Thursday, August 27, 2015

Firsts


First day of 2nd grade and 4th grade, for Peter and Eddie, respectively. They are attending school where Melanie teaches, which means it’s a brand new school for each of them. Neither one is too enthusiastic about being in school, but they are doing well with it, considering.



First day of preschool for Creegan. Being the third child, transitions are easy-breezy for this guy. No big whoop. Creegan was excited for preschool and never once gave the tiniest hint of a faint glimmer of a crap that I was leaving him behind in a building he’d never before seen with people he’d never before met. He’s also been doing an online preschool, and I’m proud of how positive he is about it and how well he’s doing. It’s been fun for me to be the one taking him and picking him up from school every day, and also working with him as he does online preschool. There are times I really relish my current stay-at-home dad status.



First trip to R&R BBQ. Ever since word of mouth and a few local media resources led me to believe R&R BBQ is the premier BBQ restaurant along the Wasatch Front, it has ranked quite high on my list of must-try eateries. After tonight, I can happily move R&R BBQ to a spot high on my list of verified good SLC eats. It was very, very good, in fact. I wish I had tried more of the standard BBQ fare, but I opted instead for the Caveman burger. I had two reasons for doing this: (1) the burger has been highly recommended by friends, and (2) it happened to be the special of the day. Those two reasons acted as the spermatozoon and ovum that coalesced in my mental womb and left me pregnant with a decision, a decision to which I would shortly give birth when asked, “Can I take your order?” I also got some fries.

Melanie ordered the beef brisket with a side of hush puppies and mashed potatoes. I had a small bite of each and found them all quite tasty. I can hardly wait to go back and get some brisket myself. Which is not to say I was disappointed with the Caveman burger. Not at all. It was a yummy and indulgent burger featuring not only a ground beef patty, but butterflied links of smoked Andouille sausage and a helping of pulled pork, all topped with fried jalapenos, melted Monterey Jack cheese, and sweet BBQ sauce. The logistics of getting such a monstrous sandwich into your mouth is something that must be worked out with care and precision, but it’s well worth it. And the side of fries, which usually leave something to be desired at BBQ places, was thoroughly enjoyable as well. I’m sold.



Our first Honda. After spending an exorbitant amount of time researching used vehicles, two things became more and more important and non-negotiable for me. One, I wanted the car to be certified. A certified used car is backed by the original manufacturer, albeit not to the extent that a brand new car is. Still, most certified cars have enough warranties in place to dispel any paranoia one might have about unknowingly buying a lemon—something I’ve regrettably experienced in the past. In addition to peace of mind, buying a certified used car made me feel that taking the vehicle to a mechanic before committing to a purchase was unnecessary. That would save oodles of time and hassle, and that’s what I wanted. Two, I wanted a car I felt confident could go 150,000 to 200,000 miles while remaining a decent car. I wanted reliability and dependability, and that meant I wanted either a Toyota or a Honda. I had eyed several other vehicles, but I just didn’t feel as safe or reassured about them. Once I knew I wanted a Toyota or a Honda, I knew it would be either a Camry or an Accord. Both are extremely well-reviewed by the likes of U.S. News & World Report, J.D. Power, Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book Expert Reviews, and a host of others, not to mention their outstanding word-of-mouth reputations. With three growing sons, Melanie and I also felt it time to upgrade to a midsize, which meant Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics just weren’t going to cut it. All along, I had been determined to get a car with decent gas mileage, a low odometer reading, and a squeaky clean Carfax report. I found some Camrys that came close to fitting the bill—ones that we probably could’ve financed for $35–$50 less per month—but they either had twice the mileage of the Honda or they just plain looked shoddier. Usually both. Maybe it sounds picky, but I didn’t want a ketchup red car with beige, slightly stained seats. The best Camry I found had approximately 3,000 fewer miles on it and would’ve been about $18 less per month (I assume) to finance than the Honda. But despite having a black exterior, it also had the beige, stained interior and was a year older than the Honda. With these things in mind, the Honda beckoned. And beckoned. And so, around 7 PM on Wednesday night, I took to the Honda dealer and test drove the Honda. It felt silky smooth, whether on the freeway or in stop-and-go traffic. Looks-wise, it couldn’t have been a better fit for me: silver on the outside, black on the inside. (I’ve long dreamed of owning a silver car.) A bevy of fun little features added to the appeal, although they certainly weren’t important enough to make or break the deal. Such features include radio controls on the steering wheel, a rearview camera, a screen that displays not only what radio station you’re listening to but (depending on the station) the artist and song, precise temperature control with the A/C, and cup holders. Okay, I’m kidding about the cup holders: they weren’t negotiable. The cup holders in our Corolla folded out but had become inoperable and thus hadn’t been usable in years. As lame as it may sound, the cup holders in our new Accord are among my very favorite features. I absolutely love ‘em!


So, yes, Melanie and I decided to push forward with financing the Accord. I’ll spare you the details and say simply that I left the car dealership at 11 PM feeling quite good about the deal I had gotten. Make no mistake, I was feeling very anxious, too. There’s no way I could buy a car without feeling anxious, regardless of the price and regardless of the suspected reliability of the car. It’s just too major a purchase to be calm about it. But I was pleasantly surprised with our APR—turns out we have a pretty decent credit score!—and walked away with some nice incentives, such as free safety and emissions testing for life, free oil changes for the next several years, etc. Knowing it’s a Honda also makes me feel way better than I otherwise would. I trust that we have made a sound investment, which is not how I’d feel if we had purchased almost anything else.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Up in Smoke

The last 10 days or so have been a wild ride. Eddie and Peter went back to school. Creegan started preschool. After a decade-long hiatus, Melanie is once again living her dream of being a Kindergarten teacher. Life is busy. Aside from the minor ways in which I assist with everything listed above—and my contributions to most of these things are very, very minor, I readily admit—I have spent much of the last week researching cars. If you read this blog, you are probably Melanie, my mom, or me, so you already know this, but Melanie and I no longer own a functioning automobile. After nearly eight years of faithful service to my family and a brief but awe-inspiring battle with fire, our Toyota Corolla passed away on Sunday, August 16th. It was 16 years old.



To tell this story properly, I need to go back to Saturday, August 15th. On the evening of said date, I was going to head out and run some errands. Up until this point, our car had been working just fine. But when I started the car that evening, it was shuddering and convulsing the way cars often do when they’re about to stall. I backed out of the driveway to see if using the gas would help the car come to its senses, but it did not. I quickly pulled back into the driveway, shut off the car, waited a moment, and restarted the car. Nothing had changed. I again shut off the car and decided to check the oil. It made no sense to me that oil would be the problem, but the only problem I’ve known our car to have (and I’m not sure it’s a “problem” so much as a nuisance) is that it burns a lot of oil. The oil was just at the minimum level line, so I topped it off, not really seeing how this could possibly affect anything. But being that it was the only thing I knew how to do, I did it. It didn’t help. When I restarted the car, it was still having its spasms. I decided to take it for a spin around the block, just to see if anything would change. I backed out of the driveway and the car immediately died. When I turned the key, it started back up without a problem, which gave me the tiniest bit of comfort. I then drove around the block.



