Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 2 (3/31)

Thursday March 31st – also known as Day 2. Normally our Thursdays are pretty busy with piano lessons and Cub Scouts, but for various reasons, both of those were canceled, leaving me with a full evening to work on my Build and Grow!

First order of business was emptying out the other two boxes and organizing the rest of the parts.

Then, it was time to inventory

We had all our pieces. There were only two moments of confusion

  • We couldn’t find our “P23″ pieces.  But when we went through all the pieces, we found them mixed in with the P22 pieces.
  • There were two pieces that did not appear to be stamped with a letter/number combination.  Some of them were very faint and hard to see, but there were two that didn’t have any at all.  When we went through all the pieces, we found that we were missing our two P28 pieces, and thankfully the manual gave the dimensions for each piece – our missing pieces were in fact the P28s!

We were making sure to check EACH piece in a pile. So rather than say, just counting our pile of P16s and making sure that we needed 16 and there were 16 in the pile – we checked each piece in the pile to make sure it had the right stamp. Seems like a bit of overkill but that’s how we found our missing P23 pieces.

Then it was time to start! We read, and read, and triple-checked Step 1 – “Lay Tower Legs B1, B2 and B3 on ground, per diagram. Attach H11 Top Floor Rail….”

We actually only made it through Step 1 on Day 2 before dark.

Sorry for the dark picture but I wanted to take a picture of our Day 2 progress. I originally had agreed with a co-worker to come over on Saturday morning to help me with but, having seen where we were at, I decided to reschedule that. I wanted to make sure that I felt a bit more comfortable with how things were going before adding in another person.

Day 2 time: 2 hours
Total time: 3.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0
Steps completed: 1 (of 103)

2010 Miami Triathlon Report

It is once again that time of year – time for another triathlon report from TPMHTDM! I know my faithful readers have been waiting for a full report, and while I will attempt to blame external forces, the delay in the writeup for this race is mostly due to laziness.

As always, you may also be interested in my 2007 MUSF report, 3 pigs triathlon report, my 2008 MUSF report or my 2009 MUSF report

The months leading up to the race were not marked with the greatest in training regimens by me. I did train some, to the point where I was not expecting to die (always a bonus!), but my heart was just not in it. I don’t know if it’s just that the race has lost some of its “novel”-ness, or lack of time, or desire, or what, but my regimen was definitely half-hearted. One possibility would be to move up to a higher distance race, but I’m not sure that will do it for me either.

In any case, you may have heard of the 7 P’s. The way I first heard it was Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (which I know is only 6 Ps – click the link if you want to). In this race, we will instead prove its corollary, Poor Planning Produces Poor Performance.

But enough of all that mumbo-jumbo – let’s get to race day! I have to say, having all these detailed prior year race reports is very handy for race day planning. For instance, I knew to set my alarm to 4:30, and knew all the things I should bring.

I slept much better than I did last year, but just like last year I did end up waking up on my own about 15 minutes beforehand. So I got up, got dressed and packed my standard race-day breakfast of peanut butter bagels. Again like last year, I had sufficiently “carbed up” with donuts the day before :-)

Due to the empirical data, I could better analyze my route towards Oxford. Last year I took 275, which measured 30 minutes and 23.3 miles. This year I took the Lateral to 75 to Cross County, which got me 25 minutes and 19.7 miles. Sounds like a clear winner! Though it does produce the odd effect of starting out an hour long trip to the northwest by taking 71 SOUTH!!!

After getting over to 75 and starting to head northwards, I passed the “lovely” aromas of the Jim Beam plant. When I was in college, I interviewed for a co-op position with a company called DataBeam. My roommates always refered to it as “Jim Beam” even though I’m sure they’re not related at all. So anyways, I didn’t get a job with them and a year or two passed. One of my out-of-town friends called me up out of the blue. She was studying something along the lines of environmental cleanup or something and was wanting to get a job at Jim Beam and asked if I had any references. I had to let her know that I was NOT going to be able to be very helpful at all!! :-)

Whenever I’m doing a race like this, I keep a notebook with me to write down snippets of things I want to include in the race report. Otherwise I’d clearly forget them. I’m sure this speaks to some strange side of my personality. Unfortunately, since the route to Oxford is pretty much the same every year, I tend to end up with a lot of recycled jokes, which I then have to filter out. Can’t remember the name of the town between Cincinnati and Oxford? Done. Talk about how I used to geocache here? Yup, did it already.

