiating with confederates for your lives? Begging not to be shot? While flying back from Arizona, I realized that almost certainly, he never would have flown, having died in 1911. And its something I take for granted – a normal part of life.

Thursday I was invited to a “President’s Dinner” in the Hinckley Center. It was for all the presidents of school clubs, and was a formal, catered event. It didn’t especially appeal to me with a lot going on, (and I’m tired of going to these events SOLO!!!!) but due to the price of lettuce decided to go. A single head of lettuce is up to $2.50 here, and I couldn’t make myself buy one but have been craving salad. So after work I dressed up and went. I was blessed – I ended up sitting at a table with the presidents of the Shakespeare club, golf club, and Amateur Radio Club. None of which I knew existed but all of which I conversed with, and hope to sneak off to some of their events in the future. And the food, including lots of feta salad, was delicious. Entertainment was provided by an a cappella group, and a magician, with more acts coming before I made my exit. Definitely exceeded my expectations.

Friday morning I rode the frontrunner to the airport and departed for Arizona. It was timed perfectly. Without rushing, I left the train, caught my next one, arrived at the airport, went through security, and right to the line for boarding. The flight was easy – only about 75 minutes, and without any problems. A transgender woman was waiting for me, and she drove me to the hotel, the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. I mention that as I couldn’t help but notice that that was what I noticed first, and in my mind was her defining characteristic. I wondered, What is my defining characteristic? We had a nice conversation and she filled me in on some Scottsdale happenings.

I was the first one to arrive, and would be for a few hours. I enjoyed walking around the massive complex, with blue skies, the sun out, 65 degrees, and lots of palm trees and immaculate grass. I cranked out an essay that would be due, and hit up their exercise room before getting ready for the conference to start. This is the Collegiate Network’s (CN) annual Editor’s conference. About 35 schools were represented. Amazingly, the keynote Friday night was Peter Thiel, who I never imagined I’d meet. I was at the table over from him (dang assigned seating!) He gave a great, if somewhat scattered talk, before taking part in a discussion, moderated by Charlie Copeland. One of the good parts of being with a group of political junkies is that they are much less interested in business, so I waltzed over to Peter, and we had a good conversation. He had a couple security men there, ……

Hospitality ensued, and while snacking on popcorn networked a lot with the other students. That concluded the night for me.

Waiting for your seat mate on the airplane is a little like waiting for a new dorm roommate, but obviously lower stakes. Well my comps on both plane rides turned out great, but my luck didn’t hold for my roommate at the conference. Frankie, from the University of Pittsburgh, is a hospitable and amiable chap, but I worry when his first question is if I like to party. He wandered into our room sometime in the early morning hours, apparently drunk, knocked over the ironing board and iron, and when once safe in bed proceeded to scare any monsters from under the bed with his ferocious cannon fire combo of farts and non-stop snoring. I’m glad he didn’t get there earlier because it was tough to sleep after his arrival.

Nevertheless, I awoke with sufficient energy and enjoyed the day’s events. Honestly, I didn’t think that the trainings helped terribly much, which could be youthful egotism, or perhaps a reflection of today’s journalism standards. They didn’t help except for one by Rudy Bush of the Dallas Morning News on investigative journalism. I quite enjoyed that breakout. The main benefit of the conference for me was definitely networking (and the fact that it was like a free vacay). I met lots of nice students from across the nation and numerous professionals in the field.

Not wanting to miss church, I asked for a ticket back in the morning. So my plane left at 6 am. I brought my work computer to the conference, but our new work security system does not allow it to connect to open internet so I could not use it all weekend. Which was wonderful. And the “business center” at the hotel was outdated, now that everyone has internet on their phone and laptop (except me) so I arrived at the airport without a boarding pass. The driver this time used to be an umpire for college and mlb spring-training baseball before recurring bouts of heat exhaustion forced him out. So when I arrived at the airport at 4:45 am, I thought, who might be up? I calmed my grandmother, she answered on the first ring, assured me that she’d been up since 2:30 EASTERN TIME! and proceeded to log onto my email and get me the needed info. The plane ride was fine, and for the first time that I know of, I slept soundly enough to miss the complimentary beverage and snack.

