Sunday, December 28, 2008

Resolutions

People innately want to be better; there seems to be something within everyone that urges them to strive for bigger and better things, an upward drive. Some people kill this drive by laziness; some people squelch it because they don’t think they can achieve certain things or be a certain type of person. These people are scared of their potential and the possibility that they might achieve it. Some people are afraid to try because they are afraid of failing. I fall in the second group – for some reason, my potential is frightening to me. Maybe it means I will have to do more, be more should I realize my potential. I think I’ve grown complacent with my life. I’ve stopped striving for bigger and better. That needs to stop. Now.

Marianne Williamson, a noted author and lecturer, wrote in her book Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles, a very profound thought:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Every year at the end of December, people make resolutions. By the end of January, I’d be surprised if most people can remember them. That being the case, those people didn’t ever have any resolutions; they had wishes or maybe some hopes. A resolution, by very definition, is more serious than idle wishing. It involves determination and consistent effort. Resolution and resolve aren’t just words that look similar; inherent in a resolution is resolve, or determination. If you are truly resolved to accomplish certain things, there is no power on earth or in heaven that can stop you from achieving what you set out to accomplish.

That being said, I’ve made some resolutions for this coming year. I’ve kept them realistic and in line with what I know I can and will do. I’ve made resolutions for a few different areas of my life. Some of the resolutions I will share on here, others are very personal and I’m going to keep them to myself. When I accomplish those, it will be a personal and private victory. When I accomplish the others that I’m advertising, I’ll celebrate publicly. I’m excited for this coming year. There are a number of things that I feel I need to change about myself and my life. I’m excited to see myself after some of these things happen.

These are some of the things I will do in 2009:

Physical
Eat healthy
- Less take-out/drive thru
- More fruits and vegetables
- Learn how to cook a few meals well
Regular exercise
- Complete P90X at least twice

Mental
Complete a non-school related book once a month
Continue schooling

Spiritual
Read the Book of Mormon at least twice
Monthly temple attendance
Regular Sunday attendance

There are others, but like I mentioned previously, some are intensely personal to me and I don’t feel comfortable sharing those in a semi-public setting such as this.

If you look at your own resolutions and think, “I have to do all these things for a year (or however long)”, you’ll never get it done. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all. However, if you look at your list and say, “I can do these things today” and just worry about it today, you’ll find that a year has passed and you’ve been doing all these things the whole time and have accomplished your goals. That’s my plan. I’m not worried about doing them all for an entire year. I’m worried about doing them today, tomorrow can take care of itself, but today these are the things I’m going to do. Seems to me there’s a scripture that says almost that exact thing.

Good luck on your own resolutions.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wowza!

Alrighty folks - in the spirit of long posts, this one's a doozy. But, before you click away know this: you won't have to do much reading. What? Not having to read a blog? But it's supposed to be a long one, what gives? I've decided to share with you some of my favorite YouTube videos.

So to get right to the meat of it all, I present to you, YouTube!


Kid gets a soccer ball to the face.



Capoeira is a graceful Brazilian martial art. Not so graceful this time, though.



We're going to be over there a while by the looks of this.



Third time's the charm?



Maybe he should get some sleep next time?



C'mon...who hasn't done this?



This is the one that started it all...but don't try it now. You'll see why below.



Told ya.



More people getting scared. Some of them are really funny. Some of them are dumb.



A compilation of classic clips.



Dude gets lucky - you can see the ricochet coming.


That'll do for now. Enjoy!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

Bear with me folks – this is a long one. It took me some time to put it together, so if you’re going to read it I’d be appreciative if you read it all the way through.

It’s difficult for me to accurately express my feelings about Christmas. There are some things about Christmas that I absolutely love and there are things about Christmas that I really don’t like much. It’s always an interesting time for me as I try to manage the sometimes conflicting feelings I have about the season. If you’ll indulge me for a while I’ll try to explore my thoughts and feelings about the season and maybe it’ll end up making some sort of sense.

