Sunday, December 23, 2012

Caller Unknown

This morning I was woken up by a phone call.  I’ve said this before, but I’m really, really not a morning person.  I’m really groggy, I don’t think clearly, and my voice is lower than normal.  This morning it was a friend returning my call from a few days ago.  I rolled over in my cot and answered the phone.   The conversation went something like this:

Friend: Hi Ben!
Me: Hello… (I tried to make my voice sound normal, but I still had my retainers in and I had a bad case of morning voice.)
Friend: Did I wake you up?
Me:  Oh, that’s great!
Friend: …
Me: I mean, yes.  Yes you did.

I’m often confused and disoriented when I wake up and I guess my default response to a question is “Oh, that’s great!” because that’s what I said before my brain processed the question asked by my friend.

A few days ago I was woken up by a phone call as well, but this call was from a number I didn’t recognize.  I answered the phone and it was some guy calling from the BYU counseling center offering me $20 to take a survey online.  I’ve taken many BYU surveys for free and I was definitely willing to do one for money.  I was still pretty asleep when he asked, “Would you be willing to take 30 minutes to do an online survey for $20?”  I responded, “I love $20.”  He then verified my email address and let me go back to sleep.

I had only been asleep for a few minutes when I got another call from another number I didn’t recognize.  Still groggy, I answered the phone.  The woman on the phone explained that she was so-and-so’s sister and that I’d met her and so-and-so’s surprise birthday party two months ago.  My sleepy mind tried to figure out what was happening, but it was struggling.  She went on to say that there was a girl at church that she thought would be perfect for me and she wanted me to take her out so she asked her if she would go out with me, got my number from so-and-so, and called me.  That’s when I realized that this near stranger was setting me up on a blind date and had gone to great lengths to do so.  My sleepy response was, “Wow, this is very brave of you.  You don’t even know me.  Yeah, I’ll go out with your friend.”  She gave me her friend’s number and then I crawled back into my cot.

My last story happened last night.  A friend called me to tell me that she had left a secret Santa gift on someone’s porch.  She asked me to text the person to let her know that there was a gift on her front porch.  She wanted me to send the text so that the text would come from an unknown caller.  Later last night my friend emailed me this girl’s Facebook status.  Here’s what it said:

“Nothing like waking up from a nap and letting your dog out to go potty only to find two gifts outside your front door to yourself.  Then checking your phone and seeing you got a text from a number you don’t recognize saying ‘There is a gift on your front porch. ~Santa.”  I got a huge fleece blanket and a beautiful outfit… Yes I opened them early Santa!  HEHE Man I am feeling loved and the Christmas spirit!!!  Thank you Santa!!!”

You’re welcome, stranger.  I purposely used a squiggly line in front of Santa’s name because I thought it seemed more Santa-like than a boring old dash.

So if you get a call from an unknown number, don’t be afraid to answer.  You might just get a date, twenty dollars, or a gift from Santa.  And if you sleep in past 9:00 am you're likely to get woken up by a phone call.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scrawny Jeans

It feels so good to be done with my first semester at the University of Arizona and to be back in Washington for Christmas.  It’s been awhile since I last blogged because the end of the semester was slightly hectic.

Today I went shopping with the Kecks, one of my second families.  We stopped by the Levi’s store to look for jeans and as usual I was having trouble finding jeans in my size.  Apparently few people are as lanky as I am (it would be so much easier if I just got a little tubbier).  One of the sales people started looking for jeans in my size without my soliciting his help.  He was unsuccessful and sincerely apologized.  Since there were no jeans that I wanted Nathan, my 18 year old friend, recommended that I try on a pair of skinny jeans.  I wasn’t planning on buying any skinny jeans, but I thought it’d be funny to try some on just like it’d be funny to try on a do-rag or a cardigan, but I’d never buy such a thing.

I went into the fitting room and wriggled my way into the jeans.  I examined myself in the mirror and thought I looked pretty absurd.  I left the fitting room and went into the main part of the store to show the Kecks how funny I looked.  I was totally expecting them to disapprove of the skinny jeans because Nathan wears skater clothes, Lisa shops at Ann Taylor, and Brad was about to buy a pair of jeans that had just been described as “unflattering.”  I was bum-puzzled when they all loved the jeans.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: They’re too tight.
Lisa: They look really good.  I like them.
Nathan: I like them, too.
Me: But I can’t move.
Brad: They really do look good.
Me: But you can see the curvature of my butt!
Lisa: That’s kind of the point.

At this point two male sales associates joined in on the conversation.  They were the kind of people that wear tight jeans rolled up at the bottom, v-neck shirts, have pierced ears, and wear Toms.  They both insisted that I looked awesome, too.  I didn’t know what to do so I started spouting excuses for not being able to wear the jeans such as, “I can’t wear skinny jeans; I’m a Republican!”  I also tried to explain that my legs are so skinny that the idea that fabric was touching all sides of my leg at the same time seemed unseemly.  But they wouldn’t have any of it and insisted that I looked great.

I eventually waddled away from the conversation pretending like the jeans were so tight that I couldn’t walk properly in them.  After struggling to get out of them I tried to hand them to Amanda, the lady guarding the fitting rooms.  She told me that the jeans made me look sexy (that’s quite a feat, let me tell you) and wouldn’t take them.  I tried to give them to her and she would not take them.  Lisa walked over, grabbed the jeans and said that she would be buying them for me as Christmas present because if she gave them to me then I’d be obligated to wear them.  I had been defeated.

As we looked around the store a bit more I said to Lisa, “Are you going to make me wear v-neck shirts, too?”  One of the sales associates wearing a v-neck overheard and said, “You could totally rock a v-neck.”  I decided to stop mentioning clothes before they picked out an entire wardrobe for me that I didn’t want.

When people ask me what I want for Christmas this year I’ve been saying, “All I want is some new socks.”  They had a great sale on socks so I bought a pack of six for $2.  I had unexpectedly been gifted a pair of jeans that I thought made me look ridiculous, but at least I left with the only thing I wanted for Christmas.

When I got home I told my sister that the Kecks had bought me a pair of skinny jeans.  She was horrified.  That’s no exaggeration, she was actually horrified.  So many mixed signals tonight.  I guess some people just don’t want to see the curvature of my butt.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Dangers of Being Tall

In 2011 I made a goal to make my bed every day that year, and I did it.  I decided to continue that goal this year and I did a great job of doing it until I moved to Arizona.  For some reason Arizona has made me a little lazier than I used to be (but only a little).  I recently decided to get back on the horse and start making my bed again.

The aftermath of my height-induced accident
On Friday morning Kevin and I were chatting as he was getting ready to leave for work and I was getting ready to leave for school.  While we were talking I started making my bed.  I must be a violent sleeper because when I wake up in the morning my bed is far from made.  Often my blanket is wadded up at the end of bed.  I started straightening out my blanket as one would lay out a picnic blanket, by waving one end up and down.  Directly over my bed there’s a fan with a light fixture on it.  I have hit the fan numerous times while changing my shirt which usually results in me yelling out in pain, depending on how fast the blades are going.  While I was straightening my blanket my hand hit the dangly thing you pull on to turn the fan and lights on and off.  I hit it with such force that it flew into one of the light fixtures and shattered it causing shards of glass to rain down all over my room.  I was a little surprised.

This is what my bed looked like when I got home from school
What was most surprising, however, was how Kevin and I reacted to my suddenly destroying a light cover.  Kevin, who owns the house and the light I just broke, said very matter-of-factly, “I saw that coming.  I should’ve warned you.”  I replied, equally matter-of-factly, “I did not expect that happen.  I should probably put on some shoes before I cut myself.”  We were both remarkably unstunned by what had just happened.  I had to go to school and Kevin had to get to work so I just shut my bedroom door and left the cleaning for later.