For Sunday’s priesthood discussion, I borrowed Uncle Rich’s idea from his letter a few weeks ago. After talking for awhile about what is going on in our lives, we all wrote down ten things that we are most thankful for, talked about why, then crossed off three that we could without if forced to. The wailing started, as jobs were left, tv’s, etc. When I asked for three more items to be crossed off, we all struggled as this time, parents were pitted against siblings, and friends and health were both given the boot. Finally, I asked for two of the last four to be marked off. The Spirit was strong as we realized what really meant the most to us, and saw how we needed to adjust our lives to make them a priority in time as well. Something that really helped make it a special lesson was at the start, before even forming our lists, I asked for a couple volunteers to share their testimonies on gratitude, and then someone else on priorities and how putting God first in their lives has blessed them. To close, I shared two examples from Pres. Nelson’s life. First, as a young married couple,  his wife and him decided to always follow Matthew 6:33:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.

In addition, as a prominent medical doctor, and father of (i believe at the time) 9 children, he was interviewed by Pres. Kimball to become a Stake President. Pres. Kimball related to him how everyone called in previously had recommended Russell Nelson, saying he was the man, but expressing reservation about his time, knowing that he was extremely busy. Pres. Kimball basically said, you’re the man, but do you have the time to do this calling? To which Pres. Nelson responded, “No, but I have the faith.”

MAY WE ALL HAVE THAT FAITH!

Merry Christmas!!!!!

And the Desert is Singing – 10/21/2018 to 11/25/2018

I don’t do fake news, just old news. Alas, for a month I’ve struggled to write this. But I expect the next two weeks to be even busier, so this is my last chance. A quick chiasmus:

I went on a few dates to Jamestown Assisted Living.

I went to BYU’s Philharmonic Orchestra. (La Mer 2/10) Accompanied by a genuine Debussy fan, Robert Wagner.

The MaeserLaser continues to stagnate, with only one issue published. Our last meeting was held at 5 am to accommodate the Board members’ schedules.

Cousins Sarah and Naomi visited for dinner and then Spanish Fork Festival of Lights.

My family history classes are requiring way more time than I ever anticipated (or have spent on a class before.)

I’ve been able to accomplish everything I’ve needed to.

While a struggle, the Lord has blessed me in my labors.

Christmas season has arrived – and because Christ lives, we shall too!

I’ve never felt alone, and have been blessed with countless opportunities to serve.

I love family history, and have appreciated every piece of information I’ve found.

I visited the Mount Timpanogos temple with Sarah. Beautiful! We loved the purple accents.

Amidst the madness, I’ve picked up painting. Just do it! Jumping in, I’ve discovered a part of me that’s lain dormant far too long.

I attended BYU’s wind symphony.

Pres. Neider came through, and set me up with Callie – we went to a BYU women’s volleyball game, then met up with some friends for hot chocolate and banana muffins. (why not?)

Other highlights:

The apartment complex sponsored a cheese and chocolate tasting. I showed up to the sparsely attended event shortly before the end, and thus walked home with various blocks of hard cheeses. My favorite!

Forget home teaching! Ministering activities have included making german pancakes and hiking Squaw Peak admiring the turning leaves.

I went golfing at Fox Hollow in American Fork for the first time. The course was immaculate, and very mature looking, belonging to the area and not imposing itself onto nature like so many other courses. We were surrounded by trees and felt separated from the town that was in reality very close by.

New favorite hobby? Painting is a close second, but really I love reciting agricultural facts. Average yield of potatoes per acre? Anything under 20,000 pounds is horrible! I could go on for hours..

Other educational attainments would include reading Aquinas, continuing Shakespeare, and through a combination of skype sessions with my Dad, and youtube videos, learning how to skin trout and catfish. I’ll pass from now on with catfish, but a friend, John Groves, loves fishing and hates fish, and has brought me lots of fresh trout lately. Which I am thankful for, and even more so after having cleaned them myself. It is amazing what consciously thinking about the origins of your food, both plant and animal based does to you.

