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[Comments] (1) Being an example of the believers (Timothy): I taught SS Lesson 41 the other week, which covers a lot of stuff (they all do), but I chose to focus on what it means to be a believer. Literally every time I sat down to prepare for this lesson, I ended up on a Mormon blog to re-hash recent events. It became a real distraction. I finally began to discipline and focus myself about two days before it was time to give my lesson. I was literally a wreck; I had no direction for this discussion.

Then I had an idea. On the chalkboard that Sunday, I wrote four names on the board: Nephi, Laman, Moses, and Emma Smith. The names of four believers, two brothers from the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament prophet responsible for re-establishing Judaism and Israel after the Egyptian captivity, and the wife of the first modern day prophet of the LDS church.

Under each name we listed their attributes. Then we had to collectively agree on one word that best fit each person: Nephi was recognized for his valiance; Laman for his worldliness; Moses as a lawgiver; Emma for her longsuffering. We then discussed that under the umbrella of attributes assigned to the term "believer" is the individual brands that follow. So the question becomes, what will be our individual brand as a believer? Will it be attributable to the Word of Wisdom, will we choose to be known for keeping a set of laws, or will it be for our zeal, or love, our compassion, etc? None of these is right or wrong per se, though there may be an individual answer that is better for us. The takeaway: play to your strength as a believer, and use your brand to make the world a better place.

This exercise literally lasted the entire length of the class, about 30 minutes (we were cut short due to the overrun of the Primary Program that day). I walked away feeling much better about life, and am particularly looking forward to my lesson next Sunday on the Epistle of Peter. Should it be successful, perhaps I will post more.

The manual, I might add, contained none of this, which is what I love. The prophet sets the curriculum, but I get to wrestle with the Spirit on the who, what why, and how (when and where are also outside my jurisdiction). It's been a great blessing in my life to study the material and try and direct the material in a direction that can be beneficial to many, including myself. I'm grateful for this calling.

[Comments] (4) Why I stay: It's probably safe to assume no one reads this blog anymore, because I don't post very often. I normally find Instagram to be my safe place, because who doesn't love pictures of food, cats, cool scenery, and the like, without the vagueness, fighting, and incorrect doctrine that is Facebook?

But today something happened, and I feel like talking about it. Perhaps this is the perfect outlet; I get to say it, and no one will read it, and thus no one gets offended (again, a huge perk of not being on Facebook).

My Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has added to its handbook a new category of apostasy: same sex marriage. Now children living in SSM families cannot be baptized until they are 18, and until they disavow the sins of their parents. While the former makes me wonder, and the latter makes me curious (the who, what, when, where, why and how of the disavowal intrigues me), on the whole I've added one more reason to my list of why the Church just plain no longer works for me.

That being said, I stay. Don't get me wrong. I've often thought about leaving, if for no other reason than to make a point. The point being: you are wrong, and I therefore shun you. But really, that's a silly way to make a point. The Church continues without me, and I lose a part of me in the process.

So I stay. I stay because, despite this policy (the same policy exists for children from polygamous families by the way), despite the PR embarrassment we call Prop 8, despite the fact that we oust those that question things, despite the fact that Republicans=Mormonism, despite the fact that no one can give a good answer for why women cannot hold the Priesthood, despite the fact that I never knew until July that Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl and translated the book of Mormon with a brown stone inside a hat, despite the lame attempts to explain the Priesthood ban as anything other than the flaws of good men, this is my home.

I currently have the calling of Gospel Doctrine teacher. Which means, during the 180 minute church block, I am effectively in charge for 40 minutes of that time, roughly 25%. I have spent the last year, during our study of the New Testament, to use this time to achieve the following: (1) Focus more on Christ and less on silly things that often takes up valuable church space, including missionary guilt, defending the family (whatever that means; no one wants to abolish families), and pornography for the 5,000th time; (2) Challenge the class to read the scriptures with fresh eyes, to see things they never saw before, even though they've read the stories since they were children; (3) Contribute to a class environment where their voice can be heard (ie, I'm a facilitator, not a lecturer); (4) Help us feel the Holy Ghost in class, and follow its promptings to be better people the next six days.

I personally believe I fail at this more than I succeed. But the fact is, I currently have the opportunity/responsibility to be the change I want to see in the church. And that is way more powerful than walking away and being forgotten within a week.

