Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thank you...

A little over a year ago I took a leap of faith and left a good job for an opportunity to own my own business and try to develop my talents in different areas. To say that the last year has been extremely difficult is a gross understatement. On several occasions I have gone to bed not knowing where our next meal was coming from or how I would keep a roof over my family's head. On those nights sleep has not come of its own accord, and I have had to pray my anxieties down to a manageable level several times throughout the night, pouring my fears and desires out to my Heavenly Father. Last night was one of those nights, and at 3:00am this morning, I found myself kneeling at the foot of my bed, pleading for help for my family and guidance for me. After receiving a measure of peace, I was able to lay down and go back to sleep.

When my wife got up this morning she found an envelope someone slid through our mail slot containing the following note:

Dear ...,

Many years ago when we had small children at home and very little money (no extra for Christmas) there was a knock at our door. A stranger handed me an envelope and said "Merry Christmas" turned around and walked away. To my surprise and relief there was money inside that envelope. We were able to provide SANTA for our children that Christmas due to someones inspiration and kindness. Now as parents we want our children to believe in Santa for as long as we can (and it doesn't hurt us as adults to believe in him too). We vowed that some day we would PAY IT FORWARD to a family we felt inspired to help if we were ever in a position to do so. So PLEASE accept this gift so that you can provide SANTA for your children. You are a very special family and we know that you have given service in so many ways yourselves. Have a very Merry Christmas!

This is the second anonymous letter we have received this week containing a gift that has come at a time when we have really needed it, and as a very direct and specific answer to prayer.

This past year has not been fun, and I don't know that I would willingly choose to go through these struggles again. But in spite of that I have learned and been reminded of some things through the experience that perhaps I could learn in no other way.
  • Our Heavenly Father is not an absentee parent. He is very mindful of us and our struggles and is always willing to accompany us in the midnight hours and give us peace and strength.
  • He can turn all of our life's experiences to our benefit and blessing if we will let him.
  • He blesses us through the generosity and spiritual sensitivity of others, who serve Him and are in turn blessed by the service they give.
  • We are only alone if we choose to be so.

Whoever our two anonymous benefactors are have brought the Christmas Spirit into my heart this year. More than meeting an immediate physical need, their thoughtfulness has touched our spirits with their generosity and kindness, increasing our testimony of God's love and our faith in His help. God's choicest blessings be with you and yours for this precious gift. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stuff I have done...

I read my sister-in-law C's blog today and was tagged as a result. Here is my response:

I have done the things BOLDED and in BLUE.

1. Started your own blog. 2. Slept under the stars 3. Played in a band 4. Visited Hawaii 5. Watched a meteor shower 6. Given more than you can afford to charity 7. Been to Disneyland 8. Climbed a mountain 9. Held a praying mantis 10. Sang a solo 11. Bungee jumped 12. Visited Paris 13. Watched a lightning storm at sea 14. Taught yourself an art from scratch 15. Adopted a child 16. Had food poisoning 17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. 18. Grown your own vegetables 19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France 20. Slept on an overnight train 21. Had a pillow fight 22. Hitch hiked 23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill 24. Built a snow fort 25. Held a lamb 26. Gone skinny dipping 27. Run a Marathon 28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice 29. Seen a total eclipse 30. Watched a sunrise or a sunset 31. Hit a home run . 32. Been on a cruise 33. Seen Niagara Falls in person 34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors 35. Seen an Amish community 36. Taught yourself a new language 37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (ha!)38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person 39. Gone rock climbing 40. Seen Michelangelo’s David 41. Sung karaoke 42. Seen Old Faithful Geyser erupt 43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant 44. Visited Africa 45. Walked on a beach by moonlight 46. Been transported in an ambulance 47. Had your portrait painted 48. Gone deep sea fishing 49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person 50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris 51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling 52. Kissed in the rain 53. Played in the mud 54. Gone to a drive-in theater 55. Been in a movie or on a TV show 56. Visited the Great Wall of China 57. Started a business 58. Taken a martial arts class 59. Visited Russia 60. Served at a soup kitchen. 61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies 62. Gone whale watching 63. Got flowers for no reason 64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma. 65. Gone sky diving 66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp 67. Bounced a check 68. Flown in a helicopter 69. Saved a favorite childhood toy 70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial 71. Eaten Caviar. 72. Pieced a quilt. 73. Stood in Times Square 74. Toured the Everglades 75. Been fired from a job 76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London 77. Broken a bone 78. Been on a speeding motorcycle 79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person 80. Published a book 81. Visited the Vatican 82. Bought a brand new car 83. Walked in Jerusalem 84. Had your picture in the newspaper 85. Read the entire Bible 86. Visited the White House 87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating 88. Had chickenpox 89. Saved someone’s life (I tried, but he didn't make it) 90. Sat on a jury 91. Met someone famous 92. Joined a book club 93. Lost a loved one 94. Had a baby 95. Seen the Alamo in person 96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake 97. Been involved in a law suit 98. Owned a cell phone 99. Been stung by a bee. 100. Been held at gunpoint

Now, copy and paste this into your own post, and BOLD the one's you've done.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Need I say any more?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The River, the Wagon Bridge, and the Catapult Tree

When I was growing up in Colonia Juarez, there were two bridges that crossed the river. An ancient suspension footbridge known as the Swinging Bridge, and a single lane cement bridge known as the Wagon Bridge. The Swinging Bridge got its name from the side-to-side/up-and-down movements it makes as you walk across it. (I still take my kids to walk across it everytime we go visit my parents)
The Wagon Bridge was the bridge we used to cross the river when we walked home from school. It was made entirely out of cement, and was supported by two cement pillars that were built on the riverbed. Watching the water flow under the bridge was hypnotizing, and we wasted a lot of time standing on the bridge throwing sticks and rocks into the river below. More often than not, we would wind up climbing down the bridge to get to the river itself, where we would waste more time, get wet, filthy dirty, and destroy our shoes.

