Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blessed for Prior Good Acts

My sister had another funny story. Her hometeacher, a member of the bishopric, recently visited her with his teenage son. He asked her if she was attending church in a different ward because she hadn't been to church in a while. She told him she hadn't been to church in at least a couple of years. He asked how this made her feel and she said that she couldn't be happier and that her life was going really well. He responded that she was being blessed for all of the good things that she'd done earlier in her life, apparently despite her current disobedience. My sister responded and told him that she was offended that he was judging her as being unrighteous and unworthy of blessings. He then proceeded to ask her if she was praying and reading the scriptures and she basically told him that that was personal and none of his business. But, having been there, I'm sure he took this as a no. This probably confirmed to him the dangers of not rigorously following the commandments. If even a righteous returned missionary can lose their testimony through lack of obedience, then how important for every member to faithfully feed and strengthen their testimony.

My sister and I now realize what is really going on. If you don't constantly reinforce the brain-washing it eventually wears off. If you stop going to church and feel better and happier then you realize that going to church is a burden and not a blessing. If you aren't submersed in Mormon culture and experiences then you quickly see through the facade and see TSCC for what it is.

Anyway, I think it is funny that a faithful member can't accept that a person is happy without the church and has to chalk it up to former activity. The church can't lose. If you're active and unhappy then you need to repent or you are being tried. If you're active and happy then you are being blessed. If you're inactive and happy then it's a sign of God's mercy that he continues to bless you for your former activity. If you're inactive and unhappy then it's because God has withdrawn his Spirit and protection and you are being delivered to the buffetings of Satan in order to humble you and bring you back into activity.

Isn't it wonderful! To a Mormon it's all logical and internally consistent and no matter what happens it reinforces their faith and belief. It's a circular system of reasoning that can't be contradicted.

Mormon Milestones

I was talking to my sister the other night and she brought up a topic that can cause ex-Mormons grief. She is in the process of adopting a child and my parents have provided some assistance in the process. My father is already enquiring about when the child will be blessed in the Mormon church. Mormons have rituals or ordinances that start shortly after childbirth and continue throughout life. The first is the blessing of the child. Normally, I would think that this is a beautiful thing and wouldn't have any problem with it. The problem is that as soon as you bless a child in the Mormon church, that child becomes a "Member of Record." That means that TSCC creates a membership record for the child and that child will forever be in the church's membership database, even if they never set foot in a church again or if they later resign from the church to stop unwanted contact and harassment. Note that even after you resign, you are still in the church database, just as a former member. I guess that this is so they can detect former members who later repent and want to be re-baptized (I wonder how often that happens?) or so they can reject your application to a church school like BYU.

I'll have a similar situation in about a year when my daughter turns eight and is ready for Mormon baptism. I suspect that since she has been endoctrinated and her mother still supports the church that she will want to be baptized. One problem is that I don't think I'll be able to do the baptism since I haven't attended church for several years. The other problem is that I don't think that 8-year-old children has sufficient knowledge and experience to choose a church. My biggest problem is that I think that the church is a mind-controlling cult and I don't want my children joining. This is one that I'll have to discuss with my wife. If it happens I'll attend and celebrate it as a milestone that my child has chosen to be a Christian and to live a Christ-like life. That IS a good thing and praiseworthy as long as it isn't coerced into cult-like worship of TSCC.

Anyway, milestones like this force apostates like me into the open. Even before I was willing to really accept the truth about TSCC I stopped attending the temple. This became apparent to my family when I didn't go through the temple with my little brother before his mission. At that point I simply didn't believe in the divinity of the temple ordinance or its necessity. I also didn't go to his temple wedding. So, while these ordinances strengthen the bonds of the cult, they also serve to drive a wedge of separation between church members and non-members and cultivates an us vs. them mentality.

So, what would I do if it were my sister? I suggested that she tell my dad that the child can be blessed in the church as soon as the church allows the parent (my sister) to do the blessing. After all, she was blessed as a priestess in the temple, so why shouldn't she be allowed to act as such?

