Thursday, August 14, 2014

To My Friend, Alyn Beck

On Sunday, June 8th, my good friend Alyn Beck was killed in the line of duty. Our families had been friends for 12 years. In fact, Alyn taught my son, Garren, to waterski. He also taught my daughter, Abbie, how to shoot. He taught me that you can be strong enough to bench press a school bus and still be a gentle soul.

Alyn’s death garnered national attention, and the story is very public and widely known. You can look up the details on the Interwebs, if you aren’t familiar with the tragedy. But if you want to know the thoughts of his family - if you want to feel compassionate, sad, wounded, uplifted, hopeful, heartbroken, and pulled upwards - Alyn’s wife, Nicole, started a blog where she has chronicled her experience. You can find it here: Trying To Be AlynStrong.

I love Nicole. She is one of the strongest individuals I’ve ever known. She has immense faith. She is genuine. She is a loyal cheerleader to her friends and family. She is so very conscious of others. The decision for her to share her story was not something she was naturally planning to do. She is private and protective. But her experience is so much in the public domain, she felt impressed to do so. (I think she still goes back and forth on this; so if you are interested in reading, you may want to take that opportunity sooner rather than later.)

This is the Beck’s experience, and I am careful not to discuss anything above and beyond what Nicole shares. But I do have just a few personal memories I wanted to write down, to pay tribute to my friend and to the Beck family.

First, the day it happened. I started getting texts from a number of friends in Las Vegas that Sunday afternoon. Like anybody else who loved the Becks, I just wanted to be in their living room and somehow ... do ...  something. I felt helpless. I just paced around my house.  Having moved to Utah and being a state away made me feel even more useless. I was restless that night, prayerful for Nicole and her family. Still in denial, really. Being physically separated by miles made everything more surreal and easier to not process or face.

It was Monday evening when I got a phone call from a dear friend of mine, Nicki, who also happened to be a close friend to the Becks. She told me that she’d just come from Nicole’s house and Nicole asked if I would write Alyn’s eulogy.

And that’s what broke me.

I just started crying. It was more than the reality of what was happening. It was this response to an unuttered prayer. I was unsure of how to do something for the Becks that would demonstrate I was thinking of them, that I cared about them, that I loved them, that I wanted to be there…and it was as if Nicole simply said, “Here. Here is a way.” I was humbled and honored and overwhelmed and grateful. What a sacred privilege.

I won’t post the entire eulogy, but here are the last few paragraphs.

Alyn took great pride in his commitment to public service. He was brave and dedicated; a courageous soul who loved freedom and liberty. He was a man who worked diligently for the welfare, safety, and interest of others. He was a protector and defender of our homes, our property, our neighborhoods, and our lives.

Of even greater consequence, Alyn was a keeper of an oath he made as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alyn had a profound faith in the Savior, and as such, his character elevated those around him, inspiring them to choose a better way. He was an example of someone who lived by his spiritual convictions and knew what mattered most in life. As observed by many, Alyn was fiercely loyal to his greatest friend and cheerleader – his wife, Nicole. He was an attentive and devoted father to his son, Daxton, and daughters Avenlee and Katriann – who at nine months old, held her dad in the palm of her hand.  

He touched many lives. He saved many lives. His dedication was unshakeable. His course was unswerving. And his compassion was unending. Alyn was true to the cause of creating a better, safer and more secure life for everyone. He never wavered. He always went the extra mile. He will be remembered lovingly for his many kindnesses, his wonderful sense of humor, his extraordinary intelligence, his deep spirituality, and his profound testimony of and devout love for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I also wanted to quickly share two experiences I had with Alyn, which happened in the presence of nobody else, and I’ve kind of held them close. They aren’t especially unique, if you know Alyn, but they are mine. I mostly wanted to share them with Nicole.

So, our stake was doing a community-wide service project one Saturday. Alyn and his son Daxton were working with me and my son, Garren, to make some updates to the high school’s baseball field. The next day, at church, I texted Alyn.

