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Romney 2016

It is a little early, but I am going to go ahead and get it out the way now and make an endorsement for the 2016 presidential election. I believe in a free and strong America that only one candidate believes in. The rest believe in furthering their careers or minority groups or doing what their political party wants them to do. My man believes in the greatness of America and her people. He believes that God still watches over this country and he will fight for the things government should fight for; not taking care of every whim of the people, but building a strong economy, a strong military and national defense, and limiting government to what it should do. I love America and I support Mitt Romney for President of the United States in 2016.







The Video!

The video I have been talking about was released this morning. I was hoping for a better shot of the concourse of angels, but I was still able to find both Lexi and myself in the video. In the behind the scenes video you can see us a couple times and in many news stories that have reported we have shown up in pictures. I'll post those beneath the video, which you will find below. Click the images to enlarge. Please watch the video, share it with your friends and family, and you can download the song free HERE (no need to do step 1 and 2, you can just click download if you'd like). Enjoy!






A Day to Remember

About a week ago, I stumbled across a post on Facebook from the Piano Guys (who, by the way, I have a great story about first discovering them when they were brand new and I began sharing them with you all...if you haven't read it, find it in my blog history from last year) that said join us in breaking a world record and be in our new video. I clicked it just to see what they were up to and was interestingly intrigued and immediately signed up. They were combining in Provo with a bunch of other YouTube stars like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Studio C, David Archuleta, and some others to break the world record for most participants in a live nativity and then turning it into a video of sorts. I needed to go to Provo anyway to pick up some stuff my brother left behind when he moved home to Virginia (and by the way, when he says six boxes of stuff, he really means AN ENTIRE SUV FULL), so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and help break a record and grab the stuff. In both things, I got WAY more than I bargained for! For the sake of both my sanity and you're time, I'll just focus on the record event and not the showing up at my brother's house at 10:30 at night to find a room full of stuff that would take almost an hour to move and fit in my full-size SUV.

Lexi has Monday's off so I signed her up to come too. We registered to be angels and were told to bring our own all-white angel costumes with no halo or wings. Recently, I purchased two tuxedos, one white and one brown (and both sexy) from the Utah Festival Opera for $10 each. Yep, two tuxes. Ten. Dollars. Each. I found occasion for the brown tux, but was not sure when I would use the white one. Enter the angel costume. It was a done deal. Shoe color did not matter, so I prepared to rock the white tux as one well-dressed angel.

We arrived to the event expecting to just break the record and go home. We did not make the cut at first for the people in the video shoot. It seemed most of those people were friends and family of the people in charge of the event. After a few hours passed and everyone that was going to arrive had arrived, they needed everyone to help out with one part of the video where we all wore lighted bell-shaped costumes and had flashlights we pointed to the sky when they filmed after dark. We were trained on that and then everyone entered the world record area where we officially broke the record! Then, we rehearsed the formation shoot and they gathered everyone on hand to have enough for it. We shot that several times and finally got what they needed. Then, they said everyone with angel costumes were needed for the other shot, which is the one we originally wanted to be in but only the select few were going to be. Turns out, they had way too few to get the right shot, so we all got in on it. It was in the mid-30s and there was a good breeze, so it was cold and it was getting late. Hundreds of us angels stood on the hill singing and rehearsing and shooting and re-shooting and singing and shooting and shooting and singing for a couple hours before finally, at 10:30 at night, we had a wrap!

Until the video comes out, I won't give away the awesomeness of what all we did, but I can say with absolute surety that this video will be incredible and you will want to share it with everyone you know. It was absolutely worth being outside in a white tuxedo in cold weather for over eight hours. Here are some pictures to get you excited!












Countdowns

I have a countdown on my phone for when Lexi comes home from Alaska. I'll admit it makes me excited, and also nervous, but ultimately it makes me motivated. I have spent the past 4 months working hard to make positive changes in my life so when she returned, I could be a better person. The countdown reminds me of what I am working towards.

Today also marks 100 days until Christmas. I was made aware of this milestone over the weekend and I am now hosting a friend's 100 Days 'Til Christmas Party. Some may say it is dumb, ridiculous, and they refuse to acknowledge Christmas until December or even Christmas morning, but, the thought of it coming ever closer and so many people coming together in special ways that Christmas brings is exciting and reminds me that the Christmas spirit is not reserved for one month a year, but could do wonders if we exercised it all the year long.

There are numerous other countdowns going on in so many lives. Some are counting down until a birthday, a new child, a trip or vacation, a paycheck, and some of you are even counting down the 857 days until a new president is inaugurated, but whatever it is you are counting down, do not sit and stare at the timer as time slowly ticks off. Use that countdown as a motivator; set a goal and achieve it. Every moment we have is a chance to become better and to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. Do not procrastinate, you never know when the countdown of your life reads 1.

Song of the day is "Chariots of Fire"  by: Vangelis...wicked motivational!

