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Monday, December 28, 2009

Have a Wonderful 2010

There are some days when I really believe the world is going to ---- in a handbasket. Then I have to remember that we are not alone in this learning ground we call mortality. There is someone much greater than us who is VERY interested in the events which transpire on this dirt-ball we call home.

He is not interested in failure and has not abdicated His right to guide, cajole, inspire, and entice us back to goodness. We only have to look up to Him and find peace in a seriously dysfunctional world.

The dingbats who are trying to make our lives miserable are, in reality, just a pimple on the face of all that is good in this life. Oh, sure, they can make our day a little less enjoyable but if we take care of them properly (cleaning, popping, ignoring), they will pass into the night of "puberty" and be forgotten. Our adulthood is not controlled by the rantings of demons, bent on finding notoriety in their lives.

I have determined that I will not let others determine my joy in life.

The New Year is always a time to consider where we are and where we are going. My hope is that we are going toward the Savior and His Kingdom. May your lives be full of peace and joy as you discover the truths He has to offer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dumb Things

I have been trying to upgrade my blog with a few gadgets and find there are some things that SHOULD work but don't. For instance, the little place to the left that says "Past Posts" should be giving you a quick view of my last 10 blog entries but all I see is a great white space.

Why is that?

If I knew, the great white space would be full of words and numbers. This is the second gadget I have installed to make this work and neither has worked.

Isn't that DUMB??!!!

Maybe one of my smart sons could write a little program/applet to let me do what I am trying to do (hint, hint). Or maybe I will find that I can become smart enough to understand the problem and fix it myself.

(Not very likely)

It just occurred to me that my grandchildren get pretty upset with me when I call things dumb. In fact, my wife isn't too thrilled when I use that phrase/word. Maybe it's because when I say something is dumb it is generally some inanimate object that really has no ability to change from being dumb to smart.

Isn't that dumb??!!!

I suppose some might consider that I am the dumb one and if I smartened (hey, that didn't give me a spelling error) up other things wouldn't be so dumb.

Now, that's really a dumb thing to think!

Well, before I close this one off, here is something to consider. If we keep getting bad results from the things we do, why don't we change the things we do?

Not such a dumb idea.

Monday, December 21, 2009

AHAAA, I did make it!!!






Busy, busy, busy!!

But not so much that I can't find a few minutes to share some Christmas Fun.

Here are a few videos and pictures of our family party.

Pretty typical for how we do things during the Holidays.

video

Be happy during this time and know that we love you all.

Mike, Teresa, and Joel

(the almost missionary).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pre-Christmas Message

For many years, Teresa and I shared a Christmas letter with all our friends and family. It was a bit of a pain but we loved our friends and wanted to keep them abreast of our changing clan. Some of you may have noticed that the letters stopped a few years ago (with one of two exceptions). It's not because we care less about our connections but we have become careless in our maintenance of those things. In other words, I got lazy and quit writing.

Now we have a family blog and it opens the door to lots of sharing with those who care to know (and some who don't). In fact, the whole purpose of these posts is to eliminate the need for sending out those delightful (???) missives from the past. So if you are missing your Christmas greeting from the Mike and Teresa Whitmer family, please read the previous posts contained on this blog.

I may get in trouble for this but there are some changes coming in the numerical value of our family. Having spent many years growing from two to seven, we are now up to 21 (Mom and Dad, 5 children, 4 spouses, 10 grandkids) members. In the next few months (not nine from now because that would be too many for the beautiful girls to endure) we will increase our size by two. Kevin and Jenny are expecting sometime….??Mayish I think???......(don't you hate it when your on-board computer loses little bits of data?) and Little Matthew (Josh and Heather) will be receiving a sibling shortly after that. We are all thrilled and look forward to the new additions.

For the past couple of weeks I have been conducting tithing settlement in our ward. Sometimes I hear that bishops don't like this time because it is so busy and takes so much time. For me, this is one of my favorite times of year. During these weeks I am able to visit with all the faithful members who are reporting on their worthiness. No one complains and it gives me a few minutes to chat with them and see how their lives are going. Oftentimes I spend too much time with each family and fall behind in my schedule (that's why I limit the numbers I have in each night). It really is a pleasant experience for me and I hope for them.

If I am able to remember, I will try to make one more post before Christmas time but knowing me I may not get back here. If that is the case, please have a Merry Christmas and remember Who we celebrate. This is the time of year to renew our commitment to the doctrines and principles given to us by the Savior of all the world. He is our Example and our Hope for a better life. May His love be with all of you this special season.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mucho Excitement!!!

Just a quick post to give some exciting news. But instead of telling you, I will show you with the video. Enjoy.

Wellll, maybe I won't. Seems the blogger won't upload my video.

Looks like I will just have to announce that Joel is going to the California Ventura Mission on February 3, 2010. More later and possibly the video.

video OK, here it is....finally*&%^%$#@#$

Monday, November 30, 2009

Party Time on the old Homestead

Thanksgiving was great!!!

Teresa's family invited us all down to Huntington for a Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration and we all had a good time. The turkey was delicious, the pies were delightful and all the activities were first rate.

The only negative was that Josh and Heather were in Virginia visiting her parents and family (they moved there earlier this year after Don lost his job in North Carolina and took another in VA).


A bunch of us went paintballing on Thursday. As I have commented before, I am only good as a target for all the other players. I can't get down low very well and I am much larger than I used to be so it is harder to hide behind trees (they have to be pretty broad to prevent anything from hanging out the sides). The positive thing is that Parker was able to 'kill' grandpa twice in his first escapade with paintball. In fact, I was the only player that 'died' every game so I guess I have the most experience with 'resurrection'. Joel, Kevin and I got into a pretty good 'firefight' and I received my most painful shooting when Joel nailed me in the back as I tried to get away. I can't see the impression but Teresa says it is pretty large and welt-like.


(Different colors are to represent the paintball experience)


Saturday afternoon Joel and I went to the annual BYU-Utah game and had a really fine time. The game was nip and tuck all the way with the Cougars finally prevailing in overtime. It has been several years since I went to a game live and this one was worth the wait. There was a bit of a brouhaha when Max Hall made some comments about the Utah fans and such after the game but I think it has been blown out of proportion by the media and others. What he said was not really much different than the quote I shared from a Utah fan who attended last year's game in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Sadly, these games seem to bring out the worst in some people.


It was a little hard for some of the students to come back to school today. All those days off gave them too much time to forget how to behave. It's only three weeks until they are off again and this time it will be for two whole weeks. January is going to be interesting.


We are only days away from a mission call for Joel.

Birthdays
this month
are Joel, Grandma Grange;
Melissa, and Parker.

And of course, we must not forget that this is when we celebrate the Savior's birth.

(Real birthday is April 6 for those who don't remember)

It's time to start playing Christmas
Music (several stations in town have been at it since October….Not Cool)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

I know what you are thinking!!!

You probably think I am going to share a list of "thankfuls" in my life.

You're right.

But it's not a list like any I have made before. This one will share some of those invisible people

who have done some little thing and never been recognized.

None of the things they did were earth shaking but they were significant to my progression.

See if you can get a little of the drift for why I remember them so fondly.


 

Mr. Hobart Tompkins—probably the first teacher to take time to really help me feel like I was worth something. Mr. Tompkins was my English teacher when I was at Flagstaff Jr. High (9th grade) and he was a stickler for proper grammar. All that I know of writing and speaking came from the lessons he taught and the practice he demanded. He was also the only person who believed I should run for student body office in that same Jr. High. The vote was not close but the seed of confidence was germinated and it grew from that experience.

Brother Reid—sadly, I don't remember his first name but I will always be grateful for the work he performed as my first scoutmaster. Physically I was a small boy but he encouraged me to be successful…and I felt like I was. He was killed in a trucking accident (my first experience with death) and left our troop to someone else but his influence has helped me have a desire to work in scouting. I have often thought of him while working with the boys in my own troops.

