Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A New Year's Resolution...

Christmas was nice, quiet and uneventful. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? Sunday night we drove up to the temple to see the "Festival of Lights," a yearly event and noted attraction in this region.

With Christmas in the rear view mirror, and another day off work on my doorstep, my thoughts have turned to the new year. I'm not a big proponent of New Year's Resolutions. It seems to me that if you have to wait for the new year to make an improvement in your life, either (A) whatever it is you've waited to begin doing (or stop doing) isn't really that important to you; or (B) you're just plain lazy and should have done it a long time ago, which probably means you won't do it this time either.

Okay, so that sounds rather jaded! I guess I'm the type of person that when I realize something needs to be done, I do it. I don't see much point in waiting around to do something that should/could be done now.

All that said, I'm going against my own jaded-ness and making a resolution for 2005. Starting in the new year, I plan to keep a regular journal. For the last few years it's been awfully convenient for me to make annotations in Anne's journal. She's a faithful journal keeper, so I figure that I married her must count for something in my column.

There we will be, at night, me reading and Anne journaling, or whatever you call it. If something has been particularly worthy of recording, I'll say, "Do me a favor, make a note about [something]." If I could keep a journal by dictation, that'd be great, but this is the real world and I can't afford a personal secretary to transcribe that kind of thing.

One of my college roommates was good about keeping a journal. One night I returned home after an evening out (doing what? who knows--I didn't keep a journal then, either!) and I found him writing in his journal. He was writing, I didn't want to disturb him, so we didn't talk. I got ready for bed, climbed into my bed, and turned my light off. After a moment or two, he stated, "I'd sure hate it if I had to write in my journal that Eddie didn't pray before going to bed." Albeit grudgingly, I climbed out of bed and prayed. After all, you can't have something negative about you actually recorded in print.

So why haven't I kept a journal? I'd chalk it up to reason B: laziness. Another justification has been my memory. I remember details and dates fairly easily, but, time marches on and I have to count on the fact that my memory won't always be what it is today (steel trap vs. steel sieve). Since returning from my mission, an ever-increasing number of years ago, I have rarely recorded any of my thoughts or activities. And some important stuff has happened... graduated college, got married, had a kid or two, bought a house, etc.

I don't expect my writing to be anything along the lines of the journals of Anne or Wilford Woodruff. But hey, my thoughts and activities are entertaining enough that they could provide entertainment for some poor, bored soul in my family's future. Whether I write weekly or monthly, it will be more than I'm doing now.

So, here's to a journal!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Shopping... Bah, Humbug Part II

So today on my way to work I called the office and said I would be late. I re-routed myself to a nearby mall, where I made another dent in my Christmas shopping.

Last weekend I had a few hours on Saturday night to spend shopping. First, I purchased an automatic toothbrush for myself. Ahh, what nice teeth I'll have. And hey, it had a $20 mail-in rebate!

Next, I bought some antifreeze for my car. The car thanked me, as we drove to the next store.

Here's where I went out on a limb. I bought Mrs. Eddie... clothes! That's really the first time I've ever bought her clothes. I'm rather picky about what I will and won't wear (it could be something as simple as the color of the buttons on a button-down shirt) and I prefer to buy my own clothes. But lately, Mrs. Eddie has been pointing people out and saying, "I need to get something like that, I really like that look." Lest you think she's dropping hints, I'm sure she has no idea I've even considered buying her clothes much less already bought something.

And hey, there's always the receipt, so she can take it back and get something else if she wants. In my opinion, it's like a gift card, only it's a gift card you can wear if you actually like it. If you don't, take it back and get the store credit and get something else. Hey, at least I tried.

While wandering around numerous stores on Saturday, and again today, one thought kept popping into my head: how much I dislike shopping. Especially Christmas shopping. All the pressure to get something that will seem "thoughtful," yet really wishing it was just over and done with.

My ideal Christmas? All my friends and loved ones gather, we visit, shake hands, hug, and enjoy one another's company. No gifts exchanged (except giving to my kids and something for my spouse), and at the end of the day, we would have great memories of meaningful time spent with loved ones.

The age-old saying "it's the thought that counts" comes to mind whenever I gift shop. If that's really true, let's consider the time investment of purchasing a present.

First, one needs to drive to a store. Sometimes one must drive to multiple stores in order to find the right thing, so there's quite a time investment here. Add in holiday traffic and parking hassles and you've just racked up quite a bit of time. Once at the store, you have to sort through aisles and piles of meaningless crap in search of "the" item. If you're lucky, you know ahead of time what you're looking for. In that case, you've got to pray your luck holds out and you actually find whatever it is you need.

If you're not lucky, you spend untold amounts of time meandering around like a lost soul on Sunday, hoping something will catch your attention and that it won't cost an arm and a leg.

