Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Hunt

It is all about the hunt. Yesterday afternoon we piled into the car and drove out to the nearby Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree. Cutting down your tree is much more fun than going to the local grocery store parking lot to claim your tree. In our family, the Noble Fur is the only acceptable Christmas tree available and even Super Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them. You have to get your shoes muddy.

I’ve finally accepted the fact that looking for a Christmas tree has little to do with finding the perfect tree. If finding the right tree was based solely on measurable parameters, we would have been done in five minutes. The first tree we came across was just as good as the tree we finally cut down. In fact if you were to put them side by side you wouldn’t be able to recognize the difference. But, the hunt has to last at least 40 minutes. This gives ample time for everyone to process the validity of their own irrational parameters and get tired of defending their requirements against the requirements of others. After 40 minutes, every tree looks good and everyone is ready to cut.

The exercise sounded something like this. “Oh this tree looks good. Come take a look.” Everyone agreed the tree would do, but for some reason, people walked away with the hope that something better was in store. “Come over here. I think this one will do.” The same realization was made with tree number two, and three, and four, and so on. Sure they all had their subtle differences, but if given the chance, no one could articulate why the search needed to continue. We just hadn’t spent enough time. The first tree that was suggested after 40 minutes rolled around got the saw.

Once again timing is everything. And when we finally dragged the tree inside and placed it in the stand, I have to admit, it was the perfect tree. At least we had a great time roaming the field getting muddy. I believe that story illustrates a lesson in life, but I think I will keep that commentary to my personal journal.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Days Before Cell Phones

My sister Amie works for T-Mobile. She gave my other sister Janeen a cell phone to give to her children so that when they are at football practice, soccer practice and the like, they can get a hold of her to come pick them up. (The phone is to be used strictly for inter-family communication) Gone are the days when I used Morris code to signal my mom that I was finished with practice. I would call my mom on a pay phone without depositing a coin. Mom would answer and I would flip the receiver handle five or six times or hit the numbers so that a sound would be made on the other end. Since I never deposited a coin, she could not hear me, but could understand our pre-determined signal that I was finished. Then I would wait outside until she arrived. Lots of thinking time and a savings of 25 cents a day.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Home for the Holidays

There is something very artistic about carving a turkey and trying to get the slice of meat as large as you can without it falling apart. You have to be really gentle as your left hand balances the slice of meat on a fork and the right hand cuts it from the rest of the turkey; then ever so carefully, placing it on the serving plate. It was beautiful. What is not so romantic is pulling the stuffing from the turkey’s…

Thanksgiving has to be one of my favorite holidays. Lets just get together and eat…and count our many blessings. It was the first time in about five or six years that I have been home for Thanksgiving. I have been so far from home in previous years that flying home for such a short time didn’t seem worth it. What was I thinking?

This year I shared with my family a few emails from the daughter of the man that was killed in a car accident I was involved in on Thanksgiving Day in 1992. Every Thanksgiving I think about the accident. It is a long story, so I won’t go into detail, but essentially what was an extremely traumatic experience in my life, 15 years later serves as another testimony of the reality of the gospel and the atonement. I am thankful for forgiveness.

One thing I look forward to every time I come home is playing board games with the family. Last night we were up until Midnight playing Settlers and Ticket to Ride. Tonight looks like no exception. Got to go beat up on them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

8lbs. 10oz.

Life goes full circle. In more ways than one, but I’m not going to elaborate. I mainly just wanted to announce to everyone that life has just begun for Reygan Brett Kristina Lee. Chelle and Mark had child number four yesterday morning at 11:31 am. This little ball of girl weighed 8lbs 10oz and was 20 inches long. But only after a day changes can be seen. We think she is a few extra ounces and one or two millimeters longer. Aren’t you glad you aren’t introduced to people by your weight and height? “This is my friend Andrew. He is 5’9” and weighs not much more than ______. You can be creative.

I went and visited Mark and Chelle at the hospital this morning. Everyone was healthy and happy. Even Mark (6’3” and 200 lbs?) was all smiles after a tough night sleeping on the love sofa (as seen in the picture.) I asked Chelle (5’8” and just a little baby fat) if Reygan had anything to say to her when she arrived, but I couldn’t get a direct quote...but apparently she was very vocal.

I got a picture for documentation. Mom, I don't want to hear about it. First thing is first. I could have stolen a grandchild for you, but I decided against it. I found out babies now have ankle bracelets that they wear to track the babies every move. If they get up and try walking out, or even get near an elevator, an alarm goes off. No baby snatching for me. Anyway, it was fun to see life begin.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

OUR Farm

I had two experiences this week that made me reflect on the value of service. On Wednesday morning I volunteered at the “OUR Center” in Longmont. The OUR Center is a community resource center (Outreach United Resource Center) that helps people get back on their feet. Basically, the citizens of Longmont donate their time and resources to help other citizens who need assistance move toward self-sufficiency. The center provides financial counselors, food, shelter, day care, and a clothing bank. I believe it is set up very similarly to the LDS Bishop’s storehouse.

