Thursday, February 28, 2013

The many moves of Snow Shoveling

As some of you may know, the house we currently live in has the steepest driveway known to man.  During periods of time such as summer, this is not a big deal.  However, there is a little chore I do during the winter that is much more difficult with a steep driveway.  This chore is, of course, shoveling the snow.

It turns out that if a surface is even slightly slippery, that slipperiness seems to multiply if it has any sort of incline.  My attempts to stay upright on my driveway have required me to develop some awesome moves.  I thought I would chronicle a few of these sweet moves, since you're never there to see them.  (Seriously, why do you never come over?)

The first move is called, "Jeff takes flight."  This happens when both of my feet suddenly cease to be underneath me.  I go from vertical to horizontal instantly.  It's quite impressive.
Jeffs were not meant to fly.

The next move I call the "shovel skate."  I do this when I know it is futile to try to stand.  I just point the shovel down the hill and slide behind it, doing my best to remove snow as I go.
I make the shovel skate look good.

Other times I lose one foot, but just before I lose the other foot I put all my weight on the shovel.  Many times the shovel gives out, but when it doesn't I make this excellent dance move.
Have you ever danced with a shovel by the pale moon light?
The final move is the most common.  It would probably be really fun if it wasn't exceedingly painful.  What I do is slip and fall, usually slamming my elbow or knee in the process (and always my bum) then I lose complete control of my whole life until I am at the bottom of the driveway.

I call this, "the slider."

But I have good news (or sad news depending on how much you like to watch me fall.)  I have made a purchase that I believe will save my life.  I bought this fancy little item that can be attached to a shoe.
Aren't they fancy?
Now I can stand straight and tall, due to the improved traction.  I have only shoveled once with these on, but the only fancy move I did consisted of moving snow from my driveway onto a place that is not my driveway.

Now I can feel big and tough when I shovel.
Look what the ability to stand vertically does to a man's ego.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Everyone Who Drives a Car

Dear Everyone,

We haven't talked in a while.  How have you been?  How's that thing you've been worried about?  I hope it's doing better.  How about that thing you're excited about?  Is it still making you happy?

Enough of the small talk.  The reason I've gathered you all here today is to discuss a little subject I call, "don't run into other cars while driving."

This seems like a pretty basic idea.  But, in my experience, there is some sort of amnesia that kicks in whenever it snows.  Apparently, people get up in the morning and see white stuff falling from the sky and think to themselves, "Am I supposed to run into other cars or not?  I can't remember."

You're not supposed to run into other cars.  Even if there is white stuff.

I'm glad we got that cleared up.

I think there may be some of you out there who actually know that you're not supposed to run into other cars, but you do it on accident.  I'd like to discuss some things with you.

There are lots of things we could talk about, such as, if your car starts to fishtail, you should turn the wheel into the fishtail.  That means the wheel should turn the same direction that the back of the car is drifting.  If you turn it the other way you will do what is called a donut.  This move is considered awesome if A)you are in an empty parking lot doing it on purpose or B) you are in an action movie and you are spinning around so that you can shoot the gas tank of a car that is chasing you and cause it to explode.  In all other situations, doing a donut is not awesome.

There are other techniques you can learn that are helpful for driving in the snow.  But the most important principle I'd like to go over is so simple that it can improve your snow driving instantly.  Are you ready for it?   It's going to blow your mind.  Here it comes.

Slow Down!

It blew your mind didn't it.  I marvel every time I drive on the freeway when it is snowing.  There are always people blowing past me at 80 mph.  They always have a smug look on their face as they blow past all the wimps who don't drive fast in snow.  Then I usually pass them a few minutes later as they sit on the side of the road after spinning out.

It should be understood, I like to drive fast.  I'm usually going a good 10 mph above the speed limit on the freeway in safe conditions.  But when conditions are not safe, is it really worth risking your life to get to work 5 minutes sooner?  (Not to mention that when you spin off the road it slows down traffic for the rest of us and we all get there 20 minutes later.)