Amazon Prime and Comcast

I have been using Amazon Prime for a couple years now. The free two-day shipping option is amazing and often I can get one-day shipping for under $5. The instant video collection is also decent enough to keep me occupied a couple nights a month. All in all, it is well worth the cost for me, so long as things continue smoothly. Up until now, I have never had a problem. However, tonight, I wanted to throw on a flick while I packed to leave for a week-long job down at the Zion Ponderosa Resort. I found a movie, clicked the "Watch Now" button, and my computer started wigging out. This may actually be attributed to the trailer I was watching on a different tab, which was apparently slow in closing out. All I know is things went weird, crashed, and then it said I had purchased the movie for $9.99. I thought, "Hmm, maybe it was a glitch, I have Prime, why would it say purchase, must have something to do with it wigging out." So, I watched the movie. Then I looked into it and found I was charged $9.99 and I now owned the film. I don't buy movies! We all know this! I spent a little while looking for how to get a refund on it, but there is not really a page devoted to returning digital movie purchases, I mean, really, how would you even return one? You can't package it up and mail it. Anyway, I finally went to contact them and got on chat and my world changed. See, earlier today I went over to the Comcast Xfinity office. Back at the end of June our internet kept going out and through the 1st week of July it was out again. We had tried to get a technician call but could not get one in a timely manner. Finally, all the negative feelings from our service overtook me and I unplugged everything, brokered a great deal on internet only from Century Link, and I took the Comcast stuff to the local Comcast office. You would think if I unplug everything and ask to cancel the service, a service I am not under ANY contract for, I could be done with it. OH NO! NAY NAY! Not with Comcast. They must have some kind of internal goal to perpetually suck at customer service. I had called in three times prior to my negative feelings overtaking me trying to downgrade my services, but they either insisted I was getting the best deal possible and stuck to that line until I finally hung up, or they quoted me at obnoxiously high prices for the internet only that I wanted, which I knew was cheaper but I was curious how many different prices they would say. So, I go to the office, where the nice ladies are more helpful, I think because they cannot hide behind a phone and stick to the company's perpetually sucky customer service mantras. They have to face people, so you better believe they do more to help you, because if they don't, you know where they are. Anyway, the nice lady helped me cancel the service effective immediately, but the system would take longer to close it out officially. Yes, even she had to deal with the perpetually sucky customer service system. She printed me out proof of it all and wrote notes so we would know if something happened what I was supposed to pay for my final bill. A week later, I got a call from her saying the system had for some reason reactivated my account and I would have to call the perpetually sucky phone number to resolve it. The gentleman on there was somewhat helpful after I recanted all that happened in a somewhat frustrated voice (I was on my way to the airport to go to Alaska). He said he would re-cancel it all out and make sure it was dated the 8th of July, not the 15th. Fast forward with me- I would later receive a bill for $1500 I knew was wrong, then what said was my final actual bill, which was for $115, about $75 over what the nice lady assured me I would have to pay. So, I go in again to the office, wait in a line of 9 people ahead of me (a line that never shrank so many people kept coming in). I talked to the other nice lady and she explained the cancellation was still dated the 15th (big shocker), and a $50 fee was charged for the service call we had, which they finally managed to come AFTER the initial cancellation but before the service finally ended. I had a service protection plan and they assured me more than once before they came it would be free. Thankfully, the nice lady removed that charge, and finally after a month and a half, my bill was the $41 it was supposed to be, but, it would be too easy for it to end there. The perpetually sucky system takes a week to process that, so I now have to return in another week to pay. Time elapsed: 57 days and counting to cancel an account.

Now remember with me back to the movie incident on Amazon. Clicked "watch now", it purchased it for $9.99. I got on chat and this is a direct quote of what happened:

Initial Question: I recently used my prime account to watch a free instant video movie, however, when I clicked watch now, it said it was loading the page for a while, then after some technical difficulty and a restart, it stated I had purchased the movie. I very clearly clicked the watch now, there is no reason to purchase a movie that I can watch free with my prime account.
11:15 PM PDT Naren(Amazon): Hello, my name is Naren. I'll certainly try to help regarding your concern.
Are you referring to the video "In & Out" ?
11:15 PM PDT Jon Meier:
Yes
11:16 PM PDT Naren(Amazon):
I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.
I have issued a refund for the order. A refund in the amount of $9.99 would be back into your card within 2-3 business days. The video will be removed from Your Video Library as a part of the refund process.

I PAUSED 30 seconds I was so taken back by how instant the resolve was I actually did not know what to do or say

11:16 PM PDT
Jon Meier: Thank you, I appreciate that.
11:16 PM PDT Naren(Amazon):
You're welcome.
11:17 PM PDT Naren(Amazon):
Is there anything else that I may assist you with today?
11:17 PM PDT Jon Meier:
No, that was all.
11:17 PM PDT Naren(Amazon):
Thank you for contacting Amazon, have a great evening!!! :-)


COMAST- TAKE NOTE! My entire issue was resolved in barely 120 seconds, a quarter of which was me completely baffled at the instantaneous resolution of my problem.  
57 days and counting Comcast!


Song of the day is for you Comcast. "I Will Wait" by Mumford and Sons...but I ain't waiting by choice. 

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I do a lot of reading and following what is going on in all facets of the news. I watched as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge exploded on the internet, which, if you think about it is not too surprising because every person who does the challenge nominates a few other people, so once it caught on and a few well known people helped it along, everyone became aware and joined in. I also knew it would only be a matter of time until my name was thrown in the mix. Sure enough, that day came this last week and I did not hesitate for a moment to keep the trend going. Why? We are experiencing a rare moment that is doing tons of good and I wanted to keep it going as long as possible. You see, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a very devastating disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease that renders those affected slowly less able to control their muscles, eventually leading to paralysis and death. There is no cure. While there is some awareness about ALS, it does not enjoy the kind of awareness other illnesses such as various cancers and diabetes have. As a result, donations to research are limited, I would assume mostly made by those who have known someone diagnosed with the disease.

The ice bucket challenge has changed that, for now.

The numbers have skyrocketed. From July 29th-August 24th 2013, $2.5 million in donations to the ALS Association were made. From July 29th-August 24th of this year, $70.2 million has now poured in, including 1.3 million new donors! When I reported on the increase just three days ago when I did the challenge, the number was around $41 million with 700,000 new donors. In three days, that is a $30 million increase. That is why this moment must continue as long as possible. The world today is unbelievably fast-paced. Breaking news stories captivate us, but only briefly until the next big thing comes around. One day we are furious over the events in Ferguson, until one day something new comes along and we forget all about it. Our attention spans are limited. Thankfully, the ice bucket challenge is still booming, and it is beating out the naysayers and those trying to politicize it (including those trying to change it...ya idiots).

To all you who have been challenged, all of you who have already taken the challenge, and all of you who I hope will soon be formally challenged- no matter how you accomplish the challenge, make a donation too, and don't forget the importance of these moments we have. When the ice bucket challenge is a thing of the past, still find a worthy cause (not a charity, we're focusing on disease research here) that does not spend all day in the limelight and give what you can.

I expect the ALS Association will easily pull in over $100 million this year. I cannot even imagine what a difference that will make when years before they were operating on a fraction of that. The challenge is still going strong, help keep it going as long as we can.

For the song of the day, I have a great Sunday one that fits the topic- Alex Boye and Carmen Rasmusen Herbert's duet "Have I Done Any Good, Today?" Also, enjoy my ice bucket challenge video below, and yes, I will be making a donation to the ALS Association.

video

I'm Back!

