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I Was A Stranger: Refuge from the Storm

There by the Grace of God Go I: Adventures in Kayaking

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. It was supposed to be a fun trip. Time to get with friends and to get in some kayaking on Lake Tahoe before the summer ends. It was breezy that day, but Carson City is always windy in the afternoon so I didn’t think too much about it nor did I think too much the effect it would have on the Lake.

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The day started off with a lot of promise. The sky was blue, the Sweet Williams were in full bloom, and we had plenty of Vermont cheddar in the fridge. And, it seemed as if I had finally exorcised my kayak-loading demons. For once we were ready before we were supposed to meet up with our friends, Fergus and Eunice O’Connor. Fergus is a wholesale distributor and Eunice works the graveyard shift at the Campbell’s Soup factory, in charge of quality control on the Cream of Potato line.

Driving Out

As good as things seemed, true to form, we couldn’t get out of town without having some problems. One of our back ratchet tie downs had become unhooked from the receiver hitch. So we pulled over into the Taco Bell parking lot a spent about 10 minutes figuring out why one of the kayaks was leaning forward causing the back ratchet tie down to become unhooked. We soon figured it out and indubitably I was to blame. Earlier in the day when we had loaded up the kayaks I had discovered afterwards that I had incorrectly laid down the cam straps on the driver’s side. Instead of bugging Tammy again for more help, I took the initiative and lifted up the ends of the kayak and re-looped the straps through the racks and looped the straps through the wrong part of the rack.

Out on the Lake

Once we fixed the straps, the rest of the drive to the Sand Harbor boat dock went on without any issues. When we got out on the water the waves were unnaturally big for Lake Tahoe, but this was to our advantage going out. It was like riding a little rollercoaster out there on the waves. We were having so much fun that we went further than we had gone before, making it almost to Hidden Beach near Incline Village before deciding to turn back.

As we decided to turn back, I began to notice that I was having a hard time staying balanced in my kayak. It was taking a lot of hip motion to stay balanced and I quickly realized that it was inevitable that my kayak would flip. So I started heading to shore so I wouldn’t have to swim too far if I did plunge into the lake, which I promptly did.

Getting to Shore

I am guessing I was about 300 feet from shore when I started to swim. There was no way I was going to be able to get my big body back into the kayak giving the size and frequency of the waves that day so I started swimming and pushing the kayak in front of me. About half way to the shore, I got the brilliant idea that I should flip the kayak right side over. That was a huge mistake. The waves soon filled up the kayak with water and it started to sink. It now took much more effort to push the kayak in front of me and continue swimming, but eventually I made it to the rocky shore.

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Surveying the straight drop form the road to the shore, I knew I was not going to be able to hike back with the kayak. Feeling a little daft and punchy, I decided the only thing I could do was kayak back to Sand Harbor. Resigned to my fate, the next thing I had to do was somehow get my kayak turned over so I could prop it onto a rock and drain it. After some unmanly efforts at lifting the kayak, I was inspired to use the waves to help me flip over the kayak. Lo and behold, once I got the kayak parallel to the waves, after about the third wave, I was able to flip the kayak over and then hoist it onto a rock to drain the kayak of the remaining water.

At about the same time I was draining out the kayak, our friends had made it back to where I was. They had not realized that I had flipped over and asked if I shouted or had made any noise when I plunged into the water. In hindsight that would have been a good idea, probably bordering on a smart, having just recently taught my cub scouts to make noise when they find themselves in trouble out in Mother Nature.

Meanwhile, there was no sighting of my wife. When we had decided to turn around, Tammy had made out like a wildcat, getting out way ahead of us. As I would find out later, she wasn’t doing this to show off or be anti-social, but was doing it out of desperation. She had an acute case of motion sickness from the waves. Eventually, though she realized we were no longer in view behind her and, bless her heart, despite feeling ill she doubled back to find us.

Making it Back

Back in my kayak, the group once again headed out into the waves of Lake Tahoe. My strategy this time around was to kayak near the shore and go in a zig zag so I would hit the waves straight on instead of sideways and fill the stern with water. This strategy worked to a degree but I still managed to get water in the back of my kayak. In hindsight, I am one-hundred percent sure that I had not completely drained my kayak the first time around. Soon again I was starting to feel unbalanced so I heading for a little cove for my inevitable plunge back into Lake Tahoe.

kayak-tahoe-pic-2However, this time I was closer to the shore and I could walk the kayak to the shore. Dripping wet, pushing an upside down kayak I walked toward the little cove and as I got near the rocks, I looked up and realized I had just inadvertently walked into the background of a couple’s wedding pictures. I am sure they will cherish that picture forever.

I finally ditched the idea of trying to kayak using a kayak stroke and switched over to the canoe stroke. That seemed to work a lot better but travel was slow. Getting back to Sand Harbor without any more incidents, I noticed all the color had drained from my wife’s normally sunny face. She immediately dropped face-down onto her towel in an effort to get her world to stop moving up and down, she would later tell me she had thrown up twice waiting for me to get back into my kayak. Oy vey! Did I feel like a major putz when she told me that.

The rest of us were likewise happy to be ashore after being on the water for nearly three hours. In our ecstasy, we decided to eat are well-earned food. No sooner had we pulled out our sandwiches then were we attacked by a hoard of voracious yellow jackets. Unable to eat in peace, we finally threw in the towel and decided to just pack up and go back to the safety of our homes.

Happy to be home, I am thankful for many things after my kayaking fiasco. Simple things, like being thankful the shore wasn’t further away, being thankful that my Dad taught me to swim even if it was when I was older, and being thankful for patient friends and a patient wife. I am also thankful for good days as well as the bad days because the bad days are when we learn the most about our limitations. And lastly I am thankful that freshwater sharks in Lake Tahoe is a myth.

Run Rabbit Run

las vegas m&msDuring my recent stay in Las Vegas I stayed at the Gold Coast Hotel Casino, a casino that I found out was extremely popular among seniors and Asians. I choose it because it was one of the cheaper hotels near the Strip and I kind of regret the decision. Apart from a lack of fancy good shops, it ended up being was one of the smokier hotels I’ve stayed at. Everyone seemed to have had a fag dangling from their mouths on the casino floor as they tried again and again to defy the laws of probability. Me, I am not a big fan of losing my money and that is one of the reasons I don’t gamble. I know, you are saying but Dale losing seems to be a common theme of your life. Well, that is partly true but there is a big difference between not liking to lose and being a six-time loser. Just because I lose half the time, it doesn’t mean I like it.