But one geocaching thought that I did have was some good memories of Electric Shavers, who was a guy who lived up in Hamilton who favored the “quantity not quality” method of hiding caches. And when I was really into geocaching, I always liked to keep my “list” of close caches clean. So that was really the last time I did much traveling up here. Had some good memories of that, even though the caches were not always the greatest.

So what does Jim Beam and shaving have to do with this race? Uh, nothing. But that’s what I’m all about! Continuing with my non-race jibber-jabber, I did notice a few things on the drive up to Oxford. It’s interesting since I only ever drive up here once a year (at least for the past 4 years) to see the new things each year. Some things I noticed on this trip – the speed limit was only 45 mph north of Millville – that seemed new. And also, there was a center lane through McGonigle (not to be confused with McGonagall). I know, I know – fascinating stuff….

Okay so onto the real race stuff. I managed to find a place to park on a street that did NOT have a Parking by City of Oxford Permit sign on it, unlike last year, so no parking tickets for me! I made my way with my bike over to the natatorium to pick up my packet, only to find it completely empty. Apparently they moved the packet pickup station to tables out in the lawn. So I went down there to check in. Except there was a brief problem in that it was still dark, so awful hard to see anything in there! Eventually I got checked in, and then got my timing chip (slight delay as I was there so early that they hadn’t set those up yet). One interesting thing I was told was that the swim caps were mandatory this year, which I thought was odd for a pool swim. I mean for an open-water swim sure, makes sense since you want to make sure you don’t “lose” anyone, but in a pool it seems odd.

One of the downfalls of planning enough “buffer time” is that when nothing actually DOES go wrong, you have a lot of time to kill. So after I got everything set up (on the “prime” end of row location, of course), I wandered around a bit. I checked out the parking garage that is right near the transition area to see what the deal was with that (i.e. if it was free). It appeared to be $5-10 to park there, or what we in the “business” refer to as the “sucker’s price” for parking.

Another key piece to my race planning was the post-swim towel placement. In previous years I had placed an extra towel on a set of bleachers that was placed near the swim exit. Basically the idea is that when you get out of the pool, on the way to the building exit (and path to transition area), I would stop, get this bonus towel and begin the drying process a few crucial seconds earlier. Two problems with this though – first, last year the race guy pointed out this bleacher and said you could put towels there, which led to it being a lot more crowded than it used to be. And secondly, the bleachers are not QUITE on the way to the door. So you have to detour a bit to get the towel, perhaps costing you the seconds that you gain.

So this year, I found a new spot – along the railing of the path outside that leads from the swim building into the transition area. Originally I was going to just put it in some bushes, but I found a pretty good spot along the railway that was tucked away somewhat out of sight. The idea there is that I didn’t want a) some race folks seeing it and deciding that it was not allowed and taking it and b) another racer seeing it and deciding “ooh! free towel!”. Later on as I was inspecting the area, I did see several other towels nearby.

Another thing I did pre-race was look for someone. My friend Kent who raced with me last year was not able to do it this year, due to recent birth of twins, but he had passed the info onto Brett, who I also knew somewhat (though not very well). Brett and I had exchanged a few emails about things and said we’d look for each other before the race. So I was trying to keep an eye out for him. Unfortunately, while I thought I would recognize him once I saw him, I was not really sure what to look for other than someone who was tall :) . But I spotted him before too long and we headed into the pavillion area.

We talked for awhile, and then as we were about to kick off the race, I was mentally prepping for what I would need to do, and realized I had left my goggles back in the transition area. So I had to race back there to get them. When I got there, they had already started up the timers on the pads at the entrance / exit of the transition area, so I had to walk around. Back at the race meeting, it went pretty well. One interesting thing was a note saying that the race organizers had tried to work with CSX to route the trains around the race course but they were un-responsive. And in fact, CSX apparently would not even provide them with a train timetable. They said that they had volunteers at the tracks and a plan to compensate times if it came to that, so that was…interesting and I filed that away.

So after awhile of waiting and watching the first crazy-fast swimmers go, Brett went down to take his turn, and around half an hour later, I went down too. I once again subscribed to the belief that because racers were “seeded” on their listed swim time, it’s better to put down a time that is faster than you actually are. My thoughts are that it a) might help you to swim faster as you try to stay with the racers that are around you and b) it’s faster and less taxing to be passed by people than having to pass people.

