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Sunday, December 18, 2016

422nd Mission of the Church Announced Today/100th Stake organized in 2016

Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy today represented the Church in announcing that the 422nd mission of the Church will be created effective January 1, 2017. What is now known as the Family and Church History Headquarters Mission will next year be renamed the Utah Salt Lake City Headquarters Mission. The change was announced to missionaries currently serving in the mission. Elder Christensen was accompanied by Elder Bradley D. Foster and Elder J. Devn Cornish.

Much has been said of this mission. When I was excused from full-time missionary service, many encouraged me to consider this mission as an option for me. But as my bishop and stake president had left the determination of the manner of my service up to me, in consultation with the Lord, I determined that I needed to serve at the temple and with Welfare Services. And this proved to be an inspired choice in some ways, because it was as a result of an extension of my initial service period at the temple that I was able to meet Amy. But I can understand why the headquarters mission appeals to so many, and I have the utmost admiration and respect for those who choose to serve there. To read more about this mission, including its present functions and how naming it an official mission of the Church will extend that service, click here.

There have been many other Church news items of import, but, mostly due to my health being what it is, to say nothing of the focus on getting my life in order and in marking my mother's birthday last Wednesday (including the surprising and unexpected early return of my older sister's family), my birthday last Friday, and our 6th anniversary today, I wanted to simply highlight one other most significant Church news item. As forecast by Matthew Martinich, who maintains the LDS Church Growth, and as officially confirmed by Rick Satterfield, who maintains the LDS Church Temples website, the third stake in India, which also coincidentally has become the 100th stake created by the Church this year (marking the greatest number of stakes created by the Church in a single year since 1997) was today created in the city of Rajahmundry. It is a most unique stake, given the fact that it contains no organized wards: just five branches. But the Church must have felt it necessary to strengthen those local units in the hopes that they might someday soon become wards. I am sure Matt will focus on this landmark creation in a future post on his blog very soon.

Well, having done three most significant blog posts just today for different reasons, I think I can call it a day. Please let me know of any feedback you might have for me.

12/20/16--Late breaking news update: With my thanks to L. Chris Jones, who regularly reads and comments on my blog posts, I now am happy to report that, as part of the creation of the new stake in India, the five branches have been upgraded to wards. Click here for the names of those wards. My next post will follow in just a few minutes.

We have been married for six years!

December 18th has been a special day for me ever since 2004. On that day, during that year, I received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an Elder by my father. Though he and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye on things, and though we've had our differences, I always have counted it a great honor to have my priesthood line of authority going through him.

But December 18th took on a much more infinite, eternal, and important meaning to me six years ago. I have before shared in previous blog posts the wonderful story of how I met my sweet wife, Amy through my (and later our mutual) service at the temple. Because I had not put myself out there socially, I had no idea how interested in me she was. I do remember how much I wanted to get to know her better. But the heart is a delicate thing. I had had previous experiences that had left me doubting whether any woman would ever want to tie herself for eternity to a guy like me. I had been told on numerous occasions that my situation brings out the mother in all women, and up until about late 2009, I had just been the type that had been branded by other women as merely a "great guy" and a "good friend." No matter how I tried, I had not been lucky in love. And so, when it happened that Amy and I met and forged a friendship at the temple, I couldn't convince myself that she would ever give me a chance.

But I remember just how much I wanted that to happen. Since I had misinterpreted the interest of girls at previous times in my life, I didn't want to run the risk of putting myself out there and getting shot down yet again for my trouble. I know now I didn't need to worry about that. What I did not know at the time is that Amy had been genuinely interested in me for a while, and was just waiting for me to ask her out.

And so it was that 2010 rolled around. By that time, my desire to get to know Amy was strong enough that I wanted it to happen, but my doubts inhibited my ability to act on it. And so, as I had previously done at so many other times for so many other reasons, I made it an object of fasting and prayer. I told the Lord just how much I was interested in Amy, but acknowledged that I was being paralyzed into inaction by fear. I told Him that I needed to know whether it would be a good idea for me to pursue this, and that if it was, I needed some indication from Amy that she had the same desires and feelings.