The car made it around the block, but it was shaky the entire time. Also, pushing on the accelerator seemed to make little to no difference in how fast the car would go. It topped out just above the speed any automatic car would go if you put it in drive and merely took your foot off the brake. I returned home and let the car sit. Not much later, Melanie’s dad came home. He knows much, much, much more about cars than I do and has been roped into fixing all of his kids’ cars on numerous occasions. We asked him to look over the Corolla. He did so, reporting back to us that he expected it was the spark plugs. As I understand it, he replaced the spark plugs, but it didn’t help. I’m not entirely sure what all he looked at or tried, but he eventually came to us and said the car was now working fine, noting that the spark plug wires had been the true culprit. We rejoiced in once again having an operating vehicle and went to sleep peacefully that night.



On Sunday morning, we got ready for church and loaded ourselves into the car. It started up beautifully. Everything seemed fine. Well, sort of. The check engine light was on—but it had come on the night before, and I know those lights don’t always go out immediately after you fix something. More worrisome to me was the strong smell of gasoline. It was very strong. I know sometimes after a car is worked on, it stinks or smells strongly of this or that chemical or what have you. I assumed that’s all it was, and we started our 20-ish minute drive to church. The smell dissipated as we drove, which seemed like a good sign. And yet whenever we stopped at a stoplight, it became quite intense again. Ridiculously and unbearably strong. I expressed concern about it. Melanie thought we should continue and just ask her dad about it later. Clearly, neither of us thought it was of such importance that we shouldn’t be driving the vehicle. And so we continued.



Aside from the smell of gasoline, everything went fine and dandy until just after Melanie and I exited the freeway. We stopped in the left turn lane at a red light just a few blocks from our church. While stopped, I suddenly noticed the oil light and battery light on the dash become illuminated. The car may have stalled, which would explain those lights coming on. I think it probably did, but I didn’t really have time to think about it before smoke started to billow out from under the driver’s side of the hood. I think I had just enough time for “oh crap” or some such sentiment to pass through my mind before a flame shot out from underneath the hood. I say “shot out” because it flared up enough to be seen, but I don’t want to be overly dramatic. It wasn’t something I’d want to describe as “explosive,” although people keep using the word “exploded” when they talk about the event with me. Regardless, I didn’t feel a sense of panic, but I did recognize the urgency of the situation and immediately told my family to get out. Melanie assisted Edison and Peter, who exited the car on the passenger side. I helped Creegan, who had been sitting behind the driver’s seat. We hurried over to the gas station on the southeast corner of the street and watched as the smoke being belched out from underneath the hood increased and darkened. Peter and Creegan were crying. Melanie was too. Eddie seemed fascinated by it all, although I think his relatively positive demeanor was probably his way of dealing with such an intense situation. (I have seen a similar response in myself when big things have happened.) Melanie called her dad and 911. I called our associate pastor and let him know we wouldn’t be at church, something that seemed important only because Melanie was slated to teach the Sunday school class for young children. A very kind man, without any request from us, ran over to our car and grabbed some stuff out of it (including the Crockpot full of food we were bringing for the potluck after church). A very kind woman offered to let our kids sit in her car and listen to music to try to put them at ease. This man and woman were the first heroes on the scene. Others would soon arrive.



When the fire department arrived, they went to town on our car. They sprayed it down, then proceeded to saw into our hood and peel it open can-opener style. For whatever reason, they also smashed the driver’s side window. Melanie’s dad had arrived on the scene to take us back home. We waited for the hubbub to die down, at which point we were allowed to collect more belongings from our car. It was a good thing. Melanie had her work ID in the car, we had car seats in the back, and various other little things were gathered. Our beloved Corolla was then towed away. We went home, some of us more traumatized than others. (For whatever reason, I never felt too distraught by it all. “That’s a bummer” probably summarizes quite well how I felt about it.) Melanie contacted the insurance company and learned that we could pick up a rental car the next morning. We tried to spend the rest of our Sunday in as relaxed a manner as was possible.



Since approximately 8 AM on Monday, August 17th, Melanie and I have been driving a rental car—a little black Fiat that all too frequently has to downshift in order to pick up speed—as we wait on a settlement from our insurance company (which has indeed declared our Corolla a “total loss”). I have spent copious hours online researching used cars. The bulk of my time in the last week or so has been spent on this. It’s probably overkill, but I always get stressed over major purchases and want to be smart about it. Used cars in particular cause me stress, because it feels like such a crapshoot. What’s more, I’m trying to determine the best plan for getting us into two cars as soon as possible. Melanie and I had been talking about getting another car and letting the Corolla become our secondary car. We had talked about this the day before such plans quite literally went up in smoke. That’s the biggest disappointment about losing the Corolla—not that we have to buy another car now, but that doing so gets us no further ahead in being a two-car family. With Melanie’s new income, I am hopeful that we can yet pull it off to have two cars. But figuring out more than one decent used car, at least one of which must be relatively cheap, only adds to the stress.



I will conclude with the four images I snapped on my cell phone. My cell phone camera is quite shoddy, so you get what you get. Enjoy!





Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dissertation Desertion, or ABD for Life

Last time, I mentioned my decision no longer to pursue a PhD in philosophy. Even though I had come to that decision, it didn’t feel 100% official until I emailed my dissertation committee and informed them that I no longer require their services. I started with an email to my dissertation chair, clicking “send” and thereby terminating our relationship at 7:53 PM Mountain Time on Tuesday, August 11th. Exactly ten minutes later, I hit “send” on an email to the rest of my committee.

Game over.

Are you sure you want to quit? [Yes/No]

Yes.

Save game? [Yes/No]

No.

Though it was mild, I did feel a sense of elation after sending the emails. It is freeing. Some may think I just severed some kind of professional lifeline, but the truth is, that cord had become so tangled and wrapped around my neck at this point, it was doing nothing but damage. The future feels more open and full of potential than it has in a long, long time. They say God never closes a door without opening a window. That’s fine, but I think there are cases when an open door actually obscures your view of what other doors are already open and waiting for you.

