Adam Smith

Sitting and watching the current world in which I live, I find it interesting that our society and government seem to think that the world revolves around it.  Not that we are beholden to overarching set of laws, but that they ignore those laws and do their own thing.

I found myself reverting back to ideas of Adam Smith in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.  It has been at least 7 years since the last time I read either and I need to check them again, but I cannot help but wonder how we floated so far adrift without anyone knowing.  Then again, we live in a world where relativism seems to rule and I should not be surprised.  Just ignore it and gravity will cease to exist.

Unfortunately, I do not have a better picture than these two we took in 2008.  But at least we stood outside the gate of Panmure Close in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was at this site Adam Smith had lived for over a decade and died.  I seem to recall that his books were published before living here though.

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Apostolic Brush

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rose and John Byrom

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom

I stumbled upon this picture the other day and thought maybe it was time to share it.  This picture has an interesting story behind it.

On the far right are John and Rosie Byrom.  Rosie is mostly in the shadow so it is difficult to make her out.  I served in the Runcord Ward from around December 1999 to around August 2000.  John served as Ward Mission Leader and Rosie as a Ward Missionary.  (The Byroms have since separated and divorced).  I served in the ward for a long time and they remained in their callings for the entire time, so we built a friendship which, I feign to believe, still exists to this day.

I returned home from my mission in December 2000.  It was not long into 2001 that I learned the Byroms were planning on visiting Utah.  Of course, I invited them to spend some time in Idaho.

During the majority of time I served in Runcorn I had a companion by the name of Brad Hales.  Also in our district was a senior sister companionship of Meriel Peterson and Patricia Kleinkopf.  We were all native Idahoans and were in close proximity of each other.  It was natural that the Byroms also wanted to visit each of them while they were in Idaho.

This particular day we drove to Oakley, Idaho to visit Sister Peterson.  We had an enjoyable breakfast and conversation.  Sister Peterson decided she wanted to give us the tour of Oakley because there were some architectural gems that she thought the Byroms would enjoy.  I grew up near Oakley so I was familiar with many of these local landmarks.

We all piled into my little Camry and away we drove.  We had not made it very far driving down some of the streets of Oakley when Sister Peterson announced, “Wait, David is home, he will want to meet you!”  She had me turn around and we pulled into a little home in Oakley.

I had no clue who David was and I was not familiar with the home we were now pulling into the driveway.  We all exited the car.  In the yard there was a man trimming his hedges with a large straw hat and a large set of sunglasses that you only see old people wear.

Since Sister Peterson indicated that David would want to meet the Byroms because they were from England, I remained at the front of my car in the driveway and leaned back against it in the hot, summer, morning sun.

I have to give a little bit of background on the month prior.  We are in the latter half of July 2001 at the point of this picture (I recollect it was the 21st, but may be wrong).  I had just spent considerable time in Hawaii with family at the beginning of the month.  During that time I picked myself up a shirt and a shell necklace among other items.  As you can see in the picture, I am wearing my red shirt (not the blatant Hawaiian design you regularly see).  For years I thought I was in a pair of board shorts too, but this picture corrects my memory on that tidbit.  But I had continuously wore my new puka shell necklace since the trip to Hawaii.

Back to the story, I am leaning on the front of my car watching the Byroms enter the back yard through the hedge and approach this old man in a large straw hat and holding an electric hedge trimmer.  The man stopped trimming and turned to greet his trespassers.  Curiously, after what was a short couple of moments, probably no more than 20 seconds of conversation, this man leaves the Byroms and Sister Peterson and headed my direction.

My first reaction was that I was doing something wrong so I looked around to see my misstep.  Alas, not seeing I had done anything wrong I approached the man and met him near his hedge.  He had set down his trimmer before arriving to me and he pulled his hand out of his glove to shake my hand.  I shook hands with him and he with his free hand reached up and took of his hat and glasses and asked me my name.

