Post Roundup

Photo from

This looks weird, but it’s awesome. Photo from

Hello people who occasionally read my blog. I’ve had several ideas floating around in my head for the last few weeks, but none of them really seemed like they’d work for a full length post. So I’m just going to go ahead and do a little roundup of things that I’ve wanted to post.

Suggestions from readers

Several people have sent me suggestions based on previous posts. Two of my favorites have been a book called Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett (excellent last name) and a poem called “Mysteries, Yes” by Mary Oliver. The book is hilarious, and the kids even laughed at it when I read it. But it’s also a little trippy. I still don’t totally know what happened at the end, but I liked it. The poem is sort of an ode to the things that we don’t understand. In particular I loved the line “Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have all the answers.” The funny thing is that I think I probably used to be one of those people to be avoided. Every year I seem to get a little less sure about a lot of things.

Stories from the kids

L asked to give a talk in primary a couple weeks ago, right after Bonnie passed away. I didn’t know about this until someone in the primary presidency talked to me about it the week before. L dictated her talk to me, and then I wrote it down, so here is her primary talk:

My mom died a couple weeks ago. She was a great mom. I know that I’ll see her again because of the temple and because she will be resurrected. And I know families can be together forever.

L was very excited to give this talk because she thought that it might help some other people who don’t know about this and how important it is.

R is also very awesome, though he tends to just say funny things. The other night he said, “Why does everyone have arms that are shorter than God’s arms?” I assume that he heard something like “God’s arm is lengthened” in the scriptures or something, because otherwise I have no idea where that came from. L was of course very confused by his questions, so she spent a while asking me how we knew that God had really long arms.

I also started potty training R today. It’s a little later than I would have liked to start with him, but I’ve had a little bit going on in the last year. What I’ve learned so far is that I need to trust myself. Four times today I’ve looked at him and thought, “I should probably  get him to the bathroom.” Four times I’ve ignored that idea, and four times I’ve found myself scrubbing the carpet. Pray for my soul.

Other Random Things

If you know me very well, you know that I make a lot of plans to do strange/cool things in the future. Occasionally I even do some of them, but that’s definitely the exception to the rule. In the last few weeks, the wheels in my head have been turning.(a dangerous past-time..) I got this super cool book from the library called Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together. Basically the idea is that you circulate water between the fish tank and the grow beds for your plants. The fish fertilize the water, and the plants act as a natural bio-filter for the fish. The major input that you need in the system is fish food, which is relatively cheap. If you do it right, you can grow fresh, organic vegetables and farm-raised fish at the same time. I love the efficiency and the elegance of the system. There are plans to be made…

Minor Rant About Scripture Mastery

On a whim I started having the kids memorize a scripture. I think it happened because we were trying to do a faster version of bedtime one night, which sometimes involves reciting a scripture rather than reading. The kids seemed to like it, so we started saying it every night to practice. Most of my best parenting ideas have their origin in laziness.

The scripture that we’ve been working on is John 3:16. At this point they’ve actually got it down pretty well, so we’re working on verse seventeen too. I picked the verse because it was the first one I thought of. On further reflection, though,  I think it’s a very appropriate verse for first one that the kids learn. It encompasses the central idea of Christian belief. If you only know one scripture, that’s not a bad choice.

Since this little habit has been going well for us, I’ve decided to continue it and have been looking for a nice list of scriptures which I could use to get good ideas for memorizing. Naturally, having participated in the seminary program, I thought of the scripture mastery verses. I looked them up, all ready to cross off our first one.

Unfortunately, John 3:16 is not a scripture mastery verse.

I’m sure there are reasons that this verse was omitted, but I found it extra strange because there is another verse in John 3 that did make the cut:

John 3:5 – Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

It’s a fine scripture, but it seems like it was included because it’s a scripture in the Bible that can be understood as saying that baptism is necessary. Not even everyone will read it that way (quick story, on my mission I brought up this scripture with a guy and he viewed it as meaning that your actual birth was being born of water, and your acceptance of Jesus was being born of the Spirit. Based solely on the text, that’s not an unreasonable interpretation.) Here’s the thing, there are much clearer scriptures about the necessity of baptism. How about this one:

2 Nephi 31:17 – Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

This one is not a scripture mastery (though to be fair, nineteen and twenty, which talk about enduring to the end, are). It’s obviously a lot more clear than the one in John.