A while back, Google combined my accounts and for the longest time, even when I logged in with the correct account, it was registering the wrong one and I was locked out of my blog. The issue has been resolved and I'm back!

It would be far too complicated to try to cover all that has occurred while I was away, so I will start again where I am now. There is so much going on that there will be no shortage of updates, I promise.

As a welcome back treat, here are some random pictures of me and also my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video.










Found some glasses and punched out the lenses at Bear Lake.








Late at night we take selfies....









There is a good reason for this...I promise.











Balloon festival
video

Out of Focus

I have no frilly or well-written introduction for what is on my mind today. I will just come right out with it. Our world is way too focused on problems and false solutions.

We have become so dependent on instant gratification that every facet of our lives is now governed by that desire to immediately resolve our problems, even when time and the natural course of the world is often the best solution.

Take, for example, a story I recently read in a medical journal. A young mother became sleep deprived while working full-time and constantly being kept up while caring for her dying grandmother. One day, she had to abruptly find a change for her child's daycare and the resulting anxiety left her in the emergency room. A quick assessment was done and she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, admitted to the psychiatric ward, and put on a psychiatric medication. Over the next year, her friends left her, her money disappeared, and her marriage crumbled. Furthermore, she developed an eye problem that seriously threatened her vision due to taking a medication for a disorder she did not have.

According to medical statistics, one half of Americans are given a psychiatric label in their lives.

Your young child may qualify for Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, meaning "temper outbursts that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation" that occur two or three times a week. There is little to no research to this diagnosis. No science behind it. Yet, you can bet new drugs will soon be there to combat this dangerous mental disorder. I openly admit that growing up, I had Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, or DMDD. Yep, as a child who did not fully understand how the world worked, I often became frustrated and had outbursts far out of proportion to the situation. When something I liked and was mine was taken from me and I did not know where it went or if it would come back, my natural reaction, as is most children's, was to yell, scream, kick, and cry. But I was left to learn life, and eventually, the day came that I understood this world better, and I no longer yelled, screamed, kicked, and cried. I used my knowledge to remedy the situation to diffuse my anger. Had I been put on a medication that would attempt to control my body, the natural growth and inner workings of my body would have been altered and my natural progression as a human being would have ceased.

Therein lies the real mental problem of this world.

But mental problems, though a significant problem we could discuss all day, are only a subtopic of my main concern. My main concern right now is how everyone, myself included, sometimes feel the need to try to fix everything, even when it is not broken. We try to fix ourselves when we feel we are over or underweight or have self-proclaimed defects. We try to fix our friends when they say they had a hard day or are struggling through a problem. Let me stop and address that one. Let me be blunt:

LIFE IS DIFFICULT. IT WAS MEANT TO BE DIFFICULT. WE ARE MEANT TO STRUGGLE, TO BE PUSHED TO OUR LIMITS, TO FEEL PAIN, SORROW, AND TEMPTATION.

These things are not bad, but we seem to expect that every day will be easy and that we deserve peaceful days with no difficulties. Then, when we get hit hard with a trial, we are caught off guard and our stress levels spike and our anxiety kicks in and it goes downhill real quick.

I am not saying expect a terrible day, but be prepared, morally, emotionally, and spiritually, for the struggles that are coming, because I can guarantee they will come. Be a friend and be there to support someone through these struggles, but do not try to fix them. Doing so will almost surely result in either making the problem worse, annoying the person you are trying to help, or will rob the person the chance to learn and grow as they defeat that challenge. Be a support beam, not the whole bridge.

My main point is this: focus less on trying to fix all your problems and refocus your attention on being prepared for the road ahead. As you become the person who is fully prepared for every good and bad situation, you will find that many of your problems will already be on the way out of your life.

Summer Is Setting

I recently looked at the calendar and came to a somewhat sad realization that the summer is setting. While it is nice to be able to start outdoor movies at 8:30 instead of 9:30 at night, I wish that summer would continue on longer.

This summer has been especially amazing and is easily one of the most memorable of my life. There was no one single thing that made it amazing, like in 2006 when I went to Germany, or the summers spent working at the Ponderosa Resort. No, this summer's amazingness is a compilation of seemingly endless activities spent with great friends. I doubt I could list every single thing we have done, but here is the beginnings of such a list to give an idea.

I hiked the Crimson Trail with friends from the ward Jeff, Jon T., Shannon, Brittany, Alex L., and Kyle. I hiked the Crimson Trail again with other friends Camille, McKenzie, and TJ. I hiked the Beirdneau Trail with Kami, not able to conquer the peak before time ran out and we turned back. I then returned on a full moon night hike with Alex G. and Justin. We conquered the peak and waited to watch the sunrise as dawn broke over the beautiful Cache Valley below. After camping the night in a grove of trees on a small island surrounded by mountain streams with Liz, Alyssa, Blake, Tiffany, Karl, and Anthony, I hiked a short mile past delicious wild raspberries and blueberries, scenic waterfalls, and majestic mountain pines to a spring, where I drank from the earth as she generously shared her pure water with me.

I sat around campfires and shared stories, s'mores, and the spirit of God's Chapel with ward friends, work friends, and new friends by the dozens.

I rock climbed the cliffs of Logan Canyon with Kyle and Steven.

I became a runner and ran a 10k, a half marathon, and the almighty Ragnar with Camille, Corey, Laurel, Aubrey, Sabrina, Kari, Simon, Steve, Chad, and Lindsay.

I played days and days of volleyball with Kayla, Lizzy, Jamie, the Adams, Anthony, Dawna, and my Canadian friend Chalmers.

I ate more snow cones than I can count with everyone already listed and probably least ten others, including Daria, Chelsea, Krystal, and Shyla.

I went shooting a few times and tried out my brother Mike's new gun.

I unleashed my sense of adventure and explored mines, caves, and mountainsides with Paige.

I swam at Bear Lake thrice. First with Keean, Tami, Shannon S., Eric, and Mattea. Second with Paige after exploring the Minnentonka Cave. Third with Jamie, Lizzy, Adam K., Tyson, Morgan, Dakota, Liz and her sisters, Anthony, and others.