Barring that, I think that it would be beautiful to bless the child at home as long as it was clear that it wasn't a Mormon blessing and that no record of it should ever be made in TSCC. After all, I don't think that God would object to a blessing given by a loving mother just because she isn't male.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tatoos

I caught an episode of Miami Ink on TLC and it got me curious so I spent some time looking at their tatoo galleries on their web site. They have some pretty impressive tatoos on there. They really don't compare with any tatoos that I've ever seen. For example, I've mostly seen the dark green tatoos, but not many with color. I didn't know it was even possible to do the things that they do. But despite the quality of the artwork, some of the tatoos are pretty extreme and I can't imagine wanting to turn my body into a gallery like some of these people have done. I also can't imagine anything that I'd want permanently imprinted on my body. Besides, the prophet says it defiles the temple which is our body.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

When No Means Yes

This post by over on Letters From a Broad reminded me of something. She noted the following,
I agree with most feminists that getting out the message that "No means no" is of vital importance for preventing sexual assault. And that's is why it's critical that both options exist -- yes as well as no -- in a meaningful way.

In a repressive society, some women want sex. Yet no women are allowed to want sex. So you get a situation where the women who really mean no say no and the women who don't mean no also say no.
The problem of not being able to say yes when you want to leads to other problems. For example, Utah has a high rate of teen pregnancies. This isn't terribly surprising to me. The urge to have sex is just too strong to resist for some people. But in a religious culture where extra-marital sex is a sin only slightly less severe than murder it isn't really an option to consciously prepare to have sex. For example, why would a good Mormon boy go out and buy condoms? That would be admitting that you are not only willing to fall, but you're also prepared. How's that going to look to your Bishop, Stake President, and General Authority that are going to have to interview you before you go out on your mission? The very fact that you had condoms is an admission that it wasn't just that things got out of hand and you slipped; it's an admission that you started making out with the premeditated intention of going all the way. It's the Mormon equivalent to the difference between premeditated, first-degree murder and manslaughter. The same thing would apply, I guess, to a good Mormon girl who went on the pill. In the end, safe sex winds up being dangerous to your soul if you are a Mormon because it's the moral equivalent to being a cold-blooded killer instead of just a reckless youth. So, even though good Mormon kids really, really want to have sex, they have to say that they don't and act accordingly right up to the moment when they do. Then they have to deal with the shameful consequences and humiliation and guilt that their culture inflicts on them.

Note, I still think no means no and should be respected. I'm just pointing out why in some cultures people may say no when they really mean yes or at least wouldn't mind saying yes.

Most People That Know Me Would Disagree

You Are 70% Normal

Otherwise known as the normal amount of normal
You're like most people most of the time
But you've got those quirks that make you endearing
You're unique, yes... but not frighteningly so!

Trail Running

Word to the wise: don't run when it's 103 F. If you are lacking in wisdom, like me, then at least make sure it's on a beautiful trail with lots of shade and streams for the dogs to plop down in and cool off.

One of the things that attracted us to our neighborhood was that it has extensive greenspace. We are on the edge of the Texas hill country right by the dam that creates Lake Travis. So we are on the hills that overlook the Lake Travis and Lake Austin which is below the dam. The hill tops are separated by steep valleys that can't be developed so our neighborhood has a lot of beautiful, wooded trails that will never be developed. Most of the valleys have small, spring fed streams that run year round, even in drought years like this where Lake Travis is over 30 feet below full and dropping at a rate of one foot per week.

Running in Texas from June to September is always hot. At night it sometimes doesn't break into the 70s. Returning from a late show last night around 11:30 pm the temperature was still 90. So even if you run in the early morning, you have to deal with the heat and for big fatties like me the heat just really saps energy. You have to be careful because the heat is quite literally life threatening and not just for people. I always run with my dogs and I'm sure that they would quite willingly run until they collapsed of heat stroke. The heat is particularly bad for dogs because they are stuck wearing a fur coat and they can't sweat. They only dissipate heat by panting.

The heat holds another danger to dogs. A couple of years ago I woke up one morning and my German Shepherd Dog was stumbling around the house like a drunken sailor. I was worried that he had an ear infection or something worse that was affecting his balance so we rushed him off to the vet. Several hundred dollars of tests and examination later the vet told us that he couldn't find anything wrong. The next day I noticed him constantly licking the bottoms of both of his front paws and when I looked at them I saw with horror that the thick layer of skin was peeled off and raw. No wonder he was stumbling around; he had blisters that covered the entire bottom of his paws that weren't noticeable until the skin started coming off. Now, when the sun is up in the summer we never run on pavement.

