Reaching the Summit: June 22-30

Mt. Nebo is the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. The snow finally melted to allow an ascent, and I decided to give it a shot. Doing so turned out to be much more difficult than I imagined – compounded of course by human error. Thursday June 25, I left at 7:30 am with my ward friends Maddie and Sandra. The mountain is about 15 miles south of Provo. That’s as the crow flies, but I didn’t think it would be too much farther following the roads. I had approx. 70 miles left in the tank, and figured if I needed to, I would stop on the way back or at a gas station closer to the mountain as the farther south you go, the cheaper gas is.

Turns out, after a few miles, we turned off onto a rural road, and there was no gas station. But instead of turning around, we pressed on thinking we would be fine. Then we made it to the mountain, and the road up wound around and around the mountain, taking a full 18 miles to get to the trail head. Except we were also going up, and our gas mileage was awful. At the trail head, and our gas reading had gone from 70 miles to 11…..in other words, we weren’t going to make it back. Yet, in stubborn denial, I parked and we started the hike.

It clocks in at just under 9 miles round trip. Reviews stated the “first four miles in are easy.” Whoever wrote that must have lived a difficult life, because it was not easy. We huffed and puffed through the thin air, with our breaks becoming more frequent. One lovely aspect of this hike is that it is far less popular than Mt. Timpanagos and we only saw a few hikers and one group during our climb.

We made it 3.5 miles and then encountered the steep uphill part. Each step became labored, and picking out intermediate goals helped. Our crew of three,a turned to two, as Sandra bowed out, some 600 vertical feet lower than the peak. Which means she had made it up the first 11,300 feet but the last bit involves some climbing and her fear of heights made it impossible for her to continue. It’s rated as a class-3 scramble,  and there is no marked trail. It’s rather simple – however you can make it up, you go for it.

This is a photo of Maddie and I on one of the false summits – there is a ridge to cross and then another bit to go up. We left Sandra below and she snapped a picture of our climb.

Maddie and I both made it all the way to the top, and it was amazing. Yes, the views, but mostly the feeling of accomplishment having done something hard and not given up.

The way down was less demanding but still arduous and our knees took the brunt of the pain. Of course, there was never any thought of quitting on the way down. We enjoyed much more enlightening conversation returning, aided by our ability to breathe easy. The clouds came in covering us, and the relief was accentuated as cool rain pitter-pattered our hot necks and freshened up the meadow to where it smelled like a dream.

We are standing here on one of the few snow spots left.

We made it back to the van, and the idyllic wilderness bared its teeth as we had to face the truth that we needed gas desperately. Our original intention to coast down the mountain and seek help at the bottom quickly failed as the our meter continued to sink. With 5 miles left in our tank and with 12 miles left of the mountain, I started pulling over and talking to RV campers. The first had no gas left, but with the second I struck paydirt, interrupting a family and their BB gun shooting to plead for petrol. They had plenty for their generator, and were kind enough to share, even refusing any payment. When Maddie and Sandra (still in the car) saw me get the gas can, they started cheering loudly for the benefactor. I confess that like Uncle Zach, I too, have secretly wanted to run out of gas at some point, just not like this – after an exhausting hike and with two ladies, so it was a relief to find that Good Samaritan and make it down safely.

I returned to one of the best messages one can receive – a dinner invite with Aunt Becky! She was in town to see Kayla, Ryan, and Scout, and I quickly showered and made it back to Springville to see them. A delightful evening followed, and although I didn’t want to intrude too much on their time together, when a return invite for the next day was offered, there was no way I could refuse. Porter joined me for round two. It was wonderful remembering some of our New Hampshire memories from years past, and the food Kayla made exceeded all expectations – but let’s be real, Scout was the star. Talk about a well-behaved baby! She’s a cutie, and my time holding her passed without a mishap.

It was during these days that my thoughts of going to UCONN solidified and I began listing some belongings for sale. I had reached an agreement for the bookcase and some other items, (including the last month of my house contract) when I got cold feet and asked for a few more days before I officially sold everything. And I am very glad I did. On Tuesday June 30th, I would find out my LSAT score and if UCONN would have in-person or online classes this fall. Then, I figured on Thursday I would bid Utah adieu and head to Texas by way of Mt. Rushmore –> Fargo –> Minneapolis –> Menoumonie, WI –> Lincoln, Missouri then Granbury. And from Texas to Connecticut. I didn’t think my score would improve much and regardless if UCONN had all online classes, a move was required to get in-state tuition next year.

Tuesday morning, the UCONN news implied some in-person classes. I was up at 7, and had an email regarding my LSAT score by 7:05. I refused to look at it yet though, and continued my daily routine. At 9:30, at the gym with Jacob and David, I finally decided to open it up. (I wanted the adrenaline to increase the weights.) Lo and behold, my eyes didn’t believe the result. My score improved 5 points to 169!! 5 points might seem small, but provides a huge boost.

Turns out, I still couldn’t set a new weight record, and I didn’t care a bit. All of a sudden, so many new possibilities opened up, illustrated by my call to Tanner. The first thing he asked was if I was joking. Assured I was not, he asked if I’d be applying to other schools.

I apologized to the people in line to buy my belongings, and let them know everything was off the table. Before I could reach out to BYU, they messaged me, offering congratulations and an interview was set up for Thursday.

Thursday was to be my travel day, and so I decided to leave the next day, Wednesday, but go straight to Texas and without moving. Before I could get ready to leave, I had a very important commitment. Dillon, Reigen, and I had planned one more “Boys Night.” We have had good times in the past, and yet this Tuesday night surpassed them all. Dillon smoked a couple racks of ribs, and we all chipped in for those and brought some sides and dessert. That gluttonous fest was followed by to the Isles Apt. Complex hot tub and pool where we stayed for a few hours. Simply put, if it had been my last night in Utah, I couldn’t imagine a better way to leave.

At home, I packed in 20 minutes, and then struggled to sleep, still amazed at how the day had turned out.

My first thought, and the recurring feelings I had throughout the day involved mostly gratitude. Truthfully, I’ve struggled mightily to study since quitting my job. While I’ve hinted at that, I’ve been ashamed to admit quite how little. I don’t think I put in the effort at this time to deserve the increase. While I have tried to help those in need and and serve those around me, I do know that many people, especially family, have prayed and even fasted for me. I credit all improvement to that. Thank you.

 

June 15-21: Atlas Shrugged

  1. Rapid-fire for this last week. And lots of pictures.

-The long-anticipated LSAT happened Monday morning. My roommate Tyler offered to let me use his laptop, and it went off without a hitch. I’d guess I did better, but because  the exam was moved online (with virtual proctors), it was shortened to 3 sections from 5, and I don’t know how that will affect the bell-curve based scoring.

-Tuesday was my first completely free day with nary a worry on the horizon as they say. As the sun and rose and set, it saw me go practice golf at the newly renovated East Bay, work out, and then try to write a little and work on some projects. Except I kept getting distracted by food blogs.

-amazing race….this idea has been fermenting around my brain for a while. I wrote out some tasks for a family contest, and then watched a few episodes to help facilitate further ideas. Coming to Texas July 2020.

I also conducted some experiments and came up with some new recipes:

–papaya salsa, seen here with nachos…verdict: the papaya detracts from the salsa as a whole.

a new shampoo…ingredients: beet juice, baking soda, coconut oil, aloe vera, and eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.

Pouring the finished product. Turned out AMAZING! Hair felt and looked great. Downside is that fresh aloe vera goes bad after a few days, so it has to be used up quickly.

lots of vegetables were cooked and eaten this week.

flower arrangements were made.