While I was down in line, waiting for my turn to start swimming, I was chatting with a few folks near me in line. Even though the original talk was that swim caps were required, later I heard that they weren’t, but I just kept mine on just in case. While we were chatting and such, we noticed someone swimming the wrong way in a lane. With a serpentine / pool swim, you swim down Lane 1 for 50m, then back the other way in Lane 2, then back down in Lane 3, etc. until you are swimming back in Lane 8 and then exit the pool and building. So at the end of each lane, you have to duck under the lane ropes. Apparently when this guy got to the end of Lane 1, he didn’t make it under the ropes into Lane 2and started swimming back in Lane 1. So we’re all trying to shout at him, like we’re in Planes, Trains and Automobiles – “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” but he couldn’t / didn’t hear us because, of course, he was swimming (“Ah he’s drunk – how would he know where we’re going”). So after he passed us and it became apparent that he was not going to change directions, we all watched him to wonder what he would do as he got to the end (errr beginning?) of Lane 1. Would he make it under the ropes and start swimming the wrong way in Lane 2, or would he realize his mistake and drop under 2 lanes and start swimming in the correct direction in Lane 3. And the answer is…. c) none of the above. He just turned around and went back in Lane 1. When he got to the end of Lane 1 again, he must have figured it out as he correctly ducked the ropes and got into Lane 2. So I guess for him it was the 500 meter swim! :-)

As it came to be my turn and I got ready to jump in, I readied my watch to start my time. But as I crossed the mat and started my time, my stopwatch wouldn’t start. I tried to fiddle with it and “hit buttons” but I quickly came to the same place I did when my goggles broke back in the 3 Little Pigs triathlon – either keep fiddling or just GO. So I just went. Later I realized that due to the fact that it was Carolyn’s watch and I was not familiar with it and I was just not hitting the right button.

The swim went fine. Nobody passed me till the end of Lane 2, and even then, because of the way the serpentine course is designed (i.e. you pass on the left, but at the end of the even numbered lanes you turn to the right), I passed right back because I had a shorter turn (being on the inside). They passed me right back at the start of Lane 3, and I was periodically passed by folks. Still, it was good, given my relative lack of swim training – I didn’t really feel in trouble and I was able to freestyle swim the whole way.

Made my way out of the swim area and grabbed my (carefully concealed) towel which was right where I left it. Sped through the transition time, putting on my shirt, socks, shoes, shades and helmet and went off on the bike. The bike course was the same as it has been the past 2 years, and I could definitely tell that my timing was not as good. Whereas last year, I was clipping around 16mph heading out, this year I was struggling to make 14. There was a bit of a wind going, but I don’t think that was most of it. I passed a few people and again was passed by some as I anticipated the big bad hill at about mile 3.5. It actually wasn’t that bad – I mean it was big, and hard to go up, but I biked the whole thing and passed about 5 people who were walking it.

The rest of the course was more of the same – rolling hills. The 2nd big hill was more of the same – I biked the whole way up and passed a few people walking. A little bit after that, at about mile 9-10 I heard the train whistle. I got a bit worried but figured that there was plenty of time for the train to go through and I was right – when I got back to the tracks it was clear. But afterwards I talked with Brett and he said that he hit the tail end of it. As he got to the tracks there were about 15-20 people lined up there and he had to wait, though only for about 15 seconds. I’m not clear if they adjusted his time or if so, by how much.

In any case, I made my way back to the transition area and went to put my bike on the rack. Final totals for the bike were 19 passed, and passed by 38 people. Having secured the end of rack spot, I was just scanning for my stuff, but I couldn’t find it! Eventually I figured out that someone had put their bike in my spot and I just put my bike on the rack next to mine and headed out. I have a fast transition time reputation to uphold!!!!

Run wasn’t too bad – it was definitely slower than last year but I felt good and felt like I was going at a pretty good pace. I was kind of expecting to see Brett coming back as I left, but he was apparently much faster than me and had already finished. Run is usually one of my better events, at least after a swim and bike compared to others – last year I passed about 30 people and was only passed by 1 person. This time I ended up passing 10 and being passed by 8. Final kick into the corral and finish!

2010musf

I found Brett and we talked a bit. There was a table with some snacks / goodies but it had some of those pre-packaged cracker snack packs in it, which struck me as quite possibly the worst possible snack option! I mean, come on race organizers, I’m parched from just exercising for the past 1-2 hours and you think CRACKERS are the way to go?!!? There were also some apples and oranges, but what I really wanted was a banana, which I saw a few folks walking around with. Eventually I dug through the bags enough and found one.

