Thursday, December 25, 2008

So This Is Christmas

Tuesday night I was watching the kids and decided to put on a Christmas special for them while I made dinner. I put on "The Little Drummer Boy". My oldest watched a couple of minutes and said:

Dad, this isn't a Christmas special it's a movie on the birth of Jesus.

I explained to him that this was the real meaning of Christmas, that we celebrate the birth of our Savior. During this time there is one Christmas Carol that I love more than any other. It is "Oh Holy Night". The words to the song are thus:

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Behold your King.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Today is Christmas and this carol states how I feel about my Savior. The world waited for Him in sin and error, so much so that when He came He had to correct the errors of the day. Those who had looked for His coming did rejoice and there was new hope from His birth. The three wise men came from the East to herald the day of His birth. The gifts they brought him were specially for Him and for His life's mission. He began life in a lowly manger so that when He lifted Himself up He could reach down and lift us as well. He is our friend, the best friend anyone can have and is always there for us. He taught us the true meaning of love and peace. He broke the chains that have held us all slave to sin if we will just follow Him. The lessons taught by Him, if followed, would bring an end to all oppression. So I echo with this song:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

I hope that all who read these words will enjoy this celebration of the birth of the Savior. If you do not believe that Jesus is the Christ I hope that there is peace in your home and that there is joy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


R E S P E C T find out what it means to me.
- Aretha Franklin

When I was 10 or 11 I learned a very important lesson on respect. The lesson was taught to me by my Grandfather. We were at his house and he had a miniature pool table. I was playing when my Mom announced it was time to go. I told her that I was going to finish the game and then I'd be out. My Grandfather was right next to me when I said it. He reached over and grabbed my arm and said "You will go when your Mom says it's time to go". There was no arguing with Grandpa. I learned that I needed to respect my Mom and listen to her when she says something. This is something I have never forgotten.

Every week I play basketball with some guys from the neighborhood in a local church. There are times when some youth from the area play with us. Last night was one such occasion. The young man had to be in 9th grade and was pretty good. We play from 8:30 to 10:00PM which gets us a decent amount of exercise. We were playing our last game when a woman comes in and sits down. I was wondering who it was and then figured out it was this youth's mom. At 10:05 the mom stands up and walks to the door of the Gym and calls her son and says it's time to go. The youth was on my team and I was bringing the ball down the court. I looked at the youth and he was going to play on. I stopped right where I was and said "No, when Mom says it's time to go, it's time to go." I stopped dribbling (we were playing with his ball) and started walking to get my stuff. No one else said anything (most of the guys are fathers). The youth's mom thanked me for backing her up. I can only hope the young man got the point and will remember this moment as I remember that time with my Grandpa.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Day for Baptism

Saturday was a special day in our home. Our oldest son was baptized. This is a wonderful time for our family as we get to participate in an event that is significant to our religion. In our religion everyone is eligible for baptism when they are 8 years old. Levi turned 8 the first week of December and last Saturday was the day for him to be baptized. The process for baptism is pretty simple. The candidate (Levi in this case) meets with the Bishop of the ward (local congregation) and is asked some questions about baptism. Once the interview is completed the Bishop gives his approval and the baptism is scheduled.

In our Church men are able to hold the Priesthood and as such can perform baptisms. I have the privilege of holding the Priesthood and being able to baptize those that are eligible. I am also the first member of my family to be able to do so and this made this day even more special for me.

The day started a little worrisome. Levi actually woke up not feeling well. He did get sick at one point and looked at me disheartened and said "Now I won't be able to be baptized!". I looked at him and said we had a few hours before the baptism was to take place and that we would see how he felt. Levi rested and was feeling better when it was time to get ready. He had a new tie, new pants and a tie tack from his birth mother (you'll recall all our children are adopted) for the occasion.

When we arrived we went to the back of the church where the baptismal font is located in order to get our white baptism clothes. Levi was able to be baptized the same day as three of his friends and we all were getting our clothes together. After changing into our baptism clothes we moved to the Chapel where the meeting would take place. Levi's Grandpa gave a discourse on baptism to explain what baptism means and what would happen spiritually as a result of being baptized. After the discourse we moved back to the baptismal font where I had the opportunity to lead Levi into the water and perform the baptism. I have to admit it took me a minute to start as I got choked up when trying to perform the baptism. Once I had gathered myself I performed the baptism and it went flawlessly. We baptize by immersion meaning that the person who is being baptized is placed completely beneath the water for it to count. Levi was awesome and did what he needed to to ensure that we did not have re-do the baptism.

After performing the baptism we dried off and changed into our Sunday clothes. The ceremony was not yet complete at this point as we had one more piece to perform. Once a person has been baptized he/she is then confirmed a member of the church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Once all three baptisms were performed we went back into the chapel where one of Levi's friend's grandmother gave a discourse on the Holy Ghost. Then it was my privilege to confirm Levi a member of the Church and give him the Gift of the Holy Ghost and place upon him a blessing.

