Category Archives: michigan

A Constantly Renewed Stream

This is the text of a talk I gave in my ward (Ann Arbor 2nd) on February 15, 2015.

I would like to explore one of the concepts from President Eyring’s October talk on the subject of continuing revelation [1], and share with you some of my experiences as I have sought revelation.

President Eyring said “We need revelation from God. And we will need not just one revelation in a time of stress, but we need a constantly renewed stream. We need not just one flash of light and comfort, but we need the continuing blessing of communication with God.” [2]

Today, I would like to focus on that concept of a “constantly renewed stream” of revelation. Continue reading A Constantly Renewed Stream

10 Awesome Things

One of the blogs I read regularly runs a column called “10 Pieces of Inspiration.”  It’s kind of fun to see what is inspiring that blogger each week.  It’s usually about things that are meaningful to him and his family. My buddy TP did the same a while back.

I’m always stumped when my dad asks me what I’ve been up to.  I’m just living life, and sometimes I don’t take the time to sit back and see what parts of it are awesome.  I’ve been pretty blessed with awesomeness of late, and I thought I should take a week to think about and capture the awesome parts of it.  This blog post is the results of that test.  I was up to 5 by Tuesday afternoon, and I filtered a lot of awesome out to keep this post to just 10 things.

These are presented in approximately chronological order.  What awesome happened to you recently?

1-  The Mormons Building Bridges contingent in the SLC Pride parade inspired me this week.  The outpouring of love and acceptance for people on both sides of the divide was incredible.  Every time I read these stories, I tear up.  Here’s my favorite article:   Hattip to Katherine F. for this article. FMH isn’t in my regular blog rounds yet.

Photo by Michael Budge


2- I saw this on Wil Wheton’s tumblr, and it made me laugh.


3- I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a more inclusive Mormonism.  I’ve taken to calling it Big Tent Mormonism, where there is lots of room for many different takes on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In my fast last week, I pondered these thoughts, and then I found these articles, which felt like answers to prayers.


4- The transit of Venus – I recently read Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris, and kind of became an astronomy nerd again.  I haven’t quite purchased a telescope yet, but trust me, it’s on my wishlist.  Seeing Venus transit the sun was pretty awesome, and it won’t happen again until 2117.  I thought we were going to be too overcast to see it, but after work, just as the transit began, it cleared up.  I met up with Peter and Katherine and we stood in line and chatted.  I’d say it was a pretty awesome event.


5- I got a Christmas card from my Aunt – In June.  You never really expect to get Christmas cards at this time, which makes it twice as awesome.


6- On Thursday night, some of my favorite people came over to play boardgames.  We played Lords of Waterdeep, a newer game in my collection.  I managed to pull out a win, which surprised me a little.  I wasn’t playing a really consistent game, but some of my choices paid off a whole lot better than I had guessed.


7- The Huron River is pretty awesome this time of year.  I took a meditative paddle and saw this:

and this:

I also saw (and scared) a deer on the river bank.


8- Saturday was one of those Michigan days that makes the whole year worth it.  The weather was great, it was warm but breezy.  I played paintball, went to a ward picnic, sat in the sun, and went to a play.  It doesn’t get much better than that.


9- Work has been hectic for the last few weeks. This week, one of the members of my team nailed a presentation to our manager and it made my day.


10- I’m having a hard time picking #10, so I’ll pick a really encouraging set of emails from a friend as my last awesome thing of the week.  I saw a friend post something that inspired me, so I emailed him to say thanks. (The “Like” button just doesn’t do justice sometimes.) We exchanged a few emails and I left feeling even more inspired.  I should probably respond to his last email at some point.


There was so much of awesome, and I think there always is.  I didn’t list any of the youtube videos I watched this week, and I didn’t even mention that there was an actual treasure hunt in one of the books I read earlier this year.  I’m not so great at always remembering to see it, but I’m guessing that it is always there.

John Green signs off his Crash Course videos* like this: “As they say in my home town, Don’t Forget to Be Awesome!”  So– don’t forget!

* If nothing else, you should watch the first minute of this video. It’s awesome!


SheYesterday, Labor Day 2011, was a pretty great day.  I was surrounded by people and things that I love. Of the many many wonderful moments, one stood out that I wanted to share.

