Monday, April 29, 2013

The Barnes and Noble Date

Since Robyn and I have been together, we've made it a goal to do a "date night" once a week.  Back when we were just dating, I went out of my way to be super creative with date ideas.  I put together elaborate ideas that involved intricate plans, multiple locations, and some even lasted all day long.

Since we've been married, my creativity has definitely dropped.  Most weeks our date consists of going out to dinner.  It's certainly not the most creative, but we both enjoy the time together, and we both have a deep and abiding love for food.

However, there is one date idea that I think is at least semi creative.  We've done it several different times, and it is definitely one of my favorite activities.

I call this brilliant idea, the Barnes and Noble date.

Before I explain this date, there is something you should know about me.  I love to read.  As a teenager, I was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club.  Each month, I would get the little newsletter (that was essentially a book catalog) and I would pore over it, excitedly looking at what was new in the science fiction community.  As I got older, Amazon replaced the Science Fiction Book Club, and I have expanded my horizons to include other books besides science fiction.  (But don't worry, I still read plenty of science fiction.)

So here's the premise of the Barnes and Noble date.  Robyn often gets gift cards from her students, (or more accurately, their parents) for Christmas, or end of the year, or teacher appreciation day or whatever other reason students have to give presents to teachers.  (I personally think there should be more reasons for presents, but that's just me.)  One company that the cards often represent, is Barnes and Noble.

The date is simple.  We go to Barnes and Noble, we take the gift card, and we each get to choose exactly one book.

Robyn occasionally makes me go shopping with her for things like clothes.  On these occasions I usually weep and wail and gnash my teeth.  But shopping for books is totally different.  I love to stew over what book to purchase.  I use my Goodreads and Amazon apps on my phone to scan the ISBN number and then read reviews.

I buy books all the time.  But the Barnes and Noble date is different.  I try to come without any preconceived notion of what I will walk out of the store with.  I try to find something that I wasn't aware of before, that will bring me gladness.

It's like a treasure hunt, trying to discover that gem that you didn't know already existed.

Are you dying to know what gem I unearthed?  Well, what if the man who brought us John Carter and Tarzan wrote a book about a land filled with dinosaurs?  Wouldn't that be a fabulous gem?

I haven't actually read it yet, but it seemed like a gem.  So I made it happen.

What are some creative date ideas that you have tried?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Baby Food Challenge

There's a phenomenon travelling around YouTube.  Now, it should be known, I'm not a huge YouTuber.  But every once in a while, I see something and I think to myself, "I really need to do that."

That urge is something most people call, "stupidity."

But, stupid or not, I realized I really needed to do the Baby Food Challenge.

The challenge is simple, you eat baby food that your friends have selected so that you have no idea what it is.  You aren't allowed to see, so you can't get any clues from the color, and you just try to guess what the flavor is.

It turns out the flavor for all of them (except for the fruit flavors) could be termed, "gross, with a dash of death."

Also, I'm terrible at that game.  Remind me to never do that again.

And finally, why is there no bacon flavored baby food?  I'm sensing a million dollar market there.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Faithfulness in Times of Trial

For the last 4 years of my life, I've spent 2 out of the 3 hours at church with 3-year-olds.  This year, we were asked to teach the 12-year-olds for one of those hours, which means the third hour was opened up for me to attend Elder's Quorum.  I was super excited about that at the beginning of the year.  I decided I wanted to make the best of it, so I set a goal to read the assigned readings every week before Sunday so that I could get the most out of the lessons.

This year, the book we have been reading is The Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow.  I really enjoy the weeks when we cover a chapter of this book.  I've come to call it "Book Club Week."  It functions just like a book club.  We have an assigned reading and we get together and discuss what we read.  And, just like every book club I've ever been a part of, most people don't actually finish the assigned reading, so it becomes a discussion between the three people who actually read, while everyone else does their best to get us off topic.  I love it.

This week's reading was Chapter 7:  Faithfulness in Times of Trial.  There were a lot of powerful lessons in this chapter.  The funny thing about this chapter, was that as I was reading, I actually had the thought:  "I really don't have that many trials."  Then, about a nanosecond later, the other half of my brain said, "Hey stupid head, do you not remember this past year?"  (Two things you should know about the quarreling parts of my brain.  1.They're not always friendly to each other, but it's always out of love.  2.They name call each other like 2nd graders.)

(I am about to tell you about 2 trials that I have not talked about before on this blog.  Both were too difficult to write about at the time.  But, apparently since I forgot that they were trials, I have healed sufficiently to talk about them.)