After all the confirmations were completed the Bishop gave a few remarks and then the meeting closed. Levi was very happy and we all congratulated him on his choice to be baptized. We came home where we had some friends come over who attended his baptism and enjoy lunch together. Levi also got some baptism gifts that he was thrilled about. One gift in particular was a journal that he could write in and keep his thoughts on life. Levi took the time to write about his baptism in it.

All in all it was a great day and I'm grateful that I could be a part of it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Of Comedy and Courtesy

So this week I went on a short trip to San Francisco (Richmond) California for business. The business meetings were great, the other parts of the trip? Well let's just say it was a real weird ride.

The trip was to start by leaving the airport at 8:40AM, I get to the airport with plenty of time and the first sign that this trip wasn't going to be normal should have been the gate change. Now this time of year you usually get a fog delay in San Fran and sure enough we got one. So we land a 1/2 hour late. While walking to the end of the terminal (I had to meet a colleague in the airport before traveling to the meetings) I passed a woman who was taking her phone out of her purse. When she did that I noticed a piece of paper fall out. I was going to continue when I noticed that the paper was colored and stopped to pick it up. Sure enough it was a $10 bill. I quickly caught up to the lady, tapped her on the shoulder and told her that she dropped this. She looked at me and said "Thank you that's sweet". I continued on hoping that she would do something nice for someone that day as well.

My colleague's plane was also delayed so I spent an hour reading in the airport. He arrived and we went to a restaurant in the airport to get some lunch since it wasn't being provided at our meetings. There was no host to seat us, but a server waved us in and put us in his area. We ordered some soda and then started to look over the menu. The server returned after a while and took our order. The guy was definitely going through the motions and was not attentive at all. This should have been another sign that this trip was going to be out of the ordinary. We headed out to see if a shuttle was available to take us to Richmond. The guy explained all the delays and we decided it would be more than an hour before we would get to our meetings and that wasn't an option. So we decided to take a taxi. We get to the taxi line and the coordinator points us to the first taxi in line. The lady driver was very talkative and was driving a "Green" car. She didn't know if our destination would require us to pay 1 1/2 times the meter rate but at this point we didn't have an option. She then programmed in the address of our meetings into her GPS system and headed out. At this point I have to ask if you've ever ridden in a bumper car at a fair or other amusement park? If so you'll know what our ride was like. The driver was checking the GPS to see the visual instructions and in doing so was wobbling the steering wheel which meant we kept rocking. It didn't help that the TomTom was telling her to turn left when the arrows were pointing right. We eventually get to our destination and were very glad to be out of that particular car.

Our meetings went well and afterward we headed to the hotel to check-in, put our stuff down and then head to dinner. I get to the desk to check-in, the guy wasn't the friendliest, but whatever. He tells me I'm in 1211 and points me to the elevators. On arriving at the room I notice that the room is alone, meaning the door to the next room isn't immediately next door as the other rooms were. I walk in to the room and notice that there is a flat-screen TV, a couch, two chairs and a 6 person conference table. There's one problem, NO BED! So I called down to the front desk and a nice lady by the name of Victoria answered. The conversation went as follows:

Me: I have a strange question, but where is my bed?
Victoria: Oh you're in the Parlor Suite sir, you have a sofa bed.
Victoria: Did you get your breakfast coupons?
Me: No
Victoria: I'll have some run up to you
Me: Thanks

Wait, I have a what? I'm paying $180/night for a pull-out bed? Unbelievable. Then I remembered that when I was checking in another hostess was telling someone that the hotel was sold-out for the night. I'm now stuck. So I head down and explain this to all my colleagues. Yes I got laughed at and yes it was deserved. Now I'm not tall, 5'9", but this fold-out sofa bed required me to sleep on it diagonally in order to not have my feet hang off the end. Needless to say that that night was not very restful.

The next day's meeting were fine, but my ordeal had not ended. We got a town car to take us to the airport and nothing weird happened during this ride to the airport. We ate lunch and then I headed to my gate for a long wait (airline wanted to re-issue the ticket to get me on an earlier flight and it was not worth the cash). Finally the time came to start boarding. While waiting for the flight a young lady and her daughter came and sat near me. I noticed her because she was limping. They called her name at the gate and came over and ordered a wheelchair for her. We are sitting right by the gate where boarding was to occur. The lady pushing the wheelchair arrives and this mom says that the chair is for her. The lady pushing the wheelchair laughs and begins to check her cell phone for the name of the passenger she is to take onto the plane. Needless to say I was miffed. I looked at the lady and said "that is for her" in one of my most disgusted tones. The lady looked and me and said "oh". She didn't even apologize to the mom! The mom thanked me and boarded the plane. I thought that this was going to be the last of the weirdness and non-courtesy of the trip. Mr. Murphy had other ideas.

