החיים טובים

I got on the bus Thursday afternoon and two guys nearby sat down, and started talking, obviously part of the same ward. “Hey, remind me, have you proposed yet?” “Dude, I’ve never even had a girlfriend!” Of course, this was followed by some apologies for confusing him with someone else. I cracked up. Truth! Here’s to you! Keep hanging in there!

For those interested, at BYU, there are currently:

-216 Tanner’s

-101 Hunter’s

-14 Porter’s

-16 Cooper’s

-0 Miller’s

-0 Breyer’s

I love feeling stretched intellectually, and that happened with the appearance of Scott Yenor this week. He is a Catholic professor teaching at Boise State. Toqueville Society paid for him to come and speak on “Three Ideologies that are Undermining the Family.” As a club member, we met with him Thursday night to discuss his recent article, “Sex, Gender, and the origin of the Culture Wars.” That was my first time actually thinking about feminism, and I can honestly say it was life-changing. My way of thinking changed that night. For those interested, here is the article:

https://www.heritage.org/gender/report/sex-gender-and-the-origin-the-culture-wars-intellectual-history

The next day, Friday, we listened to his lecture, but as much had been discussed the night before, it was sort of a letdown. Until the Q+A. A solid crowd attended, and I was surprised by how many people took shot at Dr. Yenor and his ideology. At BYU. This piqued my interest further, and I’ve been talking with as many women I can to find out their opinions on this subject. We concluded his visit, by having lunch as a club, and hearing even more about transgenderism, etc.

Later that Friday evening, I went with Caitlin (from Montana) to BYU’s annual Seder Dinner. They hold what is termed a learning Passover dinner on three nights around this time every year, with 250 in attendance at each one. While it turned out to not be the best place for a first date, my understanding of Passover and how it relates to Christianity today increased. I especially liked how in Exodus 12:17 it talks about partaking of this (passover) ordinance forever.

As we broke the unleavened bread and partook, reading the traditional scriptures from Psalms that the Jews read at this point, it became very obvious how the sacrament relates to Passover and fulfills Exodus 12:17 as we take the sacrament every week. I would highly recommend the dinner for anyone who is able. Seriously, when a date that involves eating horseradish, and listening to Hebrew prayers still turns out good, you know this is something worth doing.

Saturday was our ward temple trip to Manti. I invited my friend Robert, and we were accompanied by five women from the ward. During the 1.5 hour drive down, we took the opportunity to discuss various questions, and I am thankful for that. Pres. Packer taught that one of the main purposes of college is to know yourself, who you really are, and these small debates have been profoundly impacting me and helping me to do so, as well as to understand the world better.

The temple was spectacular, my favorite that I’ve visited in Utah. It was special to remember that it was here, some fifty years ago, that my grandparents were sealed and our families journey in the gospel in many ways began.

Before driving back, we stopped at Miller’s Drive-Through Diner. Delicious. When a restaurant in the middle of nowhere has famous fish sandwiches, you know its good. (Although I opted for the classic BBQ Bacon Burger.) And their ice cream was great, and I saw for the first time in years, Superman Ice Cream.

That night it was off to Tanmarie’s to play with Nora and compete at Parcheesi. Life is good.

On the Homestretch

Its been a while! I switched website providers and it took me much longer than I expected to figure how to switch everything over.

My business is officially up and running. Check it out:

www.achievement-rings.com

I launched the first ads on Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes. As of now, I’ve invested $89 so far to create everything.

Friday was our Spring Break, and I took advantage of the day off to watch Holiday Inn. Ok, just kidding. I’ll make it until at least the next official holiday before  I watch it.

Mitt Romney joining the Senate Race caused the jump in ticket price for the annual Utah County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner. My freshman year I attended and had a fantastic time, courtesy of a student priced ticket, at $10. This year, the students had a specially priced ticket of $32.50. Needless to say, I missed this one. However, I did receive (somewhat accidentally) a Mitt Romney for Utah t-shirt.

My last date before yesterday, was a few weeks ago, and I went to the soap factory again, and in honor of Texas Independence day made this:

I took a shower with my new soap, (having loaded it with fragrance) and the winter mint was amazing. I felt so clean, it was like taking a shower in Listerine.

I again participated in an Intercollegiate Studies (ISI) conference. This one was in Salt Lake City, and the theme was “The False Promise of Radical Politics.” I took the train up early Friday morning, visited the temple, ate at the Lion House then spent a few hours doing family history. I also visited the old tabernacle, listened to the organ performance at noon, and then went up to the organ.

 

I checked in to the hotel about 5, and spent the next two days there. BYU had the largest contingency of any college, with us totaling 5. My roommate was Ken, a junior at Auburn University and with the biggest alabama drawl I’ve ever had. He’s studying journalism, and it was fascinating to hear some of the projects he’s working on.

During our free time Saturday afternoon, we visited the Cathedral of the Madeline, Temple Square, and the museum of Modern Art.

 

 At the art museum

But my favorite stop was at the RootsTech conference. This is the largest Genealogy conference in the world, and is held annually in Salt Lake City. Saturday is their free day to visit. Unfortunately, we only caught the tail end, as it was an hour from ending for the year. Still, it was enough to confirm I’ll be back!

