Elvis has left the Building- April 29, 2018

I’m gone. Or rather, I’m home.

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

Goodbye Provo

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

Texas

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

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

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

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

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

Finances

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

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

Movie

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

Summer Goals

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

Here are some of my other summer goals:

-save $25,000

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

-Build a garden

-Visit some ancestral sites in Missouri

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

-shoot under par in an 18 hole round of golf

-plant some fruit trees

-paddle Lake Granbury

-write daily in my journal

-read the Book of Mormon twice

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

-Get a car

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

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

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

 

 

The Vanishing Minutiae

(Disclaimer, for some reason, I am unable to post pictures. I will sit down and work this problem out this week)

What a crazy couple of weeks! Everything has been perfect, and so much has happened. Whereas I once wrote mainly on soldiers moving in their companies and regiments, now it seems that entire corps are being placed in the front, and heading into the fight. In other words, great things of importance are happening.

(And I still haven’t lost my ability to muddy the situation with metaphors.)

As Mom already announced I was called to be the Elders Quorum President a few weeks ago. Initially, my first thought was “No, not me!” I had other plans, and they did not involve staying at the Crestwood. In fact, I had already arranged to live with some friends in another complex, and was going to submit my application for a semester-long study abroad in Jerusalem the very next day. I asked the Bishop for one week to think about it, but upon leaving his office and going to Sacrament Meeting, it was apparent within minutes what I needed to do.

It was a very personal experience, and I won’t share everything, but my faith and testimony were both increased greatly by this experience, and I will share a couple thoughts. First, I reflected back on Pres. Monson’s story of being called to the Bishopric. He was the same age, 22, and went to talk with Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the 12. Elder Lee told him to reject his officer’s commission in the Navy, (that Pres. Monson had diligently worked for, and given that war in Korea appeared immenent, it appeared much better to serve as an officer, than to wait and be called up as enlisted ensign.) Pres. Monson did not want to, but listened, and admits that his life changed dramatically because of that situation. Of course, this was with 60 years of hindsight. What will I think 60 years from now?

Second, I remembered how just a week before, inspired by Elder Klebingat’s visit, I had prayed to the Lord, asking how I could serve better, and asking for opportunities to do so. The last few months I had at many times been frustrated by the apparent lack of challenges. My life seemed so easy. Remembering this, could I then turn down the chance I had been praying for?

As I sat in the Sacrament meeting, not paying attention to the announcements, I flipped open the scriptures, hoping to see some rationale to still leave. Randomly opening to 1st Corinthians 1,  I read the chapter.  Nearly every verse testified what I needed to do. Two especially were significant, verse 17, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” I had reflected previously on how I could continue my missionary efforts, and this was the obvious answer. I did not need to baptize new converts, but to strengthen those already of the fold. The other part that quite literally pierced me was 1:25-27.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God  hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

Our plans are foolishness compared to the plan of God. As soon as Sacrament ended, I told the Bishop I was in. I had wanted to go to Jerusalem to come closer to my Savior, but surely this calling would do that as well.

In the weeks that have followed, I am so grateful and humble for this opportunity. It has been a great experience, and one in which I have already learned so much. This last year, two people committed suicide in the apartment. complex and another died apparently of natural causes in his sleep. It says in John 18:9,

Of them which thou gavest me I have lost none.

That has become our Presidency’s mantra, and we are working hard to make sure we know and welcome everyone.

BYU

School is finishing this week, I have three finals left. So far, the others have passed by with ease. I have struggled somewhat in my Portuguese class, as there are so many busy work assignments. Perhaps busy work isn’t the best term as I understand practice is necessary to master a new topic, nevertheless, they really do seem quite unnecessary and not that helpful. I was happy to take the Challenge Exam, offered to returned missionaries to receive up to 16 credits for the mission language. I took that one week ago, and knowing that my Portuguese is definitely not the best, I finished the test in 25 minutes and earned 12 credits of A’s, and 4 of A-.

Music

I played the organ today in church. My mind was somewhat preoccupied with other things, so I went up and played fire. Every hymn (but the sacrament of course) was played with a bunch of stops, including a mixture, and the dust was falling from the rafters. It was confident with no mistakes (finally!).

Dating

Since I last wrote my dating has consisted entirely of going out with Lydia. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and we have our next one planned for tomorrow. On our first date, she recommended the author Wendell Berry, and I have been devouring his writing since then. I likewise, highly recommend his work, whether in poetry, essays, or novels.

Sports

I’ve managed to golf every week. Last time out was with Tanner. According to him, I played “inspired.” Nearly every shot was hit purely, and still not doing the math to account for the thinner Utah air, I airmailed a couple greens. On the penultimate hole, there was someone in front of us way out in the distance. I thought I’d just hit it, and to my amazement the ball sailed way over his head! (and just to the right). On this par-5 measuring 490 yards, my drive went right down the middle of the fairway, 370 yards. It was crushed, and exhilarating and guaranteed I’ll need to play and try to improve on this round in the near future. I feel my swing is back, to my best pre-mission levels. Of course, my second, a 60 degree wedge went too far, and after a pitch onto the green, it was two putts, and a par. Oh well. I did birdie the other par-5 though, with another great drive and a second shot to just off the right side of the green. (Ok, I desist, that’s enough golf for one letter.)

Family

I loved having the Orton’s and Hutchins’ over for games and desserts. Its always great to spend some time with them. Nora continues to grow, and her smile cracks me up. Tanmarie continue to help me, and are very generous with transportation and time. I had dinner with them tonight, together with some of  Annemarie’s siblings.

Miscellaneous

First, my newspaper endeavor is going well. My friend Robert and I spent a few days in Indianapolis to learn some tricks of the trade. That weekend was the Master’s, the wedding of a friend, and a dinner with Terryl Givens. Nevertheless, I went. So we’re serious about this. Right now, we are thinking of calling it “Journal of the American Mind” or JAM for short.

Temples

I continue to work on visiting all of the Utah temples. This week I checked off the Ogden Temple. It was a ward temple trip, and we went up on Thursday evening. It was truly a remarkable night, in which I went without many questions and left knowing more about what the future held for me than before.