March 10, 2019

A Sunday letter! Yes, it is stake conference weekend. Our stake presidency was reorganized, and Pres. Swenson, a man whom I’ve greatly admired these last 18 months was released and Pres. Tooler called as the new stake president. In conjunction with this event, Elder Pearson of the 70 and Elder Staheli, an area authority visited. They provided me with a shot of energy and inspiration, and I left with a long list of things to improve. Once again, my testimony was strengthened and I know that these men have been called of God.

Thursday I had a date with Amanda. She is from Huntington Beach, California, and is studying communications at BYU. She served a mission in Finland, and we met through the app Mutual. We attended the Symphonic Orchestra and had a great time. The finale was Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto, which I’ve wanted to hear live for some time. It did not disappoint. I knew I wanted to go out again, and set up a game night on Saturday. After the evening session of conference, I picked her up, and we were joined by Lawson and Isabel again. We played Ticket to Ride and snacked on some fudge. Now, the tables are reversed and tonight I’m going to her apartment for a game night.

Friday I worked really hard to get everything done, got a good workout in, and was home by 4:30. I did this so I could change into my bathrobe, cook a nice dinner (fish, cranberry sauce, salad, potatoes) and spend some time painting. I painted two pictures, read for a little, and got to bed early. Just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday I went and got kolaches (a polish pastry) with Elizabeth and was amazed at the turn in the weather. Friday had been blustery and snowy and COLD. Saturday reached the mid 50’s, and I felt myself drawn to the golf course again, to pitch and putt for an hour. I cleaned the house in preparation for Amanda coming over later that night, and then it was off to conference.

I learned that Canopy fired 40% of its employees, over 100 people, including 83% of the sales team. While I did not see Canopy as turning out successful, maybe this is the reset that they need. I was surprised as it comes less than two months after they moved into their new building. I have ben awed by the unity that the people who were let go as well as those who stayed have showed. I do see that as a sign of the good job that CEO Kurt Avarell has done in building company culture.

Other events of the week include more EQ restructuring. We changed lots of ministering assignments to better address struggling individuals, and I had the privilege to participate in a couple blessings, where the love of the Lord was evident.

One of the things that will change with my graduation, is Mom’s calling my letter, “The College Correspondent.” Perhaps a Pizza Periodical is in the near future…

 

Ok, I’m signing off. I’m beat and need a quick nap.

 

“Remember, in the end it is the merciful who obtain mercy.”

Phill-ing Good

The city of brotherly love. I loved my visit to Philadelphia. I arrived Thursday afternoon (Feb 21)  and used Lyft for the first time to arrive at my hotel. The Historic Wyndham, it was perfectly located and my bedroom window looked down upon Benjamin Franklin’s grave, along with four other signers of the Declaration of Independence. Nightly, I could not help imagining what they must think of the United States, all the pros and cons, and if we are living up to their vision. The conference I attended was entitled, “Liberty and the Declaration of Independence” and was different from previous conferences. There were 16 students and two professors, and we had six discussions in which we were arranged into a square and debated various issues dealing with the Declaration such as equality and consent. Beforehand we had read a few hundred pages and this helped ground our arguments historically and we had great discussions, that always carried beyond the 90 minute sessions into our free time.

Site of the my first birthday party. aka the signing of the Declaration.

And admittedly, knowing I’d be in Philly with free time was what got me to the conference.

On Friday I made my way to the main tourist spots, including Independence Hall. Saturday, I went with a couple other conference attendees, Bradley and Shelby, to Pat’s and bought a philly cheesesteak. Ignorantly, I did not know the classic includes cheese whiz. Nevertheless, it was good. And the experience priceless. They only take cash, and have their system perfected so from the time I said “cheesesteak” to my first bite, less than one minute elapsed.

Feeling good after lunch

Bradley and Shelby took an uber to go see the Rocky statue, but I opted to walk instead. The weather was a bit chilly, but not bad, and I wanted to get to know the town better. I walked a few miles, through markets and deserted streets, past an African dance rehearsal, seeing lots of street art, and made my way to the Philadelphia Temple.

I was surprised because it is in the heart of downtown, on the main city square. And it was beautiful! From there I went to the public library. I was supposed to play an online chess game with another BYU student and I proceeded to park myself in their humanities section. Even in the cold February weather, tourists were everywhere, and the Rocky statue and the Love statue had long lines to take pictures.

