Monday, January 31, 2011


There are rare moments in life when you hear a song and its words describe exactly how you're feeling or the situation you're in right at that time. Over the weekend, I had one of those moments.

Saturday afternoon, I drove down to Provo to see the Carl Bloch exhibit that is currently on display at the BYU Museum of Art - or, at least, that was my intention when I began my journey. Not long after I made it onto the freeway heading south, however, my car did everything in its power to keep me from reaching my destination. I could tell early on that it was struggling to shift from one gear to another, and by the time I reached the big hill at the Point of the Mountain, it really struggled to climb to the top.

By the time I came down the other side and into the Alpine/Lehi area - which seemed to take forever, cars passing and honking at me as I puttered along in the slow lane - I finally decided to pull off at the next exit and try to assess the damage as best I could. Not totally defeated but definitely discouraged, I pulled into a Maverik parking lot.

My cousin Scott, who lives in Lehi and knows a lot more about cars than I do, came over to look at the transmission fluid, and together we frowned at the engine and talked about my predicament. We agreed there wasn't much more I could do at that point - the local mechanic being closed for the weekend - than to try to drive it home on the frontage road and then through the streets of Salt Lake City, avoiding the freeway as much as possible and using my hazard lights.

As I walked inside the Maverik to call my date and explain the situation to her, the first thing I heard over the P.A. system were these words from The Cars' song "Drive" from the '80s: "Who's gonna drive you home tonight?"

My thoughts exactly.

Fortunately, in the long run, I was able to salvage a pretty enjoyable Saturday out of a rather distressing situation. My date was very patient and understanding and actually drove to Lehi to pick me up, and together we attended a later session (it's that busy that you have to make an appointment) of the Bloch art exhibit, which was fantastic. And though I've not had the best luck with cars over the past year, I did eventually make it home, completing what is normally a 40-minute drive in just over twice that time. (Salt Lake City, seen via the scenic route, is actually a nice place to drive through, south to north.)

The car, in the meantime, might be in the shop for quite some time. Anybody want to give me a lift?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hearing vs. Listening

Last night, I ate dinner at a local restaurant. As I got ready to leave, I came up to the young man working at the register and asked if I could get a refill of my drink, specifically asking him not to put ice in it. Just as he agreed to do this, I watched as he proceeded to put two large scoopfulls of ice into my drink and then refilled it.

Do you ever get the feeling that people are hearing the words coming out of your mouth but they aren't really listening to you?

I'm sure we all do at one point or another, be it in our interactions with family, friends, co-workers, classmates, etc. How rare is the friend who is a really good listener, to whom we can take our problems and our worries and then leave knowing that that person has not necessarily fixed everything but has truly listened to what we have had to say and cares about our well-being. By the same token, there are few social situations more disconcerting than to try to talk to people who couldn't care less as to what you want to tell them.

I remember one particularly disappointing incident when I was going through a difficult time. I told a friend I thought I trusted about some of my problems, after which he said simply, "Sucks to be you!" This is by no means good listening, and, almost needless to say, I have really not been able to trust this person at the same level since.

As for myself, listening has never been my strong suit. Some of my elementary school report cards, in fact, point out explicity that in class I often struggled to listen to the teacher; I was a daydreamer or was otherwise off in my own world much of the time. It's something I have worked hard to overcome over the years, and I still have much progress to make.

Fortunately, time and experience have helped a lot in that effort. My mission really taught me to be a much better listener, and so did my education in the field of communication. My current bishop is one of the best listeners I know and a fantastic individual to talk to about anything and everything, and his and others' examples have shown me what a great listener can be like.

I hope I can follow the advice of the Mike + the Mechanics song "The Living Years": "You can listen as well as you hear."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Electric!

For most of the afternoon, I've been thinking about electricity.

I began pondering on the matter at another session of physical therapy - a place I just can't seem to stay away from, for one reason or another - when I was hooked up to an eStem machine, as is often the case when I am there for my appointments.

eStem, for those not familiar with it, is the thing that makes going to physical therapy completely worthwhile. It comes once you've finished biking and lifting weights and doing push-ups and stretching and sweating and grunting and groaning, much like the pumpkin cheesecake dessert after a meal filled with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and carrot juice (it's good for you, but it doesn't taste too pleasant while you're ingesting it). Electrical pads are attached to your sore spot(s), sending warming electrical vibes and causing increased blood flow, which aids and enhances the process of healing.

Today, in fact, I broke a new personal record on the eStem machine, taking in electricity at the highest possible setting the machine could reach. For 20 minutes per session, you get to sit like this, reading a magazine or (mainly) relaxing, letting the electricity do its thing.

On my way home, though the eStem had been disconnected, the electricity still felt like it was pulsing through me for an additional half-hour. I felt a bit like the Six-Million Dollar Man, or Thor, or at least a toad when it gets struck by lightning.

My pondering evolved into this: The Atonement is a lot like the soothing electricity from an eStem machine. It often doesn't take full effect on us until after we've been through a certain degree of suffering, be it spiritual, physical, mental, or otherwise. But it heals us and remains with us. And, yes, we have to keep going back to it to continue to benefit from it.

