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!

 

Don’t Forsake Me, Oh My Darling – 10/14/2018

Yessir, I watched “High Noon” last weekend. Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and an internal struggle played out on screen. Loved it.

Newsy Update:

A few weeks back, Bro. Corbett was released from the high council and Bro. Holmes was called to replace him. Given that we work closely with the HC, it has been very informative to see the different styles and MO’s. They have usually attended our weekly meetings and bring lots of experience that helps.

When my mom was visiting, she picked a crock-pot out for me, per Mimi’s birthday gift to me. Since then, its been a delight to use. I’ve made stuffing, beans, more beans, scalloped potatoes, and more beans. I (obviously) love legumes, and love being able to start cooking them, and not have to worry about them at all. And the seasoning and potatoes turned out good as well.

Wednesday, I went with Daniela and Robert to Salt Lake City to eat at The Eklektic. Wow! That was the best steak I’ve had in a long time. A nice cut of meat, with tamarindo, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. Dessert for me was crepes with ice cream. Daniela is the regional director for ISI and we met the ISI chapter president of Utah State at the restaurant to discuss upcoming events.

Thursday after work I attended a lecture given by Arthur Brooks. His books sound quite interesting, and I plan on checking them out, but after all the hype I’d heard, I was admittedly disappointed. I didn’t feel like any new ideas had been presented or important thoughts shared. That said, Arthur Brooks (President of AEI) gives 170+ speeches annually, and is an engaging orator. Afterwards, I joined some ISI members (again) and we discussed some parts of the speech at SLAB Pizza. ISI has been an integral part of my college education, and I appreciate likewise their willingness, nay, insistence, on always picking up the tab.

Due to an upcoming tax deadline, I had work off on Friday. After my classes ended, I picked up Tanner and we played the Executive Course at Eastbay. He had the shot of the day with a nice 45 ft. sharply downhill putt to save par. I did nearly usurp that on the last hole, but my 60+ ft eagle putt lipped out. It was nice to spend that time with him and enjoy the remaining good weather.

Saturday morning I started and couldn’t put down Stanley Crawford’s A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm. Folks, that is the dream. The evening was spent working at the BYU football game.

Sunday night, I again went to sing at the assisted nursing home. I was accompanied by some friends, and we enjoyed our time, with the residents imparting greater joy to us, than we could possible share with them. We went to the memory ward, and when we left, a resident walked, arm in arm with me to the end of the hallway, before bidding us farewell, knowing that she couldn’t go out the door. It was tough to fathom.

 

Meaningful Moments

With three classes focusing on Family History, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do research, and my love for this field continues to grow. I’ve “met” my 4x great-grandfather Cyrus Bullard, who besides caring for his farm, raised honeybees on the side. I’ve become emotional thinking about another great-great-great grandfather, Ellison Scott, dying at age 44, leaving behind his family, all due to an abscessed tooth. I’ve imagined the life of an uncle, George Kingsbury, who stayed single into his early thirties, before marrying and raising a couple daughters. By 70, he was a widower and still working, laboring in a factory, pressing hats.

I can’t help but ask, what were their struggles and trials? What did they dream of? What would they think of their ancestors now?

My former mission comp, Vitor Brito let me know of a convert, Jose Fernando that went to the temple for the first time. Quick recap: Elder Brito and I worked relentlessly and perfectly obediently for five weeks with no results. The last week of the transfer we decided to try a new area, about 90 minutes away by bus, and on the beach, as many of the cities residents were going there for the holidays. We made the trip, and almost immediately were led to Jose Fernando. When we knocked, he had been praying that God would show him the true church. Jose would be a great example to me in his desire and diligence in following Jesus Christ. Despite the long travel time, he would often arrive first at the chapel. Now, he traveled a far greater distance, a roughly 14 hour bus ride to arrive at the temple in Sao Paulo.

To see how far he has come has been a true inspiration. I am so thankful to have met this amazing man, and to see him reach another milestone in his life.

February 2017

October 2018

 

Sometimes playing the organ, I wonder what other people think of my oft-repeated hymns, as I play what I am familiar and comfortable with. During testimony meeting, an elder returning to activity, bore his testimony, in his words, for the first time in years. The catalyst was the hymn, “Israel, Israel, God is Calling,” which I play quite often. He related how he gained his testimony after praying and reading the book of Mormon for months, without a clear answer, he went on a youth trip to the Kirtland Temple. There, he learned about how angels visited on the day of dedication, and many other miracles, etc.

