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President Packer died today, and I admit feeling down about it. He’s always been quite high on my list of favorite apostles. I know many who, while surely sad to see him go, are breathing a sigh of relief that he will not replace President Monson when that time comes. I know many who see him as a very abrupt, stern, and hard-nosed apostle. I’ve always felt that attitude was unfounded and based more on myths and legends than on truth and reality. There’s no denying that he had a strong sense of right and wrong, a firm commitment to his views on testimony and faith, and a no nonsense approach to living and teaching the gospel; would that we all could be so firm and devoted.

As I think over his life, I’m reminded of three things that seem to stand out more than the rest:

1–“The study of doctrine and the teaching of doctrine will change behavior more than the study of behavior will change behavior.”

This quote was, for a time, just about the only thing I seemed to hear at church, and it was a foundational piece of my fledgling testimony. I was deeply grateful when, a view years ago, Elder Bednar reminded us of this wise quote from President Packer, but expounded on it by reminding us that what President Packer was teaching us was that a study of doctrine related to the behavior you are trying to fix will change behavior faster than a study of behavior related to that behavior will change that behavior. What a profound and simple truth that we so often forget, and in that statement is, at least in part, the answer to a successful life.

2–I’m reminded of his age poem from a few years ago. In so many ways, this typifies for me the straight-forward, simple nature of his testimony. He didn’t mince words when it came to his declarations and statements regarding his faith, his relationship and testimony of the Savior, and his love for his wife and family. I will miss the clarity of his teachings.

3–I think the biggest impact he had on my life was his parable of the mediator, which was later turned into a video. As a teenager, this was the first time I really understood how the principles of Mercy and Justice worked together, and it was also the first time I really understood why a Savior was not only a good thing for us to have, but a necessary element of our lives on earth. Similarly, this is the man who brought us Spiritual Crocodiles. Both these principles–and many others–were important for me when I was younger, and when I needed the gospel taught simply, plainly, and powerfully.

I will him. I will miss his gentle, straight forward approach. He certainly represents in many ways the passing of that older generation. Yes, President Monson is still here, but the torch has been passed to younger generations of apostles (if a group of men in their 80s, 70s, and 60s can be called young…). I find it incredibly comforting that those men have had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a truly incredible servant of the Lord for so long.

Farewell, my friend.

My Gallbladder

Okay, so I’m going to wander a bit in my post here to give ample space for people who don’t want to actually see the picture of my gallbladder to make a quick exit, stage right.

Dr. Sheffield told me the other day that my picture was ready for pick up. He also seems to get a little excited when he talks about the picture, and I think it’s because it was so very nasty. I showed the picture to a bunch of the guys at the office. One called it cute, another called it yummy. One said it was fantastic, and the last guy turned just a touch white and looked at my seriously and said, “That’s out of you, right?” Oh goodness yes.

So a typical healthy gallbladder is a nice healthy color (don’t ask me what color… I’m colorblind, and I just don’t think of things that way). When you see the picture (let’s dawdle a bit more for those who want to escape that sight), you’ll notice that it looks really tight and swollen. It is. Dr. Sheffield said that it was close to bursting, and we were lucky to get it out when we did. You’ll notice the fantastic rainbow of colors… One of the guys at work said it was “a rainbow of sick.” Appropriate description.

Sigh… It’s time to post the picture.

If you don’t want to see it, time to bail….

I warned you….

SONY DSC

There it is. Yuck.

On top is the liver, below is internal fat, which is normal but honestly got me eager to get back to exercising. Seeing your insides can do that to you.

I’m so glad this monster is gone.

They Flow

I had a professor back in my college days who drew out of me more and better writing than anyone ever has. After finding that journal yesterday, I found myself picking through the numerous documents I have kept from that time trying to find some of the pieces I remember. I find it inspiring to go back and read things that I consider well done, and that professor had a talent for pulling some of the best I had to offer in a nascent and immature writing career.