The cranky half of my brain continued, "Remember how you paid a doctor $5000 to cut you open.  Remember how that was almost exactly a year ago?  Remember how painful it was?  Remember how you had to lay in bed for 3 days?"

Remember how cute I was in the process?
I have to explain a little bit more about why I was in the hospital.  As most of you know, Robyn and I are trying to adopt.  I may write more about how we came to that decision later.  But, I'll just say now that we arrived at that decision only after several years of trying to have kids, working with fertility experts, even getting surgery in hopes of helping the problem, and ultimately being told it was impossible.

To say that it was a trial would be an understatement.  Here is an excerpt from my journal in May of last year:  "Robyn made the statement, 'All I ever wanted was to be a mom.  Is that so much to ask?'  It shook me to the very core.  I wept with her.  She has always had an urgency about having kids.  I have never felt that.  It's always been something that I want in the future but it doesn't have to be today.  But when I realized that someday may not be an option, and never may be the only option.  That really hit me.  I don't know how to deal with never."

In high school they try to convince you that you should never even talk to girls because they might get pregnant if you hold hands.  Apparently that is the case for most people, which makes it even harder to not be most people.  It's difficult to watch announcements of pregnancy pretty much every day on Facebook, and realize that we will never make that announcement.

I have been blessed with something that I believe is much more powerful than my trials.  I have been blessed with faith.  I thoroughly believe that the Lord has a plan for my life.  I know that His plan includes what is absolutely best for me.  Why would I not want to take the road that ends with the absolute best thing, regardless of how bumpy that road?

I've had to make peace with the idea that the plan I started with, is not necessarily the same as the plan the Lord has laid out.  That certainly hasn't been easy, but the Lord has "consecrated my afflictions for my gain" (Jacob 2:2) and I have really felt that.  Going through the trial of infertility has certainly brought me closer to Robyn.  I've also been endowed with a greater level of faith that has given me the strength to move forward.

Infertility is actually what leads into the next trial.  Since then, the road we've begun to travel is toward adoption.  On the road to adoption we were required to get checked out by doctors.  (They basically just have to say that we're going to live for 18 years, so we can raise a child.)  While I was being checked out for adoption, the doctor ran some blood tests and let me know that I am diabetic.

For me, that was worse than the infertility revelation.  I was completely terrified of diabetes.  All I knew about diabetes was that it makes people go blind, lose limbs, have heart attacks and kidney failure.  I read more about it.  I read about neuropathy in your extremities, where it feels like you have barb wire tightly wound around your feet.

I was so afraid of the complications of diabetes, I literally wept.  It seemed to me, my options were to suffer through neuropathy or to never eat food again.

But then I realized how blessed I was to find out relatively early on.  Most people get diagnosed in their 50s. They often have to go right into insulin therapy because their pancreas has already become a casualty to the disease.  I was given the blessing of some medication to lessen the risks.  I was given the blessing of having a choice to change my lifestyle.

I've heard it said that there are two forms of motivation.  You can be running from a nightmare, or you can be chasing a dream.  Two months ago I began running from a nightmare.  I realized I needed to change my lifestyle and get healthier to lessen my risks of diabetes complications.  In those 2 months I've lost about 30 pounds.  I've turned back the clock about 5 years.  I feel healthier than I have felt in a long time.  

To be honest, I no longer fear the nightmare.  I am much more motivated by the dream.  I've had enough success in changing my health already that I'm beginning to see a future that I wouldn't have dreamed possible before.

What will it be like to be able to do things I haven't done in years?  I'll be able to stand on top of mountains.  I'll be able to ride in an airplane without having to request a seat belt extender.  I'll be able to explore the world and not have to waste so much of my vacation time resting in a hotel room.  I'm gonna go sky diving!  (They don't let super obese people go sky diving.)

I have realized what a blessing it is to have found out about my diabetes.  It has given me the motivation to change and to become a new person.   That trial/blessing grew out of the first trial of infertility.  I would not have found out about my diabetes without going through the adoption process.

When I think about my life, I think about how excited I am about the future.  My life is better now than it was a year ago.  I feel closer to my wife.  I feel healthier.  I feel more spiritual strength.  I feel happier.  

That's why it's so hard to remember that I have trials.  Trials don't stay as trials for very long.  They have a way of turning into blessings.

It's certainly still difficult to know that we can't have a family in the way we originally planned.  It's difficult to know that I will always have to manage a disease that could have terrible complications if left unchecked.  But, ultimately, I look forward to a future where every day is brighter and better than the day before, both in this life as well as the next.