This past weekend there was a bit of snow.  I've noticed that when it snows, it takes a few days for people to remember how to drive in it.  If it snows several days in a row, by the third day you don't see as many accidents.  But if it's dry for a week or two, when the snow returns it's as if they've never seen snow or driven in it before.

The following pictures are not from this past weekend.  It's from a couple months ago.  But I had to share what happens when people don't remember the age old wisdom of slowing down.
They closed 5 lanes of traffic on I15 for this little wreck.

Important safety tip: don't park a semi sideways on the freeway.  People may run into you.
I don't know what happened here, but I'm willing to be that semi was driving too fast.

For those of you who have been in wrecks recently, I do recognize that there are some accidents that happen through no fault of the driver.  You can be driving a speed that is safe for the conditions when the conditions suddenly change.  Perhaps that's what happened with our semi driver above.  My brother recently got in an accident that sounds like it was no one's fault, from his description.

I would just prefer that we all get to our destinations safely, whether there is white stuff on the road or not.  If you don't feel safe at the speed you are driving, don't feel ashamed to slow down.


P.S. I ended with "love" so you know that everything I said was filled with love and you can't get offended at me for telling you to slow down.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Here is Your Soil

The other night, I was fast asleep, like a good kid.  I woke up to a really strange sound.  Robyn was pounding the bed with her hand.  Perhaps pounding is too strong of a word.  She was patting the bed, but she was doing it hard enough that the sound woke me up.

Normally, when anything strange is happening, I do my best to engage her, in hopes of getting a good story out of it.  This time, I guess I was just too tired.  All I wanted to do was go back to sleep.  So I just waited a few minutes to see if it would stop.  It didn't.  The tapping continued.  There was no sign of stopping or even slowing.

Finally, I just asked her, "What are you doing?"

"Here is your soil."

What kind of answer is that?  I don't have any soil.  And it doesn't explain the tapping.  Those were my thoughts, all I actually said was "My soil?"

At this point, Robyn mumbled something.  I'm not sure exactly what she said, but the tone of her voice told me that I definitely crossed a line and interrupted some important soil patting.  She rolled over in disgust, and resumed her sleep.

In the morning she explained that earlier this week she had filled cups of soil for her school kids to do some planting.  I guess it was such a great experience she needed to relive it.

"Here is your soil!"
For the record, the marijuana plants have nothing to do with the story.  But this picture amused me when I  googled "soil cup".
Photo Credit

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Great Freak Out of '08

Today is the 5 year anniversary of an important event in history.  Five years ago today, was the great freak out of '08.

This story is a chapter in the Saga of Jeff and Robyn.  You romantics out there can get excited about the fact that it is a chapter in our love story.  You tough guys out there can appreciate that this is not a kissing story.

Every love story has a period where one person is interested before the other.  This story takes place during that period.  I had noticed Robyn and had become quite interested in her.  She had impressed me with her intelligence, humor and hotness.  For several weeks I had made sure to have contact with her every day.  If possible I would take her on a date, but if not, we would either hang out in a group or (last resort) just talk on the phone.

During this entire period of positive daily contact, my normally rational brain was slowly turning to mush.  You see, I had never felt so many emotions at one time.  I felt excited to be with her.  I felt scared that she didn't like me back.  I felt uncertainty about how to proceed.  I felt giddy every time I was with her.

That is way too many emotions.  My emotional capacity is equal to 1.  That means I am able to feel a maximum of one emotion if I want to remain functional.  (Robyn says I'm a robot.  Apparently, I normally have less than 1 emotion.)  I can feel happy.  I can feel sad.  I can feel angry.  But only one at a time.  The more these extra emotions crowded in above my capacity to handle them, the more my brain had to make room by removing other features.  My rational thought was the first to go.  Next was my ability to read people.  With these two things gone, I became more uncertain about where I stood with Robyn.  Thus, I became more insecure and felt more emotions.  The vicious cycle had begun.  The stage had been set.

