Friday, December 31, 2004

Jeannette's Foundation

Jeannette's Foundation
Originally uploaded by David B..

My sister, Jeannette is in the process of having a new home built. This is her foundation as it was on December 18th. She hopes that it will be completed by the end of March. For the past few years, she has lived in a condo, which she had purchased. However, environmental conditions made it necessary for her to get a place of her own, with unattached neighbors.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark (our brother) and I helped her move a lot of the items she had boxed up, and into dad's newly cleaned out garage. Earlier this week, professional movers came and moved her furniture and larger items, and placed them in storage until her new house is ready. The last couple of days, Mark and Jeannette have finished getting the last few items out of her condo, and have cleaned it up to be ready for the new buyer.

Naturally, Jeannette is pretty excited about getting her own place. We are all proud of her, as she takes these steps in her life. Having her own home will not only provide a nice place for her to live, but also help solidify her financial position in the years to come as well. Good for you, Jeannette!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Wally World

Today I watched the kids for awhile while my wife (The "better-half note") went to a Dr. appointment. I had some work I had to get done, so the kids sat quietly in my office for a little while. Amy drew pictures, and Bryan played on his Gameboy.

After a few minutes, there came a knock at my office door. In came an old friend from way back, Craig W. Craig started working for the City at the same time I did, back in September of 1983. We both worked together as police dispatchers. I stayed in the public safety business until December of 1992 - a little over 9 years. (Since 1992, I have worked as a computer programmer for the City.) Craig stayed with dispatching for about 3 or 4 years. Craig left the City to work as a baggage handler at the Salt Lake Airport. The pay and benefits were a lot better with the airline than what we were making as dispatchers. As it turns out, Craig has been with the airline ever since. Its a good thing we didn't go to lunch immediately when the kids arrived, as we had earlier planned, or we would have missed Craig altogether.

Craig was always fun to work with. He was bright and witty. He did a good job as a dispatcher, which requires quick thinking, and the ability to be calm under pressure. He got along well with the officers, as well as his coworkers. I appreciated having Craig around, because we had a staff of 7 dispatchers, and Craig and I were the only males.

Craig was always a little squirrelly though. We had a couple of officers that just loved to invent nicknames for everyone at the department. Because of his squirrelliness Craig earned the nickname "The Beaver", as in the TV show "Leave It To Beaver". Because we were the two junior members of the dispatching staff, we ended up working the late night and graveyard shifts together (shifts were bid according to seniority). Well, when you have the Beaver present, and the guy sitting next to him (me) has the appearance of the older brother, it was only a matter of time before I was dubbed "Wally" by default. Over time, most members of the police department came to refer to me as Wally, even more than they did by my own given name. Some of the old timers at the police department still call me Wally to this day.

I actually don’t mind being called Wally by my former police department cohorts. To me, it is an expression of inclusion in the brotherhood of the law enforcement community. There is a special bond of family and brotherhood among those who work in law enforcement. I would suppose that it is the same with others who might find themselves in conditions of extremity, where people’s lives hang in the balance (such as in the military, and perhaps among firefighters as well). Craig and I were able to develop a certain level of trust and rapport with the officers with which we worked.

Such trust and confidence was not always the case with dispatchers. There are times when dispatchers hold the safety and lives of officers, and the general public in their hands. Such situations as a high-speed chase, a crime in-progress, or when an officer has just pulled someone over, and you as the dispatcher have just discovered that the person the officer is dealing with is wanted for major crime. The way in which the dispatcher responds to these kinds of situations can make all the difference in the safety of the officer, and to the likelihood that the suspect will be taken into custody.

Ideally, a dispatcher will get to know from experience just what an officer is going to need from the dispatcher, even before the officer asks for it. When you can start to think as the officer would think, and anticipate what the officer's needs will be - even before being asked, -- you can have a huge impact upon the effectiveness, as well as the safety of the officer. Craig and I had that ability, and I know the officers appreciated it. Its why the old-timers still call me Wally occasionaly, even now.