Yesterday I got busy cleaning house and balancing financial accounts, paying bills, etc. and didn't get ready to run until 5:00 pm. I'd taken Thursday off as a rest day so I didn't want to miss another day of running so we went running on the trails around our house. For some reason I don't do it very often, but after yesterday I'll do it more. We ran for over an hour and a half and even though it was still 101 (high was 103) it felt a lot better running under the trees. You have to pick your way carefully as you go up hill and down, across steep hillsides, over sharp rocks and ledges, and through patches of round rolling rocks near the streams. I found a new trail that follows the contours of the cliffs over Lake Austin and the trees break to open up beautiful views of the lake and its surrounding cliffs and hills. I have a lot of reasons to run, but runs like that make you feel alive and happy to be able to move and be a part of the world.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Found a Job

Well, it looks like my unscheduled vacation is nearing an end. I had an interview yesterday that went really well so I should be starting a new contract the day after Labor Day. My company pulled kind of a bait and switch. They were looking for something pretty basic, but when they got me in and started looking at my resume and talking to me their eyes kind of lit up and you could see the wheels start turning. They suddenly realized, "Hey, this guy could do all kinds of things and he could help us solve some problems that we are struggling with." It doesn't hurt that everywhere I go in town I'm known by reputation, even if not always by name, for the work that I did at IBM in the 90s.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Anyone for Terrorist Profiling?

My father forwarded an article from The Patriot Post which I dutifully linked so that you could read it on your own. I won't dignify it by making a copy. It includes a list of crimes committed by Islamic radicals and a call to profile Muslim males to fight terrorism. This makes a certain amount of sense and I don't deny that such things should be considered when deciding how to focus limited anti-crime resources. But, it seems to imply that we should focus on male Muslims and stop bothering innocent, law-abiding white Christian folks.

I know this seems to make sense. But consider what what it means if you are a law-abiding, Middle-eastern immigrant Muslim male who is singled out every time you travel or are stopped by law enforcement. I know many such people and work with them. They resent being singled out for this unwanted attention due to the actions of a very, very small percentage of people.

The last two times I've gone to South Padre Island we were stopped briefly at the INS checkpoint on the way home (along with everyone else) and after a glance showed we were white we were waved through. A friend of mine who is Indian and other than having dark skin and being short doesn't look even remotely hispanic spent over two hours in a hot interrogation room at the same checkpoint on his way home from vacation with his wife. Based on what? Profiling? If anything he's even more law-abiding than me. He speaks with a British accent. Why was he subjected to such extended attention with absolutely no, zero, nada grounds for suspicion beyond the color of his skin?

The other problem with this argument is that it seems to ignore that two of the worst incidents of terrorism in the U.S were perpetrated by white, working class male U.S. citizens. Prior to 9/11 the largest mass murder in the history of the U.S. was perpetrated by the Mormons at Mountain Meadows (on September 11, no less). I personally witnessed the damage done by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.

So, I'll augment the list in the Patriot Post with my own list that hopefully gives some historical perspective.

1) The attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male?

2) President Abraham Lincoln was murdered by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

3) President James A. Garfield was assassinated by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

4) President William McKinley was assassinated by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

5) President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

6) The attempted assassination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

7) The attempted assassination of President Harry Truman was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen, c) Puerto Rican nationalists?

8) President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

9) The attempted assassination of President Richard Nixon by flying an airliner into the White House was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

10) The attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, female U.S. citizen?

11) The attempted assassination of President Jimmy Carter was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

12) President Ronald Reagan was shot by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

13) The assassination of former president George H. W. Bush was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen, c) agents of Iraq?

14) The attempted assassination of President George W. Bush was carried out by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen, c) an ethnic armenian citizen of Georgian (former U.S.S.R.)?

15) The largest mass murder in the U.S. prior to 9/11/2001 was committed on 9/11/1857 by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) white, male U.S. citizens?

16) The federal building in Oklahoma City was blow up with a fertilizer bomb by: a) Islamist males between the ages of 17 and 40, b) a white, male U.S. citizen?

While militant Islam is certainly a very dangerous threat, it is not the only one. But the bigger problem is that our Constitution guarantees protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Simply being male and Muslim is not justification for a search any more than being black or Jew or any other arbitrary criteria. I'm a firm believer that the test of our constitutional form of government is best defined by whether we are willing to uphold the law of the land even when it may be more convenient not to.

