Monday, October 26, 2009

The Lost Art of Dating

My wife and I have a problem. We are dating impaired. I'm not even certain that we ever really knew how to date before we got married, and I think our dating skills have been deteriorating faster than the half-life of polonium-214. You should not interpret this to mean that my wife and I do not know how to connect. Oh, no. In fact, I believe my wife and I have an extraordinarily stable and supportive relationship. Indeed, our favorite past-time is just being together and we are greatly blessed to not only be a married couple, but to be best friends, too.

Our problem is that we simply don't know how to date. On the rare occasions we do decide to pay for a babysitter, we usually end up going to either a church function or to the temple. These are certainly worthwhile endeavors, but it means we don't usually have the opportunity to simply be alone, together, in a "courting" environment. When we don't do either of these things, it is often because we have identified the one of perhaps two movies that we actually are willing to spend money on to see in the theater in that given year. Going to movies certainly counts as a "dating" experience, but one can't honestly say that it is one where real "courting" actually happens, as few words are exchanged. Even worse, sometimes our "dates" consist of shopping or running other errands.

These kinds of "dates" are pretty much all we have been doing for a very long time. We do have the occasional exception, but they are few and far between.

The odd part about this whole thing is that it began so innocently. We met, dated, courted, and married in 5 months while we were college students. During this process, we were both buried in school work up to our chins and had no money.

Our dating ritual at that time pretty much consisted of spending nearly every waking, non-class time together doing whatever we each had to do. This included her coming to where I worked as a consultant in a computer lab and spending time with me there. She would even stay with me and fall asleep on a nearby spot of carpet when I was up particularly late working on a project. Oftentimes, we would spend our evenings studying next to each other (our courses of study were very different).

On rare occasions, we would go to the dollar movie to see some lame movie, or rent a video to watch. I don't recall if we went to any dances aside from the homecoming dance, though I'm sure we must have. Even so, our dating experiences were pretty thin on the ground, and not varied. We were busy, we were very broke, but we were happy. It was a good time.

Naturally, after we got married, we got down to the business of becoming adults. We finished school (still broke), and ultimately moved to California where we started our family and began saving for a house. We learned to be frugal and when kids came along, going on a date became an even more expensive outing ($20 for a movie, $15 to $30 for dinner, at least $20 for a babysitter ... it adds up!). To this day, though our finances are somewhat better, we still have a hard time spending that kind of cash to go to a movie that we could simply wait six months to get from the Redbox (love it).

Thus, our dating impairment has several root causes, in order: 1) we are frugal, 2) we are very busy with family and church life, and 3) we are uncreative.

Much to our surprise, however, my wife and I did actually go on a real, honest-to-goodness date last weekend. (Never mind that we had to schedule it a month in advance ... see cause #2) We got a babysitter, took a coupon (to alleviate cause #1) to the nearby Marie Callendar's restaurant, and then went to a place called "Fin's Glow Zone" (which addressed cause #3). It's a silly place with indoor miniature golf that is decorated with an underwater theme, prominently lit by black lights.

We had a great time. Truth be told, I enjoy being with my wife doing pretty much anything, which explains why we sometimes just go shopping together. (Can you believe we pay a babysitter to watch the kids just so we can go shopping?! Lame, I know, but it sometimes works for us.)

There, though, we acted silly and enjoyed the experience. The place was empty (on a Friday night? we don't expect the establishment to stay open too long ...), so we were not self-conscious about being dorky (not really a stretch for us ...). The golf wasn't all that spectacular, but it was a fun environment and we had a great time taking silly pictures. I lost (honestly) to my wife, which always makes her happy, which makes me happy. She taught me a few tricks about how to hold a golf club, and, truly, they helped. The whole being silly thing was really weird for me; I'm not really sure when I became a grown-up, but the experience felt a little awkward for me because my kids weren't around to be my excuse for being goofy.

So, some evidence. I had my cellphone with me, so I tried to take some pictures. They're nearly all fuzzy, but what can you do? Here's a picture of my wife being silly with a treasure chest behind her.

Here's one of her trying to look all sober and pirate-y with a pirate helping her steer the ship.

And here's one with me getting eaten by a shark.

And here's one with me standing beside Triton with my mermaid groupie behind me. (We didn't realize she was there when my wife took the picture.)