For some strange reason I was given a handicapped room when I never requested one and didn’t know why they were wasting one on me when clearly there were others more deserving. Nonetheless, it wasn’t too much of a hardship except for mastering the detachable shower head, which only took two days and one flooded bathroom floor before I figured it out.

Conversations on the Flight Home

The flight home was delayed by about 3 ½ hours. I found an empty gate and occupied most of my time reading Daniel Silva’s The English Girl. The only interruption was when a large Indian family sat next to me despite the gate area being nearly empty. This lasted for about 10 minutes and after they were discussing whatever it was they needed to discuss they left just as abruptly as they had come.

At about 9:20pm our plane finally landed. My boarding pass was B42 which was good enough to get the last window seat on the plane which is better than the last middle seat. Speaking of the middle seat, I was privy to the conversation of the other two passengers in my row. They were about as different as two people could be, but that really didn’t come out until we were near the end of the flight. The two went through the usual questioning. She was a high school Spanish teacher from Louisville, recently married. She and her husband had meet in Denton, Texas working for their church and were going to Reno to pick up a car.

The young man, a beardless boy, was from Los Angeles and once was a male model and now owned his own production company. He was recently divorced from his Columbian partner, but they still remained good friends. They chatted on for a while and as we got closer to Reno the young lady asked more about the young man’s work at the point he explained he had been an adult male model and he made adult movies with other male models in other words, our young man was the Lord of Gay Porn. After that they didn’t dig into his business ventures anymore and the topic changed as did the energy of the conversation.

Music

Here are some recent picks:

1. Please Read the Letter by Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
2. Sweet Honey by Slightly Stoopid
3. Iao Bacio…Tu Baci by the Noisettes
4. So Very Hard to Go by the Tower of Power
5. Truth by Alexander

The Story of John Alden and Priscila Mullins and other sides of our lesser known families

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 Up until recently I had never heard of the Courtship of Miles Standish written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858. This poem popularized the love story of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins and tells of the rivalry between Miles Standish and John Alden for her hand. When I asked my wife if she had ever heard of the Courtship of Miles Standish she said had learned it in elementary school.

Now I have to admit my memory is not very good when it comes to my childhood and my wife has Rain Man like memory about her childhood so it’s not surprising when her memory is better than mine. But, down deep I think it is more than that. I don’t think I got a proper education when I was young. I was robbed. The blame doesn’t lie with my parents, but I think my years in elementary school where the beginning of the new politically correct education. Not the blatant re-writing that is done now, but the subtle exclusion, instead of inclusion, of great stories and great writing from our educations. But, that’s okay the adventure of finding these pieces of literature as an adult is fun.

I would have never learned of this had I not been doing some genealogy. In our family we make a lot of our Danish history (well, I do) through my Dad’s side of the family, but through his mother’s side we have varied history including a streak of Irish in our blood, but also through her side of the family we have some direct ties to several of the Mayflower pilgrims, the most famous being John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. I thought this was pretty cool and unique, until I read that millions of Americans are related to Alden family, including Longfellow. Still I consider it a pretty cool discovery.

“No man can gather cherries in Kent at Christmas time”

 John Alden, from Southampton, was a hired as a “barrel-maker” for the Mayflower and Priscilla Mullins came over with her family, but her mother and father died during the first winter after their arrival. Apparently she was quite a looker and according to legend after Miles Standish lost his first wife he had designs on Priscilla Mullins and requested that John Alden, a much younger man, speak on his behalf to Priscilla. Despite having feeling for Ms. Mullins himself, John Alden obeyed dutifully but as he was speaking for Priscilla Mullins she interrupted him to ask “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

And thus began the great love story of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who ended up establishing the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts and having 10 children.

Food Wonderful Food: Cold Jellies and Custards

Tammy and I got to participate in the Taste of Downtown. We sampled a lot of good food, but by far the best was Lady Tamale’s samples. We tried to go light this week, with an emphasis on tried. The other night Tammy prepared an Israeli salad with Shawarma Chicken. The chicken was prepared in a rub of garlic, cumin, coriander, all-spice, turmeric, ginger and cayenne. I took my turn a couple of nights earlier and prepared a shrimp avocado salad with a lime cilantro dressing. Mine was a lot simpler since my cooking skills are lacking. I bought a bag of prepared kale salad with pumpkin seeds and cranberries and then dumped the shrimp and avocado on it. It was pretty good if I might say so.

How Strange is the Heart of Man

Let’s face it charity is tough business for most of us. It sits at the apex of all of the other virtues and ergo the hardest one to master. There are the occasional uncommon mortals we know who are truly charitable. No, I am not talking about those who wrap themselves in emotionalism, outrage porn or fake outrage about “news” on the Internet. Charity is not an “expression of a vehement point of view”. And, I am not talking about those who advocate for a Rube Goldberg array of government programs and more investments.  That’s something else, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but it is definitely not charity and it is not unconditional love. Charity after all is transitive and personal and cannot be carried out from comforts of our lofty places.

Rube Goldberg

What I am talking about is that quaint version of socialism, without the endless social engineering, where individuals willingly, quietly and simply take care of their family, friends, and neighbors. What I am talking about is honest to goodness true charity. I am talking about those people who naturally love working with the elderly , the handicap, the poor, the stranger-the least among us warts and all even when they are beggarly, dirty, funky smelling, rude, mean, profligate, and ungrateful.  I am referring to those people who at a drop of a hat will make meals for neighbors or friends when they are sick or down on their luck. They are those people who decide to learn to quilt, can or make gooseberry jams and jellies with the sole goal of sharing with other folks. They are those people whose whole lives seem to be one simple act of kindness and patience. They only see the good in others. They realize that we are not alone in this world and truly see us all as brothers and sisters. We know these people and they are not us, they are strangers in our midst. It is their virtue and their goodness that keeps our societies civil as Elder Neal A. Maxwell once stated:

“There is a critical mass of basically good people which is essential to the functioning of any society or culture. The exact number cannot be mathematically determined by us, but without this critical mass the world rapidly deteriorates. These good people give more to society than they demand of it. Though imperfect themselves, they furnish not only the goods, but the good will, without which little could be done for others.”

