Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year's Toast

Here we are, just hours away from yet another new year. A box of Mars bars goes to the first person who can tell me just where in the world 2010 disappeared to. It feels like it was just a couple of months ago that we were welcoming it here.

Regardless of how I feel about it, at the stroke of midnight, 2011 will be here - ready or not. I'm still working on the New Year's resolutions; there will at least be a couple of them. (More on that to come later, or as my many fans demand.) For sure, I know that Project 52 needs another reboot. If you don't know what that refers to, feel free to reference it in a post from nearly a year ago.

I like New Year's in that it is both a time to reflect on the past and a moment to make changes for the future. On that same topic, some of the words of the John Denver and The Muppets song "When the River Meets the Sea" - something I actually referred to not that long ago here on The Epistle - have been running through my head today: "Like a flower that has blossomed in the dry and barren sand / We are born and born again most gracefully / Thus, the winds of time will take us, with a sure and steady hand."

Happy New Year, friends.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Time Is Here

No fewer than 20 individuals, all told, gathered at the Plowman house to spend Christmas Eve together Friday night. Not all of those who attended are related to me by blood - a few are considered, for the moment, adopted/honorary Plowmans - but, as Charles Dickens wrote in Nicholas Nickleby: "Family need not be defined merely as though with whom we share blood, but as those for whom we would give our blood."

A fantastic dinner was followed by our annual family Christmas pageant, focusing on the Christmas stories in Luke 2 and 3 Nephi 1, which Biz took great care to organize. I was cast, for some reason, as a wise man (rim shot).

Among the other cast members participating were Jenna and Kira, two very cute angels; my fellow wise man, Dallin; and Luke, as a shepherd:

Some gifts were then exchanged - the rest were, presumably, opened the next morning, though I can vouch only for my parents and unmarried siblings - and I must say that watching my nieces and nephews open their presents has increasingly become my favorite part of the holiday. Jackson, in particular, was very pleased with his Sheriff Woody doll, which is a nice companion to his Buzz Lightyear toy. Kira was also pleasantly surprised to receive a Minnie Mouse doll.

The Christmas celebration continued Sunday at church, during which we sang multiple congregational hymns, including "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Away in a Manger," "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Silent Night."

And so, yet another Christmas holiday has come and gone, but the spirit of Christmas need not depart, as long as we strive to keep it all year round, Scrooge style (something else Dickens would say).

And so, as Tiny Tim observed: "God bless us, everyone!"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Top Ten: Christmas Movies

On her blog, my sister recently posted a top-ten list of her favorite Christmas movies. Not to be outdone, I am choosing to post my own list - not to be competitive but merely to share my own point-of-view on the topic.

#10. Gremlins It freaked me out as a kid; nowadays, it still scares me, only a bit less than it did.

#9. Joyeux Noel This true story of a 1914 cease-fire Christmas celebration among British, French, and German soldiers, during World War I, was a pleasant surprise.

#8. White Christmas I had heard about this classic for many years, and then, last year, I finally watched it. Story checks out.

#7. A Christmas Story Having been told, when I was younger, that I physically resembled Ralphie, I've long held a special connection with this film.

#6. Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean While not technically a movie, this hilarious Christmas episode of "Mr. Bean" remains a must-see for me each holiday season.

#5. The Shop around the Corner One of two Jimmy Stewart movies on my list (insert ominous, foreshadowing music here), this lesser-known, black-and-white version of You've Got Mail is also a superior film.

#4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas The cartoon classic - not the Jim Carrey remake!

#3. A Christmas Carol (1951)/The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) (tie) It's hard to pick a favorite between these two versions of Charles Dickens's beloved holiday classic, so I give them a tie. Alastair Sim, in the black-and-white version, is a better Scrooge, but, on the other hand, you have the Muppets.

#2. It's a Wonderful Life This has been a family favorite for as long as I can remember. My brothers and I can quote/act out entire scenes.