I’ve had a lot of apprehension about how people might respond to my decision. Just consider the word “quitting.” It has such a negative connotation. Over six years ago, I wrote about this very topic—the stigma attached to quitting. The post was written near the end of my first full year in Tallahassee. It makes me wonder what sense of uncertainty about my future was already lurking beneath the surface. Anyway, my paranoia hasn’t been unwarranted. Several people whom I talked with during my decision-making phase expressed the belief that I should finish the PhD because I’ve already come so far. Some of them have made it clear that it would indeed be a “shame” not to finish now. Well, I have news for you. One of the people on my dissertation committee is a renowned and respected psychologist. He responded to my decision by asking what had prompted it. Here’s the response I sent him:

I’m happy to tell you more about my decision, if you’re sincerely curious. I’ll try to keep this brief, but doing so ensures I will be oversimplifying things quite a bit.
Midway through my PhD program, I started to become increasingly aware of the fact that I wasn’t as happy as I should be. I had loved my master’s program, so I thought I was passionate about philosophy. As time went on, however, it became more and more evident that I wasn’t that excited about academic philosophy. The thought of writing and publishing philosophy for a living was actually somewhat depressing to me. I realized that even if I were handed a tenure-track philosophy position right here and now, I wouldn’t really want to take it. That was eye-opening to me, and yet I didn’t know what to do other than finish my PhD and hope for the best.
I left Tallahassee in 2014 with the goal of finishing my PhD in absentia. Although I didn’t intend to neglect my dissertation, I found myself investing more and more time into things that I really love and care about. I had done this, just a little bit, while still in Tallahassee. It had been emotionally and psychologically rejuvenating to me then, and it was all the more so now. Like I said in my previous email, I haven’t been this happy in years. And not by a small margin. Anyway, I realized that completing my PhD would yet require many months of hard work and thousands of dollars, and I honestly couldn’t see the point. Yes, the idea of having a PhD is appealing to me, for the sake of prestige if nothing else. Yes, I had already invested much time and effort into the PhD program. (I assure you, loss aversion played heavily into my initial reluctance to abandon the PhD altogether. It has been a primary culprit for quite some time now, I believe.) But I had no desire to pursue a job that would require the PhD, and I have found myself deliriously happy as I’ve pursued and done other things. Case in point, I worked as a tour guide this summer and enjoyed it more than I can remember enjoying any moment of my PhD program.
To summarize, I no longer have much interest in academic philosophy, and I do not wish to pursue a job that would make my completing of the PhD worth the time, effort, and money it would yet require. I held on to avoid a bruised ego and out of a fear of regret, but the former seems like a poor reason for making such an important decision and the latter is no longer a concern.

And here’s the response I received from him (edited for formatting/capitalization):

It really sounds like you made the right decision. Never get a PhD in a field that you don’t want to make into your life’s work. Best of luck to you!

If this is the response I get from someone who is considered a specialist in the field of “self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, [and] motivation” (as Wikipedia notes), then I’d say I’m in pretty good shape. Not that I didn’t know that. But some of you reading this may not have known it. And now you do.

Game over.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Nauvoo: An Epic Look Back on an Epic Summer of Epicness

I’ve been back in Utah for less than eight full days and Nauvoo already seems like something that happened ages ago. Such is life. I realized after returning home that there were plenty of little things about Nauvoo that I never made mention of. It’s easy to skip over the mundane—the normal, day-to-day things that were a part of Nauvoo living—and yet those are the details that will, someday in the future, help to evoke a more salient memory of how I spent my summer vacation in 2015. Don’t worry—I’m not going to mention every insignificant detail I can remember. And, since I’m writing anyway, I’m going to include things that weren’t a part of my everyday life in Nauvoo. In short, this is just a look back and a slight coloring in of what I’ve already shared. That sort of thing. (If you’re wondering about the abundance of epicness in the blog title, it was influenced by my kids—especially Beegy—who seem to regard the word “epic” as their adjective of choice when describing something cool.)

One thing I would be remiss never to mention about Nauvoo is the preponderance of bugs. Fortunately, it wasn’t something that affected our home life. We didn’t have an abundance of creepy crawlies inside of the house, although spiders weren’t uncommon (and I even once found one on my pillow). Outside of the house, however—whooey! I talked about mayflies in an earlier post (or two), but those were a rare sight, all things considered. The bigger problem was in fact the spiders. And the main location that we had problems was our car. Overnight, our car would inevitably be wrapped in a cocoon of spider web. That’s not much of an exaggeration—large sections of the car would be covered in spider webs, no matter how recently they’d been cleared away. They’d get inside, too. You might open your car door only to discover a wall of spider web between you and your seat. Melanie once took the car through a car wash, and by the next morning, several spiders had set up shop and covered many spots on the car with web. It was cuckoo. From what I could tell, the backside of our sideview mirrors was a booming spider metropolis. You’d see many spiders per day sneaking out from behind the mirrors, back where human eye and hand could not go. The photo below was taken within a day or two of having our car washed. You can see at least four spiders in the photo.



We enjoyed much animal life aside from spiders during our time in Nauvoo. I’ve never seen so many wild bunnies in my life. On a couple of occasions, I saw multiple bunnies hopping around together, but usually it was just a single bunny. This made me wonder if it was the same bunny I was seeing over and over again. It seems that during at least one tour per day, the bunny would be hanging out at one of the historic sites. Tourists often got more excited about the wildlife than the historic sites themselves. That was especially true when a turtle was hanging out by the Nauvoo House one day. (I saw turtles only twice that I can remember.) Geese were extremely common. Near the visitor’s center, there seemed always to be a flock of geese just hanging out.

An obvious matter to discuss is how my left foot held up with all the tour-guiding I did in Nauvoo. With my left foot being partially constructed of metal, I have a slight limp. Aside from that, I’m not the most active guy in the world. Going from a rather sedentary lifestyle to one wherein I would give walking tours multiple times a day was something that made me a tiny bit apprehensive before heading to Nauvoo, although I realized it was probably in my best interest, health-wise. Still, I didn’t know how well I’d hold up. Fortunately, I did quite well. Per usual, there were days when I’d get up with a stiffer ankle than other days, and it would take me a little bit of walking around before the pain and the more extreme hobbling would subside. But overall, I think giving tours and walking around a lot helped my foot to adjust. I started to get better in the mornings than I was before I went to Nauvoo. That is, I think my limping and need for a morning-time adjustment period decreased during my time in Nauvoo. On the flipside, my restless legs syndrome got worse. Like gout, my restless leg syndrome (RLS) is self-diagnosed and (thankfully) not very extreme. I hadn’t even heard of RLS when years ago I first started noticing that, at times when I was watching TV, my left foot would start to “tickle” inside and feel like it needed to spaz out. I don’t think it’s ever been anything other than my left foot, and the sensation is always concentrated up near the big toe. (Could it be a side effect of the injury that led to my metal foot? I don’t know.) It can be really annoying, and I fear that if it ever gets worse, it will be the kind of the thing that would make you want to cut your damn foot off. Anyway, I don’t have these sensations every day. I might go weeks without feeling them, and I might only feel them a little bit for one night and then not feel them again for another few weeks. There’s no rhyme or reason to it that I can tell. And yet, giving walking tours every day, it was extremely common for me to feel some restlessness in my left foot at night. Extremely common. So, that’s discouraging, to think that being a more active person might exacerbate the antsy sensations in my foot. That would suck. I hope to be more active now that I’m back in Utah, so we’ll see what happens.

