Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I just got back yesterday from a Memorial Day Weekend excursion to Lander, Wyoming. It's a little town under the "Y." If that doesn't make sense, Lander is in western Wyoming. It's got a population of almost 7,000, and if you blink while cruising down Main Street, you might miss it completely.

Why did I go to such an obscure town for such a long weekend? My fiance's father grew up there, and his mother still resides there, as does his identical twin brother with his family. It was time to get up there and meet some of the family.

The drive up was pretty painless. I downloaded Batman Begins to my iPod to pass the time, and we had one mix CD featuring Laura Veirs and Regina Spektor that we listened to over and over. There wasn't as much sage brush as I expected (but don't get me wrong, there was definitely a great deal of sage brush), and the drive was very beautiful. We drove through canyons and over mountains and saw breathtaking scenes of greenery and redrock. We also saw occasional pronghorn antelope and mule deer.

We arrived at the home of Ashton's grandmother, Jackie, a feisty old woman who has recently lost a lot of her eye sight and hearing. She's half British and speaks her mind, a quality someone like me appreciates. I knew it would be sink or splash with her, so I went with splash. The moment we got there she and I started bantering, and after four days of flirting I won her over. When I walked in the front door, she introduced herself by saying, "Let me show you were you're gonna shack up!" She led me to the guest room, a cluttered cell with a tall, skinny bed with a short and solid mattress. I told her I was afraid of falling off the bed and she snapped back, "Well it's all I got, unless you want to sleep on the floor!" I knew we were going to have a healthy friendship.

We spent the evening chatting, eating brownies and ice cream and playing Bespelled, Jackie's addicting favorite computer game. When we got tired of that we put on Raiders of the Lost Ark and went to bed.

The following morning started early, as Jackie and I had professed our desires to go garage-saling. It's her favorite hobby, and she is quite good at it. Her house if chock-full of wondrous amounts of junk and clutter, and most of it was accrued at garage sales. We drove to a special location in town where everyone advertises their garage sales, and wrote down the more promising addresses. We dropped by three or four homes, and we got some decent stuff. I picked up a pair of brown Banana Republic pants, which I later fashioned into cutoffs, as well as some old books. Jackie bought some left handed scissors, a precious commodity I'm told.

After the garage sales we worked in the yard, planting flowers and digging up weeds. Jackie had me transplant some lilies, but I'm quite certain I killed them. I made it look good though. After we got nice and dirty we had breakfast and took off to Sinks State Park. There's a pretty fantastic cavern there where the river just dumps down underground. It was pretty awesome to check out, and the scenery was beautiful.

After Sinks we went to a used bookstore on Main Street, and it was very fruitful. I found just about all of my favorite novels from my childhood, surprised to see that most of them were Newberry Award Winners. My mom was doing something right. As I approach being married I've become more and more fascinated with child rearing and educating, and Ashton and I both agree that a solid foundation of reading is a good place to start. So you'll understand why I couldn't resist buying all these gems, books like Banner in the Sky and Slave Dancer. After that we met up with Ashton's Uncle Michael, and his fireball wife Bonnie, and their boy-crazy daughter Emma, at the only theater in Lander, the Grand Theater, to see Prince Caspian. It was anything but grand. I guess the lack of competition really didn't drive them to upgrade the facilities, because the sound system was very poor and made it hard to follow what the characters were saying. I was also disappointed by how many young children and babies were, revealed by the constant sound of shrieking and crying. I was beginning to wonder if the people of Lander had ever heard of baby sitters. Just a little common courtesy for the cinema.

After the movie we went over to Michael's place, which was beautiful. Michael's built his own barn and they have a nice corral surrounded by an electric fence. Ashton and her mother found that out the hard way. I begged Emma to saddle up a horse for me, even though it was cold outside and getting dark fast. She obliged and got her dad's horse, Calila, ready for riding. Calila is a very spunky, disobedient horse, and likes to show the rider who's boss. Emma rode her around a little bit to humble her, but Calila fought back by throwing Emma off. I was starting to second guess my request to ride, but I felt obligated since I'd inconvenienced her already. I got on the horse and Emma proceeded to instruct me in all this horse-riding advice that was all very foreign to me, which surprised me because I'd grown up riding my grandpa's horses. I tried to concentrate on what she was telling me, but knew in my head that if that horse started bucking, I'd do whatever felt the most natural to stay on. The moment I blew that horse a kiss it started walking, and I had no problem steering it around the yard, until we turned around and decided to bolt into a canter. I was a little startled and felt the adrenaline hit the bloodstream, but was able to get Calila to stop by pulling back on the reins and yelling Whoa! Emma no longer trusted my skills and decided to walk the horse around the yard a couple times. It occurred to me that this would've looked more appropriate if she was dressed up like a clown and we were at some snot-nosed kid's birthday party. After we made a couple laps I asked to go around by myself again, and just as I expected, Calila bolted again, this time running much faster and jumping a little, in an effort to toss me off. More than a little alarmed, I let out a nice yell as we ran behind some trees, leading the bystander to believe that I'd been thrown off. I got Calila to stop finally, and took a moment to catch my breath and let my heart rate subside. Riding this horse was way too stressful!

After we left Michael's we went back to Grandma's and popped in the second Indiana Jones movie, The Temple of Doom. I remembered immediately why I didn't like that movie, and we all fell asleep watching it.