During the spring/summer cleaning closure for the temple, my prayer was answered one day as I checked the mail at my parent's house. Among the envelopes there was one in particular that caught my eye. It was addressed to me. The address of the sender was at the top left corner, and the name was "A, Nuttall." Of course, there was only one "A. Nuttall" that I knew of who could possibly be sending anything to me. I remember bringing the mail inside, full of hope, not daring to believe what might be in that envelope.

Inside, I found a handwritten letter on beautiful stationary. (I would later learn that Amy, much to my great delight, had studied art in school and had designed the stationary herself.) I read the letter two or three times very carefully, wanting to make absolutely sure I wasn't misreading or misunderstanding what was happening. Another reading of the letter confirmed what my heart had trouble believing: The letter was indeed from Amy. She really was interested in me, and she wanted to get to know me better. She made it clear that if I had no interest in her, that was all right. She also put to rest my main hang-up about dating anyone so beautifully and with such tender words. They will be forever written in my heart: "I realize your life may be complicated, so if you ever wanted to go do something together, I would be happy to drive."

Well, that sealed the deal. I resolved right then and there that, having been the recipient of the greatest miracle I would likely ever receive, it would be wise to take advantage of the opening she had given me. She had included her e-mail address. I right away dashed off a reply befitting the invitation.

There followed the longest wait of my life. The temple reopened and I had not heard anything back. As a result, my doubts and fears about her sincerity returned in full force. I assumed that she had changed her mind and had thought better of sending the letter. While I was bitterly and painfully disappointed, I was resolved to try and do everything I could to double-check. Then came the night of our shift. I saw Amy repeatedly, but, because the night was so busy, we never had a chance to speak. Then came the end of the night. I headed out of my work area disappointed, but not surprised.

Then something happened that absolutely amazed me. In the hallway outside the room where I had left stood Amy, looking very nervous and concerned. With a little trepidation, she approached me. Her first question was: "Did you receive my letter?" I was quick to assure her that I had. I asked her if she had received my response. She responded that she had looked for it and waited for it, but nothing had come. I was quick to assure her that I was interested. As we talked, I think my exact response was classic: "I think it's definitely worth looking into." We parted ways that night. As soon as I returned home, I took a look at my previously sent e-mail, decided to rework it, and sent that instead.

Within 24 hours, I had heard back from Amy. In the flurry of exchanged e-mails that followed, she let me know that she had been interested in me for a while, that we had actually met once before but not been formally introduced, and that she had also believed that I was interested in her but she had found it hard to convince herself of that. I let her know very early that one of the many reasons I had not approached her was that I had believed her to be so far out of my league that I didn't stand a chance. She said she had never considered herself to be so, but she could understand why I did. We had some very wonderful conversations via this exchange wherein she inquired about my health. She also let me know that, while she had known I had a lot on my plate health-wise, she wasn't sure what my condition or life-expectancy was, which is part of why she had not approached me sooner. She told me that she had lost her mother earlier that year, and that had made her worry that, if we did get together, she might just get attached to me only to have me die as well. She was very sweet about everything.

She made it clear that we could take things as fast or as slow as necessary. Just from having known her for a year at the temple and from our e-mail exchanges, I told her that I wouldn't be at all surprised if we were engaged by the end of the year.

All of this exchange happened before we were able to have our first date. When setting that up, we agreed that we were both interested in more than just one date. So we made plans for five dates in the first week. I remember that for our very first date, we went to Subway. We were able to chat more in person. And we really hit it off. It was only midway through the first date that the question of our ages came up. When I heard she was 30, I couldn't believe it. She was more mature than her years, but by all appearances, I had assumed she was somewhere around my age. And she let me know more about the first time she saw me. As she had done in a previous e-mail, she told me that my eyes were what first caught her attention. And my face, still very much blemished by acne, had led her to believe all this time that I was around the age of a missionary. Oddly enough, though it was important to know how old the other was, it didn't give us any pause or hesitation of any kind in furthering our relationship.

We got along so well and had so much fun just that first week together that our very first "I love you"s were a natural step. Where our first few dates had ended with a perfunctory handshake, by the end of the week, we were ready to exchange hugs. In a phone conversation prior to our second week of dating, we agreed that we were done looking for or considering any other person to spend eternity with.