If it wasn’t clear from my blog entries, I was extremely happy in Nauvoo. I was sad to leave. I really loved the life I was living there. I was hanging around people every day who were interested in discussing the same things I’m interested in, including a brilliant man who was always willing to let me pick his brain. It was highly educational, but without the pressures of academia. I was also able to teach tourists about things I care about, and sometimes you’d even get a tourist who seemed to be on a spiritual journey of his/her own, and then answering questions felt ministerial. It was awesome. And yes, life was simple. Even the dearth of options in Nauvoo had a certain appeal to it, making life feel really easygoing. (I fully recognize that being in Nauvoo long-term would likely drive me insane, especially during the winter. I’m just saying it was a nice, laidback escape while I was there.) The kids loved it, too, which is awesome and amazing. They were all sad to leave Nauvoo, and Eddie several times mentioned his desire to return to Nauvoo next year. I really like that idea myself. Depending on what life is like seven or eight months from now, I would definitely consider going back. While in Nauvoo, I loved the idea of Nauvoo being something we do every summer for the next several years. I don’t even know if that’s an option, but I like the idea. In fact, my happiness was eye-opening. It solidified some things about what I want to do with my future. You see, I was honestly happier as a tour guide than I can remember being during my entire PhD program. I felt much more in my element, much more interested, and much more at peace. I am done living in the past and not embracing what I know and love about and within myself. I’m done spending time on crap I have almost zero interest in. I reject the notion that I’m cosmically indebted to finish walking a path simply because I once started down it. I am done. I am officially abandoning my dissertation and relinquishing any speck of intention I once had to complete my philosophy PhD. My only regret is that I didn’t have the courage to do this sooner, that I second- (and third- and fourth- and fifth, ad nauseum) guessed what has been clear to me for a long time now and, as a result, tried to fit myself into a mold that didn’t feel authentic or rewarding or appealing. I’m happy to be someone else now. I’m happy to be yet another step closer to me.

Speaking of authenticity, my time in Nauvoo also reminded me of some truths I have learned over the last several years. I think it is wholly compatible with my membership in Community of Christ to say that love is the true religion. I really believe that. There is enough crap in the world, and enough crazy shit in church history that it’s just crystal clear to me God could not possibly have been okay with. The whole notion of God welcoming us into Heaven only if we subscribe to the correct religious institution makes zero sense to me. How could you really deduce what the correct path is? And if you can’t, what kind of a jerk would God be to condemn you for that? I think many religions teach that God is an all-loving, all-powerful being, only to turn around and negate these ideas with their creeds and claims of exclusivity. I thank God (literally) for the experiences I’ve had with love, which have been abundant over the last few years. If God is love, as is proclaimed in scripture, then I do know God better than I ever have. And perhaps for this reason, it is clearer than ever to me what is and is not an abomination, religiously speaking. No religion is perfect, I know. But I rejoice in where I am at now. It is so good. Sooooo good. I’m not even talking about religious institutions, per se. I mean religion in a broader sense. Let’s be honest. Each of us practices his/her own religion, it’s just that given enough similarities and overlap, several of us can attend the same buildings on Sunday, read from the same sacred texts, use the same vocabulary, and speak in ways that make sense to each other. We put a label on those similarities and presume everyone who embraces the label is the same, but they’re not. We’re not. None of us are. If God is handing out salvation based purely on those labels, then God is capricious. If the labels matter at all, then God is a respecter of persons. If God is love, then love is what matters. Where love is, there God is also. I really believe this, and I believe I have experienced it. I’m experiencing it with greater regularity than ever, and it’s beautiful. I will mention here that Melanie and I officially submitted our letter of resignation to the LDS Church while in Nauvoo, an irony (in the popular but inaccurate sense of the word) in which I probably took a little too much pleasure. I expect that some will be saddened by this news, even though it really doesn’t change anything about my life. Please note that I’m not trying to say that leaving the LDS Church is necessary for one to experience love more fully and completely. Perhaps it was in my life, but I’m not trying to universalize my experience. My only point is that my time in Nauvoo reaffirmed to me that God transcends religious institutions. And how couldn’t that be the case, if God is love? Surely love transcends religious institutions. Why do we refuse to accept it?

Since I’m tooting what some would consider my apostate horn, I’ll mention that I tried coffee again while on my way back to Utah from Nauvoo. In Laramie, I poured myself a cup in the morning, feeling inclined to give it another go. I wouldn’t say I was optimistic, but I felt open to trying it. With three packets of Splenda and two creamers, I thought it wasn’t too bad. Of course, I had taken several sips before then, so I think my perspective was skewed. I didn’t think it tasted very coffee-ish at all by the time I had added those things, but Melanie tried it and thought it was awful. I think the crappy coffee flavor had infiltrated my mouth enough by that point that I was only noticing what wasn’t coffee-flavored. Anyway, despite thinking it was okay, I had very little of it before throwing it away. I’d say being a coffee drinker is a still a long time away, and not something I’m all that inclined to pursue. I don’t really foresee it in my future, but who knows.

Let’s talk about souvenirs. I mentioned in a previous entry that Peter bought a fox and that Eddie, Beegy, and Melanie and I bought birds. On the last day of work, I bought a few new stuffed animals for the ride home: a skunk, a beaver, and a bat. I purposely avoided assigning a particular animal to a particular child, but the skunk ended up being Peter’s (he named it Sneaky), the beaver became Eddie’s (he named it Beavy), and the bat went to Beegy (who never named it). The day before my last day at work, I loaded up on books and a (coffee?) mug. I bought only books that I felt were significant and important reads and that I could purchase more cheaply with my employee discount than I could obtain used. In total, I purchased five books (not including a Community of Christ hymnal that Melanie wanted). I had also purchased two books earlier in the summer, meaning I averaged one new book for each week I was in Nauvoo. Not too shabby! I’m very excited to read them.

Alright, I guess I should wrap this up. Believe it or not, as small as Nauvoo was, there were things I didn’t get around to doing. There are a handful of LDS historic sites I would’ve liked to visit, just for the heck of it. I also thought I’d see one or both of the LDS pageants during my time in Nauvoo, which I didn’t. There are also some little scenic things I didn’t ever stop and appreciate, such as the Stone Arch Bridge. If I ever return to Nauvoo, I’ll have to check these off of my list. On the non-religious side of things, I would like to tour the winery. Melanie and I had tentative plans to do that with some of our friends who came to Nauvoo, but it didn’t happen. Maybe next time. Outside of Nauvoo, if I’m ever again in the neighborhood, I hope to see Winter Quarters, Nebraska; Adam-ondi-Ahman; and Lamoni, Iowa, which was once the headquarters of the RLDS Church and where Graceland University resides today.

There you have it. Another dose of Nauvoo. Is that the end? Probably. Maybe. Probably. For now.