On my way home from school I stopped by the Home Depot to get a replacement light cover (because I'm a good renter).  The cashier at the Home Depot was really chatty (note: I prefer talkative cashiers to the quiet, boring kind) and I explained to her how I'd accidentally broken the light fixture.  She said, "Honey, I always hit this one light in my living room when I'm sweeping, but it never breaks.  I swear, one day I'm just gonna look at it wrong and it'll shatter because I've hit the darned thing so many times."  Her story made me feel less silly for breaking the light cover and gave me a funny mental image of a middle aged woman in her living room scowling at her light and then watching it burst into pieces.

Kevin told me that night that our other roommate, who's also tall,  had broken a light cover in his room in the exact same way that I had.  It's tough being tall.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I Almost Said No

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but I’ve been busier than usual and haven’t found the time.  I hope this makes you laugh.  Also, I share this story with permission (unlike my last post about Kevin.  Also, he still hasn’t read it so I think I’m in the clear).

My first week in Arizona was a little lonely as expected and I was excited to make friends as quickly as possible.  When I attended the grad student orientation that week I purposely wore a BYU shirt hoping it would help me meet some Mormons (preferably the single, pretty, female kind).  I had forgotten to register for orientation and since I wasn’t on their list, the check-in people wouldn’t give me a free t-shirt.  They did say, however, that if I waited until everyone else checked in they would give me one if there were any left.

While I was waiting for my t-shirt a small, Chinese woman walked up to me and said, “You went to BYU?” and I said that I did.  She said, “We shared an office.”  At the moment I recognized her.  At BYU all the Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean teachers share an office.  It’s really big and we mostly kept to our own language group.  I didn’t know this woman, but I’d seen her many times.  She didn’t know my name and I didn’t know hers, but we were both happy to see each other and we exchanged phone numbers.  Her name is Hongyi and I was not expecting us to become good friends.

A few weeks later I got a random text from Hongyi that said: “I am taking driving class and I have learning permit.  After driving class, can you help me to practice more?  Thanks.”  My first thought was, my dad would tell me not to let a foreigner drive my car.  I’d never seen her drive before and had no idea if she was good or bad.  Honestly, I almost said no, but then I applied the Golden Rule and replied: “Yeah, I’d love to.”  Not the most honest text I've ever sent.  And so began yet another plot to a foreign film.

I told Hongyi that we should practice driving on Sunday morning since there would be fewer people on the road.  On the first Sunday I rolled out of bed and drove over to her house in my pajamas.  As I was driving over to her house I kept asking myself how I'd gotten myself into this situation.  I was fairly nervous because I’d never seen her drive, but I relaxed when she walked out of her house already dressed for church.  Her church clothes made her seem very competent and that put me at ease.  I had her get in the driver’s seat and she told me that she was so nervous.  I could empathize.  I showed her how to put the car in drive and we were off.  It was immediately evident that she needed to practice a lot.  She stayed in all the lines and didn’t hit anything, but she drove painfully slowly, made left turns dangerously slowly, and parked in four spots instead of one.  Luckily only once did I have to say, “Stop.  Stop!  STOP!!!”  I was glad when I got back behind the wheel.

Hongyi's English is very good, but it's not great and there were a few times when she didn't understand what I was saying.  For instance, I'd say, "Use your blinker," and she wouldn't do anything so I'd say, "Use your turn signal," and then she would.  Our language barrier made me nervous, too.

After our first time driving I didn't give her any feedback on her driving because she was already so nervous while she drove.  The next week I made a list of some things that she could master that day.  First, I taught her how to stop without giving us whiplash.  Then we practiced going the speed limit.  She would go 20 in a 40 and so I kept saying, “Hongyi, what’s the speed limit?” and she’d say, “40,” and I’d say, “And how fast are you going?” and she’d say, “Oh!” and speed up.  She improved a lot that day and her progress was very gratifying.

Our third lesson was when things started to get really fun.  We practiced parking and driving at Pima Community College.  The parking lot is enormous and there’s no one there on Sunday morning.  While we were driving in the parking lot I was talking to Hongyi and she was focusing more on talking than driving.  I said, “Hongyi!  You just ran a stop sign!”  She apologize and said, “There is a word in Chinese [she then said some word in Chinese].  I don’t know how to say it in English.  It means that you cannot do two things at the same time.”  I wanted to say, “Oh, we’ve got a word for that in English – it’s called man,” but I thought she wouldn’t get the joke so I said, “You're saying that you can't multitask.”  On another day we practiced driving and talking at the same time.  It wasn’t a skill that I had thought about practicing, but she needed the practice.  Even though the parking lot was completely empty we pretended there were other cars there.  If she turned too sharply into a parking spot I’d yell, “Hongyi!  You just hit a parked car!”  and she’d apologize.  She always backed up really slowly – painfully slowly.  When she’d back up I'd start to say, “There are cars waiting your spot.  They’re getting mad.  They’re honking at you now.”  And then she’d drive a little faster and drive through an imaginary parked car and I’d say, “Oh, you just hit a parked car.”  It was a lot of fun and we both laughed a lot.

A few weeks ago I took Hongyi to the DMV to take her driving test.  She’d gotten a lot better, but neither of us was sure if she’d pass.  She was really nervous and I had to keep encouraging her and telling her that she’d already passed her test in driving school and since she'd done it before she could do it again.  I waited nervously in a plastic chair while she took the test and when she came back she had a huge smile on her face because she’d passed!  I was so ecstactic that I wanted to give her a big hug and jump around in circles, but due to our different sizes I just gave her a high five.  She probably didn't want to hug my stomach.

Hongyi in front of my car with her new license
We went out to eat to celebrate and she let me pick the restaurant.  I picked the Texas Roadhouse because they have the best rolls in the whole wide world.  As we were driving there I said, “I’m so excited!  I’m soooo hungry!”  Hongyi said, “Oh, I thought you were excited because I passed my test.”  I said, “Oh yeah, that too, but the rolls at the Texas Roadhouse are so good!”  We had a great meal and it was blast.  That whole afternoon I was so happy.  I was thrilled for Hongyi and together we really had accomplished a lot.  As we were eating I was struck by how we’d become such good friends.  When we ran into each other at orientation I didn’t even know her name and then two months later we were great friends.  Helping Hongyi practice driving is one of my favorite memories from the semester, and I almost said no.  I'm so glad I said yes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Really, Really Ridiculously Good Looking

My planeteer costume from last year and Lindsay

As an adult, Halloween has never really been my thing.  I don’t mind dressing up, but I’m not a big fan of the effort and/or money involved in creating a costume.  Last year I was a planeteer because the costume was super-simple and referenced my childhood.  I thought about being a planeteer again this year, but then I had a better idea.

I’ve been told for years that I look like Peewee Herman, and I concur (I’ve also been told that I sound like Ben Stein and have eyes like Kermit’s).  At one of my middle school’s last year we had an era dress up day – the 8th graders dressed up like the 80’s, the 7th graders like the 70’s, the 6th graders like the 60’s, and the teachers like the 50’s.  I didn’t have anything that looked very 50’s so I decided to wear a red bowtie with a dress shirt, my suit jacket and I parted my hair.  I could have passed for a mid-century professor, but I also could have passed for Peewee Herman.  I decided then and there that I would be Peewee Herman for Halloween.