#1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe This is not a Christmas movie, per se, but it is my favorite all-time film, and Santa Claus (Father Christmas, in Britain) makes an appearance. Plus, it's a fable for the life and mission of Christ - the real reason we celebrate Christmas. So, there you go.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a goodnight!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Dinner with Kylee

It was my oldest niece Kylee's 13th birthday Saturday; I can't believe that the little tyke is actually a teenager!

Earlier today, I finally got around to taking her out for her birthday dinner. Her choice was the Hungry Bear, an all-you-can-eat pizza place not too far from her home in Layton. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, we were met with a handwritten sign informing us that the Hungry Bear had just gone out of business.

Notwithstanding this crushing blow to our fragile egos, we then headed to Kylee's second choice: Chick-Fil-A at the Layton Hills Mall. I had never eaten there before, thought I have been an admirer of their billboards for a number of years now. Their chicken turned out to be, indeed, quite tasty, and we enjoyed a good meal together.

After eating, we strolled around the mall and ended up stopping for some time to roll coins down into this doo-hickey (I'm not sure if it has a name), with the aid of an old friend called gravity. These things have always fascinated me:

I enjoyed my afternoon out with Kylee, and I hope that we get the chance to do it again soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Kicked in the Gut by Christmas Shoes"

My ComedySportz colleague Matt Mattson, one of the funniest Improvers I know, recently posted this hilarious take on the "Christmas Shoes" song that we are bombarded with every year at Christmas time. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Waltz for Rodgers

It was the end of an era last night, as the Improvables took the stage at Rodgers Memorial Theatre in Centerville for one final show - last one for 2010 and last one at RMT, anyway.

More than 130 paying customers, plus a handful of family members and friends getting in via comp. tickets (I would have to estimate the total crowd size at close to 150), showed up for our send-off performance, and it was good to hear their enthusiasm, laughter, and cheers throughout the evening. I took the stage with Biz, Bryan, Ian, Jana, Scott, and Steve, along with Grant and Parker on music and Jeff in the tech booth.

Among the many games played were fan favorites "Late for Work," "Advice Panel," "Town Hall," and "Greatest Hits," as well as "Musical Fairy Tale," for which I was assigned to sing the country music portion. Scott followed soon after, with an operatic number:

One of the other highlights of the evening was playing "Slide Show," perhaps our number-one requested fan favorite, for which two audience volunteers - including my niece Kylee, who turns 13 years old today - joined us on stage. Here is a shot of the obligatory - and always very funny - slide that was turned upside-down:

Yesterday was, in fact, a day filled with Improv; earlier on, in the afternoon, Biz, Guy, Ian, Steve, and I performed at an assembly for an estimated crowd of 500 to 600 students at West High School - alma mater of President Thomas S. Monson, among other famous Utahns - in Salt Lake City. We were impressed with the extraordinarily outgoing treatment we received from WHS faculty and student leaders, and though there was some good-natured heckling and rowdiness during the show, the kids responded positively to it and enjoyed themselves a lot.

I'm glad to have discovered, now on a firsthand basis, that WHS is not the gang-infested, profanity-filled, graffiti-covered cesspool that some people make it out to be. It's actually a very pleasant place.

I managed to capture this very impressive spit take by Biz during the show:

Though the Improvables will be taking a brief leave of absence as we prepare move to the new CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, we will be back in February 2011. I'm glad that the powers-that-be are still letting me do this (alongside no fewer than five family members at one time or another) and that I get to be associated with not only some of Utah's most talented performers but also good people and great friends - both on and off the stage.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top Ten: Christmas Songs

About this same time last year, I posted a list of the top-ten worst Christmas songs, according to yours truly, here on The Epistle of Jon. This was arguably one of my most popular posts ever. The fact that 0 people commented on this list should attest to that claim.

Well, Sunday night at ward prayer, the weekly group question - yes, we still have those things - was, "What is your favorite Christmas song, and why?" The answers were varied and told me a lot about the people who answered the question; but I think if you were to put all of those songs onto one CD, you'd have some pretty good holiday listening for any afternoon or evening.

Because my mind has been on the topic since then, I present to you my top ten list of favorite Christmas songs:

#10. Ven a Mi Casa Esta Navidad - Los Toribianitos You won't recognize this song, but it makes the list because its message of spending Christmas time with good friends when you're away from home - something I had to do twice in the mission field - brings to mind many great memories to me.

