Alas, its come to this now. I’ll have to fill it in from my notes later.
This post covers July 29th – August 4th. Disclaimer: It’s been one of the most influential weeks in my life.
Monday I made my second trip to Orange, CA. Thankfully, the flight left at 8:32 this time, and I had plenty of time to sleep and make it to the airport. And good thing, because I was stopped by security (my scriptures are always the culprit, the gold tinted paper and the density sets the alarms off rather frequently,) and then I WENT TO THE WRONG GATE. In a different terminal. It took me a bit to arrive, the whole time I was questioning why it would be in the other terminal, and sure enough, it was a different flight, albeit same airline, and then I had to run back to the right gate. I was huffing and puffing, and had the dubious distinction of hearing, “last call for flight 1749 to John Wayne Airport…We are looking for passenger Shanerk.” That name made me smile and chug the legs faster, and I made it onboard. The flight was uneventful, on a Boeing 717, which felt much more crowded than a 737 and I didn’t sleep much.
We arrived to a delicious breakfast, and once again I knew the pounds would be trying to come on. Lunch was catered, and frozen yogurt followed an hour later. In between the meals we heard from the c-suite execs and founders on their business history and where they see ListReports heading in the future. We finished around 5:30 and I crashed at the hotel for a little HGTV and laying on the bed doing nothing. Rested, I headed out and went walking to check out a couple restaurants. I made it to the first one, Lucille’s Southern BBQ, and my nose told me this is the place. Placing an order, I walked to the nearby Crystal Cathedral and explored in reverent awe.
The main cathedral was closed for an organ renovation and the secondary area closed at 5 pm (holding a life sized replica, scanned digitally and replicated of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling,) but the grounds were beautiful, and the cemetery extensive and hallowed.
I enjoyed my time there and then went back to pick up my tri-tip sandwich, beans, biscuits, and fries. So, so good.
Tuesday started off much the same, with breakfast provided once more. I erred, mistaking a cheddar and jalapeno bagel for an asiago. For lunch I returned to the Taco Shack for a California Burrito, and then had two hours to work. At three we did a sales team outing. Originally scheduled to be an Angels game, that changed to something sinister. We boarded a “party bus,” previously unknown and unheard of to me. Music was blaring, lights flashing, and there was a pole in the middle. Thankfully no one was onboard but the sales team. Nevertheless, the alcohol was flowing, and the 35 minute trip to Long Beach left my ears ringing. We arrived to take duffy boats out into the bay and canal and cruise around for an hour. That was enjoyable and the houses along our route were stunning. We exited to eat at a restaurant close-by and lets just say that the food wasn’t appealing unless you were hammered already. (Quite a few were.) We left that and rode the party bus back to our office and then hotel. The bus alone cost close to $1,000. Crazy. I am glad that my co-workers were very respectful of our decision not to drink. My testimony was strengthened as I sang to myself hymns and left the bus peaceful, with no expletive-laced music in my mind.
Wednesday is our weekly company meeting and it meant another delicious catered breakfast. Its from the same place every time and I can’t get enough of the hashbrowns and sweet potato pancakes. Sandwiched in-between work, I left to go to lunch with a co-worker, Denise, who heads our 100 person support team in the Phillipines. I enjoyed hearing adventurous outsourcing stories. We ate at Urth, which has an organic, hippie vibe. And delicious Reuben sandwiches. We worked until 3, when a company party started. We were celebrating Team Utah in California. They had the most delicious Thai food, and I ate all that I could before returning to the restaurant. The night before I had missed the presidential debate, and was glad to catch 90% of this one. It did not disappoint, and I am already excited for the next one. So far I am most impressed by Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard. And Bernie Sanders, which goes without saying. His energy is contagious, alas his sincerity and belief in his plans is not.
Cousin Michael picked me up and we went to the mall for some Panda Express. It was great catching up, as this was the first time in 5 years since I’ve seen him. I t is great to see him doing well.
Thursday was my last chance to eat the free hotel breakfast, but I woke up not feeling hungry, not surprisingly. For lunch I ventured into the unknown and ate at a cuban restaurant, Felix’s, which exceeded my every expectation. I will be eating there at every return trip.
We finally had a full work day, and we left at 5 for the airport. Before our plane departed at 6:40, the exclamation point to the trip was put on by my first visit to California Pizza Kitchen. I slept well on the plane (which means a successful flight) and returned home without incident.