My first thought was something along these lines, “Boy, this David fellow sure looks familiar.”  He asked my name and I gave it.  He asked about my Ross name and whether or not it was Scottish.  I informed him it was my name but not the name of which my ancestors carried.  He then informed me that Ross was a common name in Scotland where he had served as a Mission President.

He then grew quiet and he sidled up closer to me and put the hand with the hat and glasses in the small of my back while still holding my other hand in a handshake.  He was now close enough that his face was in my shadow (and he was considerably shorter than me).  He then broke the handshake and with that hand reached up and touched my puka shell necklace.

“What is this?”

“My necklace?”

“I am disappointed that you have fallen from the principles of the gospel that we teach as missionaries.  We teach than men and women have separate and distinct roles and this is confusing the two.”

My first impression was, “How did you know I served a mission?”

This man then turned to walk away back to the Byroms and Sister Peterson.  As he walked away, the thought occurred, “You have just been rebuked by an Apostle.”

Then it dawned.  David was David B Haight, one of the twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was an individual I recognized as a Priesthood Leader and on my first meeting with him, I had been rebuked.

I stood there reeling from what had just happened.  It stung.  David went to the back door of his house and summoned his wife Ruby.  Ruby appeared and they all stood 25 feet away from me chit chatting about England, Scotland, and whatever else they were talking about.

What seemed like an eternity was likely only a minute or so, if that.  I remember reaching up and taking the puka shell necklace off and holding it in my hand.  I dwelt on what was really an unintended and probably unwanted visit that was a bother to me and this old man.  Sister Peterson just commented he was home and a few lines of dialogue just ended up potentially effected my eternities.  According to him I was already on the path, so I guess it did not matter what he said except to correct my backsliding ways.

Next thing I knew, the distant conversation between the Haights and Byroms had stopped and this Apostle was returning to me.  He again held out his hand as if to invite another handshake. I held out my hand with the necklace in it and he cupped his hand to receive whatever I was offering.  I dropped the necklace into his hand and once he realized what it was he let it drop to the ground.

He held out his hand again inviting mine in a handshake and I clasped his.  He sidled up close to me again, put his other hand in the small of my back, and was close enough to be in my shadow and that I could smell the salt in his old man sweat, and he continued…

“Where did you serve your mission?”  (I remember thinking that was an ironic question since the Byroms were from England, Sister Peterson served in England, and he asked where the fourth member of the party served his mission?)

“England Manchester Mission”

“How long have you been home?”

(After a quick mental tally) “Nine months”

“Elder, you hold the Priesthood.  You have a duty to uphold that Priesthood.  You should have been married by now.”

He released my hand, pulled his hand from the small of my back, turned, and walked away.  Maybe 4 steps later he turned around and said, “When it happens, I want to know about it.”

He returned to a conversation with Ruby, Sister Peterson, and the Byroms.

I stood there while they chatted for a few more minutes.  I do not recall hearing anything of the conversation between them, even if I was close enough to have heard.

Rosie had a picture taken of the occasion.  Sister Peterson sacrificed herself in the moment to take the photo that now memorializes this occasion.

I shook hands again with Elder David Haight and Sister Ruby Haight and we headed on down the road to see some other homes.  I ended up driving many more hours that day to Boise, Idaho City, Stanley, and elsewhere chauffeuring the Byroms through some of the sights of Idaho.  Rosie Byrom teased me about the moment the rest of the time I was with them.  After all, it is not every day that you get rebuked by an Apostle.  I cannot recall if they overheard the conversation or if I told them about it.  I cannot imagine that they overheard the conversation due to the close proximity in which David and I spoke that day.

Oddly enough, it weighed on me for a long time.  It became the butt of jokes as time went on, especially as David continued to age.  He was already over 95 at the time of my meeting him.  Roommates and friends would indicate that I better hurry or else I would not fulfill the rest of my duty to let David know when it happened.  I will not lie, it became a great story to tell people.  People loved to hear about my rebuke by an Apostle.