Or, as a famous person once said: I don't fully understand God, and I don't fully understand electricity, but I refuse to sit in the dark.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Issuing Apologies

Late last night, I received a text message from an unexpected source: my 13-year-old niece, who doesn't, technically, own her own cell phone.

Earlier in the day, she, the rest of her family, and I had spent several hours in each other's company for our bi-monthly family Sunday dinner. Sometime during her visit, she stole something from me that weighed heavily on her conscience for the car trip home. The item in question, for which I received four full text messages of apology via her mother's phone, was: a stick of gum - something that cost no more than five cents.

What impressed me about my niece's messages was both her sincerity and the level of maturity displayed by a 13-year-old kid; she offered a real apology, not excusing herself in the least for her actions and not blaming it on circumstance or on anyone else. She asked whether she could regain my trust again. Of course I frankly forgave her - how could I not? - and I contacted her immediately to let her know it.

By contrast, I know many so-called "adults" who haven't the first clue how to issue a real, honest apology. I've known people who have used or otherwise mistreated me in a vile and careless manner - including those who profess to be Latter-day Saints - who afterward, having recognized their misdeeds, have downplayed the issue or ignored it or have failed to even try to make amends. Even worse, some of these individuals have not only not apologized but have attempted to throw the blame back onto me.

When these things happen, they kind of feel like the car accident I got into a few years ago at a roundabout. I was in the roundabout, with the right-of-way, when I watched a lady to the side of me breeze right by her Yield sign and hit the side of my car. She eventually weaseled out of paying for any repairs - not to mention to apology thing - by claiming that I was the one who had hit her.

What to do about these types of toxic people? Grin and bear it and turn the other cheek, I suppose. You're gonna find them everywhere you go.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for knowing and being related to a young lady who is growing up into one outstanding individual.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

International Cuisine Night

Earlier tonight at the ol' ward house, it was International Cuisine Night, which ended up offering a variety of new (to me), delicious dishes from the four corners of the globe.

Okay, so "four corners of the globe" is just a figure of speech; Africa, Antarctica, and Australia were seriously underrepresented, in that there were no foods at all from any of those continents. (My first taste of Vegemite will have to come another day.) Nevertheless, the Asian, European, North American, and South American stuff was great.

Peru was a well-represented country on this evening, given that Katea (arroz con leche), Bro. Lindley (Inca Kola and papa a la Huancaína), and yours truly (panetón) all brought samples of comida criolla. The papa a la Huancaína was particularly well prepared and was something I had not eaten for quite some time.

Among the other dishes I tried for the first time were Bishop Lake's French crépes, Cecily's Greek baklava, Kurtis's Chilean hot dogs (smothered in guacamole and sour cream), Nadine's Danish stew (a possible staple in my ancestors' diet?), Sieben's Jamaican chicken, and Zak's Russian pancakes. The United States was even represented by Bro. Galloway's delicious Dutch oven barbecue chicken. (So, come to think of it, it may have actually been a dish from the Netherlands. Whatever.)

Good times - and good food - were had by all.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Weekend Project"

My cousin Eden's latest Lego film:


Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Dinner with Dallin

Today, it was Dallin's turn for the latest birthday dinner and shopping trip. (He turns 11 years old Monday.) Ben was good enough to come along for this outing, and the three of us enjoyed a guys' night out together.

Dallin chose to eat at Arctic Circle, a place I hadn't visited for a number of years. And, being the growing young man that he is, he proceeded to eat both Ben and me out of the restaurant.

From there, we went over to Target, where Dallin picked out birthday presents of his own choosing: Star Wars and medieval Legoes. If you know Dallin, then this is no surprise at all. The kid loves his Legoes.

I will say this: Legoes have gotten bigger and better since I was a kid, and Dallin gets to reap the benefit.

Good times were had by all.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reverse Rapunzels and Ivory Towers

I finally got around to seeing Disney's still relatively new animated movie Tangled last night. I had heard many people tell me that it was a great film, and their story checked out; it was fantastic.

One of my favorite scenes is near the beginning, shortly after we are introduced to Rapunzel as a young lady, now living as a captive in a lonely tower. As she sings "When Will My Life Begin" - the equivalent of the "hopes and dreams" song in Improv terminology - we learn many things about her. We learn that although Rapunzel is being held captive against her will by her evil "mother," she nevertheless manages to keep herself busy by reading, painting, cooking, solving puzzles, making candles, playing chess, and so forth. Further, we learn that if she could only set foot outside of her prison, she would do so much more.

Consequently, I know some people - male and female - who are kind of like reverse Rapunzels. They have the freedom to come and go as they please, to do whatever they want, but unlike Rapunzel, they have no or little motivation to do much else but sit at home most nights and shut out the world from everyone and everything, living vicariously through TV or movies. There is no evil "mother" keeping them there but themselves alone.

I know because I used to be one of these people.

What's my point? I guess it's that I'd rather be like Rapunzel than be a reverse Rapnunzel.

Unless movies and TV have lied to me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Reachin' Heaven in 2011"

Reachin' Heaven in 2011

The above quote was already written on the board when I arrived at ward prayer last week. I'm not sure who wrote it, but I agree with it wholeheartedly.

Here's to a great 2011!