New fruits taste tested include “rambutan,” very popular in southeast Asia. The first one I tried must have been rotten, as I couldn’t even finish the little guy. I would have stopped there, but had to at least attempt the others so as not to waste. They were much better, and validated google’s remark that it is known for its “delicious taste.”

Sunday we had the usual dinner with Porter a la brasileiro and scrabble game and then a Father’s Day themed Jeopardy game via zoom with the whole family.

Annemarie and Tanner did a great job putting on the show, and I hope it becomes a family tradition. Heaven knows it will be tough, nigh impossible, to top this year’s edition, but I’ll let them worry about that part.

I went on two dates this week. Recapped out of order:

Saturday I had planned to go hiking with Yazmin. We were going to do a short sunset hike near Salt Lake City, but our double partners cancelled so we made it a zoom date instead. This was my first time trying a virtual date and I’m not a fan. It felt awkward and impersonal. We talked from 8-8:45 and I asked her on a real date to which she agreed. Here’s the important part: As soon as it ended, I saw I had missed a few calls. This was perfect timing as someone was looking for a priesthood blessing at 9pm, and hadn’t reached anyone else. It was cool to be reminded once again how God is aware of all of our needs. If I had gone to SLC, I wouldn’t have been back before 10:30.

The other date was date #3 with Hannah. We ate mochi ice cream balls and walked on a mountain trail while conversing. Mochi is a japanese treat made of a outer rice dough covering (providing a weird texture), and filled with a coconut cream interior. “Eh…” followed with a shoulder shrug summarizes my reaction. While good and refreshing on such a hot day, I think normal ice cream tastes better. That “eh…” could also summarize my thoughts about the date. We apparently got the same vibes, because we haven’t talked since that night and both seemed content to go on our separate paths. Nevertheless, after 15 months of only first dates, I enjoyed going on a 2nd and a 3rd date.

And while I’m on the subject of love, here is one of the most pertinent scriptures in my opinion. It comes from Alma 38:15, and amazes me how relevant counsel given 2000 years ago still is. The world was utterly different at the time, yet applies fantastically to dating today.

“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.”

The entire chapter was recommended to me by a professor as great advice for recently returned missionaries, and this verse in particular stood out as testifying how one must have control of emotions and passions in order to feel true love. If faith and doubt cannot coexist, then neither can lust and love. 

 

June 8-14: Bonds of Affection

Two dates happened this week, but I should clarify that this post’s title comes from Matt Holland’s book about Winthrop, Jefferson, Lincoln, and their idea of charity – nothing else.

Tuesday I had a date with Sarah, whom I met via Mutual. She is studying English at BYU, and served her mission in Singapore. For this date, we made acai bowls. Robert and Haylie came over as well, and we cut up a bunch of (mostly) tropical fruit and blended up some acai. My favorite is made by blending acai with a little of guarana and banana, but we made do with just the acai and banana. Adding a little condensed milk on top, they turned out delicious! We then played scattergories and bananagrams.

Friday was my second date with Hannah. It was PERFECT! A lot of that has to do with things I can’t control – weather, crowds, etc – so it was wonderful that allwas well. I picked her up at 7:30 and we drove half an hour up to Squaw Peak, talking the whole time and enjoyingour time together. We made it to the trailhead and headed up, through the wonderful meadow and to Buffalo Peak. This time, we made it at the right moment, and even though some clouds rolled in, saw a beautiful sunset. We found a small spot to sit, and then Hannah surprised me by pulling out homemade cranberry/blueberry muffins. I had mentioned that they are my favorite type, but I never imagined she’d make them for me. It was very kind. We stayed a little too long at the top talking, and by the time we made it back to the van, it was quite dark out.

 

Deseret Industries opened up this week, and on Wednesday I made a trip with Porter to check out all the new inventory they put up. I ended up buying  some new books and a pair of temple shoes. And a golf bag that I quickly resold for a nice profit. They always price bags super low, so I try and pick up one every visit, and it usually pays for anything else I buy.

Thursday I went golfing at the Ranches with Mike and Kimball.

Last Sunday, some ladies from the ward commented that they really wish that more social events would happen in the ward. At that time, official activities were a no-go, but we decided to do a little get-together at a park. We all brought some food and grilled burgers and hot dogs, and played some outdoor games. About 30 people showed up, beating my estimate, and it turned out well…even if I lost in spike ball. 

Saturday was also my final time studying for the LSAT, which felt amazing, and I made sure to give Porter all the books and study material. No mas for me.

It’s been a week of cleaning all-around. We had our carpets cleaned. My email inbox is under 20 for the first time in three months.

And, after a few weeks of temperatures in our house daily reaching 80 degrees, the repairman fixed the problem so our swamp cooler is now working again. Talking with the rental management company was frustrating as it took two weeks and preliminary visits for what was in the end a 10-minute fix. My sleep has improved since then as I no longer wake up due to the heat.

Sunday Porter was the beneficiary of leftover burgers and this little guy. Meant to be a pie, turned out more like a pile of strawberries with a crust underneath.

We played scrabble, and this time I lucked out with unbeatable letters – played ‘laxities’ for 80+ points – and cruised to the finish line.

We had a good time talking about dating and I learned a lot, getting his opinion on some very relevant issues that I was wondering about. And he gave me a priesthood blessing as I take the LSAT tomorrow morning.

This scripture from the Book of Mormon struck me today. It’s Alma 31:35. Referring to Alma and his struggles to preach the gospel, it says:

Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren…”

I know that we are all beloved daughters and sons of our Heavenly Parents. As we view others as our brothers and sisters, and people with divine potential, our enmity and rancor will disappear. All of it.

June 1-7: Pilgrims, Pulses, and Pistols

The week started off great, with a visit to the gym with David. Since it reopened a few weeks ago, we’ve been very deliberate with our exercises and worked towards maxing this week. First up was bench press and I was surprised (and proud) to get 275 lbs. That’s a new record for me! Other records continued to fall throughout this week and all I can say is – these numbers brought to you by lentils. Ok ok, while I have continued to eschew supplements or any whey protein, I am trying to increase the amount of protein I consume given that I’m still barely eating any meat. I have started mixing a few Tbsp of peanut butter + 2 tsp of flax seed + 1 banana + 1 cup of chocolate milk. It’s delicious, and rejuvenating! One serving is 21 g of protein.

Monday night our Come Follow Me was blessed to have Aunt Jenny join. This week’s focus was on testimony and she shared some inspiring stories, previously unknown to me.

The lentil experiment of the week involved making a hummus-like paste. It’s good with nachos, cucumbers, and rolls. I didn’t get the taste quite like I wanted, but thought I’d get some feedback from two non-biased testers aka my roommates. Here are their reviews:

“Ew!! this tastes like dirt!”

“Yep, dirt is about right. Although, after four or five bites it’s not as bad as the initial taste.”

Tuesday saw a return to sand volleyball. I was at home doing some studying, looking longingly at the beautiful weather when Reigen invited me to go play. We met up with Justice, Allison, Allie, and one of Allie’s friends. We played 3×3 for a while and then some newcomers challenged us to 6×6. After we just couldn’t go anymore, we went back to my apartment and had milkshakes. I’ve missed Reigen since he moved end of April and was glad to play some vb with him.

Thursday was the long anticipated date with Victoria. We hit a snafu a few hours before, when our doubles bailed. The plan was to hike Buffalo Peak and watch the sunset, and I didn’t want us to go alone. Porter came through big time by agreeing to go, and then I bumped into Emmalyn (Annemarie’s sister) at the library. We talked a few minutes and I headed home to get ready. I almost made it home, all the way down the 8 flights of stairs too, before feeling impressed to go back. Thankfully Emmalyn was still there, and I invited her to go with us. She was game to go along and I appreciated getting to know her a little better.