I also stay because I don't have all the answers. So while I currently am at odds on probably 20 or so doctrinal and/or procedural aspects of the church, I recognize that I could be wrong. And until I receive my own personal revelation on these matters (something I'm working on, but for personal reasons seems to take time for me), I just can't write it off. The truth is, despite these obstacles, the church has been good to me. I've learned inside this church the joy of giving, the humility of receiving, to wonder and awe at the notion of sin, forgiveness, and the atonement, and to find purpose in mortality. And while I know I could have learned these elsewhere, I learned them here.

So I'm sticking with my Church. Because I believe I have a part to play. I can show people by the way I live my life that the Church tent is big enough for all, that the Church is not threatened when people bring their questions or their baggage along for the ride, and that the Church can still be a safe place where compassion is the rule and not the exception. So I stay.

test: test

the 'Go-to': Everyone has a go-to phrase, something they say when they don't know what to say. For Mary Poppins, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, for example.

For Dalton, it's 'you're funny!'

He seriously says it to adults when they say something to him and he's not quite sure how to respond. It normally gets a laugh in response, so perhaps HE is the funny one....

[Comments] (2) a funny thing happened on the way to the playground: Kids these days:

Maggie: I got invited to Ronan's birthday! Susie/John: Who's Ronan? Maggie: A boy from school. Susie/John: Are you friends with Ronan? Maggie: No, but he invited me, I think, because I'm a good example at school and he wants to say thank you. (Editor's note: Doubtful this is true, but glad my daughter has a pure heart).

John: I'm going for a walk. Maggie, want to ride your scooter? Maggie: No, I'll just walk with you dad. John: But it's going to be a long walk. Are you sure? Maggie: Yes. If I ride my scooter, I can't talk to you about things.

Dalton: Dad, I'm tired of being the cutest. I do NOT want to be the cutest anymore. (Editor's Note: Sienna is now the cutest and Dalton is the happiest).

Legoland is a pain because Sienna can't go on anything. Unlike Disneyland, the king of all amusement parks. The kids fight in line about who gets to take their turn with me. I may not have been cool at school, but I'm officially the favorite dad in this house!

ring out wild bells: Last week I was fortunate enough to have a 5-day Thanksgiving holiday, which inevitably meant I worked 2 hours a day rather than 14. Nothing beats trying to review a Chinese tax provision with a belly full of tryptophan.

Then Sunday night I took a red eye to Florida. The hotel, weather, and ambiance were very nice, and I actually slept well on the flight. The bummer was going from 50 degree weather to 80 degree weather and back again apparently reduced my defenses and now I'm sick. And I got to work those fun 14 hours days in Florida to boot. But it sure looked nice outside.

The 3-hour time change is, of course, no friend of mine either. I'm beginning now to see the immense benefit India has by being all in one time zone, even if it means they are 30 minutes off the rest of the world.

With three kids, a spouse, a demanding job, and a plethora of hobbies, I find myself constantly chasing time. I pine for the days when I wanted time to move forward. I suppose I'll see those days again in my twilight years. Until then, I merely hold on.

the way we were: Recent life highlights include:

1. Maggie fasting for Grandpa (she is suddenly interested in fasting).

2. Watching the original Star Wars series with the kids.

3. Getting extremely irritated with my career.

4. Learning more about birds than I really care to, because Maggie is into birds.

5. Trying to identify all the seed pods on different trees in our neighborhood, again because Maggie is interested.

6. Having Dalton shanghai all my evening constitutionals with Sienna into play dates at the park in the dark (daddy I want to go on your walk quickly turns into playing at the park, because every direction we could possibly walk in, there is a park!)

7. The Primary Program. I'm glad it's over.

8. Halloween. Our neighborhood does it right! I've never seen such a concentration of homes totally into Halloween! And the best part is, being on the corner, no one comes to our house so we can all go out as a family (dressed as Wreck It Ralph. Plus an owl).

9. Enjoying a wide range of weather. Some days are sunny and 80 (in November) and some days are foggy and 65. Love them both!

10. Watching my kids grow. In particular, Sienna. She loves the stairs.

: It doesn't matter how many times we sing "Child's Prayer" in Primary, I still get teary eyed. Which is not good, since I'm the one playing the piano.

party of five: It's so much fun watching my little family become less little, both in population and in age. We spent a wonderful day together, and all brought home a piece of the sun from Legoland as proof. My arms are slightly burned; Susie, her chest; Maggie and Sienna, their faces. Dalton may have escaped safe but since we wore him out and he fell asleep in the car on the way home, a full examination is still pending.