We went on another five dates the next week. That Sunday, as had been my tradition, I invited Amy to attend ward prayer with me at our singles' ward. Some of us were so busy visiting that we didn't realize how late it was getting. The bishopric clued us in to the fact that they were ready to lock the building for the night by shutting out the lights. With my vision taken away by the darkness, I lost track of Amy. Suddenly, I heard her voice beside me, and I felt her hand slip into mine. We walked out of the building that way. I was pleased that she had initiated this next step in our relationship. And it became somewhat of a metaphor for what our lives together would be like. Whenever I have not been able to see into the darkness of the future, Amy has taken my hand and led me through the darkness into the light of the solution we needed.

I well remember the first night of our third week of dating. I felt so comfortable around Amy and wanted to show her how much she meant to me. And so, before parting company that night, we shared our first kiss. I liked it so much we repeated that a couple more times just that night.

The next morning, I got a text from her that concerned me. She said she felt we were moving too fast and needed to slow down, but that she would be willing to meet me as planned for our date at the temple following my regular shift. During that date, I found out that I had unintentionally overwhelmed her with my affection the previous night. People with my condition tend to be over affectionate at times, which in my case, almost caused a wedge between us. But after I explained myself, she said that she understood. She still felt that we should slow down, though. I promised to give her whatever time and space she needed, and we made arrangements for the next date. This involved one particularly long day where I didn't see her. We still exchanged texts. The next night, at our temple shift, she indicated to me that she had been missing me and wanted to resume our regular dating schedule. I was elated by this, and I promised to try and ensure that I never made her uncomfortable again.

By the end of the next week, Independence Day 2010 was approaching. As it drew closer, Amy and I wondered if we should take the next step in our relationship by becoming engaged. We resolved to fast about it together that day, with the proposal to follow on that night if we got confirmation it was right. I remember that neither of us got very far into the fast before we had the confirmation we needed. We again went to ward prayer together, then headed towards the grounds of the Mount Timpanogos Temple. While we were en route, I remember apologizing to Amy that I was not prepared for this with her engagement ring. She assured me that her preference would be for us to pick it out together and that the proposal was more important than the ring.

We had by this time arrived at the temple grounds. Getting down on one knee, I voiced my proposal. I remember telling her that the chance to get to know her was like finding the one piece of myself that I hadn't realized I was missing. I also remember telling her that the only tragedy in this life and eternity that I could not bear to face was if she was not there to share it with me. I told her how much I loved her, then asked her to marry me. She said, "Of course." Even though she had told me that whatever I said in the proposal, her answer would be yes, when she accepted my proposal, I was so surprised I blurted out, "Really?" She reassured me that her acceptance was absolutely genuine. I got back on my feet and sealed the proposal with the best kiss we had shared to date.

I then sat down next to her and we began figuring out when we wanted to have the happy event. We looked ahead and decided to tentatively work towards December 18, which would allow me to celebrate my 24th birthday with my family. I told her why that date was significant to me, and she in turn shared with me that it was also the date of her parent's anniversary. We did agree, though, that if we could make it happen that way, neither of us would object to pushing the wedding up to sometime in October. That never happened, but was always a hope we had.

In the meantime, on that night, I asked her if she had a preference regarding who would perform our sealing. Recognizing that I had more of a history with the Mount Timpanogos Temple and the sealers who worked there, she said she would be happy with whomever I wanted to officiate at that event. I told her without the slightest hesitation that I couldn't imagine anyone else in that capacity except C. Max Caldwell.

I had initially gotten to know Brother Caldwell when he was in my home stake. I was pleased to find out that he had been a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. My earliest memories of Brother Caldwell were of the times he had been asked to substitute teach our institute class. In chatting with him during those times, I discovered that he and his wife worked at the temple as well, where he was the senior sealer. It even happened that they both worked on my shift. When I realized that, I made it a habit of regularly stopping by the sealing office as often as I could to chat with them both.

