Holy Mackerel! June 10, 2018

This week has been a little fishy.

As mentioned, Sawyer’s prize fish ended up in the trashcan. Monday morning the stink was noticeable and we couldn’t but laugh as trash is picked up on Friday. By Tuesday, no one was laughing, as anyone within a nuclear blast radius of our house could smell the fish. Needless to say, despite Dad dumping five pounds of baking soda in the trashcan, we were all thankful (and empathetic) to see the garbage workers come and pick it up.

Last week, on our way to the YMCA, I noticed a hiring sign at Farmer’s Insurance. Monday morning I ran over there, and after being intercepted by the receptionist, I dropped my resume off with her. One hour later, I was surprised by a phone call from the head honcho there who wanted to interview me ASAP. That made me hopeful, and I returned with heady dreams and ambitions. Lets be honest, their commercials are funny, and that’s half the prestige of working for someone else. Unfortunately, el jefe had only seen the first item on my CV (working for GPS Capital Markets) and was way excited to meet me. After finding out I wasn’t graduated, and would be leaving town shortly, not so much. Thus, I left unemployed once more. I’m getting comfortable with these interviews and nailing them. Going in, I knew the history of the company, and all the pertinent statistics. He was impressed, but there is no way to waive the accreditation and certifications necessary to sell insurance, and that is what they were hiring for.

Back to the fish saga. Breyer played a game on repeatedly this week. As soon as anyone would walk outside, she would astutely run to the door and lock it, and laugh hysterically at our plight as we were stuck outside with the decomposing fish. Eventually, her mercy always let us back in.

We finally finished planting the garden, and brought the Aiello’s rototiller over. When we got there, he was busy picking up wild plum seeds that had been digested by a fox. Apparently, for the seeds to grow, they must be passed by an animal. Cool stuff, but I’ll pass on the handshake. We’re pretty good friends though.

I have ended my letter reading. What is most interesting is to see how my relatives faced their early twenties. I made it to 1997, and ended with Uncle Ben dating Aunt Joy, and Uncle Aaron marrying Aunt Rachael. However, one of the most interesting stories was reading about Reed and Rob Nixon’s accident that left them paralyzed. It was incredible to see in depth the outpouring of the  church and community as large. To read about Pres. Hinckley’s blessing and see how they were prayed for the world over. Earlier in the week, I played Monopoly with Miller and Breyer. They didn’t know this, but our game (a baseball themed version) was gifted to Tanner and I by Reed some 10-12 years ago. I missed his funeral as I was in Brazil, and I distinctly regret having scheduled a time to visit him in 2015 before leaving and then being unable to make it work. I am truly thankful to have known him, to have associated with him, and to have seen his optimism and faith in the midst of some incredible trials. Above all else, I’ll remember his purposefulness. While being a quadriplegic, he  didn’t let that stop him. He earned a college degree, worked, and simply lived. Despite his countless problems, he served. He cared. He loved. May we all be more like Reed Nixon.

 

6/3/2018 Summer Vows

I’m close to taking my vows of poverty. The job hunt continues-ish. At this point, I’m essentially cutting my losses, and preparing for July-August and the Fall. I’m almost done with my financial analysis for next school year, and right now, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work, I’ll buy a car and stay even for the year. However, if a ring comes into play, it could get a little dicey. Nevertheless, I’m still praying it gets dicey.

Memorial Day Monday, we had FHE, visited a flag of fields and watched “Taking Chance” a perfect, and touching movie for the day.

Tuesday I picked up some cash by helping Connor move to Ft. Worth. And doing some yard work on Friday.

(Long golf story next, for those who wish to skip this sublime round, proceed to the next paragraph.)

Pres. Nelson called out the golfers in his devotional, but my membership ended and the clubs are in the garage, so no pleading guilty here! For the record, on my last round on Thursday, I desperately wanted to shoot under par. It started inconspicuously to say the least, for after hitting the first green, I proceeded to 3-putt. Bogey start was not what I wanted. The second hole, some onlookers watched me crash my drive, 320 up a hill, and then chip the remaining 20 yards, and make a 7 foot putt. Back in it! Mostly pars followed, with  birdies (reaching the green in two) on both par 5’s, and one bogey on a par 4. I turned in 35, -1. However, it took me 80 minutes, and it was now 8 pm. The group in front wasn’t letting me pass, so I played number 10, (another bogey dang it!) then jumped to play numbers 14-17. I added another birdie to move back to -1, before going to play the tough  11+12 holes. Getting up and down on both, I moved to 18, (historically the easiest hole on the course for me, a straight 460 yard par-5) needing only a par to achieve my goal. By now, it was way dark, and hard to see. I briefly considered playing 8-iron, 8-iron, wedge to the green, to secure my goal, but thought no way! I’m not ending my golf season with a wimpy layup! I smashed my driver again, avoiding the dangerous out of bounds on the right side, and leaving me only 150 yards . Choked down and hit my clutch shot, a baby draw, with my pitching wedge, and knew I hit it to perfection, but couldn’t see at all where it landed. So, I walked up to the green, and lo and behold my ball was 18 feet behind the flag, right in the middle of the green. Whatever happens, don’t leave it short, so I struck the putt, playing more off memory than sight, and boom! the ball broke three inches to the left, hit the cup, popped up and popped in for an eagle! It was the best possible way to end my summer playing, and I signed for a 69.