 

Besides the aforementioned date with Callie, I’ve taken more responsibility and have actually been asking for dates, instead of waiting to be set up. I went with my former co-worker, Mark Soelberg, his wife Hailey, and my date Susan to the Orchestra at Temple Square Fall Concert and we listened to their concert. I chose a good time to wear my homemade tie, as Susan loves to sew clothes as well. In attendance was Elder Uchtdorf and his wife. Coincidentally, that week while walking on campus, everybody was saying “Hi!” “Good morning!” etc. and given the degree of enthusiasm and percentage of participation was confused – until I turned around and saw Elder Uchtdorf walking ten feet behind me. Turns out he was going to listen to the Russian ambassador to the US speak.

The most recent date was with McKinney – that was last Friday, Nov. 16th. We visited the classic Soap Factory. McKinney is a first-year law student from Maryland, having majored in American Studies and having served a mission to Belgium/ the Netherlands. And it appears a second date will happen.

Our Bishopric was released and while we miss them and appreciate their faithful service, it has been great having the new one. They’ve brought a renewed energy and enthusiasm.

The outgoing bishopric – we’ve enjoyed many memories together, and I’ll forever remember my association with this fine group of gentlemen. Bro. Ken Kuhni, Bishop Rogelio Gonzalez, Bro. Allen Creer

 

Regrettably, I did not vote. That will haunt me for the rest of my life. While I also didn’t vote in 2016 (or 2017), I have determined to not miss another opportunity. On election day, I ended up watching the news for some 6 hours (or more than the last three years combined) and have been bitten by the political bug again. As a side note, having not listened to the news, I was surprised how blatantly partisan the news has become, with NBC commentators being so blunt and open about their views, even going to the point of saying, “We’re ahead in this district.” or “We feel confident enough to declare that we’ll win this seat.” Clearly aligning themselves with the Democrats.

Listening to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and his wife speak to the LDS Stewardship Society about caring for the environment. I’m not a fan of many of his views, but enjoyed hearing about his farm, admire the way he appears to balance civic and family responsibilities, and will never forget meeting when at a dinner I attended a few years ago, his band played, rocking in style, including the cover, “All these things I’ve done” by the Killers.

Besides the concerts mentioned, I also went to the BYU Symphony Orchestra. I hadn’t planned to, but when I saw their program, I ran out of my house, bringing my homework with me, and made it just in time. The program included a full five songs on my Music Bucketlist. And it did not disappoint! Wow! That was some concert, and I left floating through the clouds. I loved clapping with the Radetzy March more than I imagined, and puhleaaaase. Wagner? Any day. He is my undeniable favorite composer. Plus the Emperor Waltz. What goodness and beauty.

Thanksgiving was spent with Uncle Ben and Aunt Joy. They were very gracious in allowing two of my friends who had no place to go come along. We enjoyed a feast, and settled in to watch Mission Impossible III. I brought scalloped potatoes, rolls, squash and zucchini, chocolate cream pie, banana cream pie, and a strawberry/rhubarb pie.

And for Black Friday, (first time participating) I bought $6.40 after tax bedsheets from Macy’s.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library. I was transported to Maine there, and spent hours poring over records, completely amazed by stories recorded by my ancestors. Due to the hour, it shall remain until another day, but I’ll just say there were kidnappings by Indians, near starvation, and above all else, an overwhelming reliance on God.

As a final note, I’ve been golfing twice with Abby’s boyfriend, Michael. He has a corporate pass to Sleepy Ridge, and golfing for free has been wonderful, and its been cool to get to know him.

This is an oft-quoted scripture, but my testimony continues to grow that truly “yea, [the word] had had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else..” I know that the scriptures change us, and bring the power of God into our lives. Whatever we want to change in our lives, the scriptures are the catalyst for change. Read them!