2008 in Review

This morning while everyone sleeps, I thought I would give a quick year in review.  Wow, what a year.  Probably the best year of my life.  I hope I can continue to say that every year!

One year ago, it was the first day of being laid off in my life.  Good ole Bank of America laid off the entire Wholesale Division.  My life as a underwriter came to an end as the mortgage industry was obviously in signs of trouble.  I decided to leave the entire industry.  Boy, am I glad I did!  1 January 2008 brought a month of trying, scrambling to find out what to do.  I had severance for a year and my job working professionally as a genealogist.  That carried us through.  I have been doing genealogy for the same family over the Christmas Break to supplement our income.  That is certainly a great blessing.  I know it is a blessing to their family and those who have gone on before as well.  I have probably added more than 2 or 3 generations on each of their family lines.

The first week or two of January I received an offer for employment in Pasco, Washington covering the states of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming for Inlande Environmental Resources.  I would be making more than 10K more, have my own vehicle, card, and a whole lot more.  The only downside is I would be in Idaho most of the time while Amanda would remain in Virginia to finish her education.  We decided it was a great offer, much better than our options in Virginia, and could help open doors for the future.  The end of January, Brad Hales flew out, and we made a cross country trek in my pickup.  Brad has always been a very generous, kind friend.  Who would have thought a mission to England would have such long lasting repercussions?

February through June found me working for IER working with existing customers and making new sales.  The only big contract I found was with J.B. Swift in Hyrum, Utah.  It was 2 or 3 truckloads a month at present.  They were having so many problems with Thatcher Chemical that it was a fairly easy sell.  Honestly, I was just at the right place at the right time.  I really don’t think I personally did anything that really made the sale but it made me a favorite with the bosses.  We opened quite a few doors.  The big thing I enjoyed was the travel.  Salem, Portland, The Dalles, Weston, Pendleton, Gresham, and more in Oregon.  Toppenish, Yakima, Zillah, Sunnyside, Grandview, Pasco, Kennewick, Wenatchee, and Colfax Washington.  Wenatchee was another example of just being in the right place at the right time.  We were solving a foaming problem with apple concentrate waste.  We just had the right chemical but became known as the defoaming expert!  I also traveled all over Utah, Vernal being the most exotic visit.  I sure enjoyed Inlande Environmental.  They were really good to me and I enjoyed working for them.

May rolled around and I decided to accept an opening at Oklahoma City University for Law School.  I announced it to my bosses and they were more than accepting.  They knew when they interviewed me for the job I was seriously considering law school.  They were so good to me!  In fact, they let me keep my salary through to August while Amanda and I took our trip to Europe and here to Oklahoma City.  Amanda also graduated in May.  Amanda’s parents and I flew out for the big occasion.  We sure had quite a bit of fun!  During the time there we packed everything to move all our stuff to Oklahoma City.  We did a little sight-seeing as well.  Monticello was probably my favorite place to visit and I was fortunate everyone else wanted to go as well.  In the end, I flew back to work in Idaho and Amanda with the in-laws drove to Oklahoma City in a moving truck, and from there to Kaysville in the car.

A big first for the year.  We purchased our first home!  A quaint little 30′s home near 23rd Street NW in Oklahoma City.  A wonderful little home with plenty of things to keep me busy but still liveable.