If that’s a little long for you though, here’s another:

Doctrine and Covenants 33:11 – Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Short, to the point, and almost unmistakable in what it is saying.

It seems like the only reason to include John 3:5 is so that missionaries know a scripture in the bible that more or less says the same thing, so they have something to point at when dealing with other Christians.

This might be (probably is) me projecting my own issues onto everyone else, but I feel like I would have been a much better missionary and person if I had thought a little more about John 3:16-17 (like the part about not being sent to condemn the world, for instance) and a little less about John 3:5 and convincing people that their understanding of the Bible was flawed. If you can convince them to read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of it (admittedly that’s a really, really big if), then it doesn’t matter where the scripture that you’re using comes from.

In the grand scheme of things, the inclusion or exclusion of specific verses in the scripture mastery list is not really a big deal, but this seems like a microcosm for a problem I see in the way that we sometimes approach members of other religions. We’re too quick to look for doctrinal difference, and too slow to look for shared ground.

Well, as for me and my kids, we’re going to stick with John 3:16-17 for a while. Don’t hold your breath for John 3:5 to come up.

It’s the Little Things That Make a Difference

A few months ago, Bonnie had a bit of a rough day. Admittedly, that description doesn’t really narrow things down much, but I don’t remember the exact circumstances. She was probably frustrated or feeling overwhelmed. As we were sitting in bed, I was messing around on the computer, and she was looking at her phone (don’t judge. You can’t have a deep conversation every night). Anyway, I came across some youtube videos that had us both laughing our heads off. The only one I can remember specifically is the one at the top.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s probably not a lot of value in the massive number of ridiculous, mindless videos on the internet, but a good laugh was something we both needed. I think there’s a kind of beauty to the idea that even something silly and small can be just what someone needs.

This sort of thing translates very well into a good approach when we’re trying to offer comfort to those who are struggling. People often ask Bonnie and me what they can do, looking for some big (or small) way that they can change our lives for the better. While there have been a few instances where we needed a big thing (moving comes to mind), the truth is that there usually isn’t anything they can do to actually change our situation. Most of the time that will be the case. Instead, the things that I remember and the things that mean a lot to me are usually the small things:

– People saying hi to me – not the “pity-eyes” sort of greeting, but a real friendly hello.

– People who talk about things other than cancer, college and kids. (I considered spelling all three of those with a “k” so they would underscore the alliteration, but that would make an unfortunate acronym).

– Basically anyone who acts like I’m still a normal person and not a project.

In essence, I’m finding that small gestures make a difference. As I was writing this, I remembered a story that President Eyring told in the Oct. 2010 general conference:

Once I was at the hospital bedside of my father as he seemed near death. I heard a commotion among the nurses in the hallway. Suddenly, President Spencer W. Kimball walked into the room and sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from me. I thought to myself, “Now here is my chance to watch and listen to a master at going to those in pain and suffering.”

President Kimball said a few words of greeting, asked my father if he had received a priesthood blessing, and then, when Dad said that he had, the prophet sat back in his chair.

I waited for a demonstration of the comforting skills I felt I lacked and so much needed. After perhaps five minutes of watching the two of them simply smiling silently at each other, I saw President Kimball rise and say, “Henry, I think I’ll go before we tire you.”

“I thought I had missed the lesson, but it came later. In a quiet moment with Dad after he recovered enough to go home, our conversation turned to the visit by President Kimball. Dad said quietly, “Of all the visits I had, that visit I had from him lifted my spirits the most.”

I think I finally get this story. President Kimball didn’t come in trying to say the right thing. He wasn’t there with some idea about the perfect thing to say to buoy up Henry’s spirit and faith. He also didn’t make him give detailed explanations of his diagnosis and condition. He just came as a friend to see someone that he cared about.

New Years Resolution: Post More

Niagara Falls

This is a picture. Notice my beard and how awesome it is. I’m taking a class at BYU next semester. I’m going to miss looking like a man…

Several people have mentioned that I have been slacking in my blogging, so I’ll work on picking it up a bit this coming year. Hopefully that doesn’t mean a flood of posts in January and February with a gradual silence after that, but I make no guarantees.

Sundays are Tired Days


This was the scene when we went to call people for dinner today.

Alternate Titles:

“Why my kids are still up at 9:20″

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant…”

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Hemingway

“The creatures are regenerating.”


