Monday, September 30, 2013

It's about Love . . . and Patience

I recently met two friends of Pure Prairie Girl's, a married couple who were high school sweethearts and who have now spent more than a decade together in wedded bliss. Unfortunately, during that same period of time, they have been unable to have children of their own.

Very soon, however, they will have finally come through all of the red tape and are preparing to adopt a baby who will become theirs as soon as he/she is born. They have an agreement with the birth mother and everything. They excitedly spoke of their plans and shared their joy about the at-long-last arrival of their delayed blessing of becoming parents.

It was an enlightening and a sobering experience for the Angry White Loner, who saw the other side of this coin of adoption a few months ago and made a post here on a similar subject on the blog back in May. In a way, this experience brought it all full circle for me.

At about the same time, the AWL finally got around to seeing the movie Prince of Egypt, notorious for Mariah Carey's/Whitney Houston's epic vocal cord battle during the closing credits, which he saw via Netflix. Took ya long enough, you might be thinking. That movie came out something like 15 years ago, didn't it?

Indeed, it did; but that is not the point here. I was reflecting on my experience of meeting this new couple as I watched the film. Moses, of course, was adopted into Egyptian royalty by the pharaoh's daughter. I already knew that part prior to seeing the movie. But another, larger, perhaps more important thought occurred to me:

I'm adopted, too.

Not literally, of course, as I definitely look physically like my father's son, hopefully share my mother's gentle nature, have my paternal grandmother's sense of humor (or so I'm told), etc. But I am adopted in that, according to a patriarchal blessing I received at age 18 and through covenants I have made, I am one with the House of Israel, a member of the tribe of Ephraim. And there are some amazing blessings promised to all those who are, literally or by adoption, of the House of Israel.

I suppose that the prevailing thought I had through all of this is that there is no real or important difference between being someone's literal offspring versus being adopted. The expectant parents I recently met are not going to love their child any less than caring and diligent parents who are able to conceive children through natural means, nor will the children grow to love their parents back with any less love or appreciation. Their many years of waiting, I'm sure, have taught them a good deal about patience and have prepared them for this moment.

The same certainly goes for the courageous young boy who spoke in my ward during yesterday's Primary program about his experience in foster care. There is are loving parents and a home for him, and all other foster kids, as well.

As someone who is both a literal son of God and of earthly "parents kind and dear," I'm grateful to belong to the families to which I belong. I have some pretty great brothers and sisters in them.

And as a credit card advertisement once touted, "Membership has its privileges."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The One-Fingered Salute

People's behavior very rarely ceases to amaze meespecially when they are behind the steering wheels of their cars.

Within the past few days, I had two very different encounters with other drivers who were driving right behind me. The first one involved three rather grizzly looking men who were all sitting in the front of a pick-up truck in the lane behind me. From my rearview mirror, I could see that all three of them were giving me the one-fingered salute, aka flipping me off.

The thing is, I don't know why they were doing this. Generally speaking, when someone gives you the one-fingered salute, you know you've messed up. I didn't cut in front of them in traffic or anythingI was very sure of that, as I had just made a left turn and had turned into the proper lane and everything.

To try to diffuse their anger or whatever it was that prompted this gesture, I stopped at the traffic light just ahead, turned around, and showed them the Vulcan hand gesture. You know, from "Star Trek."

This, is at it turns out, did not help. At all. The truck driver saw it and immediately flipped me off again.

Okaaaaay then . . .

The second incident occurred earlier this evening, when I could see from my rearview mirror that a man (driving) and a woman (passenger seat) behind me noticed my license plate (LDSJEDI) and began to laugh. The woman took out her cell phone, as people are wont to do when they see my plates, and took a photo, while the man gave me a confident "thumbs up" gesture, which I was happy to return back to him.

To tell you the truth, it all kind of made my dayjust at the experience with the three men in the truck kind of ruined my day. I am the kind of person who tends to take these things personally.

Speaking of personal preferences, I definitely prefer it when people make my day. And not in the way that Clint Eastwood meant.

I guess what it boils down to is we all have the choice whether to be the kind of person—and driver—who makes someone else's day or the one who ruins it. I hope to be the kind of person who is the former and not the latter.

Monday, September 23, 2013

If the Gondola's a-Rockin' . . .

I went on a fun date Friday night.

*Long pause while Mom falls off of her chair, dusts herself off, and then sits back down to read.*

It started off with a short, hour-long hike near the Snowbasin ski resort and ended up with me nearly wetting my pants in public for the first time since I was seven years old.

