Sunday, March 30, 2008
The aquarium dive was fun yesterday. The animals were very active and while I was siphoning next to a 5 ft. Morey Eel and little girl on the other side of the glass kept jumping up and down and pointing franticly to warn me of his dangerous presence. She was worried I was about to be attacked. I was able to master the art of getting parents to take pictures of me with their kids while I was in the tank. One of the other divers has a little plastic board. She wrote her email address on the board and through hand gestures asked people to email her copies of the pictures. She would even take off her mask and remove her mouthpiece so they could get a great short with a recognizable face.
I will share with you a story from Fast & Testimony meeting. The young man’s basketball coach talked about yesterday’s basketball game. Our ward was doing well and winning by a narrow but healthy margin. As the game progress the coach notice that we were getting a little cocky and the defense was really falling apart and the other team was catching up, so he called a time out. He wanted to stop any problems before we lost the game, because our team had lost by only two points last week. He asked, “What is going on out there? We have these guys by the throat and you’re slacking off on the defense?” After a few seconds of silence one of the boys responded, “Well coach, we know we are going to win this game, but #8 on the other team hasn’t scored a basket yet and so we are trying to let him scored.” The coach swallowed hard and said, “Carry on, that is what church ball is all about.” By the end of the game #8 was able to score a basket and was so happy to have earned points for his team. And our ward won the game and an important lesson of life.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Dear Tiana, Don, and Austin;
Happy Birthday to Danica and Mom, my mom, who was born this day in 1921 and received her third grandchild as a birthday present on this day in 1982. Birthdays are great to celebrate but can be complicated. I’m in Utah for the weekend and with Danica on this Easter Sunday but we haven’t been able to celebrate her birthday properly. Between conflicting church schedules, flight schedules, departures schedules, nap schedules, and eating schedules I blew it and didn’t coordinate so as to honor Danica very well today, plus mom isn’t here and I miss her on this important religious holiday.
We attended the English speaking ward and head some excellent talks about the Savior and the Atonement. One young lady quoted Elder Holland who said that “we are not what happens to us, but what we progress to in this life”. I was standing up, holding Lilly and thought about her future life. She has this cherubic face with two deep brown eyes and a consistent smile, will more of a giggle in her countenance. She just glows with promise and joy and delight in life itself. The choir then sang a familiar Easter hymn about how the Savior overcame the temptations of this world to pave the way for us to return to our Heavenly Father, I thought of this beautiful young life in my arms. Just as it is with all of us; life can through some pretty ugly stuff our way – illness, sin, financial challenges, unwanted temptations, broken hearts, and the list goes on. As a parent or grandparent as I looked at Lilly’s face I wanted to protect this precious daughter from all that pain and sadness, but knew I couldn’t do any more than hold her and love her for the moment. She will grow up and face mounds of garbage that will be thrown at her. Hopefully most of the bad stuff will miss her but we all know that rough spots will happen and that is why I felt drawn out in thankfulness for the Plan of Salvation and my Savior Jesus Christ. He provides the way for happiness in this challenging life.
Heavenly Father at one time held us all in his hands and looked into our eyes and said, “Oh, you beautiful child, I would like to hold you and love you and protect you from the world and all its evil intents, but I can’t. You must go out on your own and find your own way. You will get stained by the battle maybe even hurt or seriously injured, but your elder brother will resist the world and provide the example and the way to clean those earth stains and repair the broken bones and even heal the broken hearts. It will not be easy for him but he is willingly to pay the price because his deep and personal love towards you. All I ask as you venture forth is have a broken heart and a contrite spirit and you can return home after earth school. Never again will you have to suffer or cry, but will have cause to rejoice over the eternities that will gloriously unfold into the future.” I’m so thankful for my Savior on this Easter Sunday and for the Plan of Salvation. I’m also grateful for your willingness to spread the good news of this gospel to those in Virginia, the Marines, and in Ontario. God’s speed be with you.
On a newsier note – there has been some interesting progress in my work that has yet to gel, but I’m excited about the future more than I have been in the past. I will be moving offices on April 1 to the DTC area and working with an account there. Also it looks like we will be moving into a new house as soon as we find something.
I’ve had a lot of fun working and playing in Utah for the weekend and you can check out my blog for some pictures from the various Easter egg hunts, “Peeps” show diorama contests, and quiet walks with the grandsons I was able to enjoy. I only wish mom had been here to enjoy the sunshine and the family.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Mom had planned this week long trip to Cozumel because the winter just got to be too long here and we missed that week in Costa Rica. I guess we shouldn’t complain about the length of winter to someone working in the wilds of the Canadian north. While in Cozumel we met a man from Toronto and he said it has been a very long and brutal cold winter. Austin I want you to know that at that very instant mom and I collectively sent you a warm thought from our white sandy beach with the crystal aquamarine waters. I hope you enjoyed the thought.