#9. In the Bleak Mid-Winter - Shawn Colvin Christina Rossetti, one of the Victorian poets I studied in college, wrote the words to this tune, and I love its simple message.

#8. Candlelight Carol - John Rutter Just about everything that John Rutter has composed is amazing, and this song is definitely no exception.

#7. It's True - Sara Groves This is a relatively new one to me, and it's an instant classic, in my opinion. Its message is that not only is the Christmas story not only a nice story but also the gospel truth.

#6. Angels We Have Heard on High - Josh Groban & Brian McKnight I'm not a huge Josh Groban fan, given that I'm male and not a teenager; nevertheless, I heard this duet with Brian McKnight for the first time last year, and it has since become a favorite.

#5. The First Noel - Michael Dowdle This is my favorite Christmas tune in the LDS hymnbook. Michael Dowdle's version is preferred among the four or five different MP3s I have of this one.

#4. Still, Still, Still - Norman Luboff I have loved this Austrian carol since the first time I heard it.

#3. A Baby Just like You - John Denver & The Muppets A favorite song from one of my favorite all-around Christmas albums.

#2. Christmas Lullaby (I Will Lead You Home) - Amy Grant Its message is simple and powerful: Christ came here to Earth to lead us home to live with Him - nothing less.

#1. What Sweeter Music - John Rutter I learned this song a few years ago when I was a member of a singing/performing group called the AB Singers, and, ever since then, it has been my number-one favorite.

Honorable Mention: ¿Dónde Está Santa Claus? - Augie Ríos; Alleluia - Kenneth Cope (from "Greater Than Us All"); Baby, What You Goin' to Be? - Donny Osmond; The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole; Emmanuel, God with Us - Amy Grant; Far Far Away on Judea's Plains - Nancy Hanson; Fruitcake - The Superions; The Gift - Collin Raye; Green Christmas - Barenaked Ladies; Grown Up Christmas List - Amy Grant; Hark, the Herald Angels Sing - Eclipse; Jingle Bell Rock - Hall & Oates; Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Martina McBride; Little Saint Nick - Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem; Mary's Boy Child - Harry Belafonte; The Night Santa Went Crazy - "Weird Al" Yankovic; One Star, One Savior - Michael Webb; Please Come Home for Christmas - Eagles; Police Stop My Car - Bob Rivers; Rockin' around the Christmas Tree - Dion; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband; Santa Claus Came in the Spring - Benny Goodman & His Orchestra; Toy Sack - Bob Rivers; Welcome to Our World - Amy Grant; When the River Meets the Sea - John Denver & The Muppets; White Christmas - The Drifters; You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch - Thurl Ravenscroft

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm Millstream-ing of a White Christmas

Ain't no party like a Millstream party! And that's especially true at Christmas time.

It was the annual ward Christmas party Thursday night, and it definitely helped to get me to start thinking about the Christmas season and into the holiday mood. I actually got to enjoy this year's festivities, too, which is nice; last year, while taking part in the Improv show/entertainment, I really didn't get to do that too much.

In addition to being fed a good meal, we were treated to a plethora of entertainment acts throughout the evening, including Allison and Scott's violin duet and several numbers by the Harmony Sisters, of whom I am a proud groupie:

Okay - so, I'm, like, old enough to be their older brother. Whatever!

Yours truly contributed with another dramatic reading, this time of "'Twas the Night before Christmas" - in Spanglish. If you missed it, well - yeah, you pretty much missed out.

In addition, the bishopric gave each of us a nice CD to listen to. I also discovered what is possibly the greatest dessert I have ever tasted - pumpkin pie cheesecake, combining two of my favorite foods.

Great times were had by all.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Voyaging back to Narnia

Thursday night/Friday morning, Ben, Adi, and I ventured to the Megaplex 12 at the Gateway for the midnight premiere of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the latest film entry into the series by C.S. Lewis.