We left Sunday morning, navigating another snowstorm, to make it safely back. I again played the organ on this Sunday.

   McKenzie, the other BYU student had left the reception at this point.

It was at this conference, that I decided to start a school-wide journal about politics here at BYU. We’ve since received a grant, and I’ll be going to Indianapolis in a few weeks to participate in a “Start the Presses” workshop weekend. ISI has definitely been good to me. They hired a new area director and she visited BYU on Thursday and met us and bought lunch.

As hinted at, I went on a date yesterday. Again it was bowling. There were 4: cousin Abby (from Massachusetts) with James (from NY) and I went with Jennica (from New Hampshire). It was a very northeastern evening. To keep it short, after about four frames we put the bumpers on. Nevertheless, it was fun, and Abby actually whooped me the second game, with her score of 135.

Other news: I golfed  at Thanksgiving Point last Saturday. The course was a little worse off than I thought, bumpy and brown etc. with snow in the bunkers, but it was still wonderful to get out and play. This was my best shot below: A par 3, 215 yards, I hit it over the ravine onto the green a few shorts short of the flagstick.

  Admittedly this one went over the green

Last weekend was our stake conference, and we had Jorg Klebingat of the 70 presiding. Saturday night he conducted a Q+A for 2.5 hours. It was incredible! He told his courtship story with his wife, and it is one of the most inspiring, unusual ones I’ve ever heard! I was taught, and I was inspired. As the Holy Ghost is the real teacher, I won’t include many notes here. I will add though, that he emphasized the necessity of pondering. We have lost that art because of loudness, and always expecting fast turn around in everything. We need to reflect, to have stillness in our lives, for that is when the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost will touch us.

And finally, just a cool quote from George Orwell I found reading a book this week:

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.

 

 

 

Retail Stores and Dating: A Metaphor for Millenials

Last Saturday, I went to the temple in the morning as part of our ward temple trip. Afterwards, we had Zupa’s catered to us. And, in a fateful move, I picked up a leftover one to bring home.

Dad had just gotten here, and came over to my digs, checked the place out, and we headed to UVU. Tanmarie and family were just finishing rock climbing, and we went with them to the bowling alley. I’m proud to say, I was top score, with 140.

Dad and I went up to American Fork, and I met Sis. Young, and we talked with her for a couple hours, before heading back to meet up with the Bach’s, who were just arriving, for dinner. Dinner was at Terra Mia. Dad and I split a pizza and their texas sandwich. The pizza was ok, but that sandwich —-> 10/10. The restaurant had a live two-piece jazz band playing as well. It was a fun place. We (Tanner, Nora, Dad, Matt Stone, and I,) proceeded back to their apt. and we played some games.

Sunday morning, I played host, welcoming the Bach’s, Dad, and Matt for burritos and apple pie. The perfect combo. We then went to Tanmarie’s church, and witnessed Nora’s blessing. She was a champ.

Dad had to leave after, for the long trip home, and I gifted my Zupa’s sandwich to him. With apparently aged mayonnaise. Alas, I knew not.

I went with the Bach’s to go to the dinner party being held, and for about 45 minutes, we took a nice tour of Provo, including the industrial area, before deciding we better get the real address, and we made it for a delicious soup and salad event, with ice cream+ cookies.

It was wonderful to have everybody visiting, and many memories were made.

Monday was the return to school.

The death of retail stores, with the rise of online markets has been heralded. The advantage of course, is that the middleman is cut out, and thus the markup passed to the consumer is less. Blind dates are like retail stores. So, deciding to employ the same technique and cut out the middleman, I signed up for Mutual (think mormon tinder) and went on two dates this week, with people from it.

The first, Rayann, is from Wyoming, served a mission in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is studying elementary education. Interestingly, she pointed out that we both have five brothers and one sister. Wednesday, coincidentally Valentine’s Day, we went to the BYU wind symphony, who enthralled us with various pieces all based around the theme from the hymn, “Praise God from whom All Blessings Flow.” We have a second date set for this coming Friday.

And on Saturday, I doubled with cousin Kaleb, and we went bowling. I set him up with someone from the ward, and we had a blast. With Kaleb there, it was much easier to be natural. My date, Megan, served a mission in Salvador, Brasil, and we know quite a few of the same people. As we arrived to BYU’s bowling alley, she disclosed that she had previously taken a bowling class, and at that time  was scoring in the 170’s. Luckily, that was a few years ago, and I upheld my honor, winning both games (albeit barely) with scores of 132, and 146. After dropping Megan and Shelby off, Kaleb came over and we had dinner and ice cream. It was nice to hear about his mission and catch up. We’ll be back at it again.

Of course, I also admit I don’t really shop online, and thus my Mutual saga has now come to an end. I appreciated the experience, but its not me, and I’ll stick to old-school.

