Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Moment in Time, Part 2

Katie and I recently celebrated our 20-year anniversary. We were married August 17, 1995. It was a Thursday. 1:00 p.m. Salt Lake City. It was hot, and it was inconvenient for almost everyone. And it was the best day ever in the history of days. Truly. I polled *everyone. (*Katie and myself.)

As part of our celebration, I made a video for Katie – narrowing down 20 years to 4.5 minutes. This was achieved because my brother, Dehn, who is a master with film production, suggested I just select a theme, and whatever footage doesn’t fit with that theme doesn’t get in the video. No matter how cute. That made it easier for me. I chose the theme of dancing/performing. Here it is:

On the night of the 17th, when I got home from work, our kids had set up dinner for Katie and I. They had turned the kitchen into a restaurant. Abbie had prepared the food. Garren and Connor were our waiters. Roxanna, Tanner, Becca and Lucy provided the music. Hillary was the loud drunk at the next table who insisted on wandering over and sampling our food. Especially dessert.

We loved it.

Katie and I had gotten engaged at The Underground, a restaurant in Provo that no longer exists. So the kids called this “restaurant” The Above Ground. They printed menus, with most of the meals being inside jokes. Example: “The Hot Pocket, with a side of Pepto.” (Jim Gaffigan reference.) Garren would say things like, “Are you celebrating anything special this evening? Oh! 20 years?! Well, at The Above Ground, all couples celebrating a 20-year anniversary eat free.”

When Katie and I had been married only a few weeks, both still students at BYU, we were going to bed one late evening when she said, “I can’t wait until we are done with school. We are going to be so wealthy.” Surprised and excited, I said, “We are?!” She said, “Yes, of course. You’re so talented, it’s just inevitable.” She fell asleep, and I stayed up, so happy and flattered in her confidence of our imminent wealth, and plotting all the ways we would spend this abundance. Well ... It’s 20 years later, and I think I can safely say … the joke’s on Katie.

Kind of.

We are not, by any definition, frolicking in piles of cash. (I believe that's officially one of the barometers of wealth, correct?) But when I look at our children and this life we’ve created together. When I look at where we live. When I look at the people who have played such intricate roles in our life and influenced us for good. When I look at all that is still before us. And when I look at Katie and see that she still has that same confidence in me that she did 20 years ago – the same confidence in us – I would absolutely use the word "wealth" and “abundance” to describe this extraordinary ordinary life.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Moment in Time, Part 1

This is us. The Ken and Katie Craig Family. This is a #familyselfie taken last Sunday, on the eve of mine and Katie’s 20th anniversary. We took it to capture a very precise moment. A moment that is fleeting. A moment that I wish were more...still.

It’s the last moments of having my family all under one roof. And I kind of love this moment.

Don’t get me wrong. I am super excited for my oldest, Abbie, who will move into her dorm room on Saturday, the 29th. (Go Cougars!) I believe in her, and I have all the confidence that she will take over the world and create the greatest happiness in her life. And I want her to do that. That’s what Katie and I had in mind 18 years ago.

But that ushers in a whole new era. The era where most of my very favorite people and best friends start to not live with me anymore. Yes, you’re correct, it will be 17 years before that era ends. And yes, I’ll be 60 years old by then, and yes, whenever I think about that, it makes me kind of want to take a nap. But yes, our family dynamic is permanently changing, and my feelings about it are all over the place.

Abbie speaking at her graduation. And Hillary offering moral support. 

Speaking of emotional moments, August has provided a bumper crop of them at the Craig house. The first being the fact that Abbie turned 18. Katie and I both spoke at a graduation ceremony we held for her in our backyard, and I - because I apparently like to fall apart in public - took the opportunity to read and give Abbie a letter I had written to her just two days after she was born. After I wrote it I had then put it away with the idea I would give it to her "some day." And that day turned out to be on her 18th birthday.

I won't post the entire letter, but here is an excerpt.

August 10, 1997

Dear Abbie,

I wanted to let you know some of the things that I felt prompted to bless you with when you were given a name and a blessing on August 10, 1997. I don’t know why. I guess I just figured that at some point in your life you may be a little curious as to my impressions of you when I only knew you for a couple of days. I mean besides the fact you were the cutest baby ever sent to this or any planet.

