Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Morning in the Pacific Northwest

This year we spent Thanksgiving in the greater Seattle area.  Robyn's grandfather lives up here, so we thought it would be fun to come spend a few days with him to celebrate the holiday.

I got up early Thanksgiving morning and wanted to do some exercise.  I figured I would allow myself to eat pretty much whatever I wanted on this trip, but that made it that much more important for me to get plenty of exercise.

Of course, it's not hard to feel motivated to get out and exercise when I'm in such a beautiful area that needs exploring.  I set out to go on a walk, without a destination in mind.  I quickly discovered lots of trails that lead deep into the wilderness.  Clearly these trails weren't going to explore themselves.  By the time I got back to the house, I had walked 7 miles, climbed over rocks, scrambled through trees and almost fell in the Puget Sound.

Here are a few of the things I saw along my way.

I found lots of dirt roads that lead into wilderness.  Most of them turned out to be really long driveways.  But I explored them anyway.  That's how I roll.

I found Lois Lane.  I took a picture so I could show superman.

I could see the Sound through the trees.  All I ever wanted was to hike down to it.

I encountered lots of boggy wilderness that did not want to let me through.
I thought the mossy trees were really pretty.
Anyone who knows me knows I need to touch everything.  Moss is no exception,

After several attempts to get down to the water, I found a place that I could actually get through.  It turns out that getting through to the water can be very dangerous, due to the temptation to eat delicious animals.
Stupid fat people pollute the water and make once delicious animals yucky.
  When I finally made it down to the water, I was slightly disappointed.  I was hoping for a beach that I could run along or something.  What I found was really slippery mud that almost made me fall in the water 2 different times.  But at least this precious little tree stump was here to stand stoic and alone.

After finding the Sound, I ventured into several other lost and forbidden paths.  I was amazed how thick the trees were.  I was within 50 feet of a major road when I took this picture:

 Look how thick the trees are!  The only disappointing thing about the wilderness was that I didn't see a single Sasquatch.  If there's one thing the Syfy channel has taught me, it's that you're guaranteed to see a Sasquatch in the Pacific northwest.  I'm beginning to think that the Syfy channel deceived me.

Maybe we can't trust the Syfy channel.  But we can definitely trust Steven Spielberg, right?  If there's one thing that the Jurassic Park movies taught me, it's that when you see ferns, you're guaranteed to see dinosaurs.
I see ferns, but there was not a single velociraptor.  Disappointing.
The scariest animal among the ferns was little old me.
 As I was walking the various paths, it was fun to pretend I was in complete solitude in unexplored nature.  Of course, the fact that every path ultimately ended in a secluded house kind of ruined that illusion.
These people probably live off the land.  They're so secluded they probably don't even know that there are other people a few hundred yards away.

 One path didn't end with a house, it just ended with this tree who, true to its claim, has never littered at my house.

Eventually I wound up on a trail that actually ran along the water's edge.  I took this picture looking out at the water.

 Soon after that, I realized that I needed to head back if we were going to make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time.  Beautiful nature is fun, but being late for the most important meal of the year is no fun.  I headed back, but that just means that I need to do more exploring later.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why I'm a Humbug Before Thanksgiving

I love Christmas.  I really do.

I love thinking about the miracle of our Savior's birth. I particularly love the story of the Shepards.  I love to imagine what it must have been like to see the angels come down and tell them that the very same God who had parted the Red Sea and performed countless miracles, was now a tiny baby born under the most humble circumstances, in a stable.

I love reflecting on the life of our Savior.  His birth would be meaningless, if it wasn't followed by the life He lead, His ministry, His miracles, His teachings, and His resurrection.

There are more secular things I love about Christmas too.  I love that it's a time that we get to focus on family.  I love that both my family, and Robyn's family, have traditions that are near to our hearts.  I love that Robyn and I have been able to embrace them both while creating some new ones that are unique to the two of us.

I love putting up the Christmas tree, and making it pretty.  I love putting presents underneath, and feeling some of the nostalgia of the anticipation I felt for Christmas as a child.

I love looking outside and seeing the untouched snow on a white Christmas morning.  I love how snow dampens the sound so that the world seems so quiet and peaceful.

I love watching people open presents, especially when I got them that perfect gift that they weren't anticipating.