Anyway, it was a good time, but I definitely think that she and I need to do stuff like this more often because we are clearly out of the habit. We'll happily take suggestions ... got any?

"Hello. My name is Roy and I am dating impaired ..."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A First Edition Book of Mormon

I went to a stake priesthood meeting last night, and had a wonderful time. The speakers were great, and spoke about the power of The Book of Mormon to change people's lives. One fellow, who was baptized just a few months ago, told his twenty-year conversion story as he lived his youth and young adulthood in the midst of worthy priesthood holders who set a good example for him. He told us of his doubts that he himself could be a worthy priesthood holder and that if he joined the church he might not be the member he knew he should be. It was quite inspiring as he outlined his experiences and told about how he finally came to the realization that he didn't have to be perfect, he just had to do his best.

Finally, the stake president got up and spoke about how important it is for us to keep the commandments in this ever-changing world where we are watching the disintegration of moral standards. He focused on how the Adversary, who throughout his talk he referred to as "The Great Distractor", does his best to distract us from that which is good, and to keep us too busy in our daily lives to do what's right. We were warned against the very insidious nature of temptation, and how a very simple slip in our obedience to the commandments, for which one can easily find an excuse or rationalization, can quickly lead us into full-blown wickedness if we fail to repent and correct ourselves.

It was a great meeting. The first speaker was one of the counselors in the stake presidency, and, as I mentioned, he spoke about The Book of Mormon. He had many copies with him that were special to him for one reason or another, such as the one he used as a missionary, one in a language that he gave away as a missionary, and several in languages from where his son's served or are serving their missions. The one that made me do a double-take, however, was when he lifted one of the first edition copies. He had, in his hand, one of the first 5000 copies that were printed in 1830.

As I sat and he gave his talk, I had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to go up there after the meeting and look at it. Clearly, it's just a thing, an item that, in the grand scheme of things, is temporary and unimportant. Nevertheless, I felt a need to go see it, as I don't know if I will ever have another chance to look at one again. So, after the meeting concluded, I went to the stand and asked the owner if I could examine it. He said I could, without hestitation, and I was able to pick it up and leaf through its pages for a few moments.

The book itself was unremarkable, aside from its good condition. It's binding was roughed up and the inside pages were coming loose, though I found none that were completely free. The opening pages had text that I did not recognize, as the preface from that original version is not included in the modern version of the book. I attempted to take a picture of it with my cellphone, but they turned out fuzzy in the bad light, but I found some photographs here that I've included:

The picture I took of the outside of the book came out acceptably un-fuzzy:

It's a funny thing, holding a piece of history. The speaker himself admitted that what saddens him the most about having the book is that he does not know its history. He does not know all who owned it, all who read it, those who were touched by its words, and even those who had possession of it but dismissed it as unimportant. Clearly its journey has been a meandering one, and I was pleased just to be able to hold it in my hand and contemplate its importance in so many lives.

Truly the words of God are great.

(Want a free copy of The Book of Mormon? Click here.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Little Bit of Catching Up

A lot has happened since I last posted. We had General Conference, both of my older children had birthday parties, we went camping to Big Sur (finally!), my daughter got baptized, and at work I had a big review for a software development that I'm leading.

A few words about each of these. First, General Conference: it was awesome.

Second, my kids' birthday parties: they were very loud.

Third, camping at Big Sur: it was a wonderful time.

Okay, okay, I'll say more than a few words ... and add far more pictures than I usually do ...

Driving up Highway 1 is the Best. Drive. Ever. I don't think we ever get sick of taking pictures along this coast. Here's one of the few pictures I took during the entire trip. My wife is sort of a camera hog (I don't really mind), so it has to be a special occasion for me to take a picture, and an even more special occasion to get it with her in the frame.

And of course the sun over the ocean is always gorgeous.

And we couldn't pass up a picture of a bird.

While camping, we took a tour of the Point Sur Lighthouse where the kids listened with rapt attention to the stories of how people lived up on the rock, hauling their stuff up the cliff face, and dealing with storms and the isolation. They loved hearing about the ships that wrecked (and the air ship that wrecked) and really enjoyed the experience. One funny thing was that the hike up the hill is about half a mile around the back of the light house, and at the top when the tour was over, my oldest son asked if there was going to be a tram to take everybody back down to the bottom. The guide about fell over at that question, but then couldn't help but laugh. Silly boy.