Friday it was back to the office, which ended up being a fantastically productive day, and we all left early. I bit the bullet, taking the van for an emissions test, step one on the road to Utah registration. The rest of the evening saw me go for a run, and workout, trying to start burning all these calories from the trip. I also hung up my Boston temple picture, and LOVE IT!
One co-worker in California asked me how I have energy if I don’t drink coffee, or energy drinks. I couldn’t help but laugh and responded that I try to go to bed at a decent hour, eat well and exercise. The amount of stimulants in the world is amazing. Besides the aforementioned drinks, there’s pills and powders. And music. It is nearly impossible to find somewhere that is quiet. Restaurants, gyms, workplaces almost always have music on. The comparison is easily drawn to the old slave ships, (think Ben-Hur) where the slaves rowed and a coxswain like person pounds the beat out. That is what much of the music has devolved to, with a constant beat designed to stimulate us and keep us going. Not thinking, but going.
Saturday morning I awoke early for a return trip to the gym, then went with William Gentry to Hruska’s, where we ate a few kolaches preparing for our evening visit to Pioneer Book. I took off from there to President Young’s, where he talked about his desire to become a garlic farmer, and I delivered another key lime pie and chocolate cream pie. Then it was to Oquirrh Mountain Temple, my first time visiting there. I quickly ate lunch, and picked up William to head to Pioneer book. With the purchase of a kolache, Pioneer Book gives you a buy one get one free. And William had two coupons, so we each picked up two books, and no one had to pay. It was very kind of him to think of me and share his coupons. Finally, John Carlson was waiting for me upon my return and we played three games of chess, remembered the good times, and caught up on what has been going on with us.
Now, to the really important parts. I’ve decided to go to Law School. A few events happened this week where I realized that I needed to do this. First, on Wednesday I watched the Democratic Presidential Debate. I realized that I couldn’t articulate positions as well as the candidates could on many issues, and nearly all have them earned J.D.’s. I couldn’t understand the nuances of the law that formed the foundation of their positions.
Second, while in California I read “To Draw Closer to God,” by Henry B. Eyring. He quotes Pres. Faust as paraphrasing a Sesame Street episode in which Cookie Monster has the option to receive for free a house in one month, a car in one week, or a cookie right then. Of course, Cookie Monster chooses the cookie. The original point was about chastity, but when I read the chapter, I knew that some of the decisions I was making were in order to secure immediate satisfaction and ease, instead of setting myself up later with things of greater value.
I realized that I’ve been going after money. Not necessarily in the easier to identify, “let’s get rich” view, but in perhaps the more pernicious “let’s avoid financial hardships”. Of course, that really means let’s forgo a little pain and stretching and let’s miss out on the bigger, more important rewards later.
To paraphrase something I read recently, John was exiled, Paul was jailed, Jesus crucified. Why do we assume God’s will for us is to have a great job, a happy life, and a large bank account? I’m comfortable where I am, but I know its not the place for me.
So, I shan’t be afraid of struggle. The end is worth the journey. Per Pres. Oaks, (another J.D.,) “The acquisition of knowledge is a sacred activity.”
Finally, I talked with Pres. Young on Saturday and he agreed that this was a good decision. Everyone I’ve talked to has said something along the lines of “I can that” or “You’d be really good at that.” I think this career choice best aligns my natural talents and provides me the best opportunity to reach my potential and help others for good.
The last experience I’d like to share was special, and I’ll include only part of it here.
I’ve mentioned Pres. Ballard’s quote before, that no other joy compares to the happiness that we experience when we are engaged in the service of our God. Reflecting on that statement, I committed to doing better, and wondered what I could do here in Provo.
And then, I caught a vision of myself in 25 years, sending my children off to Utah for school. I saw myself wondering what would happen, if they would stay on the path, if they would have good friends. I was worried. And fell to my knees, pouring out my soul to our heavenly Father, pleading for his help that they would make good choices and be ok. And at that moment, I was comforted by the thought that there would be other students to help them. To love them, and to serve them.
The biggest takeaway was right now, I need to be one of those “other students.” Right now, there are parents and friends on their knees, pleading with all the fervor of their souls that their loved ones will be ok. We have the amazing privilege, and responsibility to help with that.
“Death is not the end; it is putting out the candle because the dawn has come.” Thus spake Pres. Hugh B. Brown. And thus echo I.
