Men don't normally scrapbook.
We do justify our existences in other ways, though. For example, when the toilet will not flush because the chain inside the tank has become disconnected from the stopper, who is it that normally sticks a hand into the freezing cold, icky-gross toilet tank water to reattach it? It's the guy. Most of us can also grill the carcasses of tasty, dead animals and simultaneously babysit a toddler while playing Madden or Guitar Hero. That's talent, my friends.
Sometimes, however, I wish I did keep a scrapbook because I have such a terrible memory. (Those who do scrapbook, check out Tangie Baxter Designs. They are a new sponsor of NMH so please support them for supporting this blog. You'll even get 15% off for being part of the NMH crew.) There are only about fifteen major life events that have permanently embedded themselves into my mind and are going nowhere. Here is a snippet of the random experiences that my brain has dug its claws into and refuses to let go of:
-My wedding day and the birth of my children.
-Freaking out with the Normal Mormon Wife when she opened her admission letter to dental hygiene school and read the word, "Congratulations!"
-My first little league football touchdown as a 3rd grader when Scott Hollowell threw me a halfback pass and I scampered into the end zone.
-Trying to talk with a little Chilean girl on the flight from the MTC to Antofagasta, Chile and nearly jumping from the plane without a parachute after hearing how quickly she spoke Spanish. I didn't understand a single word she said except for, "tonto!"
-Asking my Kindergarten teacher how to spell "R2-D2" because I was making a Star Wars birthday card for a classmate. Her response was simply, "Sound it out," which I successfully did and then felt like the smartest kid in the universe.
Despite my terrible memory I can somehow remember almost every play from my senior year of varsity basketball at Hunter High. I can't explain it, but it's true. Maybe I have such a poor memory because 83% of my brain's storage capacity is dedicated to preserving my high school basketball glory days.
The reason I wish I had either kept a scrapbook or had a better memory is because for the past two weeks I have heard nothing but how terrible 2008 was. Nearly every website, magazine, news channel and homing pigeon with a message taped to its ankle has loudly proclaimed 2008 as the "worst year ever!" After a quick Google search I learned that '08 was the worst year ever for Wall Street, Movies, Seattle sports, CD's and the Church of Scientology. Heck, even the UFO Media industry couldn't catch a break last year.
Despite the incessant message of what a wreck the world is, my life is great as I bid farewell to the worst year ever. In fact, 2008 was a really good year! (Am I alone in this? Vote on the right and let me know.) Here is why:
1) My Family = Multiplied and Replenished. On May 28th, 2008, the Normal Mormon Family welcomed a beautiful little girl into our home (read the hilarity and tenderness of the blessed event here). Despite the fact that my daughter has the uncanny ability of puking on my left wrist every time I hold here, she has brought a tremendous amount of light, love and happiness into my life. (And I swear she pukes on my wrist on purpose. No matter how hard I try to scrub the stink off, I can always detect traces of it for the rest of the day. When does this end? At her baptism? First date? Wedding day? Maybe I'll just start wearing latex gloves every time I'm near her.) My sister, brother and my brother-in-law also welcomed little girls into their families in 2008 while my youngest sister-in-law got married. If only we can now find a way to create an all-LDS girl pop music band with these four little munchkins......
2) Life and Death. Last year I was blessed to not have to attend any funerals for family or close friends. The closest I came to a cemetery in 2008 was mourning the decapitation of the mother and baby Willow Tree figurine that fell from our bedroom nightstand. We are cryogenically freezing the mother's head until future technology allows us to glue it back on. The baby's head cannot be located at this time. My guess is that it is either being used as a foozball ball or the Normal Mormon Boy has mistaken it for a new type of bakugan.
3) Sports. My three favorite teams are the Carolina Panthers, BYU Football and the Lakers. While the Panthers laid an egg in the playoffs, they went 12-5 (.706) this year. The Lakers ended their 2007-2008 campaign by reaching the NBA Finals and then started the 2008-2009 season by going 31-6 (.840). BYU football went 10-3 (.769) but somehow managed to have a disappointing season despite the win total. In summary, my favorite teams had an average winning percentage of 77% despite sports being a zero-sum game where there is a winner and a loser in every contest. In other words, there must be some miserable chump of a sports fan lamenting about how his favorite teams only won 23% of their games last year in order to even out the success of my teams. I was a BYU student in 1997 when basketball team went 1-25, so I deserved my 2008 sports warm fuzzy.
Despite these reasons for me to have enjoyed 2008, most people will point to the mortgage crisis as the universal reason to view the year as if it were a soiled diaper after your baby goes from a milk-only diet to one containing solid foods. Including green beans. Well, I think there are even some long-term silver linings to the lessons we have learned from the financial crisis. Just as the internet bubble taught us to avoid buying shares of companies that sell no tangible product or have a coherent business plan, the mortgage mess has reminded us of some basic, valuable lessons. First, we should buy houses we can afford. Second, banks should lend money to people who can reasonably be expected to repay it. And third, it is usually not a good thing for government to interfere in the free market (this 1999 NY Times article was prophetic.)
While the economy is struggling, I have been fortunate enough to keep my job while many other talented, smart, dedicated people have not been so lucky. For those who are out of work, hang in there! You will find a way through this. If you need a morale booster, read Angela Hallstrom's Segullah post called "Tidings of Comfort", which is very uplifting.
The single greatest fear that I have in my life is losing my job and not being able to support my family of five. For the first time in a long time I have had to reflect upon how blessed I am to have a good, challenging job. This is a healthy thing to have to do every once in a while. (My second greatest fear is heights. My third is being ripped to shreds by a large, angry dog. So I guess the worst-possible scenario I could ever encounter is working for a K-9 unit and knowing my boss is using an angry German Shepherd to track me down on the roof of the Empire State Building so that he can fire me. Great. Now I'm going to have nightmares.)
One of my favorite scriptures is Alma 62:41. This scripture shows how the Nephite people chose to react to experiencing years of war and bloodshed that far exceed anything we are facing today. It says, "But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility."
The same group of people went through the same trial. Some became bitter and hardened. Others saw their faith in God increase as they humbled themselves before Him. Often our happiness is not a result of what happens to or around us but how we respond to the circumstance we encounter. In short, we can be as miserable or as happy as we choose to be. I see a lot of reasons to be both (happy or miserable) right now. I choose happy.
Okay, I think that's enough for one night. It is now 1:50 a.m. and I'm rambling. My final point is that we live in the greatest and most noble country in modern civilization. We enjoy freedoms and have opportunities that other people literally risk their lives to attain. God bless America!
As Latter-day Saints, we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as our anchor when the winds of life batter and blow us about. We can have the Holy Ghost - a member of the Godhead! - as our companion if we are true and faithful to our covenants. We have prophets, scriptures and the Holy Ghost to guide us through our challenges and to remind us of the joys of life. How blessed we are!
Wow. This is pretty deep, important stuff that I hope I can remember.
Does anybody have a scrapbook?