Of course, the more memorable and important event of Thursday happened earlier, as I left with Mom at 4:35 am to head to Dallas. I dropped her off at work, and headed to the Dallas Temple. Two weeks ago, I had also attended, doing two endowment sessions and a bunch of initiatories. It was an incredibly important day in my life, and I returned hoping for more of the same. And did not leave disappointed. From there, it was lunch on the grounds, and then going downtown to be an uber driver. That failed, with the phone dying, so to be productive while waiting for Mom to finish her work, I visited Wells Fargo and Chase Bank, opening up an account at Chase. Gotta diversify, right?

Friday we continued our near daily YMCA adventures, had dinner with the missionaries, saw Sawyer hook himself and head to the hospital, before settling in to watch the “Be One” 40 anniversary celebration of the Priesthood announcement. SO to my pal Andre Johnson. Pres. Oaks did a great job (as always) clarifying potentially sticky issues.

Today, Miller woke up with a headache, so we left him, and Sis. Page took us to church. Breyer liked the idea, and started saying she was sick, but to her chagrin, I called her bluff, and she ended up at Elder’s Quorum with me. I was also set up apart in my new calling, as EQ teacher. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying getting to know and love my fellow ward members. As they say about me, if you’re over 70, we’ll probably be friends. And Granbury is perfect for that. Bro. Sullivan was called to be another teacher, and I met his wife, who is from the Azores Island. Her cousin is an LDS district judge in Boston.

After our Fast Sunday officially ended, I made some bbq chicken pizza and while it was in the oven, we facetimed Tanmarie and Nora.

We held a spontaneous floss-off (culturing me) and Annemarie and Miller were declared the unanimous winners.

Random thought that came to me (after being invited to play a a card game tonight): Card games- the social media of the dark ages.

We watched the Nelson’s devotional tonight, and wow, they always blow me away. In case you missed it, here are the invitations extended by the Prophet.

1-Do a 7-day Social Media Fast

2-Weekly time commitment to the Lord

3-Keep on the Covenant Path (Complete a thorough life assessment)

4-Pray daily for all to receive the blessings of the Lord

5-Stand out. Be different. Be a light.

Follow the Prophet, accept this challenge, and join the Lord’s Battalion!

This entire week, I’ve been thinking about what is most important and eternal, and two answers – family, and building up the Kingdom of God- repeatedly strike me.  Don’t waste time, and help build that which shall never  fall again.

 

May 29, 2018

I made some pumpkin muffins, and went to put some cloves into them. Mom organizes her spices alphabetically, and as I went to get cloves, I realized that for the entire last year, I’ve inadvertently put chives into my muffins, instead of cloves. Whoops. Got them confused. Every time I made them (or pumpkin pie) I thought it was strange to be putting these green things in, but hey, everybody liked how the food turned out.

Update on my Summer60: These last two weeks I’ve only finished one book, Teach Ye Diligently, by Boyd K. Packer. What a fantastic book. I have such great admiration and love for this man. His humility and sincerity and putting God first, are apparent in all he did. He truly was a witness of Christ. I also found, in my scrapbook, a Boston Stake Conference that I attended where he presided. Cool.

The book that I’ve been laboring over for close to two weeks now is The Closing of the American Mind, by Alan Bloom. Can’t say I understand everything fully, and its informed me (not that I didn’t already know) that my knowledge of philosophy is pitiful. Still, gained some good gems from it. Forty pages left.

What’s really been slowing my summer reading down is my discovery of previously unknown (to me) family letters. I’ve read over 1000 pages, from 1986-1992 so far. Its been incredibly entertaining! I love my family, and these accounts are truly priceless.  Especially interesting has been the relationship rollercoasters of my aunts and uncles… and parents, as they worked on finding their soulmate.

The Celtics are finished for the year, but the Red Sox keep getting better. We’ve been following them pretty closely, and with the return of Pedroia, we’re planning to keep watching all the way to November. Lets go Boston!

I thought this last year of college, being the first back from the mish, would be the hardest,  but boy oh boy was it a breeze. Frustrated and tired by the ease, I began asking for challenging opportunities in my life. New church calling upped the ante a little, but now, I finally feel stretched. And of course, now that it happens, the temptation is to back off.

I suppose most of the hardship is financial. I believed that this summer would be a financial windfall, and instead its been a financial free fall, being a severe struggle to save some lettuce. Nevertheless, I know I’m in the right place, and trust all will be well.