There were several ways to do get down to the river from the bridge: Walk down to the river from the east bank, take a running jump off of the west end of the bridge to the bank below, and (our favorite) climbing down the pillars that supported the bridge. When the river was flooded, we couldn't actually get down and play in it, but when the waters started going down again, it broke into two channels around a large segment of land in the middle of the river bed, creating an island. Our inner pirates couldn't resist playing on the island, so as soon as the island looked dry enough to walk on without sinking to our hips in muck, we went over the side of the bridge and down to the island.

The only way to reach the island was to climb down the easternmost pillar on the bridge. Looking at it now it isn't so big a deal, but when I was ten that was quite a distance to go down for short little squirts. Fortunately for us, there was a young elm tree that grew right up against the pillar. However, we were much more creative than simply climbing down the tree. We grabbed the top of the tree and jumped off the pillar. The tree would bend all the way down to the ground letting us off gently onto the island. When we wanted back up, we jumped halfway up the tree, bent it down, and then jumped again holding onto the top of the tree. It would fling us onto the pillar and we would then climb the rest of the way up onto the bridge. We called that elm the Catapult Tree, and enjoyed jumping back and forth off the pillar almost as much as we enjoyed the island.
Once on the island we would make mud/sand castles, cut river willows and have sword fights with them, throw mud at each other and sticks into the river and have a grand old time. 1983 was the best year for flooding while I was growing up (I was 10 that year), and we seemed to live on that island. I know that I got in trouble several times for coming home so late, wet, and dirty, but it didn't stop us. I must have gone through about 8 pairs of shoes that school year and, if I remember right, that was the year my parents got their first grey hairs. It was awesome!
Next up - tubing, body surfing, and other stupid stuff.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lawnmowers, Gas, Gopher Holes, and Third Degree Burns

Our steady supply of gasoline came to my brother and I because of the enormous lawn that we had to mow each week. We had three different lawns that were mowed - two side lawns and the orchard out back, and it required a lot of gas to keep the mower running. Dad always seemed to have at least two or three 5 gallon gas cans for us each Saturday, and away we went. It was kind of mind numbing work, but it did give you a lot of time to just think about stuff and several hair-brained ideas were hatched as we made the trip around and around the lawn with the mower.

One of the more idiotic ones was how to deal with the large number of gopher holes that kept popping up all over one of the side lawns. Each week we set traps and caught three of four of the beggars, but they just kept coming back. Dad gassed a couple with a special poison gas bomb that he buried in their burrows and that gave us a great idea. Why not burn the critters crispy by pouring gas down their hole and then dropping a match?

OK - gopher control had nothing to do with the idea because we knew that they were far enough down in their burrows that we probably wouldn't do any lasting damage to them. Besides, we had already done the ditch experiment and were still dissapointed with those results. Still, it would be a good story if Dad asked us what we were doing. DK and I started pouring gas down the holes and then dropping matches. The result was pretty cool - a quick flash of flame shot out of the hole and sometimes blew dirt out as well, but it wasn't so spectacular that we did it all the time. Every so often, after we had finished mowing the lawn and we had gas left, we would flash gopher holes.

On one particular Saturday it was DK's turn to mow the side lawn. He got it finished and then decided to flash a few gopher holes. He had already flashed one and liked the effect so much that he decided to pour more gas down the hole and flash it again. Unfortunately something in the hole was still burning, and the fire flashed back up into the plastic gas can as DK was pouring. He didn't realize it at first, but when it started to burn his elbow he saw that the can was on fire and dropped it. Burning gas splashed up through the opening and all over his clothes, lighting him on fire. He took off running at first, but then remembered his cub scout training of "Stop, Drop, and Roll" which probably saved his life. He executed the maneuver and then ripped his clothes off. His shirt, which was made out of polyester, had already melted to his skin in a couple of places.

I was inside the house when this happened, but heard him yelling and ran out with my mom. DK was in the driveway wearing only his underwear and his socks and was limping towards the house. Behind him the gas can was melting away, and the fire grew to an enormous height - well above the level of our roof. Mom helped get DK in the house while I ran over to the fire to try to put it out or at least keep it from spreading. There was nothing I could do but wet down the lawn around the perimeter of the fire, and the heat was so intense that I couldn't get close enough to really even do that. The fire was right by a tall elm tree and I could hear the sap boiling and popping in the trunk. It was a jaw-dropping awesome fire. (And I mean "awesome" in the original sense of the term - not "cool")
The top of the tree caught fire, but the whole thing only lasted about 10 minutes and it was all out. The tree was a total loss and had to be chopped down later that year.

