Music Appreciation

I’m on carpool duty for early morning seminary this month, and I realized this morning what a position of power that puts me in, I’ve got three fourteen year olds in the car, trapped for a good ten minutes’ drive each morning, and all of them are way too tired to object to whatever music I decide to play.

Complete control, people.

And you better believe I’m not playing any of that newfangled music that’s been made in the last decade or so. No, for the first few times, I just had my phone play all of my music on shuffle, but I decided that was too sporadic. (Especially when I heard rumors that some in the car might think my taste in music left something to be desired . . . )

This morning, I set it to shuffle music from the 70s. We had some Yes, a bit of Jim Croce, and The Cars. (I took pity on my passengers and skipped The Carpenters, but I might reconsider that for a future trip.) Even then, I felt like it was all too sporadic. How in the world can they get proper appreciation for that music if they’re hopping around like that?

So I’ve decided to take a different approach. Each morning, it’ll be a different group. My taste is very eclectic, so one day it might be Beethoven. The next day it might be The Cure, followed by No Doubt.

I’m with these kids as their ride, every other month, for the next four years. Imagine the sort of impact I can have on their musical tastes over that time. They might not appreciate it that early each morning, but sometimes it takes someone to sit people down and really show them that friends don’t let friends just listen to . . . Taylor Swift? What are all the new kids listening to these days? (New Kids on the Block! I could do that for a day . . . )

Whatever keeps me awake and entertained as I drive each morning . . .

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What Are You Afraid Of?

I’m not a person who typically scares too easy these days. I still don’t really enjoy purely horror movies, as I don’t like jump scares much at all. But over the past few months, I’ve had two experiences come up that highlighted some areas where I’m more afraid of things than I thought I was.

First, the balconies in Hungary. Two of the apartments we stayed in where on upper floors of the building. Fourth floor or so. And in both cases, they had these long outdoor corridors that had nothing between you and a very long drop to the ground but a seemingly-flimsy metal railing that wasn’t even that high. I found myself practically hugging the wall each time I had to walk down one of those, and I kept yelling at my kids to stay away from the edge. The image of how easy it would be for someone to fall over those railings was just too hard for me to get out of my head. I still shudder to think about it.

The second experience happened earlier this week. I was down in my basement checking my oil tank to see if we were approaching the time when we’d need to fill up. And as I was down there, in that dimly lit space stuffed with storage bins and cobwebs, something . . . scrabbled. Claws on cement. This was too loud for a scurry. I’ve got plenty of experience hearing mice in the walls these days. (Old farmhouse.) No, this had weight to it.

I froze and looked around, eyeing all the places where something my dart out from the shadows at me. I moved a little, and the sound repeated. This time I could tell better where it was coming from. I looked over and saw a large rat crawling up the wall and then streaking off into the crawlspace.

That, my friends, gave me the heebie jeebies.

Of course, I went right upstairs and grabbed the rat trap from my garage, plastered it with peanut butter, and took it down to the basement. But then I had to put it right where I’d seen the rat, and it took a fair bit of effort for me to get the gumption to stick my hand out and place the trap down. I managed to force myself to do it, but I couldn’t dismiss the thought of a rat darting out and attacking me. Never mind the fact that I’ve lived with pet degus for years, and I know how skittish the creatures can be. Down there, the fear instincts were much stronger.

(We’ve caught two rats now, if you’re wondering. And yes, I’m disgusted. But dead rats are much preferable to live rats. One of the things I like least about my house is how easy it is for critters to get in. Not enough to outweigh all the things I love about it, but still . . .

Anyway. There are two irrational fears I’ve recently had. How about you? Anything you’ve caught yourself fearing, even though you know you don’t really need to fear them?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Oldest Wedding Present

Denisa and I have been married for seventeen years. And for those entire seventeen years, we’ve been toting around a wedding present, between four moves, across the entire country, switching it between floors and different storage places. What was it? A floor length mirror you could mount on the wall. At first we were living in apartments where we couldn’t put stuff on the walls. And then we didn’t have an immediately appealing place to put it in our house.

But then we finished our bathroom, and there was a blank wall right there, waiting for the wedding present to finally be used.

I’m pleased to say that yesterday, 6,376 days after our marriage, I finally attached that mirror to a wall. True, the mounting hardware had long been lost, so I had to make a special trip to the hardware store to get some. And I used the help of my fourteen year old son to hold it in place while I attached it.

Thinking back on everything that’s happened since we got that mirror, I’m amazed we held onto it that long, and that it didn’t break. It never had a huge, sturdy box. Just some thin cardboard. It’s five feet long, and just made of glass, so it’s not like it should have held up against the tests of time. And it only costs around $30 today, so it’s not even necessarily something you’d put in a “Let’s Make Sure We Hold Onto That” category. We ditched our television when we moved across the country, for example. I guarantee that was worth more.

And yet somehow it’s been there, kicking around in that old box, the entire time. We moved it gently each time, paying attention to where we were storing it and how it was treated. There’s probably a life lesson to be said there, though I won’t take the time to say it. (Because you could just as easily say what worth is something when it’s hidden away the entire time, never opened, always pristine, and left unused?)

I’m just happy the mirror is mounted and usable now. (At the right height, as well, seeing as how most floor length mirrors get mounted by people who are a bit shorter than Denisa and I . . .)

I think that’s the last wedding present we’ve had kicking around that we haven’t used and didn’t ditch. How about you? Got any you still haven’t found just the right place for?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

On the Term “Mormon”

Since the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many people have referred to its followers as “Mormons.” This is mainly due to the fact we believe the Book of Mormon to be scripture, in addition to the Bible. Recently, our current prophet, Russell M. Nelson, has instructed members of the church to move away from the term, asking us to refer to ourselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or simply as Latter-day Saints. On the blog, I’ve always just used the same word most non-members used to describe us: Mormon. I’m not going to do that anymore, and I wanted to establish why.

First off, an explanation of the word, for those of you who might not know what it means: Mormon was the name of a prophet who lived in ancient Americas. He was one of the last of his people, and he edited a collection of sacred writings: about 1,000 years’ worth of histories that had been written by other prophets before him. This included a record of a visit by Jesus Christ to the Americas, after his resurrection. Just as the ancient Jewish prophets kept a record of their lives and the history of their people, so did this group in the Americas. This edited compilation was finished off by Mormon’s son, Moroni, who hid it in a hole in a hillside before he died. That same Moroni appeared as a resurrected being to Joseph Smith, showing him where the compilation (written on golden plates) was hidden. Joseph obtained the plates and translated them with the help of God.

From the beginning of the church, it appears non-members referred to its members as Mormons and its tenets as Mormonism. That actual name of the church, given through revelation, was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (“Church of Jesus Christ,” because we believe it is Christ’s church restored on the earth, and “Latter-day Saints” to distinguish it from the earlier Saints when Christ first lived on the earth. We believe it’s the same church that existed back then, just now with members who live in the latter-days.) But by and large, “Mormon” was an epithet. It wasn’t used by non-members favorably. I’m rereading a new history of the church that was just published, and it’s fascinating (and more than a little horrifying) to see just what those early members struggled through. It explains much of how the church grew into the cultural institution it is today.

The church has had an on again/off again relation to the word ever since. Sometimes it’s tried to distance itself from the term, but recently it had embraced it again, even coming out with several ad campaigns that used it. “I’m a Mormon,” was one, and the movie “Meet the Mormons” was another. Basically, the church was trying to show its members are (for the most part) fairly normal people. Who knows if it worked or not. But even when the term was on the outs, it was still used by members. You only have to look at the long-standing “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” to see that.

Except this time, even that’s changing. “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir” has just been officially changed to “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.” When the church takes steps like that, you know it’s not messing around with this anymore.

When I first heard of the switch, I’ll admit I did a bit of a mental eye roll. Trying to force people to saying the full name of the church goes against what language likes to do. “I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” takes 16 syllables, after all. “I’m a Mormon” takes four. Wasn’t this just going to be another flash in the pan? We’d try it again, and be back to using the term again in a year or two.

But as I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t necessarily true. After all, the Seventh Day Adventists (six syllables) have been using that long term for as long as I’ve heard of them. It’s not like people have started abbreviating it to SDAs or anything like that. “Latter-day Saints” is just five syllables.

President Nelson gave a wonderful talk this weekend focused on why the name change is important. First, he said the official name was given through revelation to Joseph Smith, and so it’s important to follow that. But second, he stressed how using “Mormon” distances the church from its focus on Christ, a sentiment I agree with.

In a few weeks, I’ll be giving a public talk to my campus about what members of the Church believe and why. I’ll be joined by four others, who will be discussing their own religions. In the announcement that went out, the religions were listed as “Judaism, Islam, Paganism, Christianity, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” While I appreciate the thought and attention that went into making sure not to refer to us as Mormonism, I still couldn’t help feeling a little slighted. (Undoubtedly unintentionally.) Whether Latter-day Saints are “Christian” or not is a sensitive subject. We believe we most definitely are, as the teachings of Christ are foundational to our beliefs. Many other Christians believe we are not, mainly because many of our beliefs about Christ are different. (We believe God and Christ are two separate beings, for example. We believe Christ appeared to the people in the Americas. We believe he appeared to Joseph Smith and restored His church.) So many have said that while we say we believe in Christ, we actually believe in something we just happen to call Christ.

If the church had been stressing its full name for all its history, would this association between it and Jesus Christ be more clear? I have to think it would be.

Many erroneously believe we worship Mormon or Joseph Smith. In reality, those two men are simply prophets, the same (to us) as Isaiah or Daniel or Noah. Christians don’t worship Noah or John the Baptist. They revere them, yes, but the focus is always on Christ.

In the end, I believe people should be called what they want to be called. I think it makes sense for the church to make this request, and I hope it’s adhered to. (Likewise, I would hope members of the church would be respectful of calling other people what they wish to be called. Be that he, her, they, gay, lesbian, or anything else people request. That’s what nice, respectful people do. Treat people how those people wish to be treated. It runs both ways. When people goof up and call us Mormon, I’d like to think they’d apologize and correct themselves. The same thing I do when I make a mistake and call someone by a name they choose not to be called.)

If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading!

Putting My Personal Superpower to Work

Everybody seems to be following different diet plans. There’s the all meat diet. The gluten free diet. The keto diet. Paleo diet. I can’t keep track of them all. I’ve always stuck with the calorie counting diet in the past. It’s been reliable for me, and I’ve always been able to lose weight before. (Why am I writing about diets, you might ask? Europe and my birthday and MLA Annual Conference have put me 10 pounds over my “line in the sand” where I’m supposed to start seriously dieting, that’s why.)

The one problem with the calorie counting diet is that you have to actually count stuff. This is not something I enjoy doing. I really don’t like sitting down to a good meal and having to weigh it all out and do calculus to figure out how much of that great meal I can eat.

However.

One strength of mine is basic immunity to repetition. It’s kind of like a superpower, I’ve decided. (Even if I haven’t figured out how to take over the world with it just yet.) I can wear the same thing every day, and I don’t care at all. I can eat the same thing for breakfast for months at a time, and I still enjoy it. I just don’t care that I had it yesterday. I’m immune to the feeling of “I need to do something different this time.” (This, sadly, does not extend into my work routine. I do like to mix things up when it comes to what I do each day. But for the little things like food and clothing? Who cares? I’m hungry. I eat. Now I’m not. Problem solved.)

This is not to say I don’t enjoy different foods. Obviously I do. And when Denisa’s here making delicious food, I eat it. Because why not?

Each day, I always eat the same breakfast (oatmeal), snack (banana at 11am), and lunch (peanut butter sandwich at noon). Typically I then mix things up for dinner. While Denisa was away over the summer, however, I discovered that I can eat the same thing for dinner as well. In fact, I can eat the same thing I ate for breakfast: cold, raw oatmeal with cold milk. To treat myself, I put in chocolate chips instead of raisins. (What can I say? I’m good to me.) Then for a snack at night, I have my peanut butter, cocoa, banana, and milk smoothie.

I lost  6 pounds in about 1.5 weeks with that approach.

Now that I found myself so high above my goal weight, I finally decided to bring down the diet hammer again. And this time, I was done with counting calories. I told Denisa that I’m not going to be eating anything with the rest of the family until I’m back under my goal weight. It’s just going to be oatmeal, sandwiches, and smoothies every day. I’ve already lost 4 pounds. (6 to go, though I might try to ride it all the way down to 175 this time.)

This is just the natural extension of something I’ve always told people: find out what you’re good at, and do that. Find out what works for you. Will the oatmeal diet work for any of you? Doubtful. I’d imagine most people would get sick of it. But for me? I can do it without breaking a sweat. When I’m hungry, I just realize that I’ll be eating something at my prescribed time later on, and that’s enough to keep me going.

What’s your superpower?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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