Reference:

Wikipedia's list of presidential assassination attempts.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ruth Simon and Communication

Ruth Simon was not only my freshman advisor, she was also my communications teacher. I think I took communications in my sophomore year of high school. I think it has proven to be the most influential class I have ever taken. I've taken a lot of classes over the years so I think it says a lot that this one class stands out in my mind above the rest for the values it contributed to my life.

I have no idea why a distinguished, intelligent woman like Ms. Simon was teaching at a middle-sized suburban high school in Iowa. I had a garden tilling business and Ms. Simon hired me to till her garden one spring. She lived in a beautiful, large, stately home on a large estate property in a wealthy section of Des Moines. So, I don't think that she did it for the money. She never talked about her own life so I really only know about her through the lense of young student. But it was clear to me that she cared about us and that she cared about the subject that she was teaching.

Our class covered many different modes of communication. She taught us that much of communication is non-verbal. She taught us about the roles played in effective communication and the how complex it was and how easily it could go wrong. She taught us about how to become better listeners, how to try to truly understand the other person, and how to reflect what you've understood back to the person so that you could make sure you didn't misunderstand. We learned about one on one communication, small group communication, and large group communication. We learned about different types of speeches such as how to communicate a process or how to try to persuade people to your opinion. We also learned the basics of Robert's Rules of Order and how the parliamentary process works to produce orderly debate. Throughout all of this we had the opportunity to practice what we had learned.

As valuable as the course was, Ms. Simon put her own stamp on it and made the class much more than the sum of the curriculum. Some how it came up that my father belonged to the John Birch Society. She replied that she didn't subscribe to their beliefs due to anti-semitism and racism. That shook me. I was still at an age where I trusted my parents beliefs and shared them without a lot of critical thought. It had never occurred to me that there could be a dark side to my father's political beliefs, a dark side that obviously troubled a teacher that I had grown to trust. It was just a comment, a simple reply, a single sentence that I still remember. But it camed from a sincere, dedicated, intelligent, thoughtful woman who projected love and concern for everyone in her class. She respected us and demanded that we, in turn, also respect each other. Everyone that has ever been in high school realizes how hard a thing it is to demand such a thing. But I remember having increased appreciation and respect for my classmates at the end of the class.

The most important lesson I learned in that class may not mean much to you. It meant a lot to me and is a lesson that I have taken to heart and allowed to guide my life. We were talking about making hard decisions and how to overcome indecisiveness. She said that you should always ask two questions. First ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that could happen?" Then ask yourself, "What is the best thing that could happen?" If you can live with the worst thing that could happen and something good could come of it, then go for it. For example, if you want to ask a girl out, what's the worst thing that could happen? She says no? She makes fun of you to her friends? Everyone is school finds out? Could you live with that? If so, what's the best thing that could happen? She says yes and you have a great date? That would be good. The questions help you explore rationally your fears and hopes and put them in perspective. By using this process you can help face the fears that keep you from taking advantage of opportunties that come your way. Often, you face those fears and decide that they're not really so scary after all. Other times you realize that you really couldn't deal with the worst case outcome and that the potential upside could never justify taking the risk. Either way, you can make a decision and feel comfortable with it.

Ruth Simon was short, a little overweight, well wrinkled and seemed close to retirement age. She was not physically impressive, but there was a smile in the corners of her eyes and as soon as you talked to her you couldn't help but like her and feel like she liked you. Maybe it was just me, but I don't think so. She was a great woman that touched me at an important time of my life. For that I'll be forever grateful.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Divorce

My first seminary teacher was a geeky guy who was nice enough but had no control over the class. I don't remember much about that year other than the spectacular fights and arguments between some of the students and this teacher's complete inability to maintain any semblance of discipline.

Things changed for my second year. My teacher was an FBI agent and had what I believe they call "command presence." You didn't mess with this guy. He wasn't very big but he was tough. One of the wrestlers in the class tried to grab him one day and instantly hit the ground howling in pain and clutching his arms around his lower legs. It seems that the teacher had instantly responded by taking the heel of his dress shoes and scraping it down the guy's shin ending with a stomp on the arch of his foot. Ouch.