DK was soaking in the bathtub inside the house as Mom dumped ice into the water. While Mom watched, DK's skin started bubbling and boiling right before her eyes as if he were a chicharron. We carried him out to the car and Mom took him to Dr. Hatch's. He returned a few hours later wrapped like a mummy and wearing very loose fitting clothes.

DK still has a rather nasty scar on his leg and a more minor one on his belly. (You can just make it out on his left leg in this picture.) It is painful to see him in shorts, but other than that he doesn't have any other ill effects from flashing that gopher hole.

In terms of coming close to tragedy, DK pretty much takes the cake. He was very fortunate to get off as light as he did. I would like to say that this little event kept us away from gas and fire, but it didn't. We had several other close calls, one explosion in particular almost knocked me on my fanny (about a month after DK's brush with death) but we somehow avoided serious accidents after DK taught us not to flash things twice.

Next up - The River

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Matches, Gas, Fire, and Other Wonderful Elements!

I don't remember when my fascination with all things combustible came into being but, almost 36 years into this mortality thing, I am still intrigued by burning stuff. I think I am more rational about it now than I was earlier in life, but I sure had a lot of fun with it before I became rational.

Learning how to burn oleander bushes
My first experience with matches outside of the home came as my brother DK and I walked home from Alta Vista Elementary School in Phoenix. Just a few feet from school there was an alley with tall oleander bushes lining one side. As DK and I walked by the alley this afternoon there was a group of about three other boys huddled around a rock looking at something. They invited my brother and I to join them and showed us a book of matches that one of the boys had brought to school with him. They were trying to strike the matches on the rock without success. I had watched my Dad light the BBQ with these types of matches so I showed them how to light them on the book. I lit my match, showed them, and then put it out. Everybody got a match from the book and waited their turn to light it. DK lit his and put it out and then the rocket scientist that had been trying to light paper matches on the rock lit his and threw it into a pile of dead oleander leaves at our feet. They caught fire and everybody started throwing more leaves on the fire to put it out. That didn't turn out so well. Pretty soon the oleander bushes caught fire and five little boys came out of the alley at a dead run. We didn't stop till we got home and as we ran we could hear the fire trucks come to douse our experiment.
A letter was sent home with us from school the following day, but DK and I tore it up and didn't tell our parents about it until about three years later. (And then only after our Dad promised he wouldn't spank us.)

Matches + Gasoline Makes a Bigger Fire

Soon after the incident with the oleander bushes, my family moved to Mexico. This not only saved me from prosecution for the wanton murder of innocent oleander bushes, it also gave me a much larger "field of fire" to play with. Soon after arriving, my Primo H. introduced me to the absolute wonder of gasoline. Not only did you get a much bigger fire, it created a real cool whooshing sound as it exploded. As an added bonus, if you added enough of this magical stuff, debris would fly into the air when you lit the pile. I was hooked!

Road Blocks

Our home was at the edge of town, and trucks were constantly speeding by our house on the way to their orchards. Dad was always worried that someone would run over one of his daughters, so he hauled in some dirt and made a speed bump or tope on the dirt road. (For the gringos reading this post - tope is pronounced "topeh") All this seemed to do was encourage younger drivers to hit the gas as they approached the tope so they could catch some air as they went over. Dad dug a small ditch on one side of the tope to remedy this new behavior, and this time his system had the desired effect. Once that was in, any driver who took the tope too fast would lose teeth when their wheels hit the ditch.

Dad was pretty satisfied with this arrangement, but the neighborhood boys (me, DK, Primo H, Primo R, L. and E.) felt that we could improve on the concept.

We filled the ditch with gasoline and waited for the next speeding truck to come along.

We were sure that the resulting fireball would stop the speeder dead in his tracks. After all, we had been watching the A-Team for some time now and that was how they did it.

To our great dissapointment, no trucks came for awhile and our gasoline soaked into the ground. We decided to test the ditch and were rewarded with a very brief and very nonspectacular "poof". (If we had done it at night it would have rocked)

We knew that we needed more gasoline for this to work, but we also knew we didn't have enough money between the six of us to get what we needed, so we gave up the project.

Instead, we took the gasoline over to our wall and filled up one of the pipe/posts that were used to shut the gate. We lit that up and got a great explosion.

Being the careful pyros we were, we had a hose handy to take care of things if the fire got too big. We had just filled up the pipe again and were lighting it when Grandma came around the corner and asked us what we were doing. (ALL of our parents were out of town and Grandma was riding herd on us)

We called out in chorus "Nothing Grandma" just as I aimed a strong burst of water into the pipe full of burning gasoline to put it out. Instead, the water flushed all of the gas out of the pipe, into the air, and onto our front porch with the spectacular fireball we had hoped to have over at the ditch. Grandma about had a stroke and we all scrambled around trying to figure out why water wouldn't put out burning gas and was instead pushing the fire closer to the house.

Fortunately the gas gave out before our stupidity did, and the house didn't catch fire. Grandma promptly confiscated our stash of matches and gasoline and made us do something productive.
I don't remember getting in any serious trouble when all of our parents got back, so Grandma obviously didn't tell our parents. She was pretty cool even though we all deserved a good cowhiding.
To be continued...

Stupid Stuff I Have Survived

So, I haven't posted anything for quite some time now. I have been busy and I confess that my interest in blogging comes and goes in waves. The other day I was having lunch with one of my childhood friends when we started talking about some of the incredibly dumb things we did as kids and somehow managed to survive. As we reminisced about our youthful adventures I thought that I really needed to record these things before I get too senile to remember them.

