Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When Stalking Turns to Love (A True Story)

Back when Instant Messaging was a more popular thing for people to do on the computer, I often chatted online with a female friend whom, for purposes of this post, I'll call Kelly. Kelly lived in the Salt Lake valley, not that far from me, and after we had gone on a couple of dates together, it soon became apparent we were destined to be no more than friends.

Nevertheless, we often carried on IM conversations about all sorts of topics, among which was what she observed to be the many ridiculous happenings at her workplace. She was a librarian, and together we came up with the name "Paper Cuts" for the very soap opera-like drama that surrounded her on a daily basis. One day, she also happened to mention that she had a co-worker who, for all intents and purposes, was stalking her.

From the first paragraph of this post, I'll bet you all thought that the AWL was going to be the stalker of this story - right?

Uhh . . . right?

*Long pause*

At any rate, Kelly went on to give me frequent daily updates about the antics of her stalker, a co-worker whom I'll call Kyle. She even gave him the nickname, "The Trailer," as he was often seen following her around the library where they both worked, usually to her great discomfort.

Before long, Kelly and I lost touch, and several months passed before I found her online again one day. She updated me on the "Paper Cuts" saga but, most importantly, announced that she was engaged to be married.

"Who's the lucky guy?" I asked. "It's not The Trailer, is it?" I was, I thought, completely kidding.

*Even longer pause*

As a matter of fact, she told me, Kyle, aka The Trailer, was indeed the lucky guy. His "trailing" and what she initially described as stalking-like maneuvers won her over, and they were now madly in love.

To say I was speechless would be an massive understatement. I'm just as perplexed as you are, men.

The rest, as they say, is history. I relate the story both because I've not previously done so and also because they just celebrated another wedding anniversary.

The moral of the story: Stalking, apparently, can pay off.

Uhh . . . right?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Love Poetry for Dummies: "Other Fish in the Sea"

"Other Fish in the Sea"

There's other fish in the sea
My brain was quick to remind me,
But that's not what I heard in my heart.
For who else has those gills,
Those scales, peduncles, or fins
And all of those other fish parts?

I'll admit I was hooked
When I took my first look
At the catch of the day in my boat.
Now, no paddle, up the creek,
And my boat's sprung a leak,
And it's sinking down into the moat.

Could it really be
That a fisher like me
Could catch something that good with this bait?
Out of worms; my flies are old.
Fingers pruny, and I'm cold.
And the pond has been frozen of late.

Well, all that I know
Is I must let you go,
And I'm sorry for this getting mushy.
But I'll find a new hobby
And by this time next well I'll be
Probably taking up sushi.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Good Old Days

One of my favorite TV shows, "The Office," came to an end last week after nine seasons on the air. During the last few episodes, many of the storylines of the Dunder Mifflin employees were wrapped up - some more satisfactorily than others. One of the best parts was a moment of epiphany for Andy "The 'Nard Dog" Bernard.

Toward the end of the series, Andy abruptly quits his job at the office to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, trying out for acting roles and an "American Idol"-like singing competition and hoping to become a famous celebrity. A year later, after his new career doesn't pan out the way he has planned, he returns to Scranton to be interviewed one final time by the documentary crew. It is only then that he realizes that his experience working in the office has made him a celebrity after all and that he has enjoyed some truly unforgettable moments while working there.

"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them," he says.

It is a thought-provoking statement, and it got me to thinking about my own "good old days." Certainly, there are many of them in the past, whether they were spent with family, friends, at school, in the neighborhoods where I grew up in Utah, in my junior high years in Puerto Rico, in the mission field in Peru, with the good people of my singles ward, theatrical events, and so forth.

Just this week, I was invited to attend my upcoming high school reunion - one of those moments that some look forward to with great anticipation and others dread like a prostate exam. Nevertheless, it's one of those opportunities to revisit some of our collective good old days.

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with reminiscing about the good old days. We can learn a lot about where we are and where we're going by doing so. But there can be a danger in it, too, if we believe that things will never be that good again or that our best days are far behind us.

There are also those who live only for the future, believing that "I'll be happy when I have a boy/girlfriend," "I'll be happy when I'm married," "I'll be happy when I have kids," "I'll be happy when I have a better job," "I'll be happy when this bunion goes away," or whatever it may be. In a 2008 general conference address, President Thomas S. Monson quoted Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man: "You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you've collected a lot of empty yesterdays." Pres. Monson went on to say, "There is no tomorrow to remember if we don't do something today."

After all, the present moment is really all we've got. I'm fortunate to have a lot of good things going on in the present, as well as goals I'm working on and items on my "Bucket List" I still want to cross off, to boot.

For now, though, I hope to live in the present as much as I can. I hope to make many new memories with family, friends, troupe members, co-workers, etc.

If possible, I even hope to make it through my class reunion.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Different Kind of Letting Go

In his last post, the AWL spoke about the great love and courage possessed by a group of mothers who have given one or more of their children up for adoption. He is also beginning this post by speaking in the third person, because that's just what cool people like Karl Malone and the AWL do.

Today's post is about a different kind of letting go and one that is, likewise, motivated by love: breaking up with someone.