The rest of us struggle and see the world much like French Prime Minister George Clemenceau when he responded to Woodrow Wilson’s vagaries about brotherhood agreeing that all men are brothers just “like Cain and Abel”. We struggle with charity. We struggle to even define it properly. It is not romantic love as many young people are wont to think when they quote 1 Corinthians 13 during their wedding vows, referring to each other as charity cases. At least, their hearts are in the right place and the Apostle Paul’s words are a good place to start a marriage.

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For the rest of us, we have to work hard to convince ourselves to give up whatever we had planned even if it was just sitting in front of the TV to watch two or three hours of murder porn on ID TV while surfing the Internet shopping or posting and sharing on social media. (Guilty! Very, very guilty!) For the rest of us we look often look for excuses to get out of, rather than do charitable work. We wait to see if others will volunteer before we do. We are relieved when too many volunteers show up and are actually happy when we can’t find the place that the event is at.

Part of the problem with charity, at least on the surface, is that is oftentimes just not that rewarding. Much of charity involves doing mundane things like cleaning toilets, packing up boxes, or driving someone to the store. There is nothing heroic in doing ordinary things for others that any schmuck could do. Or sometimes it’s doing more difficult things like changing adult diapers or helping someone take a bath who otherwise is incapable of doing it. Or sometimes it involves having to watch someone else’s not so adorable and needy kids. And then there are the people you serve they are for several reason just not grateful of your time and your work or your “charity”.

One time when my stepson was about 12 or 13, we were playing basketball at the local elementary school a young adult man with Down syndrome asked if he could play with us. We decided to be charitable and let him on our game of twenty-one and we thought it would be charitable to only perfunctory play defense on him and give him several chances to make a basket. We were not rewarded for our charity. No sooner had this young man scored his first basket than he started to talk smack and it was not charitable. Using language typically reserved for sailors he let us know how bad we were playing and how good he was playing. He was relentless. At first it was mildly amusing, since I had worked with the handicapped before and I knew that it was not uncommon for handicapped to swear uncontrollably.

After about 20 minutes of cussin’ and a cursin’ at us, I could tell my stepson who is generally more outgoing and generous than I am was getting frustrated with the fruits of his kindness. There are only so many insults the pride of a young man can take. He finally had come to his breaking point and told the young man that it looked like his mom was calling for him on the other side of the soccer field. Our “charity case” called us out on this fib. It was clear that his family was getting along admirably without him. So we had to finally come clean and let him know we were done being charitable.

When I was going to school I worked at a group home and it was no picnic. Of course, I wasn’t doing it to be charitable. But nonetheless it was hard to find it rewarding at the time. First of all, it’s hard to know if you are doing any good. Progress is hard to measure in a group home setting. Second of all, there is a lot of unpredictability working with the handicapped. The guy I was primarily assigned to had stabbed the previous caretaker and that wasn’t the first time! Luckily, we never had any incidents. There was a young man in neighboring group home who was a true assassin if there ever was .I dreaded the days I had to work with him. While he was developmentally disabled and essentially a mute, he was definitely disabled strong if there is such a thing (in our non-PC days we’d call it “retard strong”, but we don’t say that anymore for good reason). He had a penchant for hitting, pinching and pulling hair without warning. Believe me getting hit in the head from behind when you least expect it will put your limited capacity for charity to the test. God bless him though, I like to think he did not know what he was doing when he would with incredible precision ambush me and land those perfectly placed sucker punches.

Boxing

The convenient thing about living in an imperfect world is that there are oodles of opportunities for us to learn to have faith and be patient, kind, merciful and most of all charitable. The capacity to be deeply charitable is in our spiritual DNA, we all have the light of Christ within us. We have to start looking beyond our anxieties about worldly power, social status, and our obsession with shiny things and start looking beyond all the identities and labels we apply to ourselves and others and reach out. And start realizing that life is not a zero sum game and that with true charity everybody can get out of this life victorious.

Erstwhile in Elko

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Recently I got a chance to travel to Elko, Nevada, a modest sized town whose economy is focused mainly on ranching and mining. Elko is also home to some of Nevada’s larger herds of deer, elk and rocky mountain big horn sheep. Elko, however, isn’t just about ranching, mining and wildlife, but Elko’s got some culture going on as well. Elko is the home to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held during the first week of February of each year. Here is a tiny but modest sample of some classic cowboy poetry:

 “…It gives a man a sorter different feelin’ in his heart. 
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didn’t act so smart,
It kinda makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes.

And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin’, well, you come to realize
You’re a mighty common feller after all.”

—Alone by Bruce Kiskaddon

The reason I had to travel to Elko was to visit the good people working at the Elko Friends in Service Helping (F.I.S.H), an organization that works to help those who are homeless and hungry. They do great work up there. You’d think that in such an independent-minded and conservative community with a historically strong work ethic that they wouldn’t have homeless or hungry people at all. But they do.

Elko actually has a campground by the Humboldt River dedicated to helping the homeless, where a shuttle will come by a couple times a day to take them to job interviews, doctor’s appointment, and other services. This is progressive compared to some of our other rural counties who do not acknowledge that they have homeless people in their areas. And in some cases they might technically be right. Esmeralda County has a population of about 800 people in area of about 3600 square miles (if you have driven through Goldfield on 1-95, then you have driven through Esmeralda County).  If you are homeless in Esmeralda County the may literally not be able to find you if are camping out in the boonies. Heck, it might be easier to find a wild horse or a wild ass than it might be to find a homeless person in Esmeralda County.

However, it’s interesting to me to note that even out in the rural areas no community is immune from the effects of drugs and alcohol, which tends to play a large part in homelessness.

Lovelock

For some unknown reason, I like the drive out to Elko. The first stretch of the drive runs parallel to the Truckee River as it find its way to Pyramid Lake, the last remnant of the Lake Lahontan that covered most of Nevada during the Pleistocene era (contrary to what my children believe I was not alive then). Somewhere around Fernley the river goes another path and the landscape is a barren until you get to Lovelock, a small farming community, which is also the home of the Lovelock Correctional Center the current home to O.J. Simpson.

