Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sorry, I Can't Say No

Hmmm…what is there to talk about this week? It was not the most eventful week I've ever had. I went to Erin's house a couple of times, one time I caught her and Kevin in the middle of "Cats". Erin's mom answered the door and said, "I have to warn you, they are watching 'Cats' up there." I told her that I would be brave, and I went upstairs to meet my friends, and they thankfully turned the movie off and we watched good entertainment- The Office (I have never seen 'Cats' so I have no place to judge it, so don't hate me if you happen to love 'Cats'). I also went to Erin's house earlier in the week to pick up season two of House and I stayed at her house for a while and played Guitar Hero and watched the first episode of season two of House. That was probably the most fun I had in the week.

The other fun part of the week was going to Tucanos with Kevin on Saturday. Since it was during my birthday month, my meal was free, which was really nice. I love the food there and it is always fun spending time with Kevin. The bad story of the week, which I hesitate to share because it makes me more upset each time I think about it, is that I got conned by a girl selling magazine subscriptions. Ok, I don't really know if I was conned, but the more I think about the circumstances behind it, the more I'm convinced that I was. This girl came to the door and told me a sad story about how she grew up with abuse and drugs in her home, and that she escaped from it and is now trying to change her life around. And, as if she knew me personally, she said that her goal is to become a child psychologist. She asked if she could come in just to give her a chance, so I thought I would be nice and let her in. What happened from there was her asking me to select three magazines and basically pressuring me into buying one. I thought it would be harmless to buy a subscription because it was cheap and I wanted to help this girl out who seemed genuine at the time. Well, the cost kept building after I'd agreed ("oh, by the way, there is a $13 shipping and handling fee that I forgot to tell you about..."). And, the weirdest part of all was that she told me she would get more "points" for her sale if she went with me to the ATM to get the money.

I should have stopped there and got suspicious, but for some reason at the time it seemed harmless, and I wanted to be done with the whole thing before I agreed to buy another magazine subscription. So, I drove to the ATM with her in the car and pulled in the drive thru ATM to get the money for her. To top everything off, I had to pull out in increments of $20, and she didn't have change for the $20, so I just let her keep the change. After the whole ordeal, I was just glad to be done with the whole transaction and I thought that maybe somehow I had helped her cause and that she would feel more self-esteem for making the sale and would be able to get one step closer to getting out of an abusive situation and towards a career as a child psychologist. But, as I've thought about it, I think maybe she was dishonest about her situation just to garner sympathy so that I would be a sucker and fall for her sales pitch. The only consolation I have is that my neighbor next door fell for the same sales pitch.

So, after that experience, I have made a promise to myself that I won't allow myself to fall victim to solicitors. Kevin and I have a joke that began coincidently with lunch at Tucanos. At Tucanos the waiters continually come to the table to offer various meats, and I always accept and never turn down any kind of meat that I'm offered. We joked about how I can never say no to whatever is offered to me. Well, when Kevin went to the bathroom, he told me to make sure that the waitress didn't take away his plate because he still had some pineapple that he wanted to eat. When I wasn't paying attention, the waitress had taken Kevin's plate away, and when Kevin came back and saw his plate was gone, I told him, "Sorry, I couldn't say no" and we started cracking up. Well, I felt the same way after the soliciting girl left, although it wasn't as funny this time. It taught me that I need to be able to say 'no'. Hopefully I've learned my lesson now.

Wow, I did not plan on spending most of my blog entry on that experience, but I guess it shows that it has been on my mind a lot in the past week. Besides that, I've had to deal with some unpleasantness. Last week, a sharp pain started in my tail bone. This made it very hard for me to sit at work for 8 hours. The pain was almost unbearable, and the only way I could get through it was mass amounts of Aspirin. On top of that, on Saturday night I started feeling sick to my stomach. The combination of the two was almost more than I could bear and I spent much of Sunday lying in my bed in pain. As you may have guessed, it wasn't fun. It resurfaced a bit this week, keeping me from work for a couple of days. Luckily the sickness in my stomach is completely gone and the pain in my tail bone is going away. I am very thankful and it is making me very happy now that I'm not in pain.