As I was shopping at Meijer for a BBQ later that day, I was wandering down the milk aisle and I noticed an old lady standing with a cart off to the side.  We’re talking very old, oxygen tank old.  In the cart was a baby in a car seat.  For no real reason, I made eye contact and gave the woman a big grin, just because I was feeling so good. (I whistled a Guster song that was stuck in my head through the entire store, I was feeling that good.)  And you know what, she gave me a genuine smile back.

And it made my day.

Last Minute Pumpkin

I didn’t think that I was going to squeeze a pumpkin carving into my festivities this Halloween, but thanks to a timely FHE activity, I got one carved just in the nick of time.  I tried lighting it up, but the pumpkin is really really thick.  I need to work the walls down a little bit before the effect really works.

So, in all, I managed to work in The Haunting, Chicken Shish Tawook, Count Chocula, a Cider Mill (and the resulting cider!), coloring, Catching Fire, Dominion: Seaside, refusing to dance, blue hairspray, “For All the Saints”, The Lord of all Catan, pork roast, butterfinger brownies, and pumpkin carving into my birthday weekend.  That’s pretty good, right?  What did you do?


Springtime Transitions

Spring is here! I usually make a big deal about spring being here on March the First, but I kept it kind of quiet this year.  March was definitely spring in SE Michigan this year.  (Amy even admitted as much to me.  That’s kind of a big deal. )

But the springtime transitions are always kind of awkward.  How do you know when its time to stop wearing your winter coat, and just bring a jacket?  I’ve actually put a lot of thought into this one over the past few years… There is a point, sometime after spring has begun, where you can trust it enough to actually stop wearing a coat, where there may be some more jacket days ahead, but the coat days are behind us.  I think I overcalled it this year for Michigan, but I understand that day hasn’t come yet in Utah and Wyoming. (And quit your bellyachin’, it’s the moisture you’re always praying for. )

Image: Enchanted Stairs, by abekleinfel

I have identified several other transitions that mark my spring:

1- The transition back to short sleeve shirts. I really, really like wearing sweaters, and do so for most of the winter.  Unfortunately, that means an awkward (for me) transition back to just short sleeves.  My arms have been covered for most of the last four months, and they just feel… well… naked. Add to that that all of my work shirts are long sleeve, and the transition to T-shirts makes for plenty of goosebumps. The transition back to shorts won’t be for another month or two.

2- The transition of waking up in the night to Thunderstorms. Got that groove on this morning.  It’s been awhile, Mother Nature, since you’ve woken me up.  Thanks a lot.  Now I have to worry about my upstairs neighbors and thunder waking me up at 3:30 in the morning.

3- The transition back to sunglasses. During the winter, I rarely need my sunglasses. I drive to work in the dark, I drive home in the dark. Ergo, I have no idea where I stashed my shades last fall. Until I find them, my eyes are burning.

4- The transition back to green. My favorite part of spring!  Suddenly one day you wake up, and BAM! Everything is green.  The grass, the trees, the sidewalk where the geese hang out.  It’s a beautiful thing!  And then the flowers start to pop out!

5- The transition back to mosquitoes. I’ve been grilling for weeks.  Ever since before that last snowstorm.  Or maybe right after, I don’t remember.  On Monday, I forgot to close the screen door to my patio, only to be tormented by the mosquitoes I’d let in for the next few hours.  Fortunately, they’re still pretty slow, so their eradication was quick and at zero loss of blood (to me).  Now I’ll just have to remember to take my bug spray with me when I go hiking.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some important spring transitions.  I only usually remember after they’ve backfired on me at least once.  So, now the question… What am I forgetting?

Cool blog update notes:
1) I think I’ve fixed the feed issues that were plaguing me over the last few weeks.  You didn’t know that I was having them, because your feeds weren’t updating.   They should now.
2) I updated the header with pictures that I actually took.  It rotates, so keep looking for something new.  I’ll try to add new ones occasionally, and remove some of the awful ones.
3) I added the Google Friend Connect box.  I think it’s kind of like following, so you can, you know, follow me if you wants.

I believe in coincidence… most of the time…

Most of the time, I believe in coincidence. Things happen. There are results, which drive other things to happen. Sometimes something big happens, sometimes nothing happens. It’s hard to know and it’s hard to read purpose in the seeming randomness of the universe. I emphatically do not believe that everything happens for a reason, and know of no doctrine that supports the concept.

But other times, I feel like things do happen for a reason.