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I don’t know if it is still true but when I first came to the state they used to tell me that the Lovelock Correctional Center was where they decided to put all the sex offenders because they were having problems housing them with the general prison population. So I found it odd that he was sent there.

This is no knock on Lovelock, but there is not much out there and the correctional center is even more isolated than the town as it sits by itself, away from the community, at the base of one of Nevada’s many, many lonely brown mountains. You can’t help to kind of feel bad for O.J. for a moment because his current lifestyle is quite the fall from his lifestyle at his Rockingham home in Brentwood. But he did commit a double murder of two innocent people, nearly decapitating Nicole Brown Simpson, so the sympathy is short-lived.

Although the murders are not why he is up there, he is up there because a Clark County (Las Vegas) judge gave him the maximum for armed robbery and kidnapping in his an attempt to reclaim some of his memorabilia. I guess the maximum sentencing could be seen as payback for the verdict of innocent he got when he was on trial for murder. Memo to self: If you get off for a double-murder that 90% of population clearly thinks you committed, don’t commit an armed robbery afterwards. Don’t be felonious, for heaven’s sake.

Note: We have to give a shout out to Rob Bates, our brother-in law. Rob sits on the Nevada Parole Board and is briefly filmed, conducting O.J.’s parole board hearing, in the opening scene of Part 1 of ESPN’s O.J. Simpson: Made In American series.

Winnemucca

Around Lovelock the Humboldt River, Nevada’s longest river, empties into the Humboldt sink (basically a dry lake bed). This river was named by John C. Fremont after the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and was the route that the California Trail followed as migrants headed to the California gold fields. I am always impressed by the Humboldt River’s determination to be a river.

After passing Lovelock, I generally make my first stop on the way to Elko in Winnemucca. A town named after Chief Winnemucca of the Northern Paiute and father to one of Nevada’s most famous historical figures, Sarah Winnemucca. She was the first female Native American to write an autobiography, using her education to argue for Native American civil rights in this region. For a small town Winnemucca seems to have a lot going on, they even have a Wal-Mart.

On a less positive note, Winnemucca used to be somewhat infamous for having a brothel district and these businesses where not shy about advertising it on big billboards as you were approaching town. My family used to joke about one particular brothel, which I think was named the Kitty Katt Klub, pretending it was literally a cat house where big burly truck drivers could go and snuggle up to kittens. Such is the humor we had to develop when you are forced to explain that crap to your young kids.

Battle Mountain

In between Winnemucca and Elko is a hard scrabble mining town called Battle Mountain. Because I don’t stop too often at Battle Mountain, I can’t tell you how lively Battle Mountain is. I mean it does have a McDonald’s but the old downtown is pretty sleepy. One of things I do like about Battle Mountain is that they are unashamed of their town’s initials and proudly display the initials “BM” on the side of a big hill just outside of town. Ironically, the road that takes you to the hill with the town’s initials on it is the road to Battle Mountain’s landfill.

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Basque Food and Going Home

The trip from Winnemucca to Elko is not too bad and usually goes quick. Usually, I stay at the Americas Best Value Gold Country Inn & Casino. I am not sure why. I think it’s because when I would travel with the kids from Carson City to Provo, Utah this hotel had a nice pool where the kids could play in when they were little.

Elko has some good restaurants, like the Star Restaurant, which serves Basque-style food. Now, don’t ask me what Basque cuisine is. I still haven’t figured out what makes it so different. My first introduction to Basque food was a slice of hard cheese on a dry roll with no butter or mayonnaise on it. Ever since that time I’ve been a little skeptical about what makes this food so unique. Nevertheless, I can give two thumbs up to the Star Restaurant. I am not a big steak eater but their steaks are worth giving a try.

The spell of the Great Basin landscape has normally worn off by the time I need to leave Elko. Usually, I am less patient on the way back occasionally finding myself driving a desperately brisk 90 mph. I try not to go any faster than that and only in spots. I did once get a ticket for going 95 mph and that was costly. But no matter the cost, coming home is always worth it.

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Kitchen is Done

Tammy painted the kitchen last week. She did it all by herself and it looks soooo good! I figured it was a labor of love so I didn’t help out at all and I think she didn’t mind at all. She accentuated the paint job with some new Hobby Lobby accessories including a large metal H for Hansen.

The kitchen walls are now a light yellow and I believe the color is called Cotton-Linen yellow. Next to being the tester of Fancy Ketchups, I would love to be the guy who gets to name paint colors. I could come up with some pretty good names like Troglodyte Tan, Dorian Grey, or Obliging Orange.

Evolution and God

I am no expert on Evolution or God, but since this is the Internet I will not let my ignorance on both stop me from commenting on them. I was just reading a book on Evolution where the author argues that the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution did away with the notion of design and purpose in the creation of the earth and the idea of God manifesting himself in the creation.

Sure I see how it dealt a blow to the mechanistic view of the creation, but I am not sure how evolution, natural selection, gradualism, and speciation mean that there wasn’t a creator behind the creation or that there is no design or purpose to His creations. I mean what is so random about processes that take millions of years to bring about any change. Isn’t time a key component to deliberation? It seems to me that the universe and nature scream design and purpose and point to an intelligence behind the creation.

“But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”—Alma 30:44

I don’t know why a general belief in Evolution (change) would mean to people like Richard Dawkins that I would have to cast aside my faith in God, if anything it would affirm my belief in God as the master Biologist. I am just glad that whether or not I believe in evolution will not be a criterion for getting into the gates of heaven. However, if they ask me what the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is I’m in trouble.