Raymond Beckham—OK, his influence wasn't such a little thing but he is not a person most people think of when looking back on my life. As the Mission President in the Canada Calgary Mission, he was assigned to keep track of nearly 300 19-21 year old young men and a few sisters and couples. As I have grown older, I am more and more amazed at the patience and care he was able to offer, despite what must have been an overwhelming responsibility. He was firm and demanding but those are things I needed at that time in my life. He was also very influential in setting the tone for the rest of my life. The two years he blessed my life have been the foundational years for my adulthood.

Ron Shill—Bro. Shill was my favorite professor during my undergraduate years at BYU. My first introduction to him was from another student who suggested I might want to transfer from his class. He was known to be difficult in his requirements and many were scared away but because of scheduling needs, I had no choice. My classmate was correct…the class was the hardest I had ever taken. But it was also the most interesting and enlightening business class of my years at BYU. I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for another class the next semester. I learned to be prepared and never try to fake a presentation from this marvelous teacher.

There are other people who have helped me along the way but these are the first that came to mind for this post.

Maybe another day I will be able to remember some more names.

Really stinks to get old and forget all the good.

Thank heavens for the Resurrection!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

East Canyon and No Rants

I am experimenting with new fonts for blogging so be patient with this post. In the past I have found some to be too busy and almost unreadable. It does help to increase the size but many are still too fuzzy to be useful. This one seems to be pretty good so I will use for today.

Last weekend we had our annual family trip to East Canyon Resort. This has become a family tradition and has grown to include all the grandkids and even a friend or two for the single children. The setting is pleasant and there are no real distractions so we can focus on building the bonds that last forever…or at least try not to kill each other. It did help that we were able to use some 'bonus time' and get extra condo's so we weren't all on top of each other. One other benefit: each of our children made one of the meals and all were delightful. It is so nice to have good food when we are all together. Thanks ladies (and those men who helped) for improving the size of our waistline and tickling our taste-buds.


One of the grandkids was ill early on and by Sunday, we had several others who were exhibiting sickness signs. Don't think it was 'piggy flu' but who really knows these days. Even with the maladies, we were able to get in a few paintball games.

It was Bryce's first time and he really seemed to enjoy the action. And I was pleasantly surprised that he made no complaints when he was shot (more than once). He's getting to be a really solid young man. Can't wait to take the rest of the little ones out and take a few pot-shots at them. Reality is that I am so slow and stiff that I am an easy target for them and it makes me feel good to give them success. Or maybe I'm just a horrible player and get killed easily. Whichever, we had a grand time.


No new political or religious rants this time so I guess things must be pretty cool for now. Hope all are happy and praying for wise decisions from those who lead us. See you next post.



Monday, October 26, 2009

Religion and Politics revisited.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I found something today that I really like and can't wait to share. The source was a little surprising but I have verified this and think it sheds some light on the discussion of religion and politics. I was reading

Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith and he offered the following quote:






"Our government rests

upon religion. It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberality, and for the rights of mankind. Unless the people believe in these principles they cannot believe in our government. There are only two main theories of government in the world. One rests on righteousness and the other on force. One appeals to reason, and the other appeals to the sword. One is exemplified in the republic, the other is represented by a despotism.

"The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country. There is no way by which we can substitute the authority of law for the virtue of man. Of course we endeavor to restrain the vicious, and furnish a fair degree of security and protection by legislation and police control, but the real reform which society in these days is seeking will come as a result of our religious convictions, or they will not come at all. Peace, justice, humanity, charity-these cannot be legislated into being. They are the result of divine grace."
(Speech at the unveiling of the equestrian statue of Bishop Francis Asbury, 15 October 1924)

The author of the above is none other than Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States. President Smith was using this to teach about the events that are coming in the near future for our nation. In fact, the above quote was followed by this statement from Pres. Smith:


Well, words like that, I believe are spoken by inspiration. This is a warning to the people of this nation, coming from a former president of the United States. It is in full harmony with the word of the Lord in the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon (Ether 2:8-12),
in regard to this land. We cannot get away from the God of this land, without dire consequences following.

(Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, p. 317-18, emphasis added)


Amazing how far we have come in the leadership of our nation. Just this year we had our current President telling the world that we are no longer a Christian nation. I know that he was trying to illustrate the diversity of our country but his actions and ideals seem to support the other interpretation. And lest some think I am picking on one particular party, I have just as many qualms about the leadership of the Republican Party as I do the Democrats. Neither is in line with the things God has directed us to do. I believe Pres. Smith envisioned this when he said:


Notwithstanding all the warnings the Lord has given us, we are rushing madly, headstrong to destructions, preparing ourselves if you please for the burning…. I can see evil in the trend of the times. I can see anarchy ahead of us. If we are going to permit men, in organized form, to desecrate the sacredness of the laws of this country and the Constitution…without protest, we are going to reap the whirlwind, just as surely as we live.
(ibid, 316-17)


Take all this in the context of the furor created by Elder Oaks message (see below) and we begin to see that things are not well in zion (small z meaning America because I hope we are working hard for the Zion experience within the structure of the Kingdom). But, even some who are searching for truth find themselves distracted (look at the last part of 2 Nephi 28:14 for a hint how this happens) and helping the other side (link to Harry Reid comments).


This is not to say that we are doomed because I do not believe that is true. We have strong people in the gospel and out in the world. And the truth, the Priesthood and the Prophets are with us and will guide us if we listen. But that means we have to do our part and protect those rights we have won with the blood of our ancestors. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. Stand and speak out for the truths of God and let the world have their fits.


OK, that was a bit longer than expected but when I get going, WHEW, it is hard to stop. No offense was intended except to those who take the truth to be hard, so if you feel it, let it go. Until next time, adieu.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Five Great Things

Here is a list of the top five things I have always thought I wanted to do but for one reason or another, never accomplished. Someone with psychology experience (Josh DeMoux?) might look at these things and be able to make a judgment of my mental state but I'm OK with that. These will not be in any particular order so don't take the arrangement too seriously. And who knows, maybe next week I will have a completely different list.





One secret (well not so secret if you have been around me much) desire is to own a Corvette. My guess is that I would probably get bored with it fairly quickly (insurance expense comes to mind) but since I have never had one, it still sticks in my craw that I CAN'T have one.


There will come a day when I will actually make it to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef. I don't know if it's the name or just the novelty of the location, but I want to swim there and tempt the sharks. Wellll, maybe not the sharks, but at least the reef.



As a child of the 60's, there is the desperate need, born of watching John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, to take flight into outer space. One day there will be a company that offers rides to the moon…I hope I live long enough to blast-off with them. My only concern is the weightless part. I sure have trouble with rides at the amusement park and I worry that I will make whatever vehicle I am in a "vomit comet"; but I'm sure they will make provisions for that. ;-)



If I am to feel accomplished in this life, before I pass to the next life there will be a book with my name on the front cover. Whether fiction or fact-filled, this book will be part of the legacy left for those who may not have known much about me. Primarily, my posterity is the focus for this dream. Remembering me as a grumpy old man is not going to wash. That means there will need to be some humor in whatever is written. I can do that!!!

And lastly, another vision that SHOULD become reality!! Teresa and I will spend a week or two in the great state of Alaska. This is another one of those 'burrs in the saddle' that I really can't explain except to say that it is there and I want to see it. I don't imagine much difference from northern Canada so I am prepared for disappointment but I still want to try.


Unlike my other lists, this one is shorter and leaves me open to second guessing. If you have other things I SHOULD want to do before I pass from this arena of existence, please feel free to add them to my catalog. We are here all week and accept tips as long as they are cash.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Elder Oaks

Hurray for Elder Oaks!!! There are Apostles on the Earth and one has spoken!!


 

For those who aren't aware, last week Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve was the speaker at a devotional for BYU-Idaho students and faculty. His message was one of truth and power for a struggling world. And, of course, those who are trying to destroy all the good there is in our lives were offended by his words. Reminds me of the Book of Mormon verse that says:

"…wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." (1 Nephi 16:1)

Truth is unbending in its force and no amount of persuasion by man or beast can cause a change.


