March 23-April 4th: A Season for Everything

I spent March 23rd-April 4th in Texas. Here are some highlights:

We met regularly as a family and went through the “Come Follow Me” manual. I really enjoyed being with family and being able to talk about the gospel together. We did this at night and it was the perfect way to wind down a day.

Waggie- he is such a great dog! He’s still in puppy mode and I loved seeing him so excited. Every time I would pick up my car keys, he’d start prancing around, and when I would open the front door, he would sprint out ready to go anywhere with me.

We played lots and lots of games. I’d take 10-15 minute work breaks and we would play knockout and almost every night we would play a board game or two. I think parcheesi was the favorite this trip. Pictured below, is a game we made up. It’s called, “How fast can you run to the Counts’ mailbox and back?” Sawyer, Miller, and Breyer were all excited to play and estimated how quick they could run to the top of the hill, touch the Counts’ mailbox and return. I gave Breyer 3 minutes, Miller 2, and Sawyer 1:45. It was hilarious, and everyone enjoyed the challenge. Breyer and Sawyer just made it, and Miller was a few seconds over. Smaller races happened throughout the visit. Another favorite repeated 10 times, was the race around the outside of the house, a la Sophie and Uncle Aaron. I gave them a little head start and then would release Waggie, and he would chase them down and beat them back to me. Amazingly, when we would go out the back door, Waggie loved it so much, he would line up on the start line, ready for another race.

Another game that has arisen due to the coronavirus, is risk. Over the last few weeks, we’ve played many a round on our phones with Tanner and Porter, as well as cousins Luke and Evan. Now that I’m back, Breyer calls wanting to play, and sometimes texts using Mom’s phone or Dad’s Ipad. I get lots of unicorn and cat pictures during the games too. One of her texts went like this: “Risk tonight?” and when I didn’t respond right away, she followed up with, “Join us” “Please” and “You might find a girlfriend there”. Every game we do play is started off with her asking “Want to be allies?” Its a good time.

Another memory owed to Breyer is that of Karaoke. I’ve never sang karaoke, nor wanted to, but she loves her karaoke microphone and so we had a few karaoke nights. Breyer and Cooper were the best. Cooper did a hilarious Barry White impression, and Breyers best was Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love you.” She sang it with much gusto and passion, but kept throwing in her own absolutely hilarious lines too, including near the crescendo this unforgettable line,

“I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of
And I wish to you joy and happiness
But above all this, I wish you looooooove and a kitten!”

I didn’t take any vacation time, although in retrospect I wish I had. Instead, for two weeks, I worked in the garage, setting up my equipment and making a bureau into a standing desk. It functioned well, and I loved working outside-ish, hearing the birds and feeling the breeze. I put up really good numbers and had good success working during this time, but I should have taken advantage more of the time I had in Texas instead of working from 8:30ish-5:30ish every day.

I introduced some new foods which has us in stitches. First, after hearing Dad talk about some stuffed peppers he made, I offered that stuffed radishes are also quite delicious. Of course, I was then questioned what do you stuff radishes with? Stammering, I muttered peanut butter, and my bluff was called, which meant I had to make some. I scooped out the center, put a dab of peanut butter in, and this is the reaction I received:

Those brave enough to try, all agreed that the combo actually wasn’t bad.

Breyer really got into the spirit of April Fools and had pranks going all week, but I think I took home the prize. I had nothing planned, but while preparing some beets, I realized that the tail of a beet looks very similar to that of a rat. With my hands all bloody looking from cutting beets, I dropped the end on the floor, shouted rat, and mimed slashing the ground, then stood up and announced that he got away, but I got his tail. Skepticism turned into amazement as I held up the beet end. Miller proved most gullible. That was only with my siblings though, and when I tried it that night with Mom and Dad, they didn’t fall for it.

The meal I was making at the time has since entered family legend. Mom was working and I thought I would help out and make dinner. Its tough when its not your kitchen, and I hadn’t prepared anything in specific. Inspired by my quest to cut down on meat, I used some leftover pinto beans, and blended them up with some milk and a powdered cheese packet. I then added this mixture over scalloped potatoes. For a side, we had beets and butternut squash, both roasted. The vegatables were received well, but the bean/potato dish was not. At all. The taste wasn’t bad, but I neglected to realize that while the blended mixture looked okay, after being baked for 45 minutes, it looked completely unappealing and added a crusty brown layer to the top. That presentation left 1/2 the family boycotting the dish, and relegated me to eating leftovers for two days.

Veggie pizza at least was a success.

I wanted to go canoeing, and Breyer was the only one who wanted to go. We went to Lake Granbury and paddled around for a little while Dad fished. The weather was beautiful, and she talked and talked, as she is apt to do, while we appreciated the serene setting.

As I mentioned, Waggie would come running every time I went outside. He wasn’t the only one who loved going on rides though. While I never really went anywhere, Breyer also loved hopping into the car for a quick loop around the neighborhood. During our drives, she would talk and talk and I would listen and listen and learn. Lots of funny sayings and stories came from these trips, and I also learned that Breyer wants a sister. Who knew! It was eye-opening to hear her open up about new subjects and talk so frankly about what she wants to do and what is important to her. She isn’t sure if she wants to live in Montana when she is older, but is still leaning that way. Modeling is the dream career, but 12+ kids remain her ideal. So many times she would have these boy/girl twin name combos she would share, which always made me chuckle.

We played lots of basketball and foosball. The ping pong table is in need of some repair, so it sat this one out. I acquitted myself quite well, winning a majority of knockout games against Sawyer and Miller. Miller and I also were rivals in foosball, with lots of close games. During my visit, in two weeks I went once to the gas station to fill up, and once to play frisbee golf with Sawyer, Miller and Waggie. The city park course was still open and fairly empty. We played 18 holes, had a good time, and in this, I admit both Sawyer and Miller whooped me.

Me and Breyer had a spa night, and used some face masks I brought. Face masks and risk is a great combo for the record. A ward member stopped by and dropped some clothing off, and Dad snapped this candid of me:

I wanted to do one movie night, and we were able to gather as a family and all watch “Life is Beautiful.” I’ve talked about the movie before, so I’ll just add that once again there were lots of laughs followed by lots of tears. You know its a good movie when 13 year old Miller and 9 year old Breyer both enjoyed a foreign language film, having to read subtitles for 2 hours.

I heard back from UCONN and the University of New Hampshire regarding law school. Both offered around 75-80% scholarships. I am very grateful for the offers and have absolutely no idea what I’ll be doing. I bought a ticket to visit New England April 9-14th, but that looks like it will be cancelled.

This was truly a great trip. I loved literally every second.

Nevertheless, I felt like I needed to return to Utah, and it wasn’t quite time for me to spend the rest of the summer there.

Dad helped me tune the car up, topping off lots of the fluids and buying a spare tire. Alas, the DMV was closed as I had hoped to renew my registration, and I was left to drive 1170 miles back with expired tags.