 

Funeral Songs and Los Cuates de Sinaloa

Gravestone

I’ve heard that one day we are all going to die. So when I do finally lose my mojo I want to make sure everyone has a good time at my funeral. No crying, no whining, and no moaning. People should be glad I died. One of the most important things about my funeral will have to be the music—apart from hymns. I know I could come up with a lengthy list of songs to be played at my funeral and the following would be a small sample of the songs I’d like to be played:

  1. “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I know it’s cliché, but who can deny the greatness of this song. Hands down the best guitar solo ever. One of the few songs where listening to all nine minutes is worth it every time. To make things more entertaining you could also include a clip of the fight scene from the movie The Kingsman: The Secret Service.
  2. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. Jimi does justice to these great lyrics with both his voice and guitar playing. But let us stop talking falsely now and move on
  3. “This Will Be Our Year” by the Zombies. A hugely underrated band who needs some love.
  4. “Sweet Georgia Brown” by the Carroll Brothers. Used to be the Globetrotters’ theme song so you can’t go wrong with this choice.
  5. “Beans and Cornbread” by Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five. A song about friendship that simply explains that Beans and Cornbread go hand in hand like “weiners and sauerkraut…like chitlins and potato salad…like hot cakes and molasses”.
  6. “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks. Pure cheese, but a sad song about death. “Good bye Pa Pa, please pray for me. I was the black sheep in the family. You tried to teach my right from wrong…”
  7. “What A Man” (the Original) by Linda Lyndell. Just sayin’.
  8. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations. Just for kicks and to inject some doubt about my character after my family has made me out to be a saint.
  9. “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra. “that’s life….You’re riding high in April/Shot down in May/But I know I’m gonna change my tune/When I’m back on top, back on top in June…I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate/A poet, a pawn and a king/I’ve been up and down and over and out”. Nobody says it better than Frank Sinatra.
  10. “Learnin’ the Blues” by Frank Sinatra. This song should be taught to every lovesick teenager. Your heartbreak is what really cool people used to call the blues. Snap out of it and move on, that’s life!

Dean Frank and Bing

  1. Your Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” from Annie. Life is mostly about attitude is probably the biggest life lesson I got from the movie Annie.
  2. “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters. I hope everyone is as excited about my death as I will be.
  3. “I’m Sorry” by John Denver. The theme of my life, also what would a Hansen slide show be without a John Denver song.
  4. “The Last Farewell” by Roger Whittaker. In honor of Mom.
  5. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python. There are some deep lyrics here if you think about it: “And death is the final word….and just remember the last laugh is on you”. Outside of a hymn, this may be one of the best songs about life and death.
  6. If I Ever Leave This World Alive” by Flogging Molly. Ever funeral needs some heartfelt Celtic Punk ballad.
  7. “Married Life” from the movie Up: For my wife who will surely live longer than me.
  8. “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)”/”I’m On My Way”/”Then I Met You” by the Proclaimers: For my wife and the kids in memory of our road trips together.
  9. “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley. Just in case I can’t get into Heaven maybe they’ll consider sending me back to Earth to work on few things.
  10. “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead: Just in case I don’t get into Heaven and they don’t send my back to earth.

Los Cuates of Sinaloa

Recently, we’ve been watching the Breaking Bad series again and this time around I finally noticed that one of the songs that was played during the series was “Negro y Azul: Ballad of Heisenberg” by a band called Los Cuates de Sinaloa.

Los Cuates de Sinaloa

Their brand of music is called Musica Nortena and I can only describe it as the Mexican version of the polka. I honestly don’t know what the appeal of it is, but it is very popular street music in Sinaloa and Nayarit. Occasionally though there is a song I like and I still get nostalgic for it, but for me a little bit goes a long way.

It’s been a while since I have heard the term cuate. The straightforward translation of cuate is buddy or pal, but the way it’s used in Mexico the meaning is closer to hommie than it is to buddy.

I can’t believe it’s been almost 30 years since I was called to the Mazatlan Mexico mission covering the states of Sinaloa and Nayarit. I remember initially being disappointed because I wanted to serve a European mission more specifically I wanted to serve a mission in France like my older brother (and later on my younger brother). With four years of French in high school and I thought for sure I was a shoe in, but the Lord knew better and He nailed it, although at first it didn’t seem like it.

It took a while to get accustomed to the humidity and the cockroaches, large spiders, and the iguanas I’d have to share housing with. For the first little while it seemed like the Spanish they were speaking was not the Spanish I had been taught. But after a couple of months my Spanish became functional and things got a lot better. Half of my mission was smack dab in the heart of Mazatlan, serving there twice. Besides Mazatlan, I also got to serve in Tepic, Nayarit, Culiacan Rosales (Culiacan), and Guamuchil. I loved Guamuchil, not only because I had a lot of success there, but because they ate flour tortillas (tortillas de arena) instead of corn tortillas. The way some of the women cooked those flour tortillas was a real treat when you put butter and strawberry jam on them.  I am pretty sure it was the lard that made those tortillas so good.

Mazatlan Cathedral

Sinaloa does have a bad rap because the Sinaloa Cartel is so powerful and can be ruthless. El Chapo is actually from Sinaloa. The cartel got its start a little bit before my mission began. By the time I was there, Culiacan had become known as the Chicago of Mexico because of all the gang activity. The Federal government at one point in time had to take over the local police force because it has become so corrupt. And we were not allowed to go out into the rural areas. But those were things we had to be cautious about but in no way did they define our daily experiences.

Most of our time was spent walking or biking up and down the dirt roads of our assigned barrios. As missionaries we were very lucky to have been invited into the humble abodes of some wonderful people, who despite being dirt poor and somewhat oppressed by a corrupt government, full of faith and extremely generous. Literally, their casa was tu casa. I got to meet some real spiritual giants in these poor areas of Sinaloa and Nayarit who I would want for my neighbors in a heartbeat, who would be pillars in any community.

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Don’t get me wrong like any other country Mexico has its share of criminals, gangsters, abusers, two-time losers, no good cheats, and palookas. And Mexico like any other country does have more than a few rat finks, double-crossers, haters, frauds, and philatelists. And there just might be a sprinkling of gainsayers, whoremongers, fanilows, peeping wizards and ne’er do wells in Mexico as well. But I can tell you the influence of one good, virtuous, faithful, and hard-working person on their family and on their community can be immeasurable and generational, outweighing the influence of many bad people. And if they want to leave Mexico they might as well come to America. Heaven knows we could use as many good people as we can get.

Mexico 1988 Mazatlan Neighborhood
The other side of Mazatlan

Needless to say I enjoyed my mission a lot, in fact I liked it so much that towards the end I started to go native and began to contemplate ways I could stay in Mexico after my mission. As missions are wont to do, you end up realizing that all the time you spent teaching other people that you were the one being taught the most.