Church was pleasant in Lander. The ward was small and friendly, and slightly reminiscent of the mission. We had a wonderful meal at Michael's and then Ashton and I went for a walk along the Popo Agie river. Shortly after returning to Grandma's it started pouring rain, so we resumed our games of Bespelled and Speed Scrabble. We threw in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and had a good laugh at Michael Caine, and I realized again how obnoxious Steve Martin is. After another round of brownies and ice cream we found ourselves surfing through channels until we finally ended up watching Clueless. Wow. I mean, as if.

The next morning it was with great sadness we left Lander, Wyoming, especially since my iPod was dead and we only had one CD to listen to. Overall the weekend was a fun experience, and a nice insight into what living with the inlaws will be like. Can't wait for the next reunion!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cheng Day

May 5, 2008

Yesterday marked one year from the incredible day that my good friends Cheng, Jian and Yong got baptized back in Ukraine. They are all a year old in the gospel! I can't believe how fast that year went by. Cheng is now back in China working for a Korean business, and although he can't attend church meetings he diligently reads the Book of Mormon and his copy of Jesus the Christ. I've been lucky enough to correspond with him via e-mail whenever he has questions about what he reads.

To celebrate this glorious birthday, I called up Warnock, the elder I was serving with at the time, and we went to P.F.Chang's. I indulged in some scrumtrelescent lettuce wraps and beef chow mein, reminiscing about the great days when we were teaching Cheng and Jian and they occasionally invited us over for authentic Chinese food. We relived all the "best of moments," like when Cheng said, "I am sure that if I follow Jeerus, I will go to kingdom of sun!" or when Jian said, "Some people drink beer and wine to have fun, but for us, keeping the commandments is fun!" Those men were truly saints.

The rest of the day centered on moving Galya over to my sister's house. I had walked out of the bathroom earlier yesterday morning and found her standing in the center of the room. I was, as the scriptures say, astonished that she had managed to get out of her kiddie pool. She can jump high! We transported her to Lauren's backyard where finally the kiddie pool could fill the measure of its creation. We filled it with water and let her take a swim. It'll take her a while to get adjusted to her new home, but I make frequent visits to check on her.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Prophet said to plant a garden

Thursday, May 1

Thursday morning Greg and I decided to track down some scrap wood to build planter boxes for our roof. Our sudden urgency was spurred by an article in Newsweek about the food shortage and our desire to provide for ourselves independent of a spiraling economy. We had been planning to build planter boxes up there all winter, so we could grow our own beans, squash and tomatoes, and this finally incited us to action. We found some free wood on craigslist, wooden pallets at a deck company warehouse. We drove to the lot and went inside to ask where the free wood was. A few young men behind the counter, obviously occupied with nothing, replied to our question that the pallets were on the west side of the lot. As we exited one of them interjected, "Have a nice bonfire!" How dare they assume our intentions were destructive. Although it did occur to me to grab some extra pallets for just that purpose. Unfortunately the pallets were much too big for Greg's car, so we decided to go to my sister's house to borrow some tools, so we could break the pallets apart. On our way to Lauren's house Greg suddenly swerved and pulled up to a tiny pale yellow house. Beside it, in the driveway, was an enormous waste bin, chock full of wood. This wood was far superior to the pallet wood, as it was cut in long planks about 8 feet long. They were exactly what we were looking for. We opened Greg's trunk and folded down his back seat and set about harvesting this wealth of wood. After we took everything we could fit in Greg's Accord, we dropped by Lauren's to pick up a drill, saw and hammer. As we pulled out of Lauren's neighborhood we glimpsed a Home Improvement center, a Habitat for Humanity affiliate that sold tax free screws for a dollar a pound. We didn't think the day could get any charmed. We hauled all of our equipment up on the roof but had to delay construction because of inclement weather.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lead Climbing

Wednesday April 31

This was a fairly draining day as far as work goes, but the Omnivore's Dilemma and 30 Rock keep me pretty occupied. That evening Paul, a coworker, called me and asked if I wanted to go rock climbing up Rock Canyon. The weather was a little sleety, but we decided to go anyway. We hiked up to the "Appendage" and climbed some easy ones for instructional purposes. Paul taught me how to lead climb on a 5.7 called, appropriately, "Lead." After I'd mastered that technique I belayed for him as he lead climbed a 5.8 called "Only Wusses Top Rope the Bulge!" He made it up about half way and got a little scared because he didn't completely trust my belaying skills. I don't blame him. I'm fine with belaying a normal top rope climb, but it's a little different with lead climbing, and I didn't have the rhythm down. After contemplating the pros and cons of falling to his death, Paul decided to descend, and I made up my mind to give it a whirl. I had complete trust in Paul's belaying ability. I made it up okay, but toward the end I got a little stuck in a place with weak footholds, and that sudden fear of death that I had felt in Cottonwood Canyon, many years before as a young teen, gripped my insides tightly. I had once gone up that canyon in Richfield with my cousin and Uncle Danny, and had thought I was pretty cool when I climbed up on the edge of a cliff. The coolness quickly evaporated, however, when I realized I couldn't go up or down. I was stuck between a rock and evisceration on the boulders below, and I distinctly remember my heart throbbing with panicky fear and adrenaline coursing through my veins as I desperately clung to the bouldery surface of the cliff. Luckily, with some coaxing from my uncle, I made it down safely. Now I was roped up with a belayer and faced little threat beyond bumps and bruises, but I still felt an ephemeral flash of that feeling. I gathered my wits and climbed higher to a point that I could anchor in. That day was a great accomplishment for me, having lead climbed my first two climbs ever. Later that night I went hot tubbing with Greg and Ethan at the Villa.