There is another bond, as well. Craig and I both worked on the night when an officer, who was investigating a traffic accident, was run over and killed by a drunk driver. A second officer was also injured in that incident, who still works for the City. It was a time that brought all of us together. I remember officer Jack Elmer, who gave his life in the service of his fellow man. I think of him often, even some 17 years after his death. I still visit his grave, in the City cemetery from time to time, and wonder how his wife and children are doing.

It was great to see Craig. I introduced him to Bryan and Amy. He lives nearby, in the newly annexed portion of the City. He has never married or had children. As I recall, he was a returned missionary. We talked about some of our mutual friends from the police department, some of whom have taken ill, and others who have even succumbed to major illnesses. It was nice to renew our acquaintance, and catch up each other's lives.

So if you ever hear me referred to as "Wally", as Paul Harvey would say: "Now you know the Rest of the Story."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Temple Square at Christmas

SL Temple Christmas South
Originally uploaded by David B..
Tonight we visited Temple Square, in Salt Lake City. Each year, hundreds of thousands of lights decorate the trees and shrubbery in and around Temple Square.

We had a nice time. It wasn't too cold, temperatures in the high 40's. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow, with more storms coming later in the week. It will be much colder from now until New Year's. Tonight was our last chance to visit with mild weather conditions.

We had a nice chat with a couple of Sister Missionaries. One of them, a Sister Harker was from Calgary, Alberta. About a year ago, I was working with an Elder Harker, in our Stake who was from Raymond, Alberta. Apparently they are not related, and from what she explained, there are a lot of Harkers in Southern Alberta. Raymond is where My Grandmother was born and raised.

Tree Reflection at Temple Square

Tree Reflection
Originally uploaded by David B..
Here is a Christmas Tree, and its reflection in the Reflecting Pool on the Main Street Plaza, just East of Temple Square.

Hugh Hewitt Book

Hugh Hewitt Book
Originally uploaded by David B..

Here is a book that I would highly recommend to you if you want to learn more about blogging. Hugh is one of the foremost authorities on the history of blogs, and how blogs have made a difference already in each of our lives.

It is because of Hugh that I have decided to start this blog.

You can get more information about the book here.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The End is Near!

Aunt Dawnie
Originally uploaded by David B..

Trail Photo

Here is a photo of the entire hiking group (sans myself, of course).

Back Home Again

Alas, all good things must come to an end. We needed to head back to Salt Lake on Thursday evening. We had a brief Christmas gift exchange, (and early an present-opening ceremony as well!) with grandma and grandpa, and the cousins. Then we headed for home at about 4:30 pm.

In Cedar City, we stopped for dinner at our favorite restaurant (Rusty's) which is located in near the mouth of Cedar Canyon. I had steak and coconut shrimp, and Dawn Ann had BBQ baby back ribs. Everything was excellent, but I think I would get a whole order of the coconut shrimp next time. As Tony the Tiger Says, -- "It was grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat!!!"

We were able to make pretty good time the rest of the way, and pulled into our driveway at about 11:20 pm. Our truck has an outdoor thermometer, and it was sad (and kind of a shock) to see the Dixie temperatures in the 40's and 50's replaced by the Northern temperatures, as low as 6 degrees just outside of Nephi. By the time we arrived at home, the temperature was all of 15 degrees.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, while we were visiting with Dawn Ann's s parents, her niece, Kaycee called from Alaska. She reported that it was in the mid 50's and sunny in Anchorage. And here we are at 15 degrees in Salt Lake City. There is something just way sick and wrong with this picture! (Blame it on Global warming?)


Originally uploaded by David B..
Here is a photo of Bryan, Nathan, Amy, and Calvin (in front).

Crab Poop

Crab Poop
Originally uploaded by David B..
We had a great time on our little hike. We incorporated the buddy system: Bryan and Nathan were buddies. Amy and Calvin also formed a buddy pair. Of course, I paired up with my best buddy (Dawn Ann). As we hiked along the trail, the kids were looking for "pretty" rocks along the way. Evidence of wildlife was abundant along the trail -- at least scatological evidence, that is. Four-year-old Calvin was particularly preoccupied with strange looking droppings composed largely of Juniper berries, which he called "Crab Poop!" We never did figure out what kind of "crab" it was that was leaving its calling card along the trail.