Poutine and French Canada

In a tribute to Tammy’s French Canadian background, we went to the St. James Brassiere restaurant up in Reno and had our first taste of poutine. I’d give it a thumbs up, but I wouldn’t call it fine cuisine being it’s only slightly more fancy than a Kentucky Fried Chicken Bowl. Finding out about Tammy’s  French Canadian ancestry explains so many things (wonderful things) about her. Quebecois blood runs deep in Tammy’s family.

The Branchaud branch of her family immigrated from Western France to Quebec in the 17th century and lived there for many generations before immigrating to Max Bass, North Dakota, a town with a current population of 91 people.

Quote

“There never was an angry man who thought his anger unjust.”-St. Francis de Sale

On Bears, Hobbits, and Quakers

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Tammy and the boys went to Yellowstone this week and I got to stay home and help the homeless. I didn’t have enough annual leave to go seeing as I had to use it up when I was asked to “resign”. But I am not a bitter man. Tammy and the boys had a lot of fun doing all the Yellowstone things: seeing Old Faithful and other geysers, visiting the Canyon Waterfalls, going to the Tetons, and visiting Jackson Hole.

They saw a lot of wildlife: Buffalo, Marmots, Elk, and Antelope. They even got to catch a glimpse of some Grizzly bears and some Black bears.  On one occasion, they were coming around a bend and a Black Bear popped his head up right by the road.  Tammy stopped the car in the middle of the road and had Tyler take a couple of pictures from the passenger side of the car. When Tyler finished taking the pictures he noticed that Austin was on the floor of the car. When asked what he was doing on the floor, Austin said he didn’t want the bear to get him. We are glad the Black Bear didn’t get him and we are glad they got home safely.

Coincidentally, at the same time that Tammy and the boys were in Yellowstone there were two major incidents in the park. A 23 year-old man from Oregon fell into one of the hot springs. Taken at face value, it’s pretty hard to imagine how someone walking on the boardwalk one minute falls into the hot springs the next minute. But, then again I have had some incredibly clumsy moments when I have been in deep thought.

There was another incident in the park when a father and son got burned when they slipped into a hot pool. Supposedly the father was carrying his 13-year old son when he slipped. That’s a pretty big baby boy! Clearly, we were missing some key information.

Man-Cold

Meanwhile, I stayed home. Andrew was visiting for the weekend. We had a pretty good time playing basketball and NCAA Football 14 (can’t wait for NCAA football to make its comeback). He went to a football camp at UNR for partof Saturday and then spent the afternoon watching a TNT marathon of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I am not sure why but whenever he visits he ends up watching one of these shows. I have seen them so much that I can tell you all about Durin’s Day and have finally figured out that Gimli is the son of Gloin, one of the Dwarves in the Hobbit.

Soon after Andrew left, I got a man-cold. Feeling feeble and not wanting to make the man-cold worse without Tammy around, I did as little as possible laying around inexplicably binging on Mr. Selfridge shows and nursing myself with a Roman Punch for Kids recipe. The “doing as little as possible” kind of backfired on me when Tammy got home. She wasn’t as sympathetic as I had hoped she would be. In fact at one point I felt like she was mocking me.

More Family

But it wasn’t all for naught, I did figure out way to get my daughters married proper and bypass all the ups and downs of dating. In Sweden when they celebrate Midsummer, one of the customs they have for unmarried women (maidens) is to have them pick seven different flowers and then they are supposed to put the flowers under their pillow before they go to sleep on Midsummer’s Eve. Apparently, if you’ve picked the right set of flowers the man you are supposed to marry will come to you in your dreams. If he doesn’t then you’ve picked the wrong flowers.

Quotes and Church

“Those things which we call extraordinary, remarkable, or unusual may make history, but they do not make real life. After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.”—President Joseph F. Smith

Discussed “true greatness” this week in Elder’s Quorum and we had a good discussion given the recent spate of celebrity deaths (yes, this is what is going to happen when I am asked to teach Saturday afternoon. I going to go topical) and the fact that one of Muhammad Ali’s tag lines was “I am the Greatest”. Also had my balloon busted when a friend mentioned the other day that Walter Payton—“Sweetness”—one of my childhood idols was a hardcore womanizer. So we had to discuss that. It makes sense. Why should he have been different than the others? I am still in denial. Sometimes, it can be brutal coming out of the cocoon.

Greek-Odysseus

Family History

Well, I have a new family favorite name: Pluright J. Sisk. He was born in Culpeper County, Virginia in 1766 and died in Woodford County, Kentucky. He is our 5th great Grandfather through Mom’s side going through the Magee side of her family. Pluright married Ruth Boone in 1790 in Culpeper County.

Coincidentally, Ruth Boone (1769-1845), born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, was the granddaughter of George Boone IV, who was the brother of Squire Boone, the father of the great Daniel Boone. So the rumors are true we are related to Daniel Boone, just not directly. The Boone’s came to America from Exeter, Devonshire, England to escape religious persecution because of their Quaker faith.  George Boone III, who migrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1690, is our common ancestor. He is our 8th great Grandfather.

Music

  1. Blue Tail Fly (with the Jimmie crack corn chorus)—Burl Ives and the Andrew Sisters. Gotta have me some Burl Ives. Did not know this was a slave song.
  2. Atheist Don’t Have No Songs—Steep Canyon Rangers and Steve Martin. Heard Steve Martin perform this live. Steve Martin’s a genius. If you don’t like Steve Martin then you must hate Santa Claus, too.
  3.  Take My True Love By the Hand—The Limeliters. If you liked Glenn Yarborough’s singing in the Rankin Bass Hobbit movie you have to get this song. Plus it’s played during the last season of Breaking Bad, playing as Walt rolls his one remaining barrel through the desert toward his new ride after Hank is killed.
  4.  Bonny Hielan’ Laddie—The Kingston Trio. I belief my love for this type of folk music must begin with Dad’s Kingston Trio record that we had forever. Curiosity got the best of me.

I am not kidding these songs are on my Ipod and I do listen to them just ask the kids. More on folk music, why don’t we have kids sing folk songs anymore? It’s a great way to get in touch with your past, learn history, and pick up some good language skills. Europeans do it, why don’t we?