The drive to Legoland is about an hour, which is not ideal, but it's a beautiful drive along the coast.

i love my kids: I have some very sweet kids. I got up to bear my testimony on Sunday but someone beat me to it so I sat and the stand waiting my turn to speak. Dalton came running up and wanted to bear his testimony as well. Usually for little kids that want to do this, they just say what their parent whispers in their ear. I don't really like that. So instead Dalton recited the third article of faith, which he has memorized (has has memorized the first 5): "We believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel."

Since it was fast sunday, I fasted asking for help with my oh so fun medical issues. I broke my fast after church and was praying by my bedside. Maggie came in a few minutes later and said she saw me praying so she went to her room and prayed as well. When I asked what she prayed for, she said for me to feel better. So sweet. Maggie has passed off all 13 articles of faith, the first in the junior primary to do so.

Not a day goes by that Maggie doesn't impress me with her skills (she is an excellent artist in particular), Dalton doesn't make me laugh with something he says, and Sienna doesn't melt my heart with her smile. She's my evening walking companion on my daily constitutional and I think she enjoys these jaunts as much as I enjoy them. I love my kids!

: Friday Susie and I went and saw The Hunger Games. I was surprised to see a preview for The Host, which could be good (good book at least) and for Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, which is destined to be as good as it sounds I suppose.

Although the beginning of the movie was quite jumpy and bothersome they otherwise did a very good job.

Saturday we again worked in the yard until the trash can was full. Maggie and Dalton love working in the yard and Maggie kept insisting I should do more of this kind of work and less of my normal kinds of work. I prefer the desk job, however, to weed-pulling.

After that the wind blew non-stop but we still took the kids to the park, as it was otherwise a very nice day. The temperature came close to 80 degrees. Maggie and Dalton particularly enjoyed watching kids at the skate park. Then Sunday we woke up to snow and 45 degree weather. Typical spring in UT.

If I didn't know better, I would wonder if maybe I'm in a hunger game. Given how the gamemaker can play with the weather and all that.

[Comments] (2) Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey: There's nothing so tragic as seeing a family pulled apart by something as simple as a pack of wolves.

Or maybe Facebook.

turn turn turn: I really love spring. The sun setting around 7:30, the warmer weather, the ability to run outside, and oh the Vitamin D. The one downside to all of this is yard work. After leaving our yards in the hands of another for two years, what can I say, it's a disaster. She claims she didn't know the difference between our plants and weeds, and maybe that's true, but I think I'd rather be known as hating yard work than being simply that ignorant.

So today we hit Home Depot to buy some new trowels and yard lights, filled the garbage can full of leaves and weeds and stopped only when it was overflowing, I helped a neighbor move, and took the kids to the park. I can't get enough of the outdoors right now.

the world according to Miss Maggie: Things she made note of during our trip to Moab this weekend:

1. "Christopher Robbin is kind of a girl."

2. A top my shoulders, hiking back to the car from Landscape Arch "Go make something!" I thought she was talking to me, but she was talking to the wind, telling it to go make Arches and to leave us poor humans alone.

3. We left at 7 am Sat morning, with the kids sleepy-eyed and in their jammies. But first Susie put green dye in the toilet and told Maggie a leprechaun used the lew. Maggie was not happy and started crying. They she cried in the car because "We can't find Arches in ours pajamas" she told us. She had a rough morning.

4. "We might hurry before we get wet!" I might add we could see the rain clouds heading our way, blotting out blue skies and sunshine as they came, from miles and miles away. And Maggie was worried. Extremely worried. We saw 2 arches and climbed up to the top of double arch before the rains made it to us. And we had on rain jackets. And we had an umbrella with us. We were prepared but she still could not help worrying. She's such an OCD nut sometimes. I think it's the future CPA in her.

5. Telling another kids her red rock qualifications at Sand Dune Arch "It's ok for me to climb here. I just had a birthday so I'm five now."

6. Upon becoming a Jr Ranger "This is my Digi-medal, Dalton, not yours!" (Special Agent Oso reference). Other hilarious happenings not involving Maggie include:

1. A roadside java stand at Dead Horse Point called The Pony Espresso.

2. Our hotel brochure, giving free spanish lessons, telling us that "La Quinta Inn" is spanish for "free high speed internet."