I was cruising again and making very, very good time until I hit New Mexico. Sirius XM had just made their services free due to coronavirus, so I was able to get BYU radio and listen to General Conference. I was looking at a 9:30 pm ETA until outside the town of Waterflow, New Mexico, population 1600, I hit a giant pothole hard going on a curvy one lane road, and knew immediately that I was in trouble. 1/4 mile ahead was a 4-way stop sign, so I passed that and pulled over. Sure enough, I was losing air rapidly. At this moment, I was so very, very grateful that the day before my Dad put in time and effort to help me secure a spare tire. For there I was, in the middle of nowhere, and the thought of having to be towed (especially with so much closed due to corona), makes me shudder.  If I didn’t have a flat tire, I can imagine an angry word or two, and a great feeling of despair. Instead, I was filled with gratitude and timed myself, making the change and getting back on the road in 15 minutes. The highways were mostly empty and I avoided all trouble. Near Moab, the car in front of me was pulled over for speeding, going only 6 or so over, and I counted my blessings, as I was doing about the same speed. During the trip, I couldn’t help but feel how this trip was different than all the ones I’ve taken before.

Always, when I’m going to Utah, I feel the anticipation of so many adventures, and so much promise in the upcoming semester/months ahead. This time, I don’t know what I’m going towards. Everything is shut down; I am not returning to any dates, or to school or even to church activities. There is a huge probability that my time in Utah is coming to an end and I’ll be leaving to New England soon. There is great excitement in the unknown, but still a longing for the path that inevitably will not be taken. Time will tell what will happen.

One of the best parts about my visit was having church with twice with the family at home. I have reflected often recently on a discussion that President Lim and I had years ago. While living in Proctorville, President Lim was my hometeaching companion. I recall the visits we made together very fondly and am grateful for the many lessons he shared with me. On one, on our way to the household of Jamie Wolfe, he talked about how the church has made spiritual self-reliance more of a focus and shifted the responsibility to the individual. Mind you, this was sometime in 2012-2013 and he talked about how much has changed over the years in terms of scheduling. Church used to be split up over many nights. When we talked, we were attending only a 3 hour block every Sunday. This allowed more family time and allowed the individual more time for personal study, etc. He predicted a time when church would not happen, and everything would happen on the familial and personal level. Now, church has not happened for weeks, and this status will likely last for many more weeks. I am confident that similar events will play out in the future, whether another pandemic or something entirely different, like the restriction of religious liberty, and we will need to be self-reliant. Now is truly the time to prepare for then, and to make sure that we are in a position to be ok during a long-lasting shutdown.

March 16-22: But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep

One of the reasons I graduated early was because i thought it would be hard to get a job. I thought a recession was coming (never in my mind did I imagine a pandemic being the cause), and now that we are in the midst of one, I am very grateful to be employed still. During our company meeting on Tuesday March 17th, we were informed that everyone would be taking a 10% pay cut, in an effort to cut expenses and not have to lay anyone off. 10% doesn’t seem like much, but it does make a big difference. And yet it seems so small comparatively. 10 million people filed for unemployment in two weeks. That number is hard to grasp, and leaves me praying that relief will be found quickly.

I’ve continued to work from home. It’s been a pretty easy adjustment for me. My work station is set up on my desk and I have everything I need. I am sure there will be a time when there is a different vibe working without having any coworkers physically present, but that hasn’t hit yet.

Below, this is my favorite work-from-home snack.

I volunteered to drive Cooper home to Texas. Because he has campus housing, they released him from his contract and he had no job or anything holding him here, and I’m always up for a visit. He packed up and on Friday night, with a cold rain falling, we loaded all his belongings into the van. I couldn’t help but reflect back almost exactly five years ago, to April 2015, when I was the freshman loading up my belongings, heading back to Texas, leaving BYU, and getting ready to serve a mission. My goodness, so much has changed, and the time has gone by so, so quickly. As a kid, I used to wish time would speed up and I could be an adult. Now, time passes too quick and I wish it would slow down a little. There was a flood of memories as I thought about what my dreams when I left BYU five years ago, and what has happened since then. It felt more poignant as my time in Utah is almost assuredly ending. Cooper stayed the night at my place, and helped get us on the road early. We left about 7 am, and started on the roughly 1168 mile trip.

Having been on so many road trips, during which there is a lot of time to think, I’ve developed a “traveling philosophy,” and this trip was chance to test the latest iteration. The estimated driving time is 18 hours, 30 minutes, which means that we had to be efficient; 18 hours is about the limit and there is no room for mistakes if we wanted to make it in one day. Our Food: 4 pounds of celery, 3 pounds of radishes. The celery hydrates without you having to drink water and thus have more bathroom stops. It also keeps you chewing, useful for staying completely aware. The radishes also are great for hydration and have enough of a kick to eliminate any drowsiness. Those veggies along with fruit kept us feeling full, and around 3 pm we stopped for a Little Caesar’s pizza in Bernalillo, NM. Opting for a “Hot N Ready,” so we wouldn’t have to wait for it to be made, we went through the drive through as Covid-19 had left only that option available. Add on 3 bathroom breaks/gas fill-ups, and we were stopped driving for only 20 minutes, which is a fantastic number. Put another way, we were on the road for about 59 minutes and stopped for only 1 minutes of every hour.

We kept the windows open, not because one of us had the dreaded radish burps or the feared celery gas, but because it was a beautiful day.

We made good time, and had to unfortunately pass on many interesting historical sights, as the clock was ticking and we also lost an hour going from mountain time to central time. Cooper was an excellent companion. Around 4 pm, I was worried when I saw a sign and read “Repent drunk drivers!” before getting closer and reading “Report drunk drivers!” A radish or two later though, all was well, and despite an intermittent drizzle and then a constant rain over the last 5 hours, we successfully, and safely made it to Granbury at 1:20 am.

Sunday, I woke up to cinnamon rolls and kisses, so life was good. It was wonderful to be with the family. I loved having church at home with them.

That afternoon, Mom had a test for her search and rescue team and Breyer and I went along. The dogs needed to find someone and I was curious to see them at work. While admittedly I was tired, it was fun to see the dogs go through all sorts of brush, nose down, and be able to find us again and again. The test was to be conducted at a “park,” but that meant something much different than I imagined, so I wasn’t quite dressed the part. Breyer and I still willingly went through the creek, which moved fast from all the recent rain, but wasn’t enough to hide our scent. The bloodhounds performed admirably, and Wagner seems to have the ability but needs a lot of training still to reach their level.

 

Another sign that caught my eye was in Clovis, NM. We were driving slowly through the town when I saw an old building. It was apparently named Integrity something or another. That word was visible and right below it was a sign on top of the company one reading, “For Sale, $100,000.” Taken together, I read “Integrity – For Sale, $100,000.” Are you willing to sell your integrity? An old story relates how the devil came to some one and said, “For $1,000,000 will you cheat on this?” The person rationalized and thought about how much money that was, and said sure. The devil then countered, “Fantastic! I’ll offer you $20.” The person, confused asked what happened to the million, and the devil replied, “You showed that your integrity is for sale, now we are just negotiating the price.”

Here is what James E. Faust said:

“Complete and constant integrity is a great law of human conduct. There need to be some absolutes in life. There are some things that should not ever be done, some lines that should never be crossed, vows that should never be broken, words that should never be spoken, and thoughts that should never be entertained.