Before I get started with this I might as well provide a couple of disclaimers:
  • Most of this stuff happened well over 20 years ago. My memory may leave out details on some of the stories or add details from other stories. If you were an eyewitness to some of this foolishness, I would welcome your version of the events.
  • Some of the stories may not be all that exciting to you, but they sure bring a smile to my face. If you don't think they are that big a deal, just indulge me in recounting some of my youthful "adventures". At the time they happened I thought they were pretty dang cool.
  • Some stories may be beyond belief, but I swear that I am being absolutely honest in my retelling of them. Any omissions or additions are the result of a faulty memory, not an unholy desire to embellish the truth.
  • I am not going to say that I was a professional at the time I did some of this stuff, but I definitely wouldn't recommend that you try to re-create some of these stories. How I made it to adulthood with all of my digits attached and my skin where it is supposed to be is a mystery to me. On several occasions I could have been killed, seriously hurt, or worse (in my mind at least) grounded for the remainder of my natural life.

Maybe you'll be entertained by my stories, or maybe you'll think my stories are stupid. I don't really care. My interest is in recording these memories in a way that my kids can access them even after I am too old to remember them. I'll start with the most appealing of all childhood menaces - FIRE.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A nod to my three home countries

During my lifetime I have lived in three different countries. I was born and currently live in the United States, I was raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, and I served a two-year mission for my Church in Viña del Mar, Chile. These different places have each had an impact on my life, and I have fallen in love with each country for its own reasons. I love their heroes, their flags, their traditions, and their holidays. Patriotic holidays are my favorite ones, and during one 7-day period each year the three countries that have been my home celebrate significant national holidays. Beginning on September 13th and running through September 19th I usually go into sensory overload - and enjoy every minute of it. (It probably drives my wife nuts at times!)

September 13th - Dia de los Niños Heroes (Mexico)

On September 12-13, 1847 soldiers and marines from the United States attacked Chapultepec Castle, home to the Heroico Colegio Militar, in Mexico City. (This battle gave the Marines "The Halls of Montezuma" for their hymn) The castle was defended by the cadets of the college, with six cadets in particular showing magnificent bravery in the face of a superior fighting force. I grew up learning about these six young men (ages 13-19) and have always admired their bravery. During one Independence Day parade I was chosen to be one of the six boys who represented each of the Niños Heroes (I was Fernando Montes de Oca) and was thrilled by having that honor. An impressive monument/tomb was erected to their memory in Chapultepec park, just below the castle they died defending. In March of 1947, just a few months before the 100th anniversary of this battle, President Harry Truman laid a wreath at this monument, showing reverence for their sacrifice and helping to heal years of bitterness between the two countries. (President Truman is still Mexico's favorite U.S. President as a result)
For more information about each of the Niños Heroes click here.

September 14th - Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner (U.S.)

On the night of September 13, 1814, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key witnessed the nightime bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British fleet at anchor in Baltimore harbor. Throughout the bombardment, Key could see the storm flag being flown over Ft. McHenry, knowing by its presence that the fort was still holding out. When the bombardment stopped later that night however, he could no longer tell what was happening. As "dawn's early light" broke over the harbor, Mr. Key searched through the "mists of the deep" to see if the "flag was still there". His search was rewarded at the sight of an enormous flag that had been put up during the night - bearing testimony that the Americans were still there and there was still fight in them. He was so inspired by the sight of that flag that he began writing a poem on the back of an envelope he was carrying - calling it "Defence of Ft. McHenry". This poem later became known as "The Star Spangled Banner", and went on to become our national anthem. The large flag that flew over Ft. McHenry is now a revered national treasure, housed in the Smithsoniam Museum of American History.
For a better telling of this story click here.
September 15-16 - Independence Day (Mexico)
Growing up in Mexico - this was the best day of the year. We celebrated with fireworks, parades and the "Grito" during the night of September 15th. On September 15, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo called his parishioners to arms against the Spanish conquerors who had dominated the land since the early 1500's. Calling out for armed rebellion against the hated "Gachupines", Hidalgo and his armed band quickly ignited a fire that ended 11 years later with Mexico winning its independence from Spain.
I loved to participate in the Independence Day parade through our little town each year, and enjoyed the patriotic speeches and John Hatch's re-enactment of the "Grito" as fireworks went off behind him. Guadalupe Zelaya, one of my grade-school teachers would tell us all kinds of stories about the war for Independence and the names of Hidalgo, Allende, Morelos, and others entered into my conscience as worthy members of humanity's pantheon of heroes.
More info here.
September 17th - Constitution Day (U.S.)

On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia signed the new Constitution of the United States that they had spent the last five months creating. This day is one of the most significant days not only for our own country, but for freedom loving people the world over. This document has preserved our freedoms, made us the most prosperous and powerful nation in history, and is an absolute miracle. Constitution Day and Indepedence Day are my two favorite days of the whole year. I am so grateful to the men who argued, debated, compromised and crafted this magnificent document. I read the Constitution several times a year, and frequently discuss it with good friends who share the same love I have for it. As a nation we are blessed beyond measure by this incredible, miraculous document.
(I am not always able to celebrate each of the holidays I love this week, but I ALWAYS celebrate Constitution Day with my family)
Additional info here.

