Abstract: So I bought a new truck last week. There were 7 miles when I bought it. Part of the instruction from the dealer was to keep it under 55mph for the first 500 miles. That’s right, 500 miles! So, for the last week I have been driving no more then 55 mph on the highways and byways. That was fun. I struggled keeping it under 55 because with the flow of traffic it is natural to keep up so I would turn on the cruise control and keep it at 53 mph. I tell you this because I logged the reactions. You see, people here in Las Vegas don’t like to travel that slow ESPECIALLY when there is a long and empty road in front of them. They’ll speed up to right behind me then after a few minutes they will realize that I am going incredibly slow then they’ll switch lanes and fly by, usually showing their displeasure for my choice of speed. Just for informations sake, I received 8 middle fingers. (mostly from men) I kind of liked the middle fingers though, it reminded me of my good friend up in Provo. I also received 24 dirty looks (mostly from women, they were really good too.) Of all the friendly gestures I got though, there was only one that I thought about for more then a few seconds. In fact I thought of this for dozens of seconds. (which is to say that I got to 24 seconds and stopped)
There was a minivan that pulled up behind me. I couldn’t really see who was inside but I could tell that they were anxious to pass me as soon as the next lane over cleared. Well, the lane finally cleared and as the van came zooming by, the man driving was still focused on the road, the wife in the passenger seat was giving me a dirty dirty look (from the this i concluded that she was in fact the wife…there is only one way to perfect a look like that) and then the two kids in the back were staring at me. To me that says a couple things. 1) they were so disturbed by my driving that it became a topic of conversation in the van. boring much? 2) This man certainly belongs in a mini-van because he had his wife do the dirty work.
So here is my problem. Over the years I have heard many theories on whether or not to use a straw when drinking at public eating places. Personally, I don’t use one. I was told once that real men don’t use straws and I suppose that stuck. The problem comes in though when the locations are changed. Sometimes I think it is better to use a straw, sometimes it is not necessary. Ok, enough stalling. I want to lay out my theories for you to read then you can make your comment and add your own theories.
USING A STRAW Pro- you don’t have to let the soda touch your teeth. Girls always tell me that it will stain your teeth. Pro-Some servers hand you your cup by grabbing at the top. You would want a straw to avoid putting your lips on that same place. Pro- You can keep the cold ice away from your teeth if they are sensitive. Pro- You can use a lid which keeps it from spilling in your car Con- It’s too easy to drink too much. When you are paying $25 for a steak, you certainly don’t want to fill your stomach with cheap soda when you have such good food in store for it. Con- The bottom of your straw is at the bottom of the cup, which is also where the warmest part of your drink is being stored away from the ice. Con- if you are drinking a raspberry lemonade type drink then you have a good chance of sucking up some floaties and clogging your straw.
NOT USING A STRAW Pro- it helps you ration your drink because you can’t just gulp the drink thru the ice Pro- The drink is cold as it filters thru the ice and into your mouth Pro- That same filter keeps the larger fruit floaties from surprising you Con- If you have sensitive teeth then the ice can hurt them Con- If you are eating somewhere that you are served your drinks then you may have fingerprints from the waiter right on your drinking space Con- If you wear lipstick then your cup ends up looking like it belongs on a cover of a Danielle Steele book.
I suppose that is my case to offer. Personally, I tend to shy away from straws. If any of you have other things to think about then PLEASE let me know. Even if you don’t have anything to add to it, please leave a comment and let me know what you do.
Abstract: Something happened to me that kind of set me back for a minute. For those of you who I don’t see on a regular basis, I recently cut my hair nice and short. I have never been much for a buzz cut, nor have I ever looked real great in one, but I wanted to try it so I could feel the tickle when I rode my motorcycle. Reagardless, it’s not really my style and I am currently working on pushing hair follicles out of my head so that I can have my old hair style back. That being said, something strange happened to me today.
