Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Best Two Years, and Beyond

I spent a good deal of the weekend listening to two old cassette tapes, which I dug up the other day. Cassette tapes, in case you were wondering, came along way before MP3s and iPods and also preceded CDs, which are sadly becoming more and more passĂ© these days.

These tapes had spent a few years collecting dust and basically just lying around. One tape was a recording of the sacrament meeting in which I gave my "farewell" address before heading off to the MTC and then the mission field at age 19, and the second recording was of my "homecoming" talk upon returning from Peru two years later at age 21.

I can sum up the experience in one word: Wow.

It all brought back so many memories to listen to myself speak on both occasions, and I don't like to listen to my own voice all that much, so it took some patience and self-consciousness, too. It was interesting to listen to my young and eager but not-so-wise-in-the-ways-of-the-world self speak before departing and then my heavily Spanish-accented self (much more than I recall being at the time) speak somewhat extemporaneously and much more fluidly upon returning.

Reflecting back on those times and on the perspective I've gained since then, it's interesting to me to hear now, from many different sources, that the mission is "the best two years" in your life. Certainly, it was an amazing, unforgettable, growing, and educational experience that I'll never, ever forget, I saw some very beautiful and also some very ugly places, and I made many friendships that I hope to carry with me into the eternities.

But "best two years"? Well, if my life has already reached its greatest point at age 21, then I've been living through years of disappointment, with additional years of disappointment still ahead.

Another school of thought, and the one that I agree with, is that the mission is "the best two years" of your life up to that point of your life. You then return home, go back to school, work, marry (well, two out of three isn't bad), etc. and then make the next year the best year, then the year after that, and so on.

Have the years since my return home been disappointing? Has it been nothing but a downward slope? In some ways, these years have not turned out at all like I expected they would. I've had my share of disappointment, trials, grief, thorns in the flesh, and unfortunately also consequences when I've not done some of the things I should have done or I've let opportunities slip away. To quote John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Nevertheless, I've also been richly blessed at the same time. I've been given opportunities to work, to play, to study, to learn, to develop talents, to grow, to date, to meet new people, to travel, to give, to receive, and to take uncertain steps into the dark future, one day at a timesome of which have paid off, and others have not. And I wouldn't have missed nearly all of it.

Except for January 2008. That was a tough month that I never want to repeat, ever again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Does *He* Know?

I was listening to the old iPod the other day, shuffling through my playlist of Disney songs, when a familiar voice began to sing. It was the melodious voice of my favorite Disney princess, Giselle, played by Amy Adamswho hasn't really left the Church, ya know. She's just been inactive for past few decades.

Anyway, the song I refer to is "That's How You Know" from Enchanted. "Does he leave a little note to tell you you are on his mind?" she inquires. Does he "send you flowers when the sky is grey?" Or "does he take you out dancin' just so he can hold you close?" Or "dedicate a song with words in just for you?" "Don't treat her like a mind reader," she adds. Don't take her for granted!

All of these are valid and important questions in a relationship, Giselle and/or Amy. A man should do all of these things to let a woman know that he loves her, or else really really really likes her a lot, with chocolate syrup and a cherry on top.

Fair enough.

Generally speaking, though, men also tend to have a difficult time figuring out whether, after they've followed Giselle's advice and have done all of these things, or have at least attempted them, whether she loves him back, or even really really really likes him back.

This is partly due to the fact that women, often by their own admission: (1) tend to drop hints rather than to say directly what they are feeling or what they want, (2) can be driven by emotion more often than men are, and (3) can be confusing, as one tends to come from Mars, and the other from Venus. (Yes, ladies, I'm sure we're equally as confusing to you sometimes. Maybe more!)

Now, don't get all upset and write me nasty comments or e-mails. The Angry White Loner has said in the past that women are the world's biggest mystery, and he's just trying to figure out this part of their personalities right now. On this night, in this blog post. (No one person should take any of this personally.) He is actually looking for some practical advice, generally speaking, and is trying to foster a positive discussion on the topic, because his friends and readers, all six of them, give pretty good counsel. He would, in fact, welcome answers to any or all of the following questions:

Does she want to spend time with you, or is she just scared of being alone?