I have hosted a dozen or so outdoor movies with at least fifty different people attending on multiple occasions.

I went to a Real Salt Lake game with Dawna, Lizzy, Mike, Camille, Cameron, Adam K., Kayla S., Shyla, Krystal, Chalmers, Colby, and Anthony.

I floated the fast current of an irrigation ditch in a huge trough over the highway...a redneck pastime known as fluming.

 I floated the Oneida Narrows in the rain.

I watched two firework shows and put on one amazing one myself.

I blew up my ear.

I played loads of Ultimate Frisbee, capture the flag, sardines, and more card games than you would believe.

I could go on and on with all the friends and activities I have been a part of this summer. There is such a variety of things we did and things we continue to do. Tonight is a farewell party for someone moving out and we're watching the Real Salt Lake game. Friday, I'm going backpacking. Monday, Utah State starts up and things have to slow down for those in school, but there is still a huge ward camp-out coming up and with fall comes more opportunities to do new things, like corn mazes, pumpkin carving, costume parties, football parties, meteor showers, hikes to see the amazing colors in the canyons, and Pie Night. Then comes winter and out come the sleds, the hot chocolate, the snowball fights, skiing, ice fishing, maybe snowmobiling, and so much more.

There is always something to do if you are willing to do it. I am very, very grateful and humbled by the amazing number of friends I have made this summer who have been willing to just get out and have fun. Our summer was one of the best ever.


Stories

The past week has been amazing. I have three stories to tell.

First, my full moon hike. A couple months back, I hiked up a mountainside on a trail that starts by my favorite campfire spot in Green Canyon. The hike was phenomenal. I wrote a review of it for a friend and I will just share that to describe it.



From the canyon floor, you hike 2.1 miles up the mountainside. The terrain is rocky and open, then becomes lush and green, ending in a picturesque forest of tall pines near the top. At the ridge, a campsite sits where the trail splits. One trail heads down to Wind Cave Way in Logan Canyon, the other up along the ridge toward Beirdneau Peak. As you hike along the ridge, you are treated to multiple views of the valley behind you and an awe-inspiring scene in front of you as you climb higher and look out over the entire Cache National Forest wilderness. As you approach Beirdneau, only the sounds of nature are heard as you walk along the ridge through meadows of wildflowers, pine forests, and aspen groves. Keep an eye above you for a natural arch on the mountain slope. At the base of Beirdneau, there is a great view from a rocky outcrop of the canyon as it turns northward. The trail continues along the side of Beirdneau, but to reach the peak, a long scramble up the steep mountainside is required. Once at the summit, a plaque sits on some rocks just to the side of the peak. Enjoy the amazing view across miles and miles of uninhabited lands to the east and of Cache Valley and beyond to the west. This amazing hike is most beautiful during the cool early summer, when wildflowers are in full bloom. It is also a great hike to do under a full moon at night and it is worth staying to watch the sunrise over the mountain back country before hiking down. Time from bottom to top, approximately 3 hours. Reverse trip down, about 2 hours.

In the light of the full moon with a light haze, it was a really fun hike. We left at 1 am and reached the peak just before 4am. We were ill equipped for sleeping (I was in shorts and a t-shirt), especially with a steady wind on us, but we managed to each get a short power nap in before battling the cold. Eventually, we realized we would not be sleeping much more, so as dawn approached at 5, we began our descent and watched the morning light blaze in glorious color as we hiked down. At the bottom we went into town and had breakfast before going to our homes to sleep. The hike was fantastic and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The second story is of running. I ran my first half marathon on Saturday. Prior to Saturday, the last time I did any running was Ragnar in June. The longest distance I had run was about 11 miles. Somehow though, I ran as if I had prepared for it well. I paced myself well and held a good position and moved myself from 19th at mile 5 to pass one final runner 100 yards from the finish line to take 10th overall. I also placed 2nd in my division of men ages 19-24. I also won a raffle drawing with my bib number and got a free entry into the 10K next year. My time was 1:42:11. In one month, I run another half marathon.  Hopefully I will be ready for it.

The final story is a gory one. During my annual firework show Saturday night, right as we were preparing for our finale, a shell went low and exploded right on or next to my left ear. It felt as if my ear was blown off as it swelled instantly and felt numb. I dropped everything, shouted that I had been hit, then carefully felt around for my ear. To my complete and utter surprise, the ear was intact! I honestly believed it was gone. I cannot adequately describe how it felt other than it felt like it was blown off. I ran to a well trained first aid certified member of the search and rescue and determined it was bleeding good, but I would live. So, being me, I ran back to the fireworks, lit some more off while we set up the finale, then concluded our awesome show. The show lasted just over half an hour and was very successful. The only lull was when I got hit. Immediately after the finale, I went up to the house we were at and washed off the blood, then held a cloth with ice in it to my ear. I iced it all night and with the help of a healthy dose of ibuprofen, was able to get to sleep. The swelling reduced a little Sunday and by Monday my ear was almost the normal size again. There is lots of scabbing and it is extremely tender on the backside, but, even with a couple bits of skin gone, I think I will make a full recovery with plenty of time to plan the next show!

Now for photos!
Beirdneau Peak

One of many great views into Cache Valley

The sunrise from the hike

The view from where the firework show was

Sunset before firework show

Before cleaning

After a day before scabbing

I didn't even notice it burned most the hair on my wrist and hand off till someone saw a ton of bloody specks on my hand

Birthdays

I am not good at celebrating my birthday. Each year, I try something new, and, each year, it fails. This year was an epic failure. I thought if no one knew it was my birthday, I would not have to worry about people feeling obligated to do something simply for the reason of celebrating it. In my mind, birthdays are best spent with best friends and/or family. They know you well, understand you, and it is completely normal and natural to do something on your birthday. They celebrate you because they care and they want to share their time with you on your day. Most everyone else just wants to throw you a party because it's your birthday and somehow parties are the birthday standard. Maybe I'm wrong, but to me it seems like those celebrations are less for you than they are for them.