Independence Hall

Sunday morning I left earlier to catch my 7:30 am flight, and happened to pick up an inexperienced Lyft driver who was terrified driving in the rain, going 15-20 under the speed limit on the highway. A couple tender mercies got me through security much faster than anyone else, and I caught my flight with a few minutes to spare. After a brief layover in Chicago, Tanner was waiting for me in Salt Lake City and my travels were over.

Concluding a weekend of being pampered.

I can’t believe I graduate next month! This semester is speeding by. There is lots of work left, but it simplifies to basically my capstone paper, and a final exam in Physical Science. I’m not worried about any of my other classes. Alas, I did cancel my trip to Brazil as I reasoned that missing 9-10 days out of country was too much.

In terms of dating, I had my second date with Camilla on Thursday. We went to the Bean Museum, marking my first visit there. Admittedly, I was inspired by video of Nora enjoying the exhibits and thought I needed to see it for myself. Although the main draws are the African land animals and the largest collection of waterfowl, I was most interested in Pres. Packer’s dozens of carved birds and paintings.

I also went out with Caree. She transferred from BYU to UVU, for their aviation program. In fact, her parents met while working for Delta, and flying runs deep. She served a mission to Tahiti, and is always traveling. We went to Bruge’s waffles, in downtown Provo, for their $2 Tuesday.

Sunday, after church Tanner alerted me to dinner at Uncle Ben’s. I drove over with Tanmarie, and after helping put Ethan’s Eagle Scout project birthday boxes together, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner. The best part was seeing family. Aunt Becky was there with Brady, and Kayla and Stevie. Michael and Abbey were both there, and I learned of their recent engagement. Because of that event, Sarah came down from Idaho with her boyfriend Riley. And Emma came down with her friend, Emily, from Salt Lake City.

We did bow out before the laser tag fun started, as I had scheduled a double date. Lawson was with Isabel, and Camilla came over, and we played a game and had pumpkin pie.

Despite some stubborn snow, winter appears to be over, and I went golfing a couple times. Getting out into the sunshine, onto the grass was just what the doctor ordered.

I said goodbye to store bought shampoo, having experimented with a couple recipes and satisfied with the result, have begun to use my own conditioner and shampoo. Now if I go bald in the next few weeks, you’ll know why.

Hello Spring!

Saturday we had our best day selling pizza, and I even managed to sell three sodas. Now that I’m not going to Brazil, I think I’ll redouble my effort. I added a BBQ chicken that everyone has loved so far, with the homemade BBQ sauce perfectly tangy. Next type I’m planning to add is a balsamic + peach pizza.

Merry February

Monday for FHE we had a family history scavenger hunt. The activity was fun, and turnout was fantastic. Talking about family history… my ancestry dna results are in! My ethnicity snapshot is:

-61% England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe

-24% Germanic Europe

-13% Ireland and Scotland

-2% Norway

Interestingly, this is quite different from Tanner’s results.

On Tuesday per usual, I attended the weekly devotional, this time given by Elder Ulisses Soares (from Brasil!). Upon concluding, I went to the Wilk to see if my black leather right-handed glove had been found. Alas it hadn’t, but from Lost and Found only twenty steps separated me from the bowling alley and faster than prune juice makes its exit, I had made my entrance. Not having bowled in 11 months, I was pleasantly surprised with a score of 156. This was my free game of the year, given to students, but with shoes already on, the temptation to score higher was too much, and I bowled another two games, my score successively creeping lower. I had a really good time.

Strike!

Tuesday I also went to Costco to look at potentially getting a card. Turns out their mozzarella and pepperoni are not cheap, so it doesn’t make much sense to. But I walked around (and around) looking as that day their samples were fire. Traditionally I haven’t been a sushi guy, but even that was delicious then.

Wednesday I had Jeni over for a dinner date (only my second time ever doing dinner for a date) and we were joined by ex-roommate Derik and his fiance Mandy. We had corn chowder, rolls, salad, and chocolate pie for dessert. Jeni kindly brought lemonade, limeade and croutons.

The Dentist – visiting is when i feel like i’m actually adulting, as its still hard to do without my mom or someone supporting me, BUT I DO IT! My appointment was on Thursday. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, as I know not a single person more fanatical over mouth care than me, I had 3 cavities. Which means a return visit. Ah the joy.