In this hymn, there is a line, “and angels are descending to visit the earth!” This reminded him quite powerfully of his conversion experience, and he bore pure testimony of the reality of our Heavenly Father, his love for us, and the plan that God has for each one of us, His children. It was amazing to hear, and the answer was quite clear, that yes, its ok to play the same hymns over and over again, as God’s ways are higher than ours.

 

Do Vultures contain Gluten? and other stories

No way to catch up on three weeks, but here we go. Way back (Sept. 22nd) I had friends over for a “bachelor breakfast” at 9:30 on Saturday. Turned out amazing! We had biscuits and gravy, banana muffins, pumpkin muffins, watermelon, scrambled eggs, cinnamon rolls, and water. The list: Tanner, Robert Wagner, Chris Devenport, Donnie Clark, Mark Soelberg, Kimball Hatch, Lawson Lighten, Nathan Folkman, Porter Wright.

leftover brownies from a stake activity. Also the first time I played “ninesquare.” Much better than the original foursquare, and played over your head.

Two weeks ago the highlight was the wedding and surrounding events. Being well documented already, I’ll move quick.

Tuesday was cousin+grandparent dinner at Uncle Ben’s house. We had a great time, and my garlic farming dreams have now been well spread to all.

Wednesday night, I loved picking my mother up from the airport and seeing her in wonder at all the changes that have happened here in Utah since her last visit, 20+ years ago. To be far, I think my dad was more shocked on his first visit back. Wednesday I did a half-day of work before going to the City Center Temple expecting to meet my mom on the grounds. After two laps, figured she went in inside, so I gave it a go and entered. Thankfully there was one more seat (or I got one) and I was able to witness the wonderful sealing of Michaela and Greg. Never to be forgotten.

First time I’ve seen a sealing, and the first time I’ve been in the temple with my mom. After a tough picture session, we parted ways to meet back up for the reception. Which was a blast. The setting was immaculate, and I went on an errand for my grandmother before the dancing start. #winwin.

Friday I attended my morning classes before again skipping work and going to Cafe Rio with Mom and Annemarie and Nora. We met the ward exec sec there and his wife, Sis. Jolley gifted us a dessert, Key Lime Pie.

We picked Tanner up from Law School and enjoyed going around town for a little before it was time to take the visitors back to the airport.  Of course, before we went to pick up the grandparents and take them as well, Mom and I stopped at Rockwell’s Ice Cream. The drive back to SLC airport was another highlight of the trip as I chatted with my grandparents and mother (with no attempted set-ups from Grampy at this time hallelujah) and enjoyed listening to their collective wisdom and feeling their love. There is nothing like family.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that despite gifting the car, Grampy still stuck a wad of cash in my hand for driving him up to the airport. What a character.

Saturday morning I started the weekend off with a date, Hannah Schoendorfer, joined by Abby and her bf Michael. Together we made cinnamon rolls, and as they were leaving the oven, were joined by cousins Naomi and Hannah there for breakfast and the Red Sox game. Hannah S. is from Pennsylvania, studies sociology, used to be an organ major, and plays the bell tower at BYU. When that ended, Naomi had a friend show up, and we watched the start of the game, before they had to leave.

Sunday I had another date after church, quickly thrown together. I’d been invited lots of times to go sing at an assisted living home, and finally had a free Sunday evening. I invited Megan Stanley, and then compelled my friend Nathan to find a date. In 20 minutes. He acquiesced, but after a couple tries to no avail, we went to go door to door. First apartment was a no go, so on to the second, where three of the ladies living there wanted to go, so all six of us jumped in the minivan and off we went. I had a fantastic time! I loved singing hymns to the residents and will definitely be back. i felt like that was one of the best things I’ve done in a while, and the other college kids there with us, were gracious as well.

I knew this week was going to be crazy, with midterms, and projects, and playing catch-up from the week before, and finally with a football game on Friday before conference. And boy, has it been a long one. I’ve felt completely occupied all week, with no breaks, and still haven’t been able to finish everything. Tuesday I spontaneouslyl called Tanner, and we met for two hours and threw together a quick business plan for a contest. Link to 90 sec. youtube video is here. A gigantic thanks to Noe Guzman, who came over on Thursday, before I even returned home from work, and did all my dishes that I’d neglected the last few days. Huge blessing, and unbeatable timing. There was no gym this week, no club events, and even now, my room is a wreck, I’ll be waking up early to finish off one more project before school, and I’ll go from there.

