First Garden Harvest of the Season

Two squash, a red pepper, two bell peppers, and two tomatoes.

The garden also has a bunch of green onions. The cucumber and watermelon are just starting to really grow.

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My Great-Great-Grandparents In Bohemian National Cemetery

My mother’s father’s father’s parents are the biggest mystery in my genealogical research. Apparently minority immigrants with hardly any records, I know almost nothing about them. They’re the big dead end in my family tree.

Last week saw a bit of a breakthrough, though.

Scrutinizing the husband’s death certificate yet again, I noticed that it listed the place of burial–Bohemian National Cemetery. I searched findagrave.com, but nothing was there. I found a web site for the cemetery itself, but it didn’t have anything useful.

However, it’s an important ethnic landmark from the 19th century, still much beloved by the community. There’s a volunteer society that cares for it, and their web site had contact information. I emailed and asked if they had any pictures of graves, or records of what’s on the markers.

A very kind person replied and said no, but that they would go out and visit the graves personally and see what’s there. A few days later, I got another email with the photos below, including the notes that translate the Czech text on the tombstones.

Now I know their birthdays, and because of where they’re buried, I know more about where exactly they came from. And I can see their beautiful resting place. That’s a lot of progress, and I’m grateful to the wonderful stranger who made it possible.

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My 3 Time Management Questions

Time management is tricky, but when the daily decisions about my time are grounded in values, I get the most out of each day. I’ve learned to ask myself three questions about life’s decisions, big or small, and when I act on the answers, I never regret it.

1. Does it pass the Bus Test?

When I have options to choose from and I’m flummoxed as to which way to go, I ask myself, “If I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, which option would I regret NOT doing as my life flashes before my eyes?” Then I go for the one that I’d want to remember in that final moment.

I suppose it would also work by asking what memory you want to have when you’re 100 years old.

2. Is this the very best thing I could be doing right now?

Sometimes life has clear-cut times and places that are set aside and better than any alternative. Any Sunday morning at 11:00 AM, for example, the very best place I could be is in church. Rarely could anything outrank that. (I did make my family miss church seven years ago, for example, to attend my brother’s wedding, an even high priority.)

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Coaching Youth Baseball

This week was the end of the youth baseball season in my stake at church. I volunteered as a coach this year, like last year, and I’d love to keep doing this every year forever.

Spending one night a week out there helping 4th and 5th graders hold and swing a bat correctly is a pure joy. I sure see results a lot faster there than in the classroom! The kids from church are great fun to be around–kids this age always seem excited about everything, and they really give it their all.

The snack stand at our field has nachos with pretty much unlimited jalapeños for $1.50, and they serve Shasta root beer and Orange Crush. Good times.

Cheering these kids on–and cheering on the other team, too–just seems like a great way to spend a bit of my Thursday nights. Here’s just one more page in an epic about a life I love.

Oh, and the stake sports committee gave me this candy as a thank you. So, bonus!

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My Dad Taught Me How To Saturday

Do you know how to Saturday? I do. Not long ago I realized that I have a routine and that I learned it by watching my dad when I was a kid.

On an average Saturday morning, my dad would do some home improvement project, or work on a car, or do some activity with the family, or some other active work.

On Saturday afternoon, he would watch John Wayne movies or sports (golf or bowling or whatever was on), and then take a nap on the floor with this giant pillow he had.

I must have internalized the same pattern; I always try to make my own Saturdays fit the same basic mold. Saturday morning is for hard work. Saturday afternoon is for resting.

Of course there are plenty of exceptions, and a great day often looks nothing like that. But when it does happen, I always feel like I’m living “correctly.”

Once again, thanks, Dad.

Twin Lakes Memories: Dr. Greggs

This is the second in an occasional series of memories about my elementary school in the 1980’s. The first post is here.

My first post in this series was about a beloved principal. This second one is about a terrifying teacher.

Dr. Greggs taught third grade, and she is without a doubt the person whom I’ve been more scared of than any other in my life.

First of all, she insisted, always sternly, that we address her as “Doctor.” I’ve wondered since then just what drives a woman to demand such recognition from eight-year-olds. It’s like in the Austin Powers movies, when Dr. Evil corrects people who call him Mister: “I didn’t go to an evil university for ten years to be called Mr. Evil.”

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Jogging Again

Three weeks ago, I started running again, after about three or four months of inactivity. I’d wanted to get back in the habit for a while, but hesitated because I didn’t want to go through the pain.