Friday, I continued my temple streak, going to the Provo one. After, I walked to BYU to watch the movie “Black Orpheus” which is supposed to be  a Brazilian masterpiece. Having heard so many good things about it, I admittedly left very disappointed. The film was so sad, and even a little dark. My roommate Derik, picked me up, and we headed to UVU’s institute for a dance. A singles awareness dance. It reminded me of a giant stake dance. And also reminded me that I never liked stake dances.

 

Another highlight from Saturday was with Tanner. We went golfing at Eastbay. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed getting out and playing. On the first hole, I dumped my three first shots into the lake. Finally, on my fourth try, I stayed on dry ground, and the rest of the round went much smoother.

Today in church I played the organ. It went well until the last verse of the last hymn, when I must have been in cruise control because I lost my place, and let the ward sing a capela for one bar, before joining back in to finish the song with them.

Our choir is singing “Cumorah’s Hill” for a fireside, and one piece contains the line,

How can we hope to see His face, when we never could see His hand?

I know that as we look for, and recognize the daily blessings and miracles in our lives, we will be better prepared to return to our Maker, and we will experience more joy in our journey to Him.

The Abundant Life

A Sunday letter! To keep to a reasonable length, I will address the happenings of this weekend, in my letter next week.

 

It began with the beating of the gong. A quiet stillness pervaded the room, making the room filled not with noise, but only with our thoughts.

“Take a moment to arrive, notice the silence, the room, the people around you. Notice the fullness of the moment. Try to do it with appreciation.”

Thus began my first official foray into oriental meditation. While always intrigued, I became enamored last semester with my world religions class, and have done it a few times on my own. I heard about an event happening in Provo, with a SLC group called “Lower Lights” a non-profit expanding to Provo. This was their first event, and it was led by Thomas McConkie, grandson of Bruce. He had left the church at 18 to travel the world, and after two walk-arounds the world, ended up in the Far East where he trained as a Buddhist monk for twenty years. Coming down from a mountain after seven days of silence, he knew, to quote Walt Whitman,

Now in a moment, I know what I’m for.”

“The goal tonight is not to know more, but to know more of yourself,” he continued. And then bells pealed. “Why are you here?” A smattering of answers were whispered in the musky room, musky not with smoke, or scent, but by character, and lit by christmas lights on the walls.

“Community”

“Togetherness”

“Sharing”

“A break from the grind”

And each abstract idea was answered by McConkie, “Gorgeous, beautiful, thank you.”

“Loss”

“wisdom”

“Searching for what feels right”

“Hope”

“Healing”

“Direction”

“progression”

I had arrived, running to make it on time, dressed in a neon jacket, and paying the suggested donation with presidential dollar coins, thinking I’d fit in better with my imagined crowd. But this wasn’t some group of young rebels. It was an eclectic mix of professionals and quiet middle-aged seekers.

“Breathe it in. If someone here is looking to recover from loss, we are all looking for loss, we all are here recovering from loss. Be a community! Create a collective experience…”

“Notice  your spirit, your presence, who you are….”

Our personal meditation continued, kneading out the lumps of our soul.

Time passed serenely, unnoticed. “Let’s have a one-word check in. How do you feel?” McConkie asked the assembly.

“Peace”

“Love”

“Sleepy”

“Nothing”

“Testimony of doing nothing”

“Contentment”

There was no wrong answer, no judging. We were a community.

We then proceeded with group activity, dividing the 80 or so people into groups of 4-5. “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things. Go around in a circle, and answer this question: Right now I’m aware of….” 

(And I encourage you to answer these questions as well.)

My group went around, and around, subcounsciously revealing our innermost thoughts to strangers, stopping only when the gong again sounded, and our time was up.

“The next question is: One thing you don’t know about me is….”

Again we shared ourselves.

“Last question: One way I hide in a relationship is….”

We are constantly negotiating our boundaries, deciding what to share with others and what to keep for ourselves. But for now, only space existed.

What did we feel at the end?

“Surprise”                          “Intrigue”                                          “Love”

“Closeness”                       “Deepening respect”                        “Softening”

“Tenderness”                    “Closeness”                                        “Divine Connection”

“Sameness”                       “Courage”                                          “abundance”

It was a memorable night, and I am glad I went. I made friends out of strangers, I examined my inner self, I saw new things, and I left refreshed.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, BYU had an unusual guest, Bill Martin, Prof. of Philosophy at DePaul University. He came to deliver a speech entitled, “Marxism and the Secular: from Plato to Badiou” I erroneously assumed he had studied communism to show its defects.  As part of Fidelio Society, I was invited to a luncheon the day of to meet and talk with him. I’ll take free lunch anytime, and it proved quite delicious. They even had Pao de Queijo which I haven’t had since leaving Brazil! Dr. Martin showed up, with long hair, a beard, and a jacket decorated with superhero pins. And nails painted. After making snap judgments, he then mentioned his wife, and the axiom to not judge the book by its cover came to mind. He discussed philosophical theories much beyond my present scope of knowledge, but having had done some prior research, I did engage him on the papers he wrote about chess and philosophy. And, again, lunch was good. And I shared it with a commie.

 I found this plaque in an elevator.