I regularly tell the story to individuals I am close to and that wear a necklace.  Missionaries I worked with I regularly told the story, especially if they wore a necklace.  I admit, I never wore a necklace or bracelet of any type since that date.  I know a number of missionaries who have “fallen from the principles we teach as missionaries” and forsaken their evil ways.  Honestly, I do not know that the story is one that should be heeded by others.  But for the deep effect it had upon me at the time and the power in which he spoke to me, I recognize it was for me.  Others should be careful about applying revelation of others to themselves.  But I do believe there is a principle here that we can learn, I just don’t know that I can very clearly articulate it.  I know the principle clearly for me, but don’t know how narrow or general to make it in application to others.

I remember Rosie reminding me that if I properly repent, I would be married within another 9 months.  Boy if that did not apply a little pressure!

As a side, I did pick up my little puka shell necklace and ended up giving it to a friend when I returned to Missouri later in August.  I don’t believe she has any clue what that little necklace meant to me.

There is more to the story.

On the following Monday, I believe 23 July 2001, I was in Salt Lake City with the Byroms.  After an endowment session, Rosie announced we were to go to the Church Administration Building.  She did not tell us why and I thought she just wanted to see the sights from the Church Office Building.  We walked in the Church Office Building and after Rosie talked to the man at the desk, she said we were in the wrong building and we needed to go to the Church Administration Building.  I informed her that the Church Administration Building was not really open to the public.  Rosie announced that we had an appointment.

In light of my experience a few days before, I was not really thrilled about our appointment in the Church Administration Building.  We walked around to the front door of the Church Administration Building and walked in.  As we approached the man at the security desk he asked,

“Are you the Byroms?”

Rosie responded, “Yes.”

“We have been waiting for you.”  (Never a very heartwarming phrase, whether the morgue, jail, CIA, bank, or Church Administration Building)

The man then responded, “You will need to leave your bags here, take the elevator to the fourth floor, take a right, and it is the last door on the left.  I will let them know you are coming up.”

We entered the elevator and headed to the fourth floor.  Rosie then turned and commented to me, “John helped provide security and drive for Elder Ballard while he (Elder Ballard) was in England for the Preston Temple Dedication.  He told us that if we were ever in Utah to stop and pay him a visit.”

Suddenly the realization came to me that I was going to visit with my second Apostle in less than a week.  I am a fairly laid back guy but felt some apprehension after the experience just days before.  We turned the corner and there stood M Russell Ballard in the doorway.  He invited us in to his office, introduced us to his secretary, and then ushered us into his office.  Across from his desk, I think, there were two nice wing-backed chairs.  Another chair was already there for me, or we pulled up a chair.  Elder Ballard left the office for a moment and then reappeared pushing a little chair toward me.  We were already all seated and he asked,

“Where is your wife?”

“I am not married.”

“Oh, that is something you will have to fix.”

He turned to push the little chair back out the door.  I heard Rosie chuckle and comment, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses…”

Elder Ballard returned and took his seat and we had a nice conversation that probably did not take more than 15 minutes.  Once again, Rosie had a picture taken.

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, Elder Ballard

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, M Russell Ballard

That was the extent of the interaction and I felt some sting from the second witness of my duty to uphold the Priesthood.  But it was a pleasant experience.  Rosie reminded me often after that, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Well, time passed and eventually Elder David B Haight did pass from this veil of tears at the end of July 2004, three years after our encounter.  Fortunately, Elder Haight and I did have an opportunity to talk again regarding our first interaction that lessened the blow of the occasion.  Nevertheless, roommates and many friends called after Elder Haight’s passing to let me know how dire my situation was now that the revelator had passed and I had not fulfilled my duty.

Rosie commented to me that I could fulfill my duty by reporting my marriage to Elder Ballard when the time came.