Does she see spending time with you as a priority or as an obligation?

Does she often claim to be "busy," or does she go out of her way to include you in her extracurricular plans?

Does she, you know, pretend like she acknowledges your existence out in public, and, if so, will she approach and/or talk to you when others are around? Are any and all dates carried out only when she's checked an re-checked the neighborhood for spies and gossipmongers?

Are you plan B, C, or D because her girlfriends happen to be busy that night?

Does she get excited for the next date because, just as CafĂ© Rio employees get excited on your 11th visit, a "Free Meal!" is coming?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Some Like It Cold

"I really love those summer mornings when, even with the air conditioning on and a box fan in the room, I still wake up drenched in a pool of sweat," said no sane person ever.

The summer is hot. There's no denying it. There's also no denying that the human body needs the sunlight and the warmth. Studies have proven the benefits of both on keeping us healthy.

I get that part. I'm not saying that I don't like warm weather per se. Summer nights can, much of the time, be most enjoyable. (Why would Olivia Newton-John or John Travolta lie to us?)

However, the summer has a way of wearing out its welcome rather quickly. There is a difference between warm weather and hot, muggy, sticky, uncomfortable weather. Five days in a row 95-degree or higher temperatures, and I'm done with it. A month of those temperatures, and I'm already counting down the days until autumn, which is my favorite season of the year.

Perhaps it is a sign that I'm getting old, I don't know.

Here are 10 reasons why cold weather is better than hot weather:

1) Proponents of hot weather argue that, in the summertime, they don't have to go out and scrape the ice off of their cars, nor do they have to wait for their cars to warm up in the frigid air. These are valid points. But these people also then tend to add, in the same argument, that they can come inside from a hot summer day and relax by turning on the air conditioning at home.

In other words, they, too, really are basically admitting that they really prefer it cooler, as well.

2) Warmer weather is also hurricane, monsoon, and tornado season, which are far more destructive than snow. Having lived through a hurricane, I know this from firsthand experience.

3) In the winter, you can always bundle up when it gets cold. When it gets very hot, there's only so many layers of clothing you can strip down to.

4) Making your own gravy, i.e. sweating.

5) One of the best ways to warm up in the winter is by cuddling with a loved one. If you don't believe me, than I daresay you haven't had enough experience(s) with this.

In the summer, I suppose you can sit by the swamp cooler and sweat together.

6) The phrase "hot as hell" is about, well, hell. Heaven is the other extreme, right?

7) Fall/winter is football season.

8) Fall/winter is also Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's season, the best time of the year. Why limit it to just one holiday?

9) That feeling when you come inside from the cold and drink hot chocolate

10) Christmas music > songs of the summer

So, there you have it. The Angry White Loner just needed to get it out of his system and promises to post no more complaints about the weather the rest of this summer. Maybe.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I'm Not Naming Names, but . . .

After nearly three months since it all went down, things are really starting to take shape on the Island of Misfit Toys. The Angry White Loner even has not only one but two callings and is proceeding to share the love as only the AWL can.

Just before Gospel Doctrine teachers were called, I also volunteered to teach a lesson from the Old Testament. Why? Because I'm a glutton for punishment, possibly. Or because the chicks dig me.

Take your pick.

Another huge reason I volunteered to teach was that the lesson that week focused heavily on my namesake, Jonathan, who was the son of the Saul, the king of Israel.

Jonathan was an absolute rock star, but he didn't get the attention nor the women that his friend David got. Upon killing Goliath, David became a great hero—something like the Tim Howard of his country. David was also anointed by the prophet Samuel to become the next king of Israel.

As a prince of Israel, Jonathan had every right to be jealous and envious of David. Jonathan had also earlier achieved a rather significant military victory of his own but did not receive the fame nor recognition that David did. Nevertheless, Jonathan remained true to his friend David and helped to save his friend's life from Saul on multiple occasions.