Wow, this has been a bit of a depressing blog post. Oh well! Sorry! I'm hoping next week is better because my mom is coming into town! The plan is that my mom will come on Monday next week and we'll leave Utah together Thursday night, stay at a hotel halfway, and then arrive at home Friday afternoon. Then, I'll go to my big summer concert with my dad on Saturday and fly home on a plane Sunday afternoon in time for Fall semester to start the next day! Sounds exciting, huh? I'm really looking forward to it. And that is pretty much it for now! I hope to have interesting things to discuss next week.

P.S. Sorry, I had to comment on the picture that goes with this post. I usually try to find a picture from the show Lost that somehow goes with the topic in my post, but if I can't figure anything out, I just go for a cool picture from the last episode I saw. So, this is a random picture, but kind of in a funny way goes with the title of the blog post anyways. I'm not planning on shooting anyone anytime soon, don't worry, I can say no to committing murder ;)

P.P.S. I'm an idiot! I tell a whole story about a girl conning me and I can't think of any connection with Lost? I fail.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Birthday Surprise

Starting from where I left off last week, I had a wonderful birthday trip in which everything worked out perfectly. Probably the only thing that wasn't perfect was the fact that I got Kevin home later than I promised, but I think he has forgiven me by now. When I finally got to my room after the long drive, I noticed a large birthday card laying on my bed. I was immediately perplexed and thought maybe my roommates or my ward had made me a birthday card. Once I opened the card, I got concerned because I thought it was saying that someone had stolen my stuff and I had to go to a random person's house in order to get it back. When I read the card more carefully, though, I realized it was from Erin and that she was merely wanting me to come over to her house the following day and to bring rock band, so I could have the Lost DVDs I let her borrow back. The card was brilliantly done, by the way, with a beautiful drawing on the front and the inside in a ransom note format with every letter taken from a different magazine. I was very happy that night and texted Erin the next day thanking her for the card and asking what time I should come over with Rock Band.

So, I went over to Erin's house with Rock Band in my car and we brought it upstairs in her house and set it all up. She gave me my DVDs back (and this was when I realized that not only did she have the Lost DVDs I let her borrow, but she had taken another season while she was delivering my card!) and we proceeded to have tons of fun playing rock band. Rock Band is my favorite game of all time, and unfortunately most of the people I know either don't like to play it or are too busy to play it. Erin and I traded off between drums and guitar and we had a blast. After we played rock band, we decided to watch an episode of House and Erin made a pizza. Unfortunately, the pizza was left in the oven too long and ended up being burnt, but she made chicken nuggets instead and those were really good. I stayed at her house pretty late and she suggested that I should leave Rock Band at her house since it was late and I was tired. I agreed to this, and went back home and almost immediately went to bed.

The next day was my actual birthday! Yay! In all honesty, I was a little depressed at work because nobody acknowledged it being my birthday (to their defense, nobody probably even knew it was my birthday) and I had to work, which can be boring. Kevin promised me a "surprise" though once I got off work, so I anxiously waited for 5, which is when I got off work, and I drove home really fast and waited for Kevin to come pick me up. Kevin picked me up and we went to his mystery place for dinner, which ended up being...Brick Oven! I was really excited, that is one of my favorite restaurants! And, for another surprise, Erin met us there and we had dinner with her as well! It was awesome having dinner with my two best friends and we had a great time. We all ordered the market buffet and filled up on salad and pasta. Our waiter was pretty funny and he kept mentioning to me "the embarrassment" that would come at the end of our meal, which of course was the waiters gathering around to sing their version of Happy Birthday. He even made me stand up as they all sang to me so that the whole restaurant could see me. I was a little embarrassed, but it was all fun...I think Kevin is the one to blame for the waiter finding out that it was my birthday.

At dinner I got an incredible present from Erin- the first 3 books in the Percy Jackson series. I have already read the first and am almost done with the second and they are great! After dinner, we went to the next surprise, which ended up being going to Erin's house to play Rock Band! Kevin told me about how he was behind the whole plan of Erin making that birthday card for me and taking my Lost DVDs so that I would bring Rock Band to her house. He was also responsible for having Erin keep me at her house late so that I would leave my Rock Band at her house so we could play it the next day! Kevin and Erin had planned out the whole thing and I had fallen for it! I am so gullible sometimes. So, we all played Rock Band and had a great time. I was impressed to see Kevin actually pick up a guitar instead of drums. He did really well. The final surprise of the night was that we were all going to watch the last performance episode of So You Think You Can Dance together, which I thought I would have to miss. It was a great show and tons of fun to watch it with two great friends. Afterwards we played more Rock Band, and then Kevin and I left. It was a great birthday, one of the more memorable ones I've ever had.