Fast forward about six months and I’m living in Tucson.  Kevin, my roommate, told me that the next day was 80’s day at his work and he didn’t know how to dress up for that.  After recommending neon clothes and sweat bands I said, “Just dress up like a nerd.  Tuck your shirt into your jeans and wear a bowtie.”  He liked the idea, but didn’t have a bowtie so I lent him mine.  He got home from work and excitedly told me that people had said that he looked like Peewee Herman and that he was going to be Peewee for Halloween.  He asked me if he could borrow my red bowtie for his costume.  At first I wasn’t sure what to say because he had just accidently stolen my idea, but he seemed really excited about the idea so I agreed.

Kevin doesn’t read my blog (or so he says) and he doesn’t know this story.  So if any of you know Kevin for reals, let's keep this story between you and me.  I don’t want him to feel bad for unknowingly stealing my costume.

I now had a costume dilemma.  We had a Halloween dance at church on Friday night and I didn’t know who to be.  I didn’t bring my planeteer vest to Arizona so I would have to buy another one and didn’t feel like spending $5.  I briefly considered skipping the dance, but that seemed lame.  I also considered going to the dance and not dressing up, but that seemed even lamer.  I did what I usually do when I don’t quite know what to do – I checked Facebook.  One of my friends had posted: “I've narrowed down my Halloween costume ideas to two: Marty McFly, or ridiculously photogenic guy.”  I had completely forgotten about the ridiculously photogenic guy of Facebook fame and immediately decided that I would be him for Halloween.  And I didn’t feel bad stealing my friend’s idea since he lives in Washington.

Here's the guy in case you've never heard of him
I told Kevin, and Manny, and Maurie, and Christina that I was going to be the ridiculously photogenic guy, but none of them had heard of him.  This made me think I’d made a bad costume decision.  I explained to them that some photographer had taken a picture of some random people running in a marathon and the guy in the picture was unusually photogenic for someone running in a race.  The photographer posted the picture of Flickr with a caption that said, “Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy,” and for some reason the image went viral and was the source of numerous memes.

I decided to be the ridiculously photogenic guy anyway mostly because it was super-easy (I wore my running clothes and taped a homemade marathon bib to my shirt).  A lot of people at the dance didn’t know who I was and I explained it a few times, but I formed a special bond with the people who did recognize me.  A few strangers said, “Hey, you’re that meme!” and “You’re that guy from Facebook” and my heart warmed when someone said, “You’re the ridiculously photogenic guy!”  So instead of portraying a man that was arrested for indecent exposure, I portrayed a man a girl once described as “handsome.”  I think I made the right choice.
Okay, so maybe I'm not ridiculously photogenic,
but at least I'm somewhat photogenic
Kevin doing the Peewee dance

Monday, October 8, 2012

Drunk Running

Running in Tucson has proven to be rather difficult for me.  It’s been so freakin’ hot here that running in the middle of the day is out of the question.  I could run in the early morning, but anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a morning person (I had one roommate who would always enthusiastically say, “Good morning!” and I’d always groggily reply, “What’s good about it?”).  I’ve tried to get up early a few times to run, but it just doesn’t work.  I usually run at night when it’s hot in the summers, but Tucson is super-scary.  My friends from the Phoenix area have described Tucson as “sketchy,” “ghetto,” and “usually five degrees cooler than Phoenix” (the last one is a good thing).  I’ve been told that since there are observatories in the area there is a light ordinance in Tucson to prevent light pollution.  My neighborhood has some unsavory people living in it and I would not feel comfortable running through my poorly lit barrio at night.  So instead, I go running at Reid Park which is well-lit and has a bike/jogging trial.

As I drove up to Reid Park on Saturday night I saw a sign that said: “BEER FESTIVAL OCT 6.”  I got to the park at 10:00 pm just as the beer festival was ending.  Usually at that hour the park is mostly deserted with only a handful of people running and few shady characters talking in the dark areas of the parking lot, mostly likely dealing drugs.  But on Saturday night there were a TON of people there, many of them drunk.  It made for an interesting run.

When I run I occasionally get catcalls from random people.  It’s rare, but it happens.  On Saturday at least two dozen people yelled at me.  Most of the catcalls were nonsensical things like “AHHHH!” or “EHHHH!” but I did get a few sentences like “YOU’RE RUNNING!”  and “IT’S LATE!”  and other things that a good Mormon boy wouldn't repeat.  Whenever someone would yell something encouraging I would do a raise-the-roof motion with my hands as I continued my run which usually resulted in laughter and more yelling.  There’s one section of the trail where I have to double back and I ran by the same drunk people twice.  They yelled more the second time.  I could smell alcohol in the air.

Drunk people don’t tend to think super-clearly and I saw one guy whizzing behind a palm tree.  The restrooms were less than 50 yards away.

As I was running by a different guy he suddenly lurched toward me and I was momentarily worried that he was going to shank me.  Then I realized that I don’t ever use the word shank and getting shanked isn’t a regular fear of mine.  He was simply stumbling and I just happened to be in the direction of his stumble.  Luckily I escaped unstabbed.  Another guy almost ran into me while walking his bike.

All in all, it was a much more exciting run than normal.  And on a running note, I have greatly improved since I got to Tucson.  Before I could barely run two miles in my minimalist shoes, but now I can run four.  I'm hoping that using minimalist shoes will move my legs from the "skinny" category into the "sexy" category.  But it may just be a pipe dream.

Note: at no point during my run on Saturday night was I drunk, nor have I ever been drunk.

Photos courtesy of:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sometimes I'm an Idiot

My friend Melissa got home from her mission in July 2011.  A month later I made the two hour drive from my parents’ house to her house.  It was the first time I had seen her in 18 months and I was excited to hang out.  When I got to her house she said, “I’ve got something really fun planned for us to do.  We’re going to bake cookies and take them to lonely people.”  I thought that was an awful idea and my words and mood made that evident.  I had just driven for two hours and now I was supposed to go visit lonely people that I didn’t know.  I was not a happy camper.  Melissa, however, would not be swayed and we baked a nice batch of chocolate chip cookies and visited some lonely people.

Melissa said that we were going to visit her new friend Karen.  On the drive over to Karen's house Melissa explained to me that she talks a lot.  I said, “So she’s weird?” and Melissa responded, “She just needs the gospel in her life.”  I was now even less interested in visiting this lonely stranger.  Karen was a member of the church, but hadn’t been active for quite some time.  I had a really bad attitude about the whole experience until we entered Karen’s home.  Melissa was right, not only did Karen talk a ton, but so did her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend was not a member of the church ans was not interested in it at all.  To make a complicated story very simple, by the time we left, Karen was making plans to return to church and her boyfriend had excitedly agreed to meet with the missionaries.  I was flabbergasted.

When Melissa and I left the house I said, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”  Melissa said, “Can we say a prayer?  I want to thank Heavenly Father for what just happened.”  I was a little surprised because my friends don’t usually ask me to say prayers of gratitude with them, but we did.  I was so amazed by the experience because our mere presence in their house had blessed their lives and I felt immensely stupid for not wanting to go earlier.  As we were talking about the experience on the drive home Melissa said, “For the rest of my life all I want to do is be an instrument in God’s hands.”  What she said is so simple and it gave me a new goal.

At that time I had just recently graduated from BYU and had not yet found a job.  For weeks I’d been telling people that all I wanted was to get a job.  I’d said, “All I want is to get a job,” so frequently and to so many people that when Melissa said, “All I want…” my mind immediately went to what I had been saying for weeks.  And then when she finished her sentence with, “… is be an instrument in God’s hands,” I felt a need to change.  My statement, contrasted with Melissa’s statement helped me to see how selfish I can be.  I’d been focusing on me and on what I need when I should have been focusing on others.