My last night in Nauvoo, with my fellow summer interns.  As you can see, I'm not eating warm apple crisp.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Potpourri No. 41

A variety pack of life…

Hit Me like a Hamer
I mentioned in my previous post that Melanie and I were going to attend a lecture at the downtown SLC library by Community of Christ historian John Hamer. It ended up being the fourth John Hamer event we’ve attended in the past year or so. This one differed from the others in that it took a broader look at the Latter Day Saint movement started by Joseph Smith, looking not only at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ—the two largest denominations to come out of the movement—but several other Latter Day Saint churches. In fact, the LDS Church and Community of Christ took a backseat in this particular presentation. Instead, Hamer focused on lesser-known groups, such as the Strangites, the Hedrickites, the Bickertonites, and the Cutlerites—all of which consider themselves to be the one and only true church on the face of the earth and the proper continuation of the church started by Joseph. One thing that stood out to me was a graphic made by Hamer that showed color-coded boxes representing early (i.e. several years before Joseph was killed) church leaders and their subsequent (i.e. after Joseph was killed) religious affiliations. Strikingly, a majority of church leaders did not end up following Brigham Young. Not from a more comprehensive perspective, anyway. Our view gets skewed a little bit by the fact that, by the time people were making a choice whether or not to follow Brigham, many who were opposed to polygamy or had other issues had already left. Fascinating stuff. (And here I will officially apologize for using such a lame pun above as the title for this section of my blog post.)

A brilliant and amazing guy poses with Melanie and John Hamer.


Hey, Teacher!
Melanie is busy as can be now, gearing up to teach Kindergarten for the first time in a decade. Granted, she taught Kindergartners all last school year, but she was officially an aide and not the teacher. Now that she’s back in the driver’s seat, she has more responsibility. She’s attending mandatory preliminary staff meetings, she has to get her classroom all set up, etc. I feel like I haven’t seen her much since we got back from Nauvoo, which is kind of sad. Fortunately, we’ve made an effort to do some fun things this week. We had our date to go to the John Hamer lecture on Monday; on Tuesday, we went as a family to see Ant-Man and then went to dinner at CafĂ© Zupas; and tonight, we have dates for The Book of Mormon musical! I’m very excited about the latter. After this week, I assume things will only get more crazy, but I’m crossing my fingers that all five of us—Melanie, Eddie, Peter, Creegan, and me—will adjust well to all of the changes we are about to face.

Doctor, Doctor
Part of gearing up for the new school year is taking kids to the doctor. Yesterday, I took Peter and Creegan in for a checkup. Eddie was spared, although he went with us. Peter and Beegy are both doing great. Beegy has 20/20 vision, and Peter’s is not quite as good but still fine and in the normal range. Peter is in the 75th percentile for height and weight, and Beegy is around the 50th percentile for height and just above that for weight. Sadly, it was time for Creegan to get his final immunizations before entering school. He won’t start Kindergarten until next year, but we wanted him taken care of so he can be in preschool. He had only two shots that he still needed, but that’s two more than he wanted. It’s no fun restraining your child so someone can stab him a couple of times with a sharp object. Thankfully, those nurses can be amazingly fast. She was so fast, I wondered if it was really possible for her to have done the shots properly. I think it took less than a full second for each shot. Creegan was devastated, but boy did he recover quickly. By the time we were home, he was going out to jump on the trampoline with Eddie. The shots were given to him in his upper thigh, which you’d think would make jumping around immediately after rather unappealing. But nope, he was fine and dandy by then. He didn’t even take any pain medication, either before or after—not that he would’ve been willing to, and not that I didn’t offer it to him. Getting Creegan to take medicine (by mouth) is an utterly impossible mission. He will vomit in resistance before you can stand any chance of getting some into his system. It’s awful.

Dentist, Dentist
Today, I took all three kids to the dentist. Our appointment was for 9 AM, which was perhaps a little too optimistic for us. I didn’t even get a chance to eat breakfast or switch over some laundry as I had planned, and we were still several minutes late. Oh well. Things went fine and dandy once we were there. Well, sort of. Creegan once again proved the toughest sell. He was crying and screaming and refusing to lie back in the chair, even though they weren’t going to do anything more than a cleaning. Yes, it was embarrassing. Yes, it took several minutes to get him to comply. Once he did, he quickly realized it was no big deal. I wish he would’ve believed me when I told him that 1,000 times in a row as he threw his tantrum. In the end, Peter and Creegan are doing terrific. Eddie, not so much. The problem is crowding. He has moderate to severe crowding, and it’s time to start working on it. They want to put him in an “expander” (if I remember correctly) for 12–15 months. It’s not technically braces, but it’s close enough. As they talked to Edison about his crowded teeth, they asked me if I had had similar problems as a kid that needed to be fixed (assuming Eddie inherited it from one of his parents). I said, “I still need braces. I was neglected as a kid.” I opened up and showed them my crazy teeth. Since the onsite orthodontist was going to look at Eddie, the dentist recommended that he look me over as well. Now, it’s been one of my main goals upon returning from Nauvoo to see an orthodontist ASAP and get my teeth taken care of before I get any older. I felt self-conscious knowing I hadn’t eaten anything and my mouth probably smelled vile (aren’t you glad you’re reading this?), but seeing an orthodontist was never going to be more convenient for me than it was right then. So, I took my turn in the chair and was given a look-over. In a nutshell, the orthodontist told me that $3,500 and 24 months could have me looking “really nice.” I don’t know where I’ll get the money, but it’s got to happen. This absurdity has gone on way, way, way too long. Getting braces has been on my to-do list (and not just my “should do it” list) for a solid decade now, but I’ve never felt financially able to do it. I was also never sure how long I’d be living in the same area, and for some dumb reason, I let that be an excuse. I figured being an adult—and a rather severe case at that—I’d be a multi-year project, and I didn’t want to move in the middle of working with an orthodontist. I know, it sounds really lame in hindsight. But I always thought, “Well, as soon as we move somewhere else and are a little more settled, I’ll get started on it.” And that’s just never happened. Time to be a responsible adult, since my parents kind of blew it in that department. (If you’re reading this, Mom and Dad, you can assuage some of your guilt by helping me foot the bill. Thanks!)

Monday, August 03, 2015

Coming Home

We left Nauvoo on the evening of Friday, July 31st. No surprise, we didn’t hit the road quite as early as we’d hoped, so we didn’t reach our hotel until close to 1 AM. It didn’t help that we got a bit lost for a short while. I think we inadvertently skipped one of the steps on our Google Maps directions, the kind of thing people who are hip enough to have a GPS system would never do. Fortunately, we got lost only once we were in the vicinity of our hotel. Melanie made a quick call to her brother, Tom, and had him look up directions based on where we were. We were only 10 minutes away from the hotel, but we couldn’t have found it without Tom. Thanks, Tom! On the plus side, getting lost gave us an opportunity to explore Omaha (and its surrounding areas, like Council Bluffs, IA). Excluding trips to the beach and public pools, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shirtless men in such a short period of time. As I noted in a Facebook status update, being a man and wearing a shirt does not seem to be a popular combination in Omaha. And it wasn’t just the cool dudes hanging out in front of the gas stations after midnight. In the morning, we saw several men walking around without shirts. Classy!