September 18-19 - Independence Day/Armed Forces Day (Chile)

On September 18, 1810 a Junta declared Chile an autonomous republic under the Spanish crown. (1810 was a real bad year for Spain). The fight for independence would last 8 years, culminating with Generals Bernardo O'Higgins and José de San Martin crossed the Andes to defeat royalist forces in.

While I lived in Chile I was told that it was the law that each home have a Chilean flag which was to be flown on the 18th of September each year. Whether or not it is actually the law - it certainly is the practice. Every home I passed on the 18th and 19th of September flew a Chilean flag. It was impressive!
Information on Chile can be found here.

When President Truman visited the monument to the Niños Heroes he said: "Brave men don't belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it." That about sums up my feelings for the celebrations this week. I am an American to the core, but I hold a great love in my heart for the other two countries that have been my home.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Meeting a TRUE American Hero

As my wife and I were getting off the elevator a few minutes ago I spotted an elderly gentleman and his wife seated right next to the elevator banks with this around his neck:

I discreetly pointed him out to my wife, not wanting to interrupt him, but then I couldn't resist and had to go pay my respects. His name is Cpl. Hiroshi H. Miyamura, a Medal of Honor Recipient and WWII/Korean War Veteran. I told him what an honor it was to meet him and his wife and how grateful we are for his service and others like him. He was very gracious and allowed my wife to take this picture of the two of us:

Mr. Miyamura is from New Mexico and is also a first time attendee at the Republican National Convention. He told us that he wanted to make an appearance at the convention to tell people who he was voting for and why. He said we needed real American men to lead our country and that he was there to honor Sen. McCain's service in the military and encourage us to vote for him.

After chatting for a few minutes I walked away, with goosebumps running up and down my arms. It was such an honor to meet this man and personally thank him for his service to our country. After running our errands I had to run back up to the hotel room to look up Cpl. Miyamura's Citation. After reading it aloud to my wife I once again got chills. I would rather meet and visit with one of these authentic American heroes than a President of the United States. I couldn't wait for tonight to get this post put up on my blog. It is too exciting for me!

Here is Cpl. Miyamura's Medal of Honor Citation:

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Taejon-ni, Korea, 24 and 25 April 1951. Entered service at: Gallup, N. Mex. Birth: Gallup, N. Mex. G.O. No.: 85, 4 November 1953. Citation: Cpl. Miyamura, a member of Company H, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. On the night of 24 April, Company H was occupying a defensive position when the enemy fanatically attacked threatening to overrun the position. Cpl. Miyamura, a machine gun squad leader, aware of the imminent danger to his men unhesitatingly jumped from his shelter wielding his bayonet in close hand-to-hand combat killing approximately 10 of the enemy. Returning to his position, he administered first aid to the wounded and directed their evacuation. As another savage assault hit the line, he manned his machine gun and delivered withering fire until his ammunition was expended. He ordered the squad to withdraw while he stayed behind to render the gun inoperative. He then bayoneted his way through infiltrated enemy soldiers to a second gun emplacement and assisted in its operation. When the intensity of the attack necessitated the withdrawal of the company Cpl. Miyamura ordered his men to fall back while he remained to cover their movement. He killed more than 50 of the enemy before his ammunition was depleted and he was severely wounded. He maintained his magnificent stand despite his painful wounds, continuing to repel the attack until his position was overrun. When last seen he was fighting ferociously against an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers. Cpl. Miyamura's indomitable heroism and consummate devotion to duty reflect the utmost glory on himself and uphold the illustrious traditions on the military service.

Convention-al Entertainment

We had some really cool experiences yesterday, starting with a reception for the Arizona/Minnessota Delegations at the Landmark Building across the street from our hotel. We heard opening comments from our State Party Chairman, Randy Pullen as well as our Secretary of State, Jan Brewer, and then from several "luminaries". Our speakers were:

    Keeper of Banners addressing the Delgates

  • Governor Tom Pawlenty - Governor of Minnesota

  • Governor Jon Huntsman - Governor of Utah

  • Senator Norm Coleman - (R) Minnesota

  • Robert "Bud" McFarlane - Former National Security Advisor to President Reagan

  • Ambassador John R. Bolton - Former US Ambassador to the United Nations

  • Meg Whitman - Former President/CEO of eBay
I was especially excited to hear from Senator Coleman and Ambassador Bolton - two great Americans who have led the charge against the U.S. being involved with and taking orders from the UN.

Ambassador John Bolton and I (me engaging in a little hero worship)

Later that evening we ran over to the Minneapolis Convention Center for the Civic Convention. It was a blast! They had several displays on the presidency, including mock-ups of Air Force One, a large-scale model of the White House, two presidential limousines, and the most awesome collection of historic US Flags (not just replicas - these were the real deal!).

Me Achieving Nirvana

I thought I was going to go into sensory overload, and Dulcinea had to cool me down from spending too much dinero on campaign kitsch. We got some souvenirs for the kids (and for us) and walked until the bones in my feet started popping (it might be time to lose some weight). My favorite acquisitions were a copy of Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative and a baseball cap from the USS John S. McCain - a destroyer named after Sen. McCain's father and grandfather that is currently depolyed in the Persian Gulf.

We have been interacting with delegates from all over the country, and have made some great friends. There are so many good people here. It gives me a lot of excitement and hope for this election cycle.