3. People constantly telling us how we are their hero because we are toting two children through a national park. At first it's flattering but really it's silly. It's not like we're bungee jumping off the arches or cave-spelunking or deep see diving. We're just hiking.

The curse of a middle child: Today Susie, my sister and I were discussing the flawed social aspects of the lds church. I told her about my experience being a Sam in the church. For those not in the know, the Book of Mormon begins with the story of Lehi and his four children Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam. The two eldest are trouble makers while Sam, the middle child, appears to be a good person but who is often pushed aside in the story, is often forgotten next to the prized youngest child, Nephi.

I feel the same way at church. I am Sam. Sam I am. As such I often feel forgotten in the church. The church often focuses its energies on promoting the Nephis and on saving the Lamans and Lemuels. Meanwhile the Sams of the world struggle to find meaning in their callings, get assigned the unglamorous home teaching assignments, rarely get home taught themselves, and struggle to even maintain friendship in the church at all. The only two times I was ever treated like a Nephi was on my mission and in India.

It sometimes makes me want to give up. But I have not just yet, though the justification to do so grows over time. But what about Sam anyway. I would love to hear more about his story though most in the church would probably find it dull compared to the Captain Moroni stories we love to regale. Since the Church is a family of sorts I suppose a certain level of siing rivalry amongst ourselves is to be expected. Still it would be nice to go to church and feel wanted and have a friend.

[Comments] (1) Pushing daisies: Spring came to Utah today. To celebrate we breakfasted in style with all you can eat french toast from kneaders. All I could eat, however, is three pieces.

We also hit the park. Things I overheard Maggie tell other kids at the park include "wait for me, I am nice" and "I have three names. My first name is Maggie my middle name is Margaret Susan and my last name are sissy."

I was actually surprised by her friendliness and willingness to approach other kids at the park. She is socializing quite well. I guess I was wrong in telling people in India she is shy; she really just did not like Indians it would seem.

[Comments] (1) 5 years ago: I was exhausted. But happy. The same applies today.

Happy Birthday to the Maggie!

[Comments] (1) great expectations: Busy season is now more than halfway over. Winter is now more than halfway over. The sun is shining, the work flow is steadying, and life is re-gaining some important balance. For now.

I LOVE my new car. And I LOVE my new iPhone. And they LOVE each other. Not only can my car place/receive calls on behalf of my iPhone, but I have now synced the two in other ways. For example, my iPhone has the scriptures, latest conference talks, and the yearly lesson manual uploaded. If I get in my car, I can pick a topic, push play, turn on my car stereo, and voila, I'm listening to the Prophet in the car. On my phone. In the 21st century. What an amazing discovery! Much like the invention of the wheel, fire, etc, this is a life-changing event for me.

I'm still travelling quite a bit for work. I TRY to only go to Irvine every other week but this week required an impromptu two-day jaunt down. Susie said that Dalton cried when she told him I was on an airplane, which is how we describe these trips to the kids. I miss him too, the little guy. The travel has become onerous and the only solution to the problem requires us to move to Irvine. Which we have committed to do come July, in between school years for Maggie. It's a catch 22. It's a much improved work environment for me there, and I love the weather and all the fun stuff to do, but it is expensive and it does mean leaving family behind. But overall I like the idea of raising a family outside Utah, and overall I like the idea of liking my job, which I do down there, so I guess there you have it. In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy the Beehive State until the last.

[Comments] (2) thanks for the Medicare: I got on a plane Tuesday morning, although I have not been feeling great lately. While we were landing, my ear started really hurting. After the hurt stopped, I realized I couldn't hear out of it. Scary, right?

So after I landed I rented a car and used my iPhone to find a nearby urgent care that takes United. Not too bad. Waited about an hour, all the time freaking out at my lack of hearing. Turns out I have two ear infections, the worst this doctor had ever seen as an adult. I am not normally prone to such things but they are contagious and Maggie has had five this year so go figure, right? He gave me an Rx for antibiotics as well as for some steroids, which supposedly would help my inner tube to stop swelling, allowing me to hear again. Off to CVS!