This was designed as a diving trip and it lived up to its name. We spent our first afternoon planning out dive trips and negotiating with several dive shops for good rates. Even that was fun. Ohh... yes, we also checked into our hotel which rated 4 red apples on a 5 apple scale. I think some of those apples were missing a bite or two and had worms but we didn’t plan on spending a lot of time at the hotel so it was OK.
The next morning the dive boat picked me up at the hotel dock and whisked me away into blue water nirvana. We headed out to Palencar Reef and dropped down to about 100 feet. The diving in Cozumel is called “drift” diving because the current is constant and you just carry along with the flow above a wall or rock formation. It is a lazy man’s way of diving and I loved it. The visibility was incredible. We were at 100 ft and I could see down at least another 100 ft. The colors of the fish and reef were spectacular. Everywhere there was movement of darting fish or waving of sea fans and anemones. The rock formations were out of some Dr. Seuss dream of columns, arches, tunnels, and caves. The sense of flying achieved while drifting along above the action on the reef gave me the surreal feeling of power. The silent depths where all you hear is your own breathing while colors flash and dart before you is magnificent.
On the first day’s dives we saw spotted and green moray eels, turtles, sharks, big groupers, tons of angel fish, deep blue parrot fish, red checkered snapper, and barracudas. All the bottom seem alive with shards of colored glass; florescent blue, bright green, deep red, glowing yellow and black stripes all moving to the rhythms of the current. As I looked up from the reef you could see spots of blue and silver fish out into the dark sea. It was great and too soon we had to rise to the surface. Again during the ascend you feel suspended in time and space with fellow divers; 30 ft from the bottom and 30 ft to the top. When you hit the surface, then you have to struggle with the awkward tanks, the hefty weight belt, the clumsy fins and tangled regulator hoses. It all makes me want to stay down there for a long time and not worry about angry clients, market losses, bills to pay, and hard decisions to make. Thanks goodness for vacations and a loving wife that plans surprises.
When I got back to the hotel, mom gave me the best news ever (for that afternoon) and no it wasn’t a new hotel, she wanted to get certified and go diving. After the wonderful experience I had enjoyed I wanted her to experience the same thing. It was a big deal for her to get over the fear of breathing and actually relax in the water, but she wanted to do it and I am so grateful for her new found bravery. Gosh conquering both skiing and scuba diving within the first quarter of the year would be wonderful and much more expensive, but so worth it. It kind of dampened our evening activities because she had to study her diving book, but it is all good.
The next day I got in three dives – two during the day and one at night. It was my first night dive and was really different. We saw animals that were usually hiding during the day such as crabs and lobsters, squid and octopus, and strange little florescent flecks of colored light that shined in the water when you waved your hand. I could see other groups of divers off in the distance with their lights and almost ended up in the wrong group at one time. When we got out after the dive I looked down in the water and could see the lights of these different divers and it was bizarre.
Oh, by the way while we weren’t diving or studying mom hit a few jewelry stores and we munched down on some good genuine Mexican comida. The hot sauce got a bit much for me and I tried to wipe it out of my mouth with a paper napkin. Now back to the diving.
On our last day mom was able to join us and the dive master pulled the tail of what he thought was a normal moray eel. Well the eel didn’t like the pulling and came after the short little Mexican man. Our dive master jumped and sprinted away and dodged the attack but the moray eel had come out of his hiding place and he was as big as the Mexican. It was the biggest eel I have ever seen. On this last we didn’t see anything way out of the ordinary, but it was memorable because I got to dive along side and hold hands with mom. What a cool and great feeling. The water didn’t seem as cold on that last dive.
On the rest day before the flight home we rented a car and drove around the island to explore the sites. Cozumel is really a place for diving and not much else, but we were able to find some fun spots. We went to a park with many replicas of famous Mayan, Aztec, and Olmec carvings and our own personal guide. They also had a snorkel beach and again we got to hold hands and swim around. On down the road to another beach with a lunch spot for fresh grilled garlic fish. Wow was it good. We played at a couple more beaches with the most perfect water ever
and had lunch at the fun Coconuts restaurant, famous for its calamari according to the guidebook. Well there was no calamari on the menu, but the shrimp quesadilla was to die for.
That night, our last night, we walked down the road a bit to go to Pirates. We were the only people there and so the owner came by and talked our ear off while we ate. I had the money thing planned so well because I didn’t want to go home with a lot of American or Mexican cash. It worked great until he presented us the bill and didn’t accept VISA. He had to leave his restaurant and drive us way into town to hit an ATM machine so I could pay for dinner. Mom giggled in the back seat while I was embarrassed.