It was, in a word, awesome. It is a faithful adaptation of the book (one of my favorites in the Narnia series), and, fortunately, it is not padded (and, therefore, not as long) as Prince Caspian was. The child actors - particularly Will Poulter, who joins the cast as the Pevensies' cousin, Eustace Scrubb - once again do a fantastic job, and Simon Pegg steals the show as the voice of Reepicheep the mouse.

Yes, I'm a nerd. I grew up with the books, and it's great to finally see them get the big screen adaptations they deserve.

I hope you all get a chance to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader once or twice, particularly considering the fact that if this film doesn't do well at the box office, there may not be a Silver Chair movie in one or two more years. And that would be a darn shame.

I think we can all agree that it's preferrable to any more Twilight movies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

FHE Dance Party '10

It had been more than a year since our ward's last dance, but fortunately that drought came to an end last night.

For our FHE activity, a brave group of souls and I gathered in the gym for a Christmas-time (though not necessarily Christmas-themed) dance. And it was a blast.

Brian, MaryAnne, and I took turns as the evening's D.J., playing everything from "The Electric Slide" to Kenny Loggins's "Footloose" (a must-have at any dance held in Utah). One of my favorite moments of the evening was Steve and Brian's interpretive dance to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," of which I managed to capture a photo:

The photo doesn't really do it justice, but suffice me to say that it was quite entertaining.

Good times were had by all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grow-vember Comes to an End

November 2010 is now a thing of the past, and that also brings Grow-vember to an end.

What, exactly, is Grow-vember? you ask?

Basically, if you haven't already guessed, it is an annual challenge and/or contest, participated in by guys who really have nothing better to do (i.e. me, right now), to begin the month clean shaven (something I did for Halloween, as part of my Samwise Gamgee costume) and then grow out the facial hair all month long.

Here is a picture of my beard, as of this morning:

Try not to be too jealous.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Dinner with Luke

For his upcoming birthday, I took out my soon-to-be-five-year-old nephew Luke to lunch today and got to spend a good deal of the afternoon with him. Since Luke's parents and older sister, Jenna, were attending the BYU vs. Utah football game at the time, he and Kira were up at Mike and Jana's home in Layton, so I picked him up there.

For lunch, Luke selected McDonald's as his restaurant of choice, and we found our way to the nearest one. His Happy Meal included an Optimus Prime toy, with which he was pleased:

After we finished eating, I waited as he burned off those excess calories and some of that extra energy on the playground.

Following lunch, we headed over to Target so he could pick out his own present. Since this was all taking place during the middle of the big football game, we listened to it on the radio as we traveled - me wearing BYU colors, and Luke wearing his U. of U. sweater. (I couldn't help but wonder, in fact, whether the people who saw us, an odd couple under the circumstances, thought I had kidnapped the kid.)

For a five-year-old, Luke certainly knows what's going on in football and knows who plays for his team. When Christopher caught a Ute touchdown in the fourth quarter, in fact, he asked me, "Is that one of our guys?" I told him that it was.

Once we arrived at the store, Luke selected some Power Miners Legoes. I'm not really familiar with this new branch of the Legoes empire, but they're Legoes - need I say more? Luke is amassing quite a large collection of them.

Luke's a great kid, and I enjoyed getting to spend some one-on-one time with my nephew.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Day 2010

It was another enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday for the Plowman clan today, as my parents, all of my siblings and their families, and I, as well as Adi and a couple of our good friends (namely, Bryan and Ryan, who were away from their own families for one reason or another), gathered together to eat a delicious and plentiful meal.

The candied yams - which I developed an immunity against in Peru - have, in fact, now become one of my favorite dishes. (I may, in fact, have been the only one eating them.) Jana's perfectly prepared dish of yams was very tasty:

For dinner, Grandma and Grandpa sat at one table with most of the grandkids, while the rest of us assembled at the other:

There was also plenty of good NFL football to watch on the TV, and most of the kids went sledding on the hill over at Hannah Holbrook Elementary.