I think CVS could tell I was not in good shape because they were super quick with filling the Rx for me. The steroids taste nasty and the Penicillin is as big as a horse pill. On top of that, I had to take 8 pills yesterday, 7 today, etc until the steroids are gone then continue the Amoxicilin until it runs out. This morning I awoke to being able to hear again, though it's still a little fuzzy. All day yesterday was indeed trippy.

I'm a little nervous to get back on a plane tomorrow night but at least I get to sit in first class going home!

Being on a work trip is a Catch 22 when sick. I miss having someone take care of me but my hotel is really nice and is also void of two noisy kids and all that entails.

I slept for 13 hours last night and am still tired but doing ok. You just don't appreciate things until you have to do without. I now really appreciate my hearing. And just to keep from jinxing myself, I also really appreciate my eyesight, use of four limbs, sense of taste, ability to talk, and the hair on my head (although methinks that ship has already sailed).

afternoon romp: Today I left work at 4 because it was 60 degrees outside! I came home and played soccer in the backyard with the kids, then Dalton and I went for a walk. I could handle more UT winters like this.

Now I'm paying the price, as it's back to work at 9:30 pm. But it was nice to get some sun, and some Vitamin D.

[Comments] (1) Can you hear me now?: After seeing multiple people gabbing on the phone while driving today, I set up my hands free blue tooth so now I can answer my phone on my steering wheel while driving! Yay for technology allowing us to be more responsible!

The fast lane: I got to fly first class today. No security line, priority boarding, free breakfast, and a big comfy seat just for me! Too bad the return flight is back to coach for me.

[Comments] (1) little miss popular: Today I realized I haven't checked the kid's gmail accounts in years. Logged into Dalton's easily enough, just a bunch of mail from ING about his college fund.

Maggie's was another issue. I thought I signed her up as Margaret but couldn't log in. Apparently I set her up as Maggie and finally figured out the password and got in. Maggie had mail from all sorts of people, mostly people from Maine giving updates on really old relatives in rest homes. You would think when you don't get a reply in two years you would check the address you are using. But no. This lady also likes forwards.

Also an email from Aunt Ashley inviting Maggie to a Mary Kay party. And to submit her entry to some Fall Newsletter. Sigh. I better keep up on their accounts more frequently. At least I check their college funds more frequently.

[Comments] (2) Calling Dr. Justin Call: Poor Maggie. She doesn't want to turn five. She doesn't want to grow up either. She basically has a Peter Pan complex. Except she's afraid of Peter Pan. So she also has Peter-Pan-phobia. That's a lot of disorders for such a little girl.

I'm coming home tonight (for two days)!

[Comments] (2) 0.9 miles: In Irvine since Saturday the 14th. Will be here until I don't know when. Came down with the family but they left yesterday.

I'm staying about a mile from the office in an extended stay. The kitchen is nice because I don't have to eat out every meal but the clientele is unfortunate. I did not rent a car since we drove down but now I am carless in the automotive city. I walk to work (it's just a straight shot down the same street) and I am enjoying the exercise. Except on the rainy days, that is.

I'm working a lot so staying out of trouble but last night I had nothing to do while the laundry was doing it's thing, so I watched the FL debate. I wonder if I am the only Mormon that can't really relate to Romney. He seems like a nice enough guy; but he also seems out of touch. And he seems to contradict himself a lot. Looking at the pot of GOP hopefuls, I'm thinking the incumbent should do just fine, regardless of his approval rating.

Disneyland was a lot of fun with the kids on the weekend. Dalton loves Autopia, which he calls racing. He also loves Small World, Dumbo, and any train or boat ride. Maggie had her first experiences on Star Tours, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Soarin Over California, and the Hollywood Tower of Terror. She didn't care for Space Mountain or Tower of Terror, but she also didn't cry. She throws bigger fits about avoiding Peter Pan than those rides. She still thinks it's a scary ride, the little nut. She liked Splash Mountain with me but not Susie because she got soaking wet. Come to think of it, she liked most rides better with me.

We actually saw Peter Pan in person on the way to Star Tours, so of course I teased her about it. She closed her eyes until he was out of sight.

Star Tours is all new-fangled now. Each ride is different! It's a lot better than it used to be, back when I was so sick of it I stopped riding it.

The new Little Mermaid ride is fine for a kid's ride. Dalton really likes it a lot more than Maggie. Cars land will open this summer.

Just enjoying the sunshine today otherwise. Did I mention it's 70 degrees today?