Let’s start with the reasons why I don’t like Christmas, so we can end on a positive note.

I don’t like how Christmas has become a very commercial holiday, it seems the only reason Christmas exists to the corporate world is to make a buck. I was in a Wal-Mart store the day after Halloween and there were Christmas trees, angels, colored balls, tinsel, lights, Santa Clauses (or is it Santa Clausi?), and decorations of every sort and size. I expressed my surprise to the person I was with. I have never seen Christmas marketed so early before. Ever. Perhaps I’m just a na├»ve shopper, but I was really taken aback by this.

Kids make a list of the things they want for Christmas, listing such things as iPods, Nintendos, cell phones, DVD’s, toys, etc. They sit on Santa’s lap and recite the list to him hoping and expecting to receive the things they request. Do I blame the children for this? Absolutely not. I don’t know who to blame, nor do I think it’s important that someone receive blame for this. It’s just something I don’t like. On a day we commemorate the greatest gift we, as children of God, have received the only thing people think about are bicycles, Barbies, movies, and what “I’m going to get for Christmas”. It’s disheartening to see.

Santa Claus plays a big role in all of this. The jolly old elf who slides down chimneys, rides in a sleigh pulled by tiny reindeer, maintains a list of every child in the world and checks it twice before he goes on his worldwide whirlwind journey has become a symbol of everything I dislike about Christmas, which is unfortunate really, given the history of Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas. According to Wikipedia, St. Nick was the “primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus.” Apparently, he was well known for giving gifts to the poor – definitely a noteworthy and laudable practice. You can read more of the Wikipedia article on the history of Santa Claus by clicking on the link above.

I don’t dislike Santa Claus for the history behind the legend, for his tradition of distributing gifts or even for the fabricated story of his existence. The problem I have with Santa Claus is that he has become the figure of Christmas. If you were to poll people who celebrate Christmas on who they associate with Christmas I would imagine you would overwhelmingly hear people mention Santa Claus, children especially.

Despite some people’s belief that Christmas evolved with Pagan influence, Christmas is not the celebration of a fat man in a red suit. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world – the Lord Jesus Christ. Even with the benevolent background of St. Nicholas, there really is no comparison between the two. Santa Claus’ supplanting of Christ as the central figure of Christmas is really what is at the root of my distaste for what the holiday has become.

A poem, by an author unknown to me, brings tears to my eyes each time I read it.

At Christmas time there was a man
who looked so out of place
as people rushed about him
at a hurried sort of pace.

He stared at all the Christmas lights,
the tinsel everywhere,
the shopping center Santa Claus
with children gathered near.

The mall was packed with shoppers
who were going to and fro,
some with smiles, some with frowns,
and some too tired to go.

They rested on benches
or they hurried on their way
to fight the crowds for purchases
to carry home that day.

The music from the stereo
was playing loud and clear
of Santa Claus and snowmen
and funny nosed reindeer.

He heard the people talk about
the good times on the way,
of parties, fun and food galore,
and gift exchange that day.

"I'd like to know what's going on,"
the man was heard to say.
"There seems to be some sort
of celebration on the way.

And would you tell me who this is
all dressed in red and white
and why are children asking him
about a special night."

The answer came in disbelief,
"I can't believe my ear.
I can't believe you do not know,
that Christmas time is here.

The time when Santa comes around
with gifts for girls and boys
when they are asleep on Christmas Eve,
he leaves them books and toys.

The man you see in red and white
is Santa Claus so sly.
The children love his joyful laugh,
and twinkle in his eye.

His gift packed sleigh is pulled along
by very small reindeer
as he flies quickly through the air,
while darting here and there.

The children learn of Santa Claus
while they are still quite small.
When Christmas comes he is the most
important one of all."

The stranger hung His head in shame,
He closed a nail pierced hand.
His body shook in disbelief.
He did not understand.

A shadow crossed His stricken face,
His voice was low but clear.
"After all these years they still don't know."
And Jesus shed a tear.