Well, forward a few more years and I became enamored with a little red-headed girl from Kaysville, Utah.  She came to enjoy her time with me and after a while we would end our walks with a little dancing on the porch of the Alumni House at Utah State University.  It became a regular thing to end our walks and evenings out with a dance and closing conversation on the porch of the Alumni House.  I dare say we danced on the porch of that building more than 60 times.  It was on the porch of this little Alumni House that I made an unofficial proposal to Ms. Hemsley.  It just seemed like the right place.

Months later, Amanda and I returned to Logan under the guise of visiting some friends.  While on the campus I took her to that little porch of the Alumni House and there after midnight, now on 4 July 2005, I fell to my knee and proposed to her.  Of course she said yes and we danced and kissed there on the porch of the Alumni House.  Interestingly, before we left that night, I caught sight of a huge portrait hanging inside the doors that open to the porch that had become an important part of our courtship.  As I looked closer, I could see the familiar sight of a man whose face I knew.  As I got a little closer to see in the dark the portrait lit only by fire escape signs it dawned on me it was a portrait of David B Haight.

If that was not a little coincidental, and perhaps a little creepy, I do not know what is.  Elder Haight’s portrait had actually witnessed some of the most personal moments of my courtship.  The building I had only known as the Alumni House is properly named the David B Haight Alumni Center.  Somehow it seemed the whole experience had just came full circle.

We sent a wedding invitation to Elder M Russell Ballard with a short note explaining that due to Elder Haight’s passing I was sending the note and invitation to him to fulfill my duty.  He responded with a card thanking me for my note and invitation and suggested I consider my duty fulfilled.  He also apologized for not being able to attend our reception (which I am glad about, surely some further duty might have been laid upon me if he had!)

There is my story for the above photo with the Haights and Byroms.  Maybe some day I can tell my story about Elder Hales (the Apostle, not my missionary companion)…

The Scotsman who doesn’t love the Thistle

Whenever I see this picture, I think of “The Scotsman” from Utah State University.  It is not the formal fight song, but has been used as a song from the university for over 90 years.

Show me the Scotsman who doesn’t love the thistle.
Show me the Englishman who doesn’t love the rose.
Show me the true blooded Aggie from Utah
Who doesn’t love the spot . . .
Where the sagebrush grows!

Here is a version of it caught by ESPN for your viewing pleasure.  You have to be patient to get to it as the broadcast proceeds: ESPN Scotsman. You can see some other videos of the Scotsman from this link.  Listening to it and remembering my experiences with the crowd still makes my hair stand on end.  Here are a couple of the other chants: Aggie Cheers.  This includes the Scotsman, I believe, and Winning Team/Losing Team.  The later two chants arose after I graduated in 2005 but show that Aggie spirit is still well and alive.

It was not until we arrived in Scotland that we saw the marvel that the Scottish Thistle really is!  Look at the size of this thistle compared to Amanda, who is 5’6″.  Growing up in Idaho we had what we call Canadian Thistle, but it rarely reached half this height.

Legend tells that the Scottish were protected by the thistle when conquerors came upon them at night and hoping to attack in stealth.  Unfortunately the conquerors were thwarted by the mighty thistle as it caused some of the men to shriek in pain and alerted the clansmen of the impending attack.  It has been used as a Scottish emblem since the 13th century.  I wonder if the English used the rose for the same reason?  I do not think the Aggie will find the sagebrush to be of the same value, unless it is the delayed response of the morning after when the ticks are discovered!

At any rate, when in Scotland, stop and smell the thistle (as you can see Amanda doing).  I can admit, I love the sagebrush, and I definitely love one of the spots where the sagebrush grows: Logan, Utah.

Chester, England

Some of you have already noticed, but I uploaded a whole lot of photos yesterday.  About 250 actually were in the batch.  It includes the rest of the photos from Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France.  I did not upload any photos from Scotland or England.  They will have to wait for the next chance I get.