Indeed, the first few runs were miserable, just huffing and puffing and hurting. But that awkward adjustment was necessary, and worth it. You have to power through the pain of building up rewards before you can enjoy them. Exercise yields yet another life lesson.

The best thing I’ve gotten out of this is remembering just how therapeutic jogging is, especially at night–the evenings this time of year are simply gorgeous around here; everything’s perfect for an end-of-night run. A couple of times in the last couple of weeks, I’ve come home from a long day of work, so achy and exhausted that I just had to go out running for a while. After a half hour around the streets and trails by Sandstone Ridge Park, I felt much better.

Even when it doesn’t feel good to be running again, it feels great to be running again.

 

Two Nice Student Notes

One class recently finished a unit on Romanticism. After a couple of days on Transcendentalism, I sent them out into our quad to take notes on as much “nature” as they could find there, with directions to imitate the style of Thoreau. The last section of the notes focused on drawing life lessons from these observations, like Thoreau did in Walden.

One girl turned in her notes with this awesome little addendum at the end. Clearly, she got the point. I drew the smiley face.

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Another girl turned hers in with this attachment:

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The New York Times Crossword

One of the little perks of my job is having access to free copies of the New York Times, because I love the crossword. This is from Monday of this week–Monday puzzles are easy, but still fun. I admit, I love the puns in the theme answers (23 Across: “Article of outerwear for a champagne drinker? Bubblewrap” 53 Across: “Article of outerwear for a General Motors employee? Chevy Blazer”).

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Two Months in the Life of President Russell M. Nelson

elder-russell-m-nelson-mormonWhat major tasks have you completed so far in 2017? How much of your total strength has that taken? How much good has it produced? Consider just some of what Russell M. Nelson has done in the first two months of this year.

Nelson is the leader of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He works full time as a minister, only getting a stipend for living expenses. And he’s 92 years old.

He’s been doing this for over 30 years, since 1984. Before that, he was an accomplished heart surgeon. He has over 50 grandchildren and over 100 great grandchildren.

On January 8, he gave a 40 minute speech to an auditorium of thousands of young adults about leadership and faith. The speech was broadcast online. How much time and effort went into preparing it, do you think? Watch it to see how much passion went into sharing the message. Note that his demeanor is always funny, witty, and pleasant–there is no scolding or negativity coming from him. He loves what he does and whom he serves.

One week later, on January 15, he visited my congregation in North Las Vegas. He spoke for about 45 minutes here, about a variety of spiritual topics. His remarks were prepared, but he worked without notes. Afterwards, he slowly exited the chapel, shaking hands with anyone he could reach on the way out, and even picking up small children to embrace, including my four-year-old daughter.

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The Waterfall at Ice Box Canyon

This week my family and I spent a few hours hiking through Ice Box Canyon at Red Rock to see the seasonal waterfall. It’s fed by melting snow and, since this winter has been especially rainy here (and snowy in the mountains), we figured it would be strong this year. In fact, it was so strong that half the trail was flooded and we had to leapfrog and wade our way in!

Totally worth it, though. Here are some shots at the end.

[I also wrote about this hike eight years ago.]

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Reviewed and Recommended: Maidentrip

One of the coolest stories of the 21st century so far is that of Laura Dekker, the Dutch young woman who, just a few years ago as a teenager, became the youngest person to sail around the world alone.

maiden1In a world where helicopter parents worry about micro aggressions, it’s inspiring to see someone so competent and ambitious that such adventure is even still possible.

The film is mostly assembled from her own video diary on the year-and-a-half journey, with her narration, sometimes in Dutch with subtitles, and sometimes in English. We see her working hard, making tough choices, and exploring the world. She gets scared, but goes on, anyway.

This is no stale propaganda for being super human, though. Laura drops a few f-bombs. In one scene where she has docked for a while, she grows irritated with a reporter and acts like a bit of a brat towards her. This is a real person living life.

The shots of the ocean are often majestic (the two pictures here are screenshots), and though nothing here strives for profound depth, the simple nature of the themes make this documentary something of a modern day Walden for teens.

maiden2The action gets going quite quickly, and bits of backstory about Laura’s youth and family are filled in as needed–another level at which many young viewers might relate.

It occurred to me while watching this that a Dutch teen sailing around the world offers far more real multicultural content to a typical American viewer than most of what passes for multiculturalism these days.

Check it out, and consider checking it out with your own children.