Take the following chain of events:
– Yesterday, my Institute class was cancelled. I was kind of excited, because I had three or four things I needed to get done sooner rather than later, and I was looking at a very busy week.

– When I got home from work, the weather was so nice, I decided to go for a walk and enjoy what may have been one of the last great days of fall. This delayed my “getting things done” but it was a good cause.

– After making several “getting things done” phone calls while I was walking, I decided to walk over to a local church which has a meditation labyrinth. I’d seen a sign for it from the road while running and walking the area, and was intrigued by the concept. I found the labyrinth and walked it, further delaying my “getting things done” time frame. (Really cool experience, by the way. Well worth it, even if I cheated and only walked in and took a shortcut out.) By the time I got home, it was starting to get dark.

– Decided to start the laundry and go shopping, in that order. I didn’t really have a shopping list, but needed to pick up a few basics.

– Headed over to Meijer, and chose a really odd parking spot, further away from the grocery door than I usually park. I had a goal of when I wanted to be back home.

– Picked up the milk and cereal and a few other things, and headed to the deli counter. The line was three deep, but the counter clerk must have been new to the deli. She was Slow. Capital S Slow. It took several minutes for her to find the meat that a person in front of me requested and then five more to get it set on the slicer and sliced. And she was the only one available. I almost left three or four times, but since I’m working on my patience, I just let it go and got what I wanted.

– After getting the bread and hummus I needed, I headed for the checkouts. I had too many items (barely) for the U-Scan, and so I tried to find a checkout with a short line that was close to the door I was parked near.

– As I was loading the belt with my stuff, I noticed the woman in front of me, who I had guessed to be either Hispanic or Asian (don’t hate me, my Hispanic and Asian friends, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, and you see a lot of both in AA). She was using a WIC card and the checker kept taking things off the order that didn’t qualify. She looked baffled. I heard one of her daughters humming to the baby in Spanish.

Here’s that moment that it was all building up to:

– I took a chance and asked the woman in Spanish if she understood what the checker was saying. She responded that she didn’t. In my (clearly) broken Spanish, I tried to interpret. (Man, my interpretation Spanish is rusty!) I was able to explain what was going on and how she could remedy the solution. (It turned out that the juice was too small and the bread was too big.) I also helped her read the remaining benefits on her receipt.

I know I wasn’t the only person in the store who could have helped. But somehow, I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. If any step along my path before that had gone differently, I probably wouldn’t have been right there, right then.

Sure, coincidence happens. I’m chalking this one up in the other column though.

Why I did it

On Friday, almost on the spur of the moment, I signed up to run the Meteor 10K on Saturday, part of the Martian Invasion of Races in Dearborn. I had originally played with the idea of this race as a tune-up midway through my training for the half-marathon, but those hopes were dashed by my misunderstanding of when exactly the race fell. I was expecting it to be at the end of April, but when it turned out to be at the beginning of April instead, I lost a little interest in it.

Last week was a fairly good week for running, after completing the treadmill challenge with an 11% improvement and a successful short run earlier in the week. I was vacillating a little back and forth with deciding on this race. I thought that I was capable of running the 6.2 miles of a 10K, but I wasn’t sure. After the last few failures, I think I had a lost a little bit of confidence that I was on track for half-marathon goal.

One of my co-workers had been training for the Martian Half-marathon, and my supervisor had been planning to run the Meteor 10K as well. By Friday morning, I was feeling good, and decided I should just take the plunge, and do it. I hesitated throughout the day, not really sure if I was going to do it. At one point, I pegged it at 95% certainty, which is like saying yes, but with an escape hatch if I chicken out. After work, I went over and registered.

At that point I got the pre-race jitters, even though I was focused on making this a training run and nothing more or less. That, I think, is also an important part of practicing for a run. But I was in, and at the very least, I had my new technical running shirt (which for me is a huge motivator).

As it turns out, I’ll do almost anything for a Technical Shirt. Isn’t this one wild?

It turns out I was exactly capable of running 10K. The race went very very well. I stopped for short walk breaks at 2 and 4 miles, just like my plan has me doing. I maintained a fairly consistent pace, right at 10 minute miles, right on plan. The race started out cold and windy, but after about mile 2 you stop noticing that. Around mile 4 and a half, we ran by the Henry Ford Estate, and there were delicate bluebells blooming alongside the road. In short, it was a beautiful day for a race.