I’ve enjoyed going out with the missionaries. We’ve been teaching a family, who while they have some normal struggles did attend church last Sunday. I’m most excite about a young investigator, Juliette, who actually knows Porter and was in his graduating class. There’s a great work to do here!

I also went with Bro. Dewey to Fort Worth and we administered to one of his co-workers who had been severely injured, paralyzed, in a motorcycle accident.

 

Ok, I’m fading here. The eyelids are getting heavy.

Joke of the week: What happened to the cannibal who arrived home late for dinner?

His wife gave him the cold shoulder!

 

Seriously though, life is good. Its the rough times that make the smooth sailing so much fun.

And, as Elder Maxwell said, as Jesus comes to have a real place in our lives we become less and less concerned with our place in the world.

 

Mother’s Day — May 13, 2018

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

We skipped the line and talked to Elder Schenewark on Saturday. He is looking and sounding good, with lots of crazy adventures still happening.

For my mom, I painted a picture of the Washington D.C. temple to commemorate their wedding day. She is truly an example, an inspiration, a mentor and a friend. Like Lincoln, all that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. This year was the first time since 2014 (aka high school) that I’ve been with Mom to celebrate this day.

Azalea Advertising has unofficially died. Unofficially because I still have lots of business cards printed already. Otherwise, its gone the way of all the earth. I believe in the idea, but need to face the music and confess I’m not a salesperson, and to have any sort of success in this field in such a short time frame, salesmanship is essential. So, I’m now looking for a job. And have scaled back significantly my summer financial goals.

Today in church I played piano in Primary. I was asked to yesterday, and while agreeing to, was internally hesitant. Oh boy, this was the most fun I’ve had in church in years! Granbury has the biggest primary I think I’ve ever seen, some 50 kids, and without any of their normal teachers there, it was a riot. A few boys, probably age 4-5, sat in the front row and were acting like zombies to each other. I couldn’t stop laughing! There was so much constantly happening, and all the answers given were so different than what I’m used to hearing, and yet so profound. Truly, from the mouth of babes.

I never thought I’d be a pianist of any sort, and feel grateful to be able to share any degree of talent I might have in that category with others. During sacrament meeting, the priesthood sang “Teach me to Walk in the Light” for all the sisters in the congregation, and I also accompanied that. I remember having the goal of learning 6 hymns to be able to play on my mission, and how that simple goal has led to today.

On Wednesday I played in a local golf tournament, a short 9-hole skin game in scramble format. We eagled the hardest hole and I thought we’d be walking away with the money, but alas, another group equaled our feat. I do plan to keep playing in this weekly tournament. I love my new driver, and enjoy out-driving everyone else by 20 yards.

Saturday, I went teaching with the missionaries. Unbelievably, this is the first time I’ve gone with missionaries since being home. I’ve been bugging them about teaching with them, and finally they invited me to go along. We went and taught a family, Angela the matriarch (50’s) her daughter Candice, son-in-law Joe, and granddaughter. Angela has studied theology before and seems sincerely interested. We had a great lesson, and the Spirit was strong. I loved teaching in English, and hopefully can go out with the missionaries again soon.

Today in Sunday School we continued our discussion about the Israelite’s wandering in the wilderness. It’s incredible to think that they repeatedly complained and wanted to return to slavery in Egypt. However, I started thinking, are we not often slaves? Slaves to our work, to phones, or other entertainment, to wasting our time,  or a million other habits and actions?

Do we forgo our wilderness of affliction and trial and principally of growth for some eternally meaningless comfort? Tough questions that made me reevaluate some of my actions. And, as Pres. Packer taught in the book Teach Ye Diligently, “Nothing is truly ours until we can give it away.” Lots of applications, but for this, let us note that we cannot help others, until we ourselves are free. I know that to make it to the Promised Land, we will have to leave our comfort zone, follow the Lord in faith, make sacrifices and trust in His promises.

Idyllic Industriousness

This has been a week filled with moments of indescribable beauty. I believe idyllic describes it best, as it has been filled with dream-worthy moments not to be forgotten, where I am left in my garden-less Garden of Eden to contemplate. And the garden is on its way.

Annemarie thought that I was returning to Texas mostly to golf. I plead the fifth, as on May 1st, I was on the course negotiating a monthly membership. Best deal yet. While the greens aren’t in the best shape, I’ve enjoyed again playing alone in the early morning. I listen to discourses from General Authorities while I walk, and pause to meditate on their counsel. I bring sufficient snacks that keep me energized, and after nine holes, I am accustomed to find a spot to sit and eat and read some poetry. Does it get better? When you can see the dew glistening on the green grass, the birds are singing a song and the Texas wildflowers are winking at you, I hesitate to answer.