We spent our first night at the Sleep Inn in what is technically Carter Lake, IA. We had one of the cutest hotel rooms I’ve ever seen. The room was T-shaped, with a bed in each wing of the top of the “T” and the bathroom and desk being situated in the “stem” of the “T.” (Each bed had its own TV, too.) That might not sound particularly cute, but the coloring and everything added to it. (See the photo below, which I am politely lifting from Kayak.com.) The beds were super comfortable, with delightfully squishy and plush pillows. We slept great. That’s what we liked about the hotel. Other aspects of the hotel were much sketchier. With the exception of the employee who checked us in, every member of the staff we encountered looked like a heroin addict who had just been released from prison. I wouldn’t have felt safe leaving my personal belongings in my room, if I may be so judgmental as to say so. The complimentary breakfast was also a joke, the worst I’ve ever seen. We went down to breakfast a good 35 minutes before it was supposed to end, and there was next to nothing available to eat. I’m not exaggerating when I say there was literally one slice of white bread, one English muffin, two small donuts, a few apples, and almost anything you’d get out of a spout was about to run dry. Filling up a cup with waffle batter to pour into the waffle iron, I wasn’t sure I’d get enough batter to make a waffle. When I did get a waffle, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get enough syrup out of the syrup thing. Melanie and I had to share a spoon for our yogurts because there weren’t enough spoons. The kids finished off the little bit of cereal that remained, and I wasn’t sure we’d get enough milk out of the carafe. It was quite disappointing. (In contrast, our next hotel refilled breakfast items even when there was literally only four minutes remaining of breakfast time. That’s how you do it, folks!)

This doesn't match the layout of our room, but decoratively, it is the exact same style.  Thanks, Kayak.com!


Upon leaving the hotel on the morning of Saturday, August 1st, we hit our final church history site of the summer: the Kanesville Tabernacle. I admit, I hadn’t heard of Kanesville until a couple of months ago, but the early Latter Day Saints spent more time in Kanesville than they did nearby Winter Quarters. The Kanesville Tabernacle (the original, which was about a mile away from the visitor’s center and reconstructed tabernacle today) is where Brigham Young was sustained as church president. Or, rather, it’s where he was sustained by approximately 1,000 church members and some members of the Quorum of the Twelve. My understanding is that the LDS Church is interpreting this moment in history as the moment when Brigham Young becomes President of the LDS Church. There are some glitches in that interpretation, however, as I understand it—though I admit, I’m not sure how well I understand it. One problem with trying to wrap your mind around some of this is that the LDS Church can be intentionally vague about things. I promise I don’t say that to be negative, it’s just true. At the Kanesville Tabernacle, for instance, there are signs that talk about “the Twelve” and how they “unanimously” sustained Brigham Young. But based on details you read on other signs at the same historic site, it’s clear that it wasn’t the entire “Twelve” in attendance. So, they (purposely, I believe) give the impression that all twelve apostles were in attendance and agreed about Brigham Young becoming president, but that isn’t really the case. In fact, Lyman Wight opposed Brigham Young and ended up with his own faction. So, if you just read the signs at the historic sites and try to understand things based on what is strongly implied (and darn near explicitly said) on those signs, you get an inaccurate picture. Anyway, it’s strange to me to think that Brigham Young truly became the president just in virtue of being sustained by a small fraction of church members. That doesn’t strike me as legitimate. But the bigger issue in my mind is that I am unaware of Brigham Young ever being ordained as president. Being sustained is one thing, but ordination is another. I can’t find any information about Brigham being ordained as president. I’ve heard some people claim that he never was, but I don’t know. I only know that I can’t find anything about it, and you’d think the LDS Church would promote it like crazy if they knew the when and where of such an ordination. If Brigham wasn’t ordained president, that’s a very significant thing. If you hold to the LDS view on how priesthood succession and authority works—with ordination by the laying on of hands being so central to the rest—a lack of ordination could potentially undermine Brigham’s entire presidency. It might even have a domino effect that would delegitimize subsequent presidents of the LDS Church, including any priesthood ordinances performed during their tenure, since those would require the sealing power that is understood to be invested only in the president of the church. I myself don’t base my religious beliefs on this type of legalism, but I am fascinated by these matters precisely because if you take the LDS view of things seriously, it often ends up being problematic for the LDS Church in some way. That fascinates me. (If you’re wondering, Joseph Smith III was not only blessed by his father to be his successor, but he was both sustained and ordained as church president. That gives Joseph III’s claims to presidency much greater legitimacy, if you want to take the legalistic view of church authority seriously.)

Creegan poses in front of a statue of a man bidding his wife and daughter goodbye because Brigham Young has claimed them as wives.  (Just kidding!)


I think Mormons sometimes view the RLDS Church (known today as Community of Christ) as clearly not a true continuation of the original church since they were and admit to being "reorganized."  But the LDS Church did the same thing.  The "reorganization" was of the first presidency, and that's exactly what happened with Brigham Young in 1847, as the LDS Church readily admits with this here plaque.

Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards look over a list of young women as they decide who gets whom for a plural wife.  (Just kidding!)


A quote from a revelation received by Brigham Young, now included in LDS D&C 136.  I'm not being snarky when I say I find this verse rather poignant, given that it turns out to be so very applicable to Brigham Young himself.

An artistic rendering of Brigham Young being sustained as president by eight of the twelve apostles (including Brigham himself).

Note those who were absent.  What was Lyman Wight doing in Texas?  Oh yes, opposing Brigham Young and leading his own faction!  D'oh!
 
Brigham Young gears up to sing "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" at the Kanesville Karaoke Club.  (Just kidding!)


The nice thing about the Kanesville Tabernacle is that it was the only LDS-owned historic site we visited this year where the onsite missionaries weren’t immediately bearing their testimonies to us. They actually stuck to the history. I don’t recall a single hint of testimony-bearing during our entire visit. It was kind of nice, if I may say so.