Me: Alyn, it was great working alongside you yesterday. You're a good man. I appreciate your friendship. Also your wit and work ethic. And thanks for having a son who is a good friend to Garren. I really appreciate your family. Thanks for all you do.

See, I’m a bit of a gusher. Alyn is not. Alyn’s response?

Alyn: You probably shouldn’t text during church.

HA! That made me L right OL. He texted right back again, with some warm and kind words. But I loved that he saw the opportunity to make the funny, and that he knew I’d get it. I love that part of Alyn.

My other favorite memory of Alyn was also at church. It was my privilege to be Alyn’s bishop for a time. I once asked him if I could meet with him after church, to ask him to serve our ward in a new capacity. He had been serving in the Sunday School Presidency, and he really enjoyed it. He wasn’t eager for a change. He reluctantly came into the bishop’s office and, because we were also friends, he very informally said, “Ah, man - I don’t want a new calling.” Sensing he wasn’t thrilled, and wanting to play along, I responded, “Well, Alyn - I was just hoping to call you as the Ward Ninja.”  He gave me this very faux-stoic game face and answered, “I accept. And we shall never speak of it again.”

And we never did. Which means nobody else ever knew about it. Which means even after I moved, Alyn was not released from his calling. Which means that now, next year, and forever more, Alyn will be the Elk Ridge Ward’s Ward Ninja.

That seems like a perfect assignment for him. There was something so comforting and reassuring knowing Alyn Beck was on your side. I never called him for help but that he didn’t come running. That’s how you knew he loved you. A good man, who I was privileged to love like a brother. I will miss him until I see him again. And I know I will.

For those who haven’t seen it, Alyn’s funeral services were publicly broadcast. Here are a few of those moments that left lasting impressions on me.

1) One of the men I admire most in this world, President Tracy Truman, paying tribute to Alyn and teaching the doctrine of the resurrection.

2) Elder Terry Wade, an area seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaching of a Heavenly Father's love, the Plan of Salvation and sharing a letter written to Alyn, by his beautiful daughter. I recommend watching it, but if you just want to read one of the most powerful testimonies I've ever heard - here are the words from the letter written by Alyn's 11-year old daughter, Avi, the night her dad passed away.

Dear Daddy,
I love you. I’m going to miss you a whole bunch. I can feel you here with me though. I know that I will see you again though because you were married in the temple. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of Mommy for you. I know you always say that. I wish that I could have said goodbye to you. I will always be thinking of you. I’ll see you in heaven! I think that this is just one of those trials for our family to get stronger. 
P.S. I love you so much. 

And to Nicole, I share a quote that has probably already been shared by everyone you know:

In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike--and they will--you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham's seed.” ― Jeffrey R. Holland, Created for Greater Things

Monday, March 10, 2014

Not Quitting My Day Job

You guys, I recently had the opportunity to be in two different commercials. So I should probably quit my day job so I can have a more flexible schedule to practice, you know, my "craft." Right? Let's first watch the commercials and then discuss together how I actually, probably, should not do that.

Yep, that's Utah Community Credit Union. I feel a particular loyalty, since they gave me my first car loan right after Katie and I were married. Our first big purchase! And UCCU was there for us. A single tear rolls down. Also, this shoot was great because I got a free lunch at The Melty Way! Guys, the perks of being a movie commercial star principal are pretty awesome.

The second commercial was for Baja Broadband. It was freezing outside, but that's not what I'll take away from this experience. No. What I'm taking away from this is that I am 42 and my wife in the commercial is … 23. And she's from England! I don't know what this is supposed to say about my character in the commercial. I'm guessing this is a second marriage for him. He's had a midlife crisis. He's super wealthy, guys. And he doesn't put up with other men ogling his wife. That's what I decided when I was doing a deep study of my character and what his motivation would be. I hope it comes through in the commercial.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Frozen Conspiracy

If you’re plugged in to any social media at all then you probably noticed when, last week, a seam split and the world became unglued over the “hidden agenda” of  Disney’s Frozen.

I’m not going to point you in the direction of the impetus to this ice storm (you see what I did there?) because I don’t see how anything good can come from that. (Sidebar: If you’re trying to build a brand, then giving your blog a title that doesn’t always reflect your appearance seems like a misstep. I mean, otherwise we here at Part Time Authors would have named our blog But we didn’t. Because we aren’t always that.)

Aaaaanywhistle, here’s the thing. Is Frozen really pushing an agenda? Is this little cartoon making sweeping social commentary? Are we being brainwashed by the Disney machine?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Look at these lyrics:
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

Youguys. Disney clearly has an Anti-Diet agenda. The message here is simple: When it comes to trying to eat healthy and maintain your weight - just forget it. Let it go! Let yourself go! Let that waistline grow!

This is clearly a cross-promotion for the turkey legs, churros, and monte cristos found inside the Disney parks. Shameless! And it’s like they aren’t even embarrassed or trying to hide it, you guys!

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let my stomach rage on,
Sweats never bothered me anyway

Disney is clearly a proponent of diabetes. I don’t have proof yet, but I’m pretty sure they are getting kickbacks from the FDA. The more people on insulin, the better - for Disney. Have they no shame? Have they NONE?!

Well, tune in to PTA this week and each day you will be privileged to find another Frozen conspiracy theory from another part time author, who has varying degrees of clean shaven-ness.

*Originally published on Part Time Authors. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Breaking Up. It's Hard to Do.

We're coming up on Valentine's Day this week, kids. Love abounds! Except when it doesn't. And you know who you are. And believe me - though I am crazy-insane in love with my wife for decades now, there was a time when I treaded the ground of "Having to Figure Love Out." And that inevitably included break-ups. And man, I hated those.

I used to work with a girl named Tobie.* Tobie had lived in Las Vegas for a number of years, but originally heralds from Planet Drama, where she is considered royalty. (*Names have been changed. Kind of. She spells it without the “e.”) Each morning when I walked into the office, I couldn't wait to see what the Crisis De Jour would be. The dramatic episodes ranged from “Last night I talked to my mom for the first time in three years!” to “I lost 1.5 pounds!” And most memorably, when she broke up with her boyfriend of eight months. Or more accurately, he broke up with her. And what, I ask you, could be more dramatic than that?! (Well, if you’re Tobie, then just about anything.)

So I’m listening to her heartbreaking story, line upon line and precept by precept, when I suddenly begin having flashbacks to my own breakups. I start getting knots in my stomach, I get a little moist under the arms, and I find myself looking for the opportunity to assure Tobie that her and I can still be friends, even though we aren’t the ones breaking up. It’s just instinct.

For me, breakups were the absolute worst. I avoided them like they were cancer. Oh, how they pained me to the core of my dating soul. It’s still hard to talk about some of them…

Tess Dresher. Fourth Grade. I can still recall the day she walked up to me during recess and asked me to “go with her.” “Sure,” I answered. And those were the last words every exchanged between Tess and myself. We occasionally sat by each other, and I gave her a very special Peanuts Valentine’s Day card, but we never did speak, or even make eye contact. So I guess technically we are still “going together.” Boy is she going to be mad when she finds out I got married and had eight children. She’ll want to break up for sure. I’m not looking forward to that conversation.

Julia Zimmerman. High School. It was the summer of 1987, and I was sixteen years old – with a license to drive and to date! I knew Julia really liked me when her mom had grounded her and she promptly ignored said house arrest to go to the movies with me. Yes, we were young and crazy in love! I was pretty sure that after the summer of 1987 I could die happy. By fall of 1987 I was so miserable I was praying for death. We went to different high schools and Julia was first to acknowledge that our long distance relationship wasn’t really going to make it. I nodded my head in agreement, but inside I felt like somebody was cramming my heart through a paper shredder.

College break-ups were the toughest, obviously. You've all been there. Sometimes it's almost cliche. But there was genuine pain, due to genuine feelings and possibilities. It might be too soon. I don't think I can talk about it. Her name was Danielle. It was Halloween night. We had gone to a party and we were sitting in my car in the parking lot of her apartment complex. I was dressed as Aladdin, she was Jasmine. Things had been in the pooper for quite some time, and it felt like a stranger walking by could glance in our direction and know exactly what was happening. It was silent for a few minutes, and then I spoke up. Tell me if you've had this exact conversation before:

“I think we should see other people.”

"Define our relationship,” she said.


“Define our relationship!”

“Uhm…we should…see other people…but we can still be -”

“Are you giving me the Friend Speech? Don’t you DARE give me the Friend Speech!”

“Uh…NO…never, never. I think it’s just me.”

“OH, NO – the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ bit?”

“Noooo! That’s not what I mean at all...”

An eternal silence. Like…three days have passed while we’ve sat in the car. And finally she speaks.

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

“I…don’t understand the question.”

“I can’t do this!” she yelled, and bailed out of the car.

Joy to the world.

It was truly painful. Of course, not as painful as Tobie’s overly dramatic reaction to the hair she found in her salad at lunch one day. “I almost ate this and diiiiiiieeeeedddddd!”

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Many Faces of Google

You may have heard that Google Fiber recently arrived in Provo, Utah. If you want to know what  exactly that means, read this short article by my friend and yours, Christian Faulconer (the David Letterman of Provo), who actually toured the Google Fiber facility.

My home was officially Google Fibered last week, so I'm a fan. But I'm probably also inclined because our family got to be a part of the ad campaign! And now, since you didn’t ask, I’d like to give you some “Behind the Scenes” of the Google ad. Some “The Making Of” goodies. Some DVD bonus features.

It all started when Google decided they needed a gi-normous family, in order to back up their slogan for Provo: Bigger Broadband for Bigger Families. Yup. That’s us. We are officially a family of 10. But at the time of filming, back in December 2013, we were still getting used to our size, as Hillary had been born only 3 weeks earlier. And it was mid-December with Christmas fast approaching. So, not to brag, but, you know...we were kind of out of our minds and barely keeping it together.

For example, I remember one Sunday morning my 8 year old came into my room to tell me he was ready for church. Judging by his pants, he was either anticipating a flood, or had grown 5 inches overnight. His white shirt - his white short-sleeve shirt in 22 degree weather - looked like it had been wadded up in a tennis-ball container since summer. His hair looked like it was in a fight with itself. We locked eyes, and without blinking, I said, “Lookin’ good, bud; go get in the car.”

So, back to our story, the ad folks from Google came out from San Francisco and showed up at our house the day before filming, so they could do that thing where directors make their fingers into squares so they have a “camera view” as they scan the area for what they plan to film. They were super nice and friendly and encouraging - which is how they tricked us into going through the hassle of taking down our Christmas decorations for the commercial.

The day of the shoot, two different crews were there from 9:30 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. The morning was for the film crew who rearranged the house, set up lighting, wardrobe, make-up, etc. Meanwhile, I went to work for a couple of hours and came home around 11:00 a.m. When I pulled up to the house, it was a complete and awesome spectacle. I had to park down the street, as my house was surrounded by trucks, cars, and equipment. The garage was full of racks of clothing and craft services. I so badly wanted to know what the neighbors thought was going on.

I walked in the front door, and in addition to my family, the house was buzzing with another 25 people. The furniture was different, lights were everywhere, a woman I didn’t recognize walked by holding Lucy, my two-year old, and they were deep in conversation. Then I saw somebody I knew - my five-year old, Becca. She was already in new wardrobe and make-up, and my goodness - she was gorgeous. She looked like a movie star. She hugged my legs, careful not to wipe her lip gloss on my pants.

Our master bedroom had been converted into “the changing room,” and our daughters’ room had become “hair and make up,” with several salon chairs. Some poor man almost lost his mind trying to figure out if all the kids had been through both rooms and were ready. The house sounded like a dinner party and smelled like coffee. I met the creative director and account executive from the ad agency and part of the team from Google. Lots of handshakes, lots of “thank yous” ... they were really warm and lovely people. Full of genuine compliments about how great my children were. (And if you ever want to win somebody over, tell a dad that his kids are amazing.)

First we shot our portion of the commercial. That’s Katie and Garren at the kitchen table on a tablet - they are supposed to be doing homework, but they’re watching Thor 2 trailers. Then there’s Abbie on the laptop, emailing friends. And that’s Tanner, running from the kitchen to the couch, to join the rest of us who were watching The Avengers on a TV that isn't ours, but the kids desperately hoped was one of the perks of the job. So most of us just had to sit there, acting natural. (Hillary nailed it.) Except Tanner. He and the director had a special relationship. It went like this: The director would say, “Just one more time, Tanner.” And Tanner would whisper to me under his breath, “I just want to watch the movie.” This happened 23 times. He was a trooper.

Then we all broke for lunch. The film crew packed out their gear, and the stills crew packed in theirs. The producers materialized the most delicious craft services, but they also ordered a bunch of pizzas for my kids. My kids loved them for this.

Everybody was so kind. They interacted with my kids, we all told stories, they asked about my career and our family. It was clear that minds were blown and pants were pooped by the fact that we had 8 children and yet we were magically void of any meltdowns, spills, injuries, or wardrobe malfunctions. The gods of advertising smiled on us that day.

Then they took a family photo of us.

Then we did a photo shoot in our kitchen. Katie was in the front, holding a frame where the gifted designers would later superimpose our new family photo. Behind Katie were all our children - a mix of baking, cleaning, and playing with electronics. And that is the billboard currently making the scene all over Provo.

As the day was wrapping up the delightful wardrobe lady came over and told me that she was going to leave us the wardrobe used for the shoot. Awesome! Then they told us they were leaving the rest of the craft services with us because nobody wanted to haul the food away. Dinner is served! And the photographer said they would make sure we got the family photo.  Christmas in December!

Then, my favorite part. The gentleman from Google came over to me and said, “I’ve been watching your kids all day. My wife and I have an 18-month old...and we plan to have more. I watch your kids and I get excited - thinking of my children being as good of friends as yours are.”  And as fun and exhausting as the entire day was - that was the moment when my day was made. Yes, we are a big family. Yes, that often means things aren’t on time or wrinkle-free or at a low volume. But sometimes, against all odds, it means maybe you get to be a force for good in the world.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Yes, WE Will Go to the Dance with You

Youguys, youguys, youguys! Ohmygosh, youguys!

So, let's just say (totally hypothetically) that your 16 year old daughter - we'll call her Abbie - was creatively asked to her first school dance on Saturday night! And, just for funsies, let's also pretend that you belong to a fantastic book club (which is closed) and it's your turn to host, so your home is filled with 10 amazing people who think your daughter is pretty neat-o, and they can BARELY contain their excitement that they have a front row seat to the actual moment she is asked!!!!

You know what? Let's get even more detailed. 

Let's imagine that it kind of happens like, oh, I don't know, like this: (names have not been changed)

You're all sitting in the front room, discussing books and life and food. (Not in that order.) 

The doorbell rings. 

Kacy: (Who has an uncanny ability to sense things, we'll call her the Doorbell Whisperer.) Abbie's getting asked to a dance! I just saw somebody run away from the door!

Everyone: AAAAAHHHH!

Katie: I'll get Abbie! (Abbie was downstairs, watching a movie with her siblings.)

Everyone else jumps into place. By this, I mean Chris stations himself at the piano and starts playing the appropriate mood music - a kind of dramatic pomp and circumstance riff. The rest of us make a line from the stair banister to the front door, so Abbie gets to/has to walk by all of us on her way to the door. Except my friend, Josh, the only one with sensibilities telling him that this might be embarrassing for Abbie. He hides in the kitchen. 

The room has EXPLODED with emotion! I mean, the thrill, the anxiety, the nervousness, the giddiness - it's all in pieces on the floor and walls and us! Patrick does the sensible thing and films the entire moment.

Once Abbie opens the door and reads the note out loud, we are all abuzz again; planning a proper creative response to this young man, who has no idea what he has started by simply dropping off a plate of toast and a note on this fateful night.  

Within minutes, and even after Abbie has retreated to the safety of the basement, we have already made our own plans for how Abbie should creatively respond to this invitation, what she should wear, what our coordinated outfits should look like for when he picks her up for the dance and we all go to the dance WITH Abbie and her date, and a highly choreographed flash mob. (Admittedly, we aren't sure exactly when the flash mob will be needed - but we're leaning towards the moment he rings the doorbell. Cue the Doorbell Whisperer.) (We are about 68% kidding on all of these things.)

So, I am just wondering…is your 16-year-old self totally cringing while you read this? Would you be mortified or handle it with grace and a smile like Abbie? Would you hate your parents and their friends? And again, this is absolutely hypothetical, I'm asking for a friend. 


Monday, January 06, 2014

Thankyou. Thankyouverymuch.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Or is even the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions” enough to make you feel discouraged? I’ve made my fair share. I am going to publicly share one of mine for 2014. Ready? Here it is:

Write more Thank You notes.

I’m not particularly bad at this; I just want to be better. Being a words of affirmation guy myself, I enjoy doling gracious words out to people I love - family, friends, or neighbors - who have selflessly done something for me or my family. (A thank you note seems like the very least I could do for somebody who invites our family of 10 over for dinner. I mean, really. Who does that? Only the saintliest of folks.) But I want to be more conscious of doing it. Even devoting just a few minutes to it changes my perspective and broadens my view of how good I have it - to be surrounded by people who are generous with their time, consideration, cupboards, talents, finances, or words. I want to be more dedicated to looking at the gifts in my life and expressing thanks that they are there.

I found a few examples online of Thank You Notes that made me smile.

Here’s one from Conan O’Brien, which I found to be a wonderful combination of kind and funny.


Dear Nikki -

Thanks for your very flattering offer. It's great to know I have such a devoted fan out there, and I'm sure you would make a great prom date (I didn't go to mine - it's a very sad story).

Unfortunately, I got married recently and my wife doesn't allow me to go to proms anymore with cute 16 year old girls. Still, it was very cool of you to ask me. Thanks and have a great evening.

Your Friend,


Look at this one from President Obama. How cool that he was reading with his daughter. And how cool that the took a moment to convey his gratitude and appreciation for the work. The author personally noted, "What amazes me is the gratuity of it. As you would know, there is a large measure of calculation in what public figures do. But here, what does he gain? I’m not a US citizen. In no way can I be of help to President Obama. Clearly he did it for personal reasons, as a reader and as a father. And in two lines, what an insightful analysis of Life of Pi. Bless him, bless him."

Mr. Martel —

My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals.

It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.
Thank you.
Barack Obama

This one from President Reagan actually pulled on my heart strings a bit. It’s to a broader audience - the American public. Personally, I felt his genuine gratitude for the opportunity to be of service. I think what got me though was the image of a man on the threshold of decent. Still with all his faculties, but completely aware that his health - physical and mental - are fading and will soon evanesce. And the effect of that on his loved ones. And yet he is still gracious and wanting to offer thanks. I really liked that.

My fellow Americans,

I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.

In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing. They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives.

So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

At the moment, I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life's journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters.

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.
Ronald Reagan