Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Rob and the Paraplegic Pasta"

The title makes it sound like it may be one of the lost works of Dr. Seuss, but "Rob and the Paraplegic Pasta" is actually another relatively new, short Lego film by my 17-year-old cousin Eden that I had forgotten to post the link to until now. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

Three days ago, I came down with the stomach flu for the first time in my life. At first, I feared that it was food poisoning - following an unwise decision to give West Bountiful's new Five Guys Burgers and Fries place a try - but this was not the case. Anyway, as a result of coming down with the stomach flu, I got to spend much of the weekend with my stomach grumbling non-stop as if it were digesting concrete, while multiple times each day it has felt like I have been giving birth to all of my internal organs . . . if you catch my drift.

Fortunately, I am feeling much better over the past 24 hours or so. The feeling that has overwhelmed me today - whether as a result of the feelings of the previous three days or not, I don't know - is one of immense gratitude for all of my many blessings.

Being sick always helps put things into perspective for me. It helps me to realize how truly well things are going for me and how truly blessed I am when I'm not sick. It's like the line in the song "Opposition" from My Turn on Earth (one of my all-time favorite musicals - really!): "You've got to be sick to be grateful for your health." It's a simple-but-true message.

A good friend also helped to put it into perspective for me by telling me of a friend's boy, already suffering with lukeimia, who had been diagnosed with the swine flu on top of that.

As soon as I learned of this sad story, I suddenly felt much better.

I've also been doing a lot of thinking about a lesson that Mike Adams, our ward's high counselor, gave in elders quorum last month, in which he talked about going to the temple only with the attitude of being grateful for things, rather than wanting to ask for something (as we are wont to do when we go to the temple), and how this attitude greatly enhanced and enriched his temple-going experiences after that. It is a lesson that I have reflected on a lot since.

Looking around me today, I couldn't help but find just about everything I was grateful for in my life close by: family, who I got to spend the afternoon with, including my three favorite nephews (okay, so I have only three; I'm not picking favorites); the great people in my ward; taco soup, shared with good friends; the gospel's restored truths - the list goes on and on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Love Poetry for Dummies: "Shakespeare Simplified"

It's been quite a while since I've posted a poem here on the Epistle. There's no time like the present, right?

Shakespeare Simplified

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
You're hot!

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Want Candy!

More than a month ago, as the chapel emptied following the conclusion of sacrament meeting on Mothers' Day, the sisters (and future mothers) in the congregation were each given flowers. This tradition has been a part of our ward for at least as long as I have belonged to it, and I feel that it is always a nice gesture.

While the flowers were being passed out, I sat talking with a couple of friends. I made the observation that while the sisters were always given flowers on Mothers' Day, the brethren of the congregation were always given, well, jack squat on Fathers' Day. Both friends agreed with this assessment, while one added that if we were to be given anything at all, it most likely would be yet another lecture on how badly we, the brethren, are doing at dating, which is what the issue always seems to boil down to when it comes to the subject of dating.

Anyway, Fathers' Day came yesterday, and I am happy to report that I was proven wrong - which is something I can be happy about being when it comes to these kinds of issues.

The sisters passed out gifts to the brethren (and, presumably, future fathers) in the congregation. Our booty: candy bars, which are really the male equivalent of (or superior to, depending on whom you ask) flowers for many of the boys I know. I will admit freely that this nice gesture was a pleasant surprise.

Many guys still subscribe to theory that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and I am one of them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Amazing Technicolor Siblings

A shameless plug goes out today for Rodgers Memorial Theatre's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which opened Friday night and will play for the next month.

My brothers Ben (Gad) and Steve (Simeon) and my brother-in-law Jeff (Guard) are in the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday cast. One of my Improvables colleagues, Jake, is also part of the cast. Last night, I attend the T-Th-S cast's premiere performance and enjoyed myself immensely. I may be a little biased, but they did a fantastic job and put on a high-energy show.

Here are Ben, Steve, and I, along with Mike, Kylee, and Dallin, following last night's show (Jeff had changed out of his costume by the time I began taking pictures):

Yes, that guy with the beard is actually Steve.

For those who didn't know, Rodgers Memorial Theatre is located at 292 E. Pages Lane in Centerville. You can obtain tickets by calling: 801-298-1302. The show runs through July 18.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Afternoon at Bear Lake

Over the weekend, my ward's annual summer superactivity was held up at Bear Lake. For the second year in a row, the Hansons were good enough to host some 60 or 70 of us (I lost count) at their cabin on the west shore (Utah side) of the lake.