What?! you say. Dumping somebody is an act of love?! That miserable (guy/girl) who dumped me is a jerk and a poo-poo face and deserves to be tied down, smeared with peanut butter, and mauled by bears.

Yes, that is what I am saying.

This isn't always the case, of course. Some people are downright cruel when it comes to ending a relationship, taking the coward's way out. Rather than having "The Talk" with their significant others and trying to let them down as easily and as painlessly as possible, cowards instead take the indirect route, cutting off all communication (phone calls, texting, e-mails, de-friending the other person on Facebook, etc.), dive into the bushes to hide or wear a Groucho Marx disguise when the romantic partner approaches within a 100-yard radius, and basically go about ignoring and avoiding, hoping that the other person has enough horse sense to "get" the message. Some cowards may even go as far as moving to another state and legally changing their names.

If you think I'm making things up or exaggerating here, then either you don't know me very well, or you don't know some of the same people I know.

Another form of cowardice: Realizing that, for you, the relationship is all but over and you are sticking with it, but you are postponing and delaying breaking up because you don't want to "hurt" the other person. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior ends up hurting the other person a lot more than breaking it off sooner - and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't fallen into this pattern of thinking and behavior in the past, too.

On second thought, I suppose a better way of saying what I earlier tried to state may be that breaking up with somebody is an action that should be motivated by love. It's not one motivated by romantic love, of course, but one that is nevertheless motivated by love - love for the other person as a human being and as a child of God. It is a selfless rather than a selfish act. It is recognizing that the relationship is not making either or both of you truly happy, that it doesn't work, and that you can let that person go and yet have no hard feelings toward each other, thus giving you both an opportunity to find someone better.

Some people date and break up and get back together again and then repeat the cycle five or six more times (again, I'm not exaggerating here). It's much like that Taylor Swift song about never, ever getting back together - and yet it still happens. The truth is that there are only two options: The relationship either works, and you both move forward with it, or it doesn't. Sadly, many people break up, make up, and date again and again as if trying to make an elusive third option successfully work.

At any rate, I'm certainly no expert on the subject. I have also found myself on both sides of the equation. I think Howard Jones, as is the case many times with songs, says it much better than I can:

What is the greatest expression of love?
To let go and wish well

Since I am in my 30s and have the advantage of hindsight, I can look back on many of those relationships that didn't work out, and there is mainly only a sense of gratitude. It is a feeling that has replaced those negative feelings associated with both dumping someone else and being dumped. I have seen people I have dated go on to find a better relationship and marry someone else, and it's better for everyone involved; not that people are better than other people, but because people are different from each other.

My point is, I suppose, that it gets better.

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's about Love . . . and Courage

On Saturday evening, members of the Improvables, myself included, were invited to perform for Common Bonds, a local group sponsored and supported by LDS Family Services in Centerville. Though we are frequently hired to do improv shows away from our home turf, we soon found out that it would be no ordinary performance.

Common Bonds, as it turns out, is a group of mothers who, at one point or another in their lives, gave up a child or children for adoption. On the Saturday before Mothers' Day each year, they meet together as a show of support for one another and the difficult but important choices they have each made: to give these children a better life than they could have ever done at the time the children were placed for adoption.

Many of the mothers were unmarried when they made this difficult decision. A few were married but were in abusive relationships and preferred not to bring children into that sort of environment. There was even one expectant mother several months pregnant, and she planned to place her child for adoption. Each had an amazing story to tell, and it was clear that they were all motivated by a great deal of love, as well as a significant amount of prayer and thought, in their actions.

I gained a great deal of respect for these women as they shared their stories. It was a privilege to perform for them, and my co-actors and I had a great time in doing so.

Afterward, I had the chance to speak with a gentleman who was there as an advisor to the group, and I thanked him for the invitation for us to be there. He reminded me of another important quality that each of these women possesses: courage.

It certainly took courage for them to love their babies enough to let them go so that they could have better lives. It took courage for them to deal with an unplanned and an embarrassing situation and to make the very best of things. It also takes courage for them to meet together now and to stand for a very important cause.

I should also be sure to point out that those mothers who make the very difficult decision to keep and raise their children are no less loving or courageous.

For many of the mothers who were at Saturday's event, fortunately, there is a happy ending. Many of them were there with their fianc├ęs and/or spouses and have gone on to have other children that they've been able to raise. There was also a mother who has adopted three children of her own.

It was one Mothers' Day holiday that I won't soon forget. Happy (belated) Mothers' Day to my own "angel mother" and to all of the great moms out there.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Recently, a couple of my friends got married. To each other.

What sets these friends apart from the many other friends of mine who get married - this is Utah, after all, so having friends get married is not that uncommon of an occurrence - is that each of them, on separate occasions and a number of years previously, sustained traumatic and life-altering brain injuries. One of them is also confined to a wheelchair.

Out of respect to my friends, and without going much more into the situation, suffice me to say that watching this couple's courtship progress and develop on a weekly basis (I know them both through a mid-singles institute class I attend Wednesday nights) over the course of the past couple of years has been, as I look back on it, a rather awe-inspiring thing. It's not the traditional, Taylor Swift-type love story, but it is a love story nonetheless. And it has led me to one bona fide conclusion:

Sometimes, God directly lends a hand.