Long story short – my phone quit working out of nowhere, right as I left to go pick up Victoria. So I didn’t have her address. It’s crazy how reliant we can become on our devices! Despite being discombobulated by the sudden turn of events, I remembered the name of the (giant) apartment complex at least, and after knocking 3 doors and talking to those residents who pointed me a little closer each time,  the fourth door was the right one, and I met Victoria. Thankfully, I remembered Emmalyn’s address, and we zipped over before getting Porter to complete the gang and actually head to the hike. We were running 15 minutes later than I had planned, and missed making it to the peak for the sunset by a few minutes. nevertheless, it was a beautiful, beautiful hike; I think the Sound of Music opening scene could have been filmed there. We made it to the top and back before it got too dark, and I intend to go back and make a repeat hike.

Victoria is from Miami, served her mission in Phoenix, and is studying Math Education at BYU. We were set-up by her sister Cat (Catherine).

Friday night I went to see Kelson’s new living space. He was supposed to go to Phoenix for an internship, but when that was moved online, the company decided to put him in a Marriott in Provo for the entire summer. I’m jealous. I guess he was feeling kind of lonely though, after a week of no roommates, and had a small party to formally welcome his new accommodations. We ate and played a little Mario Kart before I called it a night and skedaddled.

Sunday, I had a dinner date with Hannah. I was acting kind of persnickety, but Hannah’s attitude helped change that quickly. It was a blast – she was really easy and fun to talk to. She brought a fresh pineapple (unexpectedly) which we turned into a fruit bowl for dessert, insisted on helping with dishes, and I was thoroughly impressed by the end of the date. She is from Iowa, served her mission in Nicaragua and is studying Exercise Science and Wellness.

Talking with my family, I report on any dates I went on and have begun to start the conversation by saying, “I had a fantastic time. _______ is a great kissener!” I think the younger siblings are catching on, but that sentence gets Dad’s attention in a hurry, and his “What?!!?!?” is followed by me saying, “I said she’s a great listener. What did you think I said?” Don’t worry, there’s no canoodling going on here.

Although, I talked to Aunt Shirley on Saturday and she shared the secret to golfing and getting a hole-in-one, so maybe there needs to be a kiss or two. I’ve been trying for years, so I was mightily impressed that shehshe succeeded in hitting a hole-in-one at a course in Wrentham, MA. Logan, my new roommate, discovered some mail that had fallen and gotten stuck and one of the letters he pulled up was an envelope filled with old photos Aunt Shirley had sent a month ago. I thoroughly enjoyed going through them and seeing faces of loved ones from a time now long gone. I had never seen these photos before, and wondered at 5-day old me, and thrilled to a photo of see Kayla and I from Christmas 1995.

Other notes:

-I’ve been playing the organ almost daily lately. Now that I’m home during the day, it won’t bother any one.

-I started my application to join the Mayflower Society. It’s much more rigorous than I anticipated, and will require some painstaking work to finish.

  1. -fasting has gone from being dreaded to truly a time to rejoice. I’m thankful for the opportunity to fast each month, and know that God recognizes our sacrifice of forgoing those two meals and donating the money. I’ve seen far too many miracles to think otherwise.

-the daily number of covid infections has tripled in Utah. I think its good to zig when others zag and zag when they zig. Now that everyone is going out, its not as safe, and my excursions will be getting cut down shortly.

-I’m thinking about getting a dog. Which would complicate living arrangements. Which would be a HUGE commitment. (Maybe I need that?) And which I am not regarding lightly. I’ve been checking this society’s facebook page daily though, so I don’t think the thought will go away quickly. I budgeted months ago for a firearm and have yet to get one. Perhaps a puppy could take that spot instead….

I mean, look at this guy!

Tanner and Annemarie even shared some possible puppy names: Warren, doc, Eisenhower. I personally like Duke, or Boston (boss for short). The run-away favorite so far though is Coolidge.

Reading 2 Timothy, it seems to be a very prescient book of prophecy – about persecution. This week, I picked up on the key to both appreciating and persevering through tribulation. It’s found in chapter 3 verses 14-15:

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make there wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

I testify that it is through the scriptures we learn the wisdom of God and will have the strength and fortitude to stand strong and be not ashamed of our Lord.

 

May 25-31: It ain’t over lentil it’s over!

2020 is now more than 40% through. Blows me away how quick it has gone.

Monday was Memorial Day, and I did spend some time reflecting on those who gave the full measure of devotion. I had nothing planned, but my evening was rescued by Dillon. He came by in the afternoon to bring some of the first spinach harvest from our garden. It’s been wonderful to eat, and does taste different from the spinach bought at the store. The leaves are also much thicker.

We talked for a while, and then Dillon invited me to come over later that night for a Memorial Day party. His father was a veteran and died in 2018, so the holiday is special to the family. The family was doing it with one of their neighbors, who I’ve referenced before as we had an EQ activity at their guest house. That is where this was held also. Of course, there was lots of amazing food. We numbered 9, and had no shot at finishing it all, so we brought leftovers home.

The ribs were great – but the beans were unbelievable and took the top spot in my opinion.

We ate and talked. Then we talked and ate. The day slowly turned into night, and we put Jumanji 2: the Next Level on the outdoor tv and watched that. It turned out to be a very fun and enjoyable night.

Thursday was my roommate Tyler’s b-day. We also had a new roommate, Logan, move in. He is very good friends with Tyler and I’ve gotten to know him throughout this last year. Spencer moved out in march due to covid, so Logan (who will be taking my room in the fall), moved in to Spencer’s room. Thursday also began summer swimming, as Porter’s pool at Glenwood opened up.

The pool was so nice, and Friday found me there again. This time, I stayed too long and got sunburned. I quickly fell into an easy routine of swimming and chess these two days. Though I haven’t played hardly at all recently, when the Utah Federation reached out to me for an online tourney, I was ready to jump into it a little more.

With Dillon on Monday, we had hatched a plan to watch World War Z. It’s a nice apocalyptic, pandemic-causing-zombies thriller starring Brad Pitt. John H., David K., Jacob C., Aaron R., Logan, Dillon and Dave all came over for it. Aaron brought pizzas and we had some other snacks as well. And 2 hours of suspenseful action until a vaccine was created to save the world. It was a fun night. Admittedly I was spooked, and didn’t want to go outside at all after. We were supposed to start watching at 7 so it would finish while it was still light out; however the pizza was running late as were a few others so the movie ended at 10. And it was dark. Although I resisted the temptation to move the fridge and couch in front of our doors before going to bed, I think that is the only zombie movie I’ll be watching for a long time.

Saturday night, Kami C. came over for a dinner date. We made the food together and settled on a course of salmon, rice, and zucchini. Everything turned out surprisingly well, cooked quickly, and I had a fantastic time. Kami is from Idaho, served her mission in San Antonio, and is studying nursing at BYU.

Sunday Porter came over like always. He did not get the salmon this time. Instead, I have been experimenting with some lentil recipes and he was the lucky recipient. He was a very good sport about it, and the food turned out better than either of us were expecting. That food being whole-wheat pasta served with a lentil sauce. I cooked some lentils, threw them in the blender, and started adding ingredients until it tasted alright. The winning recipe:

-3 cups (cooked) lentils

-1 Tbsp powdered sugar

-1/2 cup golden raisins (just in case you were worried the lentils wouldn’t provide enough fiber).