 

I suppose my biggest concern is that most people who comment on Elder Oaks talk seem to focus on the Prop. 8 business. That is only a subset of what he is teaching: he was not trying to speak about gay marriage as the main topic. His biggest concern is the drifting of society from a religion based foundation to one that is anti-religious. This shift is lessening the protections religion has had in the past and could result in a loss of freedoms that have been preserved since the founding of this nation. The adversary is behind this and those who are doing his work are pushing as hard as they can to collapse the ideals offered by religion.


 

Here's how I think Joseph Smith would respond to those who think they can eliminate God and His Kingdom from this earth:

…the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

Joseph Smith Jr.—Letter to John Wentworth


 

I am confident that the work of God will continue to move forward. I am certain that the power of the Book of Mormon will be offered to all mankind and those who accept will find something that has been missing from their lives. I have no fear of man or the things they can do to this work. Only ONE matters when it comes time for judgment. I answer to Him and look for the day I will be with Him.


 

Rage on O' worldly ones,

Let your fires burn and scar.

There is a Light that shines on us,

Because of ONE afar.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nothing much but a little.

This will be short and pictureless but it has been too long without a post. School and work around the house have kept me very busy so I don't have a lot of exciting adventures to report. We continue to dig the "crypt" under the house (that has become our FHE activity for the past few weeks)
in order to make a new food storage area. Encountering water had made the whole thing interesting but solutions have come as needed. Joel is doing well at school (except he has a hard time with his 8 am class) and is now preparing his papers for a mission. The hope is that we will have everything submitted in two weeks so his call will come well before his birthday. For an update on the other kids, check out their blogs (Melissa, Josh, Kevin, Brian).

Spent the day Saturday raking and preparing the lawn for overseeding so we can have better grass next spring. Combine that with my golf experience on Friday (Josh and Joel and I decided to lose a few balls together) and you have the makings for a back ache that creates a bit of Sabbath discomfort. Nothing that can't be dealt with but annoying nonetheless. I guess, compared with the misery Donna is having, this is just a small annoyance that can be ignored. BTW, she is doing a little better and hopes to continue improvement. Best wishes and love to her.

Both the work projects (lawn and 'crypt') required new purchases. Digging a sump pit for the 'crypt' resulted in a broken shovel (blasted thing just snapped in half) and intense raking found the handle of the old rake crumbling from exhaustion. Hardware store visits returned with "25 Year Guaranteed" replacements that better last that long. By then I will be 79 years old and probably won't care if they work or not. Or maybe I will be old and crusty and get angry for their failure. I'll let you know when I get there.

Gotta run for now. Sundays are always busy and today is no exception. Fast day is my favorite so I want to be in my best form. Next week is conference and I expect I will have lots to say. The week after we will be blessing Ellie (Elinor Louise Melissa DeMoux). Fun stuff!!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Grandkids, Aunts, and Missionaries

One day I am going to find a way to post a blog and not have to insert the photo/pictures from the blog site itself. I use MS Word to create my postings but it doesn't let me post attachments (or at least I haven't found out how to do it). Just a little bother that I hope to resolve in the near future.

This past Tuesday we had the new addition to the family. Melissa was most gracious and delivered Elinor Louise Melissa DeMoux to our family in the early afternoon. Ellie was 7 lbs 11 oz and 20 or so inches long with a full head of black, wavy hair. She is also sporting two double chins and some juicy, rosy cheeks. Teresa and I think she looks a lot like Aubrey but Melissa and Josh aren't sure. Way to go Melissa and little Ellie.

For those who don't follow Josh and Heather's blog, there is a posting showing Matt beginning to walk. He is in the "orangutan" stage (where they walk with arms upraised and totter back and forth for balance) but is getting around very well. I went by their place last night and he was all over the driveway (and into everything Heather didn't want him to get). This is one curious, adventurous little man.

On another grandchild front: Brian and Paula went to see their geneticist about Becca this week. Here are some of the results. We are so grateful that Becca has such wonderful parents. They never give up and they are always so positive in the face of VERY difficult circumstances. The future of this little clan is very bright because they are led by such special parents.

Some of you may be wondering about the aunt part of this posting!!?? When my Dad and Mom got married (many moons ago) my mom had two sisters who were younger than me. Donna and Debbie were close enough in age to us that they were embarrassed to be counted as aunts so they usually introduced us as 'cousins.' It was OK cause I would have felt the same way! Anyways, my AUNTIE Donna has been really sick for the past several years. She is a trooper and has tried to keep things on the quiet side but health matters usually find their way out into the open. This is one special young lady (she is, after all, younger than I) and we are so concerned for her well-being. Any who know her might want to include her in your prayers or even your fasting for this coming weekend. It pains me to see those I love in such pain and not be able to do much. Get well soon, Donna and know we are with you.

Last week I came home from work and Teresa suggested that I take a look at our inbox. Normally she doesn't send me that way so I was intrigued. The first post was sent by someone named Selena and I immediately had a picture of a little girl from Canada flash through my mind. Her family lived in the first area where I served my mission (Stettler, Alberta) and they were the first and ONLY family I had the pleasure to teach and see baptized my whole mission. So imagine my elation when the e-mail WAS from the same young lady (now 35 years older) stating she had been looking for me and wanted to share a little of her life. For once in my life, I was flabbergasted and didn't know what to do. I sat there just staring at the letter and felt something I had never experienced before. Here was a person who was thanking me for helping make a change in her life (at a very young age) that has been a source of strength and happiness for more than 3 decades. I was moved beyond my ability to respond, except to shed a few tears of gratitude.

The next day, at school, I tried to share the experience and found myself choked up and unable to finish the story without a few moments of recovery. Even today, nearly a week later, I am touched by the spirit of what has transpired and cannot fathom the reaction I have felt. Maybe it is like that scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants which says:

"And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him (or her) in the kingdom of my Father!" (D&C 18:15

What a "tender mercy" this has been for me. Heavenly Father has offered me a look at what it will be like if I continue to work and help others find His Son. That little 11 yr old girl, whom I had never forgotten but who seemed so fragile in testimony, has remained faithful and has brought such great joy to my life and the lives of her own family. Who would have guess such a thing might happen? Certainly not me!!! I am forever thankful to Selena for looking me up and for a Father who knows when I need a true boost in life.

(The picture I have posted is from Selena. It shows her family—she is the older of the two little girls—with Elder Gilmore on the left and some skinny elder on the right)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

School is coming… so get ready!!

I am getting ready for a new school year and there are several ideas that have been trundling around in my mind. For instance, does it really do any good to change the physical environment of my classroom every year? Unlike some teachers, I have an inordinate number of family pictures in my room so I wonder how affects the students when I change the arrangements. Oh, I usually add some things relating to our course of study (this year it is Book of Mormon) but the essence of my efforts lies in my infatuation with my family. Maybe someone could do a study to see if there is any cause and effect in what I do.

My bougainvillea plant passed on to the spirit world and some of my ivies have given up the chloroform so I went to Home Depot and got a few 'baby' plants for the pots that were empty. Turns out I had six naked receptacles. Didn't know that!!! With new dirt and some TLC (not the Jon and Kate kind), I now have a happy supply of little green things that may or may not enhance the oxygen supply in my classrooms (I have two cause I'm teaching at a Jr. high and a high school). Their success will create an atmosphere (figuratively and literally) where the young people can learn and grow (not unlike the little green things).

Lest you think I am loafing in life, listen to my new teaching schedule. Each morning I will arrive at the seminary early to teach the 0 (zero) hour class (formerly known as Early Morning or OH Dark Thirty). Immediately at the conclusion of that little venture my horse will be saddled and I will traverse the scary 3500 South construction zone (www.udot.utah.gov/3500south) to share the gospel with the citizens of West Lake Jr. High. These fine lovers of truth will enjoy their learning experience for two periods after which my little green pony will scurry right back to Granger High School to finish the classes I am assigned there. It sounds worse than it is--- I really love what I do and I volunteered for the 0 hour class. It's just a very busy schedule, both teaching and prepping.