June rolled around and then Amanda and I went on our very expensive weight loss program.  I can boast losing about 20 pounds running around Europe.  We spent six weeks in Europe.  Many, many firsts for both of us.  We visited friends in Belgium and they were very kind to treat us.  Primarily, it was perfect for getting over jet lag!  We then went crazy in traveling for the next 6 weeks.  About 4 days in Belgium.  We attended a Stake Conference in Antwerp and attended dedicatory prayers in Dutch.  That prepared us for Brugge, and where we spent our next few days in Amsterdam.  We saw the sights and even made a trip to Den Haag.  Off we shot across The Netherlands, across Germany to Berlin, and down to an ancestral home in Dresden.  I still think Dresden was probably my favorite place.  Even better than Vianden or the rest of Luxembourg.  Dresden is also near to Meissen which was another ancestral home.  I would love to spend a week in Dresden.  We shot across Germany through Leipzig down to Augsburg.  There we were based to hit Munchen, Dachau, and Fussen for Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.  Then we headed off to visit Stuttgart with Neuffen and Holzgerlingen (ancestral towns) before heading to Salzburg.  Salzburg was definitely another favorite.  Gorgeous town.  Then off to sweltering Venice via Innsbruck.  There we spent time in a very different culture and climate in a city on the water with no water to drink!  After Venice, up through Padua to Zurich and down to Bern.  Bern was definitely another favorite.  I really wish we could have spent some good quality time there.  Then off through Lausanne and Geneva for a few wonderful, long, unorganized days in Paris.  If there was ever a point Amanda and I were getting tired it was in Paris.  More with each other than with the city.  But we really enjoyed Paris nevertheless.  If we had been stuck in Amsterdam during this time, we may have been in marital breakdown, but Paris made it bearable.  After Paris, we headed back to Belgium for a day or two before flying off to Prestwick, Scotland.

We then were in a car for the next 3 weeks!  That day we made our way through Glasgow before ending in Edinburgh for some wonderful times there.  We really liked that city.  I could certainly feel we were back in the United Kingdom.  There is a flavor in the air that reeks of Britain.  From there we worked our way down through Manchester, Liverpool, Northern Wales, Birmingham, Bath, Dorset, and finally to London.  In the UK we spent two weeks of it in the old stomping grounds of the England Manchester Mission.  We visited loads of people I knew and tried to balance that with seeing the sites for Amanda.  I think we did a good job.  We also caught up with some long time friends, the Gores and the Byroms.  We also met up with my old missionary companion Elder Gheorghe Simion and his wife who now live in Liverpool.  After the mission we visited ancestral homes near Birmingham, even stumbling on a cemetery in Halesowen with plenty of ‘my’ Coley line.  It was fun.  Bath was quite a bit of fun crashing that night with a cousin in Milton Abbas, a gorgous little Dorset town.  They treated us very, very well.  Then off to London crashing with the Jeppesen’s in Weybridge.  We spent our remaining time with them in their posh house until we flew out.  All in all, we loved our entire trip.  Paris could have used a bit more planning, but the trip as a whole was utterly marvelous.  We feel very, very blessed to have been able to take the trip.

We landed in Utah and the gears started grinding in different ways.  I tried to make sure everything was a successful transition for IER and we headed out for Oklahoma City.  We arrived here the very last week of July.  Before August had arrived we had moved all our possessions into the home and started setting up for the next few years.  I went to work on the yard, Amanda went to work on the inside.  We came to know our ward, get lined up for school, Amanda a dental hygiene license, and job.  Everything fell into place within a month.  I was rolling with law school and Amanda had a job blocks from home.

The rest of the year was fairly uneventful.  I sat trying to recoup some of my weight lost in Europe (I have been unsuccessful, not that I really want it back) in the law school library.  I picked up squash here again.  Amanda works her days away.  I am slowly remodeling a bathroom with all that extra time.  Amanda took up sewing our Halloween costumes and organizing Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then the year was over!

All in all, what a year!  I feel highly blessed of heaven.  Who could ask for anything more?  We have started paying off student loans for Amanda.  We are also paying for some work done on the house and what little remains of our trip to Europe.  We paid off the washer and dryer, now the refrigerator next.  Then we can start socking it away for retirement (since our retirement took quite a hit in October and since!).  Plus there will be plenty more to do to the house if we should really want to invest.  But all in all, God has been very good to us.  May he continue to light our paths and may we continue to do what is needed to bring down the extra blessings!  I am looking forward to 2009, although I think it will be much less eventful than 2008.  But hey, who knows?