We took advantage of the family gathering opportunity to celebrate Luke’s fifth birthday, which falls on Monday. Several people chipped in and bought him a rather large City of Atlantis Lego set, which kept him fascinated for the remainder of the night. He had a pretty cool-looking cake, too, which featured Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader duking it out on a soccer field:

A group of us capped the evening by playing a special holiday edition of "Celebrity," one of our favorite family games.

I am thankful to have been able to spend the day surrounded by most, if not all, of the people and things I am most grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie Review: Bare-y Bottom and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Last night/early this morning, Biz once again marshaled the forces - her own, personal Order of the Phoenix, of sorts - and organized a large group of family and friends, including yours truly, for the latest Harry Potter movie premiere at midnight.

Much ado had been made about this film, at least from local sources, due to a supposedly scandalous scene in which Daniel Radcliffe was to allegedly show his bare bottom to the camera - or so some of us were told. Fortunately, no such scene appeared in the movie, and our freakin' eyes have been saved for another day.

As one who is really not as much into Harry Potter as the rest of my siblings, I will say that, if anything, my only possible complaint about the film, like the others, is that it is too long. And there is a laugh-out-loud unintentionally funny scene in which Harry and Hermione begin to dance, for no apparent reason.

Once again, Dumbledore's Army, or the nerd patrol - or whatever you call these non-Muggles - came out in full force to support the cause of their favorite fantasy franchise, and several of them dressed up as their favorite characters from the series. They kinda put the Star Wars fans to shame with their enthusiasm - some of them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, was surprisingly good and, I must say, the best film in the franchise, to date, that I have seen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Revenge of the Peanut Gallery

Earlier tonight, the Improvables were invited to perform an abbreviated version (time wise and cast wise) of our regular show, for a 27-to-40-year-old singles group in Centerville. Guy, Kim, Parker, Steve, and I represented the gang for this event.

This performance was notable, in my mind, mainly for the fact that, as the evening's M.C., I faced my first-ever real-life heckler. Throughout the course of the performance, some lady seated in the front row made several snide comments about our show, and she wasn't afraid to let everyone around her hear them.

This was nowhere near as fun as playing the "Hecklers" Improv game. (For those not in the know, we actually do heckle each other on purpose when we play that.)

My reaction to this was to humor her as much as I could and to ignore her the rest of the time. Upon further reflection, part of me thinks I need to work more on developing a thick skin for this kind of thing, and another part is amazed that it's actually taken this long for me to encounter a bona fide, real-life heckler, considering all of the Improv performances I've been involved in over the years.

My point - and I do have one - is that you shouldn't say anything at all if you can't say anything nice. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Here's another great, brand-new piece of animation by my cousin Eden:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Crash the Super Bowl"

My Improvables colleagues Parker Abegg and Bryan Dayley created and star in these two very funny entries into the Doritos/Pepsi Max "Crash the Super Bowl" contest. Please check 'em out and vote for 'em!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Unless you've been living at the South Pole, you know by now that Midterm elections were held across the country yesterday.

That's Democracy for you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Epic Donut Dangers"

Here's a link to my cousin Eden's newest film:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tricks and Treats

It's Halloween in Utah on a Sunday, and that means, of course, that all of the real holiday related festivities were celebrated here Friday and Saturday. But who's complaining?

Friday night, I took part with Biz, Bryan, Ian, Jana, Scott, and Steve, with Grant and Parker on music, in putting on the Improvables' second annual Halloween show. For these festivities, we extended our usual hour-long time slot to a 90-minute performance. A large and enthusiastic crowd attended, and many of them dressed up in costumes. This night featured our debut of "Mousetraps," for which Biz, Ian, and I were fitted with blindfolds and had to walk around the stage in our socks. (The mousetraps didn't actually hurt as much as I had feared they would, though I wouldn't let the audience know that.) In addition, we featured other seldom-played games, such as "Oxygen Deprivation" and "Nightmare."

Then, last night, it was the annual Millstream Ward Trunk-or-Treat up at the stake center. While this is usually one of the highlights of the year for our motley crew, it was a bit disappointing this time around; it was a rather cold and rainy night, plus someone in the ward hosted a murder mystery dinner at the same time, and a large group of people attended that instead. As a result, only six people (myself included) showed up to pass out candy to the kids. Still, those of us who came made the best of things, and we enjoyed ourselves for most of the 90 minutes.