-1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

-1/2 tsp white vinegar

-1/2 tsp garlic salt

-1/2 tsp salt

And now a joke:

How do legume wars end?

With a peas treaty.

Lentils have been disregarded for too long. They are a super food in my opinion. The world needs someone to do to lentils what George Washington Carver did to peanuts. And I’m going to give it a shot!

Of course, as much good as lentils can do to our bodies, the souls of the world really needs the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The last few days have been filled with riots and protests over the death of George Floyd. In my 24 years, I have become fully convinced, that until we can comprehend how we are all sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, we will have cause to cry and reason to weep. No government can truly solve societal problems. We need the gospel. I love this quote from President Ezra Taft Benson:

“It is my conviction that the world needs, as it needs no other thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the people of the world want what the gospel will give, but they do not realize it. They want the anchor which the gospel provides, which gives them the answers to the problems that face them; that brings them a feeling of security and a feeling of inner peace. The gospel is the only answer to the problems of the world…Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite [people] of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family.”

may 18th-24th: I fell into a burning ring of fire

Yep, still reading the Inferno. And while the mutual dates have continued, I haven’t fallen in love yet.

There were three dates this week. The first was with Lauren on Thursday night. She’s from Arizona, served a mission in Montana/Wyoming, and wants to be a nurse. She came over to my house and we sat at the kitchen table and painted watercolors while conversing. It was a fun (and simple) date, and I then walked her home.

Saturday, I went out with Maddie. Quick background: Last week, Porter is good friends with her younger brother. They were all on a camp-out together and Porter thought he would get along well. All of this was happening unbeknownst to me though. I received a text from Maddie introducing herself and then a few minutes later one from Porter quite funny. I texted more with Maddie throughout the week than any one before, and I was quite excited to go out on this blind date. I called her and we marked a picnic for Saturday at Draper City Park. My friends Kimball and Aubrey met us there, and we played bocce ball and corn hole and ate some pasta and watermelon. Maddie is a student at UVU, studying business and currently works for the church in the Seminaries and Institute department. She served her mission in Atlanta.

And the third date was on Sunday. This one was with Fernanda, from Petropolis, RJ, Brazil. She is a student at BYU and LOVES to paint, so we also did watercolors. I picked up a couple of pointers from her and had another good time.

More than anything, I wanted to be more social this week and simply go on some dates. Mission accomplished. For those who may be wondering, I always like to note where people are from, what they are studying, and where (if applicable) they served their mission. I know that this doesn’t even begin to define who they are and the myriad assortment of talents and interests that they have. Yet, I am amazed at all the wonderful people I am constantly meeting and am blown away by how amazingly different people are, and that is in some very small way indicated by those three facts. The world is a lot bigger than I can imagine, and it’s filled with talented, hard-working kind souls who truly care about others and intend to leave the planet better than they encountered it.

Eating healthy, working out. The gym is open Monday-Friday, and then they close over the weekend for “deep cleans.” I’ve been going with David, and we made it all 5 days this week. My days have fallen in to an easy routine of waking up, having breakfast and free time until 8 am, then reading scriptures and studying until 10 am. At that point, I meet up with David in the gym and we work out for just over an hour, then I go running, and return home to shower. Lunch is at 12, and I try to be in the BYU Library at 1 to start studying.

The reality is, this is the most time I have put into working out and focusing on eating healthy, and I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Another benefit of quitting my job is that I’ve had time to ponder, meditate, and just think creatively. And yes, there are now 4 small-business ideas that I want to try. I’ve been working with my new friend Klaus, on golf tours in Brazil. He is from Vienna originally, but married a Brazilian, and has lived there for 18 years now. he leads tours, both for Brazilians wanting to go overseas to Europe, and for Germans to Brasil. I am partnering with him to try and get the american market. I think the key will be the corporate travelers who have a day or two free while they are there on business.

Porter came over Sunday and this is what we had for lunch. I kind of want to do a food blog, and so I’ve been working on presentation.

We played Scrabble again, and this time I barely emerged victorious after a furious comeback and lots of luck. The last letter I drew was the blank which allowed me to both take advantage of a triple word score and go out first.

The other notable event of the week was “The Re-Match.” I partnered up with Kimball and we faced off against c-i-l Mike and Bowen at Talon’s Cove Golf Course. We tried and we failed again. Bowen and Mike won the first two holes and we couldn’t ever catch up. When they won the 8th, it was officially over. These 2×2 matches have been a lot of fun, and I want one more shot at beating Bowen, so round 3 will be soon.

I’ve really been struggling this week to decide if I even want to go to BYU Law School, or if UConn is the right place for me. I’ve compiled a list of pros/cons to help me weigh the factors. It’s a tough call. In the midst of this, I am more  thankful than ever to know that God has a plan for each and every one of us. I know if we try and live worthy of the Spirit, He will guide our footsteps and all will be well. 2 Nephi 32:3

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”

What struck me reading this is that it is not enough to read good books. It is not enough to read the scriptures. We must be buried in the actual words of Christ.

May 11-17th: Potato Paradise

It’s been a great week! My inevitable 1/4 century crisis is still 45 days away, and I had an absolute blast these seven days.

Monday, I had planned to go to Salt Lake and have brunch with Emma, but she had work and cancelled last minute. I instead got some studying in, and then headed up to Boise. Yep, as in Idaho. I’ve been promising my friend Brian for almost 3 years that I would visit, and figured that now was the perfect time for a little golf trip.

The drive took 5.5 hours, was uneventful, rather peaceful, and I loved seeing the countryside. I haven’t been to Idaho since I was a baby, so everything was new. i arrived about 4:30pm, at Brian’s office, and we left from there for our 5:05 tee time at Banbury Golf Course nearby. The course was fantastic and in great shape (although the greens had been aerated, so they were a little slow). We played 18, enjoyed the great weather and I learned lots about Brian and his business.

This is the tenth hole, which was our first of the day. It runs through a residential neighborhood, but the houses are far enough away that you can barely even see them, and they *shouldn’t* come into play. Key word being shouldn’t. I’m unfairly blaming my bad shot on the long car ride. I stepped up to the tee above, and the easiest hole on the course, a straight 370 yard hole, and pushed my drive so far to to the right the houses did come into play, and for what felt like a long time, I was muttering, “don’t hit a window, don’t hit a window…” Then we heard the satisfying smack off the roof, and I could breathe again. No one came close to hitting a house after that.

This is on the 8th, our penultimate for the day, and a short little par-3 over a lake.

After the round, we went to Brian’s apt, had some snacks, and then joined his roommate Mike and some friends at the hot tub. After that, it was off to bed. I crashed on the couch and slept like a baby. Brian and his two roommates all left for work by 8, so I was alone and cranked out some studying in the morning. They subscribe to National Geographic, and I did take a break to check that out. Oops. Once you read, “Hundreds of Tiny Arachnids are Likely on Your Face Right Now,” there is no going back. Here is the link for those interested:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/05/face-mites-the-tiny-tenants-that-likely-live-in-your-pores/

I had no idea all these mites were living on me, and don’t think I wanted to know either.

After studying, I headed to downtown Boise 15 minutes away for lunch and to sight see. I stopped at Westside Drive-In for a huge burger.

The size and deliciousness exceeded my expectations. They also have this on the menu:

Regrettably, I didn’t get this. It seemed a little expensive, the picture didn’t look appealing and 1/4 of the menu items were labelled world famous . I mentioned it to Brian later though and he said that the Ice Cream Potato is 1. huge 2. Beautiful looking 3. Delicious. So, if there are any Boise travelers out there, get the cold potato!