Yet there is a place for mercy, for equity, and for forgiveness. Even the stalwart Peter, the chief Apostle, was forgiven for a moment of weakness (see Luke 22:54-62)…. I believe this incident strengthened Peter’s commitment. He was never to be weak again. the resolve borne of that disappointment in his own temporary weakness tempered his metal in the hardest steel. he proved his devotion every day of his life thereafter and in his death. So it can be with all of us. When we have been less than we ought to be and have fallen below our own standards, we can have newfound resolve and strength by forsaking our weakness.”

 

 

March 9-March 15: sodium bicarbonate, where art thou?

In last weeks letter, I neglected to mention that on Sunday the 8th, I went with Porter and Cooper to Tanmarie’s house. There, we enjoyed delicious burgers, Nora time, and seeing Tanmarie.

This picture is from a poetry reading I was invited to:

On the second Tuesday of every month, the Rock Canyon Poets meet in the Pioneer Book bookstore and read works written by the members or any poem that they want to share. This time, there was a guest reader, Natasha Saje, and the bulk of the time was devoted to her reading and expositing on her own favorite poems. I’d like to go again; it was enjoyable to mix up my normal activities.

Earlier that day, we had our company-wide meeting and it was announced that on Thursday we would all work from home as a test and in anticipation of having to do that due to the coronavirus. Wednesday things had changed so quickly that instead of a test, Thursday was deemed the day that all would begin working from home. I lugged home my monitors and lots of cords and set up a little area on my desk. Then headed to book club where the situation was forgotten momentarily and we discussed the comedy, “Much Ado about Nothing.”

After 8 hours of working from home on Thursday, I needed to leave. I go tin my car not sure where I would go, but as often happens, I ended up at the golf course. While paying $10 for my round at the register, in fortuitous timing, Mike showed up with his friend Tanner at that exact moment, so all three of us played together.

With no cases of Covid-19 near Provo, feeling safe, and knowing that things would shortly be shut down (BYU had just cancelled all classes), I went ahead with a small pie night on Friday. It was just going to be a little game night, then someone pointed out that the next day was pie day, 3.14. We had ice cream, key lime pie, and I also made a Cranberry pie, completely making up the recipe. I used 1.5 cups of cranberries, blended, and everyone really liked it. This picture isn’t much, but I didn’t think of taking a picture until Porter went to finish the last few pieces off.

We played a few rounds of codenames as well as the “word game.” Miranda, her friend Lela, the Jensen Bros., Dellan, Mikaela, Mattie, David, Justice, and Porter, were all there.

Saturday. I had planned to go the temple, garden, and finish my UCONN law school application. Then, Jacob C. asked me if I could come with him. He was going on a date from Mutual, and the girl had just told him some of her friends wanted to go hiking with them as well, and asked Jacob to bring some guy friends and even things out a little. Before meeting up with Jacob, I went to the temple, knowing it would be my last chance before it closed. I am grateful I did and can testify of the blessings one receives and the spirit of the Lord one feels there.

Turns out only myself and Jacob’s roommate Dalon were going, so the male/female ratio was an uneven 3:6. Oh well, right? We hiked Battle Creek Falls in Lindon. It was a lot of fun, and the group had some good cohesion. 

On the picture below, I do love the shade of blue peeking out from behind the clouds. The day stayed overcast, but not chilly. Dillon offered his backyard as a new garden for me, and I was sold, as unlike last week, there would be no threats.

We planted much of the same: Radishes, beets, carrots, lettuce, and LOTS of spinach. I’m looking forward to that. Dillon also got starter potatoes and we planted red and yellow ones. This is the first time I’ve tried that. The pots also have herbs in them.

I still had some seeds left over, so when I got home, I put in a few rows in my backyard. This wasn’t my first option because the way the fences and neighboring houses sit, not to mention the shade from the trees, the sun is scarce in the backyard. So anything that I can harvest will be a bonus.

Sunday at 10, I met Caroline and the bishopric and we worked out a plan to make sure everybody still in town could get the sacrament. For this week, we divided by FHE group, and Bishop and Bro. Salazar made a few trips blessing the sacrament for each group. They will be getting released soon most likely, and it was a special experience to watch that. Truly, if you would lead, serve.

Cousin Kevin, and Cooper both came over for dinner along with Porter and his roommate Peter. It was funny as the last time Kevin came over, which was a few months ago, we had chicken legs, and had them again this time, but not once in between. Scalloped potatoes (lots of ’em) and ice cream rounded out the menu.

We played a quick game of Cataan and Peter played the organ for us. He is classically trained and can play any song you want by ear. It was very impressive and his medleys of two completely different songs that we tossed at him, awed all as well.

We left Kevin and Peter to head over to Tanmarie’s for some brownies and games. Much of the time was spent looking at recently unearthed photos from our time in Texas and Ohio. What a hoot. Then it was “Ticket to Ride: European Edition.” The game lasted until 11:20, much longer than I had anticipated, but well-worth the time. It was a fun night.

I’ll spare most of my thoughts on the Covid-19 pandemic. Everybody is sick of reading about it. Admittedly, I don’t trust much of what is going on and I think a lot of repercussions will be felt much longer than necessary because of how it is being handled here in the United States. Yet, I am very thankful. Two weeks ago, I thought I had bought plane tickets to Europe for my father and I. The high cost triggered a fraud warning from my bank and the purchase didn’t go through before the sale ended and prices were more than doubled. At the time, this was frustrating, but now I see it as a huge blessing. In January, I felt like I needed to get my food storage together, and by the first week or two of February, felt good about where I was, with 15 months of food storage. In another stroke of good timing, we have 47 rolls of toilet paper. I didn’t need to go to the store for anything except baking soda. And that wasn’t even a necessity, just a desire to replenish my stock of it so I can keep using it in my shampoo. (Like elsewhere, everything is cleared out here. I went Saturday night, and it took me 3 stores before I found some small quantities of it).

There is much to be grateful for, not the least of which is health in general.

I am reminded of the Battle of Kohima, nicknamed Stalingrad of the East, in which combined Indian and British forces outlasted the Japanese siege. It went from April 4th to June 22nd, 1944. There is a monument there, with words credited to the Brit John Maxwell Edmonds. The epitaph reads,

When you go home tell them of us and say: for your tomorrow we gave our today.

On a smaller measure, that is what we are doing now. I have done more than my fair share of grumbling, but making small sacrifices and doing ones part to prevent the spread of the virus, can help someone else have a tomorrow.

 

 

 

March 2-8: Buongiorno Principessa!

Notwithstanding a few hours of turmoil Saturday evening, this has been an amazing week.

WeWork opened another building, right next door to ours, and we were invited to participate in the grand opening on Monday. Similar to when ours opened, there was lots of swag (t-shirts are still hard to pass up) and free food. They had advertised korean bbq, but when I got to the line, I saw that it was self-serve with a bunch of rice and veggies available. And a fried egg. There was no meat! I’m cutting back on meat, so it was ok, but it did seem like false advertising to say come get your bbq, and then walk away with a fried egg. Some of my co-workers were not thrilled to say the least. We had all forgotten that WeWork doesn’t pay for meat to be served. They allow food trucks to sell and companies can cater anything they want, but when WeWork is paying, there will be no meat (for environmental reasons). Here’s the real takeaway: WeWork stood up for their values. And that is always impressive. They don’t do what is convenient and serve meat to help people feel more welcome/comfortable. This was an inspiring example of living at all times what you believe, and made me think of times I focus more on convenience than values.