Four dates have occurred, with me going for ice cream with Danielle on Saturday and hosting a game night and inviting Aubrey on Sunday. The game night proved successful, having borrowed three board games from Tanner, and keeping the crowd to a total of 8. We had apple pie, conversed, and played games. It was a good night, and as host I graciously lost the games.

Tuesday, I again went out with Danielle, we went to a BYU Choir Concert. Danielle is from Alpine, Utah, studying consumer science education, and served a mission in Orlando, Florida, spanish speaking. Our list of hobbies is amazingly quite similar, and I’m still impressed by the fact she quilts regularly. However, it was mutually agreed by us both that their was simply no spark for either of us, after two dates, despite friends on both sides trying to help. Our favorite song sung was a new piece, written recently by Daniel McDavitt, and commissioned by BYU, entitled “Locus Iste”

The first two lines are “Locus Ister Deo factus ext,/ inaestimabile sacramentum.”

This place was made by God,

a priceless sacrament.

About the temple, the first part is in latin, but then switches to English, and was the result of a question, “the temple is_______,” posed to many LDS women. It was beautiful.

And on Friday night, I went out with Aubrey again. She actually asked me out, and we went to the BYU Philharmonic Symphony. And finally, there were no pieces composed by Russians. I went really wanting to hear “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and it exceeded expectations. Having been arranged somewhat last minute, we had no car, and Aubrey impressively opted to walk the two miles to get there, and the two miles to return. Thankfully the weather cooperated, and we had plenty of time to converse. She is from New Mexico, went to college at New Mexico State, studying Vocal Performance, before transferring to BYU-I, and majoring in History. She served a mission in Russia, and is currently working two jobs, applying to BYU’s master program.

Thursday I attended the second leg of the start-up competition. The five finalists for this event presented their companies, and I was quite impressed with the ideas, and the executions. And I was surprised by the hundreds of students who watched the event. Big things are happening here.

I left that, and headed to the Toqueville meeting, arriving late, to which a visiting professor would at the conclusion tell the group assembled, “I thought Ben Affleck was joining us for the night.” I mean, I’m missing the Hollywood paycheck, but I’ll take that. We  discussed the prison system in the US, and the idea of rehabilitation.

As always, its been busy. And life is good. I am thankful for the many opportunities that I have, and the learning experiences. However, as this weekend that has been filled with friends and families draws to a close, I am more certain than ever, of what Christ said

“I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Nothing fills like the gospel and the family. I am so thankful for both, and because of them, can say I have an abundant life. May you be so blessed as well, and help others learn of Him.

Looking back, prepares us to go forward

Honestly, this week was pretty boring.

First, to clarify dategate. I did not go on any dates last week. I did eat California dates daily. I will be sure to mention something about fiber next time to avoid any confusion. And that next time is now. I again did not go on any dates. Two weeks and running. For what its worth, I did hold a Bing Crosby Karaoke night for one on Saturday. That was a blast! Where the blue of the night meets the gold of the day……..

Sunday School is going great. We are up to 10 teachers and everything is humming along nicely. We will have teacher training council this Sunday, and are thinking about again expanding the curriculum, and adding another class. I know its not quite building a team, but it sort of is, and its been fun to do that. My counselors are awesome, and I’ve been impressed by the positive response of the members to help.

I again did more genealogy and visited the temple, this time Provo City Center.

I am enjoying more school classes. My favorites are an entrepreneurship class, and history of Brasil. I’ve learned lots in both, and my appreciation of the subjects has greatly increased. Talking about the effect of the sugar industry in colonial Brasil, I learned that in 1500 the average European did not eat any refined sugars. In 1750, that number was up to 4 pounds annually per person. And today, the average American consumes 120 pounds of sugar annually. 120 pounds. No society has rejected sugar.

And my entrepreneurship class, the professor, Ralph Little has been fantastic. He’s shared not only business lessons well, but has taught life lessons that change how I think. This week, after challenging us to change the way we converse, to listen more, and not bring everything back to ourselves, and to specifically engage some strangers in meaningful conversation, the question was asked what if we don’t like the person? If they are just a jerk? I admit I thought it was a fair question, but the professor responded that if we don’t like someone, it is because we don’t know them. We need to ask more questions, establish trust and get to know them. We should love everyone. And its true. Try it. Don’t talk at all about yourself, but let the other person talk, watch how much they open up, and learn from them. Show interest.

Finally, here is an unforgettable video shared at RootsTech 2015. “Looking back, prepares us to go forward.” Under 3 minutes, do yourself a favor and watch it.

http://www.lds.org/topics/family-history/familydiscoveryday/looking-back-prepares-us-to-go-forward?lang=eng&old=true

 

 

Chefe é Chefe

Another week coming at you late. I’ll go vignette form this time.

I’ve had some assignments due this past week, where I had to scramble and borrow a book from the teacher or a classmate to accomplish. Starting to get worried that my books from Amazon were having problems coming, I found out that they were instead sent to Tanner’s house accidentally. And have been sitting there. Obviously, I can’t blame him, as I sent them there and he probably thought I didn’t need them right away, as I never said anything about them. Next time, I will check the shipping address.