As Lorenzo Snow said, "I know that your lives have not been all sunshine; you have doubtless passed through many a trial, and perhaps you have come up through much tribulation; but by continued integrity you will soon emerge from the shadows into the glorious sunshine of the celestial world."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I Was Fat in Hawaii

The last few months I've been working really hard to lose weight.  Though, I've seen progress on the scale (and more importantly, in my ability to move around and enjoy my life) I wasn't entirely convinced that there were any visible changes.

Then I was looking at pictures of our Hawaii vacation last year.  This is me in the Maui airport about 10 months ago.

Don't get me wrong, I was quite precious.  But I just now noticed my dewlap made of fat.

Here is me right now.  (Well, not exactly, I took the picture like 3 minutes ago.)
I still have plenty to lose, but there's a noticeable difference, amiright?

Naturally, after looking at my reflection in the phone, it was important to try and recreate how I looked in the Hawaii picture.
Perhaps I haven't made any progress after all.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Alaska Here I Come

This week something very important happened.  This might blow your mind, so brace yourself.  Are you ready?

The cruise company took my money.  That's right.  It's official.  I'm going on a cruise to Alaska this summer.  I actually booked it like 2 months ago, but at that point I only had to pay a deposit.  Now I've actually paid for the whole thing which probably doesn't make it any more official, since it was already official.  But now it feels official.

I'm very excited for all the things I'm going to experience while I'm in Alaska.  Because I know all of you are eager to experience my trip through this blog, I have taken the liberty of traveling to the future and grabbing some photos off of my camera.  Don't worry, this isn't all of them.  I will share more after the actual trip.  So you still have plenty to look forward to.

But, here are some of the highlights of my future trip.

I'm going to see eagles in the wild.
Naturally, I'm going to go Hobbit style, with the eagles.

I'm going to go whale watching.
When I go whale watching, I don't just watch from a boat.  I like to put on my life jacket, and really become part of the action.
I'm going to ride a train into the Alaskan wilderness.
Maybe I'll even be the conductor.

I'm even going to encounter Sasquatch in the wilderness.
This is in a weird part of the wilderness where it is half green and half brown.

And, of course, don't forget about the delicious food I'm going to eat on the cruise.
Sometimes I eat sandwiches in one bite.

As you can see, I'm going to do a lot of amazing things.  Stay tuned for this summer when I show you even more pictures of my adventures.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Day the Wind Blew My Clothes Off

It would appear that both Robyn and I should stay indoors when the wind is blowing.  Because, try as we might, we are unable to stay fully clothed if the wind gets strong enough.

The above title may not be 100% accurate.  The wind didn't actually blow my clothes off.  But the wind was blowing, and as an indirect result, I lacked clothes.  So I felt it was close enough that you wouldn't begrudge me the use of the sensationalist title.  Plus, I thought it would be a good sequel to my post from last year about when the wind blew my wife's clothes off.

To set the stage for this story, you first need to understand that I have no bum.  I sat down to write this post Sunday evening, and I realized my bumlessness was an important factoid you needed to understand, so I wrote that post instead.

Also, with my recent lifestyle change where I'm trying to be more healthy, one of the things I've been doing is walking on the treadmill each morning before work.  We have a TV in front of the treadmill and I can watch various forms of amusement while I exercise.  Right next to the TV is a window that happens to look directly into my neighbor's backyard.

Okay, so here's the story.

The other morning, there was some crazy wind.  I was walking on my treadmill, minding my own business, when I saw something very large blow into my neighbor's backyard.  My first thought was, "Wow, somebody lost something big."  My second thought was, "Wait, that is ours.  We lost something big."

We recently put together some grow boxes so we could have a garden in our back yard.  We put in fresh mulch and put some big cardboard pieces on top to help keep the soil from drying out.

Those large cardboard pieces had decided to vacate our yard and visit our neighbors.

Naturally, I ran outside in hopes of capturing them before they went too far.

Our neighbors had the excellent foresight to have some big bushes in their backyard.  These bushes captured these cardboard sheets so that I could retrieve them.  I grabbed the sheets and did my best to make my way back to my own yard.

Did I mention it was windy?  Did I mention the cardboard sheets were large?  I've never felt like the wind could blow me away until this moment.

I'm a sailor.  I sail.
It turns out the principles behind sailing apply whether you're in a boat, or just standing there.  The best I could do was plant my feet and not move.  I was successfully not blowing away, but I realized I probably couldn't just stand there and wait for the wind to stop.