When I showed up to volunteer they put me to work in the food center. I was first asked to stop by the local Safeway and pick up food surplus from the back of the store. I then returned to the center and assembled boxes of basic groceries for people. I would shout out a number and a person would then pick up their box of food that corresponded to the predetermined list of groceries.

I could only work for a couple of hours in the morning. When it came time for me to leave, I told the other volunteer that I had to go and she looked at me with a gaze that said, “You can’t leave, there is still work to do, and now I am left alone to do it.” Her eyes begged me to return next week.

I can’t understand why I am so blessed. It is easy to look at others that are less fortunate and think it was brought about by their own poor decisions...addictions, crime, dishonesty, etc. I don’t dispute that poor decisions bring about heartache, but I think the temptation to believe that many of my blessings are a result of my own doing is based on a false premise. Certainly the decisions of my ancestors had a direct consequence on my life. The values my grandparents instilled into my parents that were then taught to me have made a measurable difference. The difference was palpable at the OUR Center. So why was I fortunate enough to be taught the values that create prosperity?

The value of education, of a strong work ethic, honesty, accountability, charity, etc., have all somehow influenced the way I make decisions. (Or at least I would like to believe they influence me) These values were somehow all passed down from parents and grandparents in small increments, and in moments that seemed incidental and inconsequential, when I didn’t even know it. And thank goodness for a church that makes up the difference and fills in the gaps where parents lack...and I am counting on to help me do the same.

Which brings me to my second experience. My grandparents and dad grew up on a farm...a turkey farm, but a farm nonetheless. I can’t think of a better schoolhouse than a farm to teach the value of work, the law of the harvest, and the meaning of “by the sweat of thy brow.” On Saturday, I went out to the Church Farm for a young single adult service project to help get things ready for winter. We moved pipe for the irrigation system and then painted a barn.

The Church farm is an interesting entity. I don’t think efficiency is a primary objective of the church farm...which I am OK with. I take the painting of the barn as a prime (not primer) example. There were at least 25 people that scraped off the old paint of the barn to get it ready for a new coat. Then another 20+ people followed using hand held brushes to whitewash the barn. It took 40+ people two hours to paint the lowest six feet (as far was we could reach) of a barn that could be argued didn’t need painting. And if it did need painting, it could have been done with two people with a power washer and spray painter in the same amount of time.

But if you think the objective was to paint the barn, I think you missed the point. (Or maybe I’m completely off in left field) I think the objective was to get people together working side by side, learning the value of work, the value of service, and the value of sacrifice. The barn was only the vehicle to build a sense of accomplishment, self-esteem, and hopefully get a few young single adults to talk to each other.

I think this was even more clearly illustrated a few months ago at a Regional Stake Church Farm assignment. Over 600 people showed up from all over Colorado and Wyoming to pick weeds. We were all transported to different locations and walked up and down the rows picking weeds from an immaculately kept farm. I saw husbands and wives together with their four- and five-year-old children spending time together and working in the dirt. I saw teenagers working and having fun; doing things they would never experience or even participate in for any home backyard garden. I saw older men with canes working a little slower, but with just as much enthusiasm.

I believe it was President Eyring that shared a similar experience of his ailing father at a church farm. (I don’t remember exactly which talk) When his father was encouraged not to work and to rest, his father replied something to the effect, “I’m not here for the weeds.”

I have to correct what I said earlier. I have no doubt the church farm is run efficiently. If it didn’t it wouldn’t exist. But I believe the farm assignments and work projects are more for our benefit rather than the farms...even if not by design. So in a day and age where my children most likely won’t grow up on a farm to learn these values, the church provides a farm that we can come and visit. The Lord is one smart dude.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A gift that keeps on giving

Over the past year, three people have given me a plant as a gift. Last Christmas, I was given a miniature Christmas tree that fit in a small pot and was intended to live throughout the year. It slowly turned brown and now sits on my deck waiting to be thrown out. Last spring a close friend gave me three plants that were offshoots of her existing plants. Two of them died. Thankfully the third is a more hardy plant and has endured my inexperienced botany skills. I have often joked with friends, “How am I ever going to raise children if I can’t take care of a plant?” Just recently, Mary, the lady that cleans our office each evening gave me a large lime tree. That’s right a lime tree.

Over the past year and a half there have been several evenings when I was working late and Mary has come to clean the office. I have come to understand that there are people in my life that watch over me and take care of me. Mary is one of those people. Whenever I see her, she is always so positive and goes out of her way to compliment me. I have really appreciated her enthusiasm for life. When I don’t see her she frequently leaves me a little note on my desk with a word of encouragement.

A few weeks ago, there was a lime tree left in one of the operatories with this note. “Dr. Kelson, I bought this tree for your space. Thought maybe you’d like a plant. If you want it here, I can leave it, but if you and Dr. McCarty say no, I can take it home. PS: I got it at a yard sale for $5. My son (an arborist) had to trim it.”

