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?

Portland

A wonderful weekend in Portland. A much needed break in the drive to Preston, Burley, or Logan every weekend. Tom, Erika, Seth, and Gabriel Kunzler all went with me. We left Thursday afternoon and wound our way to the center of the blue state. The sun set on us in Pendleton so from that point on was mostly not too interesting. I saw a couple of the dams on the Columbia river, and they were beautiful with their shimmering lights. I dropped them off in Gresham and made my way to my Sister Becky’s house. They moved to Portland about two years ago onto Peacock Lane and purchased a 1920′s Tudor House. They have been fixing it up ever since and have it almost done, all except the kitchen. It is a beautiful classic home. She has decorated it with the pastel and rich colors which were popular during the 30′s and have been coming much more back into style. I have always loved the Art Deco colors. Joe, her husband, was in town because he had hurt his back. The constant stress of traveling, meetings, working, and various other things sent his back into little spasms which have laid him up for a few days and probably will for weeks.

Friday I awoke and visited with them for some time. I was given a full tour of the home and the neighborhood. For lunch we went to a authentic German restaurant which was very good. I enjoyed my sauerbraten and spatzle. I did not partake of the beer, but enjoyed an amazing raspberry lemonade. I had to stir it every single time I wanted to drink so the raspberry would not all be in the bottom. There were even seeds in it!

That evening I was privileged to attend the swearing in of Molly Bordonaro. She is the new U.S. Ambassador to Malta. Her husband is part Maltese so I suppose that is one of the factors that put her in favor with the President. The story goes that every time she has met the President, she has been pregnant. That supposedly endeared her to him as well. I don’t know if it is because a pregnant woman would require more effort to do those sorts of things, or the nobility of motherhood. It was an interesting affair. Those who were supposed to be attending with me missed their flight so I ended up flying solo at the affair. It was a good experience. I met and come to know many more people. I also met fellow associates from The Gallatin Group for the first time. Shelley, Julia, Chris, Kent and his wife, were all there. Greg Walden of U.S. House of Representatives spoke and conducted. Also speaking were Senator Gordon Smith. I did not get to visit with Senator Smith as he was always cornered by other individuals. He did give me a hello wave as if he recognized me, but I really don’t think he placed where he knew me from. I was sad his wife, Sharon, was not there. It was a great evening. They took so long to get dinner going after the event that many people left. I decided to do the same. After all, hanging out with some snobby and increasingly drunk lawyers was not my thought of a great continuing evening. It was interesting how I would start visiting with people and my being an intern caused them to quickly lose interest. However, it was fun to have one man come up to me and was so interested after he found out more about the Gallatin Group. He started telling me all about what he does and his business and a myriad of details like I was a founding partner. He must have missed the fact that I was only an intern in our first introduction. He gave me his card, his personal cell written on it, and other little notes and requested us to remember his business. My personal preference is still friends first, then business. I seem to have misplaced his card too.

Saturday was an interesting day as well.  Joe and Becky took me to breakfast at “No Fish! Go Fish!”  It was really good food and I thought everyone was friendly.  The owner came out and visited with us most of the time.  Afterward on the walk home they informed me that Shawn was gay.  I remember the thought crossing my mind, but it didn’t really matter to me.  They went on to tell me about Shawn and John were one of the first couples in Portland to be married.  It was a few months ago, I guess just short of their one year anniversary that their marriage was declared unlawful.  He seemed like a nice man, I did not have any problems with him.  I have to admit, if he can cook that well, I really don’t have any problems with him.  It then led to a discussion of people and their reactions to the gay segment of our society.  We also discussed how people treat them as individuals.  Without going into the political side of the argument, we basically agreed on one thing.  Somehow in our denunciation of the actions of these people, we as a people somehow find it Christian to treat with utter disdain this people.  Being so entrenched in our way of life and our notion of right and wrong, being entrenched in our opposition forget there are people’s lives at stake.  While I will never entertain the lifestyle that these people espouse (pun intended), it does not mean at all I should ever treat them as subhuman.  Becky and I discussed an individual we know who would find it completely unbearable to even be in the presence of Shawn.  They may be okay to begin with, but would fester and before long say things which they should not say.  Or flat out ignore him the entire time.

As part of the discussion Becky told me of a story of a member of Joe’s family.  Who considers himself a good Christian.  However, because Becky has not been “active” in a religion that she somehow is sub Christian, or unable to think in Christian terms.  What is worse, he proclaims to be a Christian while treating his family in ways that are plain rude and inconsiderate, if not verbally abusive.  He made the comment that since Becky came from a family of divorced parents that she would have the same inclinations towards divorce.  He had the nerve to ask her what she thought or what she was doing to avoid a divorce.  (This was before her and Joe married)  He then went on to counsel her about Christian living.  She informed him that while her parents may have divorced, she had two sets of Grandparents who were not.  Plus they were more Christian than he could ever hope to be, and they didn’t have to go around proclaiming it to everyone.