Also miraculous was the quick football game on Friday. I made it home at 11:15 pm, and was able to finish typing a paper due at midnight.

The one reprieve came Saturday night when I went golfing with Kimball and Lawson. We jetted around the exec course and I finished by sinking a 14 foot putt in near complete darkness. I loved playing with the clouds descending on us, and the sky near pitch black by the end.

 

For conference I went up Saturday morning (after two straight nights of staying up to 1:30 am!!!!) with Kimball and Lawson. I gave two tickets to a foreign couple waiting nearby, and immediately they burst into tears. I don’t know their whole story but we ended up sitting close to them and they were visibly moved the entire time. Glad I had the chance to pass those off to them. Lunch was courtesy Tanner and BYU Law Society. I ended up having some problems with my ticket so called Tanner back and hitched a ride back, to watch the afternoon session from home.

Sunday morning I again met with Lawson and Kimball and we went to Lawson’s home in Riverton for breakfast (eggs benedicts and hash browns 10/10) and after lunch there as well headed to SLC joined by Spencer Christofferson to watch the last session in the conference center. Spencer actually served in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, so he loved hearing the temple announcement, and we all were thrilled by that and by Cape Verde’s announcement.

I love listening to conference, and know that these leaders are speaking the mind and will of the Lord for us. Among many takeaways was the realization I need to attend the temple more frequently, and return to my once – a – week schedule.

I left those three up north for a dinner, as I had been invited by Rachel Hansen to join some of her friends in Provo. We had burritos, and then played “smurfs” before I made my exit.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but obviously never finished the letter:

“I appreciate the people that have entered into my life, and for their problems and struggles that are giving me opportunities to  grow.

On Tuesday, after a delightful time with the extended family in Lindon, I arrived home at 7:30 with two papers to write that night. One hour later, I still had to write a single word. Nothing was coming. And then someone, obviously quite urgently, asked for a priesthood blessing. So I went. And immediately upon arriving back home to my apartment, the words flowed. And I finished much sooner than I had expected. While a small miracle, it is a miracle, and truly, when we put the Lord first, everything else works out.”

Related, here are two thoughts by Neal Maxwell:

“If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.”

“God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.”

I know of their truthfulness, and know that nothing we do will be as fulfilling or as meaningful as our work with family and with the Lord’s kingdom.

 

“Hallelujah!” 9/16/2018

The title arises from the fact that earlier today I realized that I was wearing a home-made tie making pasta by hand. Pretty cool. I’ve also realized that there is a strong correlation between amount of flour used and happiness. Not simply because of the treats that go to me, but mainly for the fact that flour = service and kneading dough = therapy. So I gave myself a self-sufficiency “hallelujah!”

I should add, besides no dates, there was also no golf played this week, and thus begs the question, “is the world ending?” What will I write about?

 From Labor Day – with the windmills in the background.

The easy answer is no. Of course not! Even though Utah does in fact appear to be burning. (even the mountains have been obscured by all the smoke, and ash has sprinkled down on us at BYU – this is the closest I’ve ever been to a wildfire that I know of.)

Photo courtesy of Taylor Yardley and LDS Living: In Payson, about 15 miles south.

The real answer I’ve come to, (after wondering how the prophets for millennia have truthfully been able to declare, “Repent! the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”) is that the world might not be ending, but ours is. Truth is, no matter how you do the math, mortality is a blink. And we best be preparing for the next life, because it’s coming to claim us sooner than we might think. Ours is to act, and not to shrink.

My classes have been great. This week in Shakespeare we read some of his sonnets and interestingly many of them dealt with the idea of eternity and Mr. Bill Shakespeare appears to have with various sonnets  preached the idea that kids yield some degree of immortality, and if that doesn’t work, then written lines surely will.

We also read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which although fantastical, was fantastic. I loved it. I have already become a committed fan.

I’ve chosen a couple family history projects: I am researching Horatio Gates and family, b. 1812 d. 1883. And for another one, I am researching Nancy Starbird Glass Wilson b. 1824 d. 1868 and her family. I was happy to see Horatio was a farmer and am truly eager to learn more.

Other notable news: I cut my head open with a door. No serious damage. Just an embarrassing/funny story to remember, and a current lump that looks like an award-winning pimple instead of a manly cut.

We mopped the floor voluntarily – without having a spill or accident compel us. Normally something happens before the floor actually gets dirty from just shoes. The last time we mopped was because I had inadvertently put in dish soap instead of dishwashing liquid. Didn’t, and don’t know the difference. The thing was a bubble machine and we just used all the overflowing suds to clean up the floor.