Saturday morning, after a slow night of pizza on Friday, I drove the 260 miles to St. George to attend Derik and Mandy’s sealing. I could only stay for about an hour, but it was worth every second. The sealing was at 12:40, and was beautiful and inspiring. This was a small turnout, as their families couldn’t attend, and I knew that it was the right place for me to be. They had planned a ring ceremony at 4:30, but I left right after the sealing. Needing to get gas, I ended up taking the smallest of detours to visit the Pioneer Museum in town. I rushed through, and would enjoy visiting again. Best artifacts that I saw? Both coincidentally involved weddings. The first was a hair wreath. Made to be worn by the bride, the wreath was made of human hair. And while perhaps it looked better 140 years ago, I felt nauseous. There was a slightly younger wedding fruitcake preserved there as well. I’ve heard said in jest that only one fruit cake exists in the whole world and is simply passed around because no one wants it. This exhibit refuted that, but I’ll admit 1- I don’t like fruitcake. 2- 100+ years the cake was going strong and makes the McDonald’s Big Mac and fries look utterly lame when it comes to preservation.

My feels on V-day.

 

Sunday night I attended a devotional by Doug Callister, emeritus member of the second quorum of the seventy. This was without a doubt one of the best firesides I’ve ever heard. He ran a law firm with his brother Tad, in Glendale, Arizona, and they would serve concurrently as General Authorities, before Doug’s release 10 years ago. He spoke humbly, yet powerfully, with rhetoric of yesteryear, speaking eloquently with plenty of literary quotations and the like. Oh, and without any notes.  My favorite lines he quoted from an Elizabeth Browning poem, Aurora Leigh:

Earth’s crammed with Heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

The main theme revolved around prayer, and he promised that if we would choose only one blessing we would like, and one blessing we are grateful for, and follow that pattern for 40 days, choosing something new each day, each time conversing with our Father in Heaven about only those two things, then the way we prayed would change and we would draw closer to our Father.

He talked about being called as a stake president at age 31, by then Apostle Spencer Kimball. Elder Kimball called him in, said he was called, and said he’d leave for 10 minutes so Pres. Callister could choose his counselors. The lesson: The Lord can inspire you in 10 minutes as easily as two months, but you must get on your knees.

Of everything I miss from my mission, most of all, I miss testifying of eternal truths constantly. Elder Callister noted that Heavenly Father has only spoken a handful of recorded times, but every time He bears testimony of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are never as near to our Heavenly Father as when we bear testimony of our Savior.

 

Goodbye Rockwell’s

This week was signing day, and I’d like to announce that I’ve signed with Victory Pizza. That’s right, I’ve stopped looking for a job post-graduation and I am going to give this a real shot. Friday was our first real day selling, and while it didn’t go as I hoped, Saturday was a hit, and I stayed busy,  making and delivering and ironing out the bugs in the system. Friday afternoon I had canvassed my apartment complex with flyers, putting one on each of the roughly 90 apartments. I had put that flyer together on Friday afternoon in 30 minutes, and while I was pleased with the end result, Tanner redid it and this week I plan on putting out 500. And if this weekend goes well, (my goal is 30 pies a night) then I’ll have a quick turnaround and be ready with a heart shaped pizza for Valentine’s week. I’m already making a profit, but beyond that, it’s been so much fun learning and solving problems and legitimately running my own business. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time someone called, asking, “Hi, is this Victory Pizza? I’d like to place an order.”

Part of the preparation in passing the inspection as a “cottage food” producer required that I have a separate fridge to keep ingredients just for pizza. I found one on Facebook for free and I went with my Tocqueville friend Henry Wright to pick it up in Pleasant Grove. I’ve cleaned it, and it works like a charm. Moving it up to the third floor was horrible, as the fridge was perspiring, we were all freezing, and the fridge was so hard to grip. But we did it.

Tuesday was the College Republican’s Opening Social, which I attended. The club president, Tyler Clancy, has done a fantastic job and gave a great speech on this night. I left early to go make visits with the Bishopric again.

Wednesday I had Aunt Joy and Uncle Ben over for dinner. They asked that it be gluten free, and we had yams, rice, delicious steak cooked with tamarind sauce, and a fruit bowl. Fudge was for dessert.

On Thursday I had a mutual date, going out with Colleen from Colorado. For whatever reason, I really struggle to say that name. We went to Rockwell’s, and talked for a while but I think both of us weren’t really feeling a connection. I’ve decided that this was my last visit to this place. It’s served me well, but I’m tired of going there, and think that in the future when I want an ice cream date, I’ll just make it.

 

 

 

New Beginnings

Choosing a favorite season is hard. I love them all, and for different reasons. One reason I love winter – besides the snow, and its cleansing effect, and the nostalgia for warm hearths, and lazy days inside – is because of the promise of spring. Even in the darkest part of winter, one always knows that sooner rather than later, spring will gloriously begin. It is a time of new beginnings.

