personal

One night, the Prophet Joseph Smith was sitting down to dinner with his wife, Emma.  They had nothing to eat except one johnnycake (corn meal pancake) between them.  President Smith bowed his head and said “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this johnnycake.  Please send us something better.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

I’ve been dealing with a similar issue for roughly the past 14 years.

On September 30, 1997, I boarded a plane from San Jose, CA to Houston, TX, ending a 2-year, full-time mission for my church.  I was sad to leave my mission but excited for what the future held.  I’m not saying those were the best two years of my life.  They weren’t.  Every year since then has been better than the one before it.

But since my mission, I’ve had about 17 jobs (part-time and full-time) and I haven’t enjoyed any one of them as much as I did my time as a missionary.

To be clear, I’m grateful for my career.  It has been such an amazing blessing I can hardly comprehend it.  It has allowed me to support my family temporally and spiritually, afforded me the privilege of associating with some amazing people and given me the opportunity to learn great things.

But not one of those jobs has made me as happy as my missionary service.

It’s not hard to see why.  The life of a missionary is comprised of four things:  working to help others (~11 hours/day), studying the gospel (~2 hours/day), meals/hygiene/etc. (~3 hours/day) and sleep (~8 hours/day).  Almost a full 50% of the day is spent putting all your time and energy into finding ways to improve the lives of specific people around you.

Over the course of my two years, I helped people quit alcohol and drugs, helped couples turn around their marriages, taught children to read or speak English, sang songs in a nursing home, mowed lawns, did construction work and did countless other acts of service.  And I’m not saying that to boast; every missionary does it.  That’s the nature of a mission.

Which is exactly the problem with my career thus far.  That’s NOT the nature of any of the jobs I’ve had since my mission.

This leads me to my dilemma:  my first priority is supporting my family but every day I can’t help but think I could be using my time more effectively (i.e., in a way that makes more of a positive impact on the world.)

Which brings me back to the story at the beginning.  After Joseph said the prayer, what happened?  Well, they ate their johnnycake together and, just as they were finishing, there was a knock at the door.  Joseph opened it to a brother holding a turkey saying he’d felt impressed to bring it to the Prophet’s house.

I know prayers are answered and I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s somebody with a turkey with my name on it, looking for my house.

But I can’t believe I’m alone in this.  Have any of you had feelings like this and, if so, what did you do about it?

Dear Bubbers and Scooters (and our other kids who might be reading from heaven),

I saw a news story today and it made me think of you. It’s about a little boy in Texas named Cody. He was born without legs that work. Not all babies grow perfectly in their mommy’s tummy and things like this can happen.

When Cody was 18 months old, his parents and doctors decided the best thing for him would be to take off the legs he had that didn’t work. When they did that, they gave him new legs. Legs they had made just for him. And not just one set of new legs but five! He has a different set of legs for all kinds of different fun, like running, climbing and swimming.

That’s right, he can swim and run and even play soccer!

Here are a couple of pictures of him:

See that? He’s smiling! Even though he doesn’t have legs of his own, he’s still happy. And if you read some of what he says in the article, you can tell he’s full of hope and joy and laughter.

The second thing I want you to notice is this: he can do just about everything any other kid can do, without his own legs. You know how when you get frustrated, Daddy sometimes says “Don’t get upset. Just solve the problem.”? That’s what Cody (and his family and doctors) did. He didn’t get upset and quit. He solved the problem, even though it was really hard, and now he can do anything!

You’re both strong, smart boys, full of faith, hope, joy and laughter. You can accomplish anything Heavenly Father wants you to. Heavenly Father and Mommy and I love you (so much!). When you get discouraged and sad, please come tell us and we’ll give you a big hug and listen and help you solve any problem you have (if you want us to).

But please don’t lose your legs. ‘Cause then we couldn’t tickle them!!

Love,
Daddy

Like anybody, I like a good night’s sleep.  That usually means 7.5 hours, starting at 9:30pm.  Tonight, my head hit the pillow at 10:30, which was good.  For the past three nights, I’ve been drifting off at about 11:30, even though I was laying down at 11:00.

Exciting things are happening and they tend to keep me awake.

So, when my head hit the pillow at 10:30, I expected to be sawing logs in seconds.  But, again, I found myself unable to sleep right away.