Tuesday, out of the many club choices available and appealing, I decided to go to the Family History one, where Jennifer Ann Mackley, author of Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine lectured on exactly that, the development of temple doctrine.

Fast-forward to Saturday, and going to the temple was a little more significant reflecting on some aspects of what I’d learned.

First time cooking exploits this week include making cinnamon rolls for the first time. They were amazing! Hit the spot, causing a small sugar overload as I downed 6 or 7 before I gave the rest away. Also Maple Bavarian Cream. I still need to eat that though. It said to chill, and it’s been chilling since.

Today at church I did nothing. No talks or lesson. No organ playing. No helping with the sacrament. I simply sat back and enjoyed the services and quite honestly, felt completely rejuvenated and refreshed.

Earlier in the week my I was in some pain and though my bottom left wisdom tooth was agitating like a toddler in church, causing a disturbance, and thought if it doesn’t stop, he’ll have to come out. Well, big blessing, turned out I only had a cut on my gum (from what I know not).

Work at Canopy continues. My bosses have been good at scheduling trainings and helping me improve. I’ve always been the person who would spend the whole day hacking at a tree without sharpening the saw and they’ve been good about scheduling time to help me improve.
I finally saw Tanmarie and Nora. It’s been a couple weeks, and I decided to be spontaneous and show up unannounced Sunday afternoon. Sounds like law school is good and ms. Nora is getting close to walking!

On Sunday, Dad was busy and Mom wasn’t home and after talking to Cooper for a while, Breyer came in and took over. That 15 minutes was perhaps the best part of the week for me. With her infectious laugh, innocence, and complete sincerity I was reminded once again why we are commanded to be like little children and felt brought down to real life. That’s what’s really important – and I left uplifted and with a refreshed perspective.

Another candidate for moment of the week was on Wednesday when as a presidency we redid most of the ministering assignments. My testimony was strengthened that we are involved in the Lord’s work and he knows each and every one of us personally, as we repeatedly had names come to our minds for both companionships and who they needed to visit. It wasn’t our doing – we were simply the instruments.

Saturday night I sat down with some homework and put on the Fiddler on the Roof. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, and didn’t remember much. I thought especially pertinent was the struggle Tevye had with tradition. Some changed, but others he would not, could not give up. Everything is liable to be questioned, and it is just as important for us to realize the traditions, some divinely instituted, that we can not give up or change.

I am grateful for the traditions that we have in our family. I have learned of Christ and his gospel since being an infant and I’ll forever be grateful for that. Elder Holland said:

Your love for Jesus Christ and your discipleship in His cause must be the consuming preoccupation and passion of your mortality. You must strive every day to know the Savior in the most personal way that you can – to study His life, to learn His teachings, to follow His doctrine, to reverence His priesthood.

 

Top 10 of the Week that Was: 9/9/2018

Coming to you a couple of days late. Here is the top 10:

10. BYU Football- I’m becoming increasingly apathetic with regards to sports. Long gone are the days of playground fun. The atmosphere is ridiculous with lots of people taking the game so seriously. I’m now a supervisor for the event staff. I learned that means I do whatever I want. But I’m there to work, and I will.

9. Date with Megan- I accompanied Megan Rowley to the Face- to face with Q. L. Cook (see #4) for a triple date with Lawson (and Andrea) and Kimball (and Aubrey). After, we went to my apartment for apple pie, ice cream and some games.

8. EQ Interviews – definitely one of the best parts of my calling. I enjoy continually meeting with my fellow quorum members in a spiritual setting to talk about life. Saturday was an EQ Super Smash Bros activity. I was absent, working the football game, but seems the activity went well, and a couple struggling elders showed up.

7. Labor Day Golf – Erin Hiatt came in from Idaho for the weekend; we had planned this outing a long time back. Philip Gebler played along with Mac, and all four of us enjoyed the perfect weather, and beautiful scenery of Spanish Fork. There are giant wind turbines nearby, and for the first time in my life, I thought they added a little to the scenery (albeit only from where we were. Driving through Spanish Fork before, I thought they were an absolute eyesore.) Philip’s sister, Rebekah Ann walked with the entire time, and viewed each shot optimistically. I was a couple over par but the last few holes was driving better than ever before. My drives on #5,6,7 went 390, 375, 360 yards right where I was aiming. Incredible.