I was scheduled to perform in last night's Improvables show, so I couldn't go up to join the gang at the lake until this morning. Ben was good enough to carpool with me and even offered to drive us there. As a trade-off, I bought him one of LaBeau's famous raspberry shakes, which I think is a rather fair exchange.

This activity was a great opportunity for me to finally break in my new digital camera, which I must say I am very pleased with.

The weather all the way from Bountiful to Bear Lake (and back) was less than stellar and less than summer like, but we rolled with it the best we could. Inside the cabin, there was plenty going on and good friends with whom to pass the afternoon.

Shannon helped to kick-start the karaoke singing with her rendition of "The Wind beneath My Wings" - Happy Hands Club-like actions included.

I hadn't sung karaoke for quite some time, so I of course jumped at the chance. I chimed in with Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and had plenty of willing backup singers to help me out.

The weather began to look a little more promising after a while, so Sis. Hanson, Ben, Chelsea Greene, Jon Farley, Sara Squire, and I went out on the lake for a little while in the Hansons' boat. Ben and Sara were brave enough to enter the frigid water for some tubing.

Meanwhile, I stayed in the boat to hoist the orange flag whenever anyone fell off of the tube. It's an important responsibility, really.

On our way back to Bountiful, we stopped in Logan for some cheese curd and chocolate milk at Gossner's, which has become a family tradition whenever anyone passes through Cache valley.

In all, it was an afternoon well spent.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

30 Days?!?

On March 14, 59-year-old Mario Reyes was crossing the street to catch a bus to work in Miami, Florida, when he was struck and killed by Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who was driving his black 2005 Bentley 50 MPH in a 40-MPH zone while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol level was .126, which is high above Florida's legal limit of .08.

Three months later, the case finally came to trial. Yesterday, Stallworth pleaded guilty to a DUI manslaughter charge, and the sentence was - get ready for this: 30 days in prison.

Is that what a human life is now worth?

The plea deal also calls for Stallworth to serve 10 years probation and to perform 1,000 hours of community service hours. In addition to jail time, he was sentenced to two years of house arrest and a lifetime driver's license suspension that could be eased after five years. He must also undergo drug and alcohol testing.

While this is a step in the right direction, it only goes to show that pro athletes keep on getting what equate to slaps on the wrist in court and keep on getting held to lower standards of behavior than the rest of us.

The penalties for drunk driving in this country are just not severe enough. It really upsets me when I hear news reports about someone being cited for their 15th or so drunk driving charge, who plows into an SUV full of children and kills a bunch of innocent people. And yet it keeps happening every day.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Alcohol is the Official Drink of Hell.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jack-Jack Busts a Move

I had to post this footage of my cute 14-month-old nephew Jackson, who got very excited during our game of "Pass the Parcel" at yesterday's family birthday party and began to dance along to the music:

(This was shot with my cell phone, so I apologize that the quality is not all that great.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

The World Is Flat!

Yesterday, I came out to my car to find, to my great frustration, that it had yet another flat tire. All told, that makes four flats on three different tires during the past month alone!

A nail was pulled out of a tire twice. You'd have thought that I had been off-roading in the city dump or driving my car into hardware stores with reckless abandon, similar to the way that Lindsay Lohan is rumored to drive. But neither of those activities could be blamed for the four flats.

I do partly suspect that a lot of the debris lying on and around I-15, which is once again undergoing some major repairs and "improvements" in the Salt Lake/Davis County area, is to blame. It feels like 1997 all over again out there on the roads.

I also partly wonder whether there is an evil fairy in fairy land - perhaps an evil cousin of the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny - who goes around slashing tires at night.

The good part about all of this is that I'm becoming quite adept at changing a tire, which is something I didn't really know how to do on my own until recently. I'm also singlehandedly keeping the West Bountiful Big O Tires store in business, which is really the least I can do when our economy is in a recession.

I just hope that my spare tire isn't the one to go flat next.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"A Whole New Term: Lehi Pride TV 2009"

My cousin Eden, who some of you already know has won some awards for his short Lego films, has recently ventured into the live-action arena. Check out this very funny video he helped to make for Lehi High School:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Testimony Bingo, or: More Thoughts on the Straight and Narrow

To paraphrase the immortal Forrest Gump, life is like a Millstream Ward testimony meeting: You never know what you're gonna get.