This is the story that ran through my mind as I watched the first session of General Conference this morning alone in my living room.  If you don’t know what General Conference is click here.  In the very first talk President Monson announced that a temple would be built in my new home of Tucson (you can watch that clip here).  It was a happy moment.  And then he announced a change in missionary policy.  Before, men could serve missions at the age of 19 and women at the age of 21.  Effective today, men can leave at age 18 and women at age 19.  I don’t cry much, but when President Monson announced this I started to cry.  They were tears of joy, of course.

While Melissa was on her mission her mom forwarded her weekly emails to me and I read them every week.  She was a marvelous missionary.  I currently have two very good female friends serving missions in Taiwan and Russia.  I read their emails home, too and they are stupendous missionaries.  They had both wanted to serve missions for years and couldn’t wait until they turned 21.  They would have left years earlier had they been able to.  And now, women don’t have to wait until they are 21.  I imagine a lot more women will be going on missions now.

When I was 18 and a freshman at BYU, my friend Aaron and I hiked to the Y on one of our first nights in Provo.  It was our first time living away from home and we talked a lot about the changes in our lives and how much we wanted to go on missions.  We both expressed that we didn’t want to wait until we were 19, we wanted to go right then.  I was really impatient and didn't want to have to wait any longer.  I felt ready for the challenge of a mission and couldn't wait to go.  Had I been allowed to leave when I was 18 I would have, but I had to wait six more months.  And now, those boys who are anxious to go out and serve don’t have to wait.  It’s so awesome.

This policy change is going to be an enormous blessing to the young people who serve missions and to the people of the world who will be taught by them.  I cried because this felt so right.  The army of Helaman (who missionaries are often compared to) has always been young, but it just got a little younger, and I imagine it’s going to grow a lot, too.  Today was a great day for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I’m pumped for the final two sessions of conference tomorrow.

The Morales family.  They are very happy people,
I promise.  Mexicans often don't make cheesy
smiles in pictures like Americans do.
Note: I was going to add a picture from my mission, but I realized that I don't have any digital copies of my mission pictures (that's right, I had an old fashioned camera back then).  So here's a picture from when I went back to visit my mission in 2009.  This is the Morales family, some of my favorite people in the whole world.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Backyard Bleating

My backyard is not landscaped at all.  Kevin, my roommate and landlord, isn’t interested in doing anything with it so it just sits there, growing weeds.  Since we live in the desert it’s mostly just dirt, but a large amount of grass has grown up around the edge of the porch.  Kevin cut it all down with a weed eater once, but then it grew back (as grass is wont to do).  The solution to growing grass?  Get a goat.
The offensively tall grass
Kevin's friend Luis recently bought a goat to eat the weeds in his backyard and keep the grass trimmed.  I’ve been to Luis’s house and the goat does a pretty stellar job.  The grass in our backyard has gotten pretty tall and Kevin didn’t want to cut it again so Luis offered to lend us his goat. 

I thought the whole idea of getting a goat was pretty silly since it would only take a few minutes to weed eat the grass, but I don’t own the house so I went along with it.  Once we got the goat, however, I was completely in favor of it.  Luis’s goat is a pygmy goat so he’s small, about the size of a dog, which makes him look very adorable.  I also enjoy looking out the kitchen window and watching him stare at me while he endlessly chews in a circular motion with grass hanging out of his mouth.  He really, really wants to come in the house and tries to follow us in every time we leave the backyard.  Yesterday after Kevin and I both came in he got up on his hind legs and started scratching at the doorknob.  My greatest fear is being realized, he’s learning how to open doors just like the raptors in Jurassic Park did. 
Here he is, eating the grass like a good little goat

He doesn't have a name, but I call him Plutarco
(it's an old Mexican name and it suits him)
The goat and I have become pretty good friends.  He spends all day alone in the backyard so I go out and pet him at least once a day.  He seems to really like me and follows me everywhere I go.  I exploit this for my own amusement.  Since I know he’s going to follow me I purposely walk over things that I know he’ll have to jump over because I like to see him jump.  A typical afternoon in the backyard includes me jumping over the tall grass, followed by the goat jumping over the grass, followed by me jumping back over the grass, followed by the goat jumping back over the grass, etc.  I wish I could say that we usually play this game until I get bored of it, but we usually play until the goat gets bored of it.
Just a friend coming to say hello

Today as I was trying to feed a handful of grass I had just picked to the goat, the thought came to my mind that my life is starting to resemble a foreign film.  The kind of movie where something quirky and unexpected happens to the protagonist, but there really is no story line or point to the film -- just a dude hanging out with a goat.

On a non-goat related note, we spent a few hours on Saturday "landscaping" the front yard with rocks.  Before the front yard had a wooden fence, a lot of dirt, and a fair number of weeds.  It reminded me of the wild west.  Now our yard is just rocks and while it looks cleaner, I can't help but think that it looks like a parking lot at corn maze.
Here's what the yard looked like before (looking from the porch)
Here's what it looks like now (looking from the street)

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Only Hope

Last Wednesday I was nominated for a position in SLATSA, my program’s student association.  I don’t know who nominated me or why, but it was a flattering surprise.  The position mostly involved fundraising and writing grant proposal which not only do I have zero experience in, but they don’t seem very fun either.  I emailed the SLATSA president and told him that I didn’t think I was the ideal candidate due to my lack of experience, but he told me to accept the nomination anyway.  So I did, but mostly because I don’t have a job and I need some way to support Thai food eating habit. 

Now that I was nominated I just had to win the election to get the position.  On Thursday I got the same email that everyone in my program received telling us how to vote.  The voting process involved six steps (including making a login name and password) and I wasn’t feeling up to the complicated voting procedure at the time so I put the email in my procrastination file (that means that I starred it for later). 

On Friday mornings I have a three hour long class with all the first years in my program.  We have a break in the middle of class that usually involves cookies.  As soon as the break started I stood up and exclaimed, “I love cookies so much!” as I walked to the cookie table.  While chomping down on my second or third cookie Hope walked up to me and said, “So I guess this is where we both wish each other luck on the election.”  I said, “Oh, you’re running, too?”  (I would have figured that out if I had already voted).  We chatted briefly about the position and it turns out that she didn’t feel super-qualified for it either. 

One of my friends in the class overheard my conversation with Hope and asked me why I was applying for the position.  I said, “I just need a way to earn some money,” to which he replied, “You do realize that it isn’t a paid job?”  No, actually, I hadn’t realized that.  You see, there was a different position on a different student council that was paid and I had gotten the two mixed up and had somehow agreed to do something that I didn’t want to do for free (and I wasn’t really that thrilled to do it for $12 an hour either).  I allowed myself to briefly feel like an idiot.

Newly infused with the power of three cookies and worried that I might have to do extra work for free, I came up with a plan to not win the election.  In all honesty, I probably didn’t need a plan because Hope is a phenomenal student and well liked by everyone and probably would have won anyway, but I came up with a plan nonetheless.  Hope was now my only hope of getting out of doing more work for zero dollars.  Our program isn’t super-big and considering the cumbersome voting process I assumed that few people would vote.  This meant that not winning would be easy.  Instead of giving my full attention to the lecture I took a few minutes to vote for Hope and then emailed Josh and told him to vote for Hope, too, which he did.  I assumed (and hoped) that those two votes would be enough to lose.  Later that night I received the following the email: “CONGRATULATIONS to HOPE for winning the position and thank you all for your support and participation." I was relieved, very relieved.  And plus, Hope will do a great job and it will look great on her resume and I can spend more time watching House Hunters International.  There was Hope for me.  Indeed, there is Hope for us all.   

Thursday, September 13, 2012

O Remember, Remember

One of my greatest regrets is that I didn't keep a better journal while I was on my mission in Mexico.  I did well at the beginning, but I got so busy that I decided I didn't have the time to write and so I stopped (I know, I know, I'm an idiot).  A few years later I was reading through my mission journal and I was surprised (and rather saddened) by how many experiences I had recorded that I had forgotten about entirely.  There were people that I named that I had no recollection of, but who at the time were important enough that I wrote about them.