But this guy was also very charismatic and a good teacher. Not only was the class under control, but it was also interesting. But the only lesson he taught that I remember wasn't from a manual. For whatever reason the topic of adultery came up and I think that several students made several comments on what a terrible sin it was and how a person would have to be pretty awful person to cheat on their spouse. At that point he cautioned us. He told a story of a man who was excommunicated for adultery. This man was branded and ostracized by the members and judged very harshly while his wife received much sympathy and support. But the teacher related that we shouldn't be so quick to judge. He knew this man and the details of his home life and he felt that if everyone knew the whole story that they'd feel compassion for the man and would feel little or no sympathy for the wife. He didn't give any more details, but I trusted his character and his judgment of the situation. It taught me that things are not always as they seem and that we should be careful about judging without knowing the details. It also hit a personal note with me since life inside my home often had little resemblance to the public image presented by our church-going, devout family.

I suppose that there can be a lot of reasons for infidelity and divorce, but they aren't all selfish ones. Some marriages are just unsuccessful and disfunctional and the divorce is just the ultimate, outward manifestation that the marriage was broken. Outsiders and sometimes even family members may have had little knowledge about the marriage relationship and how well it was working.

Sorry if that didn't make much sense. I wrote it because of a post on another blog where a child lost all respect for a father after he divorced her mother. The comments seemed to be quite ready to judge the father harshly and blame it on selfishness. I don't know the details, so maybe she was right to feel that way. But I wonder what was going on in his life to cause him to end a long relationship and take such a drastic step. I wonder how long the parents lived in an unhappy or unfulfilling marriage. I wonder how long it is good to continue a marriage for the kids. It's such a complex subject and there can be so many circumstances and issues. It's not always about selfishness and I don't think it's always wrong to get a divorce.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mormons Aren't Christian? WTF Does That Mean?

Over on another blog I replied to a post and asked why Christians think Mormons are going to hell and received the stock answer that it is because Mormons aren't Christian.

I attended an evangelical Christian private school from 1st grade through 6th grade. I had daily Bible study, daily scripture memorization, and was by all accounts a good Christian. These fine Christians taught me that to be saved you needed to believe that Jesus Christ is your personal savior and accept him into your heart. That's it. I'm pretty sure that they were talking about the Jesus that is described in the New Testament. You know, the one that was born in Bethlehem, was baptized by John the Baptist, chose disciples in Galilee, taught the Gospel of love, was betrayed by a disciple with a kiss, and was executed in Jerusalem by the Romans at the instigation of the Jews. I'm pretty sure that that was the one they were talking about. I had no problem meeting their requirements. I confessed Jesus as my savior, tried to understand his life and his example, and tried to pattern my life after that example. I considered myself a Christian through and through.

The only problem I had with their teachings was the un-Biblical teaching that salvation was by grace only and that works don't matter. I also had a problem that they didn't require baptism when even Jesus, who was perfect, required baptism. This didn't bother me because I knew that other Christian sects did place an emphasis on works and baptism by immersion. In other words, I considered that they had a portion of the truth, but not the whole truth. But I still considered them Christian and never would have considered questioning their faith in Christ or their dedication to his teachings. I understood that there were hundreds of different Christian sects that all accepted the Bible, all worshipped the same Jesus, but interpreted the Bible in different ways. I considered Mormonism another one of those sects, and I accepted their interpretation as most correct.

So, I must confess I don't get it. Several years after attending that school my parents tried to enroll my brother. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow him in because their policy required that at least one parent be Christian and their ministers didn't consider Mormons to be Christian. It seems that their theologians had studied Mormonism and decided that Mormons aren't Christian. My mother was in tears. She was deeply, deeply offended that someone would call her lifelong belief in Christ and her discipleship a fraud. It was such a patently absurd and offensive thing to say that she just couldn't comprehend how one Christian could insult another Christian's faith in such a way. It seemed and seems, well, un-Christian.