We had a nice time together in the warm sunshine. The wind wasn't as strong on this trail either, which made it all the more pleasant.

Angel's Landing

Angel's Landing
Originally uploaded by DBC Wally World.
Come to Zion

Last March, on a visit to Moab, we purchased an annual National Parks pass. This pass costs $50.00. (We have already made back the cost of the purchase price). It will gain you admission to any national park or monument. Zion's National Park, alone, costs $20.00 to enter. We decided that while we were in the area, we may as well use our pass. So we headed out to Zion Canyon, with two cousins, Nathan and Calvin in-tow.

The temperature at Zions was in the low 40's. However, there was a nasty 10-15 mph North wind as well, which created a substantial the wind-chill factor. At first, we had planned to hike the Gateway to the Narrows trail at the northern terminus of the canyon. However, we discovered that with the low-angled sunlight (winter solstice and all, you know) that the narrows trail was completely in the shadows, and was much too chilly hike -- especially with the little ones. We decided to find a trail that had some sunshine.

We found that the trail to the Lower Emerald Pools, that starts from the Grotto area parking lot was bathed in sunlight. At the beginning of the trail, we found this spectacular view of Angel's Landing.

Blinker Battle

The Battle of the Blinkers

We had the opportunity to head South to Utah’s Dixie for a few days this week. Monday I worked long enough to make sure that the Payroll processing was done, then I left work.

My first stop was the Ford dealership. The turn signals (on my 2003 F150 Pickup) hadn’t been working properly the last few days. I had a couple of light bulbs replaced, but that still didn’t solve the problem. It had been acting up on my way to work that morning, but of course, as I left work and headed over to the dealership – it was working just fine! The service writer -- After checking the light bulbs (they were all working) said: “Well, there’s not much we can do right now, unless it’s acting up. Come back again when the problem is happening, and don’t turn the motor off, then we can get an idea of what to do.”

I mussed, half to myself, and half to the service writer, “I would really like the turn signals to be working, because I am driving to St. George tonight.” I climbed back into the truck, and headed toward home. In fact I called Dawn Ann on my cell phone and told her I was on my way home.

Of course, then, after I was headed AWAY from the dealership, and had made all these arrangements to be on our way – only THEN did the turn signals start acting up again. I was about 3 miles away from the dealership by then. So I flipped a U-turn as quickly as possible and headed straight back to the service department. I did not turn off the motor, (did not pass go, did not collect $200). The same service writer who saw me before, saw me coming again. This time I was able to demonstrate that I was not, in fact, off my rocker!

They took the truck, ran a few tests on it, and found that the turn signal switch in the steering column was the culprit. They replaced the switch, and about 30 minutes later I was on my way, with a working turn signal system.

After I got home, we packed our things into the truck, and headed South.

Oh, I Wish I Were in Dixie

St, George is sometimes like a whole other world. The change in climate between Salt Lake City, and St. George can be remarkable. We had spent the previous few days locked into a temperature inversion. The daily highs were in the high 20’s, and the lows in the teens. Fog would roll in at night, and toward the end of last weekend, it was staying through much of the day. Fog and cold can be kind of depressing. What a welcome relief it was to bask in the St. George Sun, and experience temperatures in the high 50’s. It was great to feel the sun again, and be able to walk around in shirt sleeves once more!

We spent Tuesday Visiting with Dawn Ann’s parents (Grandma and Grandpa L.) and with her sister Tina, and her boys (her husband, Brent was away working in Las Vegas, while we were in town.)

Lemony Snicket Movie

Tuesday night, was Girls Night Out. Dawn Ann, Tina, and Grandma L. went out for “Brown Toppers” (chocolate dipped ice cream cones). This is where they get together and catch up with what is going on in each other’s lives. While the girls were out, the kids and I (the mice) went out to play! We decided to go to the Lemony Snicket’s, "A Series of Unfortunate Events" movie (based on Vols. 1-3 of the book series). The kids had been begging me to go see it (they have already read most of the books the movie was based upon, and naturally wanted to see the movie). However, other commitments had kept me from taking them to see the show. Now that we were away from home, I was out of the grasp of other entanglements, and we could finally go to the show. Now, after having seen the show, it would appear that the series of entanglements that had previously kept me from viewing this movie, were in fact, a series of fortunate events.