Following said hike, my date, whom for privacy's sake I'll refer to as Pure Prairie Girl, saw a flier and noticed that we happened to be at the Snowbasin resort on the same night as a stargazing party, which was being held up at the Needles lodge overlooking the resort. On a whim, we decided to change our plans and join in on the fun.

To get to the Needles lodge, which stands at close to 10,000 feet above sea level, we would need to ride a gondola lift to the top. This little piece of information made us both a tad bit nervous, as we each have an admitted fear of heights. Nevertheless we enjoyed a 13-minute ride up to the lodge. (Yes, my OCD side came out, and I timed it just to be sure. The girl taking our lift tickets at the base of the mountain told us it would be between a 12- and a 15-minute trip, and she was correct.)

Once we were on solid ground again and our gondola riding was half done for the night, we enjoyed a good dinner and toured the lodge's bathroomsme in the men's and PPG in the women's, of course—discovering that they were the coolest-looking bathrooms I had ever seen and were nicer than most people's houses. The toilets were not stalls but we actual, separate rooms, with a doorknob and everything.

Oh yeah—there was also that whole stargazing thing. Admittedly, I know little-to-nothing about astronomy, so I was content to look through the various telescopes and be grateful that I could make out any objects at all. The nearly full moon was out, as well, adding a great deal to the experience.

Then, at last, came the gondola ride back down to the resort. PPG, the other five people in our gondola, and I had descended for no more than a minute before the ride came to a stop, presumably to assist another passenger in a wheelchair to board a different gondola back at the top. The sudden stop caused us to sway back and forth above the rocks and darkness below and much more violently than I would have preferred, making at least three or four of us—myself included—extremely nervous for the next minute, which seemed more like a half-hour in Nervous Nelly Time.

If you could have seen my face there in the darkness—and thank goodness no one, especially my date, could—it would have been sheet-white. And for a gringo, my face is already pretty white. You also might have seen my fingernails slowly boring holes into the seat below me.

After the aforementioned minute, the gondola, fortunately, ceased its rocking and came to a standstill. After another minute, we were back on our way downhill. There were no other stoppages, thank the heavens, and I nearly French-kissed the ground when we arrived.

I said nearly. Horseshoes and hand grenades, people.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Man vs. Car

Now that the smoke has cleared and we canhopefullyforget about the bit BYU/Utah football rivalry game for another three years, I'd like to talk tonight about the time when I was hit by a car. As a pedestrian crossing the street. In Chile.

A few years ago, I went on a visit back to Peru, where I served my LDS mission a few years before that. Part of my itinerary included a brief stay in Tacna, in southern Peru, to visit one of my old companions and his family.

Tacna is so far south in Peru that it's within an hour's drive of the Chilean border. Since we were so close to another foreign country, I suggested taking a short trip there. My companion agreed, since we both spoke the language and all, and we spent three or four hours that afternoon in Arica, a city in northern Chile.

Standing atop El Cerro de Arica, I learned from a historical marker posted there that Arica actually once belonged to Peru, but it and a other cities were taken over by Chile after a 19th-century war fought between the two nations. Also, there is a rather breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean from atop that hill.

It was on our way down from El Cerro de Arica that the aforementioned incident occurred. I will put the story in context by mentioning that although there are laws, there is no real understanding among drivers to yield to pedestrians trying to cross the street—at least, there isn't in the two South American countries I have been to. Also, this is the part of the world where old cars go to die.

A VW buga common mode of transportation for taxi drivers—hit me at a speed of somewhere (I can only estimate) 30 or 35 miles per hour. Its driver's-side mirror hit me in the elbow, and, as a result, became dislodged from the car and bounced around on the street.

Naturally, the driver did not stop to see if I was OK nor to retrieve his side-view mirror. He was probably late for his defensive driving class, near as I can tell.

Fortunately, I was not hurt too badly, though I did bring home a honey of a bruise as my souvenir from Chile.

Most importantly, though, there was that stamp on my passport.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sports Rivalries and the Rameumptom

Once again, folks, it's time for Holy Week.

Or, to describe it more accurately, it's the time of the year when even 50- and 60-year-old men act like bratty teenagers and get into "my dad can beat up your dad" chest-thumping shouting matches with each other over something as trivial as a sporting event.

For those who don't live in Utah or who are not familiar with the phrase, the term Holy Week refers to the seven days leading up to the annual BYU vs. University of Utah football game, which culminates in (usually) a grueling and hard-fought grudge match that leaves the winning team with a great sense of pride and bragging rights and an "in-your-face" smugness and the losing team with a sense of embarrassment and shame that lingers for the next 365 or 366 days. Or longer.

