Thursday, July 29, 2010

Europe Trip Part 1: Paris

Robyn and I are currently on a tour of several countries with my cousin Natalie and her husband Sheldon.  We've had an awesome trip so far, here are a few of the highlights from the first few days.

Our plane left at 8 AM from SLC and landed in Frankfurt, Germany around 8 AM the next day. (Frankfurt is home base, because my aunt and uncle are living near there.)  It wasn’t a full 24 hours because they are 8 hours later, but we did kind of skip a night in there.  We slept a little on the plane, but it was as if we went for 48 hours with a few small naps.  That was a hardcore day, because when we landed we got in the car and drove to Paris.   We saw the Eiffel Tower and did a Seine river that first day.  We didn’t get to bed until 1:30 AM.  Yes, we are that hardcore.

That first night we ate at a stand on the Seine river across the street from the Eiffel Tower.  The food wasn’t that good, but the view was amazing.

We exchanged a boat load of money for Euros.  Euros look exactly like monopoly money.  But everyone here is fooled by the monopoly money because they let us buy stuff with it.

We hiked to the top of the tower at Notre Dame Cathedral.  I counted 387 stairs up.  (There were a few other stairs to the gift shop and to the bell tower, but it was 387 from the bottom to the top of the tower.)  We got some sweet pictures of gargoyles up there as well as an awesome view.  We also got a picture in front of the great bell.  I wanted to wait around to see if Quasimodo would eventually come out, but since they only ring that bell once a month we though the wait might be a little long. (Plus, Robyn thinks Quasimodo is fictional.  She’s so confused.)

We went to a Rodin museum and saw the thinker.  Naturally, we decided to take some time to think.

We were standing in front of the Arc De Triomphe.  I’m not sure why, but I suddenly started singing the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  Sheldon, being the wise man that he is, naturally joined in.  It’s possible that we were the first people ever to sing the Fresh Prince theme song from start to finish in front of the Arc de Triomphe

That covers the first couple days of Paris.  I'll keep you updated on the rest of the awesomeness later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Truly Awesome: Facebook Stalking

I'd like to take you back to the dark ages with me.  Come back with me to a time before Mark Zuckerberg changed your life.

If you can remember back to this ancient time, (around 2004) think back to what happened when a friend of yours went on a date, or met someone new.  They would have to do such ridiculous things as describe this person to you, or maybe if things were really serious, they might have a picture that they could show you.

Those days are no more.  Now what happens when a friend of yours goes on a date.  They say something like, "they're my friend on facebook, you can look them up."  You can then peruse pictures of this person, see what their interests are and generally stalk them, all without them ever knowing about it.  (Come on, you know you've done it.  Don't even try to deny it.)

This technological development is a source of great joy to me.  Let it be known that if you have ever dated anyone close to me, I have stalked you.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Let's be honest, I have not utilized this ability nearly as much as the mom of any single person. 

This week someone I know (who shall remain nameless, to protect stalker confidentiality) went on a date with a guy who she said reminded her of me.  Of course, I instantly liked him because he's similar to me.  But once the stalking commenced and I discovered a picture of him dressed like a zombie, my heart was overwhelmed with joy.

If you aren't facebook stalking, you should start.  (Or just start admitting that you're doing it.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Passing of an Old Friend

Disclaimer:  This post was originally a journal entry written two days ago.  I let my mom read it and she said I should share it with others.  I decided to post it here.  It's not designed to be entertaining or funny, because it was written for the purpose of recording some thoughts and memories, but I share it now with all of you.

This morning I got a phone call that I knew would eventually come, but that didn't make it any easier to recieve it.  Mom called to let me know that Kloey, our family dog was going to have to be put to sleep.  To be honest, I though this call would come years ago.  She was 91 in dog years.  She lived a long and full life, but she will still be missed.

There are those who would say that she was "just a dog" but to me she was an old friend.  Even more than that, she was a member of the family.  We all joked that mom was losing her favorite child.  I don't think any of us would be offended even if we thought that were true. 

Kloey joined our family when I was 15 or 16 years old.  At first I didn't like her.  Our cat, Jasper didn't get along with her at first and I was on Jasper's side.  For a time I referred to her as "spawn of darkness."  Mostly, it was my wierd sense of humor, but I also wasn't quite warmed up to her yet.  As time went on, my nicknames for her changed.  I called her "yellow dog" and later, as I started to learn spanish she became "perro amarillo." 

More important than what I called her was that I started to love her.  Teenage years are difficult for everyone.  It seems that during those years the world seems like it's much more volatile.  Emotions run high as you try to figure out dating, school, and how to grow up.  Kloey would always sense when I was having a hard time.  She would nuzzle up close and be there to comfort me.  She couldn't talk, but she could communicate.  She always communicated that she cared.  Sometimes it was nice that she couldn't talk, it made it easy to talk to her without being interrupted.  Those who can't talk are always excellent listeners.

By the time I went on my mission I figured we were nearing the end of Kloey's lifetime.  We had never had a dog longer than 4 or 5 years.  I figured she wouldn't be alive when I got back.  When I did get back, I was greeted by my family at the airport but when I got home to the house, Kloey came out to inspect who the stranger was that came into her home.  At first she regarded me as a stranger, but then after a few sniffs or a good look at me (I'm not sure what attributes she knew me from) she suddenly recognized me.  I have never seen her so excited, she started wagging her tail like crazy and she wouldn't calm down.  It was as if she had thought I was dead and was overjoyed to see me alive.  It was clear that she knew who I was.