Dr. Jill Larsen…. I wonder where she’s at and what she’s doing? She knows, of course, the gift she gave me then. Maybe it’s time that some of those pieces saw the light of day…. Let’s start here:

The assignment was to write about emotion emotionally if I remember right. To appeal to that very human element that makes us both weak and strong. They Flow was the result. Here it is….

They Flow

They flow, one by one… and pool. It doesn’t take long, nor does it take much to set it off. All the memory. All the experience of life. Like breath. Like air passing into and out of my lungs. They just happen. They come together with a spontaneity all their own. I don’t ask for it, nor do I stop it. Not that I could. I let it flow freely because flowing is life.

As each one collects, they take form. At first, they were no stronger nor more powerful than a single atom. Then again, you can split atoms. Now they have coalesced into something even more powerful than atoms. Raw. Carnal. Sensual.

There’s a time when I can honestly say that I first lost a friend. It took about 5 seconds, maybe less. Harsh words, harsh acts, harsh results. Something was released then, and it pooled. Why must it always pool?

Pooling reaches the deepest places… forces itself into the deepest cracks where it joins with other pools until it builds. A pond… hmpf! Cesspool is more accurate. Not that the name matters. Be it alpine lake or turbid stagnation, the result is the same—loneliness. You’d think that all these pools inside of me would leave me feeling full, alive. No. The anaerobic stench of decay is lifeless. It’s always been lifeless.

Then there’s the time when I lost my first job. “What? Me? Steal? I’ve never stolen a thing in my life!!! How dare you accuse me!!!” Yeah… there went one more down into the pool. That one is called despair and hopelessness. I truly was innocent. Guiltless. I walked my own Golgotha that day. I walked that lonely road of dust, sweat, and pain. But I didn’t have any of the glory or honor that came from that first Trek. And I was truly as innocent as He.

The pool is filling up. Slowly it deepens. Stagnant waters bury and drown that which it covers. Hard to live when life is so… full.

And what of the terror of stepping into darkness? What of the voyage north? What of sleeping on the deck of an ocean-going ferry as it crossed the Inside Passage? What of leaving all that I knew behind? It was winter. It was cold. I was alone there, too. There were many that flowed by and collected then. Passed right in front of my eyes. Eyes that were so blind. Eyes that were so buried in my own puddling that I refused to see. Could not see. Would not see. Refused… to see.

Man, they’re getting thick. Heavy. I never knew that pools could weigh so much. A gallon of water weighs 8⅓ pounds. EIGHT AND A THIRD!!! So why the hell is this so much heavier? Is it the weight of its contents? Is it the power inside of it?

And oh, how I hate October. I can’t stand that month. Nothing good has ever come of October. The witching hour. My parents were thrown from the road then. Hit broad-side by the van that they, nor I, ever saw coming. It was invisible. Funny how that which cannot be seen is most often that which hurts the most. Words, Silence. Love, Hate. Courage… Fear.

And I sat there. Sat there helpless while my wife went through labor and complications. Sat there with one hand on her belly and one hand on my new-born desperately trying to keep them both on the beds. She just wouldn’t stop bleeding!!! “Nurse!!! NURSE!!! DAMN IT!!! GET IN HERE!!!” She was just barely fast enough. Rage… Helplessness… That’s what I call that pool there. It sits closest to my heart where it can bleed into my body easiest… fastest. Where it can bring out the absolute worst in me. Where it can temper my normal approaches. Where it can demonize even the purest of saints.

And the lonely nights that followed. Her in the hospital. Me alone at home. Trying to go to school. Trying to raise my week-old child. Trying to go to work. Trying… Trying… failing…. “Yes, professor. I know I missed the exam. Yes, sir… But my wife… She’s in the hospital. No, sir. I understand that it wouldn’t be fair to the other classmates.” Hard to believe that a religion professor at BYU would not excuse that test. So much for family-friendly environment. Oh, that one I call despise. Yeah… I know, it’s pretty big.