It’s funny. By the time you are old enough to read this, and maybe appreciate it, I will seem like a pretty old guy to you. But if you could see me now, writing this. I feel so young and naive and unsure of my abilities to be a good dad. To be a good parent. I haven’t learned enough about the whole thing to be wise or even knowledgeable. But I’m not scared. I love you so much, I think that will drown out the insignificant mistakes, and maybe even some big blunders.

I blessed you to be a light to those you come in contact with. Even though I have only known you for a short while, I sense your personality is one of this nature. One of the greatest gifts we can have in this life is charity. The way we treat others means everything. To be able to lift others by being yourself is a great accomplishment and it means having the Spirit with you.

I love you very much. I’m glad I’m your dad.

I never would have imagined fatherhood to be what it has been these last 18 years. I am a better person because I get to be Abbie's dad. She is a light to those who know her – including, and maybe especially, to her family. She loves goodness. I have always appreciated the way she assumes the best about me. It makes me want to be better.

I will miss her being present in our home everyday. I will miss her piano playing being in the background of Sunday afternoons. I will miss her telling detailed stories of daily events. I know Katie will miss her being her right-arm. But we are so, so excited for her. This is really her moment, too.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Real Mothers

I consider the education I seek, the degree I earned, the jobs I filled, the musical instruments I study, the hobbies I cultivate, the interests I pursue, the books I read, the very person I become; all these things have shaped me and informed and improved the mother I am.  - Katie Fillmore Craig

18 months ago our family had the privilege of being cast in a Google Fiber ad. The photographer for the shoot was Samantha Mitchell, originally out of L.A., but now living in Salt Lake. We loved her. A year later, out of the blue, she reached out to Katie.

“My friend, Alyson Aliano, is also a photographer. She's originally from New York, but she's living in L.A., and she’s working on a book called Real Mother. I told her about you. She’s going to be in Utah just before Thanksgiving. Could she come do a shoot with you?”

The inspiration for Real Mother came to Alyson after marrying her husband and becoming a stepmother to young twin girls. People continually asked her the same questions - "Aren’t you going to have children? Don’t you want to have your own children? You know, because you're not their real mom." This started her on a photo series exploring what it means to be a "real mom." You can see some of the original photos here and here. She is looking at getting it published into a book. And Katie is going to be in it!

Alyson showed up at our front door the day before Thanksgiving. Wednesday. The day the pies get baked. One of the smaller of our 8 children answered the door and let her in.

“Hi, I’m Alyson.”

“Hi, I’m Katie.” [Walking from the kitchen to the front door.]

“Did I catch you at a bad time?”


“No, I you have cousins or friends over or something?”


“I don’t understand.”

“These are all mine.”

Blank stare from Alyson.

“I have 8 children.”

Continued blank stare. [Alyson is apparently, literally gobsmacked.]

“Did Samantha not tell you I had 8 children?”

According to Katie, Alyson had a look on her face like she was doing long division in her head. It was taking a while to process the words floating in the air between the two of them. But when they did, Alyson finally said, "This is the biggest family I've ever photographed." Katie couldn't tell if this was a good or bad thing, because Alyson still looked perplexed. Like, Italian-Queens-New-Yorker kind of perplexed. But then she confirmed, with the same no-nonsense inflection, "This just made my whole year."

These two women, from com-mm-plll-eee-tely different worlds (I cannot spread that word out over enough syllables to illustrate my point) connected, sharing the experiences of motherhood. All while Katie and the kids made pies for Thanksgiving.

I was at work and absent for the whole thing. I’m kind of sad, but kind of feel like it wouldn’t have been the same experience if I’d been there. And I love the experience for what it was.

Alyson left a questionnaire for Katie to fill out. It was no small thing for Katie. It's several pages long. She soul-searched and wrote answers and re-wrote them and finally sent them off, assuming Alyson would realistically use one or two answers. Alyson’s response? “I’m using everything you wrote. You will be the biggest family in the book and your voice is unique. I’m using everything from everyone.”

I’ve been married to Katie almost 20 years, and in reading her responses to these questions, I learned new things about her. I want our children to have copies of her answers as part of their own personal history records. I’m so happy for this experience. The book isn’t out yet, and I don’t want to make this a “spoiler,” so I’ll just share one of Katie’s answers.

What is motherhood for you? What is it like? How would you define it?

Motherhood is everything I do all day and into the night. It is snuggling my nursing baby’s sweaty head. It is staying up later than I had planned to listen to my 17 year-old tell me about someone at work. It is hearing “Mom!” and knowing whether it means my 3 year-old is ready to have her bum wiped or my 13 year-old finally got the LEDs on his arc reactor to work. It is cleaning up barf and urine and poo. It is answering the worst question (“What’s for dinner?”) and already knowing who’s excited and who’s in mourning. It is trying to react appropriately to missing socks and lost library books and big messes because I know I am always being watched. Motherhood is singing and crying and scolding and kissing. It is learning what a broken finger looks like and what pneumonia sounds like. It is spending a day making cookies with my 11 year-old and making a covered wagon with my 6 year-old. It is watching light saber fights and puppet shows and magic tricks and first dates. It is driving to auditions and try-outs and recitals and games. It is leaking milk through your shirt and wearing spit up on your shoulder. Motherhood is being hugged and scowled at and cried for and sneezed on. It is crying with your 15 year-old who feels friendless and laughing with your 9 year-old who got a joke. It is getting kids to practice the cello or piano or times tables or the Preamble.  It is trying to reason with a toddler. It is midnight prayers for a fever to break. It is births and miscarriages. It is a front row seat to the best and the worst of your own and your kids' emotions.  Mothering is the most important thing I will ever do with my time and my life. To me, motherhood is the most important work in society. I am creating and teaching and shaping the next generation. It’s messy, sweaty, and bloody and I choose it every day because I love it.  - Katie Fillmore Craig

This photo was in response to Alyson asking, "What else do you all like to do together?" and Katie responding, "We're practicing the hand chimes for a Christmas program." And so they played for Alyson. 

*Photos by Alyson Aliano

Friday, May 01, 2015

Iron Man and Connor

My son, Connor, has a brilliant mind. I mean, it’s intimidating. I’m just saying that we should all be grateful he has decided to use his powers for good.

Case in point, he’s only 13 years old, but he made this.

I KNOW, RIGHT?! You know what I made when I was 13? Farts. That’s about it.

Connor is what they call in the biz "a pretty big Marvel fan." I mean, the year the first Avengers movie came out? That year at Thanksgiving dinner, when we went around the table saying what we were grateful for, Connor said, “Joss Whedon.”

So, always jockeying for the position of Coolest Dad, I told my older kids that I would get tickets to an advanced screening of the new Avengers movie. And we went last night.

Three weeks ago Connor got it in his mind that he would build his own Iron Man outfit, from scratch. He began hoarding cardboard, plastic, weird parts of stuff I was sure I had thrown away and asked him not to dig out of the trash ... etc. He used his own money for LED lights, and he asked me to buy him some spray paint. And during this time, he’s been down in the basement whenever he has spare time.

So, here’s how last night played out.

Me: Ok, guys! We need to go! Get in the car!
Connor: Dad, I need to get dressed first. In my Iron Man outfit.
Me: Uhm... you’re going to be uncomfortable sitting in it.
Connor: I won’t wear it in the movie.
Me: Why wear it?
Connor: You can take a picture of me in front of the giant poster, and ... you know ... maybe other people will want to take a picture with me, too. And then I’ll go and change into my Tony Stark shirt for the movie.
Me: Uhmmm....ok. [I sneak off to talk to Katie.]

Me: So, Connor is going to wear his Iron Man outfit to the movie.
Katie: Sweet. He’s worked really hard on it.
Me: Yep, I know. I just ... I’m a little worried about his expectations ... of, like, how he thinks the public is going to receive him. Like, I think he believes strangers are going to want to take photos with him.
Katie: You’ll handle it just fine.
Me: Really? Because if people don’t love it, it’s going to hurt his feelings. And then I’m left with a deflated teenager. And that hurts my feelings. And I realize this isn’t about me. But kind of I’m not up for watching our son be sad.

We pull up to the theater. We get out of the car, and Garren, my 15 year old, starts dressing Connor in his Iron Man get-up. A few people walk by on their way to the theater and mumble, “Cool suit.”

“Whew,” I think. Someone acknowledged him. That’s all he needed.

Then Connor says, “Abbie. Light me up.” He spreads his arms away from his chest, and Abbie walks towards him. “You have to peel off the Pringles cap and turn on the LED light.”

Then we start walking towards the theater - and Oh. My. Goodness. Cars are stopping and taking photos. People are looking out the windows of neighboring stores and, getting all animated-like, hitting their friends and pointing at Connor.

The closer we get to the theater, the more reaction he is getting. Then we get inside, and the place is all abuzz. Theater employees are snapping photos - groups of people are grabbing Connor and asking him to jump in their photos that they’re taking in front of the poster. Including a group with a  Thor and a Captain America. Couples on dates are asking him to take photos with them. People are asking him how he made it and making a huge fuss over him. Two security guards finally walk up, lean into me and say, “That’s the best one we’ve ever seen.”

Thank you, Provo, Utah! Thank you for making my son’s night. Thank you for validating this 13-year old’s hours of work and ingenuity and moxie to actually head out in public and put his efforts on display. I salute you.

Sidebar: I am equally proud of my son, Garren. Garren spent hours with Connor, supporting him in this work, talking Connor off the ledge when things were going south, cheerleading him when things were going well. And last night? Garren asked for no recognition, no attention, no reward. He loved watching his brother have a moment. I love these two. I am grateful to be their dad.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Quarter of a Century

You guys. It was 25 years ago that I began my college life. Yep. BYU, 1989. That’s when it all started for me. That seems like a lifetime ago. No cell phones. No Internet. No moveable type. No combustible engines. The earth’s crust still cooling.

But really, it was the end of an era. The end of the 1980s. And the beginning of the 1990s. It was a time to be alive in your teens, my friend. It was a simpler time. Milli Vanilli were still a year away from being exposed, and Bobby Brown hadn’t yet killed Whitney Houston. Sure, it wasn't all glorious. I mean, this was the same time as Richard Marx's Right Here Waiting. (Seriously. It was as if the dude stopped by BYU and interviewed freshmen men and women in love to see how they felt about departing LDS missionaries.) Also, I may or may not have left on my LDS mission with a pair of Hammer Pants. (You can't touch this, indeed.)


What was popular in 1989/1990? Well, it was 25 years ago. And while I had been a pretty decent journal keeper in high school, and on my mission…that freshman year at BYU was not a time of record keeping for me. So, my memory may not be 100% accurate.

I believe I owned a Ferrari, wore Armani suits exclusively, and aced all of my classes. Yep, that sounds about right.

Here I am on my way to my first college class.  

Oh, wait. I’m getting some flashbacks now…

From a pop-culture perspective, I kicked off my freshman year with the B-52s’ Love Shack and finished it with Sinead O’Connor’s Emperor’s New Clothes. Began with Tim Burton’s Batman and the historical biopic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and wrapped it up with Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. Started with the first few episodes of The Simpsons and ended with the first few episodes of Seinfeld.

That freshman year was truly one of the most formidable years of my life. Even now, twenty-five years later, there are moments that feel as clear as if they’d just happened. And decisions I made that still affect me. And people I met who I still love, dearly.

Back in the late 1990s, Katie and I used to get asked to do youth firesides on "The Top 15 Things You Should Know Going Into College." We haven’t done it in years, so I don’t know how much of it is still applicable. But here is what used to top that list:

1. Don’t schedule any classes (that you want to pass) before 9:00 a.m.
2. Your wardrobe will increase 10 fold, due to roommates and neighbors. This also goes for worldly possessions – computer, cds, hair products, etc.
3. You will make life-long friendships – get to know as many people as you can.
4. You will willingly go on dates the night before a final or the night before a paper is due.
5. A date overrides hanging out with your roommates or friends.
6. Be careful dating newly-returned missionaries. They only want one thing – somebody to listen to their mission stories.
7. If you were smart in high school, so what?
8. You can know everything and fail a test; or you can know nothing and ace a test.
9. Most of your education will be obtained outside the classroom.
10. Your parents will begin to seem much smarter.
11. Every clock on campus has a different time.
12. You will have countless opportunities to serve other people.
13. Don’t neglect your testimony.
14. You will not watch the news nor read the newspaper – you will be totally out of touch with the “real world.” (I think social media has mitigated this. But I could be wrong.)
15. If you wear slacks or a skirt, everyone will ask why you are “all dressed up.”
Bonus Advice:
16. College is for experience – take some fun classes that have nothing to do with your major.

I so very thoroughly loved my freshman year of college. As I mentioned, some memories are still so clear…

I didn’t have a car my freshman year, and I walked almost everywhere. I’ve always thought BYU’s campus was beautiful. I loved the feeling that I knew every foot of it. I loved walking everywhere. I loved being outside. Except when it was so, so cold. I had come to Provo, Utah from Molokai, Hawaii. I’m not sure I ever acclimated. I lived in the dorms at Deseret Towers, and I can remember one night, walking back from campus to the dorms – with a date – and we both suddenly realized we were about 13 seconds from freezing to death. We ran into Heritage Halls – where neither of us lived – just to warm up for a minute before heading the rest of the way to Deseret Towers. (If you knew how close these buildings were to each other, you would be inclined to make fun of us. But. You. Weren’t. There. It was a near-death experience if I ever had one.)

My first college football game. I’m admittedly not a huge sports enthusiast, but I loved going to BYU football games. The student energy, the crisp fall air, the excitement of the game. And this was the year of Ty Detmer.

I would often borrow a car from my friend, Brian. He was a very generous individual. The first time I ever drove in the snow was in his car. It was late, so thankfully there wasn’t much traffic. I came up on a stoplight, I applied the breaks, and I sailed right on through the intersection. I never told Brian about that.

Even with not owning my own car, I remember becoming familiar with all the local haunts in Provo and Orem. But anything north or south of there might as well have been on the moon. Except the exit to Temple Square, in Salt Lake City. I somehow knew how to get there. Anyway, I thought Provo was the coolest town.

There were two dance clubs in Provo that we would go to. The Palace and The Ivy Tower. The Palace was pretty tame, but The Ivy Tower – the place we always seemed to end up at – gave me the creeps sumpin’ fierce. I couldn’t tell you why, precisely, but I was unnerved by it. Why couldn’t we all just attend dances in the partially-lit Wilkinson Center Ballroom?

The Ivy Tower. It was more foreboding at night. I promise. 

I went to the Varsity Theater all the time. I remember seeing The Princess Bride and The Little Mermaid on several occasions. They would also show U2’s Rattle & Hum, as a midnight movie, and there would be a huge line for that.

I remember that sleep sort of happened whenever it happened. I loved taking naps my freshman year. And I loved staying up super late. I didn’t love getting up early, so much.

I hiked the Y, of course. Took dates to the Utah State Hospital at Halloween (what was wrong with us?!). Ditched my Psychology class every Friday afternoon and went to Movies 8 with my friend, Jim. (Didn’t you ditch classes and go to the movies with my friend, Jim? You should have.)

Something else Jim and I always did. We would ride the elevator up to the 7th floor of Q-Hall like this - holding ourselves up above the floor by stretching our arms and legs out to bolster ourselves against the elevator walls. Because. 

I can't tell you why my pal, Justin, is wearing a Heineken t-shirt (except that he was just always fancy), but I can confirm that we are in his dorm room, singing/rapping to the Beastie Boys. 

Me and my best roommate, Bob. No matter what filters I played with in iPhoto, I could not hide those acid-washed jeans.
And that's a powerful statement. 

And I of course participated in the campus-mandated practice of "creative dating." This included going "Disco Bowling" (it's a thing) and also being the recipient of ask-out-candygrams.

I'm the one in the blue - with white shoes! Ah, the things you can find at D.I. 

Seriously, is there no hiding acid-washed jeans? 

Also, I am embarrassed (now) to say that my friends and I also engaged in the endearing game known as “Safety.” No board, no dice, no cards. Just a fist and a strong stomach. The rules to Safety were as follows: If you were ever to “pass gas,” you were to loudly declare “Safety!” before somebody hit you. If you said “Safety” before somebody hit you, you were indeed “safe,” as it were. Meaning that nobody was allowed to hit you at that point. If you let one rip, and then somebody hit you before you said “Safety” then it was fair game – everybody playing the game could hit you over and over until you a) died, or b) touched a doorknob. Once you touched a doorknob people had to stop hitting you. (If you died, people were allowed to continue beating you, because technically you did not reach a doorknob. I didn’t make up the rules to Safety, folks, I just played as fairly as the next guy.) I remember one time standing in the middle of campus and watching one of my friends, across a crowded square, running for his life, and another friend running behind him at the same break-neck speed, punching him in the back, between the shoulders, over and over. And I thought to myself, “Welp. He should have said ‘Safety.’”

Finally, on April 7, I remember walking up to the Provo Temple all by myself, sitting in the grass behind the temple, and opening my mission call to Lisbon, Portugal.

I'm a pretty nostalgic guy to begin with, so I thoroughly enjoy pulling out photos, putting on some Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation or They Might Be Giant's Flood and meandering through memories of a truly wonderful time in my life. So if any of you who were there would like to join me, I'll be … right here … waiting … for you.

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.