I went to Costco today to do some price comparing for a friend. As I was walking out of the store, I noticed an older, larger lady pushing one cart, pulling another cart and balancing a soda from the snack bar. I approached her and asked her if I could help her get to her car with her stuff and she kind of jumped back, dropped the soda to the ground and covered her two carts with her arms saying, “No, I’m fine.” I’d like to say that I snuck up on her and caught her off guard. But I really came straight to her and her watchful eye was on me the whole time. I really feel think she judged me because of my shaved head and the motorcycle clothes. That was solidified when a few moments later I was leaving the lot on my motorcycle and I overheard her accept an offer for help from a middle aged lady.
Maybe this doesn’t seem too strange to most of you, but it was strange to me. Other then a suit and name tag in San Francisco, I have never really carried an image that led people to second guess me. As a missionary it is alright, even rewarding. But today I didn’t like the feeling. The scene can mostly be blamed on her being VERY over cautious and prejudging me. But I suppose I will accept partial blame too. Maybe my look right now isn’t exactly an accurate image of my heart. I’m going to try and work on that. If anyone needs me, you’ll find me here pushing these follicles out as fast as possible.
This week is a special one for me. I have a very special birthday coming up. It was a year ago this Friday that I bought my motorcycle. I thought that I would take a moment and record the magic moment.
It was a sunny Summer day in Las Vegas. Richard Miller and I were enjoying a new but promising business that we started. We worked out of an extra room in his house and I would drive over there each morning. I was driving down Cheyenne Blvd and just enjoying the early morning. It was 6:30 and there were very few people on the road. I noticed a car full of young ladies driving down the street next to me. As I approached Rampart Blvd the light turned red and I slowed to a stop. I was in the right lane, to my left was the car full of pleasants and in the far left lane was a old and greasy Harley with an equally old and equally greasy man sitting on it.
As I glanced over to my early morning road mates, I noticed two things. First, those girls were better viewed at 50 mph. And second, all four of them were staring at the motorcycle and it’s occupant. That taught me something. Every guy wants a bike, and every girl wants a guy with a bike. Those who don’t fall into one of those two categories only miss it because of ignorance.
That was it. My mind was made up.
I got on my cell phone and made a call to my business partner Rich. With a voice to make Barry White seem feminine Rich answers, â€œWhy are you calling me so early?â€
â€œI need the day off.â€ I requested.
â€œYou got it!â€
I proceeded to give him the day off as well. I filled him in on my traffic-light enlightenment and then revealed to him my plans.
â€œRich, this is how it breaks down. You get out of bed and hop into the shower. I will be there in three minutes and I will reserve two one-way tickets to LA. We are going to fly out there with no plans, only a goal. Weâ€™ll catch a cab at the LAX, make a stop at the bank, end up in Englewood and roll out on our brand new motorcycles. Weâ€™ll ride the PCH until we are about to fall off, then we will find some young ladies and ask them to ride with us to keep us on.â€ At first, silence was his only response. But then it came, â€œ Iâ€™m for it. Letâ€™s roll.â€
I got to the Miller household and got the action started. I got two flights to leave from Vegas at 10:30. There was no turning back now. Rich finished his shower and joined me. He hugged his mom Michelle and said, â€œ Brian and I are going to go and run some errands. We will be back in a bit.â€ So maybe it was a little bit of a stretch, but it was ok for Rich to start living the life of a rebel; he was a future motorcycle rider.
I remember thinking that perhaps we were not thinking straight. We have been entertaining the thought of buying motorcycles for a while, but were never quite able to make the leap. It was a big decision that was not real popular with the pocketbook or with the parents. I wondered if we would regret our purchase. Nevertheless, the plan went on as designed.
Just three hours after I woke Rich with a phone call we were waiting at Gate C27 in the Las Vegas Airport. Still wondering if it was really going to happen, Rich and I were bouncing around and not thinking straight. We sat a few rows away on the airplane trying to act as relaxed and natural as possible. Every now and again I would take a peak over my shoulder to see how Rich was holding up. As my eyes found him, they would be greeted with Richâ€™s signature â€œbug-eyed-waggling tongue- dare-you-to-call-me-crazyâ€ look.