But the biggest of all… Big enough that it mingles with and through all the other pools is Fear. That one flows constantly. New additions. Reinforcements for its ever-expanding circle of influence. That piece right there is the “Not good enough” part. This one here is the “Never make it.” There’s a section over there that’s poisoned with “I don’t love you.” Unrequited Love. It tends to season a lot of things. Variety is indeed the spice of life, but Unrequited Love is one thing that I could do without.

And each of these flow through me. They flow in me and around me and with me. They are there every day. Every single day there flows a piece of this through me. They flow in search of those deepest and darkest places. And they pool. God, how they pool. And they build up… And they suffocate. And they cover, and choke, and cut off and cover and destroy and bury deny burn ANGER RAGE HATE!!!

And then I put my head in my hands… My shoulders slump slowly, I collapse to the floor, and the tears flow freely. The pools empty… drain away. I’m purged, it’s all gone. All the anger, all the rage, all the pain. I’m clean again. I’m strong again. I’m pure again. I’m what I really am. I stand up, reach down, pick my life up. As long as I can be purged and cleaned… As long as I can be purged and cleaned. As long as the tears… as long as they flow.

I’ve had a really cool day today. It’s just been fun and pleasant and happy. And exhausting! I’m not meant for napping during the day. It totally throws me off, but ever since the surgery, I find myself exhausted every day around 4:00 or so, and I end up napping. It kills me. I’m still trying to wake up.

This morning, I woke up and wrote my brother-in-law a letter. I don’t think I’ve really talked about him here; he’s in prison for a truly horrible and sad crime, and because of the nature of his crimes, he has been more or less ostracized. It’s a sad state of affairs for sure. About six months ago, I felt the prompting to start writing him letters. I’ve found him to be a pleasant and open person, fully confessing his crimes, and doing what he can to make amends. He is, all things considered, a good person who has done something truly terrible and stupid, and he’s paying–and willing to pay–the price for what he’s done.

After writing the letter, I went to save it on my computer as I always do when I came across a really old journal from 2002 – 2003. This journal covered pretty much the entirety of my courtship with Courtney, and while it talks about a lot of things aside from that, there are some precious gems. I read through the journal this morning, delighted at the discovery, and I wanted to share a few of the discoveries I made:

March 23, 2002

These last two days have been fun and full of activity. Yesterday I went swimming, saw a basketball game, played ultimate Frisbee and finally watched a movie with the singles branch. I really felt a strong connection with Courtney . She is a girl that I first liked when I got up here and have always wanted to get to know better. I try to get to know her but sometimes I just don’t know how to act around girls.

March 26, 2002

Tonight I went to a Swing Dance class taught by Tyson. There, I danced with Courtney who is the girl that I am currently interested in. Afterwards everyone told me that we looked really good together and that I should pursue her. I would like to but I’m so nervous and silly about dating and things like that that I wouldn’t know what to do. I’m definitely interested though.

March 31, 2002

I went on a walk with Courtney on Friday. We went out into Brotherhood Park and just walked and enjoyed each others company. It was so beautiful. The park is very much a rainforest with moss everywhere and big gorgeous plants. I would like to see it in the summer in full bloom. It was especially nice just to get out and try something with Courtney. I really like her and feel that she is returning the interest. I don’t know if it will be more then that or not but until then I might as well enjoy it.

I sat by her tonight at the Temple Preparation Class. I’m not sure if she is doing it for fun or because I’m there or because she feels ready but I like her being there. She is extremely spiritual and has a strong testimony. That is something that is so important to me because I have always struggled in the very basics. Having someone like her as a companion would help me be more spiritual. I can stand on my own two feet for a good time but I always seem to trip and it’s the little things that trip me.