I once again dressed up as Samwise Gamgee - why not?

Pepe was a hit with his glow-in-the-dark man costume:

Melanie, Marty, Nadine, and Heidi were among the others who supported the cause:

Later on in the evening, Parker and I carpooled down to Draper at the invitation of Caleb Parry, owner and manager of the Off the Wall Improv troupe, to perform with them at their Halloween show, held at the Draper Historic Theater. (It kind of reminded me of the old Queen Theater, which no longer stands, in Bountiful.) It was quite an interesting experience, to say the least, getting to perform on stage with another troupe, and at times I felt a bit like an Improv beginner, but nevertheless it was a lot of fun, too, and another large and enthusiastic crowd turned up to see our show. Cameron, Gwen, Rick, and Taylor rounded out the evening's cast:

That's all the damage I can do for one weekend. Happy Halloween, folks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Flock of Seagulls

When I woke up this morning, my hair bascially looked like this:

For people like Kate Gosselin or Robert Pattinson, however, this is just a normal day (rim shot).

Yes, you needed to know this.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Halloween

Halloween is now less than a week away, and we celebrated that fact tonight with a ward Halloween party for our FHE activity.

I am always looking for excuses to dress up in silly costumes, and that's one of the many reasons why I love Halloween. I took advantage of the opportunity to come in costume as Samwise Gamgee (or my best version of him) from The Lord of the Rings movies:

Yeah, I know; save your compliments. Mordor never looked so hot!

Among my favorite costumes of the evening were our fearless elders quorum president, Steve, as a nerd (seen alongside Ashley, as a character from one of the Japanese anime movies I've never heard of); Eric, as the Shredder; Adrianne and Jen, as Thing 1 and Thing 2 (which is basically what I'd expect from them, since they are joined at the hip and all); and Bishop and Sis. Lake, as a couple of pigs:

And then there were those whose costumes I can classify only as "miscellaneous":

Cecily, Kristy, Andrew, Naomi, and MaryAnne were among the handful who carved pumpkins and contributed something constructive to the evening:

Good times were had by all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shoebox and Old Lace

For those of you who may have missed the bulletin, I belong to a somewhat theatrical family. Most of us participate in theater in one form or another, be it singing, dancing, playing instruments, musicals, or Improv.

My family of thespians extends to my cousins. Earlier tonight, one of my cousins, Scott "Shoebox" Sanders, made his theatrical debut as one of the policemen in Arsenic and Old Lace, presented by the Lehi Arts Council in (you guessed it) Lehi.

My parents, Ben, Adi, Steve, Biz, Jeff, and I joined Claudia (Scott's wife); Madison (their youngest daughter); Claudia's aunt, uncle, and cousins (visitng from Argentina); and a handful of other friends of theirs in cheering him on. Together, we managed to take up nearly all of the seats on the left wing of what turned out to be a rather small theater and stage arrangement – but an altogether cozy and nice atmosphere for theater. (I’m thinking also of the Hale Center Theater in Orem here.)

I had seen Arsenic and Old Lace only once before, and it was good to see it played out on stage again - perfect for the October/Halloween time of year.

My dad, I think, accurately pointed out that Scott was basically "playing Scott" in his role and that he did just fine. We enjoyed the show quite a bit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Return of the Jedi?

I've been a major slacker lately and haven't been doing too great of a job at keeping The Epistle updated. Well, that is about to change. Hopefully.

It's now been more than two months since my last post, and though I haven't been completing posts, I have been getting them started. As I complete and publish them to The Epistle, I have several more ideas, stories, pictures, and more to share with you - those of you who are still with me, that is.

Thank you for your continued support.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taking a Stand

At the conclusion of yesterday's post, I mentioned how much I enjoyed last weekend's general conference of the Church.

Today, I became aware of the fact that there is a group of people, some of whom I know, who didn't particularly enjoy general conference - in particular, Pres. Boyd K. Packer's Sunday afternoon talk, titled "Cleansing the Inner Vessel." In fact, they downright hated it.