We landed at the LAX and grabbed a cab. We gave the address to the driver and requested that we stop by a Wells Fargo Bank. It probably wasnâ€™t the smartest thing to tell a cab driver to stop by a bank to withdraw thousands in cash and then drive you into downtown Inglewood and drop you off. Oh well.
After searching for a bank for a while, we finally made it to the motorcycle shop on Hyde Park in downtown Inglewood. As our salivary glands went into high gear we tried to stay as responsible and laid back as possible. After talking to a salesman he told us to go around back and they would have our bikes there being prepped and about ready to leave. We walked out the side door and around the corner. Walking along the side of the building our walk quickly turned to a run, dueling each other to be the first around the building. We rounded the corner and both immediately stopped so as to not look to anxious.
As we surveyed the motorcycles parked everywhere we desperately searched for our colors that we had requested. With excitement rising and nearing unbearable, our eyes finally met the shining chrome under the California sun. Have mercy! It was even more beautiful then I had hoped for in my mind. It took about thirty more minutes to get all the papers signed and the helmets for safe riding. They pulled our bikes out to the street and pointed them towards the coast. The man who sold us our bikes gave us a quick overview and handed us the keys to freedom.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for all day. Like a baby being handed to a mother for the first time after birth I put my arms around that bike and felt the magic. The Laborious task and numerous details were complete and I was one with my bike. I turned the key and the first words to leave my babyâ€™s mouth were something to the effect of â€œChug ,chug ,chug ,chug , letâ€™s rock and roll!!!â€ I turned to Rich with a smile that would make Batmanâ€™s Joker look like an angel. I saw the same face coming back at me from Rich. Richâ€™s mouth slowly opened and he uttered his first words as a motorcycle owner, â€œSo how do you drive one of these things?â€
â€œYouâ€™re kidding right?â€ I replied
â€œWellâ€¦â€ ,was his only response.
I gave Rich about 30 seconds of coaching and we were ready to go. If it were anyone else I might have been worried. But I have been around Rich long enough that what he doesnâ€™t know, he learns very quickly. So with nothing but a motorcycle full of gas, and hearts that were equally filled, we took off for the coast.
We drove until our legs were numbed, then we shrugged it off and drove some more. We nodded to every person who looked our way and punched the gas near every girl who came near us. We did our best James Dean look as we passed each car and flexed our arms to seal our manhood to our audience. We continually complimented each otherâ€™s bikes and followed it with a laugh that plainly said, â€œ Donâ€™t worry, I know that I am on one just like yours.â€ We took freeways and surface roads from Inglewood to Oceanside and didnâ€™t care if we got lost on the way there. Things could not have been any better. We stopped near the Oceanside pier and took pictures with our motorcycles. The sun was sinking behind us and seemed to be saying that this is the end of a boy, and the beginning of a new phase of life. Those would be the pictures that would be shown to our kids and be so perfectly titled as, â€œ The day your father became a man.â€
We spent the next couple days visiting friends and driving mile after mile on our bikes. We brought them back to Las Vegas the following day and have never looked back. We have owned our motorcycles for a year now. We still enjoy them quite a bit. Richard commented to me the other day, â€œYou know, I love this motorcycle more and more each day. If my marriage is anywhere near this rewarding then I will be a happy man.â€ A comment with which I could not agree more.
I write this from the Steamship Authority. ( I bet no one has ever blogged on this before.) This is the Ferry that takes people and cars between Cape Cod and Marthaâ€™s Vineyard. (Pronounced â€œMath-aâ€™s Vin-yid if you are from around here.) I traveled out to the island to find James Taylorâ€™s house. What a beautiful place. Unfortunately my stay here was cut short because a storm was rolling in off of the Atlantic and they were going to start shutting down the ferries. I had to get out of here. However, before I left I did find the barn that he filmed in for his concert video called â€œSquibnocketâ€. He also writes a lot of his songs in that barn. I hopped the fance, sat in the barn and penned a few lyrics of my own.