I may be taking her to an Opera soon. I heard that she enjoyed one in particular and Heidi and Dave are going and asked if I would like to go as well. I would, I like Operas and I would really like to get to know her more. I’m almost fascinated by her. Not in love or lust, just fascination. She is an amazing person.

April 25, 2002

She still is, perhaps, one of the most unique and individual women I have ever known and that is intriguing if not downright interesting. She is still very compatible and, on a plus, beautiful. She is certainly one that I would consider a possibility for marriage. I guess the downside is, as always, as soon as you start to move forward you start to look for the bad things, the differences. I haven’t noticed many bad things. She is intelligent, loves to read, and artistic. She is also a very capable and independent woman. She is sometimes anti-social, although I am not too sure about that last one.

[At this point in the journal, most of my entries deal more with the sudden increase of all the single members that moved up to Alaska over the summer and the busyness of work. I also glance over the long winter back in Utah for school and the things there. I stopped writing in my journal and note that my letters back and forth to Courtney took the place of my journal. When I moved back up to Alaska the next spring, I picked up the journal again.]

May 24, 2003

My relationship with Courtney is weird right now. It’s good but weird. We’ve gone on a couple dates since I’ve been back (date is a very loose term) and I really do like her more and more but I can’t say that we are any closer to marriage. Our Branch President breached the marriage word for us though. I wasn’t even going to say that but he jokingly looked at us both and told us that he was going to excommunicate us both if we didn’t get married by the end of the summer. Not bad considering that Courtney and I have never even once spoken about dating let alone marriage. I’ll give her a call tonight though and watch a movie or something, play games, I don’t know.

June 24, 2003

Courtney and I are doing well. We are constantly inching towards marriage and although I keep finding things that do bring in doubts they are always so extremely minor and I can just feel Satan behind each one of them. There is nothing that I know of that could possibly cause second doubts. I’m living in a happy little dream world right now that I don’t really want to end anytime soon.

August 23, 2003

I proposed to her on August 3rd. We went out to the glacier and standing right before the bridge on the photo trail I took her hand and slipped the ring onto her finger. To be honest with you, I wanted to throw up. I was so nervous and scared even though I already knew the answer. We’ve set the date for December 30th. We’ll wed in the Manti Temple and then go on a honeymoon to Temple Square. Mom and Dad are giving us the honeymoon as their wedding gift. We’ll spend three nights at the Inn at Temple Square and then start school again.

I leave for Utah on Tuesday and that has both Courtney and I thinking a lot and wondering. I think it will be very hard for her; I’m actually looking forward to it in some ways though. I will miss her terribly but at the same time, I have very fond memories of writing letters back and forth and I think that being away from each other for some time will actually help us grow stronger. Besides that, it always tends to be easier for the one who leaves. They go and see new things and get caught up in a new life and new things happening where as nothing changes for those who stay behind except for the fact that they lost something or someone.

I don’t really worry about Courtney; she is strong, that’s why I love her.

October 22, 2003

Courtney and I are falling more and more in love. I miss her so much. Not a moment goes by where my mind doesn’t drift to her in some form or some way. I don’t know how I stand to live sometimes without her right here beside me. It is frustrating to watch Justin and his bride, Kenzee, talk and laugh and giggle while I am forced to merely think about Courtney. I wish I knew how to tell her how much I loved her, but I don’t. I dream about her often, and I can hear her voice speaking quietly to me.

I reread all of my journal entries about her tonight and I can see now, looking back, that I was a scared kid back then. I have always known that Courtney was someone that I could marry although I didn’t always believe that she was the one. Looking back, I see my stupidity. I see where I failed her and I promise to myself, as I have a thousand times, that I will never fail her like I did then. She has become the one for me.

I was talking with my roommate Randy on Sunday and he mentioned that I just didn’t seem to be myself this semester. When it comes right down to it, I’m not complete. I’m not whole down here in Utah without Courtney. I really do feel like a huge part of my life is missing because she is not here. I would beg her to elope if I thought for a moment that that was the right choice. I miss her so much.