This talk, in fact, can now be viewed online here:

From what I gather, the part of the talk that did not go over too well with these people is when he preaches against those in our country who are trying to legalize gay marriage. The complaints I've been reading, mostly on Facebook, have been calling Pres. Packer "hate-filled," "harsh," and an "out-of-touch old man" and have been comparing his rhetoric to Adolph Hitler's - yes, really.

As I watched and listened to Pres. Packer's talk again today, I found nothing hateful or harsh about it - that is, I suppose, unless you're of the point-of-view of one who is upset "because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin" (Mormon 2:13). Rather, I found it to be full of love and concern. But that's just me. For some people, sadly, tolerance is not a two-way street, and emphasizing an already established Church doctrine or, at the very least, expressing an opinion is tantamount to being "hateful" and/or "homophobic."

The fact that there were some people who disagreed with what was said at general conference is nothing new; if you've attended general conference in person, then you've seen these nutcases outside the Conference Center, holding their signs and shouting their slogans and trying to tear down everyone and everything around them. What is disappointing, to me, is when people criticizing a Church leader like Pres. Packer are people I thought were active members of the Church, who should know or act better than that.

Whatever becomes of this brouhaha, I’m grateful for inspired leaders who are courageous enough to stand up for and teach true principles, even in spite of the ever-changing ideas and attitudes of the world. God bless you, President Packer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Today, El Guapo Is . . .

. . . 33 years old! (wink)

So . . . today marks another birthday for me.

It's funny how these things - birthdays - keep happening to me year after year, whether or not I'm ready for them.

I’ve already been somewhat overwhelmed by the many birthday wishes and greetings received from family and friends, both far and near, via personal visits, text messages, phone calls, Facebook, and the like. I really am blessed to know and associate with so many good people.

In addition, Mother Nature is giving me a nice gift today: The weather is finally starting to turn into the kind of autumn weather I'm used to seeing in October. It's my favorite season of the year, and I'm so glad it's finally here.

Last Sunday, the family threw a fun, combined party for Biz, Kira, and me, which included another epic game of "Pass the Parcel." I finished third – my highest finish in quite some time - and, yes, I'm proud of that fact.

As one of my birthday presents, Mike, Jana, Biz, and Jeff chipped in and bought me a ticket to Friday night’s BYU vs. USU football game up at Romney Stadium in Logan. The Cougars have been having an uncharacteristically terrible year, and their effort in this game was no improvement; they fell behind 24-3 by halftime and eventually lost, 31-16, to the Aggies. It was USU’s first win over BYU in 17 years (I was, in fact, also in attendance at the last one, a 58-56 Aggie win in Logan in 1993.) Still, it was a fun boys' night out with Dad; Mike; Dallin; Ben; Steve; Jeff; Jeff’s brother, Dave; and Dave’s two sons.

Adding a nice touch to an already enjoyable weekend, many great talks have been given by the General Authorities and officers of the Church over the past two days. General conference, as it always is, has been fantastic.

Can life get any better? I submit to you that it cannot.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soccer Time with Luke

This autumn, my four-year-old nephew Luke began his first season of playing recreational soccer. Earlier tonight, I finally made it over to Woods Cross to see one of his games.

One thing I discovered is that few things are more entertaining than watching eight four- and five-year-olds running around on a soccer field, kicking a soccer ball. The sight may be something comparable to a swarm of bees going from one piece of food to another at a picnic; nobody plays a position, and there are no goalies, but it's not really crucial to this level of play, anyway. The kids have fun, and, again, they're four and five years old.

Luke (#4, in green) played as hard as he could and ran himself ragged all over the field throughout the game.

Here, Luke takes a well-earned breather during halftime:

Much like Brian Regan's comedy routine about playing Little League Baseball mainly for the snowcone that comes after the game, the kids on Luke's team also look forward to their post-game treats:

Random Fact That I Swear I Am Not Making Up: One of the kids on the other team was named Anakin. (Congrats, universe. You beat me to it.)

All told, I enjoyed watching the game very much, and I look forward to attending more of them.