I have been traveling around the New England Area for the last four days. It has been awesome. Starting in Boston I watched a Celtics game and met quite a few friendly people. After the game I walked around downtown with this group of guys about my age and absolutely loved it. People here really voice their opinions and I donâ€™t think that one young lady walked by without all of these guys doing their best to impress her. Their best was never quite good enough, but it was a good time none-the-less.
The following day I drove North to Enfield, New Hampshire to visit with my Uncle Chad and Aunt Natalie. They were not home when I got there at first so I went and played some cards with the local volunteer fire department. (pronounced â€œCadsâ€) I also knocked on a little shack on top of a frozen lake and tried my hand at ice fishing with the family I found inside. It was fun, but too cold for me. I finally met up with my family and stayed with them for the night.
The following day I went to Woodstock. Did you know that the first pulley system to pull skiers up a hill was there? They used a Model-T engine to crank a wheel to get skiers to the top of the hill and just like that a new winter sport was born. Other then that there was not much to see. I did step into the Wilson Family Restaurant for breakfast though and ended up right in the middle of the local Lyonâ€™s club weekly meeting. It was less of a meeting and more like a question and answer period on â€œThe Real Las Vegasâ€ though. Whatever I can do to help. The French toast was good.
About thirty minutes away was Sharon, Vermont. There is a giant granite marker that was placed high in the mountain where Joseph Smith was born. I got there early in the morning when the snow was falling. The marker read â€œTo the Memory of Joseph Smith, The Prophetâ€ I enjoyed being there more then I thought I would. The plan was to get there, hop out, snap the photo and be on my wayâ€¦but I ended up staying there for quite a while in reflection. It was nice.
At that point I drove across New Hampshire. (which to me is strange that you can drive across a state in two hours.) I stopped for a few hours in Kenninbunkport, Maine. It turns out that George Bush was born thereâ€¦and the residents are very proud of that fact. I had a nice late lunch with a BIG lobster. Well, I started the lunch with him but he was nowhere to be seen when I finished. (Place evil laugh here).
As soon as the lunch was done I headed toward Cape Cod. I found a little place here and dined on some clam chowder for dinner. It was good, but not real filling for me. Topped that off with two cheeseburgers and some juice then called it a night.
I got up early the next morning and ferried out to the Vineyard and that brings me to where I am right now. It has been a fun few days. Hopefully there is more ahead. Don’t worry, blog posts won’t usually be this long.
I am not sure the reason that I feel it so important to write my experience with my nephew Evan. I suppose that in part its purpose is for others to know the inspiration for the lyrics of his lullaby that I have written. Or perhaps it will serve as a reminder of just how lucky we are to have known him. But in all honesty I think the purpose is a little more personal. I learned a lot from Evan and the way that he touched lives. I hope that you too will experience the emotions that I did as I share the story with you from my point of view in the final 48 hours.
On Friday the 28th of March, I received a phone call from my mom late in the night. She told me that Rachel had brought Evan into the hospital and he was diagnosed with a very serious disease. Immediately I felt humbled by the emotion that flowed into my heart. I went to bed that night with a prayer in my heart hoping that I could be of help in some way.
The following morning, Rachel called me with the news that the original diagnosis of six months was shortened to just a few days and that if I was going to meet my nephew then I would have to do so very soon. I knew that I would have to make plans immediately to get to Sacramento. But even more prevalent in my heart was a feeling that I should be very observant in all that will soon happen. Thanks to the help of my dad, I would be able to make the flight to California with him and my brother Kyle. We would fly out of Las Vegas on Sunday the thirtieth arriving just before midnight.
On the way out to California it was a dark and very quiet flight. I remember very clearly looking out of the window and getting lost in the shining of the stars. I had just finished reading a book of astronomy and while on the plane I thought how strange it is to have an object so distant pierce my heart so deep.