Anyway, I thought I had a few good friends that I would spend my birthday with, so, I planned to make a big dinner for them. On the same night of my birthday, there was a dual stake activity at the aquatics center. I'm not a public pool person ever since working at Seven Peaks and was on the fence about going, but with friends who said they would miss the activity for my dinner, I got excited and planned out and prepared for my birthday dinner. How fickle the minds of the young, for in less than a day, they changed their plans. It was as if they completely forgot they had committed to come to dinner. That is one of my big pet peeves too. I cannot stand the blatant disregard people have these days for commitments they have made, especially when they disregard an obligation because they found something else to do, which, in this case, was swimming all day at a friend's house and then going to swim more at a public pool (still working on figuring that one out). Since the dinner was not happening, I went to the stake pool thing for the free pizza, had some good conversations, had "Happy Birthday" sung to me, then had the rest of my birthday plans cancelled on me in favor of something else once again, so I went and watched a movie with a group that was having a movie night. I was not thrilled to be there, but I did not want to be in my room alone either.

Finally, the clock hit midnight and the day was over. But the weirdness of the world was not, because the same people who cancelled on dinner later said they wished I had been more vocal about my birthday so they could have made it more special for me. Well guys, I did. The only people I told about my birthday were the people I wanted to spend it with. I even said all I want for my birthday is to spend good time with good friends. And people wonder why I do not celebrate...

I still refuse to conform, so once again, next year I plan on a low-key birthday. Though this time I may leave the country to make it easier.

To the one friend who sent me an awesome birthday picture text, that was the closest thing to a card I got for my birthday. It made me smile. And my song of the day today is dedicated to you for sending it. "Thank You Friends" by: Big Star.

Adventures of Late

This summer has been quite packed full of adventure. I have sat at several campfires, played many a game of volleyball and ultimate frisbee, enjoyed burgers on the grill, run Ragnar, hiked mountains, cooled off in lakes. On average, I would say I am involved in activities at least three nights a week. As I reflected today on how awesome this summer has been so far, I realized how much my experiences are shaped not by where I am, but who I am with.

I have been very fortunate in the time since I moved to my new house to have gained many new friends from church. It is with those friends, as well as friends from work, that I have done so much. Some people believe that the most memorable moments take place in exotic places somewhere over the proverbial rainbow. That is simply not the case. I wrote in my notebook of thoughts recently on the subject. I wrote that it is not the clear lake you are swimming in, the deep cave you are exploring, or the peaceful fire you are gathered around that makes the experience memorable, rather, it is the people, the words that are said, and the moments shared that you remember and that influence you. In those moments, you laugh at jokes together, play games, and interact in ways that allow you to build trust and to better appreciate the world around you.

I would like to share the story of a friend that exemplifies the point I want to make. A month ago, I did not know much of this friend. She was in my ward, but her face blended in with the faces of those with whom I was unfamiliar. All I knew about her was that she was leaving on a mission soon. I am kind of unsure how we ended up meeting, but we became loosely acquainted. Shortly after, I invited her to go shooting in the canyon. After enjoying the sport, we talked for a while, discovered some similar interests, then parted ways. In the short time before she left on her mission, we discovered and began to develop a great friendship. We explored an abandoned mine, jumped from cliffs into a lake, sat around a campfire, toured a cave, swam in another lake, shared a couple meals, scrambled up mountain sides, and marveled at the beauty and opportunity nature provides. In all our adventures, I recall the places we visited by recalling the experiences we had. I remember at Minnetonka Cave, we spoke in accents through the entire tour. I struggled to keep a straight face as she pretended to be from England. I gave my best shot at being German. I remember after visiting the abandoned mine in Hyde Park, we were curious where all the diverging roads went, so we traveled them all until we found a mountain with numerous open caves that seemed to beckon us to them. With nothing but flip-flops on our feet, we blazed through rocks and weeds and up steep slopes to discover not just our cave, but two small natural arches as well. The cave and arches made us late to her surprise farewell party at the bishop's house.

This friend and I shared in many fun activities that taught us a lot. Had we not become friends, we never would have had those experiences. I am grateful we did and that we were able to share so much time before she left.

I hope you all are taking every chance you get to gather your friends to go out and experience the many wonders of life together. Life has limitless opportunities for you to seek, but partaking of them alone profits you little. Share your time with friends and family, and I promise you will understand and appreciate this life more.

Letters

In my great quest for personal growth this year, which, by the way, is going far beyond any level I could have imagined, I have recently discovered the outlet through which I can comfortably exhibit my sentiments and emotions towards people. As anyone who has known me for even just a week is aware, I am not an outwardly emotional person. I do not share the profound thoughts of my mind with many, and I certainly do not go around hugging everyone. I have a strict unwritten policy on hugs. In a nutshell, I believe that there are times when hugs are both acceptable, and also needed. To the shock of some, I have, upon seeing a friend in need of support, gone forth and actually initiated a genuine hug. Let me explain the difference between the types of hugs. There are obnoxious hugs like people do just because they know I'm not a huge hugger. There are what I will call happy hugs, where girls who have just seen their best friends run with flamboyant excitement to embrace them for inordinate amounts of time while almost falling over rocking back and forth. There are protocol hugs, such as when I visit my grandma. No matter who you are, you hug my grandma when you arrive and you hug my grandma when you leave. Then there are genuine hugs. A genuine hug occurs when a deep emotion in you is felt and where there is no other way in which to share that feeling other than through a hug. A genuine hug is appropriate when a friend is visibly in distress, or when a person is leaving and you will not see them again for an extended period of time, and other similar situations. During a genuine hug, there is an emotional connection between the two embracers. That inner emotion I mentioned rises from within you and meets with the inner emotion of the other hugger, creating what we call "a moment". That can be a moment of love, care, relief, true happiness, and other strong bonding emotions.

Now I'm sidetracked. I was talking about my outlet for exhibiting sentiments and emotions, which is NOT hugging.