We are now staying with the Byrom family in Runcorn, England.  Today we went to Chester and walked the walls.  We went through the cathedral and went down the main shopping streets.  It was a beautiful day for what we were doing.  We quite enjoyed ourselves.  We each had a pasty and a vanilla finger.  She liked it but it was too much.

We stopped by Ellesmere Port on the way home at a outlet mall.  We picked out a couple of suits and bought them.  However, we were not convinced we had the best deal so we took them back.  For as much money as we were paying, I didn’t absolutely love the suits.  With our buyers remorse, we took them back.  Interestingly, on the way out, we stumbled upon another store.  I found better quality suits that were on sale for almost half of the cost for the other two suits.  Hands down, Amanda and I both liked the second store over the first.  Now I have some new suits, one of the reasons I wanted to come back to Europe.

We had dinner this evening, some amazing lasagna.  Rose has always made great lasagna.  Afterward, Rose, Amanda, and I went to visit an older lady I taught on the mission.  She was such a sweet soul and she proved to be the same.  We have all aged, but the sociality has not diminished or changed with time.  I think Amanda quite enjoyed Jane Young and her quaint little home in the English countryside.

Yesterday, we had dinner with Jack and Brenda Millington from Howe Bridge.  Jack used to cook us as missionaries some wonderful homemade pot pies.  Visiting with him on Sunday, he offered to make me and Amanda one.  We agreed and met with them yesterday.  The pot pie was as wonderful as ever, boiled cabbage, and homemade trifle.  We really had some good laughs.  Jack even sent us off with a couple of parting gifts.

There are so many people that nearly 10 years have changed nothing.  We don’t always remember each other’s names, but the feelings are still the same.  Memories seem to come back quickly, surprisingly.  What will heaven be like?

Hindley, England

We are now in Hindley, Lancashire, England.  We drove down here today to crash at the home of Hilton and Rhona McCabe.  I met them while as a missionary here about 8 years ago.  The friendship has continued and we have kept in contact.

We are waiting to hear word from Salt Lake City.  We are supposed to be closing on our home in Oklahoma City.  Hopefully everything works out.  We will find out tomorrow I guess.

Last night we spent our evening in Edinburgh, Scotland.  We walked throughout the city, saw the castle, the Holyrood residence, and the cathedral.  Amanda got to see her world famous Mary Kings Close.  It was very interesting.  We got our hostel for the equivalent of $30 which we thought was a gonga deal.

We landed in Prestwick on Thursday after flying out early from Charleroi Airport near Brussels.  We then picked up our hired car and drove to Glasgow and on to Edinburgh.  It took me a little bit, but I quickly adjusted to getting back on the wrong/left side of the road.

It is late and I am too tired to write more of our travels today or of what we did in Edinburgh.  We did stop to visit Downham, Clitheroe in Lancashire today where the entire town joined the church and later emigrated to Zion.  Now we are back in the old mission.  My second visit since being released.  It is good to be back.

Lausanne, Geneva, and Paris

We did not have internet in Paris, so there has been a long silence.  Perhaps that is a good thing.

As a note, I did upload some photos on the blog.  They were the ones from Dresden.  Well, a few.  I hit my limit for the month for how many photos I can upload.  As soon as July 1st hits, I will start uploading again.  Sorry.  There are some great pictures from Dresden and Meissen.

We left Bern and started making our way to Paris.  We were planning on hitting the temple in Bern but after trying to figure out the buses, taxis, or trains with attendant costs, backpacks, and traveling all day in our church clothes, we threw in the towel.  We just started out for Paris.