Our original plan was to go straight to our hotel from the airport, but upon exiting the plane I had some voice messages waiting on my phone. They were from my sister Stacey and they warned us that if we were going to be able to meet Evan, we should do so immediately. Also, I was told that Josh was waiting for my dad and I so we could join him in naming and blessing his baby. We entered the emergency entrance of the hospital just after midnight. Stacey and Linda were waiting by the doors to show us the way. As we were navigating the halls of the hospital, I remember so clearly suppressing an urge to run. I wanted so bad to be there with Evan and to support Josh and Rachel. Because it was so late, the hospital was quiet and dark and seemed so abandoned. It remained that way until we reached the corner room of the sixth floor. From that room seemed to flow an overwhelming amount of life, light, and love.
Entering the room, I remember feeling very nervous. I was not sure what to expect. But as I came around the hanging white curtain a beautiful baby and a very proud young mother met me. It could not have been more inviting.
The hospital room was small, but manageable. There were chairs and makeshift beds surrounding the walls. In the center of the room was a very small but elevated bed. There were tubes and wires dangling everywhere, each of them making their way to Evan’s little body.
Rachel, obviously relieved that her dad and brothers made it in time, freed an arm to give us hugs. She immediately instructed us that she would like each of us to spend some moments alone with Evan. At first I was a little nervous, but as the baby was left in my arms and the room was emptied, I felt such a warm feeling.
I remember holding his little body very close and careful. His little arm, which was very weak by this point, would tap on my chest every once and a while. I felt saddened when I reached for his little fingers and they did not clutch like every other baby I had ever held. The tubes that were taped to his little face were also heart wrenching. But it was at this heart wrenching moment that every emotion was turned upside down. After laying in darkness for so long, Evan slowly peaked from under his eyelids. His eyes cautiously opened and revealed very big and beautiful dark eyes. But it was not the color that struck me the deepest, it was the incredible sparkle that they shared. Instantly it brought me back to the airplane flight and being lost in the stars. Just like the stars, his eyes pierced my heart. But instead of floating high in heaven, this time I had the sparkle in my arms. I will forever thank Rachel for allowing me to spend some time alone with my nephew.
After my father and Kyle had some personal time with Evan, the whole family was again brought into the hospital room. At this point the room consisted of Evan, Josh, Rachel, Linda, Dale, Kyle, Karen Harris, Julianne Harris, Stacey Eaton and me.
On the advice of close friends, we decided that Evan Harris should be given a name and a blessing by the holders of the Priesthood. Josh, Dale and I surrounded Evan laying our hand on his head and Josh authorized a powerful and humble blessing upon Evan. A blessing so honest and pure that it could only be given by a meek father to his needful son.
The remainder of the evening was quiet and somber but had such a feeling of peace and serenity. After an hour or so, Dale, Kyle, Stacey and I left to a nearby hotel. Karen and Julianne retired to a waiting room. Rachel and Josh found place on the beds in the hospital room. And Evan slept in the arms of his Grandma Linda.
Excuse me for a personal reflection, which is not to take away from the focus of this story, but is meant to show one of the many lessons I learned from Evan. Upon reaching the hotel and finally retiring for bed, I looked over to my dad and remembered how grateful I was for him. Like Evan, I was near death very early in life. How grateful I am to have beaten my disease to have more time with my dad in my life. Thank you Evan for reminding me of that miracle.
We did not know what to expect the next morning when we called the hospital. When I finally worked up the courage to call my mom, I was informed that the night was long and difficult but uneventful.
My dad, Stacey, Kyle and I made it to the hospital about 10am on the morning of March 31st. When we made it back up to the room we were met by a very tired and worn out young father, obviously weighed down by the circumstances.
We spent most of the day moving between the hospital room and the waiting room. As doctors came in to perform different tests on Evan I was not able to watch. I would leave the room because it was too hard for me to understand. However, I reminded myself again and again that each test would actually decrease the amount of pain that he was already experiencing.
The hospital we were staying in had a tradition. Each time a baby was born, the hospital would play Brahm’s Lullaby over the intercom system. I can see the beauty of celebrating each life, but it felt so painful each time we heard it because we knew we were losing our baby soon. I was further saddened when I heard that Evan had never received the song for his birth because he was born at 1am. The hospital did not play it due to concern of waking the other babies.