For me, however, the show was kind of disappointing. First of all, I find Jim Carrey hard to take sometimes (and this was one of them). At times this movie seemed more like a vehicle for Jim Carrey to show off, rather than the telling of a story. Second, the entire movie was very dark and dreary. People were being bumped off like flies (even though the violence was off-camera). I didn’t like the casual disregard for the value of life, and the seeming lack of consequences for those who take lives. There were a few moments of comic relief, but they didn’t make up for the lack of any kind of redeeming value.

I don’t mind seeing a film that depicts good and evil, but the lack of accountability for evil doing, and the dearth of examples of how good can and should overcome evil was distressing, if not depressing. I guess one can always sum up whether or not you would recommend a movie to someone else by asking yourself: “Would I want to see this movie again?” In my case, the answer would be a definite "No"!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Gifts of Christmas

Today I Spoke in the 1st Ward. It was their Christmas Program. Today's Program was as follows:
  • Bishop to read Luke Chapter 2 Account of the Nativity.
  • My Speaking companion to deliver his talk
  • Musical number, a duet.
  • Additional musical number: "Silent Night", which featured two twelve-year olds playing the violin, and accompanied by piano.
  • An inspirational Christmas Story relating the first Christmas to take place in occupied Hiroshima, Japan after the atomic bombs were detonated. (You Can read this story here.)
  • I was scheduled to give the concluding remarks of the service.

Normally, when I have one of these speaking assignments, my companion and I will split the time, with an intermediary hymn being sung in between our talks. Usually I give my companion 10-15 minutes, and I usually am prepared with 15-20 minutes worth of material, but I usually have it organized in such a way that I can reduce the time, if necessary in order to end the meeting on time.

As you can see, with today's schedule, it would be perfectly understandable to think that there would not be the usual time allotted for our talks. Both my speaking companion and I assumed that with the extra speakers and musical numbers, we would each have 5 minutes in which to speak -- at the most.

The meeting progressed normally, with few announcements or ward business to take care of. Finally, the appointed time came when the program, as outlined above would proceed.

The Bishop got up and read excerpts from Luke Chapter 2. My speaking companion spoke for about 4 minutes, and sat down. Then the musical numbers began. The duet was sung by a tenor and an alto, with a lot of close and intertwining harmonies. It was very beautiful. They were followed by the two young people with the violins, accompanied by the piano. A sister in the ward then read the story of Christmas in Hiroshima.

At the conclusion of the story, I looked up at the clock on my way to the podium – there were still 20 minutes left in the meeting! I had prepared 5-10 minutes worth of material, and really only expected to have 3-5 minutes left after all of the other talks and musical numbers.

I had been praying for guidance as I had prepared my remarks, that it would be something that would be of help and inspiration to the members of the ward, and that it would be in harmony with God’s will.

As I prepared to go to the meeting this morning, I had several thoughts come into my mind as I was getting ready. I added the key concepts to these thoughts as margin notes on the talk that I had already prepared and printed out. I was glad that I had done so. Looking back, I feel that the Lord was helping me to be ready for the extra time that I would have to fill.

As I prepared my remarks, I reflected about the gifts that God, and his Son have given us. What would they want us to give them back in return?

In my research, I cam across a talk given by President Howard W Hunter, which was given at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in December of 1994. As it would turn out, this would be President Hunter’s final public address before his death.

I have always felt that President Hunter was filled with a Christ-like love and charity toward others that few possess. As part of his talk that night, he gently implored us to do the following, as a gift we might give in return to Jesus, this Christmas:

“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”

(Howard W. Hunter,“The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 2002, 16) You
can read the full text of his talk here.

I can hear the kind and loving words of the Savior coming through in President Hunters words.
Through the help of the Lord, I was able to extend my talk to fill the time required. The meeting ended exactly on time after all! It was a testimony to me that the Lord will bless us and help us in our callings as we strive to serve him.