6. Gym – I’m back. Without a car, there would be no way this is happening, so its another blessing to chalk up to the Sienna and my parents+grandparents. Working out is something I enjoy, and a great stress reliever.

5. Date with Avery – From 12-3 I helped set up signs outlining the new BYU stadium bag policy (following the NFL, only clear bags allowed) and then ran to Mapleton to pick up Avery Bishop. We went to Sub- Zero Ice Cream in Spanish Fork. I’ve wanted to try the nitrogen blasted treat for a while, but was extremely disappointed. Not with Avery though, she was very impressive with her vision and goals. Friday she heads up to Idaho for school, and I am sure will do great things.

4. Face – to – face with Quentin L. Cook – The member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles answered questions from Nauvoo along with a couple church historians, Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow. Probably the most significant statement for me came from Kate Holbrook as she related how when she does something well, she thanks the Book of Mormon. It helped me understand better how the scriptures can be applied to my life.

3. Date with Maggie – I went with Maggie Bromley to the BYU Art Museum. She is a photographer and we especially enjoyed the Pulitzer Prize winning photos being exhibited, and then had ice cream at the Creamery.

2. Class Schedule – Crazy excited for my classes this semester. School started last Tuesday. Here is the lineup: Shakespeare – Northern US Family History Research – Family and Law in American History – Family Historian’s Craft – Reason, Revelation and Politics – Writings of Isaiah. 17 credits total, all of the classes have been excellent so far. They are challenging and definitely expanding my mind.

  1. Elder Schenewark- Porter is serving where the recently returned Elder Gabriel Bicharelli now lives, and Gabriel sent some updates and a picture. Good to see both of them.

 

The Drum beats on

I’ve been deeply touched by a scripture, quoted by Abinadi in Mosiah, and found in Isaiah 53:11, saying,

He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.

To know of the Savior’s love for us is so amazing! Seeing us, he knows that the Atonement, and all his suffering and sacrifice was worthwhile. Furthermore, thinking about the Savior’s work, especially the Atonement, has made me question what work shall satisfy my soul. Can’t say I really know. But I have been thinking a lot more of what it eternally important.

And talking about what is really important, I was surprised to learn that the word really is used in only one verse of scripture in the entire standard works. Jacob 4:13

“For the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore these things are manifested unto us plainly for the salvation of our souls.”

We based our discussion in Elders Quorum on that and talked about focusing on the eternally important things, how we can use technology to help us with that, and how we can be prepared to confront the challenges that will inevitably come in our lives.

Sunday was crazy. Besides teaching EQ, I tried playing a couple new hymns on the organ, and scraped through 165, Abide with Me tis Eventide. During Ward Council, Mimi calls, and I didn’t answer, being occupied, but immediately after saw that she left a voicemail asking me to call immediately. I’d already been wondering what’s up, as I always call them, not vice-versa. Needless to say the voicemail didn’t assuage any fears, and I hesitated to think of what could have happened – someone is deathly ill, there is a problem with the car I’m driving, their house is on fire, etc. So I call back ASAP, and my dear grandmother lets me know that Avery Bishop is in Utah for ten more days, and that I need to go out with her.

An unforeseen tragedy did happen internationally – the National Museum of Brazil burned down. The government still hasn’t shared the extent of the damage, but spectators filmed it being absolutely torched and I’ll be surprised if anything survives.

Other news: Sunday night my roommate (a different one) left the toilet clogged. He’s very responsible in general housekeeping, and I figured he must not know. However, turns out he was without medicine and thus very sick,  so I figured the buck was passing to me, and I had a chance (unwanted) to serve. Twenty minutes later, having finished mopping the floor from overflow, I was done, and ready for bed. I’ve started using masks to help care for my skin (and mostly because it is incredibly relaxing.) This was definitely a night for that.

The BYU semester officially starts tomorrow. I am so excited! I’ll be down to working only 20 hours a week, and I am beyond ready to go back to the classroom.

The Maeser Laser is one week from print. Stay tuned. I’m hoping we’ll be ready, but there is a lot of work left to be done.

Wednesday I went out with Brooke Ferrin. Surprise – I went to Rockwell’s Ice Cream. I’m not superstitious, but I am getting tired of going to the same place. Time for a new first date place. Preferably cheaper.

Friday after work I golfed The Ranches with Kimball and Lawson. This was their first time playing on a real course; we have completed the 7-hole executive course a few times before. Kimball’s first two shots hit houses 150 yards down the right side of the fairway, and when we got there, a couple was waiting for him outside. Hilarious! Thankfully nothing was broken, but he was ready to quit the round right there and live at the range only for a year or two. The rest of the round went much smoother, and was very enjoyable.