On the same note, there seems so many people who are so set on protecting the Christian way and lifestyle that they have forgotten to live it.  While we do not permit any form of adultery, it doesn’t mean we still stone everyone in the street.  Which is the equivalent to what some of these professing Christians do.  Moreover, it extends to the conservative party in many ways.  They are so set on providing the perfect life, what they determine to be the right way of life, they don’t care who they stone along the way.  I do not agree with their lifestyle at all, but I cannot force them to live my way.  If I don’t like it, well, suck it up and get on with it.  I remember the scriptures talk about gathering to people of similar beliefs.  Of leaving Babylon and letting them go on to their own destruction.  I cannot remember any scriptures whatsoever that talk about transforming or making Babylon live the the Christian life.  We keep that up we will end up with a state similar to the history of the Catholic Church.  Many, many Catholics, but most simply in name.  Heck, lets go back to Constantinople and force all of Rome to be Christian.  Oh wait, we are already headed that way.  Suddenly I sound very blue!  I am not either party.  In some ways I am Constitutionalist, other Fundamentalist, others Republican, and yet others Democrat (heaven forbid!  Utah higher education failed here!!  Pass some more laws!).  Too bad Utah State does not teach down any particular line.  Randy Simmons, don’t let the Utah State Legislature find out.  Lets stick with the basics of the Constitution and let people govern themselves.  Even better, Common Law, which I advocate always is much better to the governing of society than Statutory Law ever was.  I think some in this country are beginning to see this.

Anyhow, Saturday afternoon Becky and I made a trip to downtown Portland.  What a great city.  Their buildings have style and design.  They don’t all look the same.  I applaud the Portland urban renewal belt.  It is helping revitalize the city.  While Portland may claim to be the most green city, they have some serious roads yet to make in their downtown area.  Some streets had trees, others without.  Some were hot concrete jungles, others were nice, shady, beautiful areas.  What a beautiful city, hopefully that will spread throughout the rest.  You get so far out of the downtown and it is a dump.  In fact, driving into Portland Thursday night, I had a fight between two end up in the road and I nearly ran them over.

Well, off my little soapbox about politics.  Saturday night Joe and Becky took me to dinner with a couple of their friends.  Hal and Mindy seemed like a great couple.  She teaches acting or something like that at Portland University.  I don’t remember what Hal does.   Since we were in a big city, I told Becky of my hankering for some good Indian food.  Especially if I could get a donner kebab.  So we met Hal and Mindy and ate at this great Indian restaurant.  There were not any donner kebabs, but I had this amazing chicken korma.  We ordered and somehow my future marriage came up.  It then came knowledge to Hal and Mindy that I would be married in an LDS Temple.  So cornered me and asked if I was excited about learning all the secret stuff that happens therein.  In jest I assured her I already knew.  Becky told her I had already received my endowments and that this was just the sealing.  They did not know there were multiple ordinances performed in the temple.  She turned to me and asked if I would tell her the secrets.  I told her I could share with her those things which are in the scriptures and thereby give her a general overview of what takes place therein.  I went on eating my appetizer and realized they wanted it now.  Well, for the next hour I taught them the overall scriptural ideas of the endowment.  They found it utterly fascinating.  Hal at one time was quite the scholar on the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness so I did the discussion completely from there and the Temple in Herod’s day.  They really liked how I kept tying the Old and New Testaments together and were apt to asking questions before I could even finish a topic.  Finally after nearly 2 hours we had gone through the endowment.  Washing, Anointing, Garments, New name, Adam and Eve, covenants, and finally the sealing.  What was great was the promptings I felt of the Spirit to where I could nearly quote entire passages of relevant scripture.  Obviously I did not reveal any of the signs, keys, or tokens.  Mindy as a acting instructor found the theatrical portion ideas of the endowment to be very interesting.  We discussed some of the ancient plays recorded in the scriptures, Greece, and Becky even brought in this one part about the Native Indians.  It was a very fascinating conversation.  In discussion of the covenants portion of the endowment, I discussed why the covenants were sacred and why we do not reveal or tell them.  Hal made the most interesting of all evening on how he missed the rituals of organized religion.  He commented how he noticed there was a certain mystic, power, in the ritual.  I instantly thought of some Hugh Nibley and thought to refer him, but did not.

The conversation moved away to politics.  They were noticeably impressed with the clarity the endowment made.  They said they would think about it and next time definitely have more questions.  Perhaps I may be able to refer them to the missionaries next time.  However, after the discussion of the temple, they then asked what my political leanings were.  Especially since they liked the way I thought.  We ended up discussing marriage, abortion, stem cell research, death penalty, republicanism, democracy, the proper role of government, and a whole host of things.  Joe and Becky were much more a part of that conversation.  By the end of the evening I just barely finished my food and we all had a great time.

That evening we were plum tired out.  So we decided to go to bed early.  However, Becky and I stayed up and talked about family, genetics, and traits until nearly midnight.  It was a good bonding experience.

Sunday rolled around and I finally awoke and got ready for the day.  I had blueberry pancakes with Joe and Becky and then headed out to pick up Tom and Co from Gresham.  It was good to see Chad and Morley again.  They are good guys.  Rather than going home on I-84, we chose U.S. 26.  It was a beautiful drive.  We found the church in Madras but they had it earlier in the morning and there was not an afternoon ward.  We tried again in Prineville, but they were just letting out of church when we got there.  There are two wards, but the second ward started at 11:00 AM so that put us too late.  In the end, we were not able to attend church.  We tried.  There were some really cool little towns on the way like Mitchell, Dayville, John Day, Prairie City, Unity, Vale, Nyssa, Parma, Notus, and back to home.  It was interesting to drive through Nyssa and see the Sugar Factory there.  I have known of it all my life with my Dad’s association with Amalgamated Sugar.  I have recently heard much of it working for The Gallatin Group and watching DR-CAFTA with Amalgamated and their closing the plant this year.

Today found me back at work and loving my job.  This is my last week, so there are some bittersweet feelings there.  Nevertheless, DC will prove to be fascinating and interesting.