 A few weeks back, I was sitting in church. I do not remember what was being discussed at the time, but I felt somewhat impressed that my friends needed to know how greatly I valued their friendship and that they were important to me. Specifically, a couple friends came to mind who have unknowingly influenced my life in remarkable ways and through who's example I have learned and grown tremendously as a person. Now, I can carry on interesting and insightful conversations all day, but, insert emotions, and it gets more awkward than a racist joke told at church (not that I would know). I ignored the feeling until, a week or so later, it came again. This time, I pulled out my notebook I keep for writing down such impressions and scribbled a reminder to follow through on it. I kind of knew how to approach the subject, but I had some trepidations. I have always been a little old fashioned. One thing I love is writing letters. However, in my experiences with them, I usually never get a letter back, so I kind of stopped sending them to people. It was only recently as I contemplated this situation that I realized that my purpose in sending letters was not to receive one back, but to relay information to people via a method that is more appropriate than an instant email or a text message. To me, writing a letter and either hand delivering it or mailing it signifies a more personal relationship with someone. Emails and text messages serve their purposes, and neither one I find appropriate for sharing deeper messages with.

The point of what I'm saying is I know that I have at least some level of talent with writing. Through writing, I can convey the true intent of my heart and mind without awkwardness or difficulty. That is what I desired to share with my friends, so, I wrote a couple letters. Therein lies the outlet I mentioned at the beginning of this somewhat scattered tale. If you do not write letters to anyone ever, I suggest you try. I guarantee you will be glad you did, and so will your friends, or family members.

Patriotic music for the Song of the Day. USA! USA! USA!

That Weren't No Kitty

I have many goals in life. Some are honorable and intended to help me grow, others are, shall we say, odd. One of my more odd goals in life is to see a mountain lion out in the wild in person. I may have achieved that goal this week.

Friday afternoon, I was invited to a campfire up Green Canyon. In attendance were several ladies, a couple guys about my size, and a couple brawny, muscular fellers. Ya know, the kind where if something tragic happened, they would be the ones people turned to for help.

Anyway, as darkness settled in the canyon, and we were a good ways up the canyon, past the more crowded and loud areas, people began to scare each other. A small group of us even headed down the dark and wooded road in search of another campsite to scare, though we failed to find one and only ended up scaring ourselves multiple times. After plenty of noises that startled people around the fire, I hatched a plan with one of the men of larger stature. There were over a dozen of us there, so I would quietly slip away with my hoodie and stand off in the trees in the dark. Then, he would say he heard something and shine his light on me. A dark, hooded figure in the trees, coming seemingly out of nowhere, would freak everyone out, including, by his own admission, the guy who wanted to shine the light on me. As I took a step back to casually leave the fire, I heard rustling in the leaves behind me. At first, I believed someone had already taken my idea and was going to jump out of the trees at us. The rustling got louder. Another member of the group heard it as well and stood up to look around. Assuming it was still a person who was terrible at sneaking about, I shone my light. My heartbeat shot up when I saw two, bright yellow eyes glowing sharply back at me from about twenty yards away. They seemed small, so after my initial taken abackedness, I picked up my fire tending stick and, as everyone else backed away, I walked up the hill towards the trees where the eyes were. When I got within about eight feet of the animal, which I now thought to be a fox or lost domestic cat (it did not occur to me I was miles from anywhere a domestic cat would reside), I stopped. The beaming yellow eyes reflected my light back and we just looked at each other for a few seconds. Neither of us seemed afraid of the other. We were both curious. Perhaps the animal was more curious than I, because he began to move around the small cluster of bush and trees that separated us. As he turned to the side to walk, my illusion of a small fox or kitty cat vanished instantly and a bit of terror entered my body as I saw his three to four foot long body which was now approaching me. I backed up a bit, then started screaming "It's coming! It's coming! It's coming!" as I barreled down the mountain toward the rest of the group, who were gathered below watching me. Already on edge and half scared to death from the earlier events of the night, they wasted no time in reacting. As I ran down towards them, I saw the funniest sight I have seen in a while. The group, who, mind you, saw little more than eyes and part of the animals head, were in a complete state of panic. It was every man for himself. People were throwing each other out of the way, tripping over themselves, scrambling in sheer terror, with arms flailing, and shrieks piercing the night as they ran for the safety of their vehicles. When I reached the fire, nothing remained but a cloud of dust and me. I knew I had kind of overreacted and I had really wanted to see what kind of animal it was, so I turned around from my safer distance to shine my light, but, alas, the panic from the group had scared our guest away. The group returned to the fire, all of them hilariously huddled on the side of the fire so their backs were not to where the animal had been. A couple minutes later, the big macho men, who we discovered had little bravery after the sun sets, decided "it was getting late", and they left. To the group's shock, I walked back up the mountain with a hot dog offering in the hopes my friend would return, but, he was probably long gone, never to be seen by me again.

Based on what I did see, I believe the animal was a young mountain lion. He was obviously not in search of eating us, because he was blatantly obvious in approaching our campsite. I think he was just walking in the area, heard some noise, and went to see what was up. I hope he was as amused by me as I was by him. Though if he understands humans, he too is probably telling his family and friends the story of how he scared a bunch of young adults half to death.

Running

I ran through a small microburst that caused a sandstorm today. A couple weeks ago I ran through modest sized hail. A week or so before that it was stinging sleety ice. Apparently, whenever I run, bad weather happens. Today's microburst was rather awesome, despite the discomfort of it.

The sun was abundant throughout the day until this evening. As I prepped for my run, the clouds blew in and the wind picked up a little. Throughout the valley, you could see areas where dust was blowing around. As I got about a mile from home, I could see a few good dust clouds blowing above the route home. The closer I got, the more the dust blew. Then, out of nowhere, the wind went from a nice 5-10 mph to out of control. I estimate it was a good 50 mph or more. Trees were bent down about 45 degrees, metal signs were banging around, and for every 10 steps I took running hard, I only moved about 5 feet. I fought my way forward and looked up and saw a rather alarming sight. A wall of dirt and dust, the sandstorm, completely obscured the road ahead. Like a fool, I ran into the wall of dust. Visibility was a few feet inside the mayhem, which spanned a good 30 yards through. On the other side, I emerged out of the thick of things only to find more dust blowing for another block or so. Exhausted and somewhat disoriented from all the sand in my eyes, ears, mouth, and now runny nose, I stopped my run, regained my wits, snapped some photos, and walked the last half mile home.