Since the after-race party which was so awesome the first year I did this has progressively gotten crappier and crappier, I didn’t hang around and instead just left pretty soon after the race. And then…. the waiting began. Finally, Sunday night, they posted a version of the times up on the website. I was in 376th of 600 participants (555 finishers). Splits were 11:55 for the swim (which includes the time from when you get out of the pool until you enter the “official” transition area, 1:41 for T1, 55:59 for the bike and…. nothing for the run. Apparently they were still “working out some issues” with the run times and that along with the train adjustments would be up on Monday. The foreboding music of doom from last year began to reprise, just a little bit louder….

Naturally Monday came and went, with nothing. Then on I think Tuesday or Wednesday, they posted final race times, with no transition times at all, and a time of 58:24 for my bike, and 26:14 for the run, overall total of 1:36:34. I emailed to complain, and to ask if the transition times were going to be put back in. The response, from James at HFP:

The transition times are actually included in the bike splits. We had some battery issues with one of the timing boxes, causing some of the transition and split times to be incorrect. So, we included everything together to make it all accurate.

Uhhhhhh I’m not sure how you can say under any possible meanings of the word that just lumping that time into the bike time makes it more “accurate”. Since I’m definitely a complainer, I wrote back:

I’m not sure how you can say that lumping those times into the bike make it more “accurate”?!? As you may already be aware, this is now the 2nd year in a row where HFP “issues” have caused mistakes / omissions from the race times at the MUSF race.

I am not an expert or professional racer. I have limited funds to devote to triathlons, and typically do only one race per year. I have done the MUSF triathlon the last 4 years, and I have to say that it has gotten worse every year.

After last year’s debacle, HFP gave me a 50% coupon to apply to this year’s race. But now, after 2 straight years of HFP equipment malfunctions, I think I have to start looking for another race.

Do you have any kind of assurances that you can provide that we’re not going to see more of the same issues again in future races?

It’s unfortunate that there are limited triathlons in the area on Saturdays, and the only other one I know about here in Cincinnati is at Coney Island and ALSO run by HFP. So we’ll see what to do – but in any case, until I hear otherwise, I’m going to just combine the 2 versions of the times and give myself final splits of:

* 11:55 swim
* 1:41 T1
* 55:59 bike
* 0:45 T2
* 26:14 run
* 1:36:34 total

Thanks for reading, and (maybe) we’ll see you here again next year!!!

Day of Good Deeds!

Okay so I know it’s been awhile for TPMHTDM. Like Carolyn has said – facebook is killing my blog. (Softly. With its song)

But Saturday was my “Day of Good Deeds!” As you will see if you read on, it proved to be a good deeds day of mixed success.

The day started out like any other day – we went to basketball, where my son somehow scored 3 baskets! Woohoo! Then we went to do the grocery shopping. While we were at Aldi, after we had checked out and were bagging our groceries I noticed a woman who was using the phone there. She asked if I lived in Pleasant Ridge (the area where Aldi is), and I said no. Upon listening in a bit, I realized that she had locked her keys in the trunk of her car. So I offered to take her to her house and back to Aldi.

So I did – she got her keys, I drove her back, and as we were getting back to Aldi, she offered some money for gas. I told her she didn’t need to do that, since it was like 5 miles roundtrip, if that, but she shoved money into my hand. No, really, she did. So I took it – it ended up being $3, which is some pretty good ROI!! :-) She got into her trunk, and my son and I continued on with the grocery shopping.

We got done and home around 12:00 or so and as I’m eating my lunch there is a knock on the door. I open the door, and it is a guy who tells me his truck has broken down and he needs $16 for a tow truck. He says that he has some money (and flashes it) but needs $16 more. He says that he will give an ID or he has some work ladders in his truck as collateral for it. So eventually we agree on a ladder. He comes back with the ladder, and says that with tax it is $22. I give him the $22 and he gives me the ladder, and says that he will be back in an hour to an hour and a half.

So we wait for him and wait, and… (can you see where this is going?). It was especially annoying because it prevented us from trying for the triple coin cycle since we had to wait for this guy to show up. Lots of different thoughts in our head. We did consider calling the police on Sunday when he still hadn’t shown up, but mostly “couldn’t reach”.

Of course the guy never shows up, so I figure hey on the day I’m out $19 and up a ladder. In the end, no big deal because the ladder will easily sell for that much.