After leaving the Kanesville Tabernacle, we started our daylong drive to Laramie, WY. I don’t think there’s anything interesting to say about the drive. Western Nebraska and Wyoming are ugly in comparison to where we had been, and that made the drive somewhat dull. Melanie and I listened to a fair amount of podcasts; the boys played on their electronic devices. The latter are a true lifesaver. There was not a single complaint about the many hours we spent in the car on the way back to Utah. Amazing. We arrived in Laramie at about 8:30 PM local time, thanks to changing time zones. As it turned out, we had booked a room at the exact same hotel that we had stayed in on our way to Utah after moving out of our Tallahassee, Florida apartment last summer. Even more coincidental, we were put in the very same hotel room. Yes, I am certain—it was in the back corner of the second floor, which made it easy to remember. After getting checked in, we went swimming until 10 PM, then let history repeat itself once more by heading to Chili’s for a late-night dinner, just as we had done approximately 13 months earlier. For the third time in as many days, I didn’t get to eat what I had planned on, which was a bummer. Country fried steak is no longer on the Chili’s menu, and that was always one of my favorite Chili’s items. With that being gone the ground peppercorn burger having been omitted long ago, I now have zero inclination to return to Chili’s. Not that my food was bad. I tried to make up for my bad experience at Outback a couple of weeks earlier by ordering a ribeye, cooked medium. Like Outback, Chili’s overcooked the steak, but not nearly to the degree that Outback had. At least the steak at Chili’s was juicy rather than dry. The seasoning left something to be desired, but I quite enjoyed my “skillet mashed potatoes,” which had a thick coating of melted cheese on top. Cilantro was also placed on top, which seemed different for mashed potatoes, but I love cilantro, so it was a win. Beegy fell asleep before his dinner ever arrived. Eddie and Peter enjoyed their food, and Melanie thought her pork carnitas tacos were exceptionally good. Overall, it was a successful visit.

Never seen one of these before.  Melanie snapped this photo for us as we entered the freeway in Omaha and took toward Wyoming.

My ribeye.  Skillet mashed potatoes are in back.  See the cheesy glaze?  Yum!




The drive from Laramie, WY to our home in Utah felt slow and tedious, as the last day of driving so often does. It wasn’t a purely mental thing, either. There was lots of road construction, by which I mean lots of highway that was reduced to one lane and situated between bright orange traffic cones and barrels. I didn’t see any actual construction going on, but it was a Sunday. In some states, that matters. (It wouldn’t have in Florida.) This means we kept getting slowed down, sometimes to stop-and-go speeds, often behind large semis. It wasn’t any fun. It was fun that our boys started to recognize things and point them out. Beegy would get especially excited about things he remembered. And I’m not talking about things around the SLC area. I’m talking even out by Green River, Wyoming. He’d recognize a particular landscape or whatever. We got home around 6:30 PM. The boys were excited to revisit Grandma and Grandpa’s trampoline. Melanie and I were just excited to be done. We did take a quick tour of the home improvements that have been made during our time away: Melanie’s parents painted their bedroom light purple (which looks great with their gray bedding) and have a new washer and dryer. Despite being exhausted, I stayed up until 4 AM. It makes no sense, but it’s what happened.

And that’s that. We’re here. It’s over. Nauvoo is a memory. How fleeting it was. I do have some apprehension about being here. I would not be the least bit surprised if I go through a period of depression sometime in the very near future, having gone from having a daily purpose in life to again having very little direction or structure. It’s okay. I’m prepared for it, and that will help. I’m excited to partake of the benefits that Utah has to offer, such as an event tonight at the SLC Library with John Hamer. As a reminder, John Hamer features significantly into Melanie’s and my journey into Community of Christ. It was his lecture at the SLC Library last summer that inspired us to attend an actual worship service at Community of Christ. Tonight’s event, titled “Ever Diverging Expressions of the Latter Day Saint Restoration,” should be epic (as my kids would say). I shall return and report.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Adieu, Nauvoo!

Writing a goodbye post about Nauvoo would’ve been a lot more meaningful to me had I gotten a chance to write it while still in Nauvoo. As it turns out, I am writing this post from Utah approximately four hours after arriving back home. My 2015 summer internship in Nauvoo ended more than two full days ago. Crazy.

My last week in Nauvoo was a busy, busy blast. I assume I will already forget many details, which is sad, but I’ll do my best. Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th were both work days for me. On Saturday night, the family and I made our last jaunt to the movie theater in Keokuk, the nearest town with an actual stoplight. We saw Pixels, which the kids loved, and their enjoyment of it brought me much happiness. Church on Sunday was fine enough, from what I remember. Sunday school ended up being donuts and coffee, but without any coffee because it turned out there wasn’t any on the premises to be made. (Had there been, I might have been tempted to try it again, despite not yet having had any coffee I’d go so far as to say I’ve enjoyed.) So many of the people in the Nauvoo congregation work at the Joseph Smith Historic Site that conversation comes easy. There’s probably too much shop talk going on, but it’s nice to do something you’re interested in talking about.

Monday the 27th was my final day off before leaving Nauvoo. I figured I better do some final exploring of Nauvoo while I had the chance. I went solo, making my first stop the Calvin Pendleton Home and School. I then attempted to go to the Lucy Mack Smith Home, but the door was locked despite having an “Open” sign on the front of the house. Do they lock people out of it if they already giving a tour? I don’t know, but that’s my only guess. I gave up on it and then made an impromptu stop at the Lands and Records Office. I looked up one of my ancestors and found out where he used to live, then drove to that location and took photos of the empty field that it is today. I next went downtown (if it deserves to be called that) and saw what they had, which was very little. I snapped a few photos and decided to hit Nauvoo Mill & Bakery for the last time. Little did I know I would end up there one additional time that day, but more on that in a moment.



This field is, I believe, where my great-great-great-great (I don't even know how many) grandpa used to live.  I assume there would've been a home of some kind and that he didn't sleep in the grass.  (Edit: To clarify, I think it is further back in the tree area that the guy would've lived, kind of behind where that house is on the left edge of the photo.)

Some of what downtown Nauvoo has to offer, which is relatively little.

Obligatory temple shot.  It is a beautiful building.  I wish I'd had a chance to go inside.


At Nauvoo Mill & Bakery, I purchased some strawberry and cream cheese croissants that Melanie and I had tried earlier in the summer and quite enjoyed. I considered it a last hurrah. When I left the bakery, I was going to go pick up an order of onion rings from Peter’s Place. Peter’s Place is a burgers-and-shakes, Mom-n-Pop type eatery on the outskirts of town. I’d heard they have really good onion rings, and I had always meant to try them, so now was the time. Before I could go to Peter’s Place, however, Melanie texted me to request some things from Nauvoo Market, the only grocer in town. I had also wanted to stop at Casey’s and get a fountain drink, plus I thought I should check out the Fudge Factory since I hadn’t yet. This resulted in me making a lot of brief stops, jumping in and out of the car, buying snacks and treats aplenty. Peter’s Place, for the record, did have pretty good onion rings, texture-wise. They were super crunchy. Flavor-wise, they were fine, but not something I’d bother making a special trip for. I thought I’d take some back to Melanie, but you hardly get any onion rings in an order. I ate them all myself. I did get a fountain drink on my way to Peter’s Place, and I did stop at the Fudge Factory on my way back home. I got just two little pretzel braids that were covered in chocolate, crushed pecans, and caramel. They were quite good.