On a more serious note, I have been watching the news stories on some events in our lovely state. While I am not so naïve that I believe nothing bad will ever happen here, I am of the opinion that good people in the world outnumber the evil ones by a large margin. But, it has become apparent that there are many in our society who have forgotten what it means to stay on the correct side of the line of goodness. Despite warnings and examples to the contrary, a contingent of folk have initiated relationships that are illegal, unhealthy and downright BAD. These soirées are with people they have no business 'relating' to. Teachers who work with young people are taught how to avoid circumstances that will lead to misery, prison, and loss of trust from their own family. Yet they still step into those dangerous liaisons and think they can survive. Businessmen who travel have a mistaken idea that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Specific events may be hidden but character cannot be covered up. Even religious leaders will find themselves crossing over previously solid lines with the rationale that they are helping. Sadly, all they help is their own downfall. All of these scenarios are part of the work the adversary promotes in his efforts to destroy man, the family and the work of God (For those who believe we make our own karma/choices, you are correct. But the devil sure does his part in opening doors for us). The line is set and cannot be moved one iota. Moral behavior is expected from every one of us. There is no exception for celebrity or political presence or power-broker or any other entity. A life of honest morality is expected. If lines are crossed, then penalties must be paid. God will forgive and some men/women will do the same (though all should, D&C 64:9-10). But the losses caused by the execution of these forms of wickedness will have long-lasting and debilitating effects on the nation, the family and the individual. It makes my heart sad to see the devastation reaped by so many who choose so poorly. May God protect my family and those I love from these things!!!

Next blog I think I will consider how my life will be changed when the new Health Care program is instituted. Or maybe I will focus on what it feels like to have my toenails plucked out one by one. Seems like both will provide the same end result……….lots of misery! See you next time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wood Badge and Ears

I know the title isn't what you might expect but it signifies where I was for the past week. Before you get all crazy, I am not a fanatic scouter who wears his uniform everywhere and bleeds green blood (or blue or orange). But I do have a healthy appreciation for the benefit scouting is to young men so I try to be informed. For several years I have wanted to become Wood Badge certified so I finally took the time to go learn. For those wondering if it is worth it, it is. Not the easiest thing to do (I am, after all 54 and not quite as nimble as I used to be) but well worth the effort to become a better leader.

For those familiar with Wood Badge, I am a Beaver (I used to be a beaver, a good old beaver too…). My patrol consisted of five other men besides myself. We are all from differing backgrounds (soldier, engineer, furniture salesman, social studies teacher, not really sure, and me) but we were able to make a pretty good and efficient group. We had the advantage of all being independent so we were able to look at situations and see where we could be of use and get right to work. Other groups had folks who waited until someone told them what to do and lost time waiting around. Some of our activities required creative thinking so the fact that we all were willing to be involved made it more likely we could come up with a good plan. All in all, I enjoyed the week.

The negative is that I lost my hearing aids while we were up there. I had decided to take them out so they didn't get full of dust (I can still hear without them but they help with the high range…women and kids voices) and left them in my truck. After the week was over, I looked for them and discovered they were gone. Nothing else was missing so I can only assume I somehow kicked them out of the truck and lost them. It's not such a problem for me because I can get by without them but it is a big problem for my sweet wife (who has taken to carrying a stick to get my attention) and my students at school (when we go back). I suppose if we don't have some luck finding them soon, I will have to replace the silly little beasts.


I need to make this short because Melissa said my last entry was the "longest blog she has ever read." Bye for now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jamaica, Mon!!!

I don't have the photos yet (Brian is making a disk of all our shots) but I think I will post my journal entry for our Jamaica trip. I know it will be long and the kids have already read it but this is for those who haven't had the 'pleasure' of knowing what we did. Happy reading. I will add pictures as soon as I get them. OK, the pictures are in the little slideshow over to the left of this entry. Can't figure out how to get it in this blog post but at least they are on the page. Hope you enjoy.

July 3, 2009—July 11, 2009

Since we are on vacation in Jamaica, I thought it would be wise to keep a brief record of the things we experience as we travel and enjoy the new environment. I am actually a day late so I will recap the method and happenings of our arrival in this paradise.

Our family (minus Melissa and Josh DeMoux+5 3/4 ) departed Salt Lake City airport approximately 4:30 MDT for the great metropolis of Dallas. Just before we left there was a cloudburst that had the streets running in water and overpowering the storm drains. We were a little concerned our trip might be delayed but the weather passed and we were able to meet the assigned schedule.

Our itinerary required a stopover in DFW for the night so we had made arrangements to stay in a Quality Inn near the airport. Upon our arrival, we called the motel for a ride in their shuttle. This is where things got a little hinky; we found the driver (finally) outside the baggage claim area and informed him we had 13 people and luggage for them all waiting for his service. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to receive a pretty sizeable tip (I was prepared to fork over $20 for his service) he immediately began to complain that we were too large a group and would need to hire another shuttle or something. It took some doing, but we eventually convinced him to do what was necessary to get us and our bags to the motel. Then the real fun began.

Our reservations were for two two-bedroom suites with air conditioning and a fold out couch. What we found was two two-bedroom rooms (not suites) with air in the main and one bedroom but nothing in the second room. Now, mind you, the temperature in Dallas was 97 degrees with a substantial humidity index so the heat was exacerbated considerably. Despite the inconvenience, we were able to finagle things so we all could get a good nights sleep. Then the second round of excitement began.

The scheduled shuttle was reserved for two trips; one at 7:30 am and the other at 8:00 am (our plane was leaving at 10:30). When I had most of the luggage for the first group down in the lobby I was confronted by the same driver (doesn't this guy ever take time off?) who demanded that we pay $10 per room as an over-baggage charge for his efforts. "What is an over-baggage charge" I exclaimed. "It is a charge I have asked the manager to apply to your group because you have too many bags." When I explained that we were not going to pay something so silly, he called the manager and we shared a few pleasant words, ending with my resolution to not only pay nothing for extra bags (actually we had fewer bags than we were allowed by the airlines) but to never use the services (???) of Quality Inn again. We did finally get our things to the airport (Josh, that smooth talker, was able to get the driver to take him to the check-in place while we were left in the basement by the baggage claim carousels) and had enough time to get some breakfast before we took off for Jamaica.

After a few delays (security check on the plane…that makes one nervous) we continued on our way to our paradisiacal destination. The flight was long and the kids were restless but with trips up and down the aisle and many games of peek-a-boo and bounce on grandpa/grandma /daddy/momma's knee, we made the trip virtually unscathed. The landing was uneventful and the trip through customs and immigration was much easier than we had anticipated. Of course, we hadn't considered that it would take one group of porters to get us through customs and another to get us out of the building.

You see, there are two kinds of luggage dollies in Jamaica. One is much like the baggage carts you can rent in most American airports. They hold many bags but apparently they are not compatible with the outside part of the Jamaican environment. Because, if you try to take them outside to your rental car, you are scolded by a whole group of men in white shirts and red caps. The second kind of cart is more like a dolly we use when we move large appliances except they have a longer place to carry bags. THIS is the "outside approved" version of a baggage hauler and only certain porters are qualified to operate them. The sad thing for us is that each of these groups requires a separate tip to help get our goods to their destination. I guess that is just the price of having a vacation in a "foreign" country.

One area where Josh and I have had some concerns is in driving in this land with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. Neither of us has done it (I should have tried in England but chickened out) so a lot of thought and consideration has gone into preparing ourselves for the backwardness of our travels. Thankfully, the rental people were kind enough to help us get our baggage (which could not fit in the two "vans" we had rented) to the resort. So our first wrong-sided driving was really following someone who had a lifetime of experience…and we made it just fine. (I think the definition of a van is much different in Jamaica than in Utah as you might expect with our larger than normal families so while we could accommodate 7 bodies in the vehicle, there was room for only two or three bags.)