The day after my birthday, I started not feeling so well. I got an incredibly severe headache and I was really tired all day (probably because of staying up late on my birthday). Work was torture that day, but once I got home I took some aspirin and immediately started feeling better. I was able to go to Erin's house that night and watch the So You Think You Can Dance finale. I was very happy with the finale, they danced all my favorite routines over again, and the winner truly deserved it. It was another great evening, and I was impressed that Kevin stayed for the whole show since he had to get up early the next day for work. The next day was an average day at work- luckily I didn't have the tiredness and headache I had the previous day. On Saturday, Kevin and I got together to watch one of my favorite movies, Knowing.

Besides that, I have been watching episodes of House like crazy to try to be caught up by the time the sixth season starts. I also have been reading a lot of Percy Jackson and remembering how much I love Greek mythology. I am very happy with life right now, and I'm grateful to have great friends to hang out with and to help lift my spirits when I need it. I am so happy with the whole surprise that Kevin and Erin planned for me for my birthday, and that, combined with spending the previous weekend with my family and attending an incredible concert, has made this one of the most incredible birthdays I've ever had. Now I have to play the waiting game until the next fun event, which will be attending prog nation with my dad at the end of August. This has been a truly great summer!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Birthday Trip

Ok, now for the more fun and less serious part of my blog post today! I am going to outline my crazy birthday trip from this past weekend, both the good and bad moments. It was an extremely memorable trip for me and I think it will be one of the top highlights of 2009 for me. But, it did have what could only be called a shaky start...

On Thursday morning, I got up at 9 to get ready so that Kevin and I could leave at 10 to go to California. After a quick shower and some last minute packing, I brought all my things out to the car and started checking the car to make sure I have enough oil and other fluids in the car so that no accidents would occur on the trip (since I have had that happen to disastrous results in the past). Well, I think I obsessed over it a little too much on Thursday morning. I checked the oil and it seemed a little low to me. Then, I saw that the coolant was pretty low, so I decided I should fill it with more coolant. Well, I made the mistake of having my car turned on as I was checking all of these things, so when I poured the coolant into the correct container, I spilled some and it spilled onto the power steering belt and the belt stopped and seemed to be broken. I have had this problem happen before, and I knew that the belt being broken meant that my steering wheel wouldn't turn correctly and would almost be locked up. So, I drove the car through the parking lot and my worst fear was realized. After a frantic call to my mom as Kevin came walking up, I decided that I had to take my car into the shop to get the belt fixed. After much deliberation, I decided that I would just try to "brave it out" and just drive the car to the shop even though it would be extremely difficult to turn due to the broken belt since I didn't want to have to wait for a tow truck.

Well, I got to the shop just fine, and I left it there for the mechanic to fix. He said he would get to it in about 45 minutes, so Kevin and I left in his car to go get some breakfast/lunch. We came back about an hour later and they hadn't looked at my car yet. So, we waited in the waiting room for some time until the mechanic finally called my name and told me the bad news. He said that this is a common problem for these types of cars, so the car company has developed a special $300 kit in order to fix the problem. With $150 of labor on top of that, the whole thing ended up costing quite a bit, and I felt really bad because my dad ended up having to pay for it. The other bad news was that it would take until 4:00 for it to be fixed, meaning that we would be leaving 6 hours behind schedule.

I was pretty depressed, but luckily I have a great friend who was there to help me through it all. Kevin suggested we go see a movie, so we went to the dollar theater and decided on seeing Night at the Museum 2. It was far from being a masterpiece, but there were some funny moments that helped keep my mind off of the bad things that had happened that morning. After the movie, we had lunch at Del Taco, and talked for quite a bit before returning to the car shop to pick my car back up. We decided since we were leaving so late that we couldn't make it all the way to my house, so we decided to stay at a hotel in Mesquite.