I have been astounded by the household bureaucracy. I’m even talking about paperwork! When I asked to build a garden, in my mind, I was asking for a 20 ft by 20 ft plot of land. That’s it. I know the native soil has lots of clay, and that lack of water could prove troublesome, but that’s okay. I wanted a challenge, and more than anything just the green light to create and to be involved with the land. Instead, when I arrived, I was tasked with creating a design. And when I saw Cooper, my partner-in-projects, designing an outdoor fire pit on graph paper before building a diorama, before receiving permission to continue, I knew the challenge to actually start a garden would be tough. There are four people pushing their own plans,

Breaking update: Inspired by a neighbor rototilling his land, my parents have now passed me on to the next phase, that of preparing the land, no capital improvements necessary.

And our fire pit is nearly done after a few hours of work on Saturday. The first batch of cement was mixed a little dry, but otherwise its gone off without a hitch. Pictures shall be forthcoming.

On Thursday, Mom, Breyer, and I took off to Tyler and watched cousin Moriah’s nurse-pinning ceremony. It was a testament to her will to finish, and I was impressed. It was nice to see Aunt Janel, Uncle Brad, Luke and Anna as well.

What else is idyllic? Eating meals from Mom and Dad. Teaching Breyer how to sing from a hymnbook. Seeing Sawyer and Miller forgo baseball all-star tryouts to honor the Sabbath, and to join together with my siblings in fasting. Mixing mortar with Cooper, and falling asleep each night to the cooing of the crickets and the croaking of the bullfrogs. Life is good. I’ve also founded another company, Azalea Advertising Agency. My foreign friend came through again, and he said “Awesome experience. Love to work with you. I wants to work with you again and again.” I hope he’ll come to my Christmas party one day.

 

Elvis has left the Building- April 29, 2018

I’m gone. Or rather, I’m home.

I said goodbye to lots of people, this last week, and I realized as I’ve done that, I’ve never returned. From one move to the next, I’ve never really gone back. Sure there was a quick visit to West Virginia and even to Hutto, but I’ve never really returned. All through grade and high school, the last day of school was always the last time I saw friends. While the situation will still change, I feel like I will be coming back. I will be in the same ward, same apartment complex with many of the same friends.

Goodbye Provo

Monday-Wednesday were consumed with finishing my preparations to leave. Monday I attended FHE, where we hiked up Rock Canyon, then quickly met up with Lydia for a quick walk and a goodbye. Tuesday, I had a couple friends over, and we watched a movie, “The Tree of Life,” and ate some steaks and ice cream. Just cleaning out the fridge. The movie was interesting and thought provoking, and I want to watch it again. Coming highly recommended, I was not disappointed and was blown away by the cinematography. Wednesday I handed over everything for Elders Quorum with the understanding I will help in any way possible, but the 1st counselor, Josh will be taking care of most everything now. And then Tanner came over and helped me bring a few tubs to Uncle Ben’s. That afternoon I resigned my contract for the same apartment, and decided to leave most of my books and dishes there to simplify the moving process. And I grilled some burgers, successfully finishing all of the meat I had.

Texas

The trip went well, security didn’t stop me, and no one sat next to me on the plane. With no layovers. My marvelous mother picked me up, and we talked for three hours on our way back negotiating our way through some awful traffic. I’m increasingly identifying Texas as home, and with the pending change happening at 91 Brigham St., Mass, this feels more permanent than ever. It helps that I do love Granbury, and envision my parents staying here indefinitely instead of wondering where the next homestead will be.

First thing Friday morning, Dad, Sawyer and I left for a fishing trip. We had a wonderful time, fishing for a couple hours, and catching lots of fish. Sawyer must have bagged 5 or 6, Bro. Dixon another 6 or 7, and his son 3 or 4. I caught two, and my Dad had no luck. Although, the other three all used a whopper plopper lure for each catch, while my dad and I tried lots of other kinds to little success. Nevertheless, that was the first fish I caught in what must be 10 years. I was a little hesitant at first, but by the second was putting my thumb onto his sandpaper teeth and taking the hook out. All were bass, either striped or large-mouth, with the Guadalupe variety remaining elusive. We’ll definitely be back. I confess, despite imagining myself as one, I am not some great sportsman. In fact, after so little fishing in the last ten years, my value on such trips is little, and I relegated myself to helping by at least carrying our equipment, while Sawyer and the Dixon’s blazed ahead. I even needed help in tying the knots and have much to relearn before I stand confident with a group of fishermen. I tip my hat to Sawyer. He taught me a thing or two.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the yard, the frontier that is open to me, as part of our summer beautification plans. Lots of work left. I’ve not been here in Granbury for this time of year, and am loving the wildflowers that are in bloom all throughout the town, including coloring our backyard.

The fire pit design masterminded by Cooper has now been accepted by the parents. I never imagined beauracracy could be that bad here, but the necessary paperwork has been pushed through, and we have the green light.

Tending to act without much formal planning, my garden is still in limbo, but I’ll sketch up a design or outsource to Cooper again, and we’ll get final approval this week.