Later that night, I went to the gym for the traditional post-FHE lift with Dillon and David. And set a record I didn’t see coming. My goal has been 250 for bench press, and I’m happy with that, as I’m just trying to stay fit not be huge or an unnaturally weird looking bodybuilder. This is veggie power we’re talking about, not creatine or protein powder induced strength. Monday though, I benched 265 twice, unassisted, before needing help to finish the 3rd rep. I was ecstatic!

This photo was taken doing deadlifts Friday (always the least busy day), and it serves to show what the gym looks like.

I love Super Tuesday. The excitement over politics runs deep. Watching results trickle in is a blast, but I tried to stay productive, and helped Emma B. with her stake RS meeting prep., and we had our EQ meeting that night as well. Biden swept the night, and it was ridiculous the bias showed by the broadcasters, but I still think Bernie is alive and well. I can’t imagine Biden being able to survive one round of debates with Bernie mano-a-mano. Biden’s looks young but really does seem to have lost his mental acuity.

Wednesday was book club and our discussion of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. I hadn’t read this one before, and enjoyed it immensely.

It had been a long day, I didn’t get home until 10, and I decided to cook some rice and prepare for my lunch the next day before going to bed. And I started reading and completely forgot about the rice on the stove. I went to get ready for bed some time later, and the entire house was filled with smoke. I ran to the kitchen, pulled my now blackened pan off the stove and started opening all windows and doors. It was the worst burning I’ve ever done, and needless to say, I ended up having to cook a new batch of rice the next day. Finally, after two days of airing out, the house smelled smoke-free again.

For the second week in a row at institute, we were graced by the presence of James Allen, former assistant church historian. This week, we spent the entire hour doing a Q+A with him, which I loved.

Immediately after, I went with Dillon to visit J. He texted us that morning at 4 am, and was struggling. Thankfully, a good friend was awake and able to go over at that hour, and when I awoke we texted and set up a time to go over at night. We talked for close to an hour, and I left feeling uplifted myself and having learned much from him.

I started reading a novel dealing with life in Parma, Italy, including much about pizza, and by 9pm Thursday night, I said enough is enough, its time for a pizza party! Scheduled to go from 6-7 pm on Friday, (at 7 I was supposed to go to the monthly concert next door), 11 people showed up, we made four pizzas and played a few games until 8:30. This is pizza number 4, with pepperoni, purple onion, spinach, and sauteed radishes. Delicious!

I tried a new veggie type (I hadn’t planned the best, so it was kind of just making do with what I had) that included potato slices, radishes, onion, spinach and tomato slices and it turned out well.

Kobe and Reigen Jensen were two of the people there. They mentioned how they were trying to decide between going to a movie night or a pizookie party. I wished them well, and having missed the concert headed to the gym for a quick workout and content to spend the rest of the night reading. Not 15 minutes later, right when I’m doing deadlifts, and honestly not feeling the energy, Kobe calls. Reigen went to the movie night, and Kobe wanted a wingman for the pizookie party. These are the invites I normally turn down. I wasn’t feeling any desire to talk to more people or have pizookie and ice cream. But, I hadn’t met many new people, thought about my goal to set a new high in my personal wellness stats, and said what the heck, I’m in. I hustled home, quickly showered and changed, before walking a few blocks with Kobe to the apartment that was hosting. The organizer is named Brielle, and she and Kobe were part of a volleyball intramural team in the fall. The invite was unexpected for Kobe, as she had been dating someone then, but apparently broke up with her boyfriend and now, a few months since seeing him, wanted to get to know Kobe better. The party started with a bunch of dumb games (to each his own, but I thought the games weren’t interesting or useful at all), and most people there were with a significant other. We got there on time, and there was a group of 8-10. It started at 9:30, and about 10, hordes started showing up, and I’d guess there was 25-30 people all talking in this small apartment. It was exactly the situation I’d dreaded. I saw one lady I wanted to talk to, and as luck would have it, she ended up a few feet away. For a time, both of us mostly just sat watching the chaos and eating our pizookies. Finally, I thought, she is the one in the room I do want to talk to, and it just takes a little courage. And it was wonderful! Our conversation couldn’t have been more perfect. We talked for 10-15 minutes, and I thought that was enough to see if she would be interested in going out, and then I could get the heck out of Dodge. S.P. served in Cape Verde so we both speak Portuguese, and she is currently a teacher in the MTC. She is a junior, majoring in English Education and minoring in History. I thought, 10 more seconds of courage is all it takes, and sure enough, it looks like I will be seeing her again! At 8:45, I was at the gym without energy. At 10:45, I was running around the neighborhood, stoked, trying to burn off some energy so I could sleep.

Saturday morning, Cooper and I were unable to get a tennis court, so I dropped him back off at his apartment, that plan shot, and after quickly doing some shopping, went into my backyard, sat in a camping chair and read while enjoying a smoothie and breakfast croissant. The trees were gently blowing and creaking above me and most of the world seemed asleep still. It was a beautiful time!

At 2, I met with M. B., my next door neighbor. Last year in the fall, we had talked about gardening and she offered her yard if I wanted to use it. Her family owns the house and had rented it out in the past. A previous tenant gardened until leaving one year ago. The before photo:

We spent a few hours working the soil and digging up the weeds. The previous tenant composted a lot, and the soil was wonderful. My shovel went 18 inches deep and it was all pure soil that turned over easy. I ran over to Home Depot and purchased some seeds, and we planted four rows of spinach, three rows of lettuce, three of beets, three of onions, three of carrots, and two rows of radishes in the two plots on the right hand side. In the back along a cast iron fence, we planted two long rows of peas and one of broccoli. I felt so good, and loved every second tilling the ground and pulling weeds and getting dirt under my fingernails. At 4:45ish, we called it a day, and I returned next door to my house. The after photo:

At 5:30, M. B. came over, sobbing. I had been with my roommate in the kitchen, and when I opened the front door, she just immediately unloaded. My roommate was still in the kitchen listening, as surprised as I was. One thing I found out was that her ex-boyfriend knew I had been over, (I had no idea this was a problem) and had sent me a message on facebook messenger, and she was so sorry he did that. For purposes of confidentiality, and to keep this short, I’ll wrap this up quick. Here is the message I received:

“Stay the &*^&*&^#& away from my girlfriend!

(her name)

I don’t care if she told you, you could use her garden, you go back there again or so much as look at her again you and I are going to have a problem.”

After discussion yesterday, and further discussion today with pertinent trusted adults, I’m submitting a police report, and that’s the end of my involvement. I am perfectly safe, and am going to abandon my investment in the garden. That’s finished for me. A lot of the story is left out, but hopefully that is sufficient to understand the gist. Who knew trying to grow some radishes would lead to this!