Friends – this is why I love Christmas. It is the time we celebrate the birth of the Only Begotten of the Father, the One who came to save us from our sins. He became like us so we could become like Him. As has been said by His duly ordained Prophet and Apostles, “God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”

Herein lays the true reason for the season. Amid all the sparkling lights and hubbub that accompanies the holiday let us celebrate Christ and His birth. Let us teach our children that Christ is the center of Christmas and all the other traditions or celebrations are secondary to Christ.

I love how people become more compassionate and caring at Christmas time. I don’t have any statistical backup for this, just anecdotal evidence based on hearing about service being rendered at homeless shelters and other community type organizations. The love people feel for their fellow beings at this season is admirable. I only wish it would continue all year, but the outpouring at this time of year is impressive. It’s difficult to feel less concerned for others during Christmas time.

During the year I’m very appreciative of the sacrifices of the soldiers protecting us while away from their families, but that feeling grows exponentially at this time of year.

I received the following poem in an email recently and it expresses pretty poignantly the feelings I have regarding our service men and women. It’s written by a gentlemen named Michael Marks.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight;
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood; his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night”

“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue… an American flag.

“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,

I can carry the weight of killing another
Or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To insure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone;
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

God bless and keep our soldiers and their families.

There is good in people – despite my job and experiences I have had, the one thing I have not lost is my faith in people. That goodness seems to be demonstrated to a large degree around Christmas time. When asked, people explain simply, “I got the Christmas spirit.” What is the “Christmas Spirit” and why does it inspire people to do good to their fellow man? I think the Christmas Spirit is nothing less than the love of Christ. It’s a wonderful thing to see it spread around.

This time of year, please consider the things that truly matter and it’s not Santa Claus or presents under a tree. The things that matter are family, friends, goodwill, love and kindness. These are the things that mattered to Christ when He walked the earth and I’d be willing to bet those are the very same things that matter to Him now and are the same things He would have matter to us as well. Please share that love with the people around you.

Remember what Dr. Seuss said, in his famous story about the Grinch who stole Christmas, after the Grinch had stolen the presents, packages, food and all the trappings of Christmas,

"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Merry Christmas and God bless you my friends – may you be happy and loved this season and throughout the year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lazy Days

I love Saturdays. A lot. It's usually a day when I can be my normal, likeable, lazy self. Today was no exception. It's sometime after noon today and I've been up for about five hours. Sleeping in with no alarm to wake me up is one of my absolute favorite things to do. And, I get to do it again tomorrow.

I haven't just been laying around doing nothing today, though. No siree. I've been productive. Somewhat. I've done the following:

- Watched a Division II football National Championship game between two teams I've never heard of before and couldn't care less if I didn't hear of them again.

- Watched an episode of Gangland recorded previously on my DVR.

- Checked my email probably 10 times.

- Checked my Facebook probably five times.

- Picked my nose twice.

- Ate half a pizza left over from last night.

- Drank approximately half a gallon of Kool-Aid.

- Took a shower.

- Brushed my teeth.

- Two loads of laundry.

- Watched the snow fall.

- Read Calvin and Hobbes for a while.

- Watched part of the Utah v Oklahoma basketball game. Also, two teams I couldn't care less about but will likely hear about in the future.

- Checked out my friends' blogs.

- Checked out cougarboard way too many times.

All this on the last Saturday before I take finals. I could have been studying, actually doing a take-home final, or other productive things. I'm not worried about it though. I've been very busy the last couple of weeks - probably the busiest I've been in my life, so I think I deserve a day to just be lazy. I can be (and will be) busy again this coming week.

I'm taking my CCW class tonight. I'm excited to get it done, but not excited for a four-hour class discussing who knows what. I can only hope that it's interesting. Sixty days after today I should have my permit in one hot little hand and my 9 in the other. Hooray for the 2nd Amendment!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Me likey...