Finances

Speaking of outsourcing, I’ve traditionally only spent money on church donations and golf. The rest went into the bank account. As I’ve aged, the complexity has increased, and with college I’ve been spending on -church -golf -dating -school tuition -school supplies -rent -food -laundry. Lately, I’ve added another expense category, -Indian outsourcing.

After reading about outsourcing to India using the website, YMII, Your Man in India, I became somewhat enamored by the idea, and have loved outsourcing projects, and appreciate the help they were in inexpensively launching my last venture.

Movie

Saturday night, we (Breyer, Cooper, Sawyer, Miller and I) went and saw the Avengers Infinity War at the Brazos Drive-In. For those who haven’t seen it, count yourself blessed. That was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Granted, I’ve missed the last 15 superhero movies so I didn’t know who most of the people were. Apparently Black Panther made an appearance, and I didn’t even know it. In short, it was non-stop action without a compelling story. All good art has an agenda, and since we’ll kindly assume that this was good art given the $300 million to make it,  I’ll confess the biggest agenda I saw was pagan indoctrination. With action movies, I am generally inspired to go save the world. This time, I didn’t even commit to working out more let alone run for POTUS or something. Give me Sound of Music any day.  Nevertheless, it was fun to be with my siblings. We had snacks galore, Cooper cracked us up draping himself in his mosquito net for a while until realizing the pests weren’t being bothersome that night, and simply being out in the beautiful Texas night was relaxing.

Summer Goals

I’ve become frustrated by my incredible overuse of “um” and “like.” In many ways I’m proud of my colloquial speech, and I don’t want to sound stuffy or pretentious or academic. Yet, I need to use less fillers and be more concise. #summer goals #I’m-on-it.

Here are some of my other summer goals:

-save $25,000

-read 60 books (hereafter referred to as the Summer60)

-Build a garden

-Visit some ancestral sites in Missouri

-Discover what town in Germany the Gerken and Schenewark lines come from

-shoot under par in an 18 hole round of golf

-plant some fruit trees

-paddle Lake Granbury

-write daily in my journal

-read the Book of Mormon twice

complete Pres. Nelson’s challenge to study about Christ in the standard works.

-Get a car

I read my first two books for the Summer60. Admittedly, I started out light, with Golf Course Design, by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and The Voyage, by Phillip Harris. I accomplished most of that during the lull at Sawyer and Miller’s baseball games. Both played great and helped carry their team.

In full gardening mode, and having finished reading about environmental golf course construction, it seems appropriate I end with this quote from a recent article on the church’s newsroom website, about stewardship of the earth, and from T.S. Eliot,

“a wrong attitude towards nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude toward God.”

 

 

The Vanishing Minutiae

(Disclaimer, for some reason, I am unable to post pictures. I will sit down and work this problem out this week)

What a crazy couple of weeks! Everything has been perfect, and so much has happened. Whereas I once wrote mainly on soldiers moving in their companies and regiments, now it seems that entire corps are being placed in the front, and heading into the fight. In other words, great things of importance are happening.

(And I still haven’t lost my ability to muddy the situation with metaphors.)

As Mom already announced I was called to be the Elders Quorum President a few weeks ago. Initially, my first thought was “No, not me!” I had other plans, and they did not involve staying at the Crestwood. In fact, I had already arranged to live with some friends in another complex, and was going to submit my application for a semester-long study abroad in Jerusalem the very next day. I asked the Bishop for one week to think about it, but upon leaving his office and going to Sacrament Meeting, it was apparent within minutes what I needed to do.

It was a very personal experience, and I won’t share everything, but my faith and testimony were both increased greatly by this experience, and I will share a couple thoughts. First, I reflected back on Pres. Monson’s story of being called to the Bishopric. He was the same age, 22, and went to talk with Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the 12. Elder Lee told him to reject his officer’s commission in the Navy, (that Pres. Monson had diligently worked for, and given that war in Korea appeared immenent, it appeared much better to serve as an officer, than to wait and be called up as enlisted ensign.) Pres. Monson did not want to, but listened, and admits that his life changed dramatically because of that situation. Of course, this was with 60 years of hindsight. What will I think 60 years from now?

Second, I remembered how just a week before, inspired by Elder Klebingat’s visit, I had prayed to the Lord, asking how I could serve better, and asking for opportunities to do so. The last few months I had at many times been frustrated by the apparent lack of challenges. My life seemed so easy. Remembering this, could I then turn down the chance I had been praying for?

As I sat in the Sacrament meeting, not paying attention to the announcements, I flipped open the scriptures, hoping to see some rationale to still leave. Randomly opening to 1st Corinthians 1,  I read the chapter.  Nearly every verse testified what I needed to do. Two especially were significant, verse 17, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” I had reflected previously on how I could continue my missionary efforts, and this was the obvious answer. I did not need to baptize new converts, but to strengthen those already of the fold. The other part that quite literally pierced me was 1:25-27.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God  hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

Our plans are foolishness compared to the plan of God. As soon as Sacrament ended, I told the Bishop I was in. I had wanted to go to Jerusalem to come closer to my Savior, but surely this calling would do that as well.