I continued my wanderings, and visited the Old Penitentiary compound, and walked around the capitol building and the surrounding area. Most everything was closed to visitors due to coronavirus, but I did check out a couple food stores and peeked at the state botanical garden as well.

The most interesting fact from the Idaho Capitol area relates to a statue of Frank Steunenberg that I stumbled across. Here is the inscription:

When in 1899 organized lawlessness challenged the power of Idaho, he upheld the dignity of the state, enforced its authority and restored LAW AND ORDER within its boundaries, for which he was assassinated in 1905.
“Rugged in body, resolute in mind, massive in the strength of his convictions, he was of the granite hewn.” In grateful memory of his courageous devotion to public duty, the people of Idaho have erected this monument.” 

The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) didn’t like Steunenberg to the extent that even though he had left office in 1901, the leadership under the direction of Big Bill Haywood called a hitman in, and had Steunenberg assassinated in 1905. It took a couple attempts, before Harry Orchard set a bomb and finished the job. Clarence Darrow represented Haywood at the trial and got him off the hook somehow, although Orchard, was sentenced to life in prison. He spent the next 46 years in prison, serving the most time ever in the Old Penitentiary, before dying at age 88. He never recanted his testimony, and and continued to admit that everything he had said (including the fact that he had killed 17 people for the WFM before Steunenberg) was true.

Talking about the penitentiary, here it is. Supposedly one of the better hikes in Boise, to Table Rock, is up a mountain nearby, and I went up a little bit before calling it a day.

This is the Bishop’s House, at the Penitentiary. Slightly more than 1/4 of the population of Idaho are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I thought that might be why this house is called the Bishop’s House, as perhaps there was a chaplain assigned to it, but it belongs to the Catholic Diocese.

After my short tour of Boise, I went to meet up with Brian at Shadow Valley Golf Club. They have an evening special of $9 for 9 holes, and the manager was kind to give us that deal, and then let us play a few holes for free on the back to warm-up before our 6:20 tee time.

We made it through 5 holes when the ominous looking clouds began to dump rain on us. We hid behind a brick restroom building, and thought about calling it a day. After 15 minutes, it blew past us, and the weather was perfect. The rain had also chased everyone off, so we had the course to ourselves just about. And, I made a slight adjustment in my stance, sliding my right foot back two inches, which led to me hitting bombs and really wanting to finish the round.

This is the fourth hole, a 558 yard par 5. The clouds are moving in, but we thought might slip by us. 25 minutes later, we would know we were wrong on that.

And, after the storm. It’s overcast, but not raining. This is the other par 5, hole number 7. Each hole had lots of undulation and variety. The architect did a great job providing different options and lots of risk/reward shots. This hole was my best drive of the day, a bomb that started right and drew back to finish on the right side of the fairway….345 yards away.

I was really playing good and looking at a great score before the last two holes tripped me up, and my greediness cost me some strokes. Still a great round and a great course.

We returned to the apartment, and went hot tubbing again. It was so relaxing and felt great. Mike had made us steaks, and they were unbelievably good. He gave me some pointers, which i will have to try. For these, he seared them, then slow-cooked them for 2 hours, and finally added a homemade honeybutter glaze on top. 5/5 stars.

Golf, hot tub, steak. It was a great day!

Wednesday morning, (after another deep sleep, maybe due to the hot tub?) I had the place to myself and studied some more.

Part of my reasoning for making this trip was because Oregon is only about 40 miles from Boise. I have never been, and it would make state number 44/50, (leaving Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Alaska, and Hawaii). The other 4 in the continental US are all adjacent – and I figured this would be my best near-term shot at visiting the Beaver State.

So, after doing my study time, I headed out and made it to Ontario, Oregon, where I figured I would play one more round of golf. This is farming country (the grocery store in Boise had like 10 apple varieties – Pink apple variety is a new favorite), and while I had looked up the place before, I was still surprised. When I called to get a tee time asking for something around “10 or 11 am,” the manager said, “well, Bill’s group tee’s off at 11 am. So don’t come then.” That was it though, which left me confused until I got there and understood that every other time was open. Bill plays with four friends every Wednesday at 11 am, but no one else was on the course. The course is called Country View, and when i got there, that made sense too. It is on the top of a small mountain and one can see for miles in every direction. It was beautiful!

 

Hole #8, a short par 4. Alas, I missed this short putt.

This is hole #3. It’s 165 yards, straight downhill, and has the smallest green I have EVER seen on a golf course.

I am a huge fan of Treasure Valley. I talked with the owner, Scott McKinney for a while, then went out to play. My step was light, and it just felt pure. It wasn’t overly manicured, but it was natural and followed the land. The first few holes were good, holes 5-9 were incredible! On 5, i lost my first ball in 24 holes, ending a good streak, and hooking one into a farmers field. 5 is a par 5, and you have to play over a huge gully to reach the green in two, or you can play way to the right. Hole 6 is a par 3, also over a huge gully, and I had my best shot of the day. I drew my 8-iron 190 yards into a slight breeze and finished 5 feet behind the pin. It was perfect.

Hole number 5.

I finished well this time too, and returned to the clubhouse to talk a little more with Scott, and hear some history of the area, before going on the road again. I was tempted to swing down to Jackpot, NV on my way home, but that was pushing it, and I figured I’d save that for another trip. I did make two stops though.

The first was in Bliss, ID, population 318. With a name like that, and no rush, I thought I’d briefly visit and am glad I did. It has amazing views of the snake river.

I continued further, and stopped in Twin Falls, ID. Evil Knievel tried jumping the Snake River Canyon here in 1974, but was unsuccessful.  I had no idea how beautiful the canyon is. Shoshone Falls, called the “Niagra of the West” is just outside the town, and after eating I went to visit.

Shoshone Falls. The dams control the flow, so it’s not as wide as it once was. It’s not as powerful as Niagara either. However, it is taller. I felt woozy even looking down. The falls are 200+ feet tall, and I was higher than that. The canyon is simply incredible.

Perrine Bridge, crossing the snake river Canyon. When it was built, it was the highest bridge in the world.

I’m at the Visitor’s Center here, looking out on the canyon. The picture simply does not do justice. This was one of those times my breath was taken away, and I could imagine living in a house nearby, in perpetual awe of the grandeur of God’s creations. This is a few miles upstream from the falls, and in my mind it is prettier.

I stayed longer than I anticipated, but less than I wanted, before finally getting back on the road again for the last few hours. The final leg was uneventful, and I arrived home about 9:30 pm. This was an unforgettable trip, and I am very, very grateful for how everything turned out, the opportunity I had to go, and the memories I’ll forever treasure.

Saturday, I had my first date in 3 months. I met Haylie via mutual, and for our date we went to Kiwani’s park and played tennis. She won, and I had a blast. Then we went and got some ice cream at “Founding Flavors,” a new ice cream shop. It’s very historically themed, with the employees dressed up as revolutionary war soldiers and each flavor named after a founding fathers/someone from that era. I tried the “Aaron Burr Murderous Shot,” which was Madagascar black vanilla. Either flavors include “Franklin’s Black Raspberry Republic if you can keep it,” “Thomas Paine’s Peppermint Common Sense Concoction,” and “Give me Chocolate or give me Death.” Haylie is from Colorado, served a mission in Alberta, Canada, is finishing up her accounting degree, and justtjust signed her offer to work for KPMG. It was a way fun date.

Sunday, we had sacrament at our house again, and Porter came over for lunch. Then he whipped me, absolutely thrashed me, in Scrabble.

I went over to Tanmarie’s that evening, as Tanner had kindly offered to take some photos. He did a great job, then I hopped on the roof to take Tanmarie’s annual photo. While I was snapping that, they snuck one last shot of me.