I was sitting in church last week and there was a musical number to be performed during the meeting. Usually I look forward to musical numbers because I get really bored when I listen to the speakers sometimes - on a related note, I think we need to integrate more congregation participation during our meetings. Some more AMEN's or HALLELUJAH's when you agree with what the speaker said, or maybe if you are falling asleep, or even if you just want to feel righteous.

Anyhow, as the musical number started, I realized it was going to be a special one. I listened with rapt attention as the singer performed. It was easily the worst musical number I have ever heard and believe me, I've heard a lot - I've been Mormon for a very long time. It reminded me of American Idol tryouts when the people just plain suck but think they're the next big thing. I could not stop paying attention. I was engrossed by the sheer awfulness of it all.

I'm not the world's best singer by anyone's definition. I'm not the worst either, but I think I'm much closer to the worst than I am to the best. I have no business singing in Sacrament meeting (or any other meeting for that matter), but it actually happened once. As a missionary, I once lost a bet and had to sing a solo in a Sacrament meeting. Fortunately for me, and the branch, it was a Deaf congregation and 95% of the people there could not hear me at all. There were a handful of hearing people there though and I hope by now they've been able to recover from what surely was a traumatic experience.

Maybe the guy singing on Sunday lost a bet, but I doubt it. The point of this blog isn't singing in church, however. The singing last week got me thinking, though, of how much I appreciated that experience. It got me thinking of other things I appreciate and why I appreciate them. Here's a brief run-down of some of those things.

- American Idol/So You Think You Can Dance/America's Got Talent/Etc.
I love these kind of shows. I don't usually watch when the real competition starts, but I love tuning in at the beginning, for the reason mentioned previously. I love watching people make complete fools of themselves on national TV. Do some of these people actually think they have talent? Hasn't someone, sometime told them that they aren't that good? What kind of friend allows their friend to make him or herself look like an idiot in front of the nation? Maybe they didn't want to hurt their friend's feelings but believe me, the producers of these talent shows are very good at making you look stupid. And the rest of us enjoy it when they do.

-MXC/Wipeout
These are probably the best shows, ever. People doing fool things, getting beat up by machinery or obstacles. There's something about watching someone bounce around like a pinball that gets me rolling everytime. If you have to sign an injury waiver before you can be on the show, it might be a good idea to watch safely, from home...like me.

- DVR
Wow! I've recently been turned on to this little piece of equipment and it's simply amazing. I can record shows that I miss for whatever reason and waste even more time doing nothing productive. There's nothing on TV? That's okay, I'll just check my list of recorded shows and numb my brain for an hour or so. Perfect. Thank you, thank you, thank you DVR!

- Idiot Drivers
I love you guys. Especially when you get behind me. I love few things more than slowing down for tailgaters. The closer you get, the slower I go. Sometimes I'll drive the same speed as a car in the next lane so you can't get over. Then a little tappy-tap on the brakes to test your reaction time. My car is paid for and I would love nothing more than someone to wreck it so I can buy a truck. If there was a list of places I could think of where somebody might give me that chance, Utah would be near the top of the list. C'mon idiots, don't fail me now!

- Free Wireless Internet
I'm not talking about at internet cafes or Starbucks or anything, rather I'm talking about my neighbors who don't know how to secure their wireless networks. For two weeks, before I could get internet set up at my new place, I stole their bandwidth. Thank you for not taking the time to figure out how to encrypt your connection and for providing me with the access I needed for a short time. In their defense, I had to call two separate tech support places to get mine all secured. It was a pain.

- Cell Phones
I love this little leash. I can be contacted anywhere, anytime by anyone. I can send and receive text messages, it's a handy tool to keep me in touch with people. The jury's also out on whether or not it can cause cancer. Wonderful. When the phone is not next to my ear, it's in my pocket next to my...aw crap.

There's a lot of things I have a healthy appreciation for and this list is just a small representation of those things. Oh! I forgot Cheddarwursts. That'll have to wait though. There's so much about Cheddarwursts that I appreciate that it'll have to have it's own post. Another day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Moving on

It's about time I get back on the blog-wagon. I've been very busy lately with moving and school work. I probably should be doing school work right now, but honestly I need a bit of a break.