For me, this quote from President Hunter will become the theme of my Christmas this year. The attributes which President Hunter expresses here are the attributes of Christ. If we will do these things, then we will lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. And we will find, that as we strive to lift and build others that, we too, will be transformed in the process. We will find that as we do His work, we will become more like Him, and will be filled with his love. Perhaps Moroni said it best when he said:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48 -- See the whole chapter here.)

What a change we would see in our world, if each of us were to heed the words of President Hunter, and take upon ourselves these Christ-like attributes. We would truly have a world filled with "Peace on earth", and "Good will Towards men." (Luke 2:14)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Piano Tree

We had a nice addition to our home this year -- A piano. Its just a small spinet piano -- but so is our living room. With the piano in place, which pretty much takes up an entire wall of our living room. In the past we have been able to shift the furniture around in order place our Christmas Tree in the bay window of our living room. With the addition of the piano however, that just can't be done this year.

Our solution:) - A little 3 foot pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, which now is perched atop our piano. Also on top of the piano to the left of the tree is a little nativity scene, with porcelain figurines. To the right of the tree is a statue an Indian boy with an eagle, and a candle holder that Bryan won in a charity auction last month. We really do have wrapped presents. They are on the floor to the left of the piano in the corner of the room. I admit it looks a little Spartan - but it will have to do in a humble Charlie Brown Christmas tree sort of way for this year.

Next year we will (Yes, I know that means I will have to get off my duff and do some work!) have some rooms completed in the basement. Either we will have our Christmas tree downstairs, or we will have a place to move some of the furniture from the living so that the tree can go in it traditional location in the bay window.

The funny thing is, even though it looks kind of meager and sparse, the truth is we are really going to have one of our better Christmases, as far as gifts are concerned.

I have to speak in church tomorrow and do my home teaching. Maybe, if all goes well, we will go see the Christmas lights downtown at Temple Square tomorrow evening.

Monday, I will go to work long enough to make sure that payroll is processed, and then we will be off to St. George for a few days to visit with Dawn Ann's family.

The Piano Tree - Christmas 2004
(Click on Picture for Larger Image) Posted by Hello

Friday, December 17, 2004

A School Christmas Concert

Today was our children's Christmas concert at their elementary school. Bryan is in 5th grade, and Amy is in 4th grade. I took the morning off from work, so that my wife and I could attend together. We all drove together to the school today, instead of the kids riding the school bus as usual.

I was interested to see how politically correct the Christmas Program would be. I was pleased that at least they called it a Christmas program. On the school calendar, the Christmas break is officially known as "Winter Recess".

Upon entering the school cafeteria/gymnasium, I was pleased to see an actual real, live artificial Christmas Tree! The tree had lights, ribbons and bows, with a big bow atop the tree -- no angel or star on top, of course.

Each grade sang in turn, starting with kindergarten, and ending with the sixth graders. All of the songs were cute. There were two African centered songs, and one Hanukkah song. The rest of the songs usually had something to do with Santa Claus or winter in general.

The one song that had anything to do with the birth of the Christ-Child was sung by Amy's class. However, this was one of the African songs -- and it was sung in an African language, so no one could have been offended unless they were trying really hard to be offended. Amy's group featured is very own percussion section.

The other African song was by the 2nd grade, and its purpose was to give Santa directions to Timbuktu (in case he didn't know where that was).

I have no idea what the Hanukkah song sung by the 3rd grade was about, but it really had a catchy tune! It made you want to stand up and clap and dance to the beat!

Bryan's 5th grade class sang a nice, safe arrangement of "Winter Wonderland" -- which is really more of a Winter song, rather than a Christmas Song.

At the conclusion of the concert, the principal congratulated everyone for a wonderful concert, and was proud of the diversity exibited at the event.

The children seemed to have a nice time. After I came home from work, Amy asked me two or three times if I liked her song today. I gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up! She was proud of her song today. Bryan was a little more ambivalent -- his song didn't get to have cool drums or props like some of the others did.

Although there was some political correctness at the event, it could have been a poured on a lot more thickly. I was glad we went to the concert, and that we were able to support the kids.