Since that day I have thought a lot about forgetting.  I've heard people claim to have good memories, but the truth is that they don't know if they have good memories or not because no one can know what they've forgotten.  Around this time I heard a talk by Elder Eyring in which he urged us to write about how we saw the hand of God in our lives each day.  As a result of that talk I committed to write in my journal every day and I've been a faithful record keeper ever since.  I started out thinking that some day my children or grandchildren would be interested in reading about my life, but I've come to see that I'm the one who truly benefits.

Before I moved to Arizona I knew it would be hard at first and it has been hard, but it's been hard in different ways than I had expected.  A few days ago I was hit with some particularly bad news and I was feeling pretty down.  I decided to flip through one of my old journals and I found some entries that I had completely forgotten about that I had written when I was a camp counselor at EFY.  Remembering these experiences completely changed my mood from feeling sorry for myself to being grateful.  Maybe they won't mean anything to you because you didn't live these experiences, but they were poignant reminders to me.  Here are some out of context snippets from those entries:

8 June 2010, Tuesday
One thing that I want to remember is the dance competition from today.  About a dozen people danced in front of the entire session one at a time and we clapped for them.  The person that got the most applause won.  An autistic kid named Brad participated and he was really into his dance, but it wasn’t anything special.  For the first time I can remember I felt the Spirit at a dance because Brad got more cheers and applause than any other person.  The joy and excitement shone on his face.  I’m grateful for the amazing youth that made an autistic boy’s day by cheering and clapping for him and making him the dance competition winner.  

9 June 2010, Wednesday
I forgot to mention two things from the dance last night.  First, during a slow dance I asked a short, timid-looking girl to dance.  I had been dancing a lot that night and I was sweating pretty profusely and during the slow dance a mixture of sweat and sunscreen got into my eye.  My eye, being a very wise eye, started watering like crazy and I had to keep wiping tears off of my face.  It was a little embarrassing. 
When I was working at the water table a group of four girls came up to the table and one of them announced that she hadn’t been asked to dance all night.  I told her that it was probably because she was too pretty and the guys were intimidated by her beauty.  Her friend then gave me a high five.  Later that night I found that girl and asked her to dance.
Some of my EFY kids waiting for
something exciting to happen.

17 June 2010, Thursday
During the variety show today a blind girl named Erin Nightingale played a song she wrote on the piano.  I was blown away by how beautiful it was.  At the end the crowd gave her a standing ovation that she couldn’t see, but that we all felt.  
Tonight was the musical fireside and I was really nervous because I know how uplifting it can be and I was worried that my kids wouldn’t prepare themselves for it.  They did a great job being reverent and really felt the Spirit.  Before the program I was talking with Hayley, the only person from our group in the program, and she was saying that very few people were in the choir.  I told her not to worry, that angels would sing with them.  And they did.  

This next entry was after EFY when I was teaching Spanish at BYU.  I think the reason this entry touched me so much is that it's nice when others tell you that everything will be okay, but it's better to hear it from from yourself (well, a younger version of yourself).

29 June 2010, Tuesday
Squaw Peak -- my favorite hike in Provo
I was feeling a little depressed today with my lot in life so I decided to hike Squaw Peak to clear my head.  The hike up was tough and it was hot, but I was pretty much the only person on the trail so I had a lot of time to think.  The first song I listened to on my iPod was “I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me.”  And I felt very grateful because I really do know that He loves me.  It’s easy to forget how blessed we are and I think I’ve been forgetting too much lately.  It was nice to take some time to think and realize that despite my circumstances everything will be okay.  I know that everything will work out.  

More than sappy things, I try to record the funny things that happen.  Here's something funny (well, I think it's funny) that I wrote that I had completely forgotten about until I read it a few days ago.

14 March 2011, Monday
Today was Pi day so we wrote Pi-kus for FHE.  The first line has 3 syllable, the next has one, and the last has four (3.14).  Here are my two Pi-kus:
My first name, yo!

I don’t bake
Girls bake real good 

It was really great to reminisce and remember.  I really needed to read these entries and I'm glad that I wrote them.  Journals are way rad!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor Day Adventure

It's taller than me
On Labor Day 2011 I embarked on a 720 mile journey to begin were I had started. You can read about it here. This Labor Day I had another unexpected adventure.

Danielle and Amy invited me to go on a Labor Day hike with them to a place called Romero Pools north of Tucson. I brought my roommate Kevin along, but didn’t know the other nine people that went on the hike. Even though we left early in the morning it was incredibly hot. The hike was beautiful and I finally got the cliché picture that every non-Arizonan needs of hugging a cactus.  I've seen a lot of these pictures and typically the person "hugging" the cactus isn't even touching it.  I made sure to give my cactus a real hug.

Amy jumping in the water
There were a lot of people at the pools and we had a blast jumping from 20 foot ledges into the water and swimming around. While we were hanging out in one of the pools I stepped on something that felt unnaturally smooth. I pulled it out of the water and was surprised to see that it was a waterproof camera. The screen said, “Memory card full,” and the only thing on the camera was a 52 minute video. I played the video and it showed a guy yelling, “Anything is possible!” and then jumping 20 feet into the water with camera in hand which he promptly dropped on impact (that’s why it’s import to fasten the strap around your wrist). The camera kept recording and I could see the guy looking for the camera. He got really close a few times, but never found it. I asked a few people if it belonged to them, but no one claimed it. Not too much of a surprise considering it’d been at the bottom of a murky pool for more than an hour. I am now the owner of a Kodak underwater camera that I really have no use for.

You can barely see Donald and Charity in the back.
At this point we had no idea Donald was hurt.

The results of scouting (the stretcher, not the shirtless men)
After hanging out at the pools for about an hour we decided to head out. That’s when we noticed that Donald could barely walk. I have to admit that up to this point I’d never said a word to Donald or his girlfriend Charity. Apparently right we when arrived at the pools Donald accidently slipped down a rock and fell 10 feet. We didn’t know this at the time, but he had broken one ankle and sprained the other. Since we thought he had only twisted his ankle we decided to walk the three miles back to our cars (really didn't have any other choices). With much effort and with the help of the strong guys in the group (myself not included) Donald made it about a quarter of a mile. He couldn’t go any further and we realized we were in real trouble. The Eagle Scouts in the group (once again, myself not included) fashioned a stretcher for him out of the trunks of two century plants and our t-shirts. It was pretty ingenious. However, the narrow trail and extreme heat quickly convinced us that we weren’t going to make it back. We made it about 100 yards then camped out under a tree.

Charity called the park services and they said they were sending someone up who would be there in about an hour. We were expecting someone to come up with a real stretcher so we could carry Donald down the mountain. An hour and forty minutes later a sheriff (I think that’s who he said he was) showed up with a medic. The medic hung an IV bag from the tree were sitting under and gave Donald some morphine. And then he said that a helicopter would be coming soon to pick him up and take him to the hospital. Now, you’ve got to understand that it’s pretty hard to break the spirits of 13 Mormons and even though we were in the midst of a tragedy we had a pretty good time hanging out under that tree (except for Donald, of course, who was in excruciating pain). And when we saw a helicopter show up, circle around us, and then land on hill close to us you’d think it was Christmas morning.  It was pretty cool.