I’ve had lots of dates this week. Maybe more than I’ve ever had. They’re all from California, “naturally sweet” and “heart healthy.” Good combo. Honestly, even if I am not getting engaged to anybody, as long as I am going out, and trying, I feel good about my effort. I need to make something happen.

I have quickly become inseparable with my bathrobe and slippers. In fact, now being reunited with my golf clubs, I was putting one night in my apartment, and my roommate filmed without me knowing, and sent it to a friend, who then sent it to others, and me, putting to a half dollar on our green carpet in my blue bathrobe has gone viral in our ward.

  A prepared candid. 

Saturday we had a ward temple trip to Payson. Beautiful temple, especially framed by the falling snow. This was the first major snowfall of the winter, with 6-8 inches falling. It was an unforgettable experience, and one that I will treasure.

 

     

Receiving a sketch book for Christmas, and having recently read the bio of Henry B. Eyring, in which I learned that he consistently included pictures to round out his journal, I decided to do the same. Everyday I try and sketch something important to that day. Its been a challenge, but also enjoyable to engage in something that I haven’t for a LONG time.

Having more free time this semester, I have begun exercising (and running!) faithfully. Lots of work to do. My main goals are to be able to run 10 miles and benchpress 225 by the end of the semester. Hold me accountable! Another of my goals is to do family history weekly, and I had some success on Friday, adding on to our family tree.

Also Friday, at night we had our ward Chili Cook-Off. I didn’t submit anything, but 10 people brought their chili in, and I tasted 9 of them, the other ran out quickly. The winner was a delicious white chili.

Saturday, I went with Tanner to a Brasilian Festival. And of course, I wore my Chefe e Chefe shirt. We didn’t stay long, just long enough to take a picture and sample some food. Later they were having some cultural dances and traditions going on. We went to Tanmarie’s house,  and played Ticket To Ride (Europe) and I enjoyed seeing Nora. Seems like she’s adjusted to mortality well, and was all smiles during my visit.

For whatever reason, I remembered this week an experience I had on my mission. About a year in, I went by bus from Itaperuna to Campos, arriving at 10pm ish. My bus from there to Vitoria would leave at 2 am, so I had a few hours of waiting alone in the bus station. I decided to immerse myself in the book of Joshua. I picked up on a couple main themes, mainly being courageous and obedient. (Side note, according to Joshua chapter 2, and 4:19, the Israelites entered the promised land on April 6th) One verse, well known, touches me every time. Joshua 3:5

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.

The Lord will do wonders with you. Be prepared.

 

Reap what you sow

I think I’ve recovered from my illnesses. Admittedly, the first few days of classes weren’t fun. But they were doable, and that was a blessing. My schedule looks set. I received permission to take 20 credits this semester, and will be doing the following courses:

-History 202: World Civilization 1500 to present

-Portuguese 321

-History 200: Historian’s Craft

-History 356: History of Brazil

-Religion 211: New Testament part 1 (covering the four gospels)

-Religion 261: Family History

-Business Man. 372: Entrepreneurship

-Tennis for beginners (starts halfway through the semester)

I’m enjoying my classes so far, and am learning much, and they have challenged how I think, which I appreciate. Part of my rationale of quitting my job was due to my desire to spend more time at school, participating in activities there. I’ve been able to do that, and that has been well worth the time. I’ve begun participating in a new club, The Fidelio Society. It is similar to the Toqueville Society but focuses more on religion and works in conjunction with the Wheatley Institute. I was asked if I’d be willing to be part of the leadership, and accepted. Besides the obvious responsibilities, one perk is that I’ll be invited to meet with and debate with the scholars and visitors that the Wheatley Institute brings in. I’m looking forward to that.

I was surprised with a package of dates shipped to me. Thank you Aunt Janel! I made her recipe of date muffins, and while they didn’t turn out perfect, i love them! They have quickly become one of my favorites and a surefire breakfast. Date pie is intriguing as well….

 

On Friday, I went to Salt Lake City early in the morning to attend on person the funeral of Pres. Monson. It was held in the Conference Center, and about 10,000 people showed up for the noon service. It was amazing to be there and listen to Pres. Nelson and Pres. Eyring and Elder Uchtdorf pay homage to this great man. Afterwards, I had planned to visit the Family history Library. Unfortunately that had closed for the day unbeknownst to me, but I was able to go to the Salt Lake Temple.

Upon returning to Provo, I quickly got ready for a date. I was doubling with my roommate Jeremiah and his girlfriend Maddie. She had arranged a date with her friend Alyssa Fenton. She moved around a lot, but finished high school in Pittsburgh, and is studying accounting at BYU. The original plan was to go to some hot springs. However, after driving there we discovered that the road had been closed off due to snow. So it was back to Provo. We ate some great chocolate chip cookies at Chip Cookies, and then went bowling. After a hiatus of a few years, I bowled better than ever before. I won the first round, and the second game I was over 100 after 6 frames. And then our hour time limit ran out. I had fun, and enjoyed getting to know Alyssa.