We made stops in Lausanne and Geneva.  Lausanne was beautiful.  The view coming in over Lake Geneva was amazing.  Some of the Alps between Bern and Lausanne were breathtaking, much like the Alps we passed through in Northern Italy.  We were supposed to catch a train directly from Lausanne to Paris, but it was fully booked.  We were able to book a train from Geneva so we knew our time in Lausanne was limited.  We decided to hike up to the Lausanne Notre-Dame.  We stopped at some church on the way, St. Michaels or whatever.  We heard an Oomp Pah Pah (who knows what they are really called) in a park near the cathedral.  It was so hot, the sun was killing us, and we were wearing our backpacks climbing an asphalt mountain made for a welcome arrival at the top.  We enjoyed the hike back down to the station to head off for Geneva.

We had limited time at Geneva as well.  We walked over and saw the famous Jet d’Eau and enjoyed what little comfort the breeze brought to us from it.  It just made us want to jump into the water for some salvation from the heat.  We walked through the park to see the flower clock, which all these watch-makers got together to show their prowess.  This massive clock set in a flower bed.  However, it was more than 6 hours off, not one of the hands was on the right time.  Watch making prowess must have been a think of the past.  We then walked up to Saint Peter’s Cathedral where we toured where John Calvin taught.  The University of Geneva is right next door.  It was all very fascinating.  We then had to make our way back down to the train station so we could head off to Paris.

The ride to Paris could have been better.  We ended up in an assigned seat going backwards.  Plus this train was going much faster than the other trains we have been riding on it and it swayed back and forth.  I got sea sick on a train!  Boy was I glad when we got to land.  I wasn’t feeling well.

The next few days in Paris were a blur.  It was miserably hot, again, for the first two days.  We walked loads and both of us ended up with blisters on our feet.  Probably more from the swelling of our feet rubbing.  I was fortunate enough to get blisters between my big and index toes on both feet.  Amanda got them on top from her flip flops.  But it was quite the couple of days in Paris.  We hit all the big sites, except the Pantheon.  Arc de Triumphe, Place de la Concorde, Place de la Bastille, Champs-Elysees, Montmarte, L’Opera, Saint Denis Cathedral, Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, Invalides, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame de Paris, and Palais Versailles.  I am sure that is not even a full list.  But we saw them, and much of Paris in between.

Since it is late here, only a few highlights.  Amanda got to see the sun set from the top of the Eiffel Tower on the longest day of the year.  I was there too.  How romantic is that?  We had a fancy, full french meal before ascending the Eiffel’s nearly 700 steps to the second state.  Mine included deep fried turkey and marinated (basically pickled) red peppers.  I probably could have done without the peppers.  My baklava was amazing!

We climbed more than 1000 steps between Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower in one day.  On other days we climbed mont marte and a whole list of other stairs.  Add to that the oppressive heat, and some days we were about as good as dead when we got back to our hotel room.  Our hotel had no air conditioning!

We enjoyed French pastries every morning and every time Amanda would let us.

We did see the Venis d’ Milo and Mona Lisa, along with scores too many of other artworks.

The Metro of Paris is wonderful.  We could get to nearly anywhere in relative comfort.  However, some of them were hot and the air hung with a motor oil smell and greasiness.

We are glad to be back Oostrozebeke, Belgium for a day of laundry and relaxing.  Thursday we fly out for Glasgow.  Britain, here we come!

Welcome to June. It is already all planned out!

Boy, am I glad June is here!  My wife has joined me after our long separation from job and school.  What a relief.  I don’t have to worry about her stressing herself out or being picked up by a much more dashing, intelligent, catch of a man.

We leave this week for what may be the trip of a lifetime.  How many times in a lifetime, if ever, does one get to go to Europe for 6 weeks?  We will be starting with friends in Belgium, working our way to Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Wales, Scotland, and who knows where else we may stumble.  We really cannot afford it, but why not live with some reckless abandon for a little while?  There are so many friends who do so every day of their life and seem to make it through their whole lives.  Granted, their quality may be diminished some.  But what is lost by worry seems it might be made up by the large home and toys that the self-proclaimed responsible typically don’t get to enjoy.  We leave on the 4th to return on the 16th of July.