It’s been a great week. I’m truly grateful for how blessed I am. What I am most grateful for however, are the things of eternity. So much of what we expend effort on, ultimately doesn’t matter and will be forgotten shortly. We must treasure the eternal.

D&C 132:13 reads, “And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me, or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain….”

Let us all seek to See his face, Feel his presence, and Trust his love.

May 4th-May 10th: resplenDENT times

The studying in earnest has begun. So far, my scores aren’t really increasing and I am looking at ways to change up strategies. And now for the rest of the week:

David has been a little under the weather some of the week, so I met up with Sonny and Kelson a few times this week for exercising. Sonny came up with a pretty good “prison workout” after doing some research, and I left SORE! It surprised me how much of a workout you can get with no weights and only household items. Perhaps the best was a tricep shredder that involved 2 people and one pair of (extra) pants. Person A, raising the pants legs over his head with his elbows bent, would then try to extend his arms all the way up, while Person B stood behind him, held the waist part of the pants and did triceps pushdowns simultaneously. I also went with Sonny to a local frisbee golf course and got some vitamin d that way. He showed me some new ways to throw, so Sawyer and Miller better be ready!

The only unfortunate side effect was that the soreness lasted longer than I anticipated and despite some stretching, I showed up still sore for “The Match: part 1.” It’s part 1 because we had such a good time, a day that will live in my hallowed golfing hall-of-memories forever, that we have a rematch coming up. We had some new people move into the ward, and I went around trying to meet them. One of the newbies is Bowen P. He is from Wyoming, won the golf high school AA state tournament there and then played his freshman year for BYU-Hawaii. After his mission, he transferred to BYU and missed making the team by 2 shots. So, he’s good. The teams were Dan R. and I vs. Bowen and Kelson L. We were at Spanish Oaks and playing a 2-man best ball scramble over 9 holes. After a few ties to start off, Bowen and Kelson got hot and were 3 up after 6. Now, the best that Dan and I could hope for was a tie. We won #7, and then won #8, an incredibly hard par 3, after I got lucky, blading an 8-iron that just made it over the water and finished 30 feet away, and the other team missed a 5-ft par putt. So it all came down to #9, which is a short par-4, that is only 317 yards long and plays slightly uphill. The green is nefarious, with multiple levels, and huge undulations. Not to mention its protected by some deep bunkers. Dan and Kelson both had poor drives, with Dan’s going into the water way to the right. Bowen launched his 30-yards right of the green, but over the water. I have been driving great, and felt confident in landing on the green or coming very close to it. Nope. The worst drive I’ve had in years, resulted in the ball being topped and rolling some 80 yards. I thought we had to have a birdie, so things weren’t looking good. Then, Dan hit by far the best shot of the day for him and the ball ended up 45 feet away, so we at least had a chance. I pitched it to 3 feet, and the stage was set for Bowen and Kelson. They were stymied and couldn’t go for the flag, but I was disheartened knowing that they only had to lob it onto the green and two-putt. Then the unthinkable happened! They were pitching through trees and over a bunker, but all they had to do was make sure they didn’t leave it short and end up in the bunker. And that’s exactly what happened. That was an impossible shot, given that the bunkers were so deep and their shot was great from there, but it left them an incredibly fast 45 foot double breaking putt downhill putt that had 10 feet of break. I thought we had the tie wrapped up, and then incredibly (after Kelson goes first and putts it off the green), Bowen sinks it, putter raised in triumph, and claimed the win. That was the first time I’ve played a match like that, a 2-man scramble, but we will be doing it again! Seriously one of the most fun rounds ever.

This was also the first time I’ve used my new putter, and as it will be around for probably the next 10 years, its worth showing. I ordered a super large grip, patterned after the Brazilian flag and had that put on. It performed quite admirably its first round. I love the balance and feel. 

Thursday, I traveled southwest to visit John Carlson. We meet up every few months to play some chess, but this time I went to Magna instead of having him visit Provo. The plan was to go looking for fossils, play chess, and have dinner. We played a few games, and then his dad left and acciDENTally hit the minivan as he backed out of the garage. He felt so bad, and the family has had some hard times, and I couldn’t rationalize filing anything due to those circumstances and the fact that the door was already broken. It’s something you don’t want to happen, and after doing a quick tour of the town with John and grabbing some food, I decided to head back to Provo. Not what I would call a successful visit, but definitely a memorable one.

I’m at the town’s library, where the statue of Mark Twain had a mask put on him.

Per tradition, ending my job meant that I compiled all of my financial stats for the last 10 months. I am proud to report that after excluding tithing and taxes (what I consider to be truly fixed expenses,) my savings rate was just over 75% of what I earned. (If I hadn’t paid about $1500 for law school expenses, the rate would be even higher). And now, here comes law school, which will destroy all those numbers. Finishing the calculations did make me stop and think about the fine line between spending more than is necessary and living your best life, and ponder how I have been walking it. The consensus (as Mark Twain said, never speak in the plural unless you are a head of state or have parasites!) was that I think I’ve been doing a good job, and am willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on what I think is important or will bring me joy, and which is beyond the bare necessities.

Saturday night, I purchased a one-month mutual (lds dating app) subscription and went live! The next 30 days should be interesting…

Sunday, we again had small groups to meet and partake of the sacrament. It is nice to have that back, and to see the restrictions loosening in Utah. Porter came over for some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, and it was nice to be able to talk with mom on Mother’s Day.

I love this quote from Eliza Snow (circa 1873) and agree with it completely:

“When you are filled with the Spirit of God, and the Holy Ghost rests upon you… do you have any trials? I do not think you do. For that satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that spirit my soul is satisfied and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just lest me  loose my hold of that spirit and power of the gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong. I am tried; and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy…Is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?”

April 20th-May 3rd: Velar comigo!

Week One: Monday morning, I let my boss know that I was officially going to quit. That left me with a week and a half to wrap everything up.

Funny how things work out though. Unemployment is sky-high, and it worried me to be quitting during a time like this. It was a blessing, and like seeing a metaphorical rainbow, to have a finance firm reach out to me and invite me to talk. I’m sure the position pays less, it is part-time, would start towards the end of the summer, and helped reassure me that things will work out alright. In other words, a great position during law school. Of course, (no pun intended), it also helped me to go golfing Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, a realtor I am friends with, cancelled our tee time in the morning, said he couldn’t make it, and told me I was welcome to instead bring some friends and use his corporate pass myself. So I called Tanner and Kimball, and we played in the afternoon at Sleepy Ridge. The pass is usually only good for 9, but it was getting dark, so I asked the course management if we could stay out a little longer, and they gave the thumbs up, only asking that we have the carts in by 8 pm. So we turned those in, and walked another five holes. It was a lot of fun.

I bombed this drive, going for the green, but it was just a tad right, and ended with a splash.

We finished playing around 8:30 pm, and it was a quick turn around as I had an 8:42 tee time Tuesday morning with cousin-in-law Mike. He brought two of his friends, and we had another good round. The pest control company he works for has a corporate pass, so I was blessed with two free rounds. That’s tough to beat!

Tuesday night we had our Come Follow Me zoom lesson.

Wednesday, I officially accepted UCONN’s offer and paid my seat deposit to become part of their Class of 2023.

We’ve begun having our Wednesday night book club meetings at my backyard around the fireplace. I’ve secured firewood from a few sources, aka ward friends, and its been enjoyable reading and discussing shakespeare while the fire crackles and with perfect spring weather. Also, Utah = no mosquitoes, so outside is quite nice.