That is, until the police show up yesterday (Monday) night. Apparently he’s been pulling this scam in the neighborhood for awhile and they caught him because some good souls (not us) called the police when he showed up. The ladder? Stolen from a nearby neighbor, of course. So now I’m out $19 and all I got is this lousy story! :-)

And naturally, I feel a bit silly being scammed. In retrospect, there were a lot of warning signs that I should have picked up on. After he had left, I remember thinking to myself that it’s sad that the world has come to this where you can’t trust anyone. And that was even BEFORE he screwed me!

So while I do want to leave you with the point to be wary and watchful for scammers, I thought I’d just mention the other side of things. I shared this story / thought in Bishopric meeting this past Sunday, from Mosiah 4:16-25

…and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

So while I do again want to stress that there is no need to let yourself be scammed, and you should be watchful of this type of behavior, and of course above all else, make sure you keep you and your family / loved ones safe, we are only judged on our OWN thoughts / actions, not the actions of others. And while I definitely do not want to get into things like whether giving money to people on the street is an effective method of “helping” them, I am remembering (only somewhat vaguely so apologies to whoever if I’m misquoting – I tried to think of where I heard this and I am thinking it was at a stake conference but I can’t remember) hearing that if you say, give money to someone on the street and they use it improperly, you are not held accountable for that (Peter Parker aside and I know that’s not quite the same situation but work with me here!).

You could certainly argue that, if we set the safety issue aside which I know that you can’t do in the real world, it would be worth giving money 99 times to people that are going to use it for alcohol or drugs if you could help out the one that was truly in need.

And although I know it isn’t completely the same as our situation this weekend, I’ve always really liked the quote above – “I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give”. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a cheapskate or use this line of thinking to justify not being as charitable as maybe I could be, but I like it.

In any case, that was the “big news” of what happened to us this weekend. In the end, it was a relatively “cheap” lesson to learn.

More Diligent and Concerned at Home

Continuing my general conference series, this week I was reading David A Bednar’s talk, More Diligent and Concerned at Home.

Here are a few quotes and thoughts

We can begin to become more diligent and concerned at home by telling the people we love that we love them. Such expressions do not need to be flowery or lengthy. We simply should sincerely and frequently express love.

Brethren and sisters, when was the last time you took your eternal companion in your arms and said, “I love you”? Parents, when was the last time you sincerely expressed love to your children? Children, when was the last time you told your parents that you love them?

Each of us already knows we should tell the people we love that we love them. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. We may feel unsure, awkward, or even perhaps a bit embarrassed.

As disciples of the Savior, we are not merely striving to know more; rather, we need to consistently do more of what we know is right and become better.

We should remember that saying “I love you” is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need consistently to show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.

President Thomas S. Monson recently counseled: “Often we assume that [the people around us] must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. . . . We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us”

This is something I have done off and on. In some senses, I feel that I do an okay job at love word expressing. I’m sure my wife (and mom?) will be amused reading about feelings talking :-) I did like the talk about how saying “I love you” is not enough – it needs to be shown in words. Extreme, anyone? Also the quote from Pres. Monson about how you’ll never regret kind words or affection but only regret the lack of them.

As our sons were growing up, our family did what you have done and what you now do. We had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. Now, I am sure what I am about to describe has never occurred in your home, but it did in ours.

Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!” Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.

Nope, never happened in my family growing up and never happens now. We have done pretty well in FHE and Family prayers. Scripture reading has been off and on. I do think it’s very true talking about how it’s important not necessarily what comes out of it but just that it gets done. Here’s a metaphor that someone once shared with me when I was complaining about the pointlessness of church meeting attendance with little kids. She compared it to trying to get water with a hole in your bucket. So you go to the well, fill up the bucket, but by the time you get back to the house, all the water has leaked out. Every time you fill it up, the water leaks out. Very frustrating for sure, but her point was at least you cleaned the bucket. Now, I don’t know if I exactly like the metaphor as it pertains to church attendance but it did provoke some interesting thoughts.

Elder Bednar also compared it to a big painting. If you stand real close, you can see the individual brushstrokes which are nothing special and even appear random. But when you step back it becomes a big painting. Similar is doing Conceptis‘ Pic-a-pix or we have a painting downstairs at work from a guy named Denny Dent who basically just throws paint at canvas and it looks totally random till he gets all done and you’re like woah that’s Albert Einstein.