Saturday, my friend Brian Crane came down to visit from Idaho. He pulled in around 4, and i met him in the parking lot to go golfing. The weather was beautiful, and the course in fair condition. And I played. I birdied the first hole, after smashing a drive and chipping to two feet. On the second, I stuffed an 8-iron 175 yards to five feet away, and the round was on. I ended up with some slight miscues, but on the 7 hole executive course which we played, finished at one over par. I’ll take that! Look at those snow-capped mountains! Just beautiful scenery.

Part of the reason Brian came was to go on a date with a girl living here, so while he did that, I went to visit Naomi. Its always a good time with her, and I was happy to hear she interviewed with the University of Utah grad PT program.

Sunday was church, and the roll out of our new Sunday School program. We’ve gone from 0 teachers to 8 in three weeks, getting to know many people without callings in the process, and are teaching four classes weekly: Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Principles, Temple Prep, and a special Family Class, which combines elements of a few manuals.

After the meetings, Brian and I went with Erin and Ashley Ferry to SLC for the YSA devotional with Elder and Sister Uchtdorf. It was marvelous! Many times, youth ask the same sort of questions, and receive the same, valid answers. However, this time, the answers while essentially teaching the same thing, seemed much more relatable this time, and I learned a lot about this journey of mortality. Alyssa already had plans, so I set up Brian with Erin, and went with Ashley. She is from Cedar Hills Utah, served a mission in Guatemala, and is studying nursing at UVU. I was amazed at the number of attendees. Asking an usher and security guard, I was told that while tough to estimate, the organizers had expected 6,000-7,000 people.  Instead, 30,000 young single adults showed up! We didn’t even get a seat in the conference center, and watched it in a theater there.

Monday, Brian and I went to play basketball in the morning. It was a good workout. No more losing to Sawyer! We played on the same team as cousin Greg who happened to be there, and whipped the other team.

I am starting my garden. I’ve been collecting largeish aluminum cans (29 ounce), and plan to fill them with dirt and start an indoor garden. Any ideas on what to plant?

Jazz in my blood

I’ll try to quickly hit the last few weeks. First, finals ended fantastically. I ended with my highest GPA for a semester at BYU and given that I worked roughly 25 hours per week, on average, and led a healthy social life, I am quite pleased with the balance. Before leaving on Thursday to go to Vegas, I went out with Lynsie again on Wednesday night. We delivered some fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies all over town, spreading holiday cheer. Caroling not included. She had chosen one family that is Brasilian and are not members. While she did not know beforehand, it turns out they are from my last area on the mission! It was incredible to be able to talk to them. I would say it compares to going to Germany and meeting someone from the same town in South Carolina. I promised to invite them over for some Brasilian BBQ. Also, when we got there, her brothers best friend was visiting them, and he served in my mission, leaving just shortly before I arrived. It was a great night.

Thursday we drove to Vegas. Nora behaved admirably. Stopping for dinner at 5 Guys in St. George, we arrived about 8 pm. Friday morning we headed off for a quick peak at The Hoover Dam. I made the difficult decision to pass using the hot tub, but took advantage of the in-house organ. Because I had been asked to play in Granbury’s ward sacrament meeting. I am not used to playing for accompaniment and struggled at a time or two. The music kept going though, and we got through all three songs. I like to spice it up with more of a jazzy feel, going quick on the easy parts, slow on the hard ones. The beat is more of a suggestion anyway.

It was of course wonderful to make it to Granbury and see everybody. Mom has already written much, so I won’t recap. I got everything I wanted and more for Christmas. There is nothing like being home for Christmas.

I should have seen it coming. Sunday night, I had a nightmare, and that invariably means sickness, usually a fever. Nevertheless, I managed to make it through the day, even beating Sawyer twice in horse. However, Tuesday – Friday I was down for the count. Those days will be remembered by movie marathons using the projector, wrapped up in sleeping bags, lying on a heating pad. No popcorn. Actually, I endured nightmares for three straight nights. The last one nearly did me in. Think flying mice, moving their mouths like hungry hippos, and their tails, appearing starched lined out stiff behind them. During much of my sleepless nights, I spent writing, and I realized, I am a writer. It is something I really enjoy.

Leaving half-dead on Saturday, I made it to the airport perfectly timed. Dropped my bags off, made it through security, (travel tip #32 wear a leather coat with big pockets.) and ambled my way to my gate and into the boarding line. Oh yeah. Then, boarding, who should I see, but Elder Bradley, my first mission companion! He was going from Michigan to Dallas to SLC. I sat next to him, and we caught up and reminisced on our time in San Luiz, Arizona.

This week was the passing of Pres. Monson. It was a reminder that life is fleeting as a dream. One day we will be held accountable, not jst to God, but to ourselves, for what we did and who we became. Pres. Monson chose and cultivated a life of service, of love, of teaching, and of leading others unto the Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ. How noble a life! What are you doing with yours? As I’ve reflected on that, one statement in my call as a missionary came to mind.

Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord…

May we follow the example of Pres. Monson and wear our lives out in service.

The Finals Countdown

I apologize for not writing last week. I’ll include a brief synopsis of that as well. Interestingly, I wrote last about finding grace. Well, I found her, and we went out on Tuesday. Also interesting, I went to Salt Lake Saturday the 9th, (more on that later), and who should I meet? Recently returned from her mission, Lynsie. Flashback to freshman year. That was highly unexpected.