"Soul mates are fiction and an illusion," taught President Spencer W. Kimball. Finding one's spouse is largely left up to us individually and as couples, despite our imperfect natures and the mistakes we all-too-frequently make. In my case, it's at least twice that often (making mistakes, I mean).

Nevertheless, on rare occasions, I believe, the Lord steps in does something to help a relationship move along to its goal. Adam and Eve, for example, were meant for each other - no questions about that. Isaac's servant was guided specifically to Rebekah to find a wife for his master. Nephi and his brothers were also commanded to return to Jerusalem to find wives and were led to Ishmael's family.

I believe that such was the case with my two friends who were recently united in wedded bliss. That's not gospel doctrine or fact here but just a page from the Epistle of Jon.

And so, the $64,000 question is: Why does he intervene on these rare occasions when so many of us are left to our own devices?

I believe that the answer, in each case, is to teach us something important. In the case of Adam and Eve, the lesson is kind of a no-brainer, involving such things as "multiplying and replenishing the Earth" and things of that nature. A book I'm reading now also raises the issue that one of the oft-forgotten commandments given to Adam and Eve is that they were to remain together, and once Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam faced a choice: eat of the forbidden fruit, be cast out with Eve, and remain with her, or stay alone in Eden. (Many men in our time, the book points out, choose to separate from their Eves in favor of what they perceive to be an Eden - be it another person, a job, etc.) In the case of Isaac and Rebekah, as well as Nephi and his family, the lesson is about the importance of marriage in the covenant, assuming that Seminary video taught me right.

In the case of my friends, well, I believe the lesson is simply this: Whatever challenges life has thrown at you; whatever hell you've lived through, even when you thought you couldn't survive it; and even though you may feel like there's no hope left for you, be it due to health or age or job loss or shattered dreams or self-doubt or what the adversary is whispering to you or whatever it may be, there is always hope.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Love Poetry for Dummies: "Backhanded Compliments"

"Backhanded Compliments"

I received your card dated Thursday last week;
They are words that I'll cherish and savor.
And now, in my own humble manner and words,
I'll kindly return you the favor.

I saved every one of your love letters, she said,
But your writing's not clever or sage;
After all, it's a crime to waste paper,
And I needed to line the bird's cage.

Most people find you funny and charming, I guess;
But, of course, "most people" also elected Obama;
For charming's just a prince in a fairy tale,
And who really needs that false kind of drama?

When we met, you were tall, dark, and handsome;
But five minutes later, I came to my senses.
I saw someone short, light, and ugly when I
Put in my contact lenses.

I look forward to each new date spent with you
Like I look forward to paying my taxes;
Did you really think this was all going somewhere?
I'm just holding out until your last credit card maxes.

So, this is just to say, I love you more than my luggage;
It's old and broken, and I need a new set of bags.
On second thought, I like my luggage better than you;
And all of this rhyming is making me gag.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Darndest Things

A couple of days ago, I got to spend the bulk of the evening tending my five-year-old nephew Jackson. Spending time with any of my nieces and nephews is always an educational experience, and this was no exception to that rule. Sometimes, they teach me how to take a different look at life from their innocent and unique points-of-view. Many times, they teach me patience and understanding. Almost always, I learn a great appreciation for the great people they are, as well as the people they are becoming.

On this particular Thursday night, I took Jackson to the local McDonald's for dinner, during which he proceeded to burn about 20,000 calories per hour by running and climbing up, down, inside, outside, and around the rocket ship playground. At times, I got exhausted just by watching him.

One of his favorite things to do, and something I had to ask him not to do more than once, was to climb up on the outside of the rocket - the part with no safety net attached to it. I asked him to come down and then talked to him about the dangers of climbing up there.

Five minutes later, I looked back up at the rocket to see he had climbed on the outside yet again.

Me: "Jackson, what did we just talk about?"
Jackson (without missing a beat): "Zombies?"

The funniest part about that response is that is was completely in earnest. You see, Jackson is lately a bit more obsessed with zombies than most five-year-olds. It is a topic that often comes up in his conversations; he's both fascinated and frightened by them.

There's also Uncle Crack.

Uncle Crack is Jackson's imaginary friend. According to Jackson, Uncle Crack is my brother - but also not, somehow, his Dad's (Mike's) brother, as well. He is much like the "Not Me" of the Family Circus comic strips and is usually the one to blame for things that go wrong wherever Jackson goes.

At another point, Jackson approached a little girl playing games on her iTouch and asked if he could have a turn if, he added, "your grandma will let me."

"I'm not her grandmother; I'm her mother," the lady replied defensively.

I could only smile.

I also watched with admiration as Jackson instantly made friends with the other kids on the playground - and became the sort of leader of the group. Every few minutes, he could be heard to tell his playmates, "That's my Uncle Paco," and he'd point out where I was sitting to them.

You can learn a lot from a kid. Most of the time, they just want someone to listen to them.

They will want to talk about zombies.