On President's Day I thought it would be fun to take her out to breakfast.  However, my brother, in an attempt to help, foiled that plan.  On Sunday night, before I had a chance to ask her to breakfast the next morning, he asked her to breakfast and said we should all go as friends. His secret plan was to back out, so that Robyn and I would be alone.  Of course, what he didn't realize was that I was actually capable of asking a girl on a date.  Anyway, he pulled out, but since he had defined it as a group of friends, Robyn's roommate joined us, and the three of us went to breakfast.

It turns out that there was no problem with Robyn's roommate being there.  She was fun and I liked her.  Plus, Robyn was in a weird (and kind of cruel) phase where she went out of her way to let me know she wasn't interested in me.  Had we been alone she may have tried even harder to emphasize that.  The Great Freak Out may have been even worse.

After that breakfast, I was convinced that my life was over.  She wasn't interested in me, and my life couldn't possibly go on.  Since I had no functional brain I couldn't think myself out of this problem.  I had come upon the classic no win situation. (Not even Captain Kirk could solve this one.)

I kind of pride myself on my problem solving skills.  I think of myself as an intelligent individual that can figure out any problem.  But without a functional brain I was merely coming up with solutions like, "I like cheese."  or "I wonder what Hawaii is like this time of year."  Those are both wonderful thoughts.  But they were useless byproducts of a broken brain.

That's when I brought in the big guns.  I went to visit my friends Heather and Kayli.  Now, I knew they wouldn't necessarily solve my problems.  But that wasn't actually what I needed.   I was a big ball of emotions.  I needed what every big ball of emotions needs.  I needed girl talk.

They pulled through big.  They said things like, "She'll totally like you." and "You're so precious.  Of course she likes you."

I wish I could help you understand how dysfunctional my brain had become.  I wish I could portray how emotional I was.  The only record of my emotional, irrational self is a little cell phone video that Kayli took.  I'd like you to notice a few things.  First, look at how much hair I used to have.  Second, do you see how I'm laughing but also look frustrated and also like I might cry?  Ya, I was messed up.

Despite the pep talks I received, I suspended any contact with Robyn for 48 hours.  I needed some time to perform some diagnostics.

But after that period, I resumed my pursuit of Robyn with even greater vigor.  It should be noted that by the next President's Day, a year later, she was my wife.  I'll always be indebted to Heather and Kayli for their President's Day girl talk.

I'm glad that now, 5 years later, I can enjoy my President's Day much more, knowing that I can feel secure in my relationship with Robyn.

Happy President's Day!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Marriage Isn't Hard

Today is Valentine's Day.  Valentine's Day is a day that we celebrate love and relationships.  As such, I thought I would share a few words about marriage, which happens to be the most important relationship you will have in your life.  It also happens to be really awesome.
We're cute when we're married.

I've seen a few different articles floating around Facebook lately that seem to emphasize how hard you need to work in order to have a healthy relationship.  I agree with almost everything those articles say, except for one thing.  Marriage isn't hard.

Before I was married, I heard from friends and family, things like:
"The first year is the hardest.  If you can survive that, you'll be okay."
"Marriage is a lot of work.  But it's worth it."
"Marriage is really hard, but if you're both willing to work hard you can have a good marriage."

I agree with the principles behind what they're saying.  We do need to love and serve our spouses.  We do need to make sure their needs are met.  But marriage isn't hard.

I know you're all crying out in one defiant voice, "But I do all sorts of things for my wife, I love her and serve her and (insert thing that's difficult for you here)"

I know you do a lot.  But I just want to talk about what it means when we say something is hard.  It usually refers to something we're not excited to do.  It's usually something we put off to the last second until we absolutely have to do it.  It's usually something that we wouldn't do if we didn't have to do it.

Marriage isn't any of those, to me.  Marriage isn't hard.

If you met a painter who truly loves to paint, and you see a magnificent painting they have created.  Do you think they will talk about how hard it was to paint?