I could list countless other things I like about Christmas, but that's actually not what I wanted to write about with this post.  You see, Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and I am notoriously anti-Christmas before Thanksgiving.

I wanted to tell you some of the things I love about Christmas, so that you could understand that I'm not just anti-Christmas in general.  But to help you understand why I get cranky when I see Santa Clause in a store the day after Halloween, I have to tell you about the one thing I dislike about Christmas.

I hate consumerism.

Look, I enjoy giving gifts, and I enjoy receiving gifts.  But I hate that people feel obligated to buy a present for every person they know.  And I particularly hate that businesses, consumed by greed, have all but erased Thanksgiving, because it's not a profitable enough holiday.

When I see Santa Clause in a store in November, I don't feel like that store is so eager to celebrate the birth of Christ, that they just can't wait any longer.  What I see is an institution that is so eager to make money, that they have to encourage everyone to BUY MORE AND BUY NOW!

I see this issue as particularly prevalent with Black Friday.  I don't have a problem with the fact that stores recognize a big shopping day and therefore compete to have good sales.  I don't have any problem with spending Thanksgiving enjoying the company of your family and then spending the next day searching out something special for them that you think they will enjoy.  But businesses have made such a point in beating each other out to sit on the throne as the most materialistic company, that Black Friday has swallowed Thanksgiving whole, and left nothing in its place.  So many companies now begin their sales on Thanksgiving day, not only taking shoppers away from their families but taking employees away from their families as well.

If you're so eager to buy things for your family, that you can't actually spend any time with them because you need to save a few dollars, then perhaps you're a little too focused on the things and not enough on the relationships.

I hate the consumerist mentality that seems to fill every store around Christmas.  Can we at least keep that part of Christmas confined to December?

How about the rest of Christmas?

Peace on Earth good will toward men?  That sounds like a good thing all year long.

Brotherly love?  Honoring the birth of the Savior of mankind?  I'll take those any month out of the year.

How about seeing something in a store that you think will bring joy to a loved one?  That one even sounds good in July.

Feeling pressure to buy things you can't afford?  Standing in long lines to save a few dollars?  Fighting strangers over the last toy on the shelf?  Those are things I'd like to do away with completely.  But if we have to have them, can we confine them to one month out of the year?

I've long given my Mom a hard time about playing Christmas music all year long.  I've only recently recognized that the reason I dislike Christmas outside of December is that so much of our culture is focused on the consumerist aspect of Christmas when they bring it early that I just think of that when I hear it.  (Even though that is not my Mom's focus at all.)  If we can all agree to let Christmas be about our Savior, about our families, and about love, I might just stop giving my Mom a hard time about playing Christmas music in July.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preciousness in the Snow

Something amazing happened this week. Robyn had fun, IN THE SNOW!  I know, it's hard to believe.  I wouldn't believe it myself if I wasn't there.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  She didn't build a snowman, or throw a snowball, or really do anything snow related other than walking through it.  But she was standing on top of snow and she was smiling.  Miracles do happen.

The key to this miracle was our good friend Jackie.  She recently got engaged to her Italian lover Giuseppe.  She invited us to go hiking, and clearly we weren't going to turn down valuable Jackie/Giuseppe time.  The location of the hike was chosen as Big Springs in Provo Canyon, which just so happens to be the place where Robyn and I got engaged.

Naturally, we made everyone stand in the spot where we got engaged so that we could take a precious picture.
These precious people had their preciousness increase ten fold when they stood in such a precious spot.

Jared was the photographer, so he made sure to take a selfie.  We made sure to photobomb his selfie.
We've been up there many times, but we've actually never hiked it in the snow.  That may be due to the fact that getting Robyn to go anywhere in the snow is difficult, but look how cute she is.

It's like she's twice as cute in the snow.

Everyone else had their normal cuteness level in the snow.
It was a great hike.  We had lots of fun.  My shorts were perfect winter hiking attire.  However, something really strange happened when we got home that evening.  Apparently I got more chilled than I realized.  Once I was inside our warm house, my body suddenly decided that it was cold.  I FELT COLD!  I don't even know what's happening to me.  I put on some sweats and I EVEN WORE SOCKS!