It was on one of those many occasions when I happened to run into Amy (this was before she sent her letter) and had recognized her as a coworker on my Friday shift. My running into her and the conversation we had then, though I didn't know it at the time, was one of the many factors that had encouraged Amy to send that letter to me that started our whole relationship. My strong friendship with Brother Caldwell, in addition to the fact that in chatting with him I had run into Amy, made him the favorite and most natural choice to perform our marriage.

We were now in the courtship phase of our relationship. Though lots of obstacles presented themselves, we pushed on in spite of them. Rather than being discouraged by the many roadblocks around which we had to navigate, each one seemed to newly solidify the commitment and love we shared.

I have to say that her family accepted me with open arms. The first time I met Amy's dad, we had already determined that marriage was our goal, and I let him know that. The second time we met was the night before we got engaged. In the tradition I had been brought up to follow, I let her dad know of our desire to go ahead and asked for his permission to do so. This he gave me. And her brother, who was her only other unwed sibling, told her very early in our relationship that if I made her happy, he was happy for us.

The strongest support for our marriage on my side of the family came from my brother. Though I understand better the reasons for it, initially, my parents struggled with the idea that their disabled boy was growing up and getting married. I get their reluctance to hand my care over to someone else after being my biggest supporters. From people I know who had similar challenges, such a changing of the guard is always difficult. They handled it as best they could, though.

When the obstacles we faced were at their worst, I was reading in the Book of Mormon one day and came across a verse that, though I had read it more times that I could recall in the past, hit me more strongly than it had ever previously done. After pondering and praying about the verse, I felt impressed to share it with Amy. She agreed it was very timely, and we resolved to make it the theme scripture for our courtship and marriage.

It is found in Moroni 7:33, which reads: "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me." This powerful promise helped us press on in spite of the obstacles. It helped us realize that nothing was more important to us than making Christ the center of our relationship and everything we would do together in this life or in any of the eternities to follow.

Our greatest support came from the bishops of our Singles' Wards, who provided us with much needed counsel and advice, and frequently met with us to ensure that we would be worthy and ready for our temple marriage. For that reason alone, the names of Tom Hunter (bishop of my Singles' Ward), Gordon Wilson (bishop of Amy's Singles' Ward), and Kendall Warburton (bishop of my home ward that was inspired to call me to go to the Singles' Ward; I believe the fact that Amy and I got together when we did was a direct blessing in my life that could have only happened as a result of my obedience to his counsel), will ever be had in honorable remembrance in our home.

Much to my surprise and delight, my parents became my greatest supporters as the day of the weding arrived and my pre-wedding jitters got worse. Dad had intended to give me a pre-wedding father's blessing on the Friday night before my marriage, but because my nerves rendered it impossible for me to even eat much until late afternoon that day, he decided that moment was the best time to do it. 

The last night I would spend under my parent's roof passed swiftly as Amy and I attended our last temple shift as single people. When we went to our separate shift preparation meetings with our coworkers, at least in my case, everyone seemed shocked that I was there the night before our big day. My response was instant: "Where else am I supposed to be?" The night flew by, and all too soon, it was time for Amy and I to spend what would be our last nights under our parent's roofs. 

I woke up even more nervous. However, I was grateful to be in the company of our families and close friends for the pre-wedding breakfast we planned. Though my nerves affected my appetite, I appreciated the chance to be among people that had made such a difference in our lives.

When I got home from that breakfast and made my final pre-wedding preparations, the nerves continued. But my mom's wisdom was the catalyst to all those feelings. She reminded me that Amy and I loved each other, and encouraged me to look at my future and imagine what that future would be like if I failed to marry Amy. My response was automatic. I told her a future without Amy was not one in which I would care to live. While it didn't resolve the jitters completely, it did lessen my nervousness considerably.

And so, Amy and I headed to the temple for our wedding. As soon as I entered the temple doors, the peace of that sacred edifice was enough to calm whatever was left of my nerves. In one of those coincidental moments I can only brand as miraculous, among the staff at the front desk was a brother I knew very well from my Thursday shift. And as I got prepared to get dressed for the wedding, my dad and I happened to run into someone we knew very well who had previously been in my parent's ward. My dad dropped me off at the place where I waited for our marriage ceremony, where I found Amy.