Yard Sale – On Saturday the 26th, I went to pick up a putter I bought online via facebook in Cedar Hills. It was located about two blocks from my Bishop’s house, so I brought a banana cream pie and delivered that to him. On my way to his house, I noticed that many of the houses had piles of stuff outside on driveways and were apparently being given away for free. i have no idea if this is an annual event organized in the neighborhood or what, but I ended up going by probably 25 of the 40 that I saw. I was there in the afternoon, so perhaps the best objects were already taken, or perhaps given that it was free, people were getting rid of what they (and most people) would classify as junk. Regardless, I picked up a few books for myself and a few for Nora. And a giant desk, in great shape. It’s huge, and I was unsure if it would fit in my van. I recruited a neighborhood person to help me lift it to my van and we managed to put the biggest piece inside, and while I pondered over what to do, just about ready to relegate myself to leaving with only 1/2 of of the desk, the donor came out, bringing a philips screwdriver and helped to disassemble and load up. I much appreciated his help and generosity, and look forward to using the desk for years to come.

Scrabble – After our Sunday dinner, Porter and I mixed our normal games up, and after a few rounds of chess, brought out the scrabble board and played a great game. I was cruising before he put down a 90+ point scrabble. That looked to be decicive until I drew great letters and played my own scrabble that put me back in front and helped to close out the match. We each averaged well over 25 points per turn and it was a great game.

Other Developments this week: -I want to do a white water rafting trip this summer (after LSAT test). I am looking at the Rogue River in Oregon or the Salmon River in Idaho. Any tips/suggestions are welcome.

And, I’m planning a return to online dating in the near future via the LDS app Mutual. It’s tough to meet people with nothing happening due to Covid-19.

Week 2 (April 27th-May 3rd) was much of the same. I had Come Follow Me, and book club, and the workouts that I’ve been doing with David Kaiser are continuing. He bought exercise bands, and we supplement those with milk jugs filled with water and cement blocks to lift, etc. We are trying to stay in shape. I’ve also been running up and down lots of stairs and can feel a difference in my legs.

Thursday was my last day of work. It felt surreal, its been an important 10 months in my life. Tuesday, I was interviewed by the CEO during our company meeting, and we talked about how we all need to find the area we can make a difference, what our superpower is, and double down on developing that skill. These 10 months have been quite amiable, yet it can be tough as when both sides know the end is coming, there is less reason to work and get along. Little disagreements that in the past would have quickly been brushed over now become sticking points. I have had that happen with roommates at the end of a semester too, and it is hard to power through some of these challenges and try to leave with all still good. Most companies still pay a commission check the month after, but ListReports said that this would be my last paycheck April 30th. That was unexpected and not what I thought was right, so I did bring that up, and had it increased $150, so we could all shake hands (virtually of course) and have both sides leave with good memories.

My first day off was not filled with studying. I haven’t had a day off since Christmas vacay, so I enjoyed reading and gardening most all of the day. We also started a little walk ‘n talk with book club. We meet up at a local park and walk around talking about Dante’s Inferno. Its quite nice – both the book and the sun.

Sunday, Porter invited me to join him at the house of a Brazilian family. They recently moved here from Campinas, and were members in Porter’s last area. Another Brazilian family joined us too, and incredibly they are from the stake in which I spent half my mission, that of Campos dos Goytacazes. They were due to return by now, but have had their flight delayed by one month. We reminisced about many mutual friends and the work in the stake. It brought back many memories, and while quite unhealthy, our meal of fried pastries, “Coxinhas” and cake and ice cream hit the spot. It was also a challenge to try and keep up with the 3-4 conversations that were going on constantly. Really, really good practice for me. We stayed for almost five hours, and as Porter and I went to leave, we were struggling to talk in English again.

Here I am with Irma Maria das Neves Rangel. One of my favorite areas was Quissama, a small town of 15-20,000 and remarkably Maria had  her husband were assigned by the stake to help the small branch there. We talked and talked of this small town, unknown to the world, but which has blessed innumerably both of our lives.

Admittedly, I don’t take very good food photos. But, there was definitely a lot of oil involved!

We left to return to my house and watch the YSA Devotional with Elder (of the 70) and Sis. Gay speaking, and made it back in time for it to start at 6 pm. The food did a number on us though, and within minutes, we were both out, missing the vast majority of the devotional. It was a great nap.

I did listen to a recording of the devotional and LOVED IT! Elder Gay told some stories that hit a nerve with me. His main theme was “Covenants over Convenience.” He talked of one time meeting with a general authority, who asked him how it would be for him to serve as a mission president. Elder Gay was working in investments and had cofounded a company for this (read: he closed a $1.1 billion fund in 2009),  and told the general authority that in a couple years it would be ok, but it wasn’t a good time then, as he was about to really make it big and then could help a lot more people. Elder Gay was still serving in the church and trying to serve, just not ready for a 3 year full-time mission. The GA replied that the Lord was trying to save his life. It’s never convenient to serve the Lord, but we must put our covenants before convenience. Elder Gay related how those three years as a mission president altered his life’s trajectory forever.

The scripture in Matthew 26:40 has long been meaningful to me. Christ is in the garden of Gethsemane suffering for all of our sins, and it says,

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”

I’ve often wondered, how could Peter not stay awake? This week I had an insight that left me realizing I’m much more like Peter than I would care to admit in this regard. We have long been commanded to study our scriptures, and I’ve made the goal to do so for one hour each day. And it is hard. Occasionally I feel myself being lulled to sleep after a few verses but much more often than this though, I find myself rationalizing that I can sleep a little bit longer in the mornings and do a quicker study.

Elder Richard G. Scott testified,

“Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”

Amen! I implore everyone to make study of the scriptures a priority in your life. Start with a few verses a day and you will notice the difference in how you think, and how you act. If you feel yourself feeling sleepy at night before you study, or want to hit snooze on the alarm clock, listen to the echo of Christ’s words that will come to you too. “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” 

I know, as I have seen the blessings in my life, that if we make scripture study a priority, we will be able to accomplish more in the time remaining in the day than we could have in the whole day without study. We will have more energy, clarity of thought, and the Holy Spirit to lead us.

 

April 5-19: The Sycamores are cut down, but I walk Magnolia Lane

I’m playing catch-up again. No bueno. Here is a quick recap of the last two weeks, and then I’ll send out this week’s blog tomorrow.

First, I returned from Texas late Saturday night, April 4th. I stopped in Price, Utah on my way up the canyon and grabbed some groceries. I had sent a survey out and gathered some responses from ward members as I wanted to provide a little service, and we weren’t able to meet for anything. I decided to make pizza for anyone who wanted one between sessions of General Conference. More people were still in town than I imagined, and so David Kaiser and I made 21 pizzas in a little over 2 hours, running them out the door and delivering them and keeping the oven cranked to 500 degrees the whole time. They all turned out really good, i.e. none of them burned, we had enough ingredients. Everyone was very grateful, and David and I (joined by Porter towards the end) enjoyed the chance to serve and cook – both things we all like to do.

Until 1752, Great Britain – and by extension the American Colonies, celebrated the New Year on March 25th. Of course, this was with the Julian Calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. So, for millenia, New Years was celebrated on April 7th. I think that April is a month of rebirth, the month that spring arrives, the world rejoices and blooms, and the promise of a brighter future is before us all. It is my favorite month.