Christmas morning
They loaded Donald up on the chopper and whisked him off to safety.  The helicopter wasn't super-wide and we could see Donald's legs hanging out the door as they flew away.  As soon as Donald was gone Charity bolted off down the hill so she could meet him at the hospital. That left the 11 of us with nothing to whisk us away and we had some problems of our own. We had planned on a three hour hike and had now been gone for nearly seven hours. I thought I had been smart taking two liters of water, but my water and everyone else’s was gone. As we started to trek down the mountain we encountered volunteers with backpacks full of cold water and Gatorade who were there just to help us. I quickly downed a few bottles of water and felt very refreshed, but then more and more volunteers showed up offering us water. I started to politely decline the water only to be told, “Don’t make me carry this back down the mountain!” So I took the water with a grateful smile and just stuffed it in my backpack. I ended up drinking six or seven bottles and had four in my backpack. They brought A LOT of water.

"Let's pretend like we're friends." -Amy Flood
When we got to the trail head we saw a news truck, ambulances, and fire trucks, all for us. It was a bit overwhelming and a little unnecessary, but they just wanted to make sure we were all okay. They took everyone’s vitals and I had low blood pressure (97 over 70), but I felt fine. They told me to drink more water. Mostly, I was just hungry. I had expected to be home at noon at it was now 5pm and all I’d eaten that day was a bowl of cereal and a granola bar. I counted over 50 people including medics, parks service people, and volunteers who had helped us that day. I had not realized that we were such a big deal. There was even a story about us on the news.  Here's a link to the news story.  However, in classic news fashion the story had one glaring error.  The reporter said that Donald jumped into shallow water, but he had fallen not jumped and he didn't even land in water.  The story makes us seem like careless people when in reality we are carefree people.

Also, after four years of blogging I just learned how to add captions to my photos.  Yes, I'm that tech-savy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Five People You Will Meet in Arizona

(1) The negative Nellie at the grocery story

I’ve moved to new places multiple times and it’s always a little lonely at first, but then after a month or so it gets awesome. My third day in Tucson I was feeling rather stressed about not getting the job I had wanted and not having any furniture in me bedroom or food in my cupboards. I went grocery shopping which for some reason was making me feel even more stress (probably because grocery shopping leads to cooking which I don't really care for). As I was paying for my groceries the cashier, an annoyed looking older woman, asked me, “Why are you so happy?” The question caught me off guard because I was really stressed at that precise moment and did not think that I had a smile on my face, but I responded, “I just moved to Tucson! And I’m happy to be here.” She gave me a look that said, “Are you crazy, hun?” She then proceeded to tell me how hot it is, how her hometown of San Diego is better and her dumb husband never should have made her move to Tucson, but how I would love the weather in the winter. The lady in line behind me chimed in and told me that the winters really are beautiful and that I would love it here. The cashier complained a little bit more and I just smiled and nodded at this surprisingly chatty cashier. As I was leaving I thanked the cashier and she said in a slightly chipper tone, “Welcome to Tucson.” Yes, welcome indeed.

(2) The wise old man and (3) his wife

In an effort to make friends I’ve been going to almost every activity that I’ve been invited to; even things that I would usually say no to. One such activity was singing at a retirement home (I’ve actually said no to such outings on multiple occasions). After singing seven songs or so the lady in charge said, “Okay, go mingle!” and we were supposed to mingle with the old folks. I ended up talking to this nice old man and his wife who were originally from North Carolina. I asked him how long they’d been married and he said 69 years. I told him that I’d have to live to be nearly one hundred to be married for 69 years. He just laughed and told me that I was still very young. Then I asked, “So what’s your secret? How have you been married for so long?” After thinking for a moment he responded in a matter of fact voice, “Give in,” and then he laughed. I think that’s good advice. Most things aren’t worth fighting about.

(4) The Monopoly man

I was at a party for all the new students in my program on Saturday and one of my colleagues brought her “friend” from Atlantic City who I’m pretty sure is actually a little more than that. I asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a real estate agent. Anyone who is well informed and who knows me really well will understand why his occupation was thrilling to me. You see, I was obsessed with the game Monopoly as a teenager and the properties in the game are named after real places in Atlantic City. I tried not to sound too excited as I realized that I was talking to a real life Rich Uncle Pennybags. He told me that he had even sold some properties on the streets mentioned in Monopoly. I tried not to grin with delight at this information because I had just met this man and did not want to seem like a crazy monopoly fanatic so I contorted my face into an expression that said, “That’s cool, I guess.” I wanted to ask if the houses he sold were little, green, and made of plastic, but that might have been a little too charming. Unlike the cartoon Rich Uncle Pennybags the real one did not have a top hat or a mustache. Instead, his tattoos, hip clothing, and overly tanned skin made him look more like a 50 year old trying appear 25.

(5) That girl from the blog

When my cousin’s wife Angie found out I was moving to Arizona she told me that I should take out her friend who lives in Phoenix. Angie sent me a link to her friend’s blog so that I could stalk her and see what she was like. I clicked on the link and read some of a post, but didn’t read much because Phoenix and Tucson are two hours apart and that seemed like too long of a drive for a date.

Last night I just happened to be in Phoenix eating dinner at Café Rio with my friend Megan from BYU. As we were eating, Megan’s friend Erin unexpectedly showed up. They briefly chatted about something and then Megan said, “This is my friend Ben,” and Erin and I shook hands. Then Erin said, “I think we’ve blogged stalked each other.” At this moment I was confused, really confused because I had no idea who this woman was and did not know why she knew me. Sensing my bewilderment she said, “I’m Angie’s friend,” and then instead of feeling confused I felt embarrassed for never writing to this girl. As we chatted another guy walked up to our table and said, “Excuse me, did you go to BYU? You look so familiar.” This was too much, I wasn’t supposed to know anyone in this state and suddenly two random people recognize me at Café Rio! It turns out that that guy (whose name escapes me) was sitting at the same table as Erin. They had spotted me minutes before and had decided that it would be funny for him to say that he knew me too, even though he didn’t. But as we chatted we realized that we really did know each other from a Spanish class we’d taken together.

I was going to tell another story about a Turkish man I met who told me that ben in Turkish means mole by pointing out a mole on a shy girl’s face, but this post is already long. Apparently he nearly laughed when I said, "Hi, I'm Ben." So come to Arizona, there are lots of interesting people to meet here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Have A Cactus for A Neighbor

I made it to Arizona! My drive from Provo to Tucson was rather uneventful, but fun. I didn’t realize how little there is between those two cities. As I was driving through Sulphurdale, Utah I decided to call my friend Allison (not because she smells like sulfur). She didn’t answer, but called me back a short time later. I was driving through a mountainous area and she kept cutting in and out so I told her I’d call her back in few minutes when I had better service. I then lost service completely and when I get service again it said I was roaming. I didn’t get real service until I reached Flagstaff, AZ about five hours later. So when I said, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes,” I really meant “hours.”

When I crossed the border into Arizona I saw the scenery I had expect: rocks, sand, desert vegetation. Like this:

After driving for a while I went up this winding hill and when I got to the top I was surrounded by grass and trees. Apparently there’s a forest in northern Arizona. Who knew? I didn’t.

I got to my new house around 9:30 on Saturday night and met my new roommates. They're both cool and Mexican (those are usually synonymous to me). I had seen pictures of my house before I got there and it looked really, really small. And honestly, it is small, but much larger than it looked in the pictures. I really like it. I haven't gotten any furniture for my bedroom yet so it's just a mess of boxes and my super-comfortable cot.

Tucson looks nothing like Washington, but I'm already liking it. And the coolest part is that I live across the street from a cactus. Here's the view from my front porch:

Based on advice from friends, I will not try to become friends with the cactus by hugging her (obviously she's a girl).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Half Way to AZ

Phase II of my move to Arizona has included a few days hanging out with my college friends in Provo, Utah. To be efficient in my visits I stopped and visited friends along the way to Provo to avoid backtracking stopping in Salt Lake, Taylorsville, and Pleasant Grove before arriving in Provo.