For MLK day, I celebrated by having Kayla and one of my friends, Maddie, over for lunch. My loaf of bread tricked me, and while I won’t say we suffered, I can’t say we delighted in our grilled cheese sandwiches. But the salad was good.

Tuesday I accompanied Bishop, and my counselors went with the other members of the bishopric as we continued our visits. I love making them and talking and more, listening, to my apartment neighbors.

Wednesday evening Michaela, Greg, and Kayla came over for dinner. A few months ago, (as recorded) I had steak with tamarind sauce and blue cheese dressing. I recreated that for us, and it turned out AMAZING! I’ll definitely be making this again. Given that I essentially crashed their wedding a few months ago, it was nice to actually become better acquainted with Greg and Michaela. They are delightful, and were extremely gracious. I’m impressed with their desire to make the world a  better place.

I had signed up for a creative writing class, and while I unfortunately had to drop that in order to graduate in April, a love of creative writing was rekindled, and I’ve read more novels this month than almost all of last year already.

Thursday I went and saw Senator Jeff Flake. He was visiting campus and gave a few speeches. I only attended the one for the College Republicans. After a brief outline of his career, he opened it up for Q+A. I was thoroughly impressed by both the Senator and his wife. I trust them. Perhaps the most interesting question dealt with the Kavanaugh hearing (asked by a somewhat bitter Dem for the record), and Senator Flake spoke quite openly about his thoughts throughout the ordeal and how he has never suffered such abuse from both parties before. I don’t think either he or his family will miss much about D.C. Above all else, he seemed genuine in his words, and in his love for the USA.

Friday was our opening social for this semester, held at 7 Peaks Ice Arena. Some members of the ward heard I was starting a pizza company, and decided to give me a shot, ordering five pizzas from me, and five from Domino’s. My boxes had arrived that day, and after a final practice run at 6 with Kimball, we were ready to go. Kimball had other commitments that night, and the other helper, Lawson, was in San Diego, so I was going solo. In 45 minutes, I made everything, the dough, cooked the meat, etc. and finished all five pizzas. And they turned out WAY better than I imagined. I put them in boxes and hustled out the door. I am proud to say, that not only did they look better than Domino’s pizza, the consensus was they tasted better, and my five were finished well before Domino’s. With just a little prep time, I feel confident in producing 12 pizzas an hour, in our conventional oven (my poor roommates!!!). Ah, yes, the life of a pizza man. I do enjoy it. Check out our Facebook and Instagram page. Victory Pizza. (After my mission). My goal was simply to validate the idea spending the least amount of money possible, and I feel good about what happened, and will be moving forward with this. Plus I still have over 100 pizza boxes I don’t want to keep forever.

Saturday I had planned on selling more, but that did not happen as our EQ activity went much longer than expected. But it was worth it. We went out near Utah Lake in Springville and shot guns. Lots of them. Mostly shotgun, 9 mm, and 22’s, but Derik brought his 45-70. The weather was beautiful, the ammo plentious, and a good time was had by all. That said, never, EVER again will I plan or participate in a shooting activity. Too risky in today’s society. Thankfully everyone who came this time was well versed in guns and stable.

 

The Tronson’s (Bro. Tronson is 2nd counselor) bid farewell to their son, who left to serve in the Philipines a few months ago. He unexpectedly had to return for a surgery, and decided to leave his suits. And Sis. Tronson kindly gifted them to me. I will pass one on to someone who needs it more, but I did keep one, and it fits perfect, and has been a blessing. Its a color I’ve always loved – light blue.

Tuesday’s Devotional at the Marriott Center was given by Elder Corbridge, of the 70. Here is the URL to it. Please, please watch it. He succinctly and powerfully reminds what knowledge is most important in this life, and how to overcome doubts and find answers to questions.

“Stand For Ever”

On my mission I quoted innumerable times, Galatians 5:22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”

However, as I was reading from Doctrine and Covenants 11:13, I was struck:

Verily, verily I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill our soul with joy.

The Spirit is all about bringing joy – real, lasting, honest to goodness, JOY. This life is about happiness, and thus this life is about receiving the Spirit, and learning how to keep and live with its influence constantly.

 

 

The Wondrous Gift of Mortality

Last semester lasted the full 10 rounds, split decision, but I’ve won. That was a tough one though – my last night before break was no night at all, as I pulled an all-nighter finishing a couple of projects, and then taking three finals in the morning. Nevertheless, knowing that I was heading home to see family and relax for a couple weeks, saw me through more easily than I foresaw.