Being consistent in our homes is important for another reason. Many of the Savior’s harshest rebukes were directed to hypocrites. Jesus warned His disciples concerning the scribes and Pharisees: “Do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:3). This strong admonition is sobering given the counsel to “express love—and show it,” to “bear testimony—and live it,” and to “be consistent.”

The hypocrisy in our lives is most readily discerned and causes the greatest destruction within our own homes. And children often are the most alert and sensitive when it comes to recognizing hypocrisy.

Conference talk – To Acquire Spiritual Guidance

So, I’m back in the saddle of reading conference talks. Today was my first one reading the new conference that just happened earlier this month. But since I missed Priesthood session, I have the whole list to do, which is 34 talks, so I will have to double up to get them done by April.

Starting off on my doubling, I did President Monson’s introduction as well as the first talk by Richard G. Scott (made submarines go).

I enjoyed it, and here are a few quotes and my comments.

Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us.

Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions.

Two things I found interesting there: one – the concept of using God as a “someone who has resolved similar problems” and two – as a parent thinking about the challenges my children will go through and that I may not have the experience to deal with them. Not that they’ll listen to me anyways because “Dad is so out of it – he’d never understand” :-)

The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.

An interesting simile there but the real thing that I thought while reading that was that this sure sounds like “the Force!” I can hear Yoda saying “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” It is true though that it’s pretty hard to be calm and relaxed when you have those kinds of feelings.

He then shared a story about 2 regular Sunday lesson teachers that he had sometime. One was a humble guy who “struggled to communicate the truths of the gospel in his lesson material”. Then there was a teacher who “had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles of the lesson”, and who “was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge.”

In both cases, Elder Scott had prepared and received several promptings that helped him with the tasks that were important to him in his life. He also shared how when he wrote down the ones he had received, he then received even FURTHER promptings.

What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.

I remember a guy that used to be in our ward. We were at a meeting (stake conference?) and afterward he talked about this same phenomenon having happened to him – that as the speaker was talking he (the guy) had just received all these revelations / thoughts about particular things that were important to him and going on his life and he was just gushing about it. I remember not having felt much personally, something which I attribute to poor preparation probably. Or kids! yeah kids! they’re the problem! :-D

What may appear initially to be a daunting task will be much easier to manage over time as you consistently strive to recognize and follow feelings prompted by the Spirit. Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.

Have patience as you are perfecting your ability to be led by the Spirit. By careful practice, through the application of correct principles, and by being sensitive to the feelings that come, you will gain spiritual guidance. I bear witness that the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, can speak to your mind and heart. Sometimes the impressions are just general feelings. Sometimes the direction comes so clearly and so unmistakably that it can be written down like spiritual dictation.

So something that I (and I’m sure most people) deal with is just recognizing what’s the Spirit and what’s just “me”. While I think that there can be some blending of that, the above quote from Elder Scott provides some insight that I found enjoyable and worthwhile.

So, to record the thoughts / revelation that I had while reading this talk, I am going to work with my children on Sundays – to try and spend one on one time with them on Sundays and when appropriate, give “father’s interviews”. It is scary how old they are getting!

father’s interviews / sunday time

An interesting perspective on parenting

So, I had an interesting thought on a different perspective on parenting while sitting in Priesthood class last week at church.

Within the past few weeks, Carolyn and I were talking about our kids (of course). And Carolyn was mentioning how you can’t treat kids as “little adults”. Meaning, that you think that you can just reason with them like you would reason with any regular person. Things like “If you continue teasing your sister, you will go to your room and not get a snack” or “If you won’t wear your shoes outside, then it will hurt when you walk across the gravel driveway” or “If you run into me with that shopping cart one more time, then I will take it away from you”. But they just don’t get it, and often do things that are not in their (rational) best interests. And as Carolyn pointed out, it’s because they are in fact NOT little adults, and their minds just aren’t mature enough to grasp that.

So while sitting in class on Sunday, we were tangentially talking about something like this, and I got the insight that this is probably EXACTLY how our Heavenly Father thinks about us, as HIS children.

He’s probably sitting up there thinking “Man these kids are SO stupid. I have told them over and over what they need to do to be happy, but they still do all this stupid stuff! Grr……….: :-)

Conference talk – The way of the disciple

So continuing on my series of General Conference talks – this week it was by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, called “The way of the Disciple“.

A few quotes.

It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, “spectator discipleship” is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping.