The flight was not full, but I noticed right away that the seats were different colors in different sections. One section was a blue-gray color, this was towards the front of the plane. The back section had seats that were colored a brighter blue. The flight attendant gets on once the door is closed and explains that the gray colored seats are "premium" seats and that they cost more and that we were allowed to move seats as long as we didn't move from the blue seats to the gray seats because these seats "cost" more. I sat there and shook my head. Now this crew was not the greatest in the world. We take off and after a time the pilot rings the bell two times. This usually means that it is OK to turn on the approved electronics (can you tell I've flown often?). Anyways, I start to pull out my iPod when I realize that the crew has not made an announcement about the use of approved electronics. In fact they never did make that announcement. I waited until the drink cart started going up the aisle before turning on my iPod. The flight continued without incident and we land in Phoenix. The wheels hit the ground, we slow down and start taxiing to the gate. However the Crew did not welcome us to Phoenix, nor inform us that it was safe to use cell phones. Now I know that we landed after 10PM but still it was weird that the Crew did not make the standard announcements. Here I thought was the end of this strange trip, however there was one more thing waiting for me.

I get to the airport parking bus and take it to my stop. I'm walking from the stop to my car when I notice a pair of boots by a pick-up truck sitting there as if the person who had been wearing them had been lifted from them. Well this is an airport and strange things are supposed to be reported. So I went into a line that had an attendant for paying my parking. I explained what I saw to the attendant and where to find the boots. She thanked me and seemed a little surprised that someone actually reported something strange.

I got home and explained everything to my wife. What a weird strange trip that I think I will laugh about for days to come.

How Blessed We Are

As many of you know our oldest son is high-functioning Autistic. With this comes various therapies including physical therapy. A couple of weeks ago he started a new physical therapy that involves riding and taking care of horses. Last Saturday I had the privilege of taking him to his therapy. This is where I realized how blessed we really are. You see having a high-functioning Autistic child is hard, but it seems to me to be a little easier than those who are not as high-functioning.

As he and I were waiting for his turn there was another young lady (I want to say 16 or so) was waiting. She seemed to be high-functioning Autistic and pretty well "mainstreamed". I could see Levi being similar to her when he gets to her age. At this point Levi went back to his therapy while I waited in the waiting room.

The next child to come in was a 12 year old boy with his mom and two brothers. He was less functioning than Levi. He did not say a word and was definitely more "difficult" to handle than Levi. I looked at him and looked at his mother with admiration. Here was a family who had struggled with this young man but that did not change the amount of love shown to the boy or the amount of love he has for them. I said a quiet prayer of thanks for the struggles I have with Levi.

The last child I saw was a girl about the same age as Levi. I do not know what her affliction is. She was in a wheelchair, did not speak, and was wearing a bib. However, she had the biggest smile on her face. She was brought in by her mother and the love between the two was palpable. I was privileged to sit by the Mother as she moved her daughter in front of her and began to play with her. The play consisted of moving her arms back and forth and humming. The girl's smile and the sparkle in her eyes are something I will never forget. I wondered what kind of struggles she and her family have had because of her condition. I also pictured their home and the love that exists there that makes this girl so happy. Again I said a prayer of thanksgiving for my struggles.

This experience and this time of year made me remember the blessings I have. How blessed my family is and the great opportunities we have to struggle and grow. Levi's condition does make things hard, but the examples I saw in an hour on a Saturday morning have made me determined to make those struggles a positive and to increase the love in our home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Updated Blinston Method (FBS Week 14)

Here are the rankings using the Blinston Method for Week 14 of the FBS season:

RankingTeam NameRanking Percentage / Points
1Texas2.988 / 50
2Utah2.515 / 55
3Boise State2.42 / 55
4Oklahoma2.338 / 40
5Florida2.247 / 40
6Alabama2.165 / 58
7USC2.148 / 45
8Texas Tech2.094 / 38
9Penn State2.045 / 45
10Ball State2.035 / 55
11Texas Christian University1.756 / 35
12Ohio State1.634 / 30
13Brigham Young1.451 / 35
14Rice1.363 / 30
15Cincinnati1.200 / 23
16Tulsa1.142 / 35
17Oklahoma State1.096 / 20
18Oregon1.027 / 23
19Western Michigan0.9911 / 23
20Michigan State0.9764 / 20
21West Virginia0.9196 / 19
22California0.8154 / 15
23Georgia Tech0.8055 / 15
24Oregon State0.7938 / 15
25Missouri0.7596 / 15

As of today Texas would play Utah in the National Championship game. Some other notes from the data:

Strongest Conference: Big 12 with 5 teams in the top 25
Weakest Conference: The ACC & WAC with 1 team in the top 25

If there were an 8 team playoff we would see:

1. Texas vs 8. Texas Tech
2. Utah vs 7. USC
3. Boise State vs 6. Alabama
4. Oklahoma vs 5. Florida