I devised a strategy to turn my body around so that the sail would be blowing into me instead of trying to carry me away.  I was able to get turned around, and my strategy worked.  There was still a lot of wind resistance, and movement wasn't exactly easy, but at least I could walk.

Now is the time when you need to remember that I have no bum.  The shorts I wear on the treadmill are the same ones I wear to bed.  They are intentionally loose fitting for maximum comfort.  But since I am more bumless than I was a few months ago, they are especially loose fitting.  (I've taken to hiking them up over my belly while on the treadmill.  I'm sure it's a fantastic sight.)

As I started walking, while simultaneously being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, I suddenly realized something that was very disheartening.  My shorts were around my ankles.

By this time I had made my way to my own front yard, which is an excellent place to be standing with your pants around your ankles while fighting the wind to keep yourself vertical.  The other issue was that my hands were somewhat occupied holding onto the cardboard sheet.

I did my best to pull my shorts back up without letting go of the cardboard or blowing away myself.  I slowly waddled my way to the back yard where I restored the cardboard to its home.

If I'd have thought of the rocks beforehand, I could have remained fully clothed.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Incredible Vanishing Bum

I don't have a bum.

It's a reality I've come to live with.  I have zero junk in the trunk.  There's plenty of junk everywhere else, but the trunk is entirely empty.

This is my body shape
As you can see, I have more than enough belly.  But it pretty much goes straight down on the back side.

This has always been a difficult issue for me.  My belly likes to push downward on my pants.  However, where most people can rely on their bum to fight the downward forces of the belly and help to hold the pants up, I have no bum to speak of.  So I am always having to pull up my pants, regardless of how tight my belt is.

That's how my situation has been for a long time.  Well, recently I've been working really hard to control my diet and do more exercise.  I've had a good amount of success.  I've lost about 25 pounds and I weigh less than I did on my wedding day.  That's the good news.  The bad news is, I'm pretty sure that 20 pounds of that has come out of my bum.

I don't have any empirical evidence to prove that number.  But here's my entirely non scientific proof.

1.  My belly still looks the same size to me.
2.  Every item of clothing that is supposed to go around my waist totally falls off now.
3.  (This is the most compelling evidence)  My bum totally hurts if I sit for longer than 20 minutes.  It feels like I'm sitting directly on bones.

This is what I envision is happening in my body.

Subordinate Officer:  Sir, we appear to be burning more calories than we are bringing in.  Request we use some fat stores.
Chief Metabolism Officer: You have my permission to use the fat from the trunk area.
Subordinate:  Sir, that area has a very limited supply.  Shouldn't we leave some to be used as a cushion for sitting?  Request permission to use fat from the belly.
Chief:  The belly?  Are you talking about his snuggle tummy?  Permission denied!

(My 8 year old niece told me she doesn't want my snuggle tummy to get any smaller.)

I'm looking for a new chief metabolism officer.  I'm not really sure who hired him, but I fear that if his behavior continues I'm going to look like this.

I could have the first concave bum in history.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Epic Monitronics Battle

I just won an epic battle.  It was long and frustrating, but the important thing is that I won.

This is who the battle was against

For all my normal readers, this is a somewhat long story.  Personally, I think it's a good story, but I think every story about me is good.  Therefore, I'll understand if you don't want to read it.  I'm writing this more for those people who are having similar issues.

Welcome friends from Google (and regular friends who haven't stopped reading after that disclaimer), here is my story:

So let me start at the beginning.  We have 2 accounts with Monitronics.  Monitronics is a security company.  They provide the monitoring for our security system so if anything goes wrong they will automatically contact police for us.  The 2 accounts are for the house we live in and our rental property.

Our tenants don't really care about the security system.  They don't really use it, so we figured that we would cancel that account.  However, the account at our house is the one where the contract has expired.  The rental contract doesn't expire until August of next year.

I called Monitronics to see if we could cancel the account at our Lehi house but move our Orem (rental) account to Lehi.  That way, we continue service where we want it, but we don't have to pay for 2 accounts when the second isn't being used.

When I called Monitronics, they said that the Lehi account (the one we live at) doesn't expire until June 2016.  I pulled out the contract and it clearly said that it was a 60 month contract that ends in March of 2013.  But since that's not what they put in their computer, there was no convincing them.  (We had moved in 2011.  They claimed that moving started the contract over, but there was nothing to that effect in the contract.)

They did say they could combine the 2 contracts but they would tack the remaining months from the Orem house onto the end of the Lehi contract, so it would end in late 2017.  We plan to continue to have a security system, but A)We want the freedom to shop around, B)Most companies offer incentives to sign a new contract, we want those incentives for those extra 3 years and C)We just want to have them honor the contract we signed.