So we are here now, and things are really green and lush and beautiful. The weather is hot and humid but the people are so nice that it takes away some of the misery we might have felt. It is only the first day but we feel like we are going to have a wonderful time as we frolic and play on the Island of Jamaica. Everyone is tired so our day has ended and we are going to sleep in tomorrow and then just play on the beach. At least that is what we are planning right now. I will keep you informed as we go along.

Day three of vacation (second day in Jamaica) began slowly for me. I was so tired that breakfast almost came and went before I was able to open my eyes. My lovely sweetheart was kind enough to wake me and FORCE me to get down to eat before the kitchen closed. It is important that we have breakfast because that is the only meal that is included in our resort plan. You have two choices here; all-inclusive or breakfast only and since we don't drink alcohol the all-inclusive plan is a real waste of money. It means we have to find a way to get our meals for lunch and dinner but so far we have fared pretty well.

There was apparently a large, noisy thunderstorm last night but some of us (well, just me) heard nothing of consequence. Kevin went out to take some pictures of the rain (I'm not sure how many pictures you can get at midnight) and was almost knocked off his feet by a thunderclap. Some of it even woke kids but I heard and felt nothing…ahhhh the power of old age. It has been fairly clear and comfortable today so I suspect we will not have a recurrence tonight.

Most of us spent the better portion of the day at the beach, wading, canoeing, snorkeling and relaxing. Here's one negative about this resort; they don't have a very good beach. There are lots of rocks and because the beach is blocked by a reef (safer for kids) the water doesn't keep the bottom very uniform and smooth. Wading can be a little tricky if you don't pay attention and without any fresh seawater coming in regularly there is little flora and fauna in the water. We see the occasional fry (baby fish) and sometimes there are slightly larger versions but nothing that we couldn't see in an aquarium back home. Joel and Gabe spent the better part of 4 hours snorkeling around the whole area and didn't find much of interest.

We learned an important lesson today: you have to get out to the beach early and stake out your place or there won't be anything when you want to relax. Some people even went so far as put the little floaty pads (lilos) on their beach chair so those were reserved (that didn't seem right to us but maybe they have more experience). All of this effort is so people can lay out in the sun and get browner than they already are. And there some who have become almost leather like in their appearance from the over exposure. Not a pretty sight!!!

The kids all went on a 'romantic' cruise in the late afternoon so Teresa and I were left to babysit. Their trip went along the coastline and took them out to an island where there was a bird refuge. Some guy took a conch shell and made a blast and there was eruption of birds from the island that was quite a sight to behold. After the obligatory sunset experience they all came back and we had dinner at the resort.

Tonight was Jamaica night on the menu so we sampled several different kinds of native foods. Everything here seems to be cooked in a different kind of oil than we use. I think it might be coconut oil because it sort of has that flavor. It really changes the taste of things but mostly it is OK. My favorite food (so far) is the 'jerked' meats (pork, chicken, sausage) that have quite a spicy punch. Not sure why they call it jerked (our jerked meat is dried and this is definitely not dry) but it is delightful. We also had some of their desserts and found most to be more bland than what we usually eat. Oh, and breadfruit, which I thought would be sweet, tastes much like our potatoes and is used in a similar manner. The meal was pretty good and the entertainment (steel drums, etc) was enjoyable.

One more thing before we go. There are people all around the resort who are intent on getting us to buy some of their wares. Joel and Gabe were talked into buying necklaces and carved art and even Teresa bought some trinkets. They will be fun to have when we get home to remind us of our excursion. I am holding out until we get somewhere we might find a little better prices.

Ok, another item before I close for the day. Our experience with the staff at the resort has been very pleasant. They are always smiling and willing to help with whatever we need. I remember reading a few reviews of this place and there were a couple of people who thought the staff was rude and not very attentive. I know this is only day two but there are people all over the grounds, willing to help and very pleasant to associate with. I just wish I could understand what they were saying. See you tomorrow.

Today was the Sabbath and we were committed to attending church somewhere in this little island. Our first efforts were unsuccessful but when we put Brian on the project, we found a happy conclusion. The branch we attended was in a little town called Falmouth and was about 25 kilometers west of where we were. When Brian called, the folks he talked to said the meetings started at 10 am so we figured sacrament service would be around noon. Our plan was to get there at 11 and then enjoy the time with the locals. This was also to be our first driving (wrong-side, remember) of any great consequence. The day was going to be great.

Falmouth is much smaller than Montego Bay and considerably more dilapidated but we were able to find the little building the branch used for services. We discovered that the members only meet for a two hour block so we were really arriving just at the end of testimony meeting. As we entered, Teresa whispered "I wonder if we will double the size of their meeting". Little did she know how prophetic that would be. I counted twelve members in the branch and there were 14 of us (counting babies). The Branch President was ecstatic because his numbers were better than expected. And we had the privilege to listen to some sweet testimonies from a small little piece of the Kingdom.

Before the meeting could close, the Branch President stood and suggested that some of us might want to share our testimonies of the Gospel. Gabe started things off and was followed by Brian, Josh, Joel and ended with my efforts. None of our sisters chose to share but it was nice to have such a pleasant experience. Afterwards we were able to visit with some of the members, the missionaries and receive the sacrament from the priesthood. It was a really nice way to start off our Sabbath.

Our original intent for the day was to go to a lagoon where some algae made a glowing phenomenon but as we looked ahead, we realized we needed to change that to another day. Instead, we decided to go to Doctor's Cave Bathing Club (sounds ominous doesn't it?) which is a private beach in Montego Bay. It is in an older part of town where some of the original resorts were built many years ago. Not much has changed since those days including the need for parking, so there were some difficulties getting situated. After driving around for some time, we were blessed to find a place where a man said we could park without any payment. It was quite a ways from where the rest of the group was but we felt lucky and took what we could find.

The Bathing Club was a nice place, with TONS of people. Heather says the crowds weren't really that bad compared to some places she has been but for us it was pretty packed. All of us found things we could enjoy doing: many went snorkeling, some played volleyball, others read books and the little ones had a blast getting sand all over and inside their bodies. It was a very relaxing afternoon in a little foreign country.

Dinner was had at a little place right there on the beach and then we decided to head back to Coyaba. There was a little light left to the day as we began our journey but it soon subsided to the darkness that strikes fear into the hearts of those who are riding as passengers with a novice left-side driver. And, sadly, there was cause for fear on this particular trek. Someone was trying to make a right turn onto a busy street and was focused on the wrong lane (and wrong direction) and almost got everyone killed!! Well, maybe that is a bit of exaggeration but the screaming and moaning in the car indicated that many figured their lives were over. Not to be diverted from the goal in sight, we moved forward and found our way to the resort with no other trouble (except for that traffic circle thing that almost took us to the airport…but we fixed it quick and it was of no nevermind at all).

And so our Sabbath is mostly completed except for the "Killer Bunnies" game that is going on in the foyer of our building. I suspect that will break up in about an hour and then we will all head for bed in preparation for the new day. Tomorrow will be the first day of the BIG events so we are all pretty excited. I think we are going to Ochos Rios and Dunn's River Falls so I will report on them manana.

The day started out earlier than usual and began with a drive from Montego Bay to Ochos Rios (about 75 km). While the distance doesn't seem much, the trip still took nearly two hours to complete. No one in Jamaica is really in a hurry so even though the roads are in great shape, the drivers tend to go at a moderate (meaning slow) pace. Although, there are some who do test the mettle of other drivers with their kamikaze passing techniques. If there is an open spot with no oncoming traffic, some drivers will begin the passing (called overtaking) action in earnest. Should another car approach while this event is taking place, the 'overtaking' driver just signals to those coming on (with his turn signal) that he needs room and the approaching vehicles (sometimes buses or trucks) move as far to their left as possible. There were no accidents on our trip but some of the maneuvers were pretty exciting. (Josh tried one on the way home and was very successful but I didn't have the nerve or the passenger support to give it a try).