The next six hours consisted mostly of all of us surrounding Evan and trying to do anything we could to comfort Rachel and Josh. There was a strange fusion of feeling in the room. Part of me was hoping for his life to be extended so that we could enjoy him. But another part of me silently hoped that his passing would come soon so as to escape the pain. But the overwhelming emotion in the room was that of peace and faith. There were so many prayers being offered for Evan that merely association was blessing us.
I suppose the hardest time of the day was the late afternoon and early evening. Evan went through a cycle. He would breathe fine and his heart would beat well for nearly two hours. Then all of a sudden all of his vitals would drop and he would begin to lose color in his face. The room would go silent as all of us held our breath along with him. Never knowing if this would be the last time, Rachel and Josh were forced to repeatedly prepare to lose their son. My heart broke each time I heard Rachel whisper, “My baby.”
Josh would sigh, “My boy.”
By this time I had determined that I would write a song so I wanted to be sure and properly represent the experience. I wanted Evan to have a lullaby too. One that was written especially for him. I was very keen on listening to phrases and touching moments throughout the day. Perhaps I should note a few of those now.
After one of the close call moments, I recall Rachel looking into the face of her newly revived son and saying, “He doesn’t want to leave. He likes it in my arms too much.” I reflected on what a beautiful thought that was. His little heart was depending on the heart of his mother.
Another special time was shared between Evan and his father. It was clear to all of us that Evan was in a great deal of pain. His vitals were dropping dangerously low and there was little that any of us could do. He was laying in the arms of Josh. Very quietly, Josh began to whisper into the ear of his baby boy. He told Evan of all the excitement that the new parents felt when they were preparing for the birth of Evan. He talked about the classes, he told of the books that were read and the plans that were formed. Soon, Josh had all the room as an audience and we laughed as the stories were shared. Amazingly, Evan seemed so pleasant while sharing that moment with his dad. His vitals were all perfect and so was his color. It was a very special moment.
Unfortunately, it is already known how this story ends. Just after 7 pm, Evan lay sleeping in the arms of Josh. Rachel was nearby comforting them both. Evan stopped breathing again. We all gathered around the young family offering hands of support. Whether my eyes were closed or I was just too afraid to look, I don’t remember. But after a few moments, Rick announced that the vital signs had all dropped and the baby was lost. Collectively we cried and kneeled together to give thanks for our time with Evan. We also asked our Father in Heaven to now welcome him back home and asked that we would be able to live worthy enough to be with him again.
I will forever be thankful for the moments that I had with Evan. I do not believe that lives are defined by length. Quality of life is marked by love, service, and purity. Evan was an immediate master of all three. I hope that Evan’s Lullaby will serve as a token of his beautiful light, a tribute to his untainted life, and as a gift to others so they too can feel his glow.
(Link to Evans Lullaby – Written and performed by Brian Stucki. Also performed at Evan’s funeral.)
Lyrics to Evan’s Lullaby
Some stars they hang in heaven forever giving their light
Others are fast to leave the sky
Despite the length of time, the glow is always impressive and bright
I saw that boy in a little boy’s eyes
He came to us under the blanket of a peaceful night
We wanted the whole world to know
Having him near is a paradise and a pure delight
Heaven had let an angel come below
Here we are ready to give our life in love
Prepared to raise you right and give you joy
But the tables were turned and instead you gave your life to return above
Until we meet again, we’ll never forget you our baby boy
You are safe although holding you in my arms still feels new
I’ll tell you the stories of how you came
If your heart feels weak because it’s beating for you
And I promise it will never tire of calling your name
Relax my son, you are surrounded by those who care
We’ll see that you are held and blessed
We recognize heavens hand but you seem so much more aware
Of others present to return you to your rest
Here we are ready to give our life in love
Prepared to raise you right and give you joy
But the tables were turned and instead you gave your life to return above
Until we meet again, we’ll never forget you our baby boy