Take a good look.  It may never happen again.
Don't worry.  An hour later the world returned to normal and I put on shorts and let my feet go free.  But for a brief moment, I was in the Twilight Zone.  It was a strange place indeed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Worst Thing that Could Ever Happen

You know those things that you see happen to other people where you're super sad for them but a part of you is secretly glad that it didn't happen to you?  You know how another part of you quietly acknowledges that at some point it's going to be you that has the bad thing happen?

Well, it finally came around to me.  The worst thing that could ever happen actually happened.

I completely shattered the screen of my brand new iPhone.

I know.  I shouldn't have just dropped a bomb on you like that.  I'll give you a moment to gather yourself together.  Take a moment.  Think happy thoughts.  Take a deep breath.  

Are you okay?  

So here's how it happened.  I was getting ready for my morning walk.  I was all decked out with my 2 jackets, my gloves and my hat.  I was ready to brave the early morning Utah cold and get in some good exercise.  I walked out the front door, pulled my phone out of my pocket to start Runkeeper, and suddenly the phone leaped from my fingers.  

It was sort of like in The Lord of the Rings when the ring betrays Isildur and jumps off of his finger.  (If you don't understand that reference, go sit in the corner and read one of the greatest works of literature ever written, and I'd like a 500 word essay about Isildur's Bane on my desk tomorrow morning.)

The phone fell from my fingers, fell beyond my feet on to the top stair, then for good measure it bounced once and hit the ground again.  You know how in movies when something like that happens the protagonist yells, "Noooooo!" in slow motion and everything slows down as you see it hit the ground?  Well, it totally didn't happen like that because in real life time doesn't slow down.  But I did say, "Oh no!".

It landed upside down so I couldn't see whether it was damaged.  I've dropped it many times before.  (That's how I roll.)  So I thought (hoped) it might have remained safe from destruction.  I picked it up and looked at it, and it looked like this.

My heart filled with sadness.  I thought of how sad I would be to have to look at those cracks for 2 years until I'm ready to upgrade to a new phone.  

I contacted the Apple Store.  It turns out that they have a magical alchemy that allows them to convert money into uncracked glass.  I made an appointment, gave them $109 (I know, it's expensive but it's better than the ten billion it would cost to buy a new phone) and let them perform their wizardry.

I was a happy boy.
I have to tell you, handing over my phone was a bit unnerving.  The Apple Store guy was verifying my contact information before I handed it over.  I wanted to explain to him that there will be no way to contact me.  I'm about to go dark for an hour while you fix this.  

It turned out I completely survived without my phone for a full hour.  

Pro tip:  Next time, I'll bring my Kindle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Princess and a Time Lord

I love Halloween.  I've always loved everything about it.  I love costumes.  I love candy.  I love scary movies.  I can't think of anything I don't like about Halloween.

Robyn, however, feels slightly different about Halloween.  For every ounce of love that I have for this holiday, Robyn has an equal amount of hatred for it.  However, this year we discovered the antidote to Robyn's hatred of Halloween.

All Robyn needed was the chance to dress like a princess.
Pretty pretty princess
She told me she wanted to buy a Sleeping Beauty costime, and she seemed like she was excited about it.  I had no idea how much she would enjoy it until she tried it on.  She was sooo happy!
Even without the dress, the shoes brought her great joy.

She wore her costume for the kids at school, and from what she tells me it was a big hit.  One girl came up to her and said, "Hello, Aurora!"  Robyn was totally a real princess.

That evening we stayed home to pass out candy to the children of the world.  I didn't really have a costume, but I wore my Doctor Who T-shirt.

Time lords totally take bathroom selfies.
I was surprised how many kids got really excited about my shirt.  It was almost like I was wearing a real costume.  I probably got more comments about my shirt than I get when I actually dress up.  One girl that was about 13 told me she was in love.  I just gave her candy and kept to myself how awkward that sounded.

My favorite Trick-or-Treater was a little girl who was in our Sunbeam class a few years ago.  She's 5 or 6 now.  She was dressed as a Victorian era vampire.  She had fangs with blood dripping down her chin, and she was wearing a fancy Victorian dress.  I told her she was a very scary vampire.  That pleased her greatly.  Then she told me about my neighbors who were less pleasing,  "They said I am a pretty princess.  I am NOT a princess!"

I'm glad we live in a world where my wife can be happy being a princess, and others can be just as happy as undead blood suckers.  I'd say that Halloween was a true success.
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