Wednesday, May 30, 2012

House Guests

My carefree, bachelor lifestyle is over – I have “roommates” again. Kris and Ted (my landpeople) came back from wintering in Arizona and are now occupying the house again. Having people in the house again would have been a big shock to my system had I not had a dose of it the week before.

A few months ago my friend Sam put a post on Facebook asking if anyone in Seattle had a place that he and his friend could stay for a few days. Having a huge, empty house all to myself I told him they could stay at my place. The day they came over I learned that Sam’s friend was not a boy as I had expected, but a girl named Elle. I’d never met Elle before, but we became fast friends. She actually lived on the same block as me in Provo and we have more mutual friends than a Russian has turnips. Elle and I became fast friends and 24 hours after meeting each other we both agreed that it felt like we had been friends for a long time. Having Sam and Elle around for the weekend was so great. We chatted, watched TV, made food, and sometimes just sat around and read. It was nice to just have people around again.

The one issue with their being here is that I had to undo all the bad living alone habits I had acquired such as never shutting the bathroom door. I had to remind myself to do it a few times, but I successfully remembered to close it. Another habit I’d picked up was not turning on lights. Since no one else was in the house I’d usually only have the light on in the room I was in. When I went to another room I would turn off the light, walk through the house in the dark, and then turn on the light when I arrived at my destination. The first night Sam and Elle were here one of them used the bathroom and shut the door when they exited. I later went to use the bathroom. As usual, I walked down the hallway in the dark and turned to go in to the bathroom expecting the door to be open. It was shut, however, which I hadn’t expected. I slammed into it with quite some force nearly knocking the glasses off my face. I was a little more careful after that.

I was excited when Kris and Ted came back, but it did take a little getting used to. Having lived alone for months I was used to things not changing while I was gone. It was odd to come home and suddenly see a bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table, or a car in the garage, or a blanket on the wrong chair. It was also odd to see food in the fridge that isn’t needed to make quesadillas. It’s been great having them back, though. They’re both awesome and they make for good company. Another odd thing is that instead of feeling like the house is mine, I now feel like a guest here. It was an odd, but expected shift.

Today as Ted was putting stuff in the freezer he said, “Hey, look at this.” He pulled out a reimbursement check from the school district that I had “lost” in January. I had looked all over the house for that check and somehow I put it in the freezer. Like I said, it’s nice to have them back.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Best Decision My Parents Ever Made

When I started this blog I intended to only write about the funny things that happened to me. I have occasionally slipped in some non-funny posts from time to time. My last post wasn't intended to be funny and neither is this one. I promise that after this one I'll get back to blogging about the hilarity in my life.

I love podcasts and I listen to them nearly every day. I especially like some of the podcasts on the Mormon Channel. One of the podcasts I listen to frequently is called Legacy and it discusses events in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I really like it even though some of the podcasts really are incredibly boring (Do not listen to the episode about the history of the gardens at Temple Square -- it's a snooze fest). One thing that the historians on the show say over and over again is that everyone should could keep a detailed record of their life. They regularly recommend that everyone write their own personal history. I took their advice and started doing that in my spare moments in the evening. I figured that now is the best time to start writing since my memories are only going to continue to fade as I get older and I better record them before they get too hazy or I lose them completely.

Yesterday a girl in one of my classes asked me if my ancestors were Mormon. I said no. She then asked, "Then how did your family become Mormon?" I said, "I can't tell you that because we're at school. And it's a shame because it's a really good story." Since I've been working on my personal history I just so happen to have already written the story of how my parents joined the church and I'd like to share it here since I can't share it at school. Here's an excerpt from what I've written so far. It ends rather abruptly because in my personal history I go on to discuss other things.

My parents got married on 7 July 1971. One year later on 14 October 1972 they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They stumbled into the church rather by accident. They weren’t looking for a church and they weren’t searching for truth or meaning in life either. When the missionaries showed up at their door they listened more out of courtesy than out of interest. My parents didn’t buy it at first. Really? An angel told a 14 year old boy to dig up golden plates from his backyard and then translate them? Why would God call a prophet with such an uninteresting name as Joseph Smith? My mom’s maiden name is Smith and the idea that someone with her incredibly common last name would be a prophet was absurd to her. My parents felt sorry for the missionaries because they acted so innocent and actually seemed to believe those silly stories. My parents believed that those poor, na├»ve missionaries had been duped.

Whenever the missionaries weren’t around they would make fun of the church and had no problem believing it wasn’t true. For some reason, however, they let the missionaries continue to teach them. During the fourth lesson about the Plan of Salvation my dad felt something. My dad felt something stir inside of him as they taught him about his life before he was born, his purpose here on earth, and his eternal destiny as a child of God. At each lesson the missionaries had given my parents pamphlets to read as well as sections of the Book of Mormon to read. They had also invited my parents to pray to know if what they were being taught was true. My parents faithfully did all the reading they were asked to do, but hadn’t prayed and asked if it was all true.