He was an amazing example of friendship and sacrifice and is really a pretty great guy to be named after. If you also look at the etymology of the name Jonathan, it breaks down to "God's Great Gift."

At least, that is what a framed picture my parents gave me when I was a teenager tells me.

Contrast all of this with an episode of "Gilmore Girls" I recently watched, like all of the cool kids do. In this episode, Rory finally cuts the umbilical cord from her mother and goes off to college. She and her frenemy Paris meet one of their roommates, who is named "Tannina" or something akin to that. (It was late; I can't even read my own handwriting.) Paris then, skeptically, asks her if she even know what her name means, and the poor, scared girl replies that she hasn't the faintest clue.

Granted, that's just a random sample. But it does bother the AWL a little bit when he sees the rising generation growing up with names that sound like types of medications, rejected names for elves in the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit universe, or names that were thought up while playing and losing at Boggle. Names like, for example, McFlurghan. Or Buckley.

There's also been a new trend this week. No, not of U.S. presidents casually mentioning, in passing, acts of terrorism on U.S. citizens in airplanes, then telling a bunch of jokes about his vice president/making fun of the GOP, then bravely leading America forward by venturing off to attend a couple of fundraisers to round out his day.

No, the new trend I refer to has been all over Facebook this week, one of people sharing their first names and how their names could be spelled out as an acronym with adjectives used to describe that person. Well, I think that's great. I think taking a look at your own name, what it represents, and also how you represent that name is certainly a worthwhile use of time. So is learning whom you were named after, if that is the case, or even what the word origin of your name is. I'm always intrigued to hear stories like these.

What's in a name? Upon further review, plenty.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Tale of Two Presidents

Following are two quotes, each uttered by a president of the United States of America. Both presidents hail from the state of Illinois. One president faced a divisive, bloody, destructive, and bitterly fought Civil War, and yet he refused to vilify or demonize his enemy. The other's presidency was marred with scandal after scandal, a "war" of his own making, and he childishly taunted and mocked the political party of the opposition:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

"Middle-class families can't wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. . . . So sue me. . . . And they criticize me for this — Boehner sued me for this. It's crazy, it's not socialism. It's not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken."

One was Abraham Lincoln, while the other was Barack Hussein Obama.

Can you guess which is which?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Dangerous Lives of Shopping Carts

As a public service, and also because the Angry White Loner considers you to be a friend, he's here tonight to warn you of the dangers of shopping carts.

But shopping carts aren't dangerous, some of you, naively, might be inclined to say. Well, your opinion is duly noted. And you would be, of course, DEAD WRONG!

From an Ogden Regional Medical Center ad, I recently learned that over 47,000 people in the United States alone are injured by shopping carts each year. The AWL's personal encounters with shopping carts have also led him to both fear and respect the mighty shopping cart.

Incredible-but-True Shopping Cart Story #1: The AWL and Angry White Sister were once traveling out to Salt Lake City on the freeway at night when, out of nowhere, there was suddenly a shopping cart sitting on the road. AWS was *ahem* driving the car, though there really wasn't that much time to react to said shopping cart, which ended up leaving a sizeable dent in the front bumper of Angry White Dad's car.

AWD, as you might imagine, was rather upset by this turn of events. His Angry White Children, in case you wondered, were thankfully not injured.

Just the other day, in factthis really happenedI had to swerve the Aluminum Falcon out of the way of a SOFA, also lying there on the road on I-15.

Incredible-but-True Shopping Cart Story #2: A friend of the Angry White Loner's, when he was younger and foolish, decided to hop into a shopping cart and took it for a ride down 1800 South in Bountiful. Those who live in or know Bountiful know that this is a rather steep hill and will have already correctly guessed that this was a very bad idea. The shopping cart won this battle with said friend, leaving him with horrendous injuries.

"Where will the shopping carts strike next?" is the question that, I'm sure, is now on everybody's lips.