Jamaica is a very beautiful country!!! Trees and bushes grow up spontaneously and animals thrive in the environment. But amidst all the beauty there is a touch of poverty that causes a feeling of concern for our brothers and sisters of God. It's not like Mexico where the barrenness of the landscape accentuates the poor conditions of the villagers; more, it's like the people have just accepted the way of life they have been given and are trying to get by until they leave this life. That is not all bad but sometimes you get the feeling that they have no hope for any future with joy or goodness. They really need the message of the gospel but it seems they are so inured to progress that you can't break through to get them excited. Mostly they seem to focus on rum and cell phones and parties. Of course, that is the image received by an outside observer.

Ok, back to our day! Our activity for the day was to go to Dunn's River Falls and walk up the water falls. Sounds easy and I guess it was…mostly! But there was an obstacle the nearly prevented a happy memory of our trip.

The day was hot and muggy and we were accosted as soon as we entered the Falls area by a gaggle of vendors, trying to hawk their wares and separate us from our money. One big tactic was to offer a necklace for sale and then change and give it to you because you 'are so nice'. Then they would remind you how nice they had been and ask you to 'tip' them for their service. Another way they tried to get us was to ask what your name was and then engrave it on an item and offer it to you for sale. The idea was to make you feel guilty because they couldn't sell it to anyone else now that it had your name on it. Teresa and I got through pretty much unscathed but most of the rest of the clan ended up buying one or two items. Joel and Gabe got the most and I think Kevin and Jenny were right up there. Not sure just how much Josh and Heather got but it seems they resisted a little bit. All Teresa got was the free necklace and I don't think Brian and Paula ended up with anything.

When we finally got to the falls, we decided to do the walk in two groups so Josh, Heather, Paula, Brian, Joel and Gabe all went while Teresa, I, Kevin and Jenny watched the little ones. Did I mention that it was very hot and muggy this day? Well, it was and it made the kids a little more sensitive. But we endured and had a mostly pleasant time with them. When the others had finished their trek, we asked Joel and Gabe to serve as our guides instead of one of the park guys. They took us to the bottom of the falls and carefully directed us up to the top with great success. It was cool and wet and we had a really fun time walking in the water and fighting the current. All in all, it was a pretty fun experience…and we didn't even fall down once.

Lunch was from a little place that was mostly used to feed the workers but offered services to some tourists. The food was………not good!!! We have decided that you don't come to Jamaica to eat the food because if that is your task, you will be disappointed. The resort has adequate food but it is all fried or 'jerked' and none of it has a taste that we really enjoy (even the 'jerked' stuff starts to get old after a while). Now that we know this (after only three full days in country) we will not be unhappy if our food is not up to the fare we are used to at home. But it will be nice to get back to some normal stuff that isn't quite so greasy or full of strange spices.

Just a note: jerked meat does originate from the same process we use to dry and ‘jerk’ meat at home. Instead of just using juices and spices like salt and pepper, the Jamaicans add other things like allspice and bonnie peppers (very hot, like habaneros).

The end of our trip to Dunn's River Falls required a trip through the maze of stands where the 'businessmen' were plying their wares. Everyone was worried about how to get through so I said "just tell them NO." And as I went through they would ask me to buy something and I replied "NO." One guy kept after me and I finally said "I am too cheap to buy anything so don't ask." He asked where I was from and I told him "Utah." "Are all the people in Utah cheap like you?" Of course I responded with a great big "YES." Thankfully everyone made it through the gauntlet and no more money was spent (except Josh and Heather paid $2 for a 'free' necklace). And we loaded up and made our way back home.

Dinner was at the Polo Lounge (Coyaba Restaurant) and then Brian and Paula got milkshakes for all of us. They were Burger King brand but they tasted good after a long day in Jamaica.

Tomorrow the adventure continues with an early rising for scuba diving. It is raining right now (10 pm) but should be clear in the morning. Teresa and I have put on our seasick patch and are hoping for some success in not puking our guts all over the ocean. It looks like everyone but Jenny and Heather are going out on the boat so we should have a blast. I am looking forward to the dive (though I will probably only use one tank because of my knee). After Sunday's snorkeling I decided that I can probably do one dive but I worry about the second one. I'll let you know all the details tomorrow.

What an exciting Tuesday we had!! Our big outing for the day was to go scuba diving. The boat was late and we had to wait while Gabe got a quick training in how to dive but by 9:30 we were on our way. But the way wasn't very far from our hotel beach. I think it was only about 10 minutes out to the dive location and we could still see our resort from the boat. There seem to be some permanent anchors moored in the deep for dive companies to use. They just hook up their boat and send us all down to see what we can find. The dive was nice but the upper water was pretty choppy because of all the wind so the clarity wasn't very good. We saw several rays, lots of pretty colored fish and a lion fish resting on the bottom of the floor. It was a pretty good dive but nothing special.

Teresa did take her first (and also second) dives but they kept her and Gabe with a separate dive-master so I didn't get to see how she did. I think she had fun but she said that after here 2nd dive she got seasick and fed the fishes (Paula did this also). This in spite of the fact that they both had used the seasick patch the night before.

Gabe and I only had one dive (he cause he wasn't feeling well and me because my knee hurt and it wasn't worth the effort to see so little) and they dropped us off before they went out again. I hurried back to our room and was blessed to watch Becca and Katie till their parents came back. They both (girls) got a little antsy after a while but I just played with them and rocked them until I was relieved.

Most of us were so tired from the dive that we just hung around for the rest of the day and did nothing. A few went to a little 'flea market' type place and got some trinkets and such as souvenirs for friends and family at home. Teresa and I will have to go take care of some of that tomorrow or the next day. We are planning to go to Negril tomorrow so maybe we can find some things there. That will be our only activity for the day (going to Negril) so I don't expect there will be many exciting events. Wow, it really was a pretty dull day today. We shall see how the rest of the week progresses. We do have to take Gabe to the airport on Thursday a.m. so he can get back home. I think that is also the day we are going deep sea fishing so maybe there will be more to report by then.

Oh, I forgot to mention the tonight was seafood night at the resort so the restaurant was offering several seafood options. I enjoyed their seafood chowder and the fresh shellfish in the pasta I had was pretty good but the pasta was very oily and sticky. Again, we aren't here for the food, are we? Now to bed and preparation for another glorious day in Jamaica, mon!!!

Early this morning I awoke to find myself alone in the room. Fearing that the others were trying to get rid of me and prevent me from driving, I hurried down to the breakfast area and discovered that all was not lost. In fact, Teresa was out with Joel and Gabe having a ride on a parasail (Teresa was there just to take pictures). It was fun to watch them from the dock and see the boys going up and down out there in the water. That was an event they won't forget very soon.

When we had all finished breakfast we piled into the cars for our trip to Negril. The day was windy and we feared it might make a shambles of our plans but by the time we got there things were much calmer. It was our road trip that was the exciting part of the day. It is only 70 km from Montego Bay to Negril but it took us the better part of two hours to get there because of all the traffic and construction we encountered. The roads aren't very wide as it is but with extra traffic and people trying to pass at every opportunity AND then adding in construction where they narrowed the road some, it was a real test of our driving abilities. But we made it and things were good.

Lunch was at the Burger King and then it was off to find the wonderful beaches we had been told were in this part of Jamaica. Our first effort was fruitless as we wandered to the part of the island where the shore was rocky and full of interesting caves. Time wasn't taken to explore but we did get some shots of the lighthouse and Josh jumped off a cliff into the ocean (probably 40-50 ft. high). We also had a short lesson in botany from a local who followed us around telling us about the place we were viewing.

Everyone seems so nice and helpful when we are going from place to place. BUT, there is always a catch to their helpfulness…they constantly remind us that we need to show gratitude for their services. They are never shy about what the gratitude should be and will harangue and follow you until you finally give in. And it doesn't really matter if they have done something significant. A fellow at the beach corralled me and said I needed to give him a few dollars because 'my boys' had used his little blow up floating pads for a few seconds. He felt it was his right to have some remuneration because he left the pads out and someone sat on them (actually, none of us used them because we thought they belonged to one of the resorts). Anyway, this whole island seems to have their hand out, looking for something from us. I suppose they consider that we are all rich because we are here on a vacation and compared to many of their lives, they are probably correct. But the constant harassment is frustrating and leads me to be less than generous when approached. We have made some effort to bless those who have been helpful and have even gone out of our way to provide for some who seemed particularly destitute (tonight Kevin paid for someone's KFC dinner cause they looked a little down). For now, I need to be careful not to become too jaded and ignore real need when I see it.