After learning the Plan of Salvation, my dad, for the first time, really wanted to know if what the missionaries were teaching him was true. After the missionaries left, on his own and without saying a word about it to my mom, my dad knelt down and asked God if what the missionaries were teaching him was true. He received a sure witness from the Holy Ghost that the teachings he was receiving were indeed true. My dad had stumbled upon Mormonism and in an instant was converted to it. This created a very serious problem for him. He had been teasing and mocking the missionaries for weeks and now he had to tell his wife that he believed them. He was apprehensive to tell her that he knew it was true because he thought she’d think he had gone nuts. He decided that whatever the outcome he needed to tell her what he now believed. Right before their next meeting with the missionaries my dad summoned his courage, pulled my mom aside and said, “Ginny, I have to tell you that I believe what the missionaries are teaching us.” She looked at him and with relief in her eyes responded, “Thank goodness, I believe it too.” They had both petitioned the Lord secretly and had received the same answer.

My parents were baptized on 14 October 1972, three weeks after meeting the missionaries. They were the first members of the church in both of their families. It was a bold and courageous thing for them to do and they have never looked back. They have been faithful, active, and exemplary members of the church ever since they joined it.

When my parents got married they were both school teachers. My dad had to deal with kids all day and didn’t want to have to deal with them at home too so he and my mom decided not to have any kids. And being a teacher myself I can understand his line of reasoning. My mom always wanted to have kids and assumed that my dad would eventually grow out of his I-don’t-ever-want-kids-of-my-own phase. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a very family oriented church and it’s no surprise that my dad went from not wanting children to having four.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Best Compliment I Ever Received

The best compliment I ever received was given to me on March 25, 2007. And it wasn’t meant to be a compliment. Here’s the story.

I worked at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) for nearly three years teaching missionaries assigned to Spanish speaking missions how to speak Spanish. It is by far the best job I’ve ever had. Most of my districts (classes) were small and we spent hours together five days a week for two months getting them fluent (well, sort of fluent) in Spanish. Around their 6th week in the MTC we’d make a goal to only speak Spanish for the entire week. We called it an English fast and it applied outside of class as well. I probably tried this with a dozen different districts during my time at the MTC and they all gave up and reverted back to English after a few days – except for one.

Speaking a new language is hard work and it’s especially hard when you’re surrounded by people who speak English natively. The missionaries always struggled during the English fasts because they weren’t able to communicate in Spanish as freely as they wanted to which made it hard for them to be themselves. It was just a lot easier to speak in English. The English fasts were tough on me, too. I was very capable of expressing myself freely in Spanish, but the missionaries couldn’t always understand what I was saying. It was taxing on me to explain something in Spanish and know that they weren’t understanding me. It was so tempting for me to switch into English just to be understood.

This particular district struggled just as much as all the others had. We did everything in Spanish and I could see the frustration on their faces. I watched them struggle to form poorly worded sentences with sketchy grammar. I saw the defeat in their eyes as they searched their brains for words that just weren’t in there. I got frustrated, too when, after explaining something to the class, instead of seeing understanding on their faces all I got were confused stares. None of my districts had tried so hard before and I started to think that I was asking too much of them, that this was just too hard. But we pressed on and that entire week we spoke on Spanish. It was quite an accomplishment and their Spanish got so much better that week.

At the end of the week we had a little lesson in English to discuss what we had all learned during the week. Not to discuss the grammar or vocabulary they had learned during week, but the principles they had learned. The classes heaved a collective sigh of relief knowing that they were temporarily allowed to speak in English again. I started off the discussion by saying the first thing I’d said to my class in English in a week. Right after I finished talking Sister Spotten looked right at me and said, “It’s so weird to hear you speak English.” And that is the best compliment I ever received.

At the beginning of the week we had all made a goal and committed to follow through with it. It was a hard goal for me to keep, but I had promised to keep it and I did. Sister Spotten’s reaction to how I sounded in English was an affirmation that I had stuck with and followed through with my promise. And it felt so good. In essence what she really said was, “You did it, Brother Schilaty, you really did it. It was hard, but you did it.” I once heard a talk at church in which the speaker said that the best compliment a latter-day saint can receive is to be known a covenant keeper – someone who keeps their promises. I totally agree.

Once everyone had gotten over how odd it was to hear me speak in English I shared the story of Helaman’s 2,000 stripling (young) warriors from the Book of Mormon. The scriptures say that they were exactly obedient and because of their obedience and faith they all survived their battles with the Lamanites while thousands of their comrades were killed. It’s one of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon and the missionaries agreed that they had been immensely rewarded for their effort and obedience to do what they had agreed to do. This is what I wrote in my journal that day:

“This week I understood a little better how Heavenly Father feels about us. He loves us and wants us to succeed and improve, but He allows us to have trials because He knows that they will help us grow. I’m sure it’s hard for Him, but He knows what we need to help us grow. I hope that I always remember the examples of Sister Spotten, Sister Ross, Sister Morris, Elder Halgren, Elder Cannon, Elder Rex, Elder Redford, and Elder Fielding. They are just as valiant and diligent as the 2,000 stripling warriors and they will be richly blessed for their obedience and effort. I feel so blessed to be able to know modern day sons and daughters of Helaman.”