It's all really very silly. It tends to turn otherwise sensible, decent, and good people into raving lunatics and jerks. It can ruin friendships. The rules of good sportsmanship are completely forgotten. And the silliest thing about it all, at least as far as I see it, is that neither team's fans have any control whatsoever over the outcome of the game.

The sore winner's bragging can basically be summed up this way: "The team that I root for beat the team that you root for, and even though neither you nor I have any impact on the result of the game, my association with said winning team makes me, as a result, better than you. It's even better if my team beats yours in a humiliating fashion. In order for me to be happy, we win, and you lose."

The sore loser, meanwhile, finds excuses for his or her team's loss ("it was the referees' fault" or "we had an inexperienced quarterback this year," for example) and berates or makes vulgar gestures toward the other team's fans. He/she will never, ever utter the words: "The better team won today. We will do better next year."

It's most definitely a guy thing, but, over the years, I have seen more than a few females get in on the hype, too. And, of course, it happens on both sidesboth those who bleed blue and those who bleed red.

Holy Week reminds me of Chapter 31 in the Book of Alma, in which Alma, Aaron, Ammon, and a few others head out on a mission to Antionum to reclaim the apostate Zoramites and find them praying on top of something called the Rameumptom, which is translated as "the holy stand" (Alma 31:21).

Alma discovers the Zoramites praying: "We believe thou has elected us to be thy holy children . . . and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren" (Alma 31:16-17).

Fortunately, the gospel is not "win-lose" but "win-win." We are exalted only by humbling ourselves and by helping those around us to be better, just as we try to improve ourselves day by day. In the words of U2 and Bono: "If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel."

It's okay to love your team and to want them to do well and win. I grew up in a sports-loving family, along with sports-loving parents and four sports-loving brothers who played basketball, football, soccer, softball, and about every other team sport (and a sister who came around when she met her sports-loving husband), and I've known no other way of life. I love it when my teams win and feel bad with them when they lose.

It's also possible to be an enthusiastic sports fan without climbing up on the Rameumptomin other words, without being a jerk about it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Love Poetry for Dummies: "Rope Burns"

"Rope Burns"

I held on very tightly—
Perhaps a little too tightly—
And it may been what smothered the flame.
Now there are just rope burns
And my tired, bleeding palms
And only myself to blame.

I set you free
And hoped for you return,
But in the end, that wasn't the case.
Instead of a boomerang,
You flew off like a balloon,
For all I know, you've gone into space.

Is this what He meant
When He said that He wanted
To gather his children like chickens
Safe, secure in His wings?
But you wouldn't have it;
Leaving me with the slim pickings.

You're flying high now,
But what goes up must come down;
And someday you'll come back to Earth.
You may land lightly like a butterfly
Or crash and burn like Icarus
It's all the same to me
For what it's worth.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Steamy Windows

Sometimes, words simply fail me.

If you have read the Angry White Loner's blog on any previous occasion, you know that he can be somewhat of a Wordy McWordsmith. That, however, was not the case this past Monday night, when the security guard patrolling the local Olive Garden parking lot pulled up next to my vehicle---I can only assume she suspected some major hanky panky was going on inside, as the windows had fogged up a good deal---and told us that the lot had closed for the night, asking (commanding?) my female friend and me to leave the premises.

It all began, believe it or not, with family home evening. The mid-singles gathered around 6:15 p.m. to see a movie at the Kaysville Theater, our local dollar movie theater. Part of the group saw Ephraim's Rescue, while another part caught Turbo; a handful of friends and I ended up watching Monsters University, a very funny and worthy prequel to the 2001 Disney/Pixar film Monsters, Inc.

As much as we enjoyed the movie, that is just the beginning of the story. Following a stopover at Dylan's Drive-in for ice cream, the aforementioned female friend asked for a ride back to her car, which was located in the Olive Garden parking lot not too far away in Layton. She and her friends had been there for dinner together before the movie, and as the girls were good enough to save me a seat (I caught up with the group at the theater just prior to the movie's start, as I was running behind) for the film, I was more than happy to do so.

We pulled up next to her car and chatted for a while. As we did so, the warm summer evening quickly became, in a New York (Utah?) minute, a cool rainstorm. As a result of the changing temperature and humidity, the windows in my car quickly steamed up and became rather foggy.

The rest, I assume, you can put together from the details I have provided. With a sheepish grin on my face, I found myself opening my car door to explain to the security guard, "We're just talking in here!"

Additionally, I pointed to my neck to show her that it was completely hickey free.

Okay, so I made up that last part. Maybe. But that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.