Back to our Negril trip. When we escaped the guys at the lighthouse, we headed to a public beach. The beach we chose to use was unique because it was between the roped off beaches of the major resorts. In order to provide places for all their clients, each beach has designated a portion of the beach as a place for their customers to be able to sit in peace and with the appropriate accoutrements. All the beach chairs and umbrellas are for their customers only and they will not share or rent to people not at their resort. It was a HOT day for all of us, but especially for the babies. Hayden and Matt were OK because they could get into the water but Katie and Becca really needed to have a place where they could get out of the sun. Teresa approached a man who was supervising the beach for one of the resorts and asked if we could use an area behind an old shack but under a large, shady tree as a place of refuge. He indicated that we could but added that we would have to 'help him because he might get in trouble with his boss.' (Just another way of saying we had to pay him something.)

The beach was great and the water was excellent. There was a gradual deepening of the water as you walked out but after more than 100 yards I was still able to stand up and not have the water over my head. And the bottom was this soft sand that made it easy to walk and play. The kids loved it and so did the parents.

Joel and Gabe wanted to do some snorkeling but because of the nature of the beach they would have had to swim out several hundred yards before they could see anything substantial. The danger was that that far out there were jet-skis and boats zipping along, not paying any attention to who might be in the water. So Teresa made arrangements with a boat guy to take them out to a reef (probably a mile or so out) and let them snorkel for a couple of yours. They were really excited because they saw lots of great wildlife (can't remember what they saw except swordfish) and were away from mom and dad for a while.

After several hours on the beach we decided it was time to head back to Montego Bay. After witnessing the way the beaches are set up in Negril, I am thankful we booked a resort where we did. What we lose in 'quality' we gain in comfort and ambiance.

Our drive home was pretty uneventful. We stopped in one town and took a few pictures of housing and kids playing and made it through the construction areas in pretty good time. The only blip in the whole day was as we were coming into Montego Bay. There is a lot of construction going on here also and the people had set up portable concrete barriers to keep traffic out of the construction zone. It was dark and I suppose we had all gotten a little lax when suddenly Teresa hollered "watch out." As you might guess, I didn't see what she was 'watching out' for until it was too late and I hit one of the barriers. It was lying on its side so we just went over the top of it but it blew out the tire (or tyre if you are from Jamaica) and left us with a flat on the side of the road (thankfully these barriers are much smaller than the ones we use in America or there would have been substantial damage to the body of the car). And guess what? At least 5 different persons stopped to ask if we needed help getting the tire changed. I can't say they all were looking to make a buck but after today's events I have to think at least some of them weren't there just as Good Samaritans.

The tire was changed (Josh and crew came back because they finally saw we weren't with them) and we went along our merry way to the KFC. The lines were awful (Wednesday must be some special day here because everyone was out and about) and we were exceedingly tired but we finally got through. Josh decided to go ahead without us and found himself lost, finally arriving at the airport. We also got lost but ended up in downtown Montego Bay where we were a little nervous. Let's just say that things were a little rowdy and scary and we got out as quickly as we could.

Now we are back at the hotel and are preparing for a new day. Gabe goes home in the morning so Teresa and Brian will have to take him to the airport. It has been good for Joel to have Gabe with us. They have played that Killer Bunnies game non-stop and have had a good time being together this week. We are so grateful Gabe's parents let him come 'babysit' Joel.

While Gabe is leaving, a few of us will be going out on a boat and attempting to catch some fish. They tell us that most of what is being caught is Marlin, Tuna and ??? can't remember the other. I will let you know how things go and what we actually catch in the next chapter of this adventure.

This is the last day for a journal entry before we head back to civilization. That is a facetious statement because the people here are very civilized and the amenities that surround us are all pretty good. It's just that there is so much that reeks of poverty and need that it makes things seem a little uncivilized. But enough pontificating! Back to the real purpose of this record.

This was our deep sea fishing day and we all (Josh, Heather, Joel and I) left at 7:30 for a half day fishing expedition. A driver picked us up and took us…..to Doctor's Cave Beach Club to wait for our boat. Funny how things keep coming back to the same places as we search out each activity. Well, a little after that we were greeted by our boat and three native Jamaican's. Two were easily discernible but the third came as somewhat a surprise. The two who set up the gear were very much Jamaican looking but the captain/driver of the boat was a redhead, chubby guy that looked nothing like what you would expect from a native. But when he talked it was with the hard, throaty accent that makes many words very difficult to understand. I don't think any of us got used to hearing that tongue of a native from that lily white face.

Turns out that today wasn't the best day to be out fishing in the ocean. We had a full moon last night and the fish were feeding a lot more than usual so they weren't really interested in what we had to offer. It was a little frustrating that the boat people didn't seem to make much effort to change lures and try different techniques but maybe they were doing the best they could. The end result was that Heather was able to land a barracuda and the rest of us got squat. And to top it off, we were told that the barracuda is not a good fish to eat so we left it with the fishermen. Heather wanted to take the head as a souvenir but they didn't cooperate and we didn't push it. And again, we were confronted with people holding out their hands, looking for extra money after we had paid for both the boat and the ride to the boat. Not being world travelers, we have to put this into our memory banks for future consideration.

After we got home and I rested for a few minutes, I decided it was time to try and get our tire fixed. With that in mind, I began to hunt down a place where we could get some service. The first place I went said they didn't do tires but I should check the Shell station down the road. There was a little shop behind the station that serviced cars and put on tires so I went there to see if they could help. My luck is that they couldn't get a tire until late Friday afternoon (after we would be on the plane to Dallas) so I decided we would just let the rental people take care of it. As I was leaving, I walked all the way around the car and opened the 'drivers' door (not theirs, ours). There was an older man watching me and he just started to giggle because I looked so silly getting in on the wrong side of the car. I have to admit that I also chuckled a bit.

While some of us rested or swam, Teresa, Joel, Brian and Paula went on a fancy zip-line thing that they all really enjoyed. It wasn't just one big line but a series of descending lines that also included two rappels. Teresa said it was scary but exhilarating. Kevin and Jenny took a ride on some ATV's and also seemed to have a good time.

Our last dinner was at the resort restaurant. They don't have the best food but we are learning what will work for us and what won't. Everyone splurged and had virgin drinks (pina colada and strawberry daiquiris) and then we all got ready to go out to the luminous lagoon (also called Glistening Waters). I have to admit that this was not one of the things I was particularly interested in doing but it was our last big thing so I didn't make a fuss.

The drive to the lagoon wasn't bad except we were behind the slowest moving people in all Jamaica. In hindsight, I think that was a blessing we had prayed for because the slowness saved wear and tear on the 'donut' tire we used as a spare. Heavenly Father is always looking out for us when we ask to be helped.

I am not sure of all the science as to why this lagoon is luminous, but it truly is an interesting phenomenon. The area is totally dark and if you disturb the water in any way, a glowing appears for a brief moment and then settles back to darkness. We practiced a little from the dock but were really interested when we got out in the lagoon and were able to dive in and swim around. Each splash and stroke from swimming created an ethereal glow that followed you wherever you went. You could even see a trail of luminescence when fish swam by. It was a truly amazing occurrence and we all had a good time playing there.

It seems everyone is tired and ready to go home so I suppose it is good that we leave tomorrow. Teresa has been counting up the cost for the trip and has found that she is pretty close to the amount we budgeted. That is a pleasant surprise because we were both sure we were going to go over. Of course, we are going shopping tomorrow morning, before we leave, so our fears may be realized and we might go home just as poor as we feared. I will fill you in with my last entry.

I'm a little late making this entry because….well, I just am! The whole vacation was fun and exciting and we did lots of stuff but the going home part got a little hectic so I didn't make the entry at the end of the day. So here is what happened Friday and Saturday of our marvelous adventure.