Upon returning to Utah, I took the train down to Lehi and Kimball picked me up. We made it to my van, grabbed some grub at Costa Vida, and then headed to Riverton for the funeral of Lawson’s father, Dan Lighten. I am so thankful I could go. I left tearful, yet very inspired and uplifted. Lawson did a fantastic job, and I felt proud to know him. It’s crazy to think that only two weeks before I had seen Dan, and never would have guessed that his time on earth was almost done. Since late 2018, the family has known the time was near. So many of those we pass are struggling with things we can’t imagine, and yet never complain or make a scene. I pray that the Lighten family will be comforted during this time.
Returning to Provo after, I had half an hour to get ready and then picked up my date, Kathryn, to head to the Pioneer Day concert. My roommate Tyler and his girlfriend Cat joined us. We made it to the Conference Center just barely before the start (I may or may not have driven down the wrong side of a road attempting to find the parking garage…). The concert featured the Norwegian singer, Sissel, and she was fantastic! Elegant, genuine, and powerful. Some of the songs were in norweigan, and the program also featured a medley of old railroad songs. My favorite was “How Great Thou Art,” sung in both english and norwegian. It was a fantastic date, and we seemed to get along fantastically. She is one of thirteen children, and grew up on a small farm in Orem. Recently graduated in Global Supply Chain management and working as a consultant, she actually served in the Tempe Mission at the same time as me, but our paths never crossed.
Sunday I invited a few friends over, grilled some steaks (poorly this time) and made rice and beans. Colored by a “vinagarette” salad, and spiced up with some farofa, it was a good Brazilian meal. Between lots of trips, this was my quiet week.
Tuesday saw the return of our Come Follow Me group. We had a good turnout, joined for the first time by another ward member, Tammy, and great insightful discussion.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive a text from Pres. Young asking if he could buy two pies. I made them Saturday morning and then Kimball and I drove to drop them off. It was a brief hello, and then we headed over to the oldest remaining golf course in Utah, Nibley Park, which was nearby. The land had been donated in the 1920’s with the condition that it stay a golf course, or be returned to the family. The city has grown much since then, and now the course is an urban oasis, surrounded by multi-lane roads on all sides. Nevertheless, heavily wooded, it feels completely different. It has remained very characteristic of the era it was built with raised greens sloping off on all sides. And being in the city, it is impossible to lengthen it anymore, so many of the holes only played to 300-350 yards. Which meant I could drive a couple, which is always fun. The weather was perfect, and we had a great time.
For the fourth Sunday, the Elders Quorum Presidency taught during the second hour of church. We split into three groups, and Jacob, Dillon, and I each led discussions for one of the three groups. The conference talk we studied for the week was Elder Quentin Cook’s, “Great Love for Our Father’s Children.” In our group, we ended up focusing on some verses in 1 John. One of these was 1 John 4:18-21:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.We love him him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God loveth his brother also.”
And now my all-time favorite line from a movie:
“The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”
Love is the key. I know that if we ask for the gift of charity and earnestly seek to develop it, God will bless us with it. And if we serve our fellow men, we will one day stand before God, see his face, and be able to say that we love Him.
My flight arrived at DFW a little early, and I waited for a time before Dad and Porter picked me up. I should note, it was a miracle how perfect the schedule worked out. When I bought my ticket, I had just started at BambooHR. I decided to book the trip from Friday to the following Saturday, without really having any reason. Porter arrived on Thursday, and I did want to see that, but this felt right. Fast forward some weeks, and I am hired at ListReports, have the aforementioned trip to California….from Monday to Thursday. It would have been difficult to skip the first part of training, so the departure Friday was ideal. God is in the details.
Two years passes by so quick; I couldn’t believe Porter was back, and I couldn’t believe that I was approaching (at the end of the month) my two year mark of being back in the states.
It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been gone, as soon as I’m with family, I feel at home. And it feels good. I hadn’t been back since Christmas, and although Dad and Breyer came out to graduation, it was a LONG time since I’d seen everyone else.
Much has already been written by other family members, and too much happened to do justice without writing page upon page, so I shall touch on only a few happenings.
First, Sunday was Breyer’s baptism. Ordinances are so important. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need baptism. Truly, “except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). I was asked by her to speak briefly on baptism, and I reminisced on my own baptism, which occurred nearly 16 years to the day. I don’t remember everything, and at that age I did not fully comprehend the significance of the event. Above all else, I do remember, distinctly, the feeling of being clean, and wanting to be perfect from that time on. Breyer’s was the first baptism since my mission, and it was a day I shall not forget. A bonus was hearing Porter give his homecoming talk during Sacrament Meeting.