The First Lady and I returning to D.C. after bringing peace to the Middle East

All in all, a great day. I am looking forward to some actual political action today when the convention officially kicks off.

Tell the Joint Chiefs that the bombing of Iran starts NOW - not five minutes from now! And get that little crap-head Putin on the phone - I'm about to open a can of whoop and pour it all over his sorry hide.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Greetings from St. Paul Minnesota!!!

Just a quick post to update you on our trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. We made it safe and sound to our destination yesterday evening and are staying in the fabulous St. Paul hotel just a stone's throw away from the Excel Center and the Mississippi River. It is awesome to be here with Dulcinea and we are enjoying each other's company sans children. (Thanks for taking care of our little ones Mom!)
I will be posting throughout the week - mostly on my Adams and Jefferson Blog as well as a blog for the Arizona Republic (more information on that to follow). My blog posts will be almost entirely political in nature, because I don't think I will have time to make two entries each day and I have some obligations for political commentaries. For the tourist perspective of our journey, please check out Dulcinea's Blog.In the meantime, here are three pictures of our journey so far.

Dulcinea and I in the Sky Harbor Airport

The Welcome Sign at the Minneapolis Airport

A View of the Mississippi River from our hotel room window.

McCain-Palin '08!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Adventures

The last few weeks have been interesting ones. I have spent two Sundays with my family, sitting on the bench with them and pretty much spending the entire day with them. I thought it would feel real weird, but it feels like I never left. (OK - not having meetings all day long did feel a little weird) Watching Bro. Griner on the stand is cool and it is neat to look back on the bishopric as an experience that I have had in my life.
I am now serving as Secretary in the Stake Young Men's Presidency and am real excited about the opportunities this calling will give me to learn and grow. We have a fantastic presidency, and I will learn a lot from each one of them. This is going to be great!
I was also called to be one of the two Gospel Doctrine teachers in our ward and gave my first lesson this past Sunday. I have always wanted to serve as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, so I am going to enjoy this and learn a lot in the process (we've got a great class).

Day after tomorrow my wife and I fly out to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. I was elected as an alternate delegate earlier this year and am in awe about this opportunity to see and participate in one of America's greatest political events. It is also going to be really cool to spend a full week with my wife. I'm sure we'll miss the kids, but we have never spent more than three consecutive days with just the two of us since we were married almost 14 years ago (including our honeymoon). It is going to be like one giant, enormous date with Dulcinea! Cool!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Patriot Guard Mission

Yesterday I rode with other Patriot Guard Riders as part of an honor guard escorting a fallen Marine to his final rest. It was an emotional, moving event and I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in rendering honors to a local hero. Standing in the blistering heat for 4+ hours made me reflect on what the last few months of this Marine's life were like and the discomfort he endured in Afghanistan so that I could be free and safe here in the States. I couldn't help but imagine what it was like for his parents when they received the news that their son was gone. My heart was completely full of gratitude for this wonderful young man, his family, and the brave men and women who are still in the fight over there "in the sandbox."

When I got home last night, I held my own son close and thanked God for Lance Corporal Juan Lopez-Castañeda and his parents. As a father I would be proud to have my son serve, but I don't know if I could bear to lose him. My heart goes out to the Lopez-Castañeda family.

God Bless our military and their family members!

For a short video on yesterday's ride click on the following link:

For information on the Patriot Guard Riders go to:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An end and a beginning

My four and a half years in the bishopric of the Cornerstone Ward concluded this afternoon. Karl Griner was called into the bishopric to replace me and he will do an absolutely fantastic job of it. I am excited for him and his family as they begin serving in this sacred calling.

One of the greatest joys of this calling is the association with the other members of the bishopric. The bonds of fellowship in that group are sacred and powerful. There are a lot of things I am going to miss about this calling, but far and away the biggest thing I'll miss is the brotherhood. I am grateful that I can still associate with these great men but I recognize that things will be different now and I am sad about that.

Most of the feelings I have had today are too personal and too sacred to share on this blog, but it reminds me of other times when I have left a calling I have loved to move on to a different sphere of service.

At the conclusion of my mission, when I was experiencing some of the same feelings I have right now, I got an insight into a scripture that had puzzled me for years. In Alma 29:1-3, 6 it says:

1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the atrump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and acome unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

6 Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to aperform the work to which I have been called?

I couldn't understand why Alma considered it a sin to desire to declare the gospel with angelic zeal. But then I realized it was because he desired something more than the calling he had, and that he should be content and grateful for the privilege to serve.

I am grateful for the time I had to serve in the bishopric. The time I had was more than I deserved and I was richly blessed far beyond any contributions which I may have made during this stage of my life.

I am especially grateful to Bishop Lindblom and Bishop Huber for their kindness and consideration to me and my family during our service together. I learned so much from them both. They are outstanding men of God, and I am better for having served with them. I have a deep and abiding love for both of them that will be with me for the rest of my life. I am also profoundly grateful for the wonderful friendship I have established with Jon Albright. I have always come away from our conversations uplifted and enlightened.

Above all else I am grateful to my sweet wife and our children who have supported, encouraged, loved, and prayed for me during this time. The main reason I received this calling was because of the magnificent woman I am married to. Thanks Dulcinea!