Saturday Kara and I made chocolate chip cookies, lots of them, and that evening accompanied by the EQ presidency, SS pres., and Ward Mission leader, we visited men’s apartments that we felt could use a little help and delivered them. Nearly every apartment was watching college football, and having decided to not watch any this year, after finishing our visits, I was persuaded to return to one of the apartments we had stopped by to watch the second half of BYU’s game, which was way better than I expected. Looks like we’ll have a team this year.

Sunday night was family dinner at Uncle Ben and Aunt Joy’s house. Dinner, especially dessert (chocolate cake and ice cream) was delicious. Emma was there for the first time, and it’s nice to welcome her to Utah/college life. Seems like everything is going well for her. Stevie and Abby are back as well – and that was my first time in two weeks to see Nora awake, and she continues to grow so fast! Walking is right around the corner now.

Dessert in the Desert – August 26th, 2018

On Tuesday my mission president, President Young and his wife came over for dinner. Truly times never to be forgotten. They have been a tremendous influence in my life and it was wonderful to meet up with them again. I have seen President Young sporadically since being home, so it was especially meaningful to talk with Sister Young. They related story after story and I was inspired and uplifted. I knew what I learned during my two years, and it was interesting to see what they learned and the challenges they had to overcome. In Brazil, we would frequently eat with extremely impoverished members yet they would always feed us the best food they had, often being the only time they would have meat that week, recognizing us as servants of Christ. I will always recognize Pres. and Sister Young as Servants of Christ and served them my best as well. We enjoyed grilled fish, squash, mashed potatoes, and rolls, followed by apple pie and ice cream. I love them.

Thursday was an adventure. At about 1 pm, I received a message from Matt Stone asking if I was free to help his parents move some furniture. He had given me a head’s up a few weeks prior, and I was happy to leave work a little early and help. The hardest part was dragging the refrigerator up the stairs, but we made it. The Stone’s drove from Arizona bringing everything up, and on their way encountered the first rainstorm of 1+ months, which blew their tarp off, and exposed their furniture to the elements. Thus they decided to get rid of their futon and and a bookcase. Having a van, I jumped at the idea, and brought those treasures home where they have made a nice contribution to my room. I did forgo the couches though…

From there, I ran home, quickly changed into dress clothes, and ran to an “Opioid Abuse and Prescription Medication Abuse: How to Help” devo. I grabbed the only food ready, some mashed potato leftovers, and started driving. Unfortunately, on my way after making a sharp turn, the potatoes went flying all over the passenger seat and door. Nevertheless, it was off to the meeting, where Kara, the RSP, had saved me a seat. It was a great event, and my eyes where opened to the extent of the problem here in Utah. One of the speakers was Mark, currently a service missionary working in the church’s addiction recovery program. You can hear part of his amazing story here: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2014-04-004-the-savior-wants-to-forgive?lang=eng

The meeting ran 15 minutes over, which made me late for my date with Avery. Kara kindly helped me prep the car, cleaning potatoes, and we realized that my passenger seat belt was stuck – making it impossible to put on correctly. Not the ideal situation, but only way to go was forward, so I went and picked Avery up. She was a great sport, and I enjoyed getting to know her as we went to Rockwell Ice Cream. Peaches and Cream was a 10/10.

Friday I left work and met Philip Gebler at Talon’s Cove golf course in Saratoga Springs. This was my first time on the other side of Utah Lake, and the view was gorgeous – I loved being able to see the entire valley. The course was a link’s style, and on most of the holes the wind was strong, and we played right along the lake’s border. I loved it, and for $15 for 18 it was  steal. I birdied four holes, but also had a triple and quadruple bogey, which evened it out. I would definitely recommend it, and hope to play it again.

My friend Bryan came down from Idaho later that night, putting immediate use to the futon and crashing there for the night. Poor guy – he came down to go on a date with someone in the valley – but due to some unforeseen issues, the date fell through, and he attended the City Center temple with me before heading back up to Idaho.

Lunch was pancake with pals, (and I wasn’t cooking). In the afternoon, Sarah and Maddie, two friends from last year wanted to catch up, so we went swimming at Maddie’s apt. complex, where I ran into Abby Weible, and we had a couple random people join us in the pool where we had a good time tossing a ball around and asking each other questions.

