Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Pretty much everytime I come home I try to find time to go play basketball with my little brother. Basketball was one of the few sports I ever really had any desire to pursue, but I was never very good at it so I kind of just stopped once I hit junior high. I have the height so a lot of people just assume I like to play, but the truth is I dread those moments when someone challenges me.

I thought that maybe if I played with him enough I'd actually start to improve, but our inconsistent practicing routines and my complete lack of technique have left the growth pool pretty stagnant. We always play a little pickup and I use my height to make ridiculous lurp shots in a desperate effort to keep up with him. He plays way better than I do, and that's rather humbling for an older brother. His form, his ball handling, his shot, it all just puts me to shame. And with every ugly shot I miss I have to swallow my pride and bite my tongue, try not to lose my cool.

Today was the first day I think I made any progress. After a pretty intense game to eleven we both realized what wonderful shape we were in and took a breather. I was pretty frustrated and he asked me if I was ready to play another round. I told him it'd be a waste of time and I'd be better off shooting free throws for a half hour. He offered to rebound for me and teach me better form. I winced at his honest condescension and acknowledged that I did need his help. For the next twenty minutes he patiently caught my bricks and occasional airballs and gave me pointers.

"Keep your elbow in when you shoot."

"It's got to be a fluid motion that starts in your legs."

"Put a little more arc on it."

Pretty soon I was dropping them in one after another, amazed at what a little coaching had accomplished. I still missed plenty but the obvious improvement was terribly encouraging. Maybe I won't suck at basketball for the rest of my life.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Today was a lucky day. Those who know me well are familiar with my eccentric obsession with Lacoste polo shirts. It all started back in high school and many,many treks were made to the Deseret Industries in hopes that some 45 year old gentleman had recently cleaned out his late 80's/early 90's wardrobe. We had very small success in obtaining these precious gems, but before my mission I had accumulated 4 or 5. Not bad.

One of my favorite parts of Ukraine was how ridiculously frequently we came across second hand stores. They are everywhere. You practically trip over them, and I could rarely resist the urge to drop inside to check out their ties and scan their polo shirts. One of the truly remarkable things was how often we found Lacoste shirts, especially in the Donetsk region, and with the help of friends I created quite the Lacoste enterprise. I had sweaters, polos, button downs, even a skinny sock tie with the trademark gator. I scrambled to find as many as I could, knowing that my chances of finding them back in the states were very scarce.

One of the first things I noticed when I got to America (in the airport) was how many people were wearing Lacoste shirts. They really came back with a fury! Now that the original French company has bought the label back from Izod, they're manufacturing like crazy, and anyone with 80 bucks can enjoy that fabulous fit of a Lacoste cut polo.

On my way to the mall today I took a wrong turn, still not quite familiar with the layout of Provo, and I found myself approaching the Deseret Industries. I decided to drop in on the off chance that there'd be a cool cardigan or tie. I was completely shocked as I mechanically sorted through the polos, looking only for knitted emblems when I almost flipped past a bright red Lacoste polo. I pulled it off the rack and gazed at its radiant glory. It was a rather startling experience, one of those beautiful-things-happening-when-you-least-expect-it kind of things, and I wanted to announce to all the patrons my triumphant discovery. I didn't know how they'd respond though, and fearing their jealousy I swiftly moved to the checkout and threw down my three dollars.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


In the process of merging two worlds, the contact often occurs more as a collision than a smooth merge, which can make some sparks and cause some friction. But rather than a boring business transaction, a collision can be quite exciting and invigorating. And it requires a lot of patience and understanding. And maybe some humility.

A little over a week ago I engaged in a lengthy late-night conversation that concluded with the resolution to "make it work." Making "it" work certainly requires work, especially when we're still floating a little trying to figure out the foundation of our relationship, where our common interests lie, wondering if we even have common interests . . . Although I don't fully understand everything she's all about, I'm completely committed to trying to understand, to supporting and loving her. Sometimes this means making mild sacrifices, like watching High School Musical 2.

Sometimes I feel like the sacrificing is one-sided. I try to not let that bother me. I'm still trying to learn the principle of selflessness. I constantly find myself out of my comfort zone with her, and I try to roll with it.

I'd been planning to go to a concert with some mission buddies for about a week and was disappointed to learn she couldn't come. But then in a brilliant stroke of luck her schedule became available, and I was very excited to take her. About three hours before the show I got a text saying she might not be able to go. That'll deflate you in a hurry. Some other opportunities had arisen that night, and it looked as if she was going to take a rain check. I'd be lying to say I wasn't disappointed. I recall some selfish thoughts crossing my mind, She's always trying to please people, to make them happy, but I rarely feel like I'm one of those people. Now of course such a notion is completely unfounded, she's been going out of her way to make me happy, especially recently. But all the same I couldn't help but feel like she was bailing.

Then I was very surprised when we called for the final verdict and she replied that she was going to the show with us. Suddenly my whole perspective shifted as I contemplated the fact that she was making a sacrifice that night. Concerts don't necessarily give her the same charge that I get out of them. She certainly doesn't appreciate the drinking and smoking and questionable company that typically occur at shows. But she came anyway, and she seemed to enjoy herself, even though she probably would've rather gone Salsa dancing. Luckily the band we saw had a great deal of Southwestern influences, so she was able to get some of that Spanish flare in as she moved to the music. The whole evening for me was quite wonderful, even if some people flaked out or things didn't go completely as planned. I was just glad she was there, plus that band played a sweet set.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


So my sister had a baby on Friday. It was pretty much the coolest thing I've seen since I got back from my mission. And when I say "seen" I don't mean I "saw" it. Lauren was very strict on her request that no one be present for the delivery. I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway, so it didn't help when the ornery nurse yelled at my brother and me, "Don't you think about going in there." It was one of those I-really-wanted-to-stick-my-tongue-out-at-her moments but I resisted. But I'm still holding a grudge.

The whole emotional experience was compounded by an awkward reconciliation between two future grandmas who felt betrayed by the other. Long story and it turns out it was all a terrible misunderstanding and no one was really to blame, but cleaning up the wreckage was tangibly awkward. I would've loved to leave that hallway and avoid it altogether but they were positioned right by the delivery room, and I had an ear to the door. I was intently waiting for any sign of life when I heard a loud metallic clanging noise. Probably dropped the forceps, I think to myself, suppressing a second thought, I hope Abigail isn't made of tungsten. Although that would've been a completely different sound. More of a thud than a clang. Should've gone with brass.

Suddenly the silence was pierced by a pterodactyl-like shriek -- Abigail taking her first breaths and not enjoying those post-shoved-through-a-cervix pains. And then the enormity of the situation overwhelmed my fragile psyche and my widened eyes welled up with tears. A new soul, my twin sister's child, my first niece, Abigail, was the newest member of the human race (I'm sure someone in Korea was born seconds later, but that's not relevant for this blog). There was definitely an outpouring for me at that moment of enlightenment and understanding. Ever since I got back from Ukraine I've been a little concerned by the trivial things I occupy myself with. A lot of things that I thought were important before my mission don't really seem to matter anymore. But here I was having an experience that mattered quite a lot.