Kloey was always very intelligent.  She knew a myriad of tricks.  She could beg, sit, stay, dance, even hold something on the end of her nose until she was given the word to toss it in the air and catch it in her mouth.  For some reason she hated to roll over.  If you held a treat in front of her and told her to roll over she would perform every trick she knew in hopes of earning the treat any other way.  Of course, as she got older, her ability to perform various tricks got less and less.  She started to develop severe arthritis so that standing on her hind legs or performing other manuevers got to be too painful.  Her favorite trick was "shake" she would hold out her paw and let you take it in a hand shake.  That was something she could do right up until the last day.  She would also place her paw on your knee or your leg to let you know she was there.

My favorite trick was the "where's mom" trick.  Whenever I would come over to my parent's house, Kloey would always come to the door to greet me.  Mom could be anywhere in the house, but I would just ask Kloey, "Where's mom?" and she would lead me right to mom.  Sometimes it would be awkward if mom was in the bathroom or something because Kloey would push open the door to lead the way to mom.  She always knew exactly where mom was.  If mom wasn't home, she would lead me outside and show me where the car had been.

As time went on, her health started to really go down hill.  She started to lose strength in her legs.  At first, she just didn't like to go up and down the stairs.  This was a problem because in my parent's house you have to use the stairs to go outside.  She would go out to go to the bathroom and then it would be a major ordeal for her to make her way up the stairs again.

Last night, according to mom, Lorien (the cat) kept jumping up on my mom's bed and meowing to get her attention.  My mom would wake up and pet her thinking that's what she wanted.  But as soon as she got my mom's attention she would walk over to where Kloey was.  Kloey wasn't asleep, she was just in pain and somehow Lorien could tell that something was wrong.  Lorien was trying to get my mom to solve the problem.

Today it got to the point where she couldn't even walk.  She was panting heavily, and always in pain.  The vet had given various pain killers but ultimately my parents decided that it would be inhumane to make her continue to endure.  My mom called this morning to let me know about the decision.  I went over there to say goodbye.  They had set out a blanket and a pillow for her to rest on.  They had had to carry her to that point.  While I was there, if everyone left the room she would try to get up because she enjoyed being around people.  So we tried to make sure we stayed in the room with her to give her company.

I laid down next to her to say my goodbye.  I cried as I petted her and told her I would miss her.  As she lay there, she lifted up her paw and placed it on my arm, as if she knew this was goodbye as well.  I spoke softly to her and gently petted her until she fell asleep.  I left as she lay there sleeping on her pillow and blanket.  That's the last memory I have of my dear friend.

Mom texted me today around 6:00 to let me know that Kloey was gone.  I'm not sure what the next life is like for animals, but I know she's not in pain anymore.  I also know that she will rise again in the resurrection.  D&C 29:23-25 states that "all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost." Joseph Fielding Smith said, "Animals do have spirits and that through the redemption made by our Savior they will come forth in the resurrection, to enjoy the blessing of immortal life"  The atonement of Jesus Christ will overcome death even for our animal friends.  I believe I will see my old friend Kloey again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Wall of Seperation

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. "

Those are the opening words of the declaration of independence, written 234 years ago today.  They reflect the words and thoughts of an exasperated people.  But they also reflect an important part of the minds and thoughts of the 56 men who signed that document.  It continues:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

I find these words so powerful.  Every person is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.  The only purpose of government is to protect those rights.  As the document continues, it explains that if a government ceases to perform that function it should be abolished.  It then, of course, explains how the King of Britain has violated the people's rights in various ways.  But I want to focus on those inalienable rights endowed by our creator and protected by government.

Thirteen years after the declaration of independence, congress passed the Bill of Rights where they enumerated some of the rights that God had given us.  Within the first amendment it says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."  The first right that they felt they should list was the freedom of religion.  I think the freedom to worship how we may is very important to our Heavenly Father.  It was obvious to our founding fathers that freedom of religion was an inherent right.

This very freedom is what created an environment where a young boy seeking the truth could have an experience that would alter history forever.  It was here in the United States, where Joseph Smith was able to see our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ face to face.  It was under the protection of the Bill of Rights that he was able to translate the Book of Mormon and restore the Church of Jesus Christ.

Later, Joseph Smith was asked to describe the basic tenets of our religion.  He wrote thirteen articles of faith, to show the basic principles on which our religion is founded.  One of those thirteen principles was, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."  Why would Joseph Smith write that of the thirteen basic tenets of our faith, the privilege of worshipping howerver an individual sees best is one of those tenets?  Perhaps, it is because our Heavenly Father holds freedom in a very high regard.

As Screwtape put it in The Screwtape Letters, God wants us to be "creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His."  This state presupposes a freedom to choose to do the will of God.

Our founding fathers wanted us to have those freedoms.  They knew that our Heavenly Father valued the freedom to worship however we saw fit.  Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut on January 1, 1802:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, ...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus build a wall of seperation between Church and State."

The intent of his letter was to show that government would never establish a state religion.  The term "seperation of church and state" was not intended to say that the state would not allow religion within schools or public buildings.  Unfortunately, all of that changed in 1947 when the Supreme Court interpreted the phrase as requiring the federal government to remove religious expression from the public arena.  The court cited Jefferson's letter as a support for their ruling but took 8 words out of context ("a wall of seperation between church and state") and did not print the whole letter.

Why do I tell you all of this?  Because our society has lost sight of a God who loves us and who wants only to bless us.  We have shut him out of our schools and public buildings.  This shift in culture has caused people to shut him out of their homes.  Many no longer value the family as the primary unit within our society.

So, I invite you today, to tear down the wall of seperation that has been built by a government that misunderstands the purpose of that wall.  Invite God into your homes.  If you believe different than me, that's okay.  I rejoice in your freedom to see God in a different light than I do.   Many people call him by different names, but he remains our benevolent Father.  I am grateful for our founding fathers on this independence day.  And I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who values freedom, even though it means some will choose to turn from him.  Please exercise your freedom today to bring Him into your life.
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