Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home Improvement 101

Lately our family has been remodeling our main bathroom. Well, more accurately, my mom has been remodeling it while the rest of us pop in at lunch to check her progress. We also picked out the new shower curtain for her. I think it's the only job she trusted us to do.

I think she enjoyed taking a sledgehammer to the old tile and drywall around the shower, but after that things slowed down. Everybody knows it's not a real home improvement project unless you make at least three trips a day to the hardware store. I think every worker in Home Depot has given input on our project, although nothing is ever as simple to install as the guy at Home Depot tells you it will be, especially when you live in a house where nothing seems like it is a standard size or shape. The other day we walked in and someone was immediately like, "Oh hey, you're back!"

Some projects require the expertise of a professional, but oftentimes someone in the family is just as capable of wandering back and forth from their vehicle to the house several times, asking to borrow a flashlight, fiddling with the leaking faucet and then declaring it "fixed" because it leaks less than it did previously (actually, that was our old plumber. We now have a good one).

Of course, one benefit of having a professional look at your home improvement project is that they can tell you what will happen if you don't follow the instructions on the box or the side of the hot water heater. I've always thought warning labels should come with an explanation of what will happen if you ignore them. Now that companies are getting sued for things like making their coffee hot, there are warning labels for just about every possible scenario. Some of the actions warned against are obviously a bad idea, like eating a package of peanuts when you're allergic to nuts. But sometimes I really want to know what will happen if I ignore the warning to, say, keep metal objects away from my electroplasma lava lamp. Is it a bad idea like refilling disposable plastic water bottles is a bad idea? Or like sticking a metal fork in an electrical socket is a bad idea? Is there a slight chance of a freak accident if you're a total idiot about it? Or will something definitely explode?

This overabundance of stupid warning labels causes people to wonder if they are a legitimate warning or just the result of a "What is every possible way we could get sued?" brainstorming session. It causes incidents like the time my brother almost burned down the missionary training center because he and his companion wanted to know if you could recharge regular batteries in a battery recharger. It turns out you can't, unless you count turning them into a melting, toxic, smoking mess counts as "recharging."

Anyway, my mom finished remodeling the shower last week and next comes the new floor. My parents seem to think the floor will be an easy one-day project since there isn't much real estate, but I remember when they put in the family room floor. I came home from working all day one Saturday and they were like, "Man, we've been working so hard all day!" I looked and they had the step leading down to the family room covered. Fortunately it took them about the same amount of time to do the entire rest of the floor, otherwise they would still be working on it five years later.

Next week, stay tuned for what happened when we tried to install a new toilet ... it could be fun.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A whole lot of church

Everybody who knows a Mormon knows we go to church a lot. Like, three hours every Sunday at minimum. For some this seems like a massive commitment, although I've never understood that. You can spend three hours playing video games or watching Lord of the Rings but you can't spend three hours a week worshiping the God that gave you everything? Priorities, people.

This weekend, however, is different. If you think three hours of church is a lot, try 10. That's how many a lot of Mormons will be attending this weekend. Fortunately, it doesn't require 10 hours in a dress sitting up straight in a pew. This weekend is General Conference, when we get to listen to several two-hour sessions of church leaders in Salt Lake City speaking to us by satellite, cable TV, Internet or radio. That means "church" is rolling out of bed and onto the couch, watching the television in pajamas while eating donuts. Which, I'm not gonna lie, is awesome. But really, I would think conference is awesome (albeit slightly less comfortable) even if it didn't involve pajamas and donuts.

So why do Mormons get all excited about "conference weekend" twice a year when they could be watching basketball or playing disc golf or getting the lawn in shape instead? I guess the first thing to understand is that we believe these men and women (yes, women speak in conference too) are called of God and that he is speaking to them, telling them what messages of hope and faith and guidance we most need for the coming six months. General Conference isn't just a bunch of generalized sermons about what Jesus was telling his followers centuries ago. It's messages relevant to today, straight from God himself.

Before the recession hit, there were several talks about getting out of debt and saving for a rainy day. During the recession there have been a variety of talks about not giving up and realizing our worth is measured in more than the jobs we may hold or have lost. There are talks warning of the way pornography, drug and gambling addictions can destroy our souls and our lives and our families, and urging smart use of the Internet. Church leaders warn of growing epidemics of child abuse and neglect and urge us to work to build a society where children are valued and protected. They urge men to be real men who don't neglect their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and who respect women and children. There are talks of encouragement for widows, single parents, divorcees, parents of children who have strayed, parents of children who died or who were born with a mental illness or disability, those who want to be married but it hasn't worked out yet, those with deadly diseases and others who struggle with some of life's most difficult challenges. And there are classic subjects like repentance, faith, charity, forgiveness and the Savior's life that we are reminded of and given new insights relevant to today's world.

That's why I listen. I learn new things and gain new insights. I'm encouraged and lifted up. I'm inspired to be a better person and determined to make changes for the better in my life. I hear stories from people that let me know I'm not alone in feeling a certain way about different things that have happened in my life. There have been talks in conference that I feel like were written specifically for me, because they were exactly what I needed to hear. Some of those talks have literally been life-changing. Who would want to miss out on all of that?

You can watch the rest of General Conference here: or later visit to read and watch specific talks.