I mentioned earlier that I would end up back at Nauvoo Mill & Bakery. While there, I noticed they had a pecan pie in their display case. One of my tour guide co-workers (call him Ford) has raved about their pecan pie, but complains that it is rarely available. I have even witnessed Ford call Nauvoo Mill & Bakery to ask if they have any pecan pie, only to hang up sadly upon hearing that they do not. I asked Melanie if I should go back and buy the whole darn pie and then invite Ford and his roommate Azrael (whom I’ve mentioned before) over for pie. Melanie thought I should, and so I did. By the time I had returned, a couple of slices of the pie were missing. I bought what remained. I went back home, spent some time there, and then Melanie and I loaded up the kids to make a trek to Ft. Madison, since we had discovered that the Hy-Vee grocery store in Ft. Madison contains a Starbucks. Melanie was desperate for a green tea Frappuccino after going nearly seven weeks without one. On our way to Ft. Madison, we stopped by the home where Ford and Azrael live and invited them to come over for pie later in the evening. I explained what I had done, to which Ford replied, “So, you’re the one who bought the pie?! We went in there earlier today and asked if they had pecan pie and they said some guy had just bought all that they had!” We had a good laugh about that. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Okay, not really. But we chortled some.

The Nauvoo Mill & Bakery wasn’t the only place I visited twice that day. On our way back from Ft. Madison, we stopped for dinner at Peter’s Place. I figured it would be a place the kids would enjoy. I was a bit disgruntled by our visit. The kid who served us was very friendly, but had his humor knob cranked to 11 and made me feel obligated to laugh at every joke he made, which was about 75 jokes per minute. They were also out of tons of stuff. They had no Diet Pepsi, no Mountain Dew, and no Pepsi—literally the first three drinks I would’ve chosen from among their selection. I didn’t know this until I had bought and paid for a drink. They were also out of ice. No joke. There weren’t lids for the drinks, either. Thankfully we weren’t interested in the caramel shakes or junior burgers, which we had been informed were also out of stock that day. I was unimpressed, let me just say that much. My Navajo taco, which is supposedly one of their most popular items, tasted like canned food from a grocery store all dumped together on a slightly overdone and too-flat scone. If I ever return to Nauvoo, I shan’t be eating at Peter’s Place. I will, however, make trips to Ft. Madison for green tea Frappuccinos.



The kids engage in some high quality tomfoolery just outside of Peter's Place.




A photo of Peter in front of Peter's Place, for obvs reasons.


Tuesday, I was back to work, but we had fun plans in the evening. Several people from the Joseph Smith Historic Site (including Ford, Azrael, Sheradon, and others) were heading to Burlington, Iowa for a 7:05 PM showing of Jurassic World. Melanie and I took the kids. Because we had to leave right after I got done with work, we decided to eat dinner at the mall that housed the movie theater. That wasn’t the best plan in the world, as their food court consisted of literally two eateries: a Maid-Rite and some Chinese place. Not having had Chinese food since leaving Utah, that’s what Melanie and I ate, while the kids ate stuff from Maid-Rite. By the time we got our food and ate it, we were pushing it on making it to the movie on time. The previews were already going by the time we got into the auditorium. Melanie would later head to the lobby to take advantage of their Tuesday night deal: a free popcorn with every drink purchase. With Tuesday night tickets costing only $5, we were able to splurge at the movies without it being as outrageous as movie prices typically are.

On Wednesday night after work, our good friend Jenn stuck around for dinner. Jenn’s husband Seth had gone back to Utah for the Sunstone Symposium, so we tried to keep her company. We had a good time, and afterward I decided to hightail it to Burlington to get a haircut at the only hairstylist within a 35-minute radius of Nauvoo that was still open. Eddie and Creegan wanted to tag along for whatever reason, so they went with me. (Beegy actually acted like he wanted to get a haircut, despite having gotten a haircut just a few days prior. I guess he likes them. Go figure.) It ended up being one of the best haircuts I’ve gotten in the last decade. Being damn near bald, you probably think I’m making some kind of a joke, but I’m not. Damn near bald guys can still get better and worse haircuts.

Thursday was our last night in Nauvoo. It was also my last time to be lead guide (which doesn’t matter much, but I figured I might as well mention it). Because it was my last night in town, my boss at the Joseph Smith Historic Site took everyone out to dinner at the Hotel Nauvoo. They have a nice buffet that is a bit on the pricey side. Isn’t that generous of my boss to do that for us before we left? It was really nice. The one sad thing—and I admit, I got more sad about it than a 36-year-old man should—was that I never got any dessert. I scooped up some warm apple crisp, one of my favorite types of dessert, and was about to eat it when my fellow interns and I were escorted outside for a group photo. I had planned to head back inside and eat my dessert, but we took a while with the photo and everyone else ended up leaving the restaurant. There was no going back at that point. I hadn’t even had a single bite of the dessert. It still stings a bit.

That brings us to Friday, July 31st, my last day in Nauvoo. The day started off neatly enough. Before the visitor’s center opened for business, the historic sites director showed us interns some of the original manuscript pages of Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible (known today in Community of Christ as the Inspired Version and in the LDS Church as the Joseph Smith Translation). Shortly thereafter, I singlehandedly (actually, I used both hands) unwrapped a newly arrived cradle that was made in the 1870s. Several early RLDS prophet-presidents had slept in the cradle as babies. When it comes to tours, I had it easy. I accompanied my boss on a tour with a very large group of S&I (formerly called CES) instructors for the LDS Church, interpreting the Mansion House when that group had to be split into two. I gave only one tour on my own, to a group of only three people. For the first time, I bumped into Joseph and Emma Smith themselves while on tour. In actuality, it was two LDS missionaries in costume for some vignette they would be performing in just a moment, but they were standing together in front of the Mansion House and already in character. Naturally, we had to stop and shake hands and make the obligatory jokes about going into their house and how we’ll keep it in good shape. Knowing I wanted to get on the road as early as possible, I was allowed to go home shortly after 3 PM. I helped Melanie pack up a few final things, put some oil in the car, said our goodbyes to Jenn and her kids, took a few final photos around town, and left Nauvoo.

Moments before leaving Nauvoo.  We are standing in front of the Sidney Rigdon home, which was our home for approximately five weeks.

The Red Brick Store (reconstruction), where most of my tours would come to an end.

The Mansion House, which Joseph Smith called home during the last 10 months of his life.  This was the most popular stop on our tour.

The larger, red brick structure is typically called the Nauvoo House, although it was officially dubbed the Riverside Mansion when completed.  It is one of the stops on the tour, although we do not enter the building.  The stone building in the forefront was the office of Lewis Bidamon, whom Emma Hale Smith married three-and-a-half years after Joseph's death.  Our friends Jenn and Seth are staying in that building now.

The Homestead, which was Joseph and Emma's first home in Nauvoo.  This is where they lived the longest during their time together in Nauvoo.

The Homestead, from another angle (slightly more to the north).  I once joked to a tour group that the Homestead well (visible just behind the informative sign) was the very well that inspired the popular hymn, "All is Well."  One woman laughed very hard at this joke; everybody else just stared at me.


As this post is already running a bit long, I think I’ll save details about our return trip to Utah for another day. Until then…