Love the analogy.

A friend of mine recently wrote to me, confiding that he was having a difficult time keeping his testimony strong and vibrant. He asked for counsel.

I wrote back to him and lovingly suggested a few specific things he could do that would align his life more closely with the teachings of the restored gospel. To my surprise, I heard back from him only a week later. The essence of his letter was this: “I tried what you suggested. It didn’t work. What else have you got?”

Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.

Too often we approach the gospel like a farmer who places a seed in the ground in the morning and expects corn on the cob by the afternoon

In contrast, the gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to all of our problems. The gospel is not a secret. It is not complicated or hidden. It can unlock the door to true happiness. It is not someone’s theory or proposition. It does not come from man at all. It springs from the pure and everlasting waters of the Creator of the universe, who knows truths we cannot even begin to comprehend. And with that knowledge, He has given us the gospel—a divine gift, the ultimate formula for happiness and success.

I remember hearing this when he gave the talk. I think of it as a comparison to fad diets and everyone’s insistence that whatever they do work RIGHT NOW, in contrast to my revolutionary diet “Eat less, exercise more“.

Our beloved friend Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught us this principle with clarity when he said:

“Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.

“We [might] see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. . . .

It’s interesting to compare one’s thoughts and hopes for one’s children with how our Heavenly Father feels, but about everyone.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this.

Increases in children of record

So, in my continuing series on General Conference talks, this week I decided to combine the Sustaining of Church Officers, the Auditing report, and the Statistical report.

I always find the statistical reports interesting (of course I do!)

One thing that was interesting to me was the difference this year in the increase of children of record.

2005 (reported in April 2006): 93,150
2006: 94,006
2007: 93,698
2008 (reported this past conference): 123,502

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn’t belong…

So, for those of you who are unsure what exactly are children of record, I believe they are both births of members and under age 8 children of adults who are baptized.

So I’m not sure what is going on. There must have been some change in the way that this is being calculated. There’s no way this can be accounted for with just more babies. I see that I am not the first to wonder about this, but from my searching I did not find a definitive answer.

Any thoughts?

Conference talk – Respect and Reverence

This week’s talk is called “Respect and Reverence“, by Margaret Lifferth, who is in the Primary General Presidency.

Just as a note, I don’t put a blog post each week when I read talks (though maybe I should!) But sometimes I don’t feel like anything jumped out at me. It’s not like the talk was bad or anything, just nothing jumped out at me that I wanted to share. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood or frame of reference that week? But I still do read one every week (at least for the past few months). Next week’s talk is “Revealed Quorum Principles” and you can find all the talks here (along with links to audio and video)

Anyway – a few things I found interesting about Sis. Lifferth’s talk:

She talked about respect and reverence (duh!) and specifically how to instill them in our children.

May I suggest that our ability and our credibility to exemplify reverence for God is strengthened as we show respect for each other. In today’s society, the standards of decorum, dignity, and courtesy are assailed on every side and in every form of media. As parents and leaders, our examples of respect for each other are critical for our youth and children because they are watching not only the media—they are watching us! Are we the examples we need to be?

I really found it interesting doing a bit of pondering about the media today, be it tv, radio, Internet, Facebook, blogs, whatever, and just the general slide towards accepting indecency and just a lack of “common courtesy” to borrow a phrase we like to throw around in our home. I am often torn between the libertarian-ish side of me that wants to just let people do whatever(-ish) they want, as long as it does not infringe on me or mine, and the part of me that feels like when as a society, we do not stand up against things that are “wrong”, that it just becomes acceptable. Then the envelope continues to be pushed further and further out. What is that quote – something like “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”?

Ask yourself these questions: Am I an example of respect in my home by the way I treat those I love the most? What is my demeanor during a sports event? If my child has a disagreement with a teacher, coach, or peer, do I listen to both sides of the issue? Do I show respect for the property of others as well as take care of my own? How do I respond to others with whom I disagree in matters of religion, lifestyle, or politics?

Loved this too – I am really a big fan of not arguing. People (for the most part) are never going to be convinced that they are wrong, and if they are, it’s not going to be by arguing about it. I think most people have this idea that they are some sort of master orator and THEY are the ones that can convince me (or whoever) of the error of my ways.