It was exciting, I'll admit, though probably a bit dangerous. The sandstorm was caused by all the loose, dry dirt from a house construction site at that particular spot. Fields of hay or wild weeds cover most of the undeveloped areas along this running route, but the area of the sandstorm has a dirt road plus no vegetation as a result of the construction. Two cars that seemed to have been caught right when it happened drove through the 30 yard sandstorm, everyone else actually pulled over and waited for it to let up a bit before passing. They likely thought, as I did, of the sandstorm in Nevada a few days back that caused similar conditions over a larger span of road, which resulted in a 27-vehicle pile up and took a truck driver's life.

Aside from needing an immediate shower, I was ok and now have a good story to tell. Here are some pictures I snapped. The microburst was past by this time and while there was plenty of dust about when I took these, it is nowhere near the sandstorm I had just run through.

A not so great panoramic of the area..ironically, the area with all the light just above the horizon is right where just minutes before a microburst blew sand to create zero visibility

Crazy clouds going on

Lots of dust as the sun set
Song of the Day is..."You'll Never Walk Alone"...because it talks about walking through a storm :)

Bigger and Better: A Lesson of Life

This evening I had the opportunity to do the "Bigger or Better" scavenger hunt trading game with friends in the ward at church. The game is simple. Divide into teams. Each team is given the same small item, such as a paper clip, or, in our game, a toothpick. They must then go out and trade the toothpick for something bigger or better. The goal is to continue to trade up your items to attain the best possible treasure in the allotted time. Our trades went like this: We traded the toothpick for a 12 inch glass fish bowl. The bowl was traded for a huge fall wreath. The wreath was traded for a full framed window. The window traded for an outdoor patio umbrella. The patio umbrella gained us our final treasure, a hand-embroidered decorative tapestry from South America, traded by a retired journalist who got it decades ago and had no use of it anymore.

 
The tapestry



The evening was fun, we met some great people willing to trade with us, and we ended up gaining quite a nice treasure. But, of course, as seems to be my way, after all the fun and games, I looked back on the experience and a life lesson was learned.

The entire experience only happened because my team members made a choice. I was on the fence about going to the activity tonight. Ultimately, I decided to go. The other members of my team made the same decision and we all ended up together. If you were to remove one single member of our team, the entire outcome of our trades would be altered. Had I not gone, we would not have had to clear stuff from my car to fit people, and thus we would not have traded for the fish bowl from my house. The wreath was from my neighborhood as well and the team would not have been there if I was not there. Now, assume I still went, but, the girl who chose to direct us to the house where we found the wreath did not. We would not have gone to that home if not for her. The entire outcome is altered. Keep thinking. I still went, that girl still went, but the guy who lives in a wealthier neighborhood did not. On our way to his neighborhood with our wreath, another girl directed us to the house where we got the window. Remove either one and our direction would have changed, and the outcome is altered. Every member contributed to the exact course of events that only came together as a result of all of us being there. Now I would like to apply this to your life.

Do not ever suppose that you do not make a difference. Your very existence alters people's lives. I promise you that the difference you make is significant. You can be the difference between a bad day for someone and a good day. You can be the difference between someone making a bad purchase and a good investment. You can be the difference between someone finding reason to live when they felt they wanted to take their life. Every one of you matters. There are no nobody's in the world. Remove any one of you and thousands of lives are altered.

I am grateful for everyone in my life, for every single influence that has miraculously come to me and led me to where I am today. I have been fortunate, but there are so many who are less fortunate, who have not had as many people be the difference for them. We need to be that difference that helps someone go from a tiny wooden toothpick to a beautiful masterpiece of art.

Summer

The cool, wetness of spring is starting to dissipate into heat and abundant sunshine. Yes, summer is almost in full spring in Cache Valley. So far, I have been to a couple cook-outs, a couple campfires, played frisbee a few times, hosted some outdoor movies, been climbing, hiking, canoeing, played many games of bocce ball, improved my jumping serve playing volleyball, and, of course, I have run a good few miles. All in all, it is a great start to the summer. Next weekend is the first demolition derby, and only two weeks to Ragnar!

I don't have tons to say today, but here are some pictures from a recent hike up the beautiful Crimson Trail.

Mountain stream cascading towards the Logan River

Logan Canyon

Many gorgeous flowers along the trail.

Me being dramatic in a group photo.

It Irks Me

It irks me to see a president who appears to care little for the nation I love. It irks me to see high-level government officials, people who have power and influence around the world, refuse to take responsibility for their actions. It irks me to see people not willing to keep trying to make a life for their families. It irks me that the word family no longer means what it used to. Dining rooms and tables sit decoratively in homes, no longer used for gathering the family to dine and converse together. Children sit in their own rooms playing video games while parents go about doing their own business. No forts of couch cushions are visible in living rooms. No fishing poles sit by the door waiting for a father and son to use them in the coming weekend.

I refuse to let the modern world become my world.

My family will have picnics on the lawn and stay out until dark to lie under the stars while we ponder the deeper meanings of life together. We will hike, bike, run, swim, and camp together. We will stand firm in our beliefs and resolved in our purpose. We will not let power deplete us.

It hurts to see the world I live in allow so much corruption. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Mother's Day Talk



Becoming more Christ-like based on the examples of women in my life
In 3rd Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, and John, in the New Testament, Christ has commanded us to “Be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” For “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

We cannot be perfect beings in this life, but, we can be perfect in many attributes of our lives. We can be perfect in not swearing and taking the Lord’s name in vain. We can be perfect in keeping the law of chastity. We can be perfect in paying our tithes and offerings to the Lord. In these things, we can be entirely without flaws or shortcomings. But in so many other ways of life, such perfection is unattainable in the mortal realm, and we can only dedicate ourselves to being the absolute best we can. To strive for such perfect goals, we must follow the Master, Christ the Lord, and develop and adopt His attributes in ourselves.

With today being Mother’s Day, I would like to honor, and use as examples, the women in my life who have dedicated themselves to the Lord, and who have developed Christ-like lives that stand as shining beacons of hope to those around them.