 

 

 

 

 

Feb. 24-March 1: Do you remember when we met?

The week started off incredibly. At 4:30 pm on Monday, M. came to my work and picked me up in her fire-red toyota. This was our first time seeing each other in 5 years. As freshman, in 2014-2015, we had worked together, shared many similar interests, and gone on one date to see the Count of Monte Cristo performed as a musical (quite good for the record). Soon after, I left for Texas and then on my mission. She stayed at school longer, and then went to Argentina for her mission. We hadn’t even spoken at all until a few months ago when we communicated briefly over facebook. So I was quite surprised to receive a message inviting me to go with her to salt Lake City for a law school event. M. also applied to BYU Law School and has been accepted already. This event was to wine and dine those students who have been accepted but haven’t committed. And we were schmoozed alright. After a little trouble finding some parking, we made it to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake, where a judge and BYU law alum, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the building and talked to us about how awesome BYU is and what at he does as a judge. He was part of BYU’s first class in the 1970’s, and h e showed a perfect mix of humor and humility. We then strolled across the street to a restaurant called, Caffé Molise, to enjoy a splendid four course Italian meal. The goat cheese appetizer had me swooning, but the rest of the fare was noting to write home about. (literally). Nevertheless, if the food was blander than I expected after tasting the appetizer, (which will inspire culinary adventures for weeks to come) the conversation was anything but, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we were there. M. also coaxed the Dean of admissions, Dean Stewart into sitting next to us, and while it wasn’t the reason I went, I do think by the end of the night, Dean Stewart would remember my name and I had left a favorable impression. Which, given the uncertainty of my application, could be a huge blessing. Thank you M. And if the night could somehow be any better, the drive back was just that. This is one of only two dates I think I’ve ever been on, where I genuinely felt uplifted and wanting to be a better person. It was a great feeling, and even though our time lasted 5 hours together, I could have stayed longer. It was a truly fantastic night. M. talked about her family in a very touching manner, but also shared how sitting in class a few weeks ago, she had received the invite to the event, and hadn’t planned on going. But, my name popped into her head and she felt like she needed to invite me. I am both honored, and very grateful that she did.

I just wish that we had taken a picture to remember the night better. In my defense, we were asked to leave our cellphones behind as were in the presence of confidential documents while touring the judges chambers in the courthouse.

Tuesday couldn’t compete with Monday’s adventures, but it was a solid day by any standard. Work was very productive, and our EQ meeting was both that and a blast. I also snuck in the last debate before Super Tuesday. I’ve joked for years now about Bernie Sanders, but seeing him so close is scary and not funny at all anymore. I can’t believe he has gotten so much support. I’ve admired his passion and sincerity, but am past that now. He aims to fundamentally change what it means to be American.

On gratitude: Thursday, I was sitting on the balcony eating my lunch and I realized that I had eaten a lot of fruit that day. breakfast was brought into the office and included raspberries and blueberries. I snacked on an apple, and at lunch had a peach, nectarine, orange, and plum. I reflected back to a biographer about Horatio Nelson (disclaimer: I believe it was him, it might have been about someone else, but it was definitely a British kid around the turn of the 19th century) who 200 years ago was overjoyed to receive an orange. For Christmas. Even 200 years ago, oranges were considered exotic and the household economy was such that an orange made a worthwhile gift. It’s amazing how blessed we are. I eat a couple of oranges a week and never pause to even think about it.

Thursday was also institute. We had a visitor, James Allen, who was assistant church historian, and has written several books. He talked about why history is important, what the church historian does, and some of his experiences over the years. He is 92 years old, and in the 1950’s worked at the institute at USC in California. The stake president at the time was Howard W. Hunter, my namesake. I think this is the first time I have talked with someone who knew President Hunter to the degree that James Allen did. It made the night extra special and I had to get a picture to memorialize.

Last week, I met with Mark “America” Smith. I had offered to help him collect signatures so he can be put on the ballot for governor. He works only one floor up from me, and when I met him to pick up clipboards and forms, he gifted me a brand new suit. The next day, he informed me that he doesn’t need any help anymore, but I’ve been impressed so far with nearly all of his platform and he took the time to explain some points that we disagreed on. And I like the suit.

Here I am leaving the temple on Saturday. It’s a nice dark blue color, and fits perfect. Mark somehow got the right size without even asking. This was a ward temple trip, and it was good to be with friends standing on holy ground.

Sunday was stake conference, and thus a very busy day. It started off with a leadership session from 9:30-11:30 am. After a quick dash home for a snack, I did a ministering interview with the Jensen brothers, and headed to the general session, from 1-3 pm held in the Wilk Ballroom. Attendance for the stake was 60ish%, at about 1100 people. I met Bro. Ken Wade, a member of the Bishopric of the 91st ward, and for some reason he took an immediate liking and started trying to set me up with all these people in his ward. I asked out one of the choir members, but alas, that was not to be. He introduced me to some other ladies, and we’ll see what happens. Our ward held a munch and mingle from 3:15-4, and then it was back home, accompanied by David Kaiser. We threw together a shepherds pie, and were then joined by Porter and Cooper. This time Cooper won Settlers of Cataan, albeit a shortened version, as David and I were off to the adult stake conference session from 6-8. (attendance for this session was at about 25%) I said the opening prayer, and then sat back and took in the good word, which leads to the good life. One of my key takeaways came from the stake president who said that he has realized, every time something bad or just not what we want happens, its because Heavenly Father is preparing us to serve someone down the road. We need these experiences to be understanding and empathetic, or just to know how to help. I reflected on such times in my life, and have to agree.

3rd Nephi 18:17-21- growing up in a culture of prayer.

This week, I finished reading Clayton Christensen’s book, How Will You Measure Your Life. The idea of living more intentionally and with written down goals has been something I’ve worked on this year, and this book strengthened a lot of those desires. Here is a quote I liked from Edgar Schein that was in the book:

culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful. 

This doesn’t apply to a culture in a country, or a business. It applies to all culture, such as the culture of a family.

I am blessed to have been raised in a culture of prayer. I can remember many times walking into a room at night to find my parents praying. 3rd Nephi 18:17-21 admonishes:

17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:

18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.

19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.

21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”

I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father, and he wants to hear from us. I have had so many prayers answered, and I know that as we pray to God, we will have greater strength to resist temptation and greater understanding as to what we should do in our lives.

 

Feb. 17-23: La Vita è Bella,

Reading Into Thin Air, I learned two new words to be employed at a scrabble game coming soon. Cwm, and nak. Cwm, pronounced koom, is a welsh-term meaning valley, and has been adopted by climbers internationally. Nak is a female yak. I’m ready to play!

This week, everything has pointed towards consecration.

Tuesday, I left work and went to Buffalo Wild Wings. There, I met up with Kevin, a roommate from my freshman year. We ate some wings and caught up. It’s impossible to stay uber-close, but its good to stay in touch with friends. Kevin moved back from California a few months ago, and I enjoyed our time at the restaurant.