And having set me up in the past, they decided that it was time for me to return the favor, and so I committed to a triple date later that night. It took a little bit of legwork, but I went with Holly from Arizona, and Philip and Josh joined Maddie and Sarah and we jumped into my van and we (again) went to Rockwell’s Ice Cream. For the record, before taking a date there, I do ask if they have been, and so far no one has. I am obviously the one keeping them in business. This time I went with Strawberries and Cream and again, it was 10/10.

Today’s been a LONG day. Meetings started at 8:30, church was 12-3. I did not have to play the organ though, and that helped me tremendously. I spent both the second and third hours conducting ministering interviews. And finally, in an event long anticipated, with the calling of recent move-in Porter Wright to serve as 1st counselor in the EQ presidency, we had a full presidency at church for the first time since April. Hallelujah. Porter is a great guy, humble and hard-working and I’m excited for how everything is looking. Two EQ teachers were also sustained, and we have an activity planned Sept. 8th.

I made Hawaiian haystacks tonight, but thinking I bought Chicken broth, I dumped the can in, to discover it was chicken noodle soup. Emphasis on noodles. It was an unexpected and funny addition.

I can’t believe school starts in one week. I’m excited for the new semester. The Maeser Laser is due to be printed September 10th. We received our first article, “Life: Sacred but not Sacrosanct” which condemns abortions and condones capital punishment, and are expecting a couple more to be in this week.qq

When I was swimming with Sarah and Maddie, as we reminisced about some shared events of the past year, I remarked that I never would have guessed that we’d be swimming at the Glenwood together. (Last year they had both been dating my roommates.) I mention that only to illustrate the unpredictability of life. And despite our failed plans, and having no ability to perfectly craft the future, I am in awe of the beauty that fills our lives and the joy we encounter in the journey. And know that as we keep our covenants and make Christ the center of our lives, we will experience more happiness than we could imagine.

This is one of my favorite scriptures: (D+C 97:8-9)

Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice – yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command – they are accepted of me.

For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit.

(mission pic from Itaperuna, RJ, Brazil)

 

The Circle of Life – August 19th, 2018

“Nothing quells ambition like biscuits and gravy. As I type this barely awake lying in bed. At 6:45. Ah yes, biscuits and gravy.” That was the extent of my letter two weeks ago. For the record, that was my first time making biscuits and they turned out absolutely delicious.

Now to attempt to retrace the last three weeks in a succinct manner:

WORK

I applied to three places. And I’ve been hired on at all three. I’ll be working football games again in the fall, but this time as a supervisor. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

I applied, at the kind bequest of Tanner, to Canopy tax. Turns out there was a bunch of people who also applied, and while I did try to do my part (killing the in-person interview) I am grateful for Tanner’s work and example. He is widely known and highly looked upon, making everything so much easier for me there. So far the work has been good. I’m putting in 40 hours a week until school starts when I’ll cut it down to 20. I’m a fan of the product, software for tax practitioners, have loved learning about the field and have been highly impressed with the CEO, Kurt Avarell, and his vision and goodness.

Plus there is a putting green inside, and free lunch and breakfast. The food has been a lot better than I expected, and has since drastically curbed my cooking.

That said, I do struggle at times. Its hard to respect your boss when he shows up habitually in joggers and skinny jeans. (not the CEO). And the fact that while I do appreciate the tax software, I’m still a Luddite working for a tech company. And when one co-worker remarked that “I don’t even know how to write on paper anymore” I felt almost nauseous. And finally, I admit that since day one, I’ve been hearing good ol’ Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “I sold my soul to the company store” in my head.

My last job is my favorite. I was hired on at Northwestern Mutual. I thank all those who helped me by letting me conduct some interviews and get a feel for talking with clients about financial issues. After onboarding last Thursday, I was told I needed to pass the Utah Life and Health Insurance exam to become licensed. NM pays for the test, test prep, and fingerprinting which comes to over $200. Important to know, NM doesn’t officially contract and pay you until you are licensed, so I decided to forgo the 5 week study course, and signed up to take the test in a week. On Monday, I started to look at the material and realized this would be a LOT harder than I thought. For those three days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I studied longer and harder than I ever have in my life, putting in 3-4 hours a day after work. On Thursday, after becoming lost, I miraculously made it to the testing center with two minutes to spare, went in and passed. Lots of tender mercies all around. So I am now officially licensed as a Life and Health Insurance agent. And can collect the $100 a week NM pays for a one hour training every Monday. Oh yeah. Plus, I learned a lot and have been fascinated by the field. I’ve long felt that insurance companies are like secret combinations and have wreaked havoc upon society, and its been very informative to learn more, and while I still hold to that, I will except life insurance from the other insidious forms of insurance. I’m a believer. (Given the right circumstances)

DATING

Lydia and I went out again last Wednesday. It was a delightful time at an escape room, themed “Ticket to Ride” and afterwords ice cream at Roll-with-It creamery. The escape room was way easier than I imagined, and I was a little disappointed as it seemed to be more “guess and check” and random puzzles instead of having a logical sequence and being related to the actual train ride story we were involved with.