Well, that's what I think, anyway.

I thoroughly enjoy fast and testimony Sundays at my ward, because there are certainly no dull moments to be had. For example, there was the time that a speaker came up to the pulpit and declared, to the horror of many people in the congregation, that - I kid you not - "90 percent of all sacrament meeting talks are worthless." Then, there was that time a few months ago, when our ward witnessed perhaps the first-ever saxophone solo - and, at the same time, the last saxophone solo - in an LDS sacrament meeting. Really.

But I digress.

Recently, a friend introduced me to the concept of "testimony bingo." The idea behind testimony bingo is that you predict, prior to the meeting beginning, who's going to bear their testimonies, using a makeshift-bingo card (i.e. the back of the program) to keep track. Essentially, if you take into account the many people who seem to bear their testimonies each month, you might easily come out with a winning card.

At this past Sunday's monthly testimony meeting, I set out to give testimony bingo a try. But something funny happened: Many people who hadn't borne their testimonies in a long time found the courage - and it does take courage - to walk up to the pulpit and speak what was in their hearts. Further, I actually found myself paying attention and listening to them. And, as a result, I found myself enjoying the meeting very much.

The idea that was reemphasized to me through this experience was that you basically get out of the gospel whatever you put into it.

This brings me back to my post from a few weeks ago about enduring to the end and trying to stay on the straight and narrow path. I asked the questions: Is it enough to pray and read the scriptures every day and attend Sunday meetings? Or do we have to be even stronger than that?

Many of you posted comments on the matter or otherwise opined on the subject, and I am grateful to you for your thoughts and ideas. "All of the above" factor in, I think.

In addition, the answer I've come up with is: Yes. We do need to be even stronger than that. We can go through the motions of praying and reading our scriptures daily and attending meetings, and if our hearts and minds are not in the right place, it profits us very little. We need to strive to become converted on a daily basis. The little decisions do matter just as much, if not more, than the big decisions.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

So Deer to My Heart

Over the years, the members of my family and I have cared for many kinds of pets, including dogs, cats, and birds (the llama thing is still a dream, though I really would like to own one someday). On Friday, we got to look after a new kind of pet for a day: a baby deer.

As far as we can tell, it was left next to our front yard by its mother shortly after being born, after which the mother (for some reason) took off. The fawn then wandered into a grove of trees and stayed there for the rest of the day.

Friday (June 5) was already the day of my mom's and my niece McKenna's birthdays, so it seemed like a fitting occasion for a new birth.

Shortly after the fawn appeared, we called animal control to see if they had any advice for us on caring for it. They told us that mother deer will typically disown their babies if they pick up any trace of human odor, so it was important that we not touch or get too close to the baby.

The little fawn didn't do much but sleep or look around for most of the time, but it was a pretty cute little thing to look at. Jessica, Jenna, and Luke came over to look at it, as did a few of our neighbors. Biz named it "Petey" if it was a boy, and "Lilly" if it was a girl. We never did find out the fawn's gender, but the more important issue is that you never disagree with Biz, ever. Jeff will back me up here.

By approximately 9:30 p.m., under cover of darkness, we found that Petey was gone. Presumably, its mother returned to retrieve it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bountiful: A Link to the Past

At family home evening this past Monday night, the theme was a Church history road race (in the tradition of "The Amazing Race," perhaps?), for which we divided up into teams and raced around to various points in Bountiful. The idea was that we would all learn a lot more about some of the important historical sites right here in our own backyard. Fortunately, I would say that we accomplished that goal.

Already being a Church history nerd, among many other types of nerdiness to which I claim membership, I enjoyed this activity a lot. Bregg, Lisa, Marie, Shannon, Tanner, and I may not have been the fastest group to complete the course, but I think we enjoyed it the most.

In all, we visited five Bountiful historical sites, including: the 152-year-old tabernacle (the oldest Church building in Utah and one of the oldest tabernacles in the Church), Peregrine Sessions' (the man who founded Bountiful at Brigham Young's request in 1847) cabin on Main Street, and Heber C. Kimball's mill by the stream, for which the Millstream Ward is named.

Below is a picture of our humble group, along with Bro. and Sis. Swenson, at the cabin, just south of the city library:

My apologizes to Shannon for "borrowing" her picture. Alas, I forgot my camera.