There are only a few spaces in the office close to a window where there is room for the tree. We were all jostling about where it should go. I was very close to just taking it home so we didn’t argue about it, but after considering my success with the two previous plants, I elected to keep the plant at the office so everyone could enjoy it and give it a better chance for survival. The smells are absolutely wonderful and there were three ripe limes on the tree that were ready to be picked.

Two or three weeks ago Mary came in for a dental exam. For the past year I have been inviting her to come in, but for whatever reason she has been hesitant to take me up on the offer. I insisted that she not worry about it and that I would take care of the costs. During the exam, I was telling her how excited I was about the lime tree, but I was nervous because I didn’t want to kill it. I related my previous experiences with living gifts. How much water should I give it? How much sun does it need? Does it ever need to be replanted? She sat in my chair and almost in tears, she said, “Dr. Kelson, I’ve had that tree for almost a year. I’ll take care of it. I’ll water it when I clean at night.” I could tell the gift she gave me meant a lot to her. It now means even more to me.

On Monday she left a note on the receptionist’s desk. I quote:
“Dear whoever waters the plants, You don’t need to ever water Dr. Kelson’s tree. I will. I watered it Friday from the bottom. So if it looks dry – its not. Sorry to say it’s (spoiled) used to rain water so I bring it from home...”

I’ve decided Mary’s lime tree is a symbol of the many people around me that have taken me in and cared for me, given me water, showed me some light, and not forgotten me. (Perhaps a bit sappy, but I can’t help but smile every time I walk past it.) Thanks Mary.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Gold Nuggets of Denver

I love Denver. We’ve got everything anyone would ever want. I went to a Denver Nuggets game on Halloween night and was reminded of all the cool things one can do in Denver. We’ve got every major sporting event, a performing arts center that is top-notch, the sun shines 300+ days a year, the mountains are beautiful, a major airport that can get you anywhere non-stop, the church has a strong membership base, some of the best skiing in the country, and we have Walgreen’s on every corner...I could go on and on.

On Tuesday, I got an email from the guy that sold me my malpractice insurance offering tickets to the game. Sweet deal. Anyway, it was the first Nuggets game I’ve been to and it reminded me of when my dad and I would go to the Trailblazer games. Professional sports have turned into a complete entertainment industry and it was interesting seeing the change of focus from the game to the “experience.” Since it was Halloween, a lot of people dressed up, and gave me cool ideas for costumes next year (HaHa. See previous entry about Halloween)

I’m starting to complete the Denver sporting experience. I’ve been to several Rockies games (and they’ve given me a reason to cheer), an Avalanche hockey game (an up-and-coming force on the ice...maybe) and now a Nuggets basketball game (at the beginning of the game one of the players spoke into the microphone and promised an NBA title). I still need to go see the Broncos play football, the Rapids play soccer, and the Outlaws play Lacrosse to complete the circle. (Yes, Denver even has a professional Lacrosse team. What more can you ask for?)

I'm posting some photos of some of the costumes. (I still need to figure out how to do a slide show) I swear that is a real police officer with his real hair...And as you can see, even Allen Iverson dressed up as a gangster.

Timing is everything

I went out to dinner with a friend of mine tonight. We went for Chinese food. I’m not a big fan of fortune cookies because they never really tell you a fortune. They just give you some lousy piece of advise. Tonight I actually liked my fortune...or advise. “Give a kiss to the person who sits next to you.” Too bad I was with a guy. Why can’t I get that when I’m on a date? Timing is everything.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thrust in your sickle

I love to share the gospel! I just got home from a dinner with one of the oral surgeons in town. We got together so she could show me the protocol for referrals to her office. I met her about a year ago and was instantly impressed with her. She just seemed to be on top of things.

Over dinner, some how the question was asked what church I was going to. I told her I was LDS and her face lit up. She has had (and currently has) several good friends that are LDS and has had multiple conversations with them about the church. She subscribes to the Ensign and New Era for her kids...Even though she is Jewish. She and her husband decided to have family night so on Friday they get together and are now even starting to have lessons with their two kids.

We talked about all the historical similarities between the Jewish faith and the LDS faith. We talked for hours and barely got through with any of the other dental stuff we were intending to talk about. I asked her is she had ever attended a meeting and she said she had not, but that she thought it would be a good idea.

Then she suggested that I come over for dinner with she and her husband and we could read a talk out of the General Conference edition of the Ensign and then discuss it. How cool is that? I told her she was going to be a good Mormon some day. Even a leader in the Mormon church. She expressed a concern about not fitting into the expectations that are placed on a typical Mormon woman . We talked a little about it and I shared with her Sherri Dew's story. The poster child for a non-traditional Mormon woman. When I got home I emailed her a talk that Sister Dew wrote as well as a talk by President Hinckley about the power of righteous women.

I get such a high when I'm able to talk to intelligent people about the church and they are open to what I'm saying. And I'm grateful for good people that live their religion so that when opportunities come, they've already had positive experiences with members of the church.