After dropping her off at her house, Lydia let me know, kindly, that she wasn’t interested in continuing our dates. Thus, an episode has ended. Nevertheless, I am very grateful for what has transpired, especially for what I’ve learned. And I believe I’m a better person because of that. One scripture that has really struck me recently is D+C 78:19.

“And he who receiveth all things with thankfullness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea more.”

And so, that night, while it was hard  as it was not my will, I was able to kneel and thank my Father in Heaven for being single and for the growth opportunities. Which made me feel good. As did passing a week playing golf, looking through rolls upon rolls of nickels, and watching Red Sox games.

But now, I shall again venture into the harsh wilderness, seeking the Promised Land. On Wednesday I’ll be going out with Avery Harker, and have been set up with Avery Campbell and Brooke Ferrin.

Church

The Elders Quorum has kept me sane; there is always lots of work to do. Friday was move-in day for the new residents, and I went with the RSP, Kara Ladle to every apt. in our ward meeting new people and seeing if they needed any help. Today in church it was wonderful to see a high attendance and feel the new energy. Great things are happening here. I taught EQ today and we had a very candid discussion as a quorum about what we would like to see in this upcoming year. Carson Buttars was called as our secretary today. Also, I again played the organ, and have been complimented on how much my playing has improved in the last 8 months. Its good to see the improvement, even though there is still a LONG way to go. One day i’ll be able to actually count the beats right.

Misc

The Tuesday before last, I went with Derik, and we climbed Mount Timpanagos. It was sort of spur of the moment, and turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. Which made it that much more satisfying. We ascended in just under four hours, making really good time, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We loved the wildflowers, saw snow, and watched mountain gates five feet from us eat.

For the final ascent though, I started cramping really bad on my thighs and slowed us down. We enjoyed half an hour on the peak meeting the other climbers (including one guy who climbed it for the 989 time that day!) and partaking of a packed lunch.

The descent was TORTUROUS. The sun was beating, we were tired, and it took way longer than I thought. I expected to descend in 90 minutes, but it was a laborious 3.5 hours before we made it to our car. That said, it felt really good to push myself and do something hard.

Friday was the sealing and reception for Stephen Welch.  It was wonderful to see him and his family after 4+ years.

Saturday August 11th, I rounded out a foursome and enjoyed one of the most memorable golf outings of my life. My friend Brian Crane was visiting from Idaho and he invited me to go with his mission pal Kyle Rushton. They also invited their mission president and former counselor in the Young Men’s General Presidency, Michael Neider. Needless to say, that was my first time golfing with a former general authority. We had a blast, with lots of laughs, and good stories. He recounted meetings with prophets and speaking at General Conference. I also played my best golf of the summer and just torching drive after drive and making every putt. We played Crater Springs in Midway, and were nestled in the mountains and Pres. Neider took us to lunch at the “Back 40” in Heber, and left with a promise to set me up with some amazing young women. A day I’ll never forget.

I visited the dentist, and per usual talked with the person doing the cleaning. Who all to quickly volunteered that she is usually at the desk and was just helping because they were a little shorthanded. Before she began, she offered to give me laughing gas, to which I laughed thinking it was a joke. It wasn’t. With m confidence at new lows, I declined, and confirmed that this was just a cleaning. I made it out, and don’t have any cavities. And didn’t swallow any screwdrivers. Hearing about Mom’s ordeal has scared me  further and made me question (further) the competency of some practicing dentists and their assistants. For three years now, I have not had a single nightmare that didn’t center around teeth.

On Friday, I learned of the death of another classmate, Michael Jalin. We’ve now had three die, one being murdered over drugs, and two dying in vehicular crashes. Each time I am reminded that life doesn’t end at the grave and that we are so much more than a name on an engraved tombstone. Michael attended seminary a few times, and I was glad for the chance to know him. I’m so thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ which allows relationships to be eternal, and  provides meaning to our lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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