In the weeks that have followed, I am so grateful and humble for this opportunity. It has been a great experience, and one in which I have already learned so much. This last year, two people committed suicide in the apartment. complex and another died apparently of natural causes in his sleep. It says in John 18:9,

Of them which thou gavest me I have lost none.

That has become our Presidency’s mantra, and we are working hard to make sure we know and welcome everyone.

BYU

School is finishing this week, I have three finals left. So far, the others have passed by with ease. I have struggled somewhat in my Portuguese class, as there are so many busy work assignments. Perhaps busy work isn’t the best term as I understand practice is necessary to master a new topic, nevertheless, they really do seem quite unnecessary and not that helpful. I was happy to take the Challenge Exam, offered to returned missionaries to receive up to 16 credits for the mission language. I took that one week ago, and knowing that my Portuguese is definitely not the best, I finished the test in 25 minutes and earned 12 credits of A’s, and 4 of A-.

Music

I played the organ today in church. My mind was somewhat preoccupied with other things, so I went up and played fire. Every hymn (but the sacrament of course) was played with a bunch of stops, including a mixture, and the dust was falling from the rafters. It was confident with no mistakes (finally!).

Dating

Since I last wrote my dating has consisted entirely of going out with Lydia. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and we have our next one planned for tomorrow. On our first date, she recommended the author Wendell Berry, and I have been devouring his writing since then. I likewise, highly recommend his work, whether in poetry, essays, or novels.

Sports

I’ve managed to golf every week. Last time out was with Tanner. According to him, I played “inspired.” Nearly every shot was hit purely, and still not doing the math to account for the thinner Utah air, I airmailed a couple greens. On the penultimate hole, there was someone in front of us way out in the distance. I thought I’d just hit it, and to my amazement the ball sailed way over his head! (and just to the right). On this par-5 measuring 490 yards, my drive went right down the middle of the fairway, 370 yards. It was crushed, and exhilarating and guaranteed I’ll need to play and try to improve on this round in the near future. I feel my swing is back, to my best pre-mission levels. Of course, my second, a 60 degree wedge went too far, and after a pitch onto the green, it was two putts, and a par. Oh well. I did birdie the other par-5 though, with another great drive and a second shot to just off the right side of the green. (Ok, I desist, that’s enough golf for one letter.)

Family

I loved having the Orton’s and Hutchins’ over for games and desserts. Its always great to spend some time with them. Nora continues to grow, and her smile cracks me up. Tanmarie continue to help me, and are very generous with transportation and time. I had dinner with them tonight, together with some of  Annemarie’s siblings.

Miscellaneous

First, my newspaper endeavor is going well. My friend Robert and I spent a few days in Indianapolis to learn some tricks of the trade. That weekend was the Master’s, the wedding of a friend, and a dinner with Terryl Givens. Nevertheless, I went. So we’re serious about this. Right now, we are thinking of calling it “Journal of the American Mind” or JAM for short.

Temples

I continue to work on visiting all of the Utah temples. This week I checked off the Ogden Temple. It was a ward temple trip, and we went up on Thursday evening. It was truly a remarkable night, in which I went without many questions and left knowing more about what the future held for me than before.

החיים טובים

I got on the bus Thursday afternoon and two guys nearby sat down, and started talking, obviously part of the same ward. “Hey, remind me, have you proposed yet?” “Dude, I’ve never even had a girlfriend!” Of course, this was followed by some apologies for confusing him with someone else. I cracked up. Truth! Here’s to you! Keep hanging in there!

For those interested, at BYU, there are currently:

-216 Tanner’s

-101 Hunter’s

-14 Porter’s

-16 Cooper’s

-0 Miller’s

-0 Breyer’s

I love feeling stretched intellectually, and that happened with the appearance of Scott Yenor this week. He is a Catholic professor teaching at Boise State. Toqueville Society paid for him to come and speak on “Three Ideologies that are Undermining the Family.” As a club member, we met with him Thursday night to discuss his recent article, “Sex, Gender, and the origin of the Culture Wars.” That was my first time actually thinking about feminism, and I can honestly say it was life-changing. My way of thinking changed that night. For those interested, here is the article:

https://www.heritage.org/gender/report/sex-gender-and-the-origin-the-culture-wars-intellectual-history

The next day, Friday, we listened to his lecture, but as much had been discussed the night before, it was sort of a letdown. Until the Q+A. A solid crowd attended, and I was surprised by how many people took shot at Dr. Yenor and his ideology. At BYU. This piqued my interest further, and I’ve been talking with as many women I can to find out their opinions on this subject. We concluded his visit, by having lunch as a club, and hearing even more about transgenderism, etc.