More importantly, however, was the sense of accomplishment that came with it.
March, as you may have heard, was a difficult month for goal achievement for me. I struggled with my writing goal, and I struggled with my running goals. The two long runs that I attempted failed. In fact, I was supposed to have been at 7 miles by now, and I hadn’t successfully completed anything longer than 5. Tackling this 10K, for which I hadn’t specifically trained, and actually feeling good at the end of it was validation that things would work out.

Here’s the race. I got a new toy: a Garmin Forerunner 305, which is a GPS watch that will let me track my runs better.

Why I love geocaching

Tonight for Family Home Evening in my ward, we had several spotlights featuring the hobbies and talents of several people in the ward. I was asked to talk about geocaching, one of my unhealthy obsessions.  I made a quick video slide show of some of my favorite geocaching moments.   I figured it would make good blog fodder, but then I realized it was 7 minutes long and silent, so it probably wouldn’t go over well.  So I shortened it and added music,  which makes it infinitely cooler, right?

Here’s some of what I had to say:

When I was a kid, I loved exploring my great-grandfather’s farm. I was convinced that somewhere on the farm was a buried treasure. I hunted all over the place for a clue that would lead me to another clue that would eventually lead me to the place where all the gold was buried. It was great fun, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that farmers rarely had enough gold to bother burying it and that pirates rarely stopped in Wyoming.

When I first heard of geocaching, I was immediately intrigued. I remembered back to my treasure hunting days on the farm. Here was a real sport where people hid treasures (ok, boxes with treasure (ok, McDonalds toys) inside) all over the world, and then gave you the GPS coordinates to them and sent you off to find them. How cool was that? Grownup high-tech treasure hunting! Awesome.

I couldn’t afford a GPS when I first heard about it, but I tucked it away in the “I’ll do that later” file. By the time I graduated from grad school, I had had my first taste of geocaching with a friend’s GPS and now could afford one. I was still looking for a job, and had quite a bit of spare time on my hands. So I got my GPS and enjoyed finding and hiding caches all over Salt Lake City. 

When I moved to Michigan, geocaching helped me get to know the area and the people. It took me places I probably wouldn’t have gone to by myself. I would have never found Hines Drive or the Metroparks or Belle Isle without geocaching. I would have missed some of the most beautiful places in Michigan.

For me, it’s really about the places and the people that you encounter while geocaching.

I have geocached in three countries, seven US states, and about 1/3 of Michigan’s counties. Other places I’ve cached:

  • The Huron River from a kayak
  • The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan Mexico
  • The tops of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes 
  • Cache County Utah
  • Downtown Toronto
  • Maybury State Park (a Michigan state park that used to be a Tuberculosis Sanatorium)
  • Multiple Pioneer Cemeteries
  • Henry Ford’s house
  • The campuses of the University of Wyoming, the University of Utah, the University of Michigan, and Eastern Michigan University.
Geocaching is a lot of fun for many types of people.  One of the things that surprised me was the number of retirees that participate.  There is really something for everyone.  If you’re interested in a long hike to a beautiful waterfall, you’ve got that.  If you want to try out scuba diving, there are caches set for you.  If you want to solve a puzzle, if you’re just bored and want to explore your neighborhood, if you’re out running errands and you need to kill a few minutes, there’s a cache for you.
I’ve cached with many different people.  Among the highlights:
  • My two and four year old nephews
  • Both of my grandfathers
  • Many of the people on my blog-roll
  • A hilarious nurse from Chelsea Michigan
  • Several dates, one of which I showed off for by falling (gracefully) into the Huron River in late March.
One of the rules of geocaching is that when you find the cache, you have to sign the logbook.  Imagine how surprised I’ve been to be caching in Utah on visits to see my family, and to open a cache and see that it has been signed just before me by someone I know from Michigan. It’s happened twice!  
Another rule is that if you want to take something from the cache, you should leave something else for the next finder.  I love to trade out signature items, little cards and trinkets that identify the person.  Many times its just a laminated business card or something like that but I once found a Smiley face stamp from someone called “S5280ft.”  Geocachers are pretty clever.

I once heard a statistic that made me sad: the average American spends only 6 minutes outside per day and that is usually spent walking to or from a car.  I have no idea if that is true or not, but Geocaching is one way to get past that 6 minute barrier.  I found a sport that has lots of variety, that takes me places I’ve never been with great people.  I highly recommend it.

Here’s that video that I was telling you about: