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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » My long, rambling 1000 post thread.

   
Author Topic: My long, rambling 1000 post thread.
advice for robots
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In the grand tradition of 1000 post threads, hereís by far the longest post Iíve ever written.

No, I donít have 1000 posts with this name, but added together since November 2000 I have over 1000 posts with all 3 names Iíve used here.

Iím writing this in my spare time at work. This will mostly be freewriting with little editing because thatís what helps me get my thoughts going for the next project. I am the kind of writer who isnít organized at all and who canít write an outline worth beans, and wouldnít follow one even if I could. So I freewrite and touch it up until I think itís done. So far itís worked OK for me.

I grew up mainly in Idaho and Minnesota, although I was born in San Bruno, CA. So I went to HS in MN and that was the formative time I guess. I graduated from a small private school in 1992óThe Marshall School, home of the Hilltoppers. It was Cathedral when I was there in 7th grade but then the Catholic Diocese dropped it and it went independent. I was Trumpet God in concert band, my only real leadership position. I edited the literary magazine my senior year, but that was pretty much a one-man show. I donít tell people that if I bother to mention that old obscure piece of personal trivia at all. I tried to run cross country and track but that was half-hearted and an attempt to get out of school every once in a while. I graduated 10th in a class of 32. I guess I could have placed higher, not that it mattered, if Iíd tried really hard in HS but I preferred to doodle in class and read speculative fiction rather than really study hard. Math and science were never my strongest points anyway and no matter how hard I tried to understand a calculus concept I always got C plusses on math tests. So I joined the Math League irrationally but not out of any delusions that I was a math god. And we went to state but no thanks to me. I did poorly in my French classes because I never got enough eís on the ends of words. Seriously. But I did well in English classes because thatís where I thrive, the gray world of thesis writing where there are no real right or wrong answers if you can obscure them. Writing was always a process of invention on paper during blue book tests when Iíd read just enough of the text to wing it. And if Iíd buckled down I guess I could have moved up in the class rank but seriously I never liked the valedictorian feel of the young women who were going to win that and I didnít want to emulate it. Maybe thatís just 10 years of retrospect talking but I think thatís how it was.

Duluth, MN was a place nobody had ever heard of unless they lived in a two hundred mile radius of it. About a hundred thousand people living in the area and no one had ever heard of it. I appreciate that more now because northern MN is some of the nicest, most unspoiled country in the US Iíve ever seen and itís fine with me if a million tourists arenít flocking there. Duluth is on a hill overlooking Lake Superior at the point where the lake comes to its wolf-snout point. Fitting, that wolf snout. The area is that timberwolf kind of wild. I once wrote a story about the lift bridge that lets ships into the harbor. A vertical lift bridge thatís the largest in the world, so I hear. Once a slightly deranged woman was on the bridge as it started going up (that doesnít happen often) and she panicked and jumped off the edge and got caught in the machinery and cut in half. That was while I lived there, on a nice sunny day with plenty of people watching. Half of her landed on the grass in front of a sizeable crowd of onlookers. I wasnít there but the news had circulated around town long before the evening news. Thatís not what I wrote my story about but perhaps thereís a story in it. The lift bridge sits there like a totem god all lit up and really commanding the harbor front and it does seem like the bridgeís will whether ships will get into the harbor or not. Maybe it demanded a sacrifice, who knows. And all the while the lake is thinking its cold deep thoughts. You can see those thoughts if you walk down the pier to the lighthouse; they lap against the concrete and most of them deal with swallowing.

I left Duluth after HS and headed out to desert Utah as a new missionary for the LDS church. I spent two months in the Missionary Training Centeróthat is the requisite time for missionaries going on foreign missions. Those going stateside or to England or another English speaking country only stay three weeks at the MTC. Really the first time Iíd been away from home for more than a week. I was 19 but not an adventurer. In the MTC you learn how to teach the Gospel. Itís a class setting very intimate with the teacher and perhaps 8 or 10 missionaries, and youíre in that class much of the day. An extremely powerful experience. The MTC is a unique place. Everyone there is either a full-time missionary getting ready to go or people supporting those missionaries. About 5K missionaries in the place at any one time, I think. Less when I was there, but that was in January 93. We also learned the rudimentaries of the French language and suddenly I was glad Iíd taken 4 years of French in HS. I still had to take about 6 months once I got to Europe really learning how to speak to people but I did have a headstart. I donít think I can adequately describe my experience at the MTC here because as has come up many times in many threads this isnít the right context. But those 2 months really helped prepare me to be a missionary. Some never did like the MTC and thatís fine but I really treasure those 2 months.

I was going to the Belgium Brussels mission which covers southern Belgium and northern France. Big culture shock that took a while to settle in. Even after 2 years as a missionary there were things I hadnít gotten used to. More of the mindset, and maybe the look of everything. How things were done. It never stopped being foreign. But the people we came in contact with were of course human and I felt at home with them soon. We spent lots of time just talking to people, introducing ourselves and introducing our message. Some listened, most did not. We talked to people on the street, in busses and trains, at their doors. We tried to smile and be very polite. After all that I think I shall never become a salesman because that cured me of any desire to try to sell something I DIDNíT believe in very much. I DID believe in what we were teaching, and it was that hard to introduce it anyway. If I didnít believe it I would have sat on the couch all day instead because whatís the point? And we offered service, and we did some minimal sightseeing and just basically got to know people and it was a very full, if simple life. After some time I forgot what "normal" life was like and I couldnít imagine not being a missionary.

But I did return, perhaps more worldwise now but still comfortably naÔve which is what I think I still am. Iíve come to accept that more and more. Hmpgh. I came out to BYU (where else) and spent 4 and a half years getting an English degree when I actually finished most of the degree in the first three years. And I met my wonderful wife Katie our freshman year. We said hi one day in the lunch line and had a lunch together. Some months later I met her at a meeting for Aspen Grove summer camp staff applicants. We said hi, with the "hi" of one-time acquaintances who didnít really know each otherís name. We both applied, and we both got jobs for the summer. She offered me a ride up to the orientation in March. Aspen Grove family camp is run for BYU alumni. It sits halfway up Mount Timpanogos in the majestic splendor of peaks and sweeping aspen-filled valleys. Very beautiful and quiet. I accepted. And OK, so I liked her, and I think she liked me, and riding up to that orientation kind of cemented that. You get to talk, thatís what you do going somewhere in a car. I started work a month before she did, and yes I had plans for when she came up. Those plans included getting her ice cream like a gentleman on our first day as a full staff and playing ping pong with her on a table we dragged down to the badminton courts, and monopolizing her conversation on a hike the staff all took to one of the waterfalls one evening. Nothing specifically laid out, but just little things that happen when two are falling in love. She was one of the few people I knew with whom I could totally relax and be myself. Very important. And then eventually we got acknowledgment as an official couple (important) and we dated all summer. And in the fall when camp was done we returned and stood overlooking a colorful valley and parted ways, gently.

That was good but it hurt at the time. We remained friends and saw each other occasionally over the following years. I dated others, so did she. In February of 99 I called her again like old friends do, and as I finally had my own car I asked if she would like to go out for a cup of hot chocolate and catch up on old times. And when I got there and knocked and she opened the door my heart melted, she was so lovely. So I spent that short evening smiling at her over the mug at TGI Fridayís and thinking romantic thoughts and that was a total surprise. I drove her home but I had to see her again, so we made a date to go skiing in a couple of weeks. And that was our first date (the second time). We spent all day skiing up and down mountain roads and getting sunburns from the reflection, and we had breadbowl soup at Leatherbyís and ended up at the movies that evening watching Youíve Got Mail. So it wasnít the timid first date after all and we were holding hands as we left the movie. That kind of day. But this time after four months we stood up at Aspen Grove again among the new ferns and new aspen leaves and I put a ring on her finger and knelt and asked her to marry me. And she said yes.

Marrying Katie is the best thing thatís ever happened to me or rather the best thing Iíve ever done (trying to be active rather than passive). Lots of my old insecurities just donít matter anymore now that I have someone who knows me that well and with whom I can share all that Iíve learned to share. OK, so thatís not completely why. Another piece that would take too long to write. I donít know if Iíve ever written down my complete feelings for Katie and I donít know if thatís possible. Maybe in Godís language. And weíve been married for 2 and a half years now which is just getting started but already I love her so much more than I could have that evening at Aspen Grove when I knelt in the ferns. She is part of the story of my life forever.

So thatís it, my life really centers around our relationship. And then in a slightly broader circle is our little Emily, who runs our lives like a little megalomaniacal Napoleon sometimes but whom we both love desperately. And a little one on the way, whose gender will be determined in a month or so. If I had not yet met Katie, if I were still a "bachelor," how empty that part of my self would still be. Thatís me personally. Everyone has their own timeline. I go to work every day and I have a job that I enjoy, but when it comes down to it I go to work to provide for my family. But I am grateful for good employment right now, and the good company that I work for. We are buying our first house very soon (closing in a few weeks) and that house is a duplex. Legal, nonconforming, in Spanish Fork, Utah. This is our bid to not always have to be dependent on an 8 to 5 job. Real assets making steady money if we do it right. We are also contributing to IRAs and similar investments, but we hope the real estate gambit will pay off well. So that our old years together can be graceful, perhaps.

Word says Iíve reached 4 pages so Iíll stop here, and congratulations to you if you read all of this. Thanks for the opportunity to freewrite those parts of my thoughts and post them where people wonít wonder why in the world I just wrote all this. YOU know why.


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:Locke
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Great story. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Hatrack marriage stories are always the coolest.
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Icarus
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Congratulations!
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katharina
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Oh, that is so cool. Thank you for sharing.
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ludosti
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That was wonderful to read!! Thanks for sharing that with all of us. Good luck with the upcoming new baby (imagine the fun of two little Napoleons ).
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Dan_raven
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Thanks. I feel better now. The funny thing is, I didn't feel bad before reading your post.
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advice for robots
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And thank you all for reading it. I assure you that, like two Wellingtons, we are prepared to handle our Napoleons.
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zgator
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What, you're going to exile them to some small island?

Great story.


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jeniwren
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advice, I had been waiting to see your 1000 post thread, wanting to know more of the background story to some of your previous posts. Congratulations on the soon to be new addition to your family! I enjoyed reading about your adventures as a missionary and the story of meeting your wife. What a wonderful post. Thank you!
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Carrie
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You know Dan, that's exactly what I'm thinking right now.

That was incredibly uplifting. Thank you.


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advice for robots
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GoshÖyou guys are too nice!

Jeniwren, I probably would have written more rock-n-rolliní missionary adventures had I had any. But I never had anything really exciting happen. Sure, plenty of things were going on all the time, but nothing that makes a good story unless I spent a few hours giving background. The worst persecution I faced was having crabapples thrown at me once. The guy had no arm and they were landing 20 feet in front of me. We might have reacted more if heíd been more threatening. I lost the apartment keys once, and we wandered around for a day and a night looking for them, until we found them in the bottom of my bag. Hair raising! Thatís the story of my lifeóno really good stories, or at least Iím not good at picking them out.


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jeniwren
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Actually, it was what you said about the MTC that did it for me. You know, I grew up Mormon, but never knew very much about what happened to the young men and women when they left for their missions. That was very interesting.


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Dragon
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That sounded like a good story to me!
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sarahdipity
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I was happy to hear that good things happen to people who come from Duluth. I was born there but didn't grow up there really. Nice story even the part about the woman getting cut in half I never knew about it.
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esl
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Happy thousand posts! That was great. Thousandth posts are always interesting, not at all hard to finish.
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advice for robots
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More about the MTC: People keep calling it boot camp for missionaries, and I suppose the regimen is rigorous, but everyone is awfully nice to you. The point isn't to mold you into a soldier; it's to help you prepare to teach the gospel. Everything done there is done toward that end. The classes that span all day take you through the missionary discussions, which are the standard lessons missionaries share with investigators. You learn them backwards and forwards, and you memorize every scripture they reference, and you become very familiar with every principle they teach. It's intense, but in a good way. You feel like you're expanding every day. Some missionaries do expand, because they provide all the food you can eat at mealtimes, and all you do is sit at a desk all day. You get gym time, but not enough for keeping up any pretense of an exercise schedule. So the scales tip.

When I got on the plane in Duluth to fly to Utah, I had my first real shock of being a missionary. I reached for my Walkman and realized I didn't have it. Missionaries are sequestered from "worldly" stuff like popular music and books and movies, etc. It's for a good reason--missionaries have to be very focused and committed. There's rarely anyone keeping tabs on you except yourself and your companion, so it's an honor thing. Follow the rules and you are a much stronger missionary. I had to take a deep breath and let my mind adjust. The MTC is like another universe. You're right next to BYU, which is a conservative place by any standard but raging liberal by MTC standards. You are not allowed to leave the MTC mission boundaries, which include the MTC proper and the land up to and around the Provo Temple. You hear Church hymns and religious choir pieces as music; on my first full day there I got to conduct the hymn "Called to Serve" before 500 new missionaries--that was cool. Your texts are the scriptures and other related material published for missionaries. They actually showed part of Karate Kid in one LGM (Large Group Meeting) to teach the principle of work (wax on, wax off) and everybody was saying "Woooow. Cool."

I quickly forgot about the outside world, although I got homesick one day when I was sick and disgraced myself by crying in front of my fellows. Not really disgraced; guys just get embarrassed about bursting into tears in front of other guys, never mind the setting. No one thought any less of me, I am sure. I enjoyed the MTC. Even when I left the MTC and went to Europe as a greenie missionary I felt like I was stepping out of someplace very special. I made my first LDS friends there. Growing up, I was usually the only LDS member my age. I had good friends, but there was always that between us, no matter how faintly. Meeting others who had the same beliefs as me was interesting. There was support I had never felt before.

So I'm glad for that experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything, as Mormons often say.


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advice for robots
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Sarahdipity, by the way, that's cool that you were born in Duluth. St. Mary's? St. Luke's? My youngest brother was born at St. Luke's. I think Duluth has changed a lot, even from when I last lived there in 95. I think the gangs were moving in even then. No longer such a peaceful place. Always lots of old, musty buildings downtown. Lots of memories floating around. I'd like to drive back there someday. We almost got to this summer (for my 10 year class reunion), but we chickened out. Three days in the car with Emily (one way) would provide all the excuse we need to send her to Corsica.
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dkw
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Thanks for your story, advice for robots. I grew up in St. Paul, and I love Duluth. We went up fairly frequently, with family, with church groups, with scouts. I always loved to watch the lift bridge.
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advice for robots
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I like how the bridge would talk to the incoming ships. The bridge would blast a long bass note, and the ship would answer. A pause, then they'd speak again. Then the bells started to ring, all the cars cleared off, and the bridge started to raise.
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sarahdipity
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St. Lukes.

*whee* more fun bridge facts

My friend took some amazing pictures by the lake of us all hanging out a few summers back. We went camping up in Northern Michigan. Wading in the headwaters of the mississippi was quite thrilling.


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dkw
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Northern Michigan? Last I checked the Mississippi didn't start in Michigan.
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Designated Bumper
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::bump::
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