Wednesday was a busy day. That night, I was invited to attend a talk by Sharon Eubank, the democratic debate was happening, book club was going on, and the church released its new handbook which I really wanted to read. I missed Sis. Eubanks talk, but staying up later than normal, managed to squeeze the rest in.

Thursday I went to Institute. This was right after going to the gym so David Kaiser went with me. The class was good, and we socialized a bit afterward. What was really touching was what happened after that.

Last week, a woman came up to me and asked me for a ride. She looked kind of homeless, was missing most of her teeth and couldn’t really look you in the eyes. I said yes, I’d be happy to, but it would be 10 minutes as the Lambert’s were playing an audio clip from Pres. Eyring’s funeral address for Clayton Christensen.
She said ok, no problem, and said she’d wait outside the classroom and eat the snacks brought to institute. After the 10 minutes, I left and couldn’t find her. I walked all around the church building twice before finally giving up and going home.
When I saw her this week, I offered to give her a ride for which she was most grateful. David came with me, and we drove her up to the Provo Temple.
In some ways, not everything is right. She has some disorder. Yet, in the most important ways, everything is right. I felt sanctified being with her, as she continually shared her testimony. The church is her life. She hails from Tonga, and has been in the US for 8 years. Her parents both are dead now, and she has been working in the Salt Lake Temple as a cleaner. When the temple closed, she was out of a job, and moved down to Orem and cleans the Provo temple nightly, Monday-Saturday. She was so gracious and thankful and continually wished us the best and blessings for helping her. Little does she know, I was so truly blessed to meet her and listen to her and see her dedication to the Lord.
Friday, I left work and the sun was shining, and as often happens in situations like these, I ended up missing my exit and driving straight to the golf course. It’s still being renovated, but I enjoyed putting and being outside.

 

Saturday I had a date with Emma. She came over at 6 and together we made dinner together. We made rice, rolls, squash, and tried a new recipe that was bubbling around in my brain. It was peaches lightly sauteed with beet tops. We mixed it in with the rice, and it was delicious! Much better than I expected. We talked non-stop and it was a really fun time. The date would have lasted longer, but at 8:15, I walked her home as some ward members were coming over for Movie Night 2.0. We had some peaches, some ice cream, shed some tears, shared many laughs, and just had a good time while watching “La Vita é Bella.” (Life is Beautiful). A truly great movie. It was in Italian, subtitled in english. It’s a love story told in the shadow of the Holocaust and the main character illustrates what consecration to family looks like.

Porter and Cooper made it over for a pot roast that lives in dreams, and Porter again left as victor, beating us in Settler’s of Cataan.

I gave a talk on Sunday, and told 5 stories to help convey my message on consecration. First, I talked about backing up and crashing into another car while on my date December 8th, and heading up to the Christmas Devotional. The takeaway: I was distracted by the little things, causing me to miss what really mattered.

Second, I recounted a bit on the Alamo. Sunday was February 23rd, and it marked 184 years, going back to the year 1836, when Santa Ana had his troops surround the Alamo and begin a 13-day siege that ended with all of the defenders dead. Among them was George Washington Cottle. At the time, he was 24 (my age now) and was married. His wife was pregnant, and after his death, would eventually give birth to twins. He was given the option along with all others in the Alamo to surrender and leave alive. He chose to stay and fight, knowing that he would almost certainly die and never see his wife again. Yet, there are some things that are worth fighting for and dying for. I don’t think we can fully live until we decide what we are willing to die for. George Washington Cottle is an example of consecration to me.

Third, I told of how Clayton Christensen didn’t play in the championship game for his basketball team while at Oxford: It’s easier to be 100% committed to principles than 98%, as life is a series of extenuating circumstances that will constantly try our resolve to stay true.

Fourth, I told of another Clayton Christensen story, talking about how he spent an hour nightly reading scriptures and praying over every single page. That sacrifice of time seemed like a significant and untenable amount as he was studying full-time in a demanding program and had many demands socially on his limited free-time. Yet, Clay would say that he now uses advanced econometrics maybe once a year, but he uses the testimony he gained during that time, many times every single day. Every day we are investing our time, and investments in Christ and his Gospel will bring much more happiness now and down the road.

Finally, I talked about a lesson that struck me from reading Into Thin Air. The book tells the true story of the Everest Disaster of 1996. In short, before making the final push to the summit, the guides had the climbers promise to turn around when the guides said to. At 1 pm, they should be going back down, to make sure that they would return to camp before nightfall, when the temperatures dropped dangerously low, and the oxygen canisters would be empty. If someone was close to the summit, they could continue on, but at 2 pm, doesn’t matter if you are 50 ft from the top, you MUST turn around and go back. On the final day, some people stayed late, pushing towards the top until 3 pm. They caught “summit fever,” making previously unthinkable decisions in an attempt to reach the top and satisfy their desire. So it is with us. We often say we’ll do something, but if a better-looking option comes along, we’ll drop our previous commitment and go off after our desires. For me personally, this happens a lot at night, when I need to study something or visit someone, and instead I think “I’m worn out, I’ll read something easy for now, and I can always visit them tomorrow.” Or, I’ll open my computer to do family history, and instead spend an hour playing chess online. The problem is, tomorrow didn’t come for most of the climbers who stayed out too late. 8 died that night, their bodies being added to the collection already on the mountain, of those who didn’t do what needed to be done.

The invitation I left for my ward, and the one I’ll leave here, is to change one thing to be more fully consecrated to Jesus Christ. And once you decide that one thing, commit to it like you are on Mt. Everest, and your life depends on it.

The consecrated life is a beautiful life.

Feb. 10-16: Lupercalia Lunacy

Tuesday, amidst other activities, I eagerly watched the results of the New Hampshire primary come in. Bernie Sanders pulled out the win, and is in prime shape to become the nominee for the Democratic Party. Part of me likes him because he is honest about what he is trying to do, passionate, and seems to have the nations best intentions in mind. On the other hand, I can’t believe that roughly 1/4 of our nation is voting for a socialist and I don’t think his policies would help, but rather prove to cause great harm. Regardless, I do love politics and have enjoyed every debate so far.

In Book Club, we read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; the play starts off by talking about the festival of Lupercalia. This is a fertility festival, but I didn’t realize it was celebrated February 13-15th. The exact connection to Valentine’s Day remains unknown, but there was enough to make me dislike Valentine’s Day more. Women would run through the streets naked while being whipped by mn with leather thongs, believing this would make the women fertile.

Regardless of the origins, this was perhaps the best Valentine’s Day I’ve had. We organized an Elders Quorum activity and had a feast at the Bishop’s House. While 30 minutes away, I’m glad we had it there. Dillon smoked ribs to die for, along with bacon-bit macaroni and cheese, I brought four pies (2 chocolate, 1 coconut, 1 banana), some salad, and Reigen brought garlic mashed potatoes. Bishop and Sister Miner told the story of how they met and their courtship, and even sang an original song while playing the guitar for us. The rest of the night was filled with ping-pong and casual conversation.

Saturday, I went to the Provo City Center Temple with Tatiana. During a ministering visit, she asked us to help keep her accountable with her temple attendance as she is trying to go every Saturday. It was a great time.