But tonight was different.

I wasn’t thinking about exciting things.  I wasn’t thinking about anything at all.  For some reason, I just couldn’t sleep.  I could hear our youngest, Scooters, peep every once-in-a-while, but that didn’t really keep me up.

I decided to get dressed and do a couple of things in the office, in hopes that they would help me sleep.

While in there, Scooters’ cries got louder and more sustained.  I kept telling myself he’d go to sleep.

He didn’t.  He just cried longer and louder.  I told myself “he’s cutting teeth, he needs to learn to sleep through it.”

But after 30 minutes or so and a particularly heart-wrenching cry, I went in.

Boy, was I glad I did.

Somehow, his heater had gotten turned up to…90 degrees.  Let me type that again.  90 degrees.

It was 11:30 and his bedtime is 6:00.  His room had been 90 degrees for 5.5 hours.

I grabbed Scooters and his hair was sweaty and matted and his huge cheeks were as flushed as you can imagine.  He felt like he was on fire.

My first instinct was to get Heidi and figure out what to do.  But then, I realized she was tired, too.  And I don’t always have to consult somebody else before making a decision.  So, I let her sleep.

I opened the door, turned the heater down and turned the fan on.  Then, I took Scooters and we went outside and sat on the porch (it’s pretty chilly tonight, like 40s).  That helped quite a bit.  Then, he acted hungry, so I took him in and got him a bottle.  I also washed his head and face with a cold washcloth, which I then put at the back of his neck while he drank his bottle.

Finally, after all that, we went up to his room and checked the temperature.  85 degrees.  Unacceptable.

So, I opened the window and we sat there, in the dark, for 15 minutes or so, while the room began to cool down.  We talked and played and then I gave him some more Tylenol and put him back to sleep.  This time, the door was closed, the fan was on and the window was still open.  I’ll go back in there in a few minutes and check the temperature and close the window.

It was horrifying to see my little guy in that kind of condition.  But it felt good to make it better and still let my hard-working, exhausted wife sleep.  Plus, Scooters and I connected some more and had fun.

Typically, I would let Heidi take the lead in fixing those problems but it felt good to do what made sense.  Sure, I can think of a few things I could have done better, but I felt more like a parent tonight because I let my love for Scooters and my instincts take over.

I love parenting.

(read Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here)

Outdoor concerts are great, aren’t they? The atmosphere is so fun and free, the music is great and the food seems to taste even better, just because you’re outside. It’s one of those near-universal experiences people love.

Which is one reason they have tickets. Because if it were free, the venue would fill up too quickly, people would fight for seats and we’d have “Children of the Corn”. And nobody wants that. So, you have to buy a ticket to go.

And that’s exactly what I forgot to do for this date. I thought I could just call up the day before the concert and buy tickets. Turns out, Peter Breinholt is slightly more popular than I gave him credit for. Which means I didn’t have any tickets for the concert on Friday.

But I did get them for Saturday. So, I called Heidi, Jimmy and Heather and we were able to move our busy student schedules out one day and head to the concert on Saturday afternoon. And, believe it or not, all went according to plan.

We had a great time and really enjoyed ourselves. Proof? Here’s the picture:

We had so much fun, we decided to go out again. For 10 hours. A date that included “My Fair Lady” at a small theatre in Orem, Brick Oven and lots of talking until the wee hours. I may or may not have broken her guitar string, too. Which ended up being a great excuse to see her again.

Let’s just say, the ball was rolling. We went on a lot more dates, had tons of fun and I was glad we were dating exclusively. I even went home with her for Thanksgiving with her brother and a friend of theirs.

There were a few bumps in the road before that fateful day on April 30, 2001, when we were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple and a few after. But it’s been, with only one exception, the best thing that ever happened to me. The exception?

Every day since.

(to be continued…for all eternity)

Adonis. Marble, antique torso restored and com...
Image via Wikipedia

(read Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here)

Those of you who were in attendance in that copy room (that is to say, none of you) will recall a man standing there with his arms in the air, parading about the room triumphantly.  To say a certain swagger had found its way into my step as I walked back would not be an exaggeration.  A peacock would have felt humble by comparison.  Not even my psyche could deny that Hot Law Library Chick had written my name on her notes.