Later that Friday evening, I went with Caitlin (from Montana) to BYU’s annual Seder Dinner. They hold what is termed a learning Passover dinner on three nights around this time every year, with 250 in attendance at each one. While it turned out to not be the best place for a first date, my understanding of Passover and how it relates to Christianity today increased. I especially liked how in Exodus 12:17 it talks about partaking of this (passover) ordinance forever.

As we broke the unleavened bread and partook, reading the traditional scriptures from Psalms that the Jews read at this point, it became very obvious how the sacrament relates to Passover and fulfills Exodus 12:17 as we take the sacrament every week. I would highly recommend the dinner for anyone who is able. Seriously, when a date that involves eating horseradish, and listening to Hebrew prayers still turns out good, you know this is something worth doing.

Saturday was our ward temple trip to Manti. I invited my friend Robert, and we were accompanied by five women from the ward. During the 1.5 hour drive down, we took the opportunity to discuss various questions, and I am thankful for that. Pres. Packer taught that one of the main purposes of college is to know yourself, who you really are, and these small debates have been profoundly impacting me and helping me to do so, as well as to understand the world better.

The temple was spectacular, my favorite that I’ve visited in Utah. It was special to remember that it was here, some fifty years ago, that my grandparents were sealed and our families journey in the gospel in many ways began.

Before driving back, we stopped at Miller’s Drive-Through Diner. Delicious. When a restaurant in the middle of nowhere has famous fish sandwiches, you know its good. (Although I opted for the classic BBQ Bacon Burger.) And their ice cream was great, and I saw for the first time in years, Superman Ice Cream.

That night it was off to Tanmarie’s to play with Nora and compete at Parcheesi. Life is good.

On the Homestretch

Its been a while! I switched website providers and it took me much longer than I expected to figure how to switch everything over.

My business is officially up and running. Check it out:

www.achievement-rings.com

I launched the first ads on Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes. As of now, I’ve invested $89 so far to create everything.

Friday was our Spring Break, and I took advantage of the day off to watch Holiday Inn. Ok, just kidding. I’ll make it until at least the next official holiday before  I watch it.

Mitt Romney joining the Senate Race caused the jump in ticket price for the annual Utah County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner. My freshman year I attended and had a fantastic time, courtesy of a student priced ticket, at $10. This year, the students had a specially priced ticket of $32.50. Needless to say, I missed this one. However, I did receive (somewhat accidentally) a Mitt Romney for Utah t-shirt.

My last date before yesterday, was a few weeks ago, and I went to the soap factory again, and in honor of Texas Independence day made this:

I took a shower with my new soap, (having loaded it with fragrance) and the winter mint was amazing. I felt so clean, it was like taking a shower in Listerine.

I again participated in an Intercollegiate Studies (ISI) conference. This one was in Salt Lake City, and the theme was “The False Promise of Radical Politics.” I took the train up early Friday morning, visited the temple, ate at the Lion House then spent a few hours doing family history. I also visited the old tabernacle, listened to the organ performance at noon, and then went up to the organ.

 

I checked in to the hotel about 5, and spent the next two days there. BYU had the largest contingency of any college, with us totaling 5. My roommate was Ken, a junior at Auburn University and with the biggest alabama drawl I’ve ever heard. He’s studying journalism, and it was fascinating to hear some of the projects he’s working on.

During our free time Saturday afternoon, we visited the Cathedral of the Madeline, Temple Square, and the museum of Modern Art.

 

 At the art museum

But my favorite stop was at the RootsTech conference. This is the largest Genealogy conference in the world, and is held annually in Salt Lake City. Saturday is their free day to visit. Unfortunately, we only caught the tail end, as it was an hour from ending for the year. Still, it was enough to confirm I’ll be back!

We left Sunday morning, navigating another snowstorm, to make it safely back. I again played the organ on this Sunday.

   McKenzie, the other BYU student had left the reception at this point.

It was at this conference, that I decided to start a school-wide journal about politics here at BYU. We’ve since received a grant, and I’ll be going to Indianapolis in a few weeks to participate in a “Start the Presses” workshop weekend. ISI has definitely been good to me. They hired a new area director and she visited BYU on Thursday and met us and bought lunch.

As hinted at, I went on a date yesterday. Again it was bowling. There were 4: cousin Abby (from Massachusetts) with James (from NY) and I went with Jennica (from New Hampshire). It was a very northeastern evening. To keep it short, after about four frames we put the bumpers on. Nevertheless, it was fun, and Abby actually whooped me the second game, with her score of 135.

Other news: I golfed  at Thanksgiving Point last Saturday. The course was a little worse off than I thought, bumpy and brown etc. with snow in the bunkers, but it was still wonderful to get out and play. This was my best shot below: A par 3, 215 yards, I hit it over the ravine onto the green a few shorts short of the flagstick.