And now a new stage of my life begins. Next week I return to the bench with my sweet family to enjoy our sacrament meetings together. I also begin a calling that will take me outside of my comfort zone, create new associations to enjoy, and bless my family in new and exciting ways. It is so great to be involved in this work!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Finding Silence in the Kingdom of Noise

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis makes an interesting observation about noise in a fictional letter between a senior devil and a new tempter:

"Music and silence - how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since Our Father entered Hell ... no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise - Noise, that grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile - Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anywhere like it."

Noise - as described above, is more than just a loud cacophony of discordant sounds. It is all thoughts and distractions which make it impossible for us to hear the sweeter and more important melodies of life that constantly surround us. This noise is found in many forms and, interestingly enough, assumes the quality of being noise not so much by the sound it makes as much as by the setting it is found in. What might be beautiful and uplifting in one setting becomes noise in another.

In my own life, several examples come to mind. When I have been surrounded by unsettling circumstances, listening to classical music or hymns calms me down and helps restore a sense of peace in my life. If I am trying to study something or read my scriptures, the same music that calms me down distracts me and makes it impossible to get the in depth knowledge I am seeking. I also enjoy watching movies and find that they relax me, but if I watch a movie on Saturday night it makes keeping my thoughts focused on spiritual things almost impossible on Sunday.

For some time now I have been bothered by the effect that noise has in my life and the way that it seems to invade my thoughts regardless of where I am or what I am doing. This morning a song that I haven't heard in years suddenly started playing in my mind and I have had a devil of a time getting it to shut up! It is not a bad song, it just isn't what I want to be hearing in my head on Sunday. A couple of weeks ago I had a similar experience in the Temple. An innocuous song I had heard earlier in the day kept playing over and over in my mind when I should have been focused on where I was and what I was doing.

One of the more insidious aspects of noise is that it becomes addicting. Whenever I get into a car I turn on the radio. When I get home either the kids are already watching TV or I turn it on myself. In my office I like to have music playing in the background. If a newspaper or magazine shows up in my office I have a hard time focusing until I have read them. The experiences of distraction I have had seem to illustrate just how consistently I allow noise to be a part of my surroundings.

All of this seems innocent enough, but what is it costing me? When noise becomes my natural environment, I struggle to hear the whisperings of the spirit. If I favor noise to human interaction, I am missing out on the conversations and experiences that will bind me closer to my family. And, the more immersed I am in noise, the more my inner core becomes attuned to the frequencies of the world. When I stop to think about all this I am convinced that noise is one of the many subtle tools that Satan uses to create distance between us and our Heavenly Father.

All of us are like the soundboard of a piano, reverberating and amplifying the sounds that we are associated with. By putting ourselves in close proximity to our Heavenly Father in our thoughts, actions, and surroundings, we can tune ourselves to the appropriate heavenly pitch we are meant to echo and reflect. Fortunately for us, these divine influences surround us every bit as much as the noise does. The difference is that we must be properly tuned to hear and experience them. Once we learn to identify these uplifting influences they can become so powerful that they eliminate the distractions of worldly noise. (The difference between the sounds of Heaven and the sounds of Hell are that one relies on true power and the other on volume.)

To be properly tuned we need to recognize the role of noise in our everyday life and eliminate its influence as much as possible. This doesn't mean that we can never listen to our favorite music or watch movies again (unless they drive the Spirit away by their very nature). It means recognizing when these influences become noise and then being prudent with our time and resources. The natural result of this exercise will be to fill our time with worthwhile activities that are more in line with what our Heavenly Father wants for us, and this is the second half of the solution. These worthwhile activities will expose us to heaven's sounds and make them easier to hear and recognize.

If we do not eliminate noise from our life we risk becoming as Laman and Lemuel who were described as "past feeling". On the other hand, as we eliminate noise we will begin to recognize that our Heavenly Father is not an absent parent. He is always there for us, as long as we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand. We will then join the ranks of those who realize that "every bush is aflame with the light of God, but only those with eyes to see take off their shoes."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Item for 14 Years!

14 years ago today I proposed to Dulcinea on a love seat in the Celestial Room of the Mesa Temple. We picked that spot because most of our dating was doing sessions in the temple and it was where we both felt most at home.
I simply told her that I loved her, that I didn't have a whole lot in the way of worldly possesions, but that I would work hard to support her and promised to be faithful to her forever if she would have me.
Then, after an appropriate pause, she paid me the highest compliment I have ever been paid.
She said: "Yes!"
Thank you Dulcinea! I love you the mostest!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Today we weren't as active as yesterday, but we did have fun with some traditional activities

We started out by talking about the Glen and Ada Whetten reunion for next year (see entry below), and creating a blog for it. Once this was done I took the kids to the swinging bridge for a death-defying walk across. Then we went up "the hill" in front of Mom and Dad's house and I drove the kids through the orchards on top to educate them on where fruit comes from. The peaches are just ripening up right now, and the apples will be following soon. Yum!

On our way down the hill I jumped out of the Whettenmobile and ran up to the money rock. I can still find it, and it is still topped by the rock I put over it during the Whetten reunion in 1980. (Not bad for 28 years)

Unfortunately my camera was a casualty of the descent down the hill, so these pictures might be the last ones I am able to post.

We just got back from Casas where we bought my son some cowboy boots. (I am tired of him digging out my daughter's high heels so he can clump around the house making noise. Now he can make noise and retain his masculine dignity - and mine.)