Will a car enthusiast talk about how hard it was to restore that classic vehicle?

Will someone who loves photography talk about how hard it was to take that amazing picture?

I don't think so.  If you truly love something, you give it your all.  And you never think it was that hard, because you would have spent the time anyway.

I think what people mean when they say "marriage is hard" is that "marriage takes time."  That is a statement I will agree with.  You have to put time in your marriage if you want it to work.  You have to invest in it.

I just want to talk about some of the investments that I feel are necessary in my marriage.

I tell her I love her every day
When we first started dating, I was too afraid to tell her how I really felt.  The terror of telling her I wanted to date her exclusively almost drove me to sucking my thumb like a little baby.  What a blessing it is that I can share my feelings with her without fear of my feelings being hurt in the process.  I love to share my love for her.  It's not hard.

I hold her
Sometimes my wife just needs to be held.  It's a scary world out there and bad stuff happens.  Before we started dating, I would have given anything for the opportunity to hold her.  I love being close to her, and I cherish every moment we're together.  It's not hard.

I listen to her
In a given day, for every 1 word I say, Robyn says 10.  She has a lot more to say than I do and she feels happy when I hear and understand what she has to share.  I happen to think she's the most interesting person in the world.  I love to hear her voice.  I love to listen to the ideas that she has to share. It's not hard.

I communicate with her
In addition to listening, sometimes it's important to communicate my ideas.  All she wants is my happiness, so why would I not want to help her understand my needs and wants?  This seems simple to me but I meet so many people who struggle with saying what they mean and meaning what they say.  It's not hard.

I laugh with her
My wife is hilarious.  We have an ongoing debate about which one of us is funnier.  But hanging out with the second funniest person in the world is pretty awesome.  It's not hard.

I cry with her
We have faced some hard times since we've been married.  Unfortunately, things don't always go our way.  But when that happens, we can face it alone or we can face it together.  Facing it together is the easier option.  It's not hard.

I serve her
Sometimes she asks me to do things for her.  Other times I see a need that she hasn't asked me to fill.  In both situations, some of my greatest joy comes from seeing her happy.  The greatest payment in the world is when she gets excited about something I've done for her and throws her arms around me.  Why would I pass up those opportunities?  It's not hard.

You know what is hard?  Life is hard.  Mowing the lawn is hard.  Going to work on days when I'd rather sleep is hard.  Doing the dishes is hard.  Doing laundry is hard.  Shoveling snow is hard.  Paying bills is hard.

But even those things are easier in marriage.  When she walks outside and tells me the lawn looks amazing, I puff up my chest and strut around like the proudest peacock in the world.  If she says I did something well, I must be the coolest guy in the world.

I had to do those things before I was married, but there was no one there to cheer me on.  That was hard.

Ultimately, marriage really isn't hard.  Life is hard.  But life is easier when you're married.  Marriage does take a lot of time, if you want a good one.  But I can't think of a better use of your time.

Happy Valentines Day to my love!  Thanks for making my life easier.  Whatever turns life takes, I'm happier with you.  My life is better, more joyful, more fulfilling, more exciting and definitely not as hard.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Things Robyn says on Percocet

I recently wrote about how Robyn lost part of her finger.  I also mentioned that she became somewhat amusing when the doctor gave her Percocet for the pain.  I promised you I would share how amusing she was.  So I am totally going to share that.  But first I thought I'd give a quick update.

Her finger has been hurting, but it's definitely healing.  The doctor told us to redress the wound after 2-3 days.  So tonight we had my sister (who is basically a doctor as far as I'm concerned) help us unwrap it and put new bandages on it.  Robyn did really well, even though it was painful.

They make super painful wounds look precious.