So, last Saturday I took the train up to Salt Lake City to go to the Family History Library. Getting there at 10:30, I watched the new 1st vision video in the church history museum, toured the Joseph Smith Building, and then made my way to the Family History Library. I went mainly to see some books on the Schenewark line that are not available online. After a couple hours, I visited the Lion House Pantry for lunch, and then returned, intent on achieving a breakthrough. I was able to eventually find some new ancestors, and continued adding some sources. Unfortunately, the hometown of the Schenewark line continues to elude me. Still lots of work to do. I also had planned my visit to coordinate with a ward temple trip, so at 5:30 I met the group and we went inside the Salt Lake Temple. It was a marvelous experience, and one I shall not forget, as I was able to complete work for some of the recently found family members. Then, as I was leaving, we ran into Lynsie.

After talking for a couple minutes we went our ways. As I debated about the next move, the next day I received a message from her asking to meet up. So we marked it for Friday the 16th.

In the meantime, on Sunday I was sustained to my new calling as ward Sunday School President. I’d be interested to see how Uncle Aaron will shake things up on his side. Our organization has been struggling and we are open to new ideas. Hit me up Funcle A. Our last two teachers both married and thus moved this last week, so we’re starting from nada (which I prefer).

Monday was our ward Christmas Party. We had catered BBQ (YES!) and an innovative white elephant gift exchange. In this version, we all put our presents in the middle, at the marked time, chose one, and returned to our seats, arranged in a circle. Then, as the narrator read a story, each time he said the word left, we would pass our present to the person on the left. With the word right, we passed to the right. And at across, we would exchange presents with someone across the room. At the end of the story, the present we were holding was the one we took home.

Tuesday, as aforementioned, I took Grace to the BYU Wind Symphony. She is from Pittsburgh, and recently returned from a mission in Poland. Majoring in German, her family joined the church when she was 7. Her mother was a pastor, and apparently worked those poor missionaries over, and then decided to join the church herself. We enjoyed the show, although they continue to play Russian composers over Germans with incredible prejudice.

Wednesday saw me finish all my school assignments for the semester, which was a seminal moment. Thursday I had my dance final. This saw me crush the Quickstep, and utterly fail on the waltz. My partner wasn’t there, and I danced with someone totally new. It was funny though as I struggled through the waltz, the teacher filming, repeatedly made comments about my elbow being too low. He apparently focused on that to such an extent that it was not until the very end that he said my footwork looked a little off. Hey, I’ll take it. I received a much higher grade than I thought I would, but no complaints.

I also interviewed to write for the BYU Political Review. Its a monthly journal that surveys the political landscape. I’ll find out Monday or Tuesday whether I made the cut. I joined a new club, called the Fidelio Society. It meets bi-weekly to talk about and debate matters dealing with faith and society as a whole.

Friday was my last day in work. They tried keeping me with an accounting internship, which I politely declined. Then, with plans to open up an office in Boston starting March 1st, I was told that my plans to take this semester off would be respected, but if I wanted, I had a gig there for the summer. Very kind of them.

Leaving the office for the last time. I may or may not have a bag of chicken nuggets behind my back

Friday happened to be our company christmas party with Santa. And Chick-fil-A. I actually had set up a lunch meeting with Russ, an entrepreneur out of Bountiful+Layton, so I went to that instead. But, the amount of leftovers was staggering and so I’ve been eating them all weekend. I’m glad they are finally gone. With Russ, we discussed my latest current venture. I received some good feedback, a couple suggestions, and have plans to move forward with this.

That night, Tanmarie kindly lent me their Chevy Prizm. I went to a BYU hockey game with Lynsie. We enjoyed watching BYU put a beatdown on UVU and basically just talked for two hours. It was a lot of fun. And I’d say it merits another one.

Saturday, I took my first two finals in the morning, both of which went very well, then met Sarah W. up at Cafe Zupas. Having already eaten an insane amount of Chick-fil-A, I opted to just talk and not eat. Its always nice to catch up with her and hear her latest plans.

Today, was a day of genuine rest. I taught Sunday School and then headed off with Tanner to hear Meghan’s farewell. She did a great job, and is ready for Nicaragua. With Tanner’s assistance, I made a Brazilian dish called Galinhada.

Porter, have you eaten this already? It turned out fairly good, and we finished that off with ice cream. To be authentic, I ate my galinhada on a plate, no bowl, used a knife and fork, and did not use pepper, only salt. After, I spent the next couple hours on their coach, wrapped up in a warm blanket, talking, and incandescently happy.

President Hinckley said at a BYU Devotional in 1998

“Tremendous is your opportunity to reach beyond the hoped for goal of wealth and worldly success….”

I’ve pondered that, and would love to hear any opinions. What goals do you have beyond wealth and worldly success? How do you measure success? I’ve thought about various careers and ask myself, would I be happy doing this? Would I feel successful? For now, the jury is still out as to lifelong plans.