It was great to have the Bach’s there; they always bring so much happiness. We played our traditional game of Rancid Tarantula. A decade in, the rule book we have created rivals the US Tax Code in length, but like Uncle Sam, I keep coming out on top.
Sunday night, before their departure early. early Monday morning, Bro. Bach realized his wallet was missing. While handy to have, this was essential as he needed the ID to board the plane back to Massachusetts. He remembered having it after church when we were home, so we tore apart the house looking in every imaginable place. The search started close to midnight, and about 12:40 I asked that we gather and pray. I prayed, and felt certain, completely certain that we would find the wallet. We looked for a little longer, but to no avail and called it a night. I still felt certain, and was glad to see upon awakening, a note left from Bro. Bach indicating that he looked in his suitcase once more, and although he had looked in the very pocket a few times before, his wallet was there. I testify that God does answer prayers.
Third, on Monday I took Sawyer and Miller golfing. This has likewise become a tradition. We wanted to try a new course and went to Sugar Tree Golf Course in Lipan, Texas. The course was beautiful! We arrived at 3:30 pm and played 18 holes in the hot, hot sun. I drank 160 ounces of water, 10 full water bottles. We had a great time. It was a hard course, and we saw some great shots, over water, out of the sand, etc. On 18, Miller Happy Gilmore’d his drive 270 and then hit his next one thin, saw it skip once on the water and land on the other side. His arms raised in both jubilation and disbelief, we were all glad we could spend the time together.
We did a bro’s trip to Tyler, with everyone but Tanner going to see the Merritt’s. We played lots of games, ate lots of food, and spent so much time in the pool. We all came back with varying degreees of sunburn, but nary a frown. I even escaped losing to Aunt Janel in ping-pong. Only due to running out of time and not playing before we left though.
Friday, the family was all together. The Friday before, Mom had surgery, and of course it takes more than surgery to replace the meniscus to keep her down, but it was nice to see her doing so much better and much more mobile.
That night, we went to a Cleburne Railroaders game. Miller’s team was being recognized, and he was memorably introduced as “Miller Schenewark, extra hitter” as his position, while walking out onto the field. We were the first fans to arrive, and had time before the gates opened to walk around the field behind the stands and find lots of home run balls. The game was entertaining, and the night capped off with a firework show.
My trip was wonderful. I know, without a doubt, that “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between 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. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
I am thankful for parents who have taught me by example and who have always placed family, and especially their children, above any worldly considerations.
The start was admittedly not fun. Our plane left at 6 am, which meant waking up at 3:30. Some day I’m going to start packing before 11 pm, but not this time. I do love driving so early and seeing a state asleep, with everything yet to start for the day.
We arrived in LAX at 7:30ish, and one of my travel companions, Glenn, rented a car, and I joined him and Angel and we were off to the office. Or to battle the infamous traffic. We were welcomed to a delicious breakfast, and I soon realized that I am blessed to be working for a company whose founders are undeniably foodies.
Lunch was at the Taco Shack, and I ate a nice California burrito. The day was filled with onboarding tasks so lets get back to the good stuff: the food. Dinner was on our own, and we met up with our Utah manager, Ben, for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant where I tried the cheesesteak.
Because of my early departure and lackadaisical regard to bedtime during the fourth weekend, my head was pounding and despite taking tylenol, the pain wasn’t subsiding much. It was early to bed, and prayers for a quick recovery.
Thankfully that did materialize and my head felt a lot better Tuesday.
Food, food, a little work, more food. That sums up the week basically. I enjoyed hearing more of the company vision, and meeting my co-workers. The next few months here will be a lot of fun as we expand rapidly. They recently raised $15 million in an effort to make a big push these next few months.
Additionally, I was able to catch up on my sleep, read, write and in general live quite scrumptiously. It was a good change of pace to have a king sized bed, no roommates, no distractions, basically no expenditures on my time besides the whole 8-5 part.
Wednesday night, Aunt Janeen and Sam came down from Long Beach and I spent the evening with them. This was my favorite part of the trip, and I appreciate their efforts to come down and see me. We had a good time at Wahoo’s fish tacos and talking about everything that is happening in our lives and in the lives of those we love. Alas, I failed to take a picture to help record this memory.