So without further ado, here are all of the things that Robyn said while she was on Percocet.  Most of these were said during the drive home from the E.R.  It was just one continuous stream of consciousness that contained all of this goodness.  I wish I had caught it on video, but unfortunately, I was driving.  I tried to remember as much as  I could when I got home, I'm probably missing a few gems, but here is everything I remember:

"I don't want to go back to the ee eye ee eye are.  Wait.... what?"
"I said ee eye ee eye are.  It's like we're going to McDonalds or something."
"I feel wobbly."
"I feel sad."
"I felt like I was gonna pass out.  That's why I went 'whoah'."
"It's like my brain is swirling inside of itself."
"I just cleaned the house.  We can't let it get dirty!"
"I'm wierd.... I'm wierd on percocet."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why I'm Grateful For Gut Wrenching Pain

On Wednesday I was deathly ill.  I had terrible stomach cramps, and other symptoms that were even less pleasant.  This story is not about my sickness, but I am very grateful I got sick.  Give me a few minutes to explain why.

First of all, last night I was planning on going to a Google conference.  There was going to be a speaker who would talk about the new Google Glass technology.  I was pretty excited about it.

But, even though I was feeling better yesterday, I wasn't feeling 100%.  I wasn't feeling quite up to driving to Salt Lake and being there several hours after a full day of work.

So, I decided not to go.  I just drove home after work.  The sickness is what got me home.

When I got home, Robyn was sitting on the couch, holding her hand on top of her head.  When I first saw her, I thought she was holding her head.  I thought she had a bad head ache or something.

I just asked, "What's happening right now?"

She answered with, "I cut my finger off."

I should make it clear, her finger is still on, at least the vast majority of it.  She was exaggerating, but I thought she was exaggerating a lot more than she really was.  I had no idea that she was hurt as bad as she was.  At first, I thought it was just a little cut.

What I thought was holding her head, was actually holding her hand above her heart and resting it on her head, to help stop the bleeding.  She had it wrapped in a paper towel, and kept pressure on it for a good 20 minutes.  But as soon as she took any pressure off it, the blood gushed forth.

Eventually, after it was concluded the blood would not stop on its own, she made the decision.  She let me take her to a doctor.

And that's when I became grateful that I had felt yucky.  Otherwise, I would have gone to my conference, and she would have sat at home on the couch.  She would have down played how bad she was hurt, she would have tried to not bother me, and she would have sat there alone bleeding for several hours until I came home.  I don't like to picture it.  I'm very grateful that I came home on my own.

In the Emergency Room, I learned a new word.  The new word is "avulsion".  It basically refers to an injury where a chunk of tissue has been cut off, and there's nothing to stitch back together.  (If I'd have known that that's what happened, I would not have waited for her to make the decision to go to the doctor.)

She's cute when she's cranky about cutting off a piece of her finger.
This is the killer object.  It's called a mandolin.  I thought a mandolin was a musical instrument.  Apparently, it's a deadly musical instrument.

The doctors gave her some percocet as a pain killer. (She became an amusing person in the process, I'll write about that another time.)  They also were able to put a magic potion on the wound to help the blood clot.  After all that, they dressed the wound.

The doctor also promised us her finger will fully heal, she didn't cut off so much that it can't grow back.  So, the only permanent casualty is the sliced cucumber that is no longer edible because there's a piece of finger on top of it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

English Should be More Like Math

English is a flawed language.  It really is.

However, there are languages that are more pure, more beautiful, more logical.

Let me explain the problem.  This problem is more widespread than one little story can encompass.  But this little story will at least illustrate what I'm talking about.

Before I begin my story, it's important for you to know that everyone on the planet had a baby last summer. (I use the term "summer" somewhat loosely, to refer to any time that was warmer than I prefer.)  I can't explain it other than there must have been a lot of love in the air last winter.

So, every time we hang out with other couples, the main topic of conversation is usually their baby, which happens to have been born last summer.  Since we have no baby that was born last summer (or ever), our main strategy is to talk about our little nephew (who was born last summer, thus qualifying him for discussion).