My time at BYU is drawing to a close. In fact, this will be my last semester. After talking with mom last night, (Jan. 12) I thought about graduation, and decided that this was the right thing to do. Its funny that if you had asked me 6 months ago, I was leaning towards graduating April 2020, then it slowly shifted to December 2019, then perhaps August 2019, and now its April. Repeat: I’ll graduate in April. I have not felt rushed at all, and as this is only my 6th semester, wasn’t worried about taking another year, but my opinion as to what I need to do has changed. I’ve had a great run, and absolutely loved my time here, but now I need to move on. I think my education has reached the level I hoped and I’d be spinning my wheels more than anything else, if I stayed. And having made that decision, my remaining time in Provo, not knowing what the future might hold, feels extra important to me.

I ate out for the first time this year. Over the break, two of my roommates moved out, so we planned a meet-up on Saturday January 5th. Derik is getting married, and I know he’d be leaving over the break, having sold his contract, but Jeremiah’s exit was a surprise. He decided to move north, to American Fork, to be closer to his work. We hit up Kneaders, and took advantage of their $6 unlimited french toast. This week (Jan. 8-14) I’ve tried a few new foods. I made fudge for the first time, as well as croutons, and then returned for a sophomore iteration, changing the recipes slightly. In addition, I’ve enjoyed some acai, and have vowed to never buy salad dressing again, making homemade poppy seed, caeser (two thumbs down first try) and balsamic. Someone better stop me before I buy a sewing machine. Or spinning wheel.

Not much to report on with dates. I went out on Friday with Macey. Originally we had planned to go bowling but after my friends had to bail, and unwilling to contemplate trying to get to know someone while we would inevitably be on our feet taking our turns bowling, we went to the classic Soap Factory. Thankfully, the bill came out lower than every other time I’ve went, and we had a good time there. I suppose also of interest is my redownloading the mutual app. Not much to report there yet, but it should set up a couple dates in the near future.

The first few Sundays of the year have been AMAZING. While I was ecstatic for two hour church, I didn’t foresee a noticeable change in church , just one hour less of attendance. However, Sundays feel completely different. Sacrament meetings have been fantastic, with fast Sunday especially remarkable as perhaps 20 members got up, bore their testimonies, with no grandstanding, irrelevant story telling, etc., only pure testimony. And the second hour has been just as good, with lots of participation, from a vibrant audience, as even I am not checking my watch every five minutes, but feel engaged with the lesson. For the first time in my life, church feels short, and leaves me wanting more.

Saturday was another ISI conference. This one was held at BYU, and we welcomed students from UVU, Utah State, U of U, and BYU-Idaho. The theme focused on  religious belief and secular learning, and while worthwhile, i confess, I am tiring of conferences. And I am already on the books for a few more. No more applying though.

I am currently unemployed. I left Canopy, left Northwestern Mutual, did actially put some hours in with event staff, but given I’ve worked five hours for them in two months, can’t really count that as a job. I even turned over the majority of responsibility to another student with the MaeserLaser. Uh-oh. What could I possible be cooking up? Not much. I’m almost consigned to getting a real job after graduation, for at least the rest of 2019 (almost). I’ve made my return to chess club, in preparation for one more shot at the intercollegiate tourney. In two weeks, I’m 8-1. And think the level of competition has gone down significantly. My love of painting continues to grow. And I spent hours yesterday with Tanmarie tickling Nora, eating dinner, and playing games. Finally, for the lunar eclipse, we clambered onto their roof, I brought my telescope and we contemplated the wonders of the infinite. As Immanuel Kant said,

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me, and the moral law within me.

I suppose the one project that I have devoted some considerable time to is the formation of a pizza company. Its called Victory Pizza, as some mission friends are helping me do it, and just so our motto could be, “Conquer Your Hunger.” Pans are in, boxes on there way, recipe finalized (or nearly) and our first day to sell is this Saturday. During one recipe test, I made a guacamole like paste, and used that instead of a tomato based sauce. The avocado one was amazing, and we’ll be expanding on that concept if our normal pizza sells. 

Reading Moroni 1:4, “Wherefore, I write a dew more thing, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but i write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren..”

This hit home for me – and reinforced the idea that I can do more. The Book of Moroni is one of my favorite books of scripture, and we have it because Moroni went above and beyond what he expected to do. When we go above and beyond what we think or expect, our efforts will likewise bless the lives of many, even if we are not present to witness those effects.

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.