Once you have found the gift, you wait in line. Typically, the lines are long and don't move. Now you've got the item, and you have to bring it back home. Then you've got to box it, wrap it, and deliver it to the intended recipient (could involve shipping it, bringing it to someone's house, etc.).

Now, if it's really true that "it's the thought that counts," would you not rather I spend those 3+ hours pondering my friendship or relationship with you, and remembering how fortunate I am to have such a great person as yourself in my life?

Everyone I know everyone has the same response (which you're probably thinking right now): "Uh huh.... Hello, cheap?"

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas Shopping... Bah, Humbug Part I

The first part of Christmas shopping inevitably involves parking. I found this article entertaining. It categorizes parking habits... the "stalker", the "lay and wait", etc. Such categories, and related advice, could have an application to some Stake Conferences I've been to. Let me just state, for the record, that I can't stand the people who sit there with their blinker on, while you load your groceries, kids and self into the car. They hold up traffic, make other people hostile, and blame you for the delay.

I've had people look visibly irritated when they realize that now I have to strap the kids into their carseats. I also find it entertaining that as these people sit here, multiple other spaces typically open--some closer to the entrance than the one they are awaiting.

The other aspect is that in the time they've waited for my space, they could have walked the entire length of the parking lot twice. I can see why elderly drivers or those with unusual circumstances may want the close space, but really, some people just need to get a grip. Another 25' of walking might actually do good for some of these people!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The "M.F." Bomb

As a preface to this story, my wife and I both spent time growing up in the Washington, DC area. For those of you not familiar with the area, it is a hotbed of church activity. The church is very strong here, with good leadership and a growing number of members. In fact, in recent church "Census" data, it was revealed that the state of Virginia has more members than any other state East of the Mississippi.

That being said, the DC area is a great place to be a member of the church. You never have to drive very far to get to church; there's always a friend to be made in church who lives in or around your neighborhood; and there are plenty of opportunities to discuss your faith with others.

Now, let me return to the title of my post. A few years ago, my wife and I had family visit us from Utah. On the night of their arrival, a family that I home teach had a crisis. The crisis family had not been members of the church for more than 6 months. The crisis was of such magnitude that I called the Bishop and R.S. President, and both met me at the home of this family. After an hour or so of discussion, we left feeling we had helped this family to the best of our abilities.

Upon returning home to our guests, I explained in very general terms where I had been and what the general nature of the crisis had been. I now relay the rest of the conversation to you. This is where the "M.F." bomb was dropped by our guest:

Visitor #1: "Wow! What a great experience. It's so great to be back in the mission field again."

(what were you thinking M.F. stood for? huh?)

Me: [stunned silence]

My wife: [mouth agape]

There was an awkward moment of silence, as my wife and I attempted to think of something polite to say.

Me: "The... mission ... field?!"

I really had to try and supress my laughter. I mean, what is this, 1930? This visitor had lived in the very area where we were now living. This visitor knew that the church is very strong, very vibrant and self-sustaining here.

To me, "mission field" implies a tone of condescension. So what is the difference between the "mission field" and whatever is not considered the "mission field" (Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho, I suppose)? Does this imply that there is no missionary work to be accomplished in those areas? Does not the term "mission field" imply that the church in such areas is relying upon the strength of the mission program to sustain normal church programs (i.e., outsiders filling positions of authority and leadership)?

My answer to such condescension, at least now, in my mind--because I was too stunned to answer verbally at the time--is that I live in a Stake of Zion. Since that time, my stake has been split, wards have been realligned, and the membership continues to grow. In that sense, maybe this is the mission field. But to think even for a moment that the church here is somehow less "perfect" or "complete" than the church anywhere else is a fallacy.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why this blog?

I have been reading, with interest, several LDS blogs for some time now. It's a fascinating culture within a culture, really. I sometimes pity those from outside the church who visit such blogs, as I'm sure they may leave scratching their heads and saying, "Huh?"

But for those of us in the know, who live the culture, talk the talk and walk the walk, the Blogosphere is an excellent outlet. My goal is to share with you my perspective on life as a church member -- from outside the "Intermountain West".

Yes, true faith and testimonies can be found on the East Coast. I know that will come as a shock to many on the Wasatch Front. Yes, I even hold a temple recommend--gasp!.

I've found that, many times, when I mention that I live on the East Coast, Utahns instinctively ask when I'll be moving back to Utah! Their eyes cloud over, as if they can't grasp the fact that someone may actually choose to live "back east." And frankly, for many, you might as well say you live in Mongolia, since Washington, DC is just as foreign a place.

Don't get me wrong. I love Utah, I have lived there, and will probably live there again--someday. But I believe, and I believe rightly so, that the Church is the same everywhere. Are some units of the Church stronger than others? Sure. Is the gospel just as true in every ward and branch where it is preached? Absolutely.

Life is what we make of it. My take, often comical and tinged with sarcasm, is what you will see here on these pages. I welcome your comments, and hope you enjoy.