On the way to the hotel, as further manifestation of my bad luck that day, I got pulled over by a cop. I was shocked when it happened because I was going exactly the speed limit, but, lo and behold, the red and blue flashing lights were going off behind me, so I pulled over. Apparently, a cop had been behind me with its lights on for quite some time and I didn't see him, which had delayed him in getting to an accident where a motorcycle had hit a deer. So, I was getting pulled over for not pulling over for a cop. I am shocked that I didn't notice a cop behind me because just the glimpse of a cop without its lights on strikes fear in my heart, but apparently thats what happened. Luckily the police officer was nice and only gave me a warning instead of a ticket. From now on, I will be glancing in the rear view mirror a lot more often when I drive so I can get out of the way of emergency vehicles.

We finally arrived at our hotel, which ended up being pretty nice. That night I reflected on the bad events of the day and decided that they were actually blessings in disguise. Perhaps, if we hadn't had that car problem in the morning, I would have had a problem in the middle of the trip in the middle of Nevada where it would have been a lot more difficult to get help. Also, I got off with only a warning from the cop and learned a lesson about being more attentive as I drive that helped me later on in the drive to my house. Friday morning we left relatively early and the most notable thing that happened was that when we were minutes away from my house, a cop car got on the freeway right in front of me and started swerving through all the freeway lanes! I was very confused and didn't know what to do, so, because of the cop that pulled me over, I decided to just pull over on the side of the road. I guess the cop was clearing traffic for something up ahead, but as we drove past later there didn't seem to be any accident, so I'm not quite sure what it was all about. All I know is that it was scary in that moment.

Well, I finally arrived at my house and the fun officially started. We had a celebration of sorts for my birthday which involved watching that weeks episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, eating my favorite dinner (fried chicken and mashed potatoes), blowing out the candles on the birthday cake, and opening up presents. I was touched by the kindness of my family, and it was a great night and a highlight of my trip. On Saturday night, Kevin and I went to the big concert which was Nick D'Virgilio and 12 other musicians performing one of my favorite albums of all time: Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway". The concert was spectacular and the band did the album justice. Nick was especially entertaining as the front man and sang flawlessly. I really enjoyed the drumming of Jimmy Keegan, who is also the touring drummer for Spock's Beard. It was all a blast to watch and reminded me all over again why that album is so special to me.

After they performed the Lamb, Alan Morse and Dave Meros from Spock's Beard joined Nick on stage for a special set of Spock's Beard songs. They performed four of my favorite Spock's Beard songs: On a Perfect Day, The Bottom Line, Gibberish and June. For "On a Perfect Day" the horns joined the band and it sounded great! On "Gibberish" Nick D'Virgilio got on the drums and gave an outstanding performance as the band nailed the multi-part vocal counterpoint. It was a special night, and Kevin and I couldn't stop talking about it. It is one of the more memorable concerts I've been to and it gave me new respect for Nick D'Virgilio who was the main man in the spotlight.

Sunday was a pretty relaxed day. After church, I watched some TV with my family and that night we watched the movie "Pee-Wee's Great Adventure" and all had some laughs over it. The next day we had lunch with my family before we took off to come back to Provo. I was sad to leave my family, but luckily I'll be seeing them again at the end of the month, which should be a lot of fun. I felt bad because I got Kevin home later than I promised, but I'm hoping that he has forgiven me by now. And that was about it for the trip! It was a great time and I believe it is one of my greatest birthdays ever. Of course, my birthday isn't over yet, but even if nothing happened at all today, it would still be one of my most memorable. There have been other experiences this week, such as Erin taking my Lost DVDs for ransom, but I will leave that story for next week so there is something interesting in next weeks blog entry and that this one isn't any longer than it already is. So, in summary, my trip was awesome and I thank my family and Kevin for making it so awesome.

24 Years of Life: A Reflection

First and foremost I want to express gratitude on this, the 24th Anniversary of my birth, for the wonderful 24 years of life that I've had. There have been many memorable moments, both good and bad, but overall these experiences have been beneficial and have shaped me into who I am today. I wanted to identify what I consider to be the five most crucial moments in my development. I'll try to keep it relatively brief because I don't want to seem pretentious or self-involved, but I thought my birthday would be an appropriate time for some honest self-reflection. These moments are in chronological order and calling them moments is misleading because many of them cover many years.