We signed a purchase contract for a home this month.  Somewhere around the 22nd of June we will be closing on a humble home in Oklahoma City.  Who would ever have thought my first home purchase would be in Oklahoma City?  Did I ever think I would move or live in Oklahoma City.  Most certainly not.

Amanda and I just hit all three of the Idaho temples this past week.  Amanda had never been to any of them.  We have now hit all three Idaho and 11 Utah temples.  Before year end, we will have three more in that geography alone to hit to make it complete once again.  I am very sad I will be in Oklahoma City when the dedication of the Twin Falls Temple takes place.  Being so close to home, and wanting a temple closer for so long, now we get one and I cannot attend.  Amanda and I will be helping with the open house in July.  I guess that is some solace for missing the dedication.  I believe Idaho Falls and Manti are still my favorite temples.  The Rexburg Temple has so many gorgeous rooms.  However, for some reason I still prefer the sessions that are split up into all their sections.  Manti and Idaho Falls Temples both have you moving between all the rooms.  Manti has the pioneer value and beauty with a live session, but the simplicity of Idaho Falls with its rooms and movement make it a favorite.  Salt Lake certainly has the beauty but the place seems more like a zoo than a temple, especially in the summer with all the sealings.

This past week Amanda spent a day with me at work doing bench testing.  It was a beautiful day and we spent nearly all of it in Minidoka.  The Minidoka Longhorn Cafe and Whitesides Dairy was enjoyable for me.  The wastewater we play with is less than beautiful but it is part of life.  Whether we like it or not, we all have waste and somebody has to deal with it.  I thought Amanda was going to throw up at one point when we were doing some filteration.  She kept it down, luckily.  The day turned out well.  Except for the fact Amanda picked up a tick somewhere.  Not only did she pick him up, the tick dug in and started to sup near the middle of her calf.  She was not a happy camper when she discovered him.  A little polish remover and she backed right out.  Hope she got plenty to eat for the long stay in the septic tank.

For the first time in what must be at least 8 years since Grandma Ross passed away, all my siblings were back together.  Becky was coming through Southern Idaho so Scott organized a BBQ.  All five of us where there.  It was really quite a bit of fun and I enjoyed myself.  Even though we were never really close, I am glad we are still cordial and can enjoy ourselves when we get together.  Vicki, Dad’s first wife, was even there.  Dad and Jan were there as well.  Andra brought Brian and Daniel and little Daniel was certainly a favorite.

I know I have not been writing as much.  Despite more people reading the blog than ever before, I just don’t feel like I have much to write.  A couple of people want me to write more relevant things that would pertain to them, but how does one write interesting things for everyone?  Then, how does anyone write for someone else and keep their voice and soul into it?

Thanks be given

There is not a whole lot to report on at the present.  We enjoyed a Thanksgiving here in blessed Virginia.

Amanda and I drove to Massanutten, a resort up in the hills.  We went up to spend Thanksgiving with Amanda’s Uncle and Aunt.  It turned out to be an interesting day.  I enjoyed the drive up to the area.  Gordonsville was the highlight of the day, the town having a personality completely its own.  A rare thing it seems these days.

Massanutten wasn’t anything to boast about.  They do have a very large indoor water park.  Other than that, it was just a bunch of condos in the middle of the mountains.  Don’t get me wrong, the mountains were beautiful.  How much more beautiful without the “hello, here I am” presence of the resort? 

Amanda and I have determined we will never go out to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal again.  It seems to undermine what the day is about.  Who would have ever thought it was Thanksgiving.  Where was any resemblance of Thanksgiving, other than a commercial version of the foods associated with the date? 

We went back and pretty much watched the TV for the rest of the day.  Driving home, we were relieved to leave the situation which seemed lacking so much.

Hopefully, I can pay some homage to the day here even though the day did not provide much.