I returned her notes and went back to my table, plotting my next move.  I held all the cards, now.  She was smitten, head-over-heels, if you will.  To imagine the word “twitterpated” would not be out of the question.  Clearly, her life would have been but a meaningless shell of an existence but that I were a part of it.  You get the idea.

So, how to proceed?  I certainly didn’t want to lose the upper hand or tarnish my Adonis-like image in her mind.  Finally, I settled on my next move.  I decided…to sit at her table the next time I was in the library.  “Yes!”, you’re thinking.  “A real man of action!”  That’s right.

And did I shy away from this bold endeavor (which essentially put me back on the same level I was at the day I first met her)?  No.  I DID sit at her table.  And not only did I decide to sit with her, but I was going to ASK HER OUT!!  ON A DATE!  TOGETHER!!  Did my boldness know no bounds?  IT DID NOT!!

So, in keeping with my debonair, suave way (no cracks in the comments!), I sat with her for probably 2 hours.  We studied, talked here and there, etc.  Plenty of time to ask her on a date.  Did I do it?  Surprisingly, yes.  When?  As she was pushing her chair in to go home for the evening.

That’s right, friends.  Nothing says confidence like waiting until the last second, literally, of a 2-hour window to ask somebody out on a date.  Notwithstanding, she was a true gentlewoman and accepted my bold advances.  She did want to go on a date with me!  She did think it sounded like fun to go see a hypnotist at Johnny B’s.  She was excited for me to call.

So, why did she decide to call me the day of the date and cancel?

(to be continued…)

Celery Stalks
Image by TheDeliciousLife via Flickr

(read Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here)

You probably noticed that I said “Heidi, right?”, as though I hadn’t just read her name in my Palm Pilot 10 seconds ago.  There’s a fine line between “stalker” and whatever you call a guy who’s trying to woo a girl (“wooer”?  “pursuer”?  Anyway…) and I wasn’t sure if having an appointment written in my Palm Pilot with a near-stranger’s name in it crossed that line.  So, I acted like I had just accessed the vast archive of my memory banks and solicited, in an instant, the name of a girl I had run across four months ago.  Are there ethical issues with that?  Maybe, but shut up.

Two episodes ago, I mentioned that Heidi’s psyche had helped me out a bit.  This was the manifestation of that help.  You see, the only thing Heidi’s psyche ever allows her to change is underwear.  She is a rather static person.  Which is why she was living in the same group of dorms and studying in the same library.  What a great blessing!  To my own psyche, I say, “seriously, you couldn’t help a brother out once in a while?”  Anyway.

Heidi’s reaction was one of surprise.  I could see that she didn’t remember my name so I stood there, waiting patiently, knowing I had the upper hand.  She said “yeah, what was your name again?”  Upper hand or no, you can’t hear that question without getting bucked down a few notches.  “m”, I stammered, not sure where to go from here.

Then, I happened to notice she had a copy of “The Iliad”.  I was taking a Humanities class from a crazy man who expected me to read that book in 2 weeks, besides the fact that I was taking other classes.  And he hadn’t given me any notes about the book.  Well, Heidi was studying the same book for a Philosophy class and SHE HAD NOTES!

And I had an idea.

I went to put my things down and came back, after a couple of minutes.  No, I didn’t sit there with her.  I didn’t want to seem like I was coming on strong.  What am I, a psycho who writes her name down four months ago so I can find her again?  Of course not, HA HA HA!!  What a silly idea!

When I came back, I told her of my dilemma and asked if I could borrow her notes to copy them.  Well, she was more than happy to share her notes with me.  She picked them up and handed them over and I took the coveted prize to the copy room, straining both nostrils the entire way to see if I could catch the hint of a scent.  Okay, that’s not true and it’s a little creepy.

Now, up until this point, I have painted Heidi as a pristine goddess, capable of no wrong.  Unfortunately, this next part of the story has proven, in later years, that my wife is willing to mercilessly assault the truth for her own wicked designs.  But I digress.

I put the pages on the copy machine and ran them through.  As was my habit, I checked them after they were done to make sure they were copied correctly.  As I leafed through the pages, some writing caught my eye.  Upon closer examination, I realized she had written on one of the pages and this writing had copied through.  What was this writing, you ask?

My name.

(to be continued)