The proud always fall

Life continues to come upon me at breakneck pace.  I don’t mind, I am really enjoying it.  There are a number of things I do feel like I am neglecting which are more important.  This trend is not one I could keep up indefinitely.  Portland, Pasco, Spokane all in one week.  Last week it was Pasco, Wenatchee, Moscow, Boise, and more.  This coming week will be all over Northern Utah.  I took the weekend off some to get back into some family history, paid and unpaid.  A chance to do some missionary work (I gave away three copies of the Book of Mormon and had 3 less-actives out to church).  A funeral, visiting with a couple of widows, and time with two babies, and eating that partridge from the pear tree.
Having just written that last paragraph, I remember the time I was accused of telling those sorts of details to make myself look significant.  I often wonder about that when I have mentioned where I have been or what I am doing.  I have for as long as I can remember deliberately never ‘dropping names’.  I honestly think my not doing so has afforded me opportunity to meet more notable than I would have ever had the chance if I had sought them out.  Billionaries, politicians, actors, and who knows.  The best are those who have no name or station, but wisdom to share.  But what about telling of my adventures and travels.  Hmmm, if I do not mention the places I have traveled or the things I have done what would be left for conversation?  Thoughts?  The more I read it seems the less original thoughts there are in our day.  Are we really just to discuss history?  Then again, would we have history if nobody ever recorded where they had been or who they had met?
It seems to me the real problem is when we tell of laurels from ages past.  When we live in a surreal environment where the past keeps being relived with little relevance to the present.  Then I find I am in the presence of insufferable know-it-alls who are doing little in the present field of theater.  On the other end of the coin, there are others who seem to dwell in the present making decisions with little relation to significant points of the past.  With the disconnect we have some terrible side effects on our hands.
“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come: And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.” (D&C 98:24-25)
What do we share with others?  Do we live in a state of hermitage or do we share our experiences with places, people, and thoughts?  It seems we should be living our lives as an open book.  Talking, sharing, conversing, and listening to others.  To truly be learning and walking forward through life.  It really is the spirit that is most important, not necessarily what is shared.
Anyhow, it is not a clear relation, but this was in relation to the scriptures I read this morning.
“And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.  I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.  Therefore, I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.  And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up; and they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into this own land.  Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.” (2 Nephi 23:11-15).
Doing things for our own purpose is pride and arrogancy.  In deed, it is Priestcraft, which interesting the upcoming chapters of 2 Nephi dissect and expound upon.  The proud will have nothing to do than to turn to his own people and flee back to their own land.  Even then, they shall be thrust through, taken down by other wicked individuals.  The truth will not only set you free, it will save you from death and hell and that endless wo.