Now we are watching a spectacular thunder storm roll through the valley and having the lights flicker on and off. Boy this sure brings back the memories! See you all tomorrow.

OK - that last thunderclap just about gave me a stroke! Ay carray!

Calling all Glen and Ada Whetten's

Grandpa and Grandma Whetten were born 100 years ago next year and we think that a celebration is in order. Please join us in Colonia Juarez during the summer of 2009 to have a great big family reunion estilo Whetten. Tentative dates - last week in July or first week of August. (best time of year for good weather, plenty of fruit, beautiful green grass everywhere, cool evenings, etc)

Ed and Gayle have their "Motel 3" in fine form and can put up mucha raza.

For those interested in a longer stay and more adventure, come early for an expedition to the Basaseachic waterfall and Copper Canyon. Who knows? We may even get up to Chupe and the other mountain colonies. Plan on a service project and tire rolling down the Caracol. Zip line is greased and ready to go, teeter-totter now complies with OSHA standards, and the swing has the ropes pre-attached for maximum altitude. Volleyball, rattlesnake taming, and counting Aunt Louise's cats thrown in for free. We'll drive you in from El Paso if you need to fly in, and meet you at the border if you want to caravan down.

Spread the word, start making the plans and reserve the time - 'cause this event will only happen once in our lifetimes.

We have set up a blog so we can have a central clearing house for all information relating to the reunion. Please visit: for more information, answers to your questions, and links to useful sites.

Uncle Ed says: "Many of you have not been back in years, and this is an excellent time to repent."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

She thinks my tractor's sexy...

Day three of the vacation has come and gone and we have had a lot of fun with it. I started the day by going to Dad's office at the church and setting up some agendas and form letters for him. We had a good visit while we were doing this and I just enjoyed being around my dad. When we got home we were both starving but Dulcinea and C ran out of the door with Little Miss telling me that we had to get down to Casas right then to check Little Miss' hearing. (End result - moderate hearing loss in the lower ranges. I had some cool looking ear wax pulled out of my ear and got to see my own eardrums) Thanks Carnal!

By the time we got down there I was fainting with hunger so I ran over to Tortas Chuma and got some muy delicioso tortas and a Mexican Coke (arrrrrrrr - Mexican Coke).

My hunger abated- we returned home via the liquado store where we all got liquados. Mine was the best (and biggest). Melon baby!

Got home and pushed the kids on the swings/teeter-totter, then hopped on the tractor to take the kids for rides. Dr. Destructo did not want to get off and kept grabbing the steering wheel for the whole ride. Little Miss also steered through town. Unfortunately my lap wasn't big enough to let Teeny Bopper, Sweet G, or Blondie sit on it and steer, so I just moved over and let them drive it. (OK - true confessions, my lap is big enough, it's just covered by a very large belly)

I ended the day going to the temple with Dad. It was a great experience and he led me into the
Celestial Room. All in all, a fantabulous day. Stay tuned for more updates mañana.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Driving Miss Daisy (Teeny Bopper)

One of the fun family traditions we have when visiting Mexico is underage driving. In keeping with this fine family tradition I took my daughter Teeny Bopper out on the streets to terrorize the innocent. I was actually pretty proud of her - there was only one fatality, and that was a bird on the side of the road that was already dead anyway. We went all over town and then out past San Diego to Mata Ortiz. She got the suburban up to 50 mph and passed and got passed by cars. All in all a pretty reckless afternoon. More tomorrow.

Teeny Bopper at the end of her journey. I took over for the drive home at this point.

I'm Home!

My family and I are spending the week down home in Colonia Juarez. It has been raining, so everything is green and beautiful, and the weather is absolutely wonderful.
We will take in an endowment session at the temple tonight, do some baptisms with Teeny Bopper later on, and end the week by baptizing Blondie down at the "Nick".

I love being home, and will hate going back next Tuesday. In the meantime, I will enjoy this:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tactical Advantage

Just a quick post to show my newest acquisition in the pistola department. I have had a compact Glock 23 in .40S&W (top picture) for the past two years and have absolutely loved it. Unfortunately it isn't the easiest pistol to conceal on my large frame, and so I have been looking around for a smaller alternative. My first thought was a Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum (middle picture), but it only holds 5 rounds, reloading on the fly is a dog, and concealing speed loaders just adds to the headache. I also don't have a very steady trigger pull when shooting DA revolvers, so I would have difficulty hitting the broad side of a toilet. Since theoretically my life could depend on the little smokewagon I want to diminish the complications as much as possible. I know, I know - practice makes perfect. But if I could find a gun that I could shoot well right out of the box and then improve my ability from that vantage point - life would be better.

The obvious solution to this issue is a sub-compact pistol. After visiting several gun stores I found the perfect solution for me - The Glock 27 in .40S&W (bottom picture). I found a good used one with Trijicon Nightsights at Bear Mountain Sports, and am now the proud owner of a sub-compact pistol.

This little beauty is a breeze to carry and has the added advantage of being able to use the higher capacity magazines I already own for my Glock 23. I can now go armed with greater frequency and comfort.

I still think I will eventually pick up that little SP101, because I've admired them from afar for a long time. But for right now I am very happy with my purchase.
"God created man. Colonel Colt made him equal. Gaston Glock gave some a tactical advantage."