We held hands and enjoyed the peace. There followed the sacred ceremony that bound us together for eternity. As I had hoped he would, Brother Caldwell had consented to perform that ceremony. When I had asked him to do it, I also told him what I had told Amy about why he was my best and first choice. He had replied in that humble way of his that in officiating at that ceremony, the honor and the privilege of it would be completely his. While I cannot to this day recall a majority of what he said, I can never forget how I felt to finally have Amy sealed to me, not just for this life, but for all the eternities that will follow. I would learn in later years from family who had been in attendance at that ceremony that they had noticed that we were looking at each other during the entire time Brother Caldwell gave us his counsel and performed the ceremony. They said they could see in Amy's eyes that she was seeing me not as the imperfect, disabled man I was then, but as the perfectly whole being I would someday become. She was looking at me through the eyes of an eternal perspective.

There were a few hours ensuing between the time the ceremony ended and our wedding reception began. I was more than a little concerned that I might not be physically able to handle standing during the entire reception. That difficulty was anticipated and dealt with. When we weren't actively greeting people or getting our wedding pictures done, we were able to sit and relax.

Following the reception was the honeymoon. It was most irregular in the sense that we only were able to manage the weekend in a hotel before Amy was due back for work. If I had it to do over again, I would have done everything in my power to give us more time to start our lives together. It was very difficult for me to have to arrive at the hotel with Amy on Saturday night only to have her leave without me early on Monday to be on time for her scheduled work shift. In the meantime, I was picked up at the hotel later that morning by my older sister, who helped me check out and get the luggage we had brought to our new place, which, by a sheer miracle we had found only four days prior to the wedding. I then returned to my parent's house and waited for Amy to return to me from her work day. 

When her work day was over, and she joined me at our parent's house, they were kind enough to provide us with dinner. Then we were able to get all our wedding gifts and anything else we could moved into the apartment. Seizing a quiet moment when Amy and I were alone in the apartment, I had my first opportunity to use my priesthood to dedicate our first dwelling place. I had seen it done by my dad many times before, but I still wasn't sure I did it right. She was quick to reassure me that I could not have done it better. 

The next few days were full of activity as I adjusted to a house far too quiet in Amy's absence and as she worked. When she was not working, we were doing our best to finish transferring our possessions to our new home. Though it didn't occur to me at the time, Amy must have been simply exhausted by the early weeks of our marriage. But as she always has, she pulled through.

And so, the weeks together have come and gone until we are now celebrating today the sixth anniversary of our marriage. Our temple service, through which we had originally connected, lasted a couple of years into our married lives until we couldn't handle it anymore. Before we stopped serving there, I was there one Thursday when I saw Brother Caldwell being wheeled out of the temple in a wheelchair, looking very pale, gaunt, and unwell. Deeply concerned about my friend and mentor, I took the time to go to the temple offices and get his home phone number. For a while, I called that number each week to check with his wife on how he was doing. 

I happened to be perusing the Church news website one day when, much to my shock and dismay, I discovered that he had passed away earlier on that day. I instantly texted my wife, who was at work, to let her know of the loss of my friend. She immediately arranged to take a break to call me and find out how I was handling the news. I had a meltdown. She asked if I needed her home to comfort me. I said I didn't want to take her away from earning a living for us, so it was her choice. She said a quick silent prayer about it and called me back a few minutes later indicating that she would be home ASAP. 

She took great care in letting me work through my feelings, even taking the rest of the day off. We shortly thereafter learned of the funeral arrangements, and Amy again took time off work to ensure we would be there to support his widow. She was glad to see us, and it was good but hard to meet members of his family and explain my association with him. They told me that he had often spoken of me, and that he had said one of the greatest honors of his life was being asked to officiate at our wedding. I paid my respects, then we left, and I had another meltdown when we got home. Amy once again let me get it out of my system, and encouraged me to keep a stiff upper lip at the funeral the next day. Though it was a challenge, I got through it. And out of my respect for Brother Caldwell's memory, I took great care to check on his widow every week for a while. She seemed to appreciate my calls, and I hope it brought Brother Caldwell comfort knowing I was checking on her for him.