Imagine if you bought a car.  You agreed to pay a certain price over a certain term.  Five years later, you pay your last payment, and they say, "Well, you're going to need to pay another 2000 dollars because that's what we put in our computer."  You show them the contract, with the agreed upon price, and they tell you that doesn't matter because they put something else in their computer.

I had an attorney review the contract to make sure I wasn't missing anything.  She said that I was right, and they were trying to cheat me.

I did some Googling and I found the phone number of a magical guru at Monitronics who would actually work with me.  I told him my story.  He promised he would look into it.

He spent about 4 days looking into it.  Finally, we talked again and he offered a compromise.  He said he would combine the contracts and he would knock 18 months off of the total term (which includes the extra 3 years they fabricated), so it would end in May of 2016.  To go back to the car analogy, after you tell them you're not paying the extra $2000, they say they will compromise and only charge you $1000 more than you agreed on.  That's better than $2000, but it still makes you want to punch them in the face.

I told him I appreciate his help, but if that is the solution I will be going directly to the Better Business Bureau.  I told him my attorney confirmed that the contract clearly says my term is over and I'm not accepting anything else.

He asked me what it would take to make me happy.  I explained that all I wanted was for them to honor the contract I had signed.  I wanted to be paying for one account and I wanted that account to expire in August 2014.

He deliberated for a moment but he finally conceded.  He helped me move the Orem account to our Lehi house and cancel the other account.  There is no additional term.  It expires in August 2014 just like it should.


He told me he is doing this on good faith so that I'll want to stay with Monitronics after the contract period is over.

I really appreciate him helping me out.  In fact, I told him he's a real American Hero.  I feel like he really is an advocate for the customer.  I just wish I could feel like the company as a whole was advocating for the customer.  Maybe next year when my contract expires, my frustration over this will have subsided and I might stay with them.  But they probably shouldn't hold their breath.

So, if you are having trouble with Monitronics, here is my advice.

1. Talk to an attorney.  I had one look at my contract for $40.  It was the best $40 I ever spent, because it gave me the confidence to stand up to the bullying by Monitronics.
2.  Make sure you mention the Better Business Bureau.  I never had to actually contact them, but they are there to protect you from this kind of garbage.
3.  Don't accept their "compromises".  Cheating you a little bit less is still cheating you.  It's like a robber coming into your house and only stealing your TV and expecting you to thank him for not taking your wallet.
4.  Contact the guru that helped me. Here is his contact info:
David Sodiende
8:00am-7:00pm M-Th, 
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m Friday

Good luck with your battle.   I don't know why they seem to train most of their reps to cheat you by default, but David really can help and he will.  So call him.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Festival of Colors 2013

This weekend we had planned to take a little Easter vacation.  My parents had their time share down in St. George and we were going to go down there for some hiking, swimming, fun in the sun and relaxation.

Unfortunately, there was a little mix-up   It turns out they had booked the condo for March 29, 2014.  March 29th was when we planned to go down, but it turns out that the year portion of the date is important.  And since this year is 2013, they weren't gonna let us use the condo.  (How rude!)

We were sad that our plans fell through.  (But, I was more sad for my mom, we were just going to spend the weekend but they were making it a bigger trip.)  Fortunately, there was a silver lining to the cloud of the timeshare mix-up.   I got the opportunity to cross a very important item off my bucket list.

Every year around this time I see all sorts of pictures cropping up on Facebook from the festival of colors that happens at the Hare Krishna Temple.  I've always wanted to attend, but every year we end up making plans on that weekend before realizing that we are once again going to miss it.

Well, this year since our plans fell through, we decided to attend so that we could put our own pictures of our brightly colored selves on Facebook.  Here is the sum of our experience in pictures.
The temple filled with people as we approach
The cloud of colors from people throwing
Robyn and I with the colorful people

Robyn and I with our friend Kayli

Colorful Kissing

Selfie before we get back in the car
Isn't she cute?

It was a great experience.  They had a band playing and people were singing and dancing.  I love to experience other cultures.  I think the celebration of colors and "lovingly coloring each other" is a fabulous form of worship.

One of my favorite parts was when the band was playing Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, only they had changed the lyrics to be about Krishna.  It was kind of awesome.

My second favorite part was throwing colors on people who were walking in as we were leaving.  They were blank canvasses, ready to become works of art.

If you haven't seen sufficient evidence of the good times, naturally we took a video before we got back in the car to drive away.

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