The Food Tour of Western NY and Pennsylvania

Valley Inn SoupWe’re on this road trip which will end up in Utah, however we started out heading northeast instead of west. We’ve claimed that we’re going so that we can visit some of the church history sites in the area. While this is technically true, it’s not the whole story. A big part of our motivation was to visit some of our favorite restaurants in the area.

The first important stop was the Valley Inn in Warsaw, NY. I served in Warsaw on my mission, and a few people took us out to lunch there. I have remembered it forever after that, and have gone back several times. The food is amazing. It’s a gourmet restaurant for olive garden prices.

The next stop was La Nova Pizzeria. The pizza is okay, but I love their wings. They make these barbecue wings that are seriously the best barbecue I’ve ever had. Not just the best barbecue wings, but the best barbecue anything. They’re spicy, with a really nice charred taste. It’s a complex flavor that keeps changing as you eat each bite.

The final important food stop was Wegmans. Yes, it’s technically a grocery store, but it is seriously the best place in the world. I love Wegmans. Calling Wegmans a grocery store is like calling Michelangelo a guy who painted some murals. It’s technically true, but at some point the description falls short. Wegmans is the happiest place on earth. One of the awesome things at Wegmans is the sandwich shop. It’s ten times better than Subway. The bread is better, the meat and cheese are better, the whole experience is better.

Now that we’ve gone to all these places, we’re heading back to Utah, but if any of you are in the area, it’s worth stopping by any or all of these.

The Future is Bright

Allison familyphotos 0614 018Tonight I’m sitting here in Palmyra. It has been a series of long days. On Saturday, we were packing, but a friend also took some nice pictures of our family. I picked that one of R, because I doubt most of us can remember the last time we were that happy and excited.

On Monday we were finishing up packing our house and trying to get on the road. Things took way longer than planned, so we drove until  2:00am on Monday to get to Cleveland, and then dr0ve a bunch more today. I’ll post about the trip more as I go along, but first I want to write this down. On Sunday, sacrament meeting went a little short. When that happened, Bonnie leaned over to me and said, “well, you’re up.”

At first I laughed and said, “yeah, right,” but sure enough Bishop Francis called on me and a few other people to share our testimonies. Sharing my testimony in sacrament meeting is my favorite. If by favorite you mean something I hate.

I really do enjoy talking in front of groups, but for some reason I don’t enjoy sharing my testimony in the big, formalized setting of sacrament meeting. Happily, I had been thinking about some worthwhile topics already, so I had some ideas of what to say. Here’s basically what I said:

[Disclaimer: I tell some stories that may or may not be strictly true. For me, that’s okay. Much like the scriptures, it’s sometimes more important to get what you’re supposed to get out of a story than to worry about if it happened exactly that way or not.]

I’ve been thinking about my first mission president a bit lately. His name was Walter J. Plumb III. He was a great man. He was a little crazy. And he was rich, so he could indulge some of the crazy, but he was also a fantastic person.

To help you understand the kind of person that he was, I’ll tell a few stories. First, he loved cars. His car of choice was a Porsche 911 Turbo. He saw a scene in some movie where a fast car went up a steep hill and got some air. He decided to try it, so he took one of his Porsches to a really steep hill in Salt Lake. He gunned the engine and got some air at the top, but when the car came down all the guts fell out of it and it was totaled. Seeing how wrecked his car was, he just called a tow service, took it to the dealer, and traded it in for a new one the same day.

He was also very generous with his money. One Christmas he took the mission van with the trailer hooked up and went to a toy store. He grabbed an associate and said, “just fill up the car with  one or two of everything.”

After the car and trailer were filled with toys, he took the AP’s and said, “Elders, where are the children? Let’s go find them and give them some toys.” He then spent the rest of the day handing out toys to kids in Rochester.

He was also famous for having a bunch of sayings that he would repeat. For lack of a better word I’ll call them catch-phrases. “Elders, where’s a gym? Anywhere you are. Just do some push-ups on the sidewalk.”

Of course, the most important and famous saying of his was “The future is bright.” which sometimes got expanded to something like, “Elders, future is so bright it’s practically blinding.”

The further I’ve gotten from that experience, the more I’ve realized how true that statement is. The future is bright. No matter what happens to us, no matter what trials and hardships we face, the future is bright. Pain and sorrow will be healed. Wrongs will be righted. We will be made whole again, because of the Atonement of Christ. He suffered so that he would understand us and be able to comfort us in our trials. Christ is our future, and that future is bright.