Sunday dinner included only Porter and Cooper, and we ate corn chowder and butternut squash, while playing Settlers of Cataan together. Porter pulled out the win this time.

Clayton Christensen died a few weeks ago and I’ve enjoyed reading the tributes that have been written as well as reflecting on what he’s taught me. Admittedly, I remember meeting him at baby Ben’s funeral and afterwards at Mimi’s house, while Tanner was conversing maturely with him, I butted in and said something so stupid I immediately felt intense shame. I remember reading The Innovator’s Dilemma in high school and not understanding much. Most importantly, a few key lessons have stood out, that struck me when I first heard them and remain important principles I think of often and try to live by to this day. I’ll share one here. While at Oxford, he was the starting center for the basketball team. In England’s equivalent of the NCAA tourney, they were cruising through the competition when Clayton realized the final was on a Sunday. He had made a promise not to play on the Sabbath years before and was worried about this dilemma. In the semifinal, the back-up center suffered a dislocation and now there was even more pressure on Clayton to play. He prayed and asked the Lord if he could play on Sunday this one time, as surely this counted as an extenuating circumstance. He recalls how the answer came immediately and it was along the lines of, “why did you ask? you know what is right.” The coach told Clayton he expected him there, but Clayton stood by his convictions and the Sunday of the championship he was at church. Here are the main lessons: it is easier to be true 100% of the time than 98%. Once you yield, the next time becomes easier. Also, Clayton relates how he thought that the championship game was an extenuating circumstance, but has since realized that life is a series of extenuating circumstances. There will always be reasons to loosen up or lower standards. The older I get, the more I realize how extenuating circumstances do seem constant. Sometimes its ourselves saying “just this one time,” and other times its friends and family who are telling us, “just do it, this is a special case.” Stay true to your standards, 100% of the time.

Feb 3-9: Khovanshchina

I meant to include this in the last letter: February 2nd was a fantastic day. After church, I picked up Cooper, Porter and Kevin, and we went to Uncle Ben and Aunt Joy’s house where other cousins had gathered and we feasted on burgers and fries. Then brownies and ice cream. ‘Twas delicious, and a great way to end a fast. By 5:30, I was home and because it was Super Bowl Sunday, completely free. I caught up on some personal reading and writing and truly enjoyed a day of rest. Now, back to the week in question.

Paperwork is such a struggle. This week, I had the goal to finish my law school application to BYU. Given that I’ve had since November to do this, it was more than doable. And it didn’t happen. The plan was to submit the application when I got my LSAT score from test #2 on Thursday. I got my score, but didn’t even start the application until Wednesday night. No bueno. My score increased by 1, not what I was hoping for. When I left the test in January, I thought it would increase by 2-3, based on how I was feeling. Alas. Tanner is being a big help, editing my essays and guiding me through the process.

Tuesday, we had our weekly presidency meeting and it was a blast. Jacob West, my counselor last semester moved back home to save money as he will be getting married in the near future. I knew this was likely, and while I was in Texas over Christmas break, I found out it was officially going to happen. I had a couple days to think about who I’d like to call as a counselor and two names were on my mind. However, when I returned home to Utah, I prayed asking who it should be and clear as day, I received my answer. Reigen Jensen is the man. I hadn’t been thinking of him at all, but the prompting was so strong and it was a time where the Lord answered my prayer immediately. He has been a boon to the entire quorum since then, and become a very good friend. Together with Dillon, I think the three of us make a good team.

I was feeling down a few weeks ago and couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong, (and thus couldn’t fix the problem,) so I broadened by a large measure the stats I keep on myself. There are 19 questions grouped into 3 categories, physical, spiritual and emotional. It’s all subjective, I just ask myself how I did in matter during the week, and score myself from 1-10. Since starting this, I have noticed a big difference! One of the questions is, “How was my sleep this past week?” and I few nights I’ve forced myself to put a book down earlier than I would have otherwise as I know I’ll be graded later. Another question is, “How have you done meeting new people this week?” Because of this question, I went to a conference, detailed below, that I would not otherwise have attended. My weekly averages have ranged between a 5.47-5.82. Its not easy to improve above the average! The 3 categories have ranged in scores from 4.57 and 6.33. If its under 5, I mark in red and focus on getting the score up, as I think if a 5 is average, anything under is dragging me down. 5-7 is acceptable and marked baby blue. I haven’t had a single category average higher than a 7, so I don’t have a color for that yet.

The conference I attended Friday was called, “Promoting Healthy Relationships.” It was put on by two friends who are over a nursing club at BYU. I expected 30-40 people, and didn’t know if I would even stay the entire time. Turns out, I stayed. The event was amazing! Just over 180 people who attended, there was breakfast and lunch and every speaker did a fantastic job. Plus, one of the reasons for my going, was to meet new people, and I did that as well. An unexpected tender mercy was seeing B—-. He was in my ward last spring and summer. I didn’t reach out enough to form a foundation of friendship, so that when he needed help, I couldn’t do as much as I would have liked. Ultimately, he left the ward and while I’ve tried to stay somewhat in touch, I haven’t done well, so it was a blessing to see him, see that he is doing well, and let him know that he still has friends here who are willing to help and support him. The conference lasted from 8-1 and I am glad that I decided to go.

I’m again attending institute this semester, and have enjoyed those Thursday evening respites from the world. Bro. and Sis. Lambert are leading our study of the Doctrine and Covenants. This week, they related how as mission presidents in North Carolina, they met with Elder Marvin J. Ashton who was visiting to call a new stake president in the area. They asked him what qualities he looks for, and he mentioned personal righteousness then good judgement. Good judgement is of course closely related to the gift of discernment. Reflecting on this, I can immediately think of a few people who have good judgement, and pondered on how I might improve in this regard, because I don’t think that I do have the best judgement and its such an important quality to develop. That day in work, I felt like I was quickly reaching my limit and hearing this story convinced me to put my plans to open a pancake-house in Brazil on hold. Heaven only knows I’d be flipping flapjacks in a favela right now if it wasn’t for Elder Ashton’s words.

I guess the food industry does still have a lot of pull though. For family dinner Sunday, I was joined by Tanmarie, Nora, Cooper, Porter, Abbey and Michael for taco salad. I came into possession of some catering supplies and set up an impressive and professional looking display.

Sunday was a busy day, as besides dinner, after my normal morning meeting with Bishop Miner, I extended 5 callings, went to church, then had 6 setting aparts, and 3 ministering interviews. Thank heaven for secretaries who do their job. Jacob D. and Brandon W. have been lifesavers.

Here is the a quote from Elder Ashton on spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 expounds on some gifts, then Elder Ashton adds this:

Let me mention a few gifts that are not always evident or noteworthy but that are very important. Among these may be your gifts – gifts not so evident but nevertheless real and valuable.

Let us review some of these less-conspicious gifts: the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgement; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.

I know that each and every person in the world has a gift of the Spirit, and I know that as we share our gifts with others, we ourselves will be blessed and we will help build up the Kingdom of God. If you don’t know what your gifts are, ask those who know you or pray to God to know. Once we know what we have been blessed with, we can then bless others.