This week, I discovered I am the posterity of individuals who lived at Jamestown.  Yes, next years celebration of 400 years in America, honored even by the Queen, is directly relevant to me.  Not just through this nation, but through my ancestors who lived there.  The Clark (or Clarke) family, the Summers, Lumpkin, and Thompson groups I am all related to.  There is a possibility my Clark’s even come from the famous John Clark, who was the Master’s Mate on the Mayflower.  He had been to Jamestown before, imprisoned in Spain, made the trip of the Mayflower, and eventually made his way back to live in Jamestown.  He died not too much afterwards.  I am also a descendent of the Graham Clan who settled parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.  They extended into Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio as well.  I am an American very deep in some roots.  One of those Grahams was a personal friend of George Washington, and convinced him to help endow a new school he had founded.  Yep, a Graham founded Washington and Lee.  My history includes three future presidents, universities, and other numerous recorded aids to society.

My roots expand the ocean many times.  My roots run to Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England.  My ancestors were in the court of rulers; my ancestors even ruled parts of the Roman Empire.  My ancestors come from Sweden, Norway, and the largest number from Germany.  I have family who can be traced into Russia, Australia, and a score of other nations.  The foundations I have been given are broad and inclusive.  I am so very fortunate.  Each of us have a history which began long before we were born.

Those blessings extend beyond my family.  This nation, which has its hopes in liberty and freedom are one of the greatest blessings to me.  I am very fortunate.  It may be a weakness in many ways, but is a great boon in many more ways.  I pray for the principles upon which it is founded to continue to go to the whole earth.  I pray that those principles would be grasped by other nations and be implemented into their states.  I pray our nation might return to the principles of truth and freedom for which it is founded.

I remember the lives of those who were given for this freedom I enjoy and others do not.  Two of my Great Grandfather’s were gassed in WWI and both lived to tell the tale.  Both met painful and difficult deaths due to it.  One grandfather has purple hearts to show for his wounds and success in WWII.  The other grandfather tried to enroll, but due to health issues was not allowed to be a part.

I pray for the soldiers of freedom everywhere.  I care not what nation they represent, as long as they are there for liberty, freedom, and truth.  I pray God will bless those who represent those hopes and ideals.  That those who do not represent those ideals, or those they represent, will be thwarted in their designs.

It is with gratitude I offer my thanks to He who makes death not a fear.  I thank and give adoration to the Savior of all mankind, even Christ that we might all live again.  That despite wickedness and fear, we have nothing to fear but sin.  I express my deepest thanks for the restoration of His church back on the earth and the miracles which abound about us.  The gathering of lost nations, the restoration of Israel, the building up of the kingdom in preparation for the king whose right it is to rule.  My deepest sympathies are with the restoration and furthering of eternal purposes upon the earth.  My greatest joys and delight come from this impressive, yet almost unrecognizable effort happening in our midst.

I am pleased to have been born at this time of such great blessing.  It is with a certain hope I see the future, despite all which is prophesied to come upon us.  So much pain that the Saints will barely escape with their lives.  We have seen little or nothing of what is to come.  Nations will rise up against nations and desolation shall abound on all the earth.  Those of the order of God have not need to fear though.  This I am grateful for.  For the Priesthood which shall protect those within the covert from the storm, for the Resurrection that those who will be lost; both for their own sins and for a more full judgment upon the wicked.

Most close to home I thank for those who are dearest to me.  I am thankful for those who so deeply touch the deepest parts of my soul.  Many who are now separated from me by death, but that too shall not be for long.  My dearest wife, and all her splendor for which I am a blessed soul.  My parents who fought and struggled so hard for my upbringing and their abiding love for me. 

There is a whole multitude of souls I could reference for their influence in my life.  The more I learn and contemplate, the more I realize how intricately every soul is linked to one another.  Even years later we remember the influence of another.  There are influences from childhood, influences from events far away, and even influence from beyond the grave.

My heart is full.  I am thankful for all things.