Aeroplane squalls

I thought I would take an opportunity to voice a complaint.  I know it isn’t normally in my nature to complain, usually I try to give the benefit of the doubt or to press forward with the ‘can do’ attitude.  But since nobody else seems too concerned about it, I will air my concerns out where a few may agree.
What ever happened to service?  What happened to the customer, the consumer holding a special place for businesses?  It seems somewhere the status quo, business as usual, and possibly profits have taken over.
Two weeks ago I took a pickup in to have it serviced.  They told me it would be ready on Wednesday.  I returned on Wednesday to have them tell me that more work had to be done and I needed to authorize the work.  What happened to calling me to ask to authorize?  What happened to calling me to let me know the pickup would not be done?  I let it slide and authorized them to do the work.  They then told me it would be done on Friday.  I made it clear to them the truck had to be done first thing on Monday morning because I was supposed to drive it to Pasco, Washington for work.  Not only did I need to drive the truck, it would be left there so taking another vehicle was not an option.  Well, Friday arrived and I called in to make sure it was done, and I was assured the job was completed.  I drove in on Friday to pick it up and it wasn’t even out of the back of the shop yet, let alone completed!  Once again, I let my irritation slide, the changing of my plans, and the trip in to pick up the truck.  Remembering, this requires another person’s help to get a ride in to pick up the truck.  Monday rolls around and the truck is still not completed!  Nobody once again notified me, nobody told me anything.  Finally, Wednesday I pick up the truck, pay the bill, and head home.  My boss moved my trip to Pasco for the Monday after.
I then left my personal vehicle for a service.  The story goes on from there.  When I left my personal vehicle I made it very clear I would be in Pasco, Washington for the week and I would need to be notified if they had any problems or questions.  They said there would be no problem for my coming back the following week.  Well, today, I arrived to find my truck had been looked at but nothing had been done!  I was about ready to start swearing at the man!  He told me I had to authorize the work before it could be done because some gasket needed replaced.  I showed him right on the paper where it said I would be out of town and that I would need to be called.  I asked why I was not called.  He said he did not know.  I told him I had been dropped off and was taking my pickup with me.  I was not a pleased customer!  I drove out of the parking lot vowing I would never again do business of any type with Goode Motor in Burley or Rupert, Idaho.  They have forever lost my business.
In conversation afterward I found out my Dad has had the same problem.  He even notified the manager, Garth Williams of the issue.  I guess he took in his truck to be serviced and they started asking him a bunch of stupid questions.  The guy got huffy with him when Dad told him to go out and get the information from the truck.  After two episodes of this, Dad said he would never do business again with Goode Motor.  So all those who read, here are two customers who are highly unhappy with the business, especially with their service department.  They even gave Dad a coupon for service when he bought the truck and they would not honor the certificate later.  How is that for forging loyal customers.
That episode pretty much tainted the rest of my day for me.  Tonight I sat in the airport for my flight from Salt Lake City to Portland, Oregon.  Our flight was supposed to take off at 7:05 PM.  No, the flight was delayed.  Two hours later I finally board the plane.  Just to press the button on their customer service I went to the Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter and complained.  I told them there should be some reimbursement for my ordeal and they were putting me late.  I lied and said I was going to miss my business engagement.  They offered me their sympathies and basically wished me well.  I told them there was not point of going now and wanted a refund.  This request was denied with a document giving me a phone number to call my complaint.  You would think that customer service would be able to take care of a problem in the airport without my having to make a phone call to listen to some fake woman directing me.  What happened to honoring your word?  What happened to pleasing the customer?
Lastly, I completed McCullough’s 1776 this evening in my hours wait to board my delayed flight.  The discontent I noticed of poor service in the Ford dealership and in Southwest Airlines only turned into more rancor as I thought of what it was we fought for in the Revolutionary War.  We separated ourselves from Britain and fought a war for abuses less than what we currently face with our present government.  What is even more frustrating is the fact that we as Americans let business and government so dictate our lives.  Hey look, they are even going to give me $1,500 of my own money back and then want me to go spend it!  Well, geez, thanks for giving my own money back and then tell me what to do with it!