1. The beginning of my most meaningful friendship

When I was ten, during the summer of 1995, I took swimming lessons at the Troncales, a family that was really close friends with my family. Taking swimming lessons in the same group as me was a boy my same age named Kevin. Through a series of events that honestly isn't completely clear to me now (bad long-term memory) we became close friends and would often play together with legos and my collection of action figures. This friendship has stayed very strong even up until now, surviving a devastating moment where Kevin moved to Utah only after about a year of being friends. We kept in contact through various methods, saw each other practically every summer, and ended up both going to BYU and even being roommates at a point. Kevin has been a huge influence on me through practically every important part of my life. Which leads to moment #2...

2. My baptism

Kevin was really my first introduction to the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, even though my mom had been a member since she was little. His enthusiasm along with other events occurring in my family, led to my family getting more involved in the church, and this culminated in me getting baptized at the age of ten. I honestly don't remember much about the events leading up to the baptism, such as the missionary discussions I had, but I know that the decision to be baptized has led me down a certain path, and I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't made that decision. I'm so grateful for the support of my family and in Kevin's encouragement as I made that big decision. Also notable to me, is that my dad was baptized shortly after I was, and I feel in some way that my baptism was a step in bringing my whole family together and closer to our Heavenly Father. This was especially made clear when I had the privelege of being sealed to my family in the San Diego Temple.

3. My Dad introducing me to music

This moment may not seem to fit with the rest, but it is significant to me because music is a huge part of my life that has helped to inspire and comfort me during crucial moments in my life. My love of music began when my dad first really showed me the music of The Beatles. He went out and bought the red and blue albums containing the Beatles biggest hits and I listened to them nonstop. Later on, my dad bravely showed me a more experimental type of music called Progressive Rock beginning with his favorite band, Gentle Giant. I was blown away at first listen, and this began my addiction to progressive rock, and my constant search to find new music that touches me as deeply as Gentle Giant did that first day my dad showed it to me. I listen to music almost constantly and it helps me through some of the darker times and has helped me to find inspiration when I've needed it. One particular artist that has been significant to me is Neal Morse, whose music has touched me in a more profound way than any other artist.

4. Getting Accepted to BYU

During my development through childhood and adolescence, I always placed a high importance on school. This was especially true in High School, where I took as many honors and AP classes as I could and graduated with over a 4.0 GPA and a lot of college credit. The decision of which college to go to was a big one, and I had several in mind when I first was deciding where to apply to. But, I ended up feeling prompted to just apply to BYU, so I dropped all other applications and applied to the three BYUs, hoping that I would get accepted. Fortunately, I was accepted at BYU Provo, and I truly feel in retrospect that the spirit prompted me to go to BYU. I have learned many valuable things here, both spiritual and secular. I have had wards that have lifted me up and made me stronger spiritually, and I have had classes that have changed the way I previously thought about the world. I have changed majors in the middle of my BYU experience, but I feel that every single class I have taken has been useful to me and I feel it has truly prepared me for my future.

5. The Mission

There is a lot I can say about my mission, but I will attempt to be brief (which hasn't really been working so far). A mission was about the scariest thing I could imagine as I was growing up. As a chronically shy person, spending two years constantly talking to strangers about something they were most likely going to reject sounded terrifying. But, I decided to go anyways. I had a lot of opportunity to bail out, I had health issues that would have been an easy excuse to not serve a mission, but I persisted and the mission ended up being a huge growth experience. There are two people that were very instrumental in me choosing to go on a mission. My best friend, Kevin, because he had such an excitement about serving a mission that was contagious, and my freshman bishop at BYU, Bishop Greenhalgh, who was a prime example of what a spiritual man of God should be and who gave me responsibilities that helped prepare me for the mission. The mission taught me to be more self-less and to truly care for others, regardless of their circumstance. I love so many people that I met from my mission: my mission companions, my investigators and converts, and church members of the areas I served in. It taught me to be more independent and responsible. And, it helped me to face a big fear and to teach me that I'm capable of great things.

Those are the five experiences that stick out to me that have shaped me into who I am today. I hope to have many more of these defining moments throughout my life and hope that I can keep these ones in mind so that I can learn from them and grow from them. I am thankful for all those who have made my life what it is today, and I hope on this, my birthday, that I can truly realize how much I have to be grateful for from my 24 years of life so far.