On the last morning in Cozumel the beach in front of the hotel called to me and I answered the call with a quick snorkeling trip. It was a nice slice of dessert. During that dive I saw huge schools of yellow and striped angel fish and the largest barracuda I’ve ever seen. To top it off I saw another barracuda attack and eat another fish about 10 ft away. It was great. Too bad I have to come back to reality.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Its mom’s birthday and thank you all for remembering and wishing her the best on this happy day. It looks like to me that she is getting younger every year. Yesterday it was this incredible sunny warm and gorgeous “spring” day. The sky was crystal blue and mom and I had lunch at an outdoor café with a spectacular view of the entire mountain range. It allows you to put up with a bitter cold and snowy winter just to take in the majestic mountains capped with fresh snow on a sunny day in the spring. WOW!!! Good company and good views, life couldn’t get any better.
Then we wake up this birthday morning to a complete blizzard. The snow is falling so hard that we can’t see the recreation center. Its mom’s birthday and she actually complained that its snowing. She said it often snows on her birthday. Why complain it’s never snowed on my birthday, so I never even got a snow day and stayed home from school. Come to think about it I never had to go to school on my birthday either.
This has been a tough week, racked with too many unsolved problems and dilemmas, and I’m mentally exhausted from pondering all the “What about this alternative?” You would think it is easy enough to decide to get the car fixed. The Explorer is in the shop and has prompted this decision process.
If we get everything fixed it will cost $900, but we can do the basics for only $700. Why pour $700 dollars into a car valued at $1,500? It won’t increase the car’s value. But Danica needs it to move and we have to be able to drive it across country. Well let’s get a newer truck. What about a car for Don? Tiana? But I don’t want to make an additional car payment for a vehicle that we only use occasionally. And think about the extra car insurance. Ugh!!! But we need a trailer hitch and an open back. Well I can turn in the Lexus and just drive a nice Sports Track. But if my office moves to AmCheck in Stapleton, the gas bill will kill me? What about that office thing. I have to move out of my office by April 1 so where do I go? Scott doesn’t have room unless I pay big bucks. Dennis’ office is in his home and that won’t work. I could office with Kevin, but I don’t know if he will send me leads and tax season is over with soon. And it is a less spectacular office and away from Scott. What about John and where to put him? Can I get a month-to-month lease so I could move sometime in the future? What do I use for my phone number on the business cards or the address? Should I move to where the leads are? Scott wants me to commit to space in May of ’09 and I don’t know where I’ll be in May of ’08. We have all these people coming in April and if I spend money on the car repair is there any left over to fix up the dinning room? Sales are slow right now and that means no money for a while? Arrrgggg…. I had a hard time picking what I wanted to eat for breakfast. It is a simple question of fixing the Explorer, isn’t it?
It was a great Stake Conference and Pres Jenkins was released. He and his counselors did a great job and they will be missed. Drum roll please…..the new Stake President is Ralph Walker – Sean Michael Walker’s uncle, Celeste’s seminary teacher, and Brother Hammond is the 1st counselor. They are good brothers and the stake continues to be in good spiritual hands. Most of the talks were tributes to either the past or future stake leadership, but one really hit me.
Elder Snow talked about William W Phelps who contributed 15 hymns to our current hymnal. Bro Phelps was a dear friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith and was called to be a stake president. Something soured him on the church and Joseph and he went a far as to be the key individual that allowed for an execution order to be placed against the prophet. Joseph narrowly escaped death, but was captured and thrown into Liberty Jail because of WW Phelps. About two years later Bro Phelps repented and meekly asked to be reinstated into the church. He appealed directly to the prophet. Elder Snow then read us the letter Joseph wrote in response to Bro Phelps’s request. Here is his letter –
Dear Brother Phelps: . . . You may in some measure realize what my feelings . . . were when we read your letter . . . .
We have suffered much in consequence of your behavior--the cup of gall, already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us . . . .
However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord. And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of God's dear children, and again take your stand among the Saints of the Most High, and by diligence, humility, and love unfeigned, commend yourself to our God, and your God, and to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.
"Come on, dear brother, since the war is past,
For friends at first, are friends again at last."
Yours as ever,
Joseph Smith, Jun. [HC 4:141–42, 162–64]
Four years later WW Phelps spoke at Joseph’s funeral and penned the hymn “Praise to the Man”. He may have understood more than many others the capacity of Joseph had for others because of his experience.
This is the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which allows us the free agency to make mistakes, then repent and he will love us back into full fellowship. The Savior does this with full measure and I’m so thankful for the atoning sacrifice that makes our sincere repentance possible.