On Saturday, I was doing just that.  I said something about "Robyn's sister and her husband."  My friend said, "but Robyn's husband is you."  Thus, the ambiguous pronoun came to rear its ugly head.  I could have said something like, "Robyn's sister and Robyn's sister's husband."  But then, why do we even have pronouns if we can't use them?

But if English were like math, I could say "(Robyn's sister) and her husband."  Thus, order of operations would kick in, the parentheses would be applied first and the resulting noun of (Robyn's sister) would be the only noun available for the pronoun to apply to.

If English were a computer language it would be even better.  The Robyn object would probably have a method called "sister" which would return a sister object.  The sister object would probably have a husband method as well.  Thus we would say, Robyn.sister() + Robyn.sister().husband();  (We would probably overload the method to change which sister is returned based on the parameters, but you're probably not interested in that.)

Of course, in a perfect computerized world, I wouldn't even have to refer to any siblings of Robyn.  I would probably come with a nephew method.  Thus, I would just Jeff.nephew() and hand you an exact copy of my nephew object that you could examine to your heart's content.
nephew.tongue is long and nephew.isPrecious is true
What bothers you about the English language?  Do we need a more logical form of communication?  I mean, any language that includes the word "irregardless" is clearly flawed.  Am I right?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mission Presidents Are Awesome

On Saturday night I had the opportunity to hang out with my Mission President.  (Ten years ago, I served as a missionary for my church in North and South Dakota.  A Mission President is the individual assigned by the church to oversee, inspire, motivate, teach, train, preside over, love and serve the missionaries.)

There are few people in the world that have had as profound of an effect on my life as President Mecham.  He helped teach me and mold who I was during a very important and influential period of my life.  It's been several years since I've had a chance to talk with him.  It was great to see him again and remember what a true inspiration he has been.

I have developed so much respect for this man, and I have always thought he was someone I want to be like.  I thought I would talk about just a few of the attributes I would like to emulate.

He is kind
As a new missionary, I flew into the Rapid City, South Dakota airport and was picked up by President and Sister Mecham.  I remember being terrified because I didn't know what being a missionary was going to be like.  We spent our first night at their home, before being assigned to our first mission areas.  We ordered pizza and just got to know each other.  I remember that he really made me feel at ease.  He made me feel like I had a true friend who was in my corner.

He also made me feel really short.
He takes the time to teach
I remember one time I was really struggling with keeping the missionary schedule.  I worked hard all day and was just exhausted.  I couldn't get myself out of bed at 6:30 in the morning.  He taught me an important lesson, and he did it in a way that wasn't condescending or rebuking.  He simply said, "Let the spirit command the flesh."  He taught me how to overcome that weakness of mine.  And he did it in a way that made me feel loved.

He is in tune with the will of the Lord
As a missionary, I had multiple experiences where I knew I was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be.  One of the duties of the Mission President is to assign a missionary to his area of service.  There were times where I got a call that said that I would be moving 500 miles away tomorrow.  Those times frustrated me until I got to the new area and met the person that only I could touch, for one reason or another.  I was so glad that President Mecham listened to the Lord, and not my whining.

He is fun
One time, my companion and I were dropping off another missionary at the airport in Fargo, ND.  We saw these awesome viking helmets and knew in our hearts that we needed them.
We make this airport gift shop look good
We took them home and decided they were our "zone leader authority hats".  Naturally, all those in our zone understood and recognized the power they gave us.  One time at Zone Conference, we smuggled in our authority hats.  We pulled our Mission President into a side room and showed them to him.  We asked him to wear one for us.  Naturally, he tried it on.  He could have told us that missionaries shouldn't be so silly.  But he humored us and had fun with it.
If he'd have seen this picture, he may have told us not to be so silly.
He builds people up
As a missionary, every time I saw him, he made me feel like I was awesome.  Even now, I get excited to see him, partly because I know I'm going to feel like a hero after talking to him for a few minutes.

There's lots more I could say.  He really is someone I'd like to be like.  But, at least there's one attribute that he has that I have also mastered.  He looks good next to his awesome wife.  I've got that one dominated.

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