I hope that I can always be known as someone who follows through on his promises because that would be the greatest compliment of all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Going Viral

When I went to bed Wednesday night I felt a little sick, but was sure I’d just sleep it off. I woke up Thursday morning feeling about the same, but with a swollen gland on the left side of my neck and my cheek was swollen too. I didn’t really feel that sick so I decided to go to work. As the day went on my face got puffier and puffier and I felt sicker and sicker so I called in sick for Friday. Living alone and being sick is incredibly boring so I decided to spend the weekend with my parents. They pampered me and it was wonderful. I mostly slept and watched HGTV.

On Friday I went to the doctor because something was really wrong with me. My face felt incredibly tender and shaving was painful. I couldn’t even floss because it hurt so much to open my mouth. Eating was accompanied by throbbing pains. My face had swollen so much that it looked like I’d gained 40 pounds, but only on the left side of my face. I no longer had a jaw line on my left side. I was eager for the doctor to fix me.

I hadn’t been to a doctor for an illness since 2007 and the guy I saw on Friday was a new doctor for me. My mom went in to the check up room with me and was present when the nurse asked me all the usual intake questions. Her presence was invaluable when I was asked if there was any history of heart disease in my family because my answer was, “Uhh…..?” I was then asked if I smoke. No. Drink alcohol? No. Use recreational drugs? No. Sexually active? No. The nurse then gave me a look that I interpreted as, “Are you lying because your mother’s in here?” so I said, “Don’t worry, I’m good Mormon boy,” and she smiled with understanding.

The doctor came in and poked at my tender face for awhile then sent me down to get some blood work done. I was extremely disappointed when I learned that my white blood cell count was normal meaning that I didn’t have an infection. I was rooting for an infection so that I could take some antibiotics and be done with it, but no, it had to be something viral. And a virus is only cured by lots of rest and inordinate amounts of fluids. My doctor brought in a second doctor to get another opinion. They had three ideas: the mumps, mono, or tuberculosis. All three of those possibilities were shocking. I’ve been vaccinated for the mumps and I thought that that was one of those diseases like polio that no one got any more. I really didn’t want to have mono because it’s often spread through kissing and I haven’t kissed anyone for while so it would have been really lame to get mono without the funsies. And tuberculosis just made me feel dirty. Having lived in Mexico I’ve been tested for TB a few times and never had it so it didn’t make sense to get it now since I haven’t been back for three years. The results came back and I thankfully had none of the three. I just had some random virus that would have to be waited out.

The swelling started to go down yesterday and it’s nearly gone today. I shaved today for the first time in four days. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without shaving as an adult. I’ve never grown facial hair because I feel like it looks bad on most people. There are, of course, exceptions like my uncle, Robert Downing Jr. and Charlie Chaplin. Four days allowed for a large amount of hair to emerge and I was surprised to see a fair number of white hairs in my sprouting beard. While it’s disappointing to be going grey already, I resigned myself to that reality years ago. And now if I decide to become a pirate I will go by the name Speckle Beard. It’s fearsome sounding and accurate.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Secrets

I recently watched a Youtube video where someone stops random strangers on the street and asks them what their secret is. They usually respond by saying something like, "What? Why would I tell you my secret?" after which they reveal their secret. The secrets often revealed an insecurity, something embarrassing, or were funny. I was trying to plan a lesson just now, but I got distracted and made a list of my own secrets instead. I tried to follow the theme of insecurity, embarrassing, and funny. Here they are in no particular order.

I’ve never driven 100 MPH because I don’t like breaking rules.

The worst part of my day is planning lessons because I feel like many of my students won't care (much like a flight attendant giving safety instructions).

I dance in my kitchen – a lot (mostly while putting away dishes).

I think The Golden Girls is hilarious.

I hate when my students lie to me. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world.

I once saw someone I knew at the airport unexpectedly, but I hid behind a pillar because I didn’t want to talk to him.

I never, ever, ever want to live alone again.

I don't use dryer sheets.

Teaching middle school has made me afraid to have kids.

I eat way too much junk food.

I don’t care for the game Apples to Apples.

I’ve eaten cow udder twice and liked it both times.

One of my favorite parts of the day is reading my scriptures, but I still procrastinate doing it every day because I forget how much I love it.

I feel smarter than people who drink energy drinks.

And now two quick teaching stories:
I have a student who is really quite funny (although I'd never want him to know that I think that). He often tries to get my attention by gently tugging on my shirt. Yesterday, however, instead of tugging on my shirt or raising his hand like a normal student would do, he reached over and squeezed my bicep. It was surprising and slightly odd, but it got my attention.

I've struggled all year with getting my classes to quiet down. Yesterday every single student in one of my classes was actively working on an assignment and no one was talking. It was so peaceful. I broke the silence by saying, "Do you hear that, class? That's the sound of learning." A kid then blurted out, "But it's silent!" and I said, "Exactly."