Though we had packed a lot on Thursday, there was still a little to do Friday morning. Josh and Heather invited Joel to go to a beach with them before breakfast and Brian and Paula decided to go snorkeling one last time so when I got up Teresa was watching babies. Not really being interested in breakfast, I went down to see what was happening and found everyone getting ready to take some pictures on the beach. I changed my mind and went ahead and had breakfast for the last time in Coyaba.

Our family pictures were taken in a nice secluded place where they sometimes hold weddings. Josh was using his camera and we were trying to get some shots of families and couples for our memory books. There were some good shots taken (I hope to have some for reproduction) and we finally finished and got ready to go on our last shopping trip.

Before we left, we took all our bags down to the lobby and stored them in a room so the cleaning people could have our rooms. Just a word about the staff at Coyaba; we were really impressed with their diligence, kindness and attention to detail. Though we weren't the easiest group to deal with (lots of babies and lots of opinions) they were patient and workable with all our needs. Our cleaning lady, Hyacinth, was really sweet and made it a point to interact with all of us. She especially seemed to take a shine to Hayden (of course, we felt like he had his own harem with all the little and big girls following him around) but she was very nice to the other children also. And whatever we needed, she was able to find or help us with throughout the stay. People like that are easy to tip and treat with great respect. But it was not just Hyacinth that did her job well. All the waiters were excellent and the people at the front desk were so helpful. We were very pleased with the whole experience at Coyaba.

Our shopping trip was a reminder of how much the people of Jamaica depend on tourism and how desperate they are to separate a tourist from their money. The little 'strip mall' we went to had a number of stores with souvenirs and clothing for us foreigners. But again, we were 'attacked' as soon as we entered most of the stores and pestered to purchase and try-on things until we became frustrated and gave up. Not before we purchased a few things, but well before we would have finished had we not been harassed so much. I guess it is like piranhas in the water with fresh meat: you better get it while you can cause you may not see another piece for a while. The whole attitude sure put a negative flavor on that part of our trip.

To make our trip to the airport more workable, we determined to take all the people and then go back for the bulk of the luggage. It was a good plan and we followed it to the letter…BUT it had a major flaw that we did not foresee. When we first printed out our itinerary, the flight from Montego Bay to Dallas was scheduled for 3:30 pm. Our plans focused around that time pattern so Josh and I turned our cars in at about 2:30, thinking we had plenty of time to make our flight. We were delayed a bit because of the tire situation (turns out both left side tires were bad and we had to haggle on the amount to pay) and finally got into the terminal at 2:45. What we found was a frantic pair of wives (Teresa and Heather) waiting and telling us we were on last call for our flight. It seems that the departure time for our flight was changed to 3:05 and we hadn't checked to know this. And, we still had to clear immigration and security in order to board our flight.

The immigration part wasn't too bad, but the security people seemed to be exceptionally slow in their efforts. And we were now being paged ("Last call for passengers 'Whitmeer;, flight 1233 to Dallas") incessantly. Did that make any difference to anyone? No!!! I finally cleared security, while Heather was having her stroller checked and Josh and Teresa were still waiting, so I decided to run ahead and let them know we were coming. Of course, the gate was the farthest from security (gate 14) and I had to run through two different concourses to finally arrive at the departure lounge. As I ran down the hallway there were people up by the gate hollering, "are you Whitmeer (didn't take time to correct their pronunciation)?" With what little breath I had I squeaked "yes and the others are right behind me".

I guess, since they could see that I wasn't frazzled enough, the gate people decided I was a good candidate for a random check of carry-on luggage. So in addition to listening to the American Airlines personnel berate me for not planning my arrival properly, I also had to open up all my carry-on bags and let them look at my computer. And still there was no Josh, Heather or Teresa.

Finally, I could see them coming and let the gate people know. It seems that when they cleared security, another airport security person pointed toward the gates and said "you are at gate 4." Josh and Heather took off on a run and Teresa went as friskily as she could. But when Josh got to gate 4, the agent there said, "No, you are leaving from gate 14." So they turned and ran the right direction, picking up Teresa on the way, and finally arrived at the proper location.

Now, here is the kicker to the whole situation. The flight was supposed to leave at 3:05 pm and despite our 'lack of planning', we were all on the plane at 2:58 pm. I know that in airline scheduling, that is cutting it close but we were not late and the flight was buttoned up and away from the terminal with plenty of time to spare. So what happens? We left the gate and sat on the runway for 30 minutes, waiting for clearance to take-off. Thankfully, the flight was without incident and we arrived safely in Dallas.

Customs and immigration coming into the U.S. was really easy. No one asked to look in our bags and we were through the whole process in less than 30 minutes. But now the moment of truth had arrived!! (I don't think I mentioned that we changed our hotel reservations for the layover on the way home so we wouldn't have a recurrence of the Quality Inn fiasco.) It was time to contact our hotel and get a ride. Josh found a courtesy phone that connected us to the Comfort Inn Suites and he let them know we were at the terminal. Nervously, we waited for the arrival of our shuttle and wondered if we would have to argue with the driver or hire another means of transportation. Thankfully, when the shuttle arrived we found a very polite gentleman driving and he loaded up all our bags, found room in the van for three of us and called for another van (which came just a few minutes after we left) to come get the balance of our group. At the hotel, the receptionist was pleasant, checked us in with efficiency and helped us arrange things for our departure the next morning. What a totally pleasant experience we had with this second hotel. It did cost us a little more but it was well worth the expense because we were treated with respect and helped on our way home.

Saturday morning our flight left at 9:30 a.m. so we hustled down for the shuttle about 7:30. Arrival at the airport and check in for our flight was quick and easy and we were soon on our way home. I can't tell you how nice it was to look out the window of our plane (and around the wing) to see the Wasatch mountains as we entered the Salt Lake Valley. Jamaica was beautiful but there is nothing like seeing home and knowing you have come back to the place you really love. After more than 8 days away, it was nice to be home.

So ends the latest vacation experience for the Whitmer family. I don't know if we will ever have another 'whole family' vacation but this one was very enjoyable for all of us (though we did miss Josh and Melissa and their kids). I have to say that in the past years, there has always been something that has made things a little difficult for me to enjoy a trip like this, but this time I was just happy to be with our family and enjoy some special time together. As we were reviewing things on Sunday, Teresa asked me what I didn't like about this trip. Thinking for a while, I had to reply that there wasn't really any part that I didn't enjoy (except maybe the vendors and even that was educational). Even the fruitless fishing trip (which bothered Josh and Joel some) was still and adventure for me. Things were just fun and pleasant and relaxing. Maybe that's the key; we didn't become too over-programmed and were able to have fun. Whatever it was, this will be one of the more memorable times we have had together as a family (vacation-wise).

Let me close this little log with a tribute to the real founder and finisher of our trip. Teresa has been so dedicated to getting us together and helping us to have experiences that widen our horizons. It all started with little trips to Crystal Lake, Calf Creek Falls, Yellowstone and Cedar City and progressed to Catalina, Portugal, Florida and now Jamaica. We haven't always cooperated with her as we should in these endeavors but we have all been the recipients of the work and effort she has exerted to help us stay close as a family. My hope is that over the rest of our lives we might find opportunities to further our experiences and make some new and lasting memories. And I pray that all of our clan will pay homage to the person who has been instrumental in keeping us connected through these little voyages. Only through Teresa's efforts can we look back and view the memories of our times together as a family. I know all this sounds weird from me because I am usually the one who fights these big vacations. But the truth is that, without exception, the aftermath of these trips has been an increase of love and caring in our family. Thank you, Teresa for being so faithful to your children, grandchildren and to me. We love you and honor your goodness and strength in the face of much difficulty. God Bless your soul for who you are.

My hope now is that those who participated in this vacation will take time to write some of their own memories and share them with the rest of us. This report is one-sided and really needs some balance from some of you. Please take time to help us all have better remembrances by offering your thoughts. Thanks for coming and look forward to our next great adventure.

Love, Dad