Our flight left at 7:50 pm Thursday and we arrived in Utah about 10:30. Turns out the highway was down to one lane, so the anticipated 45 minute drive took almost two hours. Knowing I’d be leaving for Texas in hours, I didn’t unpack, deciding to leave my dirty clothes in my suitcase and take the same things with me.
I made it to work Friday morning and then headed with Ben to help run a booth at a little car show that was happening nearby. Our company had reserved a spot for this, so Ben and I went and set up some horseshoes and handed out drinks to realtors and loan officers and played against them while talking about ListReports. Finally, at 3:45, I was headed out of Utah. This was later than I had intended, so it was Lyft to the rescue, with me leaving my car in the work parking lot.
My Lyft driver to the airport had moved to the US from Brasil only two years before and we talked in Portuguese the entire trip. I let him know that my brother had in fact just returned the day before from Campinas. To be continued….
Monday morning started my first day on the job at ListReports. This is the most committed I’ve ever been to a company, and I am going to work hard to make this the start of a career. There is a great opportunity to grow, and to put myself in a good spot financially. Monday we did a little bit of training and moved to our new office, a WeWork spot that just opened up. It is fantastic! Tuesday and Wednesday were much of the same, with everyone acclimating themselves to the new situation. I am joined in the office by manager Ben, and coworkers Adam Fox, Jake Mangum, Angel Lentini, Glenn Daniels, and Miller McMillen.
Monday night for FHE we had a really fun activity where we divided into groups and played “Bigger and Better.” The game is simple: each group starts with a quarter and we go around the neighborhood bartering our way up. We had 75 minutes before we had to return and show the goods. I was skeptical at first – who would really care about helping a bunch of young adults with this on a Monday evening? Nevertheless, our group proceeded and I was shocked by the outcome. Disclaimer, nearly everyone we met knew the game. It’s apparently a Utah tradition, and one person we met even confessed to having played it only the week before. After five trades, we ended with a queen-sized air mattress. Not bad! In an effort to secure the victory, tainted that it may be, one of our group members called an aunt, and we swung by and borrowed her shop vac. Cool activity, I’d do it again.
After the official ending, Jacob West and I hung out on the lawn and had some deep conversations. He’s such a good guy, and I’m lucky to know him.
Tuesday was our come follow me discussion, and Brielle brought over delicious apple muffins for us and everyone had great insights. I especially appreciated this thought: Acts 3:1-8 relates how Peter healed a man lame from birth. Its already a great story, but a new meaning was added with a closer look at verse 2. That reads, “And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.” If he had been at the temple everyday, then he doubtless would have seen Jesus, and Christ probably had seen him. Yet, he wasn’t healed until Peter performed this miracle. Likewise, we might be waiting for a wound to heal or a trial to end, perhaps even something that feels like its been going on since birth. We must trust in God’s timing for us, and eventually we will be healed, experiencing the miracle that we need, and allowing us to leap up and praise God (vs. 8) as did this man.
Wednesday night after work my birthday celebration started, and that night I reached a new high for in chess, a 1787 rating, and successfully benchpressed 225 twice. For my birthday, I had turned down a couple 4th of July celebrations, instead planning to go to the mountains and enjoy a day of solitude meditating on where I am in life. And I did. It was wonderful! I spent the morning on Y mountain, looking down on the valley below and painting watercolors. Around noon people started to reserve their spot for fireworks, and I hightailed it out of there, returning home for lunch, and then going off to the MTC lawn to read. That lawn too filled up, at about 7 so I left, feeling good about where I am in life, and rejuvenated. Returning home for dinner, and watching a few fireworks before calling it a night. Or trying to. There was a lot of festivities going on, so I put on a movie and watched “Wonder,” which was heartwarming. What a wonderful day!
Friday the fifth we also had work off, and I went to Draper to play golf with Mark. He wanted to pay as a birthday present, and we had a great time playing nine at South Mountain.
Next week I’m in California, and then heading to Texas (July 12th) to see my family. The Book of Job records our time in premortality,
“when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”
Yet, I have to wonder, did we know how wonderful this life truly would be? I think not.
There is truly so much to be grateful for. Life keeps getting better and better.
I have to echo President Ballard, “Nothing brings more joy in this life than in being involved in the work of God.”
That work is encapsulated by two things:
-serving our fellow men and bringing them to Christ
-and spending time with family, working towards creating an eternal unit.
May we do both is my hope, and I know we will have an unprecedented outpouring of happiness and contentment.