The first is my mother. My mom is very finely tuned to the spirit. She has done away with just about anything that may detract the spirit from our home. She does not watch violent, crude, provocative, or even inappropriately funny movies, or shows. The most she has ever uttered a curse word is when reading the scriptures about damned souls to Hell at family scripture time…and when she does happen to get those verses, we gasp and make a fake fuss over it, though we all know that if she ever truly did curse, we would all be crouched in the fetal position, praying more fervently than any man ever before that the eternal judgment that was surely about to befall us would be kind. My mother is gentle and may get frustrated, but she is not quick to anger. Her jokes are clean and still funny. She serves willingly and without expectation of reward. All of these things are so because my mother loves the Lord with all her heart, she follows Him, and she has learned to love like Him. She does not need material things to be happy.

Next, is my older sister, Amelia. When Amelia returned from her mission a few years back, she resumed her studies at BYU. I was living and working in Provo at the time, and I hoped to help her re-adjust to life after her mission. The only adjustment she made and really needed to make was realizing that if she was at the grocery store and the person she was with walked off to look at something, she was not going to get in trouble for leaving her companion. Amelia has always been close to the Lord. She studies the scriptures each day, prays often, attends church, firesides, conferences, activities, and always serves others. When she returned from her mission, I thought her over-happiness and bubbliness would wear off. Married and with her first child now, her zeal has only ever increased.  

Now, to my younger sisters. The first is Annie, who is currently serving a mission in South Carolina. Annie was told in her patriarchal blessing to prepare to serve a mission. As boy crazy as she was, and as often as boys were always around her, we figured that by preparing to serve a mission, she would be prepared to enter the temple and be married. Somewhat surprisingly, she 86’d her suitors and submitted herself to the Lord’s service as a missionary. In weekly emails, I have witnessed tremendous growth in practically every aspect of her life as she has learned to be more like Christ. Here is an excerpt from a recent email:


I know I am not perfect but I do strive each day to represent Christ. Are my actions acceptable regardless of who sees me? Will I stand up for that which is right at all times and in all places no matter what? I know that each day we need to reflect on where we are and where we want to be and work to get there each moment of our lives. We have the opportunity to be an example to the world. I pray that we will stand for that which is right and remember who we are. I love this Gospel and am grateful for who it is helping me become. Each day I try to do better leads me to feeling just a little happier then I was the day before because I am striving to be that much closer to God.


Annie is not the bunny-soft-and-gentle kind of girl my mother and Amelia are. She plays sports with the boys and often puts them to shame, but she is not afraid to stand up for the truth and make the right choice when hard decisions come her way.

My third sister scares me. Her name is Camilla. Camilla is morally excellent in every way. She absolutely loves and adores music and the arts, but she refrains from offensive movies and does not listen to inappropriate songs, regardless of how catchy they are. She is a friend to everyone she meets, is as selfless as they come, and she has put on the full armor of God, because no matter what you throw at her, it just bounces right off. But she still scares me. There is something about the combination of her pure spirituality and her ability to pummel anyone who dares cross her…she was definitely put here on earth to keep me in check. Most of the time we spend Skyping , she is rolling her eyes at my comments, covering her face in humble frustration, and probably praying that someday I will be less of me and more…well, just less of me would be great for her.

The youngest of the family and my favorite sister, and I make no secret of that fact, is Angela. She is the typical young and spoiled child and it is a miracle my parents aren’t paying the rent to her. Angela is only 16, but she has already decided to be more like Christ. She stands out as an example to her friends for her decisions on what she will and will not do. She invites friends to church activities and is not afraid to talk about the church and her beliefs. Even as a rebellious teenager, she refrains from inappropriate language and also has standards for what movies she will watch and what music she will hear.  

Having described to you the attributes of my mom and four sisters, some might say they are Molly Mormons. If I called them that, they would likely shrug their shoulders and say, “I guess we are, and we’re proud of it.”

 I used to think that so-called Molly Mormons should be avoided at all costs. In my mind, anyone so smiley all the time must be mad. As I have grown and sought to draw myself nearer to my Father in Heaven and his son Jesus Christ, I have come to the conclusion that being a Molly Mormon, or, for guys, a Peter Priesthood, is not a bad thing, but, in fact, something we ought to be striving for.
Any brethren who disagree, let me expound briefly. Guys, think of a girl you have met that you found worth getting to know on a deeper, emotional level. As you began to care about this special lady more, did you ever think, “Boy, I like this gal and she deserves a double-wide to move into together and a bicycle, and maybe if we make it last long enough, we can have a common law marriage!” I highly doubt any of you thought that. More likely, you thought “Wow, this beautiful girl, who I have been so blessed to meet, deserves the world and I want to give it to her. She needs a guy who can do more than just buy her nice things, she needs a guy who has a strong testimony, who worthily holds and exercises the priesthood to provide for her spiritual well-being, and who will devote all of time and eternity to serving her and all others before himself.” And brethren, you want to be that guy, because if you are, you can fulfill your eternal exaltation, wherein you can become Gods with your Goddesses, and create such indescribable beauty as mountains and meadows, lakes and streams, sunrises and sunsets, plants and animals, and children to bring you joy above all.

But such pure and eternal bliss can never be attained if we do not adopt Christ-like attributes and draw nearer to Him, and to draw nearer to Him, it is important not just what we do, but who we are. 

In Preach My Gospel, there is a great section titled “How Do I Develop Christ-like Attributes?” In this chapter, it discusses principles of faith, hope, charity and love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence, and obedience as ways in which we may improve ourselves in these areas and in becoming more like Christ and how that will benefit us in our path to eternal life.

It has become a tradition for me to compose a poem when I speak, and I would like to conclude with my poem for you today.


Sent to Earth to grow and learn,
God’s great blessings we must earn,
and dedication to his Son,
is how our exaltation’s won.

We must be kind to all we meet,
helping them through service sweet.
We must be pure in thought and deed,
give all we have, and put off greed.

With faith in Christ we can be taught,
that humility will help a lot.
Devote your Sunday every week,
it’s alright to be a “Jesus freak”. 

Love with all your mind and soul,
Joy will make your whole heart full.
Read and ponder scriptural books,
bad media do not need your looks.

Mimic attributes of He,
who gave his life for you and me,
and nearer you will draw to be,
exalted for eternity.

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