Additionally, for me, April perhaps more than any other, is a month of tradition and history. For whatever reason, some major events are inscribed in my memory, and I think about them a lot in April. The start of the Civil War: April 12, 1861. The end: April 9th, 1865. Sinking of the titanic: April 15th, 1912. (Mom actually met a Titanic survivor as a child, who lived nearby them in Colorado). Also April 15th, (but in 1865) is when Lincoln was assassinated. And of course, April 19th  marks the anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War. Now, we celebrate Patriots Day on the 3rd Monday of April. (April 15th has marked many horrible events; besides the two listed above, it was April 15th, 2013 that the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. I can still remember where I was, it shocked and surprised me so bad. I left school and was just pulling up to play Sugarwood Golf Course in West Virginia when the news came over the radio. I immediately called Mom to see if she knew. Beware the ides of April).

That was a very long digression; the whole point of this is I want to say that there are two events I look forward to, that have become a tradition in my life.

The first weekend is of course General Conference. I look forward to two days of hearing the words of the prophets, and this is the first time while living in Utah I haven’t attended in person, as all sessions were closed to the public, and only broadcast. Even the Tabernacle Choir didn’t sing, but had recorded songs played to make sure they kept under the governments 10-person or less guideline. I loved the messages, and will be reviewing them again. There was released a new Proclamation, entitled, “The Restoration of the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.” It’s a powerful message.

The second event I eagerly wait for, is the Masters Tournament, held the second weekend of every April. This year the tournament will be held in November. The final round television broadcasts from 1970-2019 are online though and free to view and if I could only watch one thing on tv for the rest of my life, I think I would choose these. Sometimes when I am painting or if I am cleaning the house, I will put one on and let it play in the background. So so good. One that I watched recently was the 2012 final round. This brought back a ton of memories. The Masters for me ends on Saturday (usually – 2019 excepted), but in 2012 I visited Bro. Parrish in the hospital and we spent a couple hours together watching the broadcast. He was interned as his diabetes had worsened and the doctors were cutting off the bad areas in his toes and feet. I will forever remember those hours there. Louis Oosthuizen (from South Africa) made an incredible double eagle from 260 yards on the second hole, the first time anyone had made a 2 on that hole. Most importantly, I sat and absorbed a lecture on mortality and living well. I sure miss Bro. Parrish.

Absent the actual playing of the tourney, I have been able to go out and play a few times at least. I went to Hobble Creek with Lawson and Kimball. Social distancing was in full effect there. No carts allowed, only walking, and the flagsticks couldn’t be removed, nor were there rakes to rake bunkers. The clubhouse was locked besides for the bathrooms and all tee times had to scheduled and paid for over the phone. We had a great time, and played the back nine on April 11th, and the front on April 18th. I also went with Kevin Ford and played at Sleepy Hollow. Pictured below is Hobble Creek, hole #9. This year I’ve been driving it so consistently its not fair. I put the ball on the tee, swing, and go find it 320 yards away, dead straight. I LOVE IT!

The weather has been beautiful and it has been perfect for golf and gardening. While I was in Texas, Utah had some unseasonably cold temps and even some snow fall and accumulate. While this might have prevented some seeds from sprouting, not all is lost. The carrots are struggling, the spinach doing ok, the beets even better, and we have a bumper crop of radishes on its way.

My garlic is still inside, and I have a bunch of cloves growing in separate jars, which allows to me conduct lots of experiments in terms of sunshine and watering and soil depth, etc. These two are the highest so far.

This is the start of a garlic empire!

Tuesday has traditionally been our EQP meeting, and even though we don’t have much going on in the ward, we still meet. Of the different presidencies I’ve been a part of, this with Dillon and Reigen has been my favorite. We really jell together, work hard to get stuff done, and always have a great time. Tuesday April 7th resulted in lots of laughs, culminating in a hilarious leg-wrestling competition in my front yard.

Here, Shandi is about to flip Dillon’s brother Dave.

On Tuesday the 14th, Carson came down from Bountiful and we made and ate pizza, then played pickleball. We strung Carson’s slackline between two cars in the church parking lot, and played with that as our net. It actually worked fantastically and we had a few good hours of play before the sun set.

I was hoping for a pic of the actual set-up, but some of me being a ham will have to suffice.

We are all trying to be safe, with plenty of handwashing and keeping group sizes small. Also, I do avoid visiting older people, and definitely won’t be going to the nursing home to sing anytime soon. Otherwise though, my life hasn’t changed much with all the government mandates going on. I am so, so glad that Utah is one of only a few states that don’t have a “stay at home” law in effect. Our book club still has walk-n-talks at a local park, and I am grateful I can be outside without any problems. One thing that has changed is going to the grocery store. It’s a pain. Rancho Markets has had a line going down the sidewalk every time I want to go, and I finally sucked it up and waited my turn to enter.

The benefit was after waiting for my turn, the store was super empty and I found some items I’ve never seen before. Some of the basics like flour, baking soda, yeast, and olive oil have been tough to find still in Utah, but I only get produce at Rancho Markets and they had everything stocked.

I’ve had some more culinary adventures. This is a a yellow lentil and rice recipe I tried out. And ate for lunch+dinner two days in a row. 0/10 would recommend. The smoothie however has been a repeat hit, with cranberries, limes, coconut flakes and evaporated milk combining into one delicious drink.

I was craving burgers, and made some, cut up a bunch of fries, made homemade bbq sauce, and some wheat bread for the bun. 10/10 on these.

Besides the lentils, another first was bruschetta and a lemon pasta that Porter and I had for a Sunday dinner. Sundays have been fun. I’ve been taking 3 mile walks and doing lots of studying of the scriptures. Kelson usually comes over for a few games of chess, and Porter always has supper with me which is a highlight every week. Dellan and David joined one week for giant burritos, and our discussion ended up lasting from 3:30-8 pm.

Monday nights are also great; we’ve settled into our family “Come Follow Me” discussion via zoom, comprising the Bach’s, Texas, and sometimes Porter+Tanmarie. I love seeing the fam and hearing their gospel insights.

I heard back from BYU Law School – they said that the class that applied has record high LSAT scores and a record number paid their deposits – so no one was admitted from the waitlist. There is a slight chance that I’d get in after the second deposit deadline in June. However, the dean of admissions basically guaranteed me a seat if I got a 166 on June’s LSAT. When I heard that, I figured UCONN is where I’ll be going. Then, the dean emailed again and let me know that if I got a 166, I’d get a 1/2 ride scholarship, and a 167-168 would most likely mean a full-ride. That was unexpected news, so I signed up for the June LSAT and will give it one more shot. UCONN did increase their offer, and I think it would be a great place to end up; the idea of a 3 year full-ride though makes me salivate, and I talked with my work manager the next day about quitting. Part of me thinks its crazy – in this job environment, and with no guarantee of getting a higher score. It was a night of tossing and turning weighing the options, and I talked with the manager, Ben Stokes, and asked to let him know of my final decision on Monday. The reasoning being, if I quit my job and studied full-time, I would have 5 weeks before the test to study and if I get a higher score, the scholarship increase would more than make up for anything I could earn while working.

Additionally, my stimulus check and tax refund both arrived and have helped me reach my May 1st savings goal, and I think I might even hit my June 1st savings goal before I quit, which helps give me some room to chase my goals.

I have a small-list of movies that I want to watch, and I crossed one of them off on Saturday the 11th, as I went to Casa Picante, and joined the ladies who live there, as we watched Casablanca. We had planned to watch it outdoors via a projector, but the sky looked ominous, so we moved inside. Sure enough the rain began to pour halfway through the movie. This movie is famously what Mom and Dad went to see for their first date. I’d heard it mentioned my entire life, and I’ve seen it on all the lists of best movies, and amazingly, it exceeded my expectations. I really, really enjoyed the film.

To close, here are a few important verses from the book of James, 4:1-4

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence even of your lusts that war in your members?

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lust.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.