Monday, January 26, 2009

A Word to the Wise

Do not keep houseplants on your television set.

Especially if you're going to water them.

Especially if you're going to water them too much.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Breaking Dawn and Other Library Holds

I had never been even remotely interested in vampire stories before, but I've been working my way through Stephenie Meyers's Twilight series by listening to them on CD's checked out from my local library. And, of course, there's been quite a waiting list of patrons waiting to take their turns with the CD sets--particularly with the most recent book, Breaking Dawn.

So this morning I wisely wondered if I might be able to get Breaking Dawn more quickly if I requested the print version instead. After all, the library system would have more printed copies than it would of the audiobook version.

It was a wise idea indeed. Now I can proudly tell you that, even after all these months after the book's release, I am number 146 in a queue of 147 patrons who are waiting for the print version of Breaking Dawn.

Obviously I must have something going for me, because I am not number 147.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Missionary House Rules

When the missionaries in our ward moved into our house a little over a year ago, we were encouraged by our stake leaders to give the missionaries a list of rules and expectations up front. I've always thought this was a good idea. As various elders have come and gone over the months, I've added to our initial list. I always thought I was clarifying our expectations, but all I was really doing was making the thing so long that the guys weren't reading it anymore.

Since we're getting a new missionary today, I've spent some time revising and cutting the list. Rather than try to enumerate every little thing that could possibly happen, this time I've tried to keep our rules broad, clear, and simple.

Here are a few I considered, based on our now-vast experience. But they didn't make the cut, for whatever reason:

1. Squirrels are not pets.

2. Missionaries aren't allowed to have pets anyway.

3. Whether you think it's a stupid rule or not, it's our house and if we want to make a rule, you'd better keep it. (This refers to rules we make in general, not anything about the squirrel. In fact, the squirrel never made it into our house...that we know of.)

4. Keep your clothes on. I don't like to hear missionaries scream when I go into my storage room. (Note for the uninitiated: our missionaries have to go through our storage room to get to and from their bathroom.)

5. If you think you need to build a fire outside, you should consider going out tracting or doing a service project or something. Without the matches.

5.5. Yes, we realize that you have to build a fire outside if you're going to ice-glaze the interior of your igloo.

5.75. Which you built outside.

5.9. After all, what's the point of serving a mission in Wisconsin in the middle of the winter if you're not going to build an igloo with all the snow piled outside your door?

5.95. We are sorry we didn't take a picture of your igloo before it melted last year. It was truly amazing.

5.97. I really do mean this.

6. It is helpful, when you have other missionaries stay over before zone conference, if you introduce them to us when you bring them upstairs to make breakfast, and we stumble into the kitchen half-asleep before school and see all these strangers in our kitchen.

7. "Lights out at 10:30" does not mean turn off all the lights at 10:30 and then stay awake in the dark.

8. We love you guys and admire and respect you so much for taking this time out of your lives to serve the Lord and your fellow man. We know the work is not easy or even always pleasant, and it can be tough to be away from your families and loved ones at home. And we know that guys are interested in squirrels and fires and things whether they're missionaries or not. But you are doing such a great thing, and becoming great men and great leaders in the process.

Well, maybe I should put that last one on there anyway (I say oh-so-nobly). Someone once mentioned to me that if all young people would spend two years of their life in volunteer service like the LDS missionaries do, they'd have such a different picture of the world and their place in it and their need to contribute. I have to say I agree wholeheartedly.

But hey, these guys don't stop being individuals just because they wear missionary name tags. They're all one-of-a-kind, and they're all pretty cool.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

I was pretty excited about watching the Presidential inauguration yesterday, even though I watched the coverage on TV instead of in person, and I was mending a pair of shorts while I was watching.

(Yes, you read correctly. I needed to mend a pair of shorts in the middle of winter in Wisconsin where we just emerged from a frigid spell of temperatures of 30 below. And the reason why I needed to mend a pair of shorts in the dead of winter? Well, think about it. You think I'm going to be able to buy new ones off the rack at this time of year?)

Being something of a history junkie, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch a piece of history being made. And whether you agree with Barack Obama's philosophies or not, you've got to admit that the fact this man with an African name and dark skin to match was able to become President of the United States is pretty inspiring. The United States is still a land of opportunity, and it's still a place where people of all races and creeds can belong and contribute.

I was impressed with the way President Obama emphasized our need to work together as a people to put our nation back on track. He recalled the pioneer spirit that built our great nation in the first place, and the ways that so many have worked diligently and sacrificed so much to make this a land of freedom and opportunity. Now greed, laziness, and out-and-out evil have gotten us into some pretty big messes as a people, and those who suffer today are often not even those at fault. But as I listened to President Obama's speech, I felt hopeful that as a people we could turn this nation around--on principles of hard work, sacrifice, and selflessness.

However, my hope diminished quickly. In all of the interviews and news analyses that followed the broadcast on the station I was viewing, the emphasis was not on Obama's speech or on turning the country around or any of that. Instead, people seemed blinded by the fact that we now have a black man as President.

Yes, this is an exciting and inspirational moment for our country. It's the result of the sacrifices and tears of many others who hoped and fought for a brighter future for African-Americans. But it's not the end-all.

No matter what color our President is, we need to unite as a people and work together to turn our country around. We're in the middle of two wars and an unprecedented economic crisis. Schools are failing, health care is a mess, and values and work ethics are going downhill fast. It's time--past time--for us to go to work as a people. It's not time for us to rest on our laurels because of who we managed to vote into office. There's a lot of work for us to do.

And if we will do the work and make the sacrifices, we can do great things. Greater, even, than paving the way for an African-American to become President.

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