The rather trite explanation I've heard since then is that Mormons don't believe in the same Jesus Christ. I've never heard anyone explain to my satisfaction exactly what that is supposed to mean because they'll admit that both believe in the same Jesus Christ of the New Testament. Both agree on all of the Bibilical facts surrounding Jesus. The points of disagreement seem to be completely non-Biblical and revolve around different interpretations of the Bible. They believe in a Trinity whose attributes aren't defined in the Bible in the way that they describe. Mormons believe in a Trinity whose attributes are different than theirs, but is as compatible with the Bible as theirs is. Maybe there is more to it but it doesn't really matter. Rather than be inclusive they have decided to create an arbitrary definition of Christianity that excludes Mormons and perhaps other Christians. In the end, I think it is because Mormons believe in false prophets and in false doctrines. I'll concede those points. but I don't see how that makes them not Christian. If they want to be that way, they could claim that Catholics, Eastern Othodox, Coptics, and everyone else who doesn't accept their radical gracer version of Christianity is not really Christian. Who knows. Maybe they do.

Anyway, good luck to them trying to convince Mormons of the errors of their ways by trying to insult the one point of commonality that they share with them.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pseudo-Employment

I'm not actually unemployed right now since I'm still officially an employee of my contracting company and I am teaching a class for them next week. But I am taking a some enforced vacation while I wait for another long-term contract to come along. This is really wierd for me. I haven't had dog days of summer like this since college where I had nothing to do. In fact, I haven't had a summer off since summer 1983 immediately before I left for Bolivia. I was called for 18 months, but while I was out they gave us the "opportunity" to extend our missions by 6 months so I compromised and extended my mission by 4 months so I could make it back in time for fall semester 1985 at BYU. I returned home and my dad and I caught an Air Force C5 to Madrid and spent a week sight seeing in Spain. After that I only had a couple of weeks before my sister and I headed back to BYU. I didn't slow down after that until a sabbatical in 2004 and now again.

So what have I been doing?

Updating my resume and checking up on job opportunities. I'm teaching a class next week in Boston and it sounds like I may be going to New Delhi, India at the end of August. Several other things also look promising.

Sleeping in late every chance I get. I don't really want to and know that it is bad, but it just feels so good.

Helping clear land at the ranch so our new horse has a place to live.

Watching my daughters at their horse riding lessons. Pretty impressive, actually. My 13 year old daughter looks pretty good on her new mare Ashley, a thoroughbred/quarter horse cross. For being a green youngster, the horse looks really good and my daughter is controlling her well. It kind of blows me away to see a 50 pound 7 year old girl kicking a horse in the sides to force it into a canter and looking perfectly comfortable and in control. A horse, mind you, not a pony. You know what, I grew up in suburban Iowa and was never around large animals much. So I've had to learn how to get comfortable with these big beasts and I'm actually starting to like them. Ashley is a beautiful bay with a rich reddish brown coat, black mane and tail, and a splash on her face and white boots on her legs.

Installing software and ramping up to teach some new classes for work.

Half-heartedly working on ideas for a new business. This scares me more than a little. It is easy to do something, but who wants to spend a lot of effort on something and then have it flop? I'm having trouble pulling the trigger, partly because I'm not exactly sure what to do (too many choices), and partly because I'm afraid that once I dive in it will consume me. I have a tough time starting something new, but once I get going I have trouble stopping.

Watching lots of old TV that had backed up on the Tivo.

Spending more time with the family. It's been fun having lunch with my youngest and doing some domestic stuff. Not much, mind you, but enough so I don't feel completely useless.

Breaking stuff worse than it was before. The dishwasher started leaking and in the process of trying to figure out if it could be repaired I'm afraid I may have done more harm than good. Now I'll have to wait for the GE repairman tomorrow.

Avoiding stuff I don't really want to do, like clean my room or look at finances.

Running and working out at the gym.

Listening to some pretty groovy Erykah Bahdu.

Posting on Blogger.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Facial Hair

I've been self-conscious about my appearance for a long time. I think it started in junior high school when some kids started to grow and develop adult features. Girls starting sprouting boobs. Boys in the locker room starting growing body hair. Some kids went through tremendous growth spurts. By eight grade I had classmates who were over six feet tall and dominated athletics due to the randomness of nature that gave them adult stature before their peers.

Our athletic conference recognized the unfairness of this and so our 8th grade football team had a heavyweight and a lightweight team with the cutoff set at 105 pounds. I was the star defensive end on our undefeated lightweight football team. I weighed a whopping 98 pounds. I was humiliated later in the year when a girl told me that I was short and skinny. I'd always done well in sports and on the playground in elementary school so this was new and in violent contrast with my self-image. In my mind I was a jock and a manly man. Unfortunately, nature wasn't cooperating and on the outside I remained a very boyish boy.

I tried lots of things to get bigger. I bought weights and a weight bench from Target and started a lifelong dedication to body building. I was probably the most ripped skinny kid out there. I internalized Boyd K. Packer's talk from general priesthood meeting and thought that perhaps I could get puberty kicked off and going by stoking my little factory's fire, but it didn't work. I finally gave up football when I was in tenth grade after getting injured. I switched over to wrestling where I'd be competing based on weight classes. I wrestled in the 126 pound weight class and was a towering 5' 6" tall. Note, I was 126 pounds and that was without cutting weight. That was eating as much as possible and lifting weights to try to bulk up and still coming in under weight at weigh ins even though I hadn't done anything to keep my weight down. I went through 10th grade and approached sixteen and puberty still hadn't started.

Between wrestling seasons changes started. I went through a rather awkward growth spurt and in a short time reached nearly 6' 1". But only my bones grew. I wrestled the next year in the 145 pound weight class and only weighed about 150 when I went off to college just before my 17th birthday. When I left for my mission in Bolivia I think that I'd bulked up to 160 or 165. Puberty usually affects men by causing their shoulders to get wider and their chest to expand. For me, the weight gain came from many long hours spent in the old weight room in the Smith Fieldhouse at BYU and was all muscle. After nearly two years in Bolivia I returned home at about the same weight. It was very clear that the only way I could gain weight was to lift weights and add muscle. So, after getting back to BYU I resumed my body building and got my weight up to 170. At 6' 1" I still looked pretty skinny and I still chafed when people called me skinny. I was still quite self-conscious about my appearance.

I think it was around this time that I became fascinated with facial hair. Puberty also neglected to do much for me in the area of body hair. I was a very nearly hairless ape, other than a rather unruly head of bushy hair on top of my head. So, I religiously shaved what little facial hair I had hoping that it would stimulate it to grow. Over vacations I'd try to grow it out and give up in futility after several weeks produced little more than a blondish fuzz.

I think I was around 28 when puberty finally finished with me. I'd continued to lift weights, but over a short period of time my rib cage suddenly expanded, my muscles grew thicker, and I was suddenly putting on weight with little effort. I grew over an inch taller. I was about half an inch under 6' 1" when I graduated from college at 22. When I got my physical at age 30 I was a solid 6' 2" and about 195 pounds. In the decade since then I peaked at 265 pounds and have now settled down to a comfortable 230. Over the next year my goal is to get to a more ideal weight of about 195 or 200 so that I don't kill myself on my next marathon.

And I could finally grow facial hair. It was pretty pathetic, but it was remotely possible. My mustache was pretty thin and didn't grow all the way down to my upper lip. My beard didn't really fill in on my cheeks. But I did manage to grow a full beard one winter in Minnesota that wasn't totally embarrassing. Perhaps it's because I couldn't do it for a long time or perhaps it's because it was frowned on my the Mormon church, but I continued to periodically grow facial hair. Over time I learned to adapt my beard and mustache style to what nature had given me. Currently it's a little triangle under my lower lip. Maybe you'd call it a soul patch, Apollo Anton Ohno style. I've done an Abe Lincoln type of thing with a beard sans mustache. I've also done the goatee. My favorite was a shaved head and a full beard. That was a case of going fully against what nature had given me since my head hair is super thick and my beard is spindly. But it had the advantage of being scary. My son tells me that his friends used to be afraid of me.

Anyway, I was inspired to write about this by Punk Rock Lawyer's blog where he is photographically documenting a mustache that shows signs of being as pathetic as mine was in my early twenties. Keep it up dude. Maybe it will eventually get there. I'll spare you from having to look at my fugly mug.

By the way, my kids seem to have avoided my curse of hypo-active gonads. They are growing up into strapping young adults right on a normal schedule. My oldest is 6' 1" and about 165 at 17. My next son is 6' 3" and 182 pounds and turns 16 this month. My 13 year old daughter is skinny, but she's already 5' 4" and 90 pounds. It's difficult to remember how skinny I was until I look at my son, who is pretty thin, and consider that he weighs 20 pounds more than I did at that age. Yikes.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006