 

Jan. 26-Feb 2nd: Journey to the Promised Land

Monday was the start of our revamped FHE. My roommate Spencer is leading our group, and we had 23 show-up. Impressive attendance and a good time was had as we played a get-to-know-you Kahoot game.

Book club this week had the biggest turnout I’ve seen so far, with 9 people showing up. It was a crowded room, and we delved into Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.

On Thursday, I held a “Nachos and Nacho Libre” night. Some of the ladies we minister to had wanted to do this, so we planned it and had delicious oven-baked nachos while watching the movie, Nacho Libre. We all had a really good time. It amazes me how sometimes the simplest things can make a world of difference. I regret not taking a picture. After such a good time, Ashkia and Kellie both want to go to Zion National Park, and we tentatively marked February 28-29th to visit.

The Utah Tech conference, Silicon Slopes. was held on Thursday and Friday. A few execs at my company bought passes ($200 each) and went on Thursday. They had no interest in going on Friday, so at 3 pm, Glenn Daniels, Tanner Litchfield, and I went for the end. We walked around checking out some of the booths, which were already packing up, and visited the insane arcade area where professional videogamers were battling it out on all sorts of games. The fluorescent lights, rapidly moving games, and vibrant announcers were enough to induce a headache in minutes.

The conference was in the Salt Lake Convention Center, and the arcade area took up an entire hall. There was the main game going on in the center, and being broadcast, while countless smaller games were happening on the sides.

Here is the main contest, with video and announcers on both sides.

We left the arcade area to go see the conference keynote, where Mark Zuckerburg did a Q+A. He did a great job, and his answers showed a lot of thought, vision, and sincerity I didn’t expect. I left not disliking him, even a little bit of a fan. While his answers were logical and well-reasoned, he didn’t/couldn’t play to the crowd at all (about 10,000 people crammed into the conference hall) and communication/connection is obviously a struggle for him (ergo why he invented Facebook in the first place).

Me and Glenn. He drove us up. Both Tanner and Glenn have been good friends at work.

I also enjoyed hearing from a few of the tech pioneers in the area. They have done an absolutely incredible job building a community where no one views it as a zero-sum game, and everyone is helping their neighbor succeed in business. The camaraderie is inspiring. While I won’t be part of the scene much longer, I do believe that there is something special happening with Utah tech.

Watching the masses exit at the conclusion of the Q+A.

(On my way back walking from the temple, walking the one mile, I ran into some non-denominational evangelicals and we talked for an hour on the sidewalk)

About 10 1/2 years ago, in early July 2009, I went on a trek with the Boston Stake. Of course, I didn’t want to go. Begged not to. I’m so glad my parents made sure I did. I recall walking about 24 miles over the three days. Camping out two nights. Getting to know the other people in my little “family,” the 7-8 other youth and adult “ma” and “pa” there watching over us and helping direct. We were (somewhat) dressed as pioneers would be, as they crossed the plains by handcart between roughly 1847-1856.

The entire trek was wonderful, and an experience I’ll never forget. I am very thankful, that while Tanner and my Mom and Dad, were in a different handcart, they were still on the trip.

All that being said, the reason I remember it, and think of it as being so formative, is because of what happened the very last day. We only had around three miles to go. It would be a short day, and at lunchtime, we’d make it to the finishing area and meet family members for a big lunch.

We re-enacted the Sweetwater River crossing. After everyone made it to the other side, we had a testimony meeting. I can still remember vividly sitting there thinking, “this is what the Holy Spirit feels like.” The Spirit was incredibly strong. I was crying listening to these youth talk about what they knew to be true and talk about their experiences the last few days. I remember thinking, this is how I want to feel all the time.

We might not feel like pioneers, but we can live like them. I think the key to their ultimate success, is their willingness to sacrifice. They gave up so much to follow God. Years later, when someone was criticizing the Willie and Martin Handcart companies, an old man stood up and shared his experience. This is what he said:

“I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts … give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife … too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but … we became acquainted with [God] in our extrem[i]ties.

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company”

Let us not shun tribulation. Usually, it is in our extremities, our times of trial that we do come to know God.

January 13-19: Rejoice ye in that day and Leap for Joy

Monday was LSAT try number 2. I think it went better this time. The sections lined up perfectly. Of course, a large degree of uncertainty remains because I don’t know which of the 5 sections was experimental did not count. As long as the first section was not the experimental one, I’ll end up a few points higher I think. I didn’t study between the tests except for a one hour session in early December, and felt refreshed and fresh, ready to go. By the end though, the struggle to concentrate was intense, and I didn’t finish as strong as i would have liked.

My gym time has become more productive as I’ve focused on the compound exercises; i.e. bench press, pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, military press; and try to do each of those exercises two different days per week.

As some of my goals for the year, I’m taking health more seriously, and besides changes to the gym routine, I’m also eating healthier, with lots more veggies. This last week, I bought and ate 12 different types of fruits/veggies. Meat is restricted to Tuesdays and Sundays.

Exceptions are made for when we’re having an EQ presidency meeting on Wednesday and Bro. Sutton the high councilor brings in buckets of KFC. This was in fact what happened this week. We feasted together. I look forward to our meetings every week. Its half an hour of business, then its always time to eat, listen to some knee-slapping jokes, and enjoy good conversation.

Friday January 17th marked the 100th anniversary of the start of Prohibition. It is crazy to imagine what would have happened if Prohibition would have continued until today. Thousands of innocent victims killed by drunk driving could be alive. I doubt that marijuana would be so freely used, and the debate over legalization of drugs in general wouldn’t be happening.

The following is something I shared on Facebook on Sunday the 19th. To preface, I should say that over Christmas, my mother mentioned getting a keyboard. I figured that I might as well get an organ instead of a keyboard, and am in the perfect spot to do so. There were dozens if not hundreds listed for sale in Utah, with most going for $50-100. Most people don’t want them as they are outdated and bulky. Both of which happen to be two of my nicknames, so I was glad to find one for free in Sandy, which Porter helped me pick up. Now the post:

“I’m overfilled with gratitude. One of the reasons I stayed in Utah after graduation was to be near my siblings. They serve me, bring me joy and inspire me to be better. While I am lucky to spend time with them weekly, Porter’s 22nd birthday was a catalyst in helping me realize how truly special they are. Saturday, Porter spent 2 hours helping me bring an organ from near Salt Lake to my house. Cooper provided a feast for both me and Porter that night for dinner. Then Tanner edited my law school application and AnneMarie lent me a book I’ve been dying to read and as always shared her positivity and non-judgmental spirit that makes all of us kinder in turn.

Today, we celebrated Porter’s birthday with an incredibly delicious Italian smorgasbord and a gorgeous cake that Annemarie made. Tanner hosted a Jeopardy game that was incredibly well put together and Cooper shared a new card game that had us all in tears, and then, just to cap everything off, I went to Porter’s apartment where he led 20some people through a scripture study, and bore his powerful testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I am truly blessed.

10 years ago, I could not have imagined the scene that has been this weekend. Similarly, I have no idea what 10 years from today will look like.

But this I do know, as any person strives to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ, their present will be filled with peace and their future will contain more happiness than they could ever imagine.”