Scripture

 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17–18.)”

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Nimble Air Benign

Angry birds pic 1

Kind Woman

Rushing to go pick up Andrew in Truckee, I found myself stuck in a huge traffic jam once I got into Reno. Hoping that this would soon pass, I was briefly entertained by the man in the Mercedes in front of me. Every few minutes he would break out into some violent hand gesturing as if he was angrily pleading to someone, but I couldn’t see anyone else in his car.

As the traffic moved ahead I noticed that my car was starting to feel sick. A few minutes later I noticed that smoke was coming from the Mini’s bonnet. I immediately turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows and started to make my way over from the far left lane to the emergency lane, four long lanes away. I desperately made my way into the other lanes, testing the patience of other drivers, as the smoke coming from bonnet thickened. Finally, I got over to the emergency lane, turned off the car, and made plans to walk to the Burger King within sight of where the Mini was parked.

As I started walking in the late afternoon heat, someone softly shouted from their car and asked if I needed a ride. Looking up I saw the voice came from a grandmotherly looking lady. I told her most certainly and hopped into her car. We had a short pleasantly awkward conversation. Not sure what the etiquette is for talking to strangers who do you a solid. I mean I thought about asking her the standard questions about work, family, and her background, but thought that would that be too intrusive for people who hadn’t known each other from Adam five minutes ago and would surely never see each other again. Ah well, we did our best for the brief time we were together.

Finally, we got to BK and she dropped me off and as sincerely as I could muster I thanked her and off she rode into the distance, probably to help another stranger. Whoever that lady was— she did tell me her name but like the oblivious person I am I forgot her name as soon as she told it to me—I have to say thank you again. You didn’t have to offer me a ride— a complete stranger. You had no idea what was going to happen, especially given how dangerous and mysterious I look with my goatee, but you did it anyways. You reached out to a sinner, who hadn’t changed the fluids in his car in a while and gave me a lift when I surely needed one. Thanks kind woman.

The rest of the evening went okay. We were able to get the car, gasping, to a repair shop. We were able to pick up Andrew at our normal spot, the McDonald’s in Truckee. Unbeknownst to many, McDonald’s parking lots are popular exchange spots for kids of divorced parents because it’s normally safe, it has clean bathrooms, and if your kids are hungry you can get them a cheap meal. Having said all of this, now that my kids are much, much older they really hate eating at McDonald’s and I think I finally get why.

Because my wife had made plans to take the grandkids to Yellowstone the following day, I had to rent a car at the airport. My car rental professional showed me my rental car and as I started to inspect the car, I heard my professional mumble that I was only to report scratches the size of a dollar or dents that were golf ball sized but it was too late, I had already pointed out a dent about half the size of a golf ball. My car rental professional was clearly annoyed that I had not listened, and repeated in a lecturing tone what he had said. At that point—five hours into what is normally a two hour journey— I was past feeling and could care less that junior was bugged by my thoroughness. Happy with my cheap rental car, I cranked on the AC and drove out of the airport parking lot like a bat out of heck, eager for another opportunity to abuse the tar out of another rental car.

Family History

My new favorite family name belongs to Zibiah “Sibby” McCarley McDonald Birdino. She was literally born somewhere in the state of Pennsylvania in 1786 and passed away in Calhoun, Iowa in 1860, a town that is only slightly bigger than when she passed away with a population of about 10,000. She is our 4th great grandmother through Grandma Hansen’s family.

The other day I was going through some stuff in the garage and came across some family histories. One of which was my Uncle Harold’s memories of Grandma Hansen. For a man that seemed a little gruff when I was kid, this guy is a big teddy bear inside. He is a straight shooter when he writes but very sincere. As a side note, we used to joke about his hair when we were kids, but it now looks like I inherited Harold’s mighty head of hair. Sometimes when my hair is getting tall and I comb it back and look in the mirror and start to ponder where I’ve seen hair like that before and it dawns upon me it is Uncle Harold.

The one thing Harold touches upon in his history is the Hansen way of showing of emotion. I always wondered where this came from and apparently it’s generational. I no longer feel like freak. I do loathe goodbyes because it requires a lot of awkward hugging stuff and having to be outwardly sincere. I prefer Harold’s take on all of this:

“While I was in the Navy (about 1945/1946) I saw Mom only occasionally. To me she seemed no better or worse during this time. I was always glad to come home and see her. There was not a lot of outward emotion shown, but I knew she was happy to see me. I guess it was just kind of an understanding.

Even though there was not a lot of outward display of emotion or affection in our family, I think we love one another and we have some very close ties. I feel strongly that real love must be sincere and not just a public show. When I feel, I say it or show it in my own way. This may sound like the Hansen philosophy to some…”

japan-cherry-blossom-scene_95064_990x742

Like I have always said just know I love you, do I have to always say it or show it. Holy cheese and crackers! How many hugs do you need to know that I love or like you? You know how I know my siblings love me? It’s when they joke about one of my many troubling handicaps or bring up some painful moments from my past that I have only just begun to get over on my long, dark journey to become an emotionally stable adult. That’s when I know they care.

Of course, that philosophy doesn’t work so well with my wife and kids. So to deal with that I have developed the following formula: for every insult I have to say at least five kind or encouraging things. Once I hit the magic number of five, I get to insult them again. So far it’s been pretty successful. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.

Speaking of family: congratulations to my cousin Erin who got married in Anchorage, Alaska the other day. Make it a good one! We miss your Dad too! He was good man.

Suggested Music

1. Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down by Eric Bibb, Maria Muldaur & Rory Block
2. All I Do is Dream of You sung by the incomparable Dean Martin
3. Those Memories of You by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris
4. Through the Years by Kenny Rogers

The Death of Celebrities

Don’t get me wrong I thought Muhammed Ali was great just like most everyone else, and have a deep appreciation for most of David Bowie and Prince’s music. But Good Golly! Why does the media try to shove down our throats how much these people impacted our lives and try so hard to make these mortals and their works immortal. It’s like they are trying to force us to idol worship, force us to fall down and worship the big heads like they did on Easter Island. The worst was Michael Jackson whose life had become for quite a while a joke in the media up until his death. And then all of the sudden we are supposed to feel like our meager lives will never be the same because Michael Jackson was no longer in it, when his life had become one big mess.

