Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Need help with that VCR?

December 23, 2007

Dear Tiana, Don, and Austin;

Happy Birthday to Joseph Smith and I hope that everyone is happy, healthy, and prepared for a wonderful and safe holiday week. A couple of interesting things happened this week.

On Tuesday we got a late afternoon call from the Hansen’s and they had extra tickets to the Mannheim Steamroller Concert at the Pepsi Center. In box seats with free soft drinks and popcorn. We had a ball and it really touch off a good start to feeling those Christmas feelings. The concert was excellent and then they blew me away with the last song. It is an old favorite sung hundreds of times during the holiday, but to hear the rich tones and majestic melody I was immediately lost in thought of the Savior. The song was “Silent Night”. As I sang the words to myself I felt of the Savior love for us. For him to descend to this corrupt world of pain and sin and conqueror all through his power and humility. It was the line “with the dawn of redeeming grace” where the feeling of Christ and Christmas sank in. It was that calm peaceful spot where sin is unthinkable, forgiveness is freely given, and love is poured out for Tracy and the family and mankind in general. I floated out of the Pepsi Center.

We had a great sacrament meeting last week. It was basically one speaker – Casen Burris. He has grown and matured so much from his mission and bore and incredible testimony of the atonement. One of the stories he told went like this. He and his companion went out of their way to visit a new investigator in a less visited, run down neighborhood in the Dominican Republic. The appointment stood them up and so they wandered a little before discovering this short street with only one little hovel at the end. They approached the door, knocked, and it was answered by these little kids and then a mom who was obviously distressed. She invited them in and broke down in tears. She had very recently been divorced and he left her destitute. She had several children and didn’t know how to pay to raise them. She had to move into this abandon shack to find a place to live. She wasn’t able to get help from family or her church and she was at the end of her options. She knelt down to pray to ask for some help from the Lord and as she finished the prayer that was the moment the missionaries knocked on the door. May the spirit guide you to find those that are waiting to hear the message of the gospel.

Some acts of kindness are more problematic then others. For two weeks now Bryce has called me consistently to do him a big favor. He is staying in Breckenridge for the weekend before they come home for Christmas and the motel doesn’t get ESPN so he couldn’t watch the BYU bowl game against UCLA. He wanted me to record the game, not watch it, and avoid any news of the results and watch it on Christmas Eve with him. I would have problems figuring out how to record it let alone watching a three hour football game on Christmas Eve – mom wouldn’t be happy. But Bryce was so insistent and pestered me so in the days preceding the Sat game. Well Sat afternoon I rummaged around the house until I found some tapes I could use, then spent an hour trying to figure out how to operate the VCR to record stuff. Where are my media savvy kids when I need them? After much trial and error and mom asking why she doesn’t hear the vacuume going, I figured it out. Well the game was at 6 and we had to babysit the tape because I didn’t know how long it was. I moved tables, sewing machines, and computers in place so mom could monitor the tape and I wouldn’t be able to watch the game. I ran out and got dinner and had to leave the room. It was a major deal, but at least I was able to give this gift of the game for Bryce. Then he calls and says he got a room upgrade and they are able to watch the game so don’t worry about taping the festivities. These are times I wished we were able to express our thoughts and feelings with a little salty language. By the way BYU won the game by one point by blocking an easy field goal attempt by UCLA in the final 3 seconds. Great game.

One last thought as I was cleaning the house yesterday in preparation for the holiday. I got to clean the tiny step at the bottom of the stairs that Austin claims on Christmas mornings as his spot. And I was reminded of Austin big smile and happy face over gifts and life in general. I’m sure the folks in London will appreciate his internal joy this year. Then I vacuumed the Oriental Carpet Don sent us from Iraq and I thought of this fantastic gift from Don. He went to all the effort to buy this beautiful addition to the living room and ship it home. I really miss your ability to give of yourself so much Don. There was never anyone lacking with you around – your kindness even exceeded you bank statement at times. Then mom and I were flipping over who was going to do the bathrooms and I thought of Tiana who cleaned the bathrooms so willingly and well. I always appreciated your goal of having a happy countenance around the house. I’m so glad we get to share that spirit with the people in West Virginia this year.

Love you,


Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'll have a Filet of Fish without the fingers.

I’ll like to complain to you all about how cold and snowy it is here but then I realize that Austin is in Canada where all this cold weather was born. He has had snow and cold since September. So that didn’t work. I thought about Celeste and Brad in the middle of this week long ice storm coating everything with inch thick ice and many areas without power. Tiana, Bryce, and Danica have all had bitter snow storms and Don is probably battling dust storm along with a few bullets and hand grenades. So I dropped all my thoughts of complaining and just wanted to wish everyone a joyous and White Christmas.

Sorry to drag you all back to the Aquarium this week but yesterday I had my best adventure there yet. My partner didn’t show up for one of the freshwater tanks and so the director said go into the “Open Blue” tank and help out there. “Open Blue” is the main attraction in the largest tank with about a dozen plus sharks. At feeding time we are suppose to wear steel mesh gloves because it is dangerous and tricky. I was having a ball waving to all the kids while I was cleaning the glass and one old guy kept pointing out where I had missed spots (all in good fun). A scout troop came by and they kept beating me at rock, paper, scissors.

It came time to start feeding and the whole tank knew it. The sea turtles were the worse. They wouldn’t leave us alone. They kept bumping into us so we would feed them. They would whack us with their flippers and poke us with their head. Last year a diver almost got his finger bit off by one of the turtles so we have to be careful in defending ourselves against them. Then there is this little bamboo shark that hovers around waiting to taste the squid or fingers which ever he can grab. We would take these large bottles of squid parts and spread them around in the water to feed the dozens of hungry fish. It was like being in a hungry cloud of 5 pound butterflies with teeth. What a trip.

Then we were ready to feed the big sharks in the wide open space where they rule. I was already in trouble from wandering into the shark lane and the tiger sharks don’t like to be disturbed that way. My buddy had to warn me not to swim over there. Our task yesterday morning was to feed the saw fish and big sharks. Two divers with PVC pipes held off the hungry sharks while one diver would take a filet of fish in a two foot pincher and dangle it in front of the sawfish. The teeth on the sawfish’s beak are pointed but relatively safe except when he gets wild and swings it around, then it could break someone’s wrist. Well since I’m new I got to watch while the other divers all took their positions and as you would guess things didn’t go as planned. The sawfish took the fish filet and the reaching pincher in his mouth and wouldn’t let go. He swam off with dinner and the utensil. So the two guard divers took off into the center of the tank chasing the sawfish to get the reaching tool back. I stood guard over the rest of the meal to beat off any of the hungry sharks until they returned with the tool. Let me tell you that they are not shy about food and I can see where sharks get their reputation. The divers out in the middle of the tank forgot that they each had a fish filet in their hands and so they started to become the chased as well as chasing. Finally one diver got the tool back and we were able to complete the causal dining experience. I thought it was great fun until I saw the expression on the other diver’s faces and they had not enjoyed the experience.