Admittedly this one went over the green

Last weekend was our stake conference, and we had Jorg Klebingat of the 70 presiding. Saturday night he conducted a Q+A for 2.5 hours. It was incredible! He told his courtship story with his wife, and it is one of the most inspiring, unusual ones I’ve ever heard! I was taught, and I was inspired. As the Holy Ghost is the real teacher, I won’t include many notes here. I will add though, that he emphasized the necessity of pondering. We have lost that art because of loudness, and always expecting fast turn around in everything. We need to reflect, to have stillness in our lives, for that is when the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost will touch us.

And finally, just a cool quote from George Orwell I found reading a book this week:

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.

 

 

 

Retail Stores and Dating: A Metaphor for Millenials

Last Saturday, I went to the temple in the morning as part of our ward temple trip. Afterwards, we had Zupa’s catered to us. And, in a fateful move, I picked up a leftover one to bring home.

Dad had just gotten here, and came over to my digs, checked the place out, and we headed to UVU. Tanmarie and family were just finishing rock climbing, and we went with them to the bowling alley. I’m proud to say, I was top score, with 140.

Dad and I went up to American Fork, and I met Sis. Young, and we talked with her for a couple hours, before heading back to meet up with the Bach’s, who were just arriving, for dinner. Dinner was at Terra Mia. Dad and I split a pizza and their texas sandwich. The pizza was ok, but that sandwich —-> 10/10. The restaurant had a live two-piece jazz band playing as well. It was a fun place. We (Tanner, Nora, Dad, Matt Stone, and I,) proceeded back to their apt. and we played some games.

Sunday morning, I played host, welcoming the Bach’s, Dad, and Matt for burritos and apple pie. The perfect combo. We then went to Tanmarie’s church, and witnessed Nora’s blessing. She was a champ.

Dad had to leave after, for the long trip home, and I gifted my Zupa’s sandwich to him. With apparently aged mayonnaise. Alas, I knew not.

I went with the Bach’s to go to the dinner party being held, and for about 45 minutes, we took a nice tour of Provo, including the industrial area, before deciding we better get the real address, and we made it for a delicious soup and salad event, with ice cream+ cookies.

It was wonderful to have everybody visiting, and many memories were made.

Monday was the return to school.

The death of retail stores, with the rise of online markets has been heralded. The advantage of course, is that the middleman is cut out, and thus the markup passed to the consumer is less. Blind dates are like retail stores. So, deciding to employ the same technique and cut out the middleman, I signed up for Mutual (think mormon tinder) and went on two dates this week, with people from it.

The first, Rayann, is from Wyoming, served a mission in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is studying elementary education. Interestingly, she pointed out that we both have five brothers and one sister. Wednesday, coincidentally Valentine’s Day, we went to the BYU wind symphony, who enthralled us with various pieces all based around the theme from the hymn, “Praise God from whom All Blessings Flow.” We have a second date set for this coming Friday.

And on Saturday, I doubled with cousin Kaleb, and we went bowling. I set him up with someone from the ward, and we had a blast. With Kaleb there, it was much easier to be natural. My date, Megan, served a mission in Salvador, Brasil, and we know quite a few of the same people. As we arrived to BYU’s bowling alley, she disclosed that she had previously taken a bowling class, and at that time  was scoring in the 170’s. Luckily, that was a few years ago, and I upheld my honor, winning both games (albeit barely) with scores of 132, and 146. After dropping Megan and Shelby off, Kaleb came over and we had dinner and ice cream. It was nice to hear about his mission and catch up. We’ll be back at it again.

Of course, I also admit I don’t really shop online, and thus my Mutual saga has now come to an end. I appreciated the experience, but its not me, and I’ll stick to old-school.

Friday, I continued my temple streak, going to the Provo one. After, I walked to BYU to watch the movie “Black Orpheus” which is supposed to be  a Brazilian masterpiece. Having heard so many good things about it, I admittedly left very disappointed. The film was so sad, and even a little dark. My roommate Derik, picked me up, and we headed to UVU’s institute for a dance. A singles awareness dance. It reminded me of a giant stake dance. And also reminded me that I never liked stake dances.

 

Another highlight from Saturday was with Tanner. We went golfing at Eastbay. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed getting out and playing. On the first hole, I dumped my three first shots into the lake. Finally, on my fourth try, I stayed on dry ground, and the rest of the round went much smoother.

Today in church I played the organ. It went well until the last verse of the last hymn, when I must have been in cruise control because I lost my place, and let the ward sing a capela for one bar, before joining back in to finish the song with them.

Our choir is singing “Cumorah’s Hill” for a fireside, and one piece contains the line,

How can we hope to see His face, when we never could see His hand?

I know that as we look for, and recognize the daily blessings and miracles in our lives, we will be better prepared to return to our Maker, and we will experience more joy in our journey to Him.