Inlande Futures

I have been pretty slow to mention anything on here about the recent change of venue for employment.
My newest employment is with Inlande Environmental Resources, Inc. based out of Pasco, Washington.
As most of you know, I was laid off from Bank of America on 31 December 2007.  They were divulging themselves of the entire Wholesale division.  I was one of the fortunate few.  I applied for a number of positions within the bank but I later found out HR and a Hiring Manager had messed up.  They thought I was a closer instead of an assistant underwriter.  I was not seriously considered for the jobs I applied for.  I fought it some, but there are only so many positions and they were already filled.  Once again, Bank of America screwed something up.  I won’t even go into how they messed up my pay and severance package.  They withheld the equivalent of 32 hours of pay for some hiccough they had on their end.  I think I am glad to be done with them.
In the meantime of applying for different jobs, my Dad gave me a lead for Inlande.  I thought it couldn’t hurt to apply.  In the end, I ended up getting that job for 1/3 more salary, plus commission.  So I could not refuse it.  No other jobs offered employment in Richmond.  It was one of the only options open to me.
Part of the problem applying for a job in Richmond was the fact Amanda graduates in May.  With that, I would effectively quit my job to move west.  Who is going to hire somebody for 4 months?  I could not be dishonest when they asked how long I intended to stay with the company.  Add to that, the fact Amanda and I have already booked our tickets to Europe for 6 months from 4 June to 16 July.  Who wants to hire me then?  As soon as we arrived at the town I would be attending law school, I would then have to find employment for a month or two until school started.  The whole situation was not favorable.
Along came Inlande Environmental.  We made a trip for the interview.  It was more of a visit to the family.  I was interested in the job but it was so far away.  When would they want me to start and how long would Amanda and I have to live apart?
When I found out it was 1/3 more salary, plus commission it was more interesting.  It would be a change of industry from mortgage/finance to infrastructure/public utility.  That industry will not go away as long as humans need to consume water and remove their waste.  I was forthright about our 6 week vacation for the summer, the good chance of my getting in to law school, and attending law school in the fall.  They still thought I was worth the risk.
It looked fascinating to me to have a job that got me back into some chemistry.  That was an area I have been interested in for a long time.  (I took a chemistry book on my mission!  I never got around to studying or reading it though.)  Plus with the recent changes in the mortgage and finance industries I wanted to get out of such a shifting environment.  Add to the fact my new job would not keep me confined in an office and I was definitely hooked.
The major difficulty was in the distance.  Amanda would have to remain in Richmond while I moved to Idaho.  The position is for a Regional Sales Manager for Utah and Southern Idaho.
Amanda has a number of rotations coming up in which she would be gone for several days at a time.  In addition, she wanted to start studying for her boards a couple hours every night.  With my being gone, she could study for long hours without the need to be concerned about me.  I also would not be the constant distraction I am for her.
After the offer, we determined it was not an offer we could pass up.  Nothing else came as close to looking as good.  Richmond is expensive and we could not afford a drop in pay.  I really didn’t want to spend a month job hunting because the loss of income would really cut our options for our trip to Europe for the summer.  Employment had to continue for us.
This put one of us closer to scope out places to live when we decide where we will be moving for the fall.  It helps me get out some more of the traveling bug that constantly haunts me.  The requirement to travel and a company vehicle with fuel had me jumping with excitement.  This job will have me traveling all over the entire state of Utah, Southern Idaho, and Western Wyoming.  Not to mention the occasional trip to Washington.  I certainly have a few places to stop as I am traveling through.
Amanda can focus solely on school and I can really do the heavily traveling required to lay some foundations.  Even if I decide against law school or am not accepted, I will have done the initial legwork so I won’t be required to travel as much when Amanda joins me.
It will not be an easy task.  I have no worries that Amanda and I will make it through it.  We will get to see each other about once a month until that time.  Anything we may lose in 4 months apart I certainly am sure we will make up in 1 1/2 months of traveling through Europe.
Most people look at me like we are crazy.  Like I have left my wife and this will be the end of it all.  For some reason I feel more pity on the people who feel that way.  I am not concerned for my marriage like they seem to indicate they would be for theirs.  Sure, I don’t want to be away from my wife.  However, we both recognize this as our best option and felt that heaven was directing us this way.  We can talk daily.  We can e-mail.  All is not lost.  Our engagement we spent equivalent time apart and were able to overcome that obstacle.
I now find myself in Idaho.  What does the future hold?  I am not entirely sure.  A couple of law schools have declined me already.  There are a few more to hear from.  We shall wait and see.  At any rate, Amanda and I will be reunited this summer and pressing forward for whatever life presents then.  This job could be one with definite long range potential.  More doors are opening than are closing with this time apart.

Good bye to 2006

Another year has passed. Has it really? It doesn’t feel like it. I don’t feel any older. I don’t think I look any older. What really happened in 2006? Did it really exist? I know it did. I have the memories of it and the evidence. (I won’t be like some nations claiming that you cannot prove the past, like the Holocaust).A former President has died ending the year. I remember meeting President Ford in Twin Falls, Idaho. I must have only been about 10 or
12 at the time. I guess he liked to golf once and a while at the course down in the canyon. (Sad, I don’t even remember the name of it.  (Perhaps I am getting older….)

Who else died this year? I read a few of Milton Friedman’s books. I still sing to myself the music of Malcolm Arnold, especially River Kwai.  I remember joking about what it must be like to be Robert C Baker, but now I would feel bad joking of chicken nuggets. Buck Owens who I saw in Branson passed away. We can’t forget political leaders like President Ford, Senator Stafford, or Congressman Sonny Montgomery. Ed Bradley who I liked to watch. 60 Minutes just won’t be the same anymore without Bradley and Wallace. Who were some not so notable, or infamous, Mr. Lay, Jeff Lundgren, Saddam. It has been a year for deaths! Oh, I about forgot Steve Irwin. It seemed every little kid in England talked of Steve.