The Reasor girls and I had a delicious lunch at Ruth’s Diner in Emigration Canyon. It was super-delicioso. As I pulled out my wallet to pay my bill Courtlin said, “That’s your wallet? It looks like a teenage boy’s wallet.” She was right, it was a teenage boy’s wallet – me as a teenage boy. I got the wallet when I was 14 or 15 and have used it ever since. For years now I’ve been meaning to upgrade to a more adult wallet, but buying a new wallet is so easy to put off until tomorrow and tomorrow turned into multiple years. The wallet still holds all my stuff, but it isn't in very good shape. The Velcro doesn't work any more and the plastic sleeve for my ID ripped a long time ago. Both Jordan and Courtlin insisted that I buy a new wallet that very day even going so far as to say that my wallet is the reason I’m not married. They assumed any girl who saw her date pull out a wallet like mine to pay for dinner would run for the hills. On a side note, I’ve been getting a lot of “you’re not married because” comments lately. I’ve recently been told that I’m not married because I shop at Old Navy, I don’t buy girls popcorn at the movies, and my hair is graying.

Here's my outdated, teenage wallet.

Here’s my nifty new wallet.

Last night I went out to dinner with Sean, Cari Sue, Josh, and Kelsee. I told them my exciting story about buying a new wallet (it was exciting, right?) and Josh said, “Why’d you get a new wallet? Quiksilver is a cool brand. Seventh graders love it.” So yes, getting a new wallet was way overdue.

I met up with Marcie Glad a few days ago. She told me that since I showed her all around Seattle she was going to show me the sites of Provo. When she said this I said, “Uh, I lived here for six years. I think I’ve seen everything already.” She managed to find a fun toy store that I didn’t know existed and we ran through the new fountains at the Riverwoods. We visited some other places that I’d already been and Marcie recounted the history of the area for me. It was very fun.

My friend Melissa from Washington was in Provo for the summer taking a Portuguese course. She went back to Washington yesterday and had a going away breakfast that included pancakes, French toast, egg muffins, and a really delicious food that I had never tried before that is basically a peanut butter sandwich turned into French toast. I was awakened yesterday by a text from Melissa. She had forgotten to buy some stuff at the store and asked me to pick those items up on my way over to her house. She treats me like her husband. She had forgotten to get bread, milk, eggs, plates, and cups. When I got this text I asked myself, what did she remember to buy? As I was driving to the store she asked me to pick up syrup too. I didn’t mind and I was happy to help. Apparently the French toast ingredient she remembered was the cinnamon.

I’ve had such a blast this week hanging out with my old friends. And I apologize for not mentioning everyone on my blog. My friends here are awesome, and funny, and I appreciate them so much. Provo feels like home.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Forgetting Knitting

I left my beloved Washington yesterday and am currently in Boise visiting my friend Tim. Tomorrow I'm off to Utah for a few days and then my final destination of Arizona. Washington really likes to rub in my face how awesome it can be whenever I abandon it for another state. For instance, when I moved to Utah in 2009 to start my master’s it had been in the 70s and sunny for almost three weeks straight and yesterday as I drove away it was sunny and beautiful again. I felt less bad about leaving Washington, however, when I reached Ellensburg and there were suddenly no more trees. While I love how pretty Washington is, I’m mostly going to miss it because of all of the awesome folks that live there (my folks in particular). Washington will always be home.

Before I left Washington I spent four days at Fort Flagler with 31 of my closest friends. It was quite a motley crew of children, retirees, young adults, regular adults, and two pregnant women. We had a blast. Some of my women friends are really, really into knitting and someone was knitting almost the entire time (Megan is going to make Lisa a pair of Mitt Romney mittens. I said they should call them Mittens Romney).

While I was reading on my Kindle, Carolyn said to me, “Would you like to learn how to knit?” I was a little caught off guard, but said that I would. Why not, right? She handed me the knitting needles (which I briefly used to pretend that I was leading an orchestra) and explained how knitting works. It was really complicated at first and strained my brain.

Then I got the hang of it and a proud smile emerged on my face. An even prouder smile surfaced on Carolyn’s (but I have photographic proof of that).

And this is what my creation looked like. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be.

I don’t see knitting in my future, but it was fun learning how to do it. And unfortunately, I think I’ve already forgotten how to do it. It looks like I won’t be wearing any Mittens Romney this winter.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm Glad You Visited

Marcie Glad, my friend from BYU who looks great in headbands, came up for a visit last weekend. Marcie is the best person to show around town because she was super-excited to see everything.

One of Marcie’s must see locations was the gum wall at the Pike Place Market. She doesn’t have a camera and I didn’t bring one so we had to take pictures with our minds and our cheap cell phones. Marcie planned ahead and brought gum for us to deposit on the wall which I had never done despite the many times I’ve visited the gum wall. After getting our picture taken with Marcie’s flip phone and depositing our gum on the wall, a German girl traveling alone asked us to take of picture of her. Marcie took her camera and said, “Would you like some gum?” and the girl accepted. We then awkwardly stood around for what felt like two minutes watching a stranger chomp on a piece of gum until it was wet enough and stretching enough to be blown into a bubble. Marcie snapped a picture of the girl blowing a disappointingly small bubble and another of her placing her gum on the wall and then we parted ways.

While at the Pike Place Market we bought some of those little donuts that I love to eat. The place only takes cash and we were a little short on change so we paid the difference with a stick of apple pie flavored gum (you can taste the crust!). The guys working there were the coolest donut people ever.

We then went to the observation deck on the Columbia Tower, the tallest building in Washington. As we walked around admiring the view we saw a sign that said: “Quiet please. Recording in progress.” Turns out there’s a radio station up there. The door to the recording studio was wide open (if they want quiet they should shut the door) and we could hear a woman giving traffic updates. At one point the woman walked out of the recording booth with some binoculars to peer on the traffic situation below. We struck up a conversation with her which was fascinating. We learned that she works for multiple stations and has a few pseudonyms, but her real name is Bev. She also taught us that Seattle has the 4th worst traffic in the nation. She was super-kind to us and we were a little star struck after, but only a little because we’d never heard of her. Later that night we were talking to Chantelle and we told her that we’d met some traffic lady named Bev and she said, “Oh, Bev Devlin! I listen to her all the time!” I was surprised that someone knew who Bev was and I instantly felt 10 times cooler for having spoken with the illustrious Bev Devlin.

Me, Marcie, Tyler, and Chantelle at the beach

The next day Marcie and I drove up north to see Mt. Erie and Deception Pass. I took my camera along so we actually have some pictures of that outing. Mt. Erie is great because you can drive to the top. There were a lot of elderly folk up there. Marcie really liked Deception Pass because she saw a crab.

Marcie standing in the ocean next to a crab at Deception Pass

All in all, we had a blast last weekend and I’m glad (pun intended) that Marcie came to visit.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parting Words

In August I’ll be moving to Tucson where I don't know anyone. Since no one there knows me, I thought it might be fun to change something about myself. I discussed changing my name with some friends and the top contenders for my new title were Benny, Benji, Benjamin, and B-dog. Referring to myself as Benny or Benji makes me feel like a little kid, Benjamin sounds like I take myself too seriously, and B-dog makes me sound like a tool. I’ve decided to stick with Ben.

Someone suggested that I consider dressing differently (a very subtle hint), but that would cost way more money than I’m willing to spend. As Suze Orman would say: Denied! My frugality (aka Scrooge McDuckery) is something that I don’t plan on changing.