Maybe it’s Baby Boomer thing. A desperation to have things or people they have always put their faith in from their generation last forever. Realizing too late as Dean Inge said that “he who marries the spirit of the age soon finds himself a widower”.

Or maybe it’s a celebrity thing and we are truly surprised when celebrities of our generation, whose works have been slowly fading in the background, pass away. Do we really believe they are not like us and are immune to decay, aging, illness, and death? I don’t know? It’s hard to put a finger on the media’s obsession with the death of celebrities and the hyperbole about their impact on our lives. And the irony is that the media are the ones usually leading the charge to destroy our heroes when they are alive, eager to show us just how mortal they are. Muhammed Ali would have been eaten up by the chattering class on Twitter if he were in his prime today and he would have been subject to hours upon hours of analysis by ESPN on why he isn’t doing this or that. My biggest take away from Prince’s death was his distrust of the media.

Last Thoughts

“In the last resort, man should not ask, ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ but should realize that he himself is being questioned. Life is putting its problems to him, and it is up to him to respond to these questions by being responsible; he can only answer to life by answering for his life. Life is…a mission.”-Viktor Frankl

Devil Take the Hindmost

“No matter who you are, your life will have storms; you will encounter discouragement, doubt, and defeat. The difficulties you will face will amaze and overwhelm you at times, but it is your very response to such trials that will build your character and determine your destiny.”-Michael Middleton

You always have to be a careful when you talk about your employment when on the Internet, so I will tread lightly here. But about a month ago I was asked to resign from my job and given six weeks to find a new job. Where I was once happy, now I was forlorn. This was a shock for sure. I have been working for over 30 years and have never once been asked to step down from a job. Usually, I am the one leaving the job moving onto bigger and better things so this came as a surprise to me. Even worse than this was now having to face the prospect of going home and telling my wife the “good news” about the possibility of not being able support the family. Strangely, though, as I drove home underneath soggy skies, I didn’t feel panicked or downhearted. I had worked hard, honestly and competently, I really had nothing to be ashamed of.

02_Boliv+Bureau+13

But regardless of how I felt about myself at the time, here I was essentially out of a job. As someone who has countlessly talked about adversity as being part of God’s plan, part of what we had signed up for before coming down to earth, I guess I would now have to live what I had preached from my behind my computer screen. It is painful to have to take your own medicine because then you learn how hard it is to swallow, or worse you learn just how bad your own advice is. I would typically classify mine under the heading of “ill-advised”.

“We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t. Success often lies just the other side of failure.”

Surprisingly, my wife took the news about as well as she could. I mean she didn’t carp, henpeck or browbeat me and that was a good thing, right? Pretty much she said “it is done” and immediately got on the computer and started to religiously redo all of her budgeting spreadsheets. Among the many potential difficulties this could have put us in was that this resignation was ill-timed (Is there really any good time to be let go?) because we had already committed to remodeling our kitchen and it was too late for us to back out. In fact, the remodel was to start the next week.

After I gave her the job loss briefing, I did what any respectable man would do and I went upstairs and uncontrollably cried into my big boy pants, wildly throwing punches in the air. When I was just about to break into my angry dance a la Kevin Bacon in Footloose, my wife who had just come up the stairs stopped me, saving us both from a lot of grief and some mild embarrassment.

To her credit, she didn’t mollycoddle me or feel sorry for me, but gently explained to me that big boy pants were for wearing and not crying into, then handed me a chocolate-colored pocket square so I could finish weeping. About an hour later after my tear stains had dried , I came bumbling downstairs in my big boy pants feeling a lot better about myself.

As someone famous once said, “when you don’t have a job, then your job is to find a job”. So that is what I did in earnest and took it as a challenge to change. Looking for a job is definitely a humbling experience. I can’t say I like it. I have a hard time selling myself. I have a hard time convincing myself that I should be hired. It takes a lot of convincing, but once I get past persuading myself I usually do okay in interviews.

I did have my parents help me prep for a Skpe interview. I have to admit I was unprepared for the questions they peppered me with. I am pretty sure I failed the mock interviews. It’s difficult to pass off all of that job flim-flam to the very people who brought you up, changed your diapers, taught you to eat, walk, read and write and more importantly taught you to never stretch the truth. Despite my struggles, my parents, as always, were positive and encouraging even though my performance was atrocious.

 “Everyone’s life is different, but all of us experience hard times. Sometimes we may feel sad or lonely. Sometimes we may be sick or confused. But there is one thing we can always do to make life sweeter and more joyful. We can be grateful!”-Dieter Uchtdorf

Despite all of the agonizing and worry, I did end up finding a job. Mercy fell on me like a gentle rain from heaven. In hindsight, my plight ended up just being a tiny bump in the road of life, but it was a good test of the tiny faith I do have. However, not sure my faith wouldn’t have wavered if the job search had gone on any longer. It’s no easy task to find a job in six weeks. I was both lucky and blessed. A little bit of rough patch in life is not the worst thing. Many people would do away, in vain, with pain and suffering. A promise they can never keep. And I think it’s been proven time and time again that those who promise to take away pain and suffering only compound the existing the misery (See Venezuela as a most recent example) rather than make anything better. Trials and tribulations, while not wishing to take on more than have come my way in this life, are all good if in the end they make me a little kinder, make me more understanding of others, and make me a bit more cheery, and a tad braver.

macaskill-mountain-biking-scotland_88360_990x742

I have to thank all the people who were praying for me. How can you ever dislike someone who’s praying for you when you’re going through a rough patch? I was genuinely surprised by all the people that cared. But now they can pray for people much more deserving of their prayers than me. My wife, my rock, took everything in stride. I think we celebrated by experimenting with crock pot mac n’ cheese because our kitchen is non-functioning. I’ll just say this about crock pot mac n’ cheese: straight-up gluten wrapped in melted cheese is an acquired taste. Not sure that recipe should be out on the world-wide web without out a warning of what it’ll do to your insides. But that’s okay, I’ll eat more salads because I still need to be able to fit into my big boy pants, which I have been wearing a lot more as of late.

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