October 28, 2003

I love her and I care for her. I’m sometimes asked how I can possibly live without her constantly by my side and what it comes down to is that I am so secure in my relationship with her that I don’t need to have her constantly by my side. We are both very independent people and I think that will help us in our transition into marriage. We won’t be like many other couples that can’t breath without touching one another, not that we won’t love each other deeply and passionately. We simply won’t need to have the constant touch and caress to know that we love each other. I miss her everyday and think about her constantly. She is my salvation right now.

November 30, 2003

The wedding announcements are done and on their way to wherever they need to go and I feel like there is nothing left to do. I’ll see Courtney again in only three weeks and then the wedding is in four.

***

And that’s pretty much where the journal ends. It was fun to go back and read my thoughts from that time. I remember that time well. For me, it was the beginning of really learning who I was and that I could be strong as a person on my own. Until that first trip home to Alaska, I felt like I was always in the shadows of others, and my journal talks about that feeling of coming into my own, of coming alive. I don’t think I remembered, though, how integral Courtney was in that growth and that transition for me.

In the LDS faith, it is generally expected that the men will serve missions (two years away from home to proselytize and serve). Most Mormons seem to talk about how that is the key growth and coming of age experience, but my mission never really was. It was a wonderful and strengthening experience for me, but it has nothing on this stretch of two years in Alaska and courting Courtney.

The journal covers tragedy and joy; heartbreak and laughter. In the pages of that journal, I watched as old friends went away and new ones were forged. I watched my testimony grow from a soft shell to a firm foundation. And I found memories of a person with thick red hair and thicker glasses (she’s going to kill me when she reads that). And a beautiful smile. And oh man… those glasses…. :-)

There’s a reason we keep journals. I’m glad to have found this lost one.

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I was not meant to be trapped in my own house. I’m on day three since the surgery, and I. Am. Sick. Of. My. House. I cannot make that any clearer. I’m grumpy, I’m cranky, and I’m tired of this chair and the stupid view out my window and… AAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!

I’m at the point of screaming. I told Laurel I was going to go into work just because I couldn’t handle being trapped in the house anymore. She told me not to because I would probably hurt someone. My first thought… “Insanity plea?” :-)

After dinner last night, I had a fit of uncontrollable must-do-something-itis. I took a walk around my backyard. It was glorious. I then came in and made the kids clean and clean and clean. I even tried to do this dishes, though how successful that was is completely open for debate. Exhausted, I finally collapsed (gently of course) back into that same stupid chair to catch my breath.

But I did something.

It’s hard to say exactly how far along I am in the recovery, but I can promise you this: I’m going to work on Monday. I couldn’t handle not going to work at this point.

Last Saturday I got out to inspect my hive and move it ever closer to it’s final resting place in my new apiary. Everything looked really good, but I had an unexpected event.

My new apiary is surrounded by a six-foot privacy screen so that my kids can use the patio area there. I’ve been moving the hive slowly into the apiary over the last two months, and I was finally at the point where the hive would be all the way inside. I’ve been hesitant to move it those last few feet because bees that were out foraging would likely get lost. Still, it must be done, right? In it went.

About two hours later, I went outside to see how things were going, and there was a wall of bees flying in circles and making piles on the ground where the hive used to be. Sure enough, all those foragers were lost. With the hive behind the screen and out of sight, there was little hope they’d find their way home. I ended up putting an empty hive in the old spot and moved three frames of eggs in to that hive creating a split. All the lost bees immediately “came home.”

So, the good news is I have two hives now. I had wanted to split my survivor hive anyway, so I’m okay with that. The bad news: I didn’t exactly solve the problem of having my hive in the apiary did I? I’ve got one hive in and one hive out. At this point, I’m going to leave it until Fall and move it when it’s cold. I can’t lift it anyway with my gallbladder surgery, and by the time I’m past that, it’ll be mid July or early August.

It works.

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