We also took a day and went to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. It was totally cool, as always. With the kids being a bit older, we can move a little more quickly, which was good because we were late getting there. The kids did get a little bored at times, even with so much to see and do. It is a really neat thing to see them reading the plaques on the displays and aquariums and learning about everything. We always love standing next to the kelp forest and watching it sway back and forth.

We also love the huge tank where this time they had the only great white shark known to be in captivity. It was awesome.

My wife and I really do enjoy museums of any type (except maybe art museums) and it is nice to see that my kids, readers all, seem to enjoy them, too.

My wife is kind of crazy for jellyfish, by the way. This is only one of about six million photographs she took.

The kids didn't really enjoy hiking that much. It was "too hard" and "too hot" and "too steep", but, of course, when we reached the end of where we were going and they saw the waterfall, they were glad they had done it. However, we couldn't convince them to go on any more hikes after that.

We did spend some time at Pfeiffer beach, which is always a treat. The kids loved it, and my daughter found a way to voluntarily fall into the water, so she was soaked and cold by the time we left. They had a wonderful time climbing the rocks and playing in the sand, even though we had no swim suits and no sand toys.

But, of course, camping is all about the fire. We paid way too much to buy firewood from a grocery store (a grocery store! for wood!) and were very pleased to inherit firewood left behind by other campers, so we had a huge amount of wood to burn. The children, of course, were delighted to have "poker" sticks that they would light on fire and then wave around (yeah, we put a stop to that pretty quick ...). We had s'mores and cooked many of our meals over the fire. The campsite we were at was pretty good, too, with hot water for showers and a playground. Not exactly roughing it, but since we were there for a whole week, it was nice to have a few comforts. And the weather was great, too. Had we come the week after, we would have been drenched by a fierce rain storm that swept the state.

Oh, and we had our bicycles, too.

My daughter's baptism was awesome. We originally expected to have my parents and my brother and his wife in town for that, but it didn't work out that way (my brother's wife's father passed away). It was a little disconcerting to realize that I didn't have any priesthood holders who I knew was going to be there to be witnesses to the baptism and to stand in the confirmation circle with me, but a few well-placed calls later and some of my good friends from the ward were happy to come and join me.

My daughter was so happy to finally be baptized. It is something she's been looking forward to since her older brother was baptized two years ago. Her anxiety was compounded by the fact that she is the youngest in her primary class and thus the last to be baptized. Both of her friends from her class were at the baptism, and it was a very nice event.

Afterward, we had dinner at our place for all who wanted to join us. We had quite a few people show up, and it was a lot of fun to socialize. The kids were well-behaved and we actually had some grown up conversation. We haven't entertained in so long, I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing it. Good thing the holiday season is upon us!

In any case, now that my daughter is baptized, I am so very proud of her as she is trying her hardest to keep her covenants, to act more mature, to be more kind, and to obey more promptly (though she still is a total book-worm, particularly now that we let her read the fourth Harry Potter book ...). She is a sweet and wonderful young lady, and I am very happy to be her father.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Passing of Our Hamster

Well, my hamster died yesterday. I didn't really think it was my hamster, but my wife felt differently. Truth be told, it was me who took care of her most of the time, aside from cleaning the cage. I fed her, made sure she had water, and let her out to roll around in her hamster ball most of the time. I even named her. Her name was Mabel. And I buried her yesterday in the corner of our garden.

She was a pretty good little hamster. She ran in her cage like a maniac and kept us up at night with her noise, but we learned to close the door where she was kept. At first we didn't really like her because she wasn't as fun to play with as the previous hamster we had. Eventually, though, as she aged, she got to be much more fun to play with and she definitely grew on us.

We also learned that she was an escape artist who found every possible weakness in her cage, even learning to undo the latches that kept it closed. We still don't know how she did it, but we finally figured out that if we ensured all the latches were closed and put a really heavy book on top of her cage, she couldn't get out. And when we forgot to replace the book, she reminded us that we needed to keep it there when we found the cage empty, with the entire top of the cage ajar. Luckily, we learned where she would go when she escaped, so we were able to find her soon after she got out most of the time.

Hamsters don't usually live more than a few years, but we only had her about eight months. We had no idea she would pass away so soon, though, as she seemed healthy.

We will miss her. Farewell Mabel.

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