And, in a somewhat similar vein, but from a different source, I bring to you a few lines from the book of Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. 

“The man who sees inaction in action

and action in inaction

has understanding among men,

disciplined in all action he performs.”

I like this  as we can see everyday people who act, but to no purpose. They work, and achieve nothing. And, we must realize that perhaps there are times when to succeed, we should not act.

This Thursday, I’ll be driving down to Las Vegas with Tanmarie and Nora, and then its just a short flight before I’m home!

Just one more thought, at the meeting of the Fidelio Society on Thursday night, we discussed the historical aspect of Christmas along with its pagan roots. Don’t worry, in the end we all agreed that Christmas is fantastic regardless of its earlier counterparts. One person shared something that intrigued me. He mentioned how Germans have traditionally place lit candles on their trees. We had talked about many of the symbols of Christmas, (evergreen tree, star, candy canes, etc.) but he said that these christmas trees could be viewed as a burning bush. Knowing the story of Moses, we can think of the Christmas Tree as symbolizing the presence of Christ in our lives. Of course, we should not just place him figuratively in our houses once a year. We should always remember our Savior and His sacrifice, and have the Holy Ghost to be with us.

 

Finding Grace

 

Dates

This Sunday was the highly anticipated 1st Pres. Christmas Devotional. Kind Sarah W. set me up with a mission pal of hers, Ashley, and I hooked my friend Mark up with Rebecca. You could have filmed a movie scene. We drove up to Salt Lake City, the air was frosty, snow flakes were falling. We admired the beautiful Christmas lights, and heard a choir of angels sing. Not to mention we heard heartwarming talks. Our seats were spectacular, it was like you could reach out and shake the hand of someone on stage. Oh, and Mark’s mom sent him with a giant flask of hot chocolate which we all enjoyed afterwords. Everything went perfect.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

No, I did not meet Scott Stirling. I did, however, meet Bruce C. Hafen. The ‘C’ in his name probably stands for Champion, because that’s just who he is. BYU hosted a week long seminar on grace, and he spoke on it Thursday night. I could say much, but I’ll simply leave a paraphrased quote from his talk:

“We cannot say, ‘Lord, give me experience, help me grow, help me become like thee!’ and then not expect to have grief, when that is what shaped Him, and made Him who He is. “

The next night I again went to the last address of the night. This time it was given by Sheri Dew. Again, another marvelous discourse on grace. My understanding of it grew, as well as my desire to understand it still better. She, being single, and obviously struggling with that challenge, shared so sincerely how grace has helped her. Her testimony was powerful. As with Elder Hafen, there was a Q+A after, and when someone asked how we can know if we are receiving grace, I liked how she said,

“Every spiritual privilege we have is a manifestation of His grace.”

 

Hometeaching

This has been a struggle. My companion is still MIA. Its been impossible to connect with three of those I’m visiting. The fourth I connected too well as she asked me out. So, I decided to mark a date, invite everybody over for pie, and see what happens. Remarkably, it was a success. Finally, two of them started responding to my messages, and I was able to meet one of them for the first time. Overall, three out of four showed. We bonded, my roommates extended the hands of friendship as well, and we all left filled. I’ve mentioned Mouli before, but to quickly restate, he is a PhD student in physics from India, having previously studied in Germany. While everyone else was talking, he stayed mostly quiet and very reserved. Towards the end, having shared a message about faith, we started talking about religion, just me and him. He said he was born Hindu, which I had reasoned. I then said, “Wait, I want to show you this book.” I returned carrying a book, and he said, “I knew, the Book of Mormon,” to which I responded, “No, its the Bhagavad Gita!” (which is basically Hindu scripture.) His eyes lit up, he responded to a couple of my questions, and for the first time, we connected. Developments to follow!

Market Analysis

I ended my bitcoin run. In just under a month, I netted $370 which isn’t going to ‘ put my on Forbes’ radar anytime soon, but for a college student, helps significantly. While I still believe in the idea, I would recommend staying away from bitcoin. Starting next week, it will become easy to short bitcoin, and i think this will cause some problems. While it was the trailblazer, I think it will be passed by better, more efficient blockchain using cryptocurrencies. The horse-and-buggy helped people tremendously, but it was the wrong market to invest in at the turn of the 20th century. It is often forgotten that until 1944 the British Pound was the reserve currency of the world, being then replaced by the US dollar. I see something similar happening to bitcoin, and while it will probably continue to rise for some time, I see more value in Monero, and IOTA, and am excited to see what happens in the future.

Better than….

I read recently an article, where the author listed some things that were more important than money. Later, I decided to come up with my own list. I won’t share that today, but I will share something similar. Pres. Faust, 60 some years ago, almost ready to head to his mission in Brasil, received some training from then apostle David O. McKay. Elder McKay walked to the chalkboard and simply wrote, “It is better to be trusted than to be loved.” The notion being, our Heavenly Father will always love us. Our parents will always love us. But can they trust us? We receive their love, but have to earn their trust, and that happens through our daily actions, as well as, I believe, our desire to love them back. And of course, to show our love, and to earn His trust, to become His friends, we must keep His commandments.