I moved recently from Bountiful to Salt Lake City in a move that I hope is a good thing (a little too late to change it now, though). Even though I'm very used to moving, it's starting to get real old. If I didn't hear nearly every step my upstairs neighbors make, I would probably think about staying where I am for a very long time...as it is I'll fulfill my lease and then probably seek greener pastures.

This move was an interesting one for me. I employed a new technique that I call the "commute move". I work in Farmington, which is north of Bountiful and so on my way home to SLC (south of Bountiful), I would stop in and move a little each day as I commuted home. I had about three weeks between when I was able to get into my new place and when I had to be out of my old one.

You'd think that if I did a little each day it would make things pretty easy, right? Wrong. If you thought that, you don't know me very well. True, I'd stop by the old place everyday but most of the time I'd walk in and look around and think, "yeah I can do this later." And then walk out. This led to a pretty busy couple of days at the end of the month.

While I was packing and cleaning my room, I found a variety of things. Lucky you, I'm going to tell you some of the things I found.

- Approximately $5.57 in loose change.
How do all those coins get all over the place? It's especially weird seeing as I rarely use cash (I've been through two debit cards in the last 6-8 months...they just wear out). Stranger still is that there were a lot of quarters, easily the most valuable of commonly used coins. I'm not complaining about finding this loot, I just think it's strange that there was that much of it.

- Mission letters
Not just letters I sent while on my mission, but also letters and cards I received. I initially threw them all away (I was just trying to get rid of stuff that I was tired of carrying around). But, after getting them all into the garbage bag I felt bad, so I pulled them all out and decided to keep them. I'm glad I did. I read some of them and felt uplifted by some of the things I read from my family. It was a much needed pick-me-up. I hope to put them all together in some kind of scrapbook. Maybe I can get the Relief Society to do an Enrichment activity and invite me. That would accomplish more than one purpose.

- A letter I wrote as a secret admirer
I used to have the biggest crush on a girl who lived a couple doors down from me. Apparently I used to be a Casanova in my younger days. I wrote this girl a letter, complete with a poem using phrases like "makes my heart flutter" and other equally cheesey lines. Obviously the letter never got delivered. I guess I was a chicken Casanova.

- Pictures
Lots and lots of pictures. Some of me, some of family and some of things that I have no idea what they are or why they were significant to photgraph. I kept the ones that had people in it and tossed the ones that I had no idea what they were of. I figured I didn't know what they were (or even that they existed) and why I had them, so I got rid of them.

- Dryer sheets
Seriously, where do these things come from?! I thought I was pretty good about throwing them away after doing laundry, but I guess I wasn't as good as I thought I was. I threw them away for good. Maybe next time I move I can find another 30-40 of them.

- Pinewood Derby Cars
I found every Pinewood Derby Car my dad and I made - there were three of them (we used one twice) and they were all the same design but with different paint jobs. When you've got a good thing going, you stick with it. I had some success with these cars when I was a Cub Scout. My first year, I (read: my dad) placed third in a tri-city Pinewood Derby meet. Not too bad. This was also about the same time I won the school spelling bee for my grade. Good times. I think I peaked around this time as well.

- Missing socks
You know when you do laundry and end up with incomplete pairs of socks. It happens to everyone. When you move, you'll find them. All of them. But you won't be able to do anything with them because you've already thrown the mates away. Perfect. I don't like mixing old socks with new socks. The new socks are softer and I have to have the same softness on each foot or I get moody. You don't want to see me moody.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just a bit longer...

Thanks to all you who continue to check my blog even though I've not written anything for a while. The counter thing on this page isn't counting very fast, but it's counting which tells me there are some people checking in.

I have some stuff coming (not that it's super important) but I'm all written out right now from school. I was going to get a blurb in earlier as a release for me, but I got burned out before I could start.

Just a little bit longer. Sorry folks.