There is, however, something that I might change – my hair. And no, I’m not going to dye it, just grownupfy it. I’ve been spiking my hair for many years and now that I’ve passed from my mid-twenties to my late twenties it might be time to have a more adult hairdo. Last week I started parting my hair and asking people what they thought. My mom and my aunt loved it, absolutely loved it. That was encouraging. On Friday I went to a bonfire hosted by a 19 year old girl from church. The 19 year old’s 15 year old sister and her friend were there (as well as people my age too). All three of them agreed that the part made me look too old (I would have assumed that the grey hairs would have already done that). I went into the bathroom and spiked my hair and they liked it a lot better. That was discouraging.

This left me with a tough decision: do I try and attract 60 year old women with parted hair or teenage girls with spiked hair? Neither option was very appealing. I parted my hair today and when I got home from church my brother and sister-in-law were at the house and they both raved about how much they loved my hair. Jay even said that he wanted to part his hair like mine. That was not the reaction that I was expecting from my brother because he’s already so handsome (just ask my mother). And I really respect my sister-in-law's opinion especially since she was smart enough to marry my brother. So it looks like the part may be here to stay, but I’ll let you judge for yourselves. Here’s a picture of me with my hair spiked last summer in Portugal.

Here’s a picture that I took for this blog post. I have to admit that I’ve always thought it was a little tacky when people take pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror, but I couldn’t think of a better way to get a picture of my hair. I apologize for being a tacky hypocrite.

I also may try using a new word when I move to Tucson. I’ve been trying to reintroduce the word rad back into popular usage for years and it hasn’t caught on. I think it’s time to give up on that one.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Life with Jay

On the last day of school not only did I have to wrap up the school year (maybe next year I'll rap up the school year), but I also moved out of my house and flew to New York. It was a busy day, but the trip to the east coast with my family was supreme. One of my favorite parts of the trip was spending time with my brother Jay (I can talk about him on my blog because I know he doesn’t read it). He’s five years older than me, got married at 23 and has five kids ages 9 to 1. We see each other frequently, but our lives are very different. I find it a lot easier to relate to Lindsay since we’re at a similar stage in our lives. When I see Jay he’s usually fulfilling his roles as husband and father and it was great to spend time with him as my brother and just have fun together. I hate to admit it, but Jay is the funniest Schilaty and thanks to his wittiness the two of us created numerous inside jokes during our east coast adventure.

New York City doesn’t have a lot of public restrooms. I’ve learned on my travels that when there is no public bathroom, you can always find a free bathroom in McDonald’s. Unfortunately I have the bladder of a pregnant woman so we stopped by many McDonald’s as well as other restaurants. Sometimes we bought food and sometimes we didn’t which made us feel a little shameful. We came up with some terms to describe using a restroom without buying food. Here are my favorites: sneak a leak, duke and dash, relieve and leave.

When we were in Washington, DC we were on our way to take a tour of the Capitol building. I was driving our rental car and the closest place to park it was at Union Station which is a few blocks away. We had just arrived from a five hour road trip and Jay and I both had to use the bathroom pretty bad. The GPS took us down a busy road with lots of construction and it took forever. By the time we got close to Union Station my potty situation was at emergency levels and I just wanted to park the car and find a bathroom. There’s a roundabout in front of the station and I wasn’t sure which way to go. I was also driving an SUV which was nerve racking in the city because I’m not used to driving such a big vehicle and taxi drivers were doing all kinds of aggressive maneuvers around me. I missed the parking lot entrance and had to circle around the roundabout again. I was freaking out and Jay was saying all kinds of funny things and telling me to be more aggressive so I yelled, “Stop being funny! You’re gonna make me pee my pants!” That, of course, made us laugh like crazy and it was only with great willpower that I managed to not wet myself.

We finally got to the parking garage and had to park on the top floor. I did a poor job parking and I usually would have reparked, but there was no time. Jay had to go to the bathroom really badly too and when we got on the elevator we both looked at each other, saw the pained looks on each other's faces and burst into laughter. I nearly lost it, but somehow maintained my composure. We made it to the restrooms and – relief.

Jay and I during the Capitol tour.

As we walked around the Capitol whenever we passed someone in a suit we’d say, “Hello, congressman,” or “Good afternoon, senator.” Addressing strangers as congressman and senator really gave us the giggles. Ironically, when we were in the Supreme Court building, Justice Sonia Sotomayor walked right by us. Instead of saying, “Hello, Justice Sotomayor,” all I managed to say was, “Isn’t that Sonia Sotomayor?” and then she was gone. It’s a pity that I addressed many non-congressmen as congressman yet couldn’t appropriately greet the only Supreme Court justice that I would actually recognize. Still, seeing her in person was awesome.

Jay, myself and Lindsay in front of the Capitol.

On two different days two different people came up to Jay and me and said, “Are you two twins?” This was both a compliment and an insult. A compliment because Jay is very handsome (just ask my mother) and an insult because Jay is 33 and how dare they insinuate that I look like I’m 33! I’ll admit that we do look a lot alike, but twins? I don’t think so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I have a pair of shoes and a pair of slacks that I frequently wear to school (too frequently, actually). A few weeks ago the shoes started falling apart and the pants started to fray. I thought about replacing them, but the school year is so close to being done that I decided to not worry about looking a little shabby. There are only three days left in the school year and I feel very much like my clothes – worn out. It’s been a good year, but I’m really exhausted and I’m ready for reduced-stress summer.

I never planned for this to happen, but a lot of my students read my blog. Apparently it’s seen as a great honor to be mentioned by me on the internet. Occasionally students will come to class saying that I mentioned them on my blog, but unfortunately more than once a student has been mistaken thinking that I was talking about them when I wasn’t. One of the pitfalls of anonymity.

One of my students tells me almost every day to write about her on my blog. One conversation went something like this:
Student: Write about me on your blog!
Me: No.
Student: Why not?!
Me: You have to do something funny or interesting to end up on my blog.
Student: But I am funny and interesting.
Me: That’s true, but you haven’t done anything blog worthy yet.

She later told me a gross story from her childhood hoping that I would think it was funny and put it on my blog. It wasn’t that funny and I won’t be writing about it.

After writing my last post about karaoke in my car I told this student that I had written about her. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, I wrote about you on my blog.
Student: Really?
Me: Yeah, I wrote about how Asians like karaoke.
Student: That’s a racist stereotype!
Me: Do you like karaoke?
Student: Well, yeah.
Me: I told you, I wrote about you. You’re an Asian who likes karaoke.

I was trying to be annoying and judging from her reaction I was rather successful. Here’s a limerick I just wrote about karaoke:

I don’t like to sing karaoke
I can only sing in a low key
I don’t like to perform
It’s out of my norm
And I’m sure to pick a song that is hokey

I feel like each of my classes likes me progressively less. My first class absolutely adores me and my last class basically hates me. The other two periods fall somewhere in between. If I had a dollar for every time a student in my last class rolled their eyes, told me I was being unfair, or complained about my class I would have enough money for my tuition next year. At the opposite end of the spectrum, students from my first class often try to hug me or squeeze my bicep. It feels weird to be so loved and so despised every day, but that’s my reality. Two girls from my first class made me a huge poster that says “We’ll miss you Señor Schilaty” and had everyone in the class sign it. It was really heartwarming and they even spelled Schilaty correctly.

One girl wrote: “You’re great. Just great. I’m going to miss you so much. You are such a great teacher and I learned so much from you! Umm, yeah. Have a good summer in Arizona! Go on!

I particularly liked the “Umm, yeah.” It's usually not necessary to write pauses like that.

Another girl wrote: “Don’t go to stupid Arizona! Since you are so pale you need to apply a lot of sunscreen like 110 SPF!” and pale skin. In the nine months my students have known me it appears that they will remember me as a single albino. They are very perceptive and I’m going to miss them.