A couple of family members have passed away. Ebertha Lutz of my Van Leeuwen line. Dean Sharp just passed away last week. His funeral is on Thursday up in Pasco, Washington. That doesn’t leave many of the Sharp family around either. I know Grandpa is struggling with his death.  Dad, Jan, and Grandpa are going up to the funeral. I hope when my time comes, it will go as well. He wasn’t feeling well, and went to the hospital. His oxygen was low, so they put him on oxygen and he wanted to go home. He was resting and Lois heard him make a noise and saw his oxygen was off. She went over and he was gone. Quick, painless, and comfortable.

I only visited with Dean two weeks ago. I called him to ask him some family history questions about his parents and recollections of Mary Ann Stoker, aka Lillian Musgrave. He told me characteristics of his parents, Edward Sharp and Lillie East. He always had a cool little laugh when he finished speaking. Don’t know if it was a nervous laugh, something he picked up, but it always made me feel relaxed. He never
knew his grandmother, I had to get that information elsewhere. Good bye Dean.

I received an e-mail from a Terry McHugh in South Carolina. He was searching information on the Stoker line. I filled him on information I
had, and gleaned quite a bit from him. It was good to focus some more on the Stoker line. I still have yet to figure out why my Mary Ann
Stoker (married Sharp) went by Lily (Lillian) Musgrave for a spell.

I called Grandpa and he shared a few memories with me. He said she was fairly tall, I am not sure what that means. Grandpa is not necessarily tall. He used to walk past her house every day on the way to school.  He would stop in on his way home when she was alive. It is the same house my Aunt Caroline lives in now.

She would have him put the hooks in the holes for her shoe laces. She also had him pull the strings on her girdle for her. He used to ask why
she needed the thing; after all she was so skinny. She would just sigh and ask him to pull them just a little tighter. It sounded like it was sweet memories. She had a horn for hearing. She went deafer over the years. Grandpa would ask why she needed that horn and she would say it was because he wasn’t speaking loud enough. It was interesting that June Streeter had memories of Lily, but didn’t know who she was. It wasn’t until a few months back talking with her daughter that I cleared that up in her mind.

Life changed considerably for Amanda and me this year. I again made a move across the country. One thing is for sure, get married and the
physical baggage multiplies! You would think that my trunk full of possessions would only double. Some reason or another, women are not
confined to a Spartan life. But add a marriage to it, and the making of a home, and things grow exponentially. There are ways I would like to
go more Spartan, but Amanda won’t have any of that. Probably a good thing.

Dad had his operation and seems to be back to normal. Indeed, he is better than he has been for the last five years. I am glad he has made
such a recovery, even improvement. Jan had her operation on her back.  For some reason I cannot recall if that was earlier this year or not.
Yes, I think it was, pretty sure it was. She is doing much better. Her progress has not been as quick as Dad’s but she is doing better.

Overall it has been a good year. Even the few dreams I have had have all been good. There is one that repeated some over the year. Have yet no idea what it could possibly mean. I am back living at Kasota Road.  But I have to go to the dentist. I go, and it is Garrison Keillor who
is the dentist. We end up chatting about a few things. By the time the appointment is done, he has split a tooth in half, and pulled it.  Having removed a tooth, I am concerned and discuss my issues with him.  He takes and makes me a new tooth and screws it back into the top of my mouth. I am shocked that I can notice no difference from the old to the new tooth. I am impressed there is no swelling and no pain. He doesn’t even use pain killers. It is his reasoning that makes things work so well despite my little idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it is just that I need
to reason and talk through more things in life. I almost laugh in the mornings when I realize I am dreaming of going to the dentist, spending
the conversation with Keillor, and then arise to find life is great.  Perhaps it is just a happy dream. Don’t know why I find it so ironic that the dentist and Keillor make me happy, but I won’t complain. (Now people will think I am more off my rocker than ever!)

Well, I think I will sign off. I look forward to what 2007 has to bring. I am sure it will have many surprises and interesting things to mention. It will be the first year in a long time that I am planning, for the most part, of staying in the same state. Since graduation I have hopped between states every year.