We are a friendly people and we love each other, but reverence will increase if our socializing is done in the foyer and if sacrament meeting begins with the prelude music, not the opening prayer. We encourage reverence when we take a crying child out of the chapel and find another room where we continue to listen to the meeting until the baby is calmed or a disruptive toddler is soothed. Reverence includes turning off our cell phones and BlackBerry devices. Texting or reading e-mails in a Church meeting is not only irreverent, it is distracting and signals a lack of respect for those around us. So we exemplify reverence by participating in the meeting, listening to the speakers, and singing the hymns of Zion together.

Ah – the good ol’ sacrament meeting reverence!!!! :-) . It has been interesting over the past few months as I have been talking with a friend at work about churches. He belongs to a different church and I was commenting the other day about how I find it very interesting comparing different churches – not only theologically as in what they believe, but just logistically in how they operate. There are many differences, of course, but I think this is a big one. Most churches that I’ve seen have just a 1-hour meeting, and it’s mostly for adults and bigger kids, while all the younger kids are off doing their version of what we call Primary. So (I would imagine) it is much quieter. I would imagine that someone that is used to that level of quietness would be somewhat shocked by the noise levels in our sacrament meetings. We have talked in our ward about creating a special visitor’s insert for our Sunday meeting programs to give to visitors / investigators just explaining what is going on and giving contact numbers and such, and in thinking about it, talking about the noise levels is one of the things that I thought would be helpful.

But I don’t want to harp on this. I think this is a subject that many people feel strongly about – I have some opinions on this issue, but I understand that it is a fine line as a parent walking between taking your child out at the first peep and teaching your kid that all he has to do to escape boring Sacrament meeting and go play in the foyer is make a peep. I will also say that the angriest I have ever been at church and the closest I have ever felt to never wanting to come back was after some people forcefully expressed their opinions on this subject. I will also say that it is my opinion that my kids (and for the most part the other kids in our congregation) are more age-appropriately reverent than most of the adults (see: texting / cell phones / Blackberries / reading above). And that is all I will say (see: arguing, also above :) )

See you next week!

Conference talk – living providently

So it’s conference talk time yet again! I find it interesting that, if you don’t count the auditing and statistical reports, and not counting the Sat. evening Priesthood session which I attended in person (well “in person”), there are exactly 26 talks! Just enough to read one every week till next conference.

This week’s talk was from Robert D. Hales (plays the piano) – called Becoming Provident Providers: Temporally and Spiritually. A subject near and dear to my heart. I found it very interesting, especially the examples that he gave about buying gifts for people (his wife in his examples).

The first lesson was learned when we were newly married and had very little money. I was in the air force, and we had missed Christmas together. I was on assignment overseas. When I got home, I saw a beautiful dress in a store window and suggested to my wife that if she liked it, we would buy it. Mary went into the dressing room of the store. After a moment the salesclerk came out, brushed by me, and returned the dress to its place in the store window. As we left the store, I asked, “What happened?” She replied, “It was a beautiful dress, but we can’t afford it!” Those words went straight to my heart. I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.”

Then she taught me an unforgettable lesson. She looked me in the eyes and sweetly asked, “Are you buying this for me or for you?” In other words, she was asking, “Is the purpose of this gift to show your love for me or to show me that you are a good provider or to prove something to the world?” I pondered her question and realized I was thinking less about her and our family and more about me.

It amazes me the insane amount of gifts and expensive birthday parties that people give for their kids. I mean, as I have stated before, I have a “unique” relationship with money, but I think that my son was very excited and happy with the $1 “Coin Grabber” that I got him for his birthday. Last night, he was very excited when I brought him home a map of Ohio and one of Cincinnati that I got for free from AAA and spent some time pointing out the various roads and our house, and the counties (start ‘em young! :) ). Kids, for the most part, do not want expensive toys. They want you to spend time with them

Some more quotes from the article:

Our world is fraught with feelings of entitlement. Some of us feel embarrassed, ashamed, less worthwhile if our family does not have everything the neighbors have. As a result, we go into debt to buy things we can’t afford—and things we do not really need. Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude.

When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, “We can’t afford it, even though we want it!” or “We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!”

Whenever we want to experience or possess something that will impact us and our resources, we may want to ask ourselves, “Is the benefit temporary, or will it have eternal value and significance?” Truthfully answering these questions may help us avoid excessive debt and other addictive behavior.

Elder Hales made some interesting comments about how buying things we don’t need or can’t afford really goes against the commandment of “Thou shall not covet” and how it robs us spiritually as well as temporally.

All in all a very good read, especially in the crazy economic times we’re in!