Admittedly, because I felt so strongly about continuing to serve at the temple where we met, our service lasted slightly longer than Amy could tolerate physically. But like the patient, amazing, wonderful woman that she is, while she periodically suggested that we discontinue serving there, I was reluctant to accept the wisdom and inspiration of her counsel until our situation left us no other option. After we had consistently missed our service due to our health several months in a row, I knew it was time. Our release came with a letter of gratitude from the temple.

Amy continued to work for our maintenance as long as she could. And until she couldn't handle it any longer, I did not because I either could not or would not. To this day I am not sure which. Because of the rigorous and taxing physical, emotional and spiritual toll standing all day took on her, her body finally let her know she couldn't keep it up. More often than not, during the last little while she had the job, she had to call in sick. The decision we made to have her quit her job was not easy, but the condition of her health made it necessary. We prayed repeatedly about it in the days prior to her actual resignation. Her supervisors appreciated her fine work, but were fully cognizant of the reasons she couldn't continue.

There followed a period spanning about 18-24 months where neither of us had work, but that was not for a lack of trying. I applied for anything I could do sitting down, but the fact of my nonexistent work experience, in spite of the many service opportunities I was told could be quantified and weighed in the balance, made many companies leery of the idea of giving me a chance. 

When Amy and I met, she was working for Distribution Services, and she was one of the most diligent and highly praised employees they had. She consistently received positive feedback from those whom she helped, and she was highly rewarded for her excellent customer service and always going above and beyond. 

Unfortunately, when we were preparing to get married, she could not continue with them because they only offered full-time employment for management positions, and they weren't able or willing to offer her one, though she received many good references. Amy took the physically taxing and life-threatening job because it was the only one she could find with sufficient benefits to keep me covered medically. 

And even though she has periodically applied at various branches of the Distribution Center for the same position she did so well for years before our marriage, she has been consistently passed over for such opportunities by people who are far less qualified. I don't understand the mentality of those who have management and control of such decisions. If Amy did the job once, she can do it again, and she would be the very best and most qualified person they could ever hope to get. But not one of those Distribution Centers would rehire her.

Additionally, as I have previously mentioned, she has been far too ill physically to work. It is beyond frustrating because she has been stuck with low-quality insurance ever since she lost her work-related coverage. Only adding to that frustration is the fact that, no matter what we bring her into the doctor for, the advice is always the same: Take two Aspirin, get some rest, and call me in the morning if you are still feeling ill. I come in with a list of symptoms, they test me, and bam! they find out my testosterone levels are low. But Amy has symptoms that hinder her from getting done all the major projects she has lined up just here at home. And it seems that people are all too quick to overstate my inability to earn a living for us, but underplay or entirely disregard what she's going through. Her health insurance coverage expires at the end of the year, and we are attempting, at the advice of our insurance agent, to get her covered by the same insurance that covers me. And we don't know how or if that's going to make a difference.

As Distribution Services has kept rejecting her job application, and as the only other jobs she would qualify for would be as physically demanding as the job that took the energy out of her, I kept working at finding a job. It took a year or two and working with several governmental and employment agencies, but I finally landed my job at ROI Solutions at the time they took a contract with Young Living. Since I was employed at ROI, we were okay for a while. But then I had a string of minor health issues that complicated my attendance there, and, admittedly, when ROI extended me every degree of latitude they could, I began to use my health conditions as a crutch, and was far too quick to take advantage of that latitude. My supervisors and the top man at ROI were extremely understanding of my situation, and retained my employment when others might have lost faith in my work ethic. The one point in my favor was that when I was there, I was the most committed, on task, professional phone rep I could be. I constantly bent over backwards to help the members I served, and I quickly gained a reputation as one who knew as much as if not more than the supervisors did about the ins and outs of the company we served. Even with that, my  infrequent attendance was an issue.

Earlier this year, as you know, ROI's contract with Young Living was terminated, primarily due to the fact that the ROI Young Living Reps were "too good" and served as a threat and direct competition to Young Living's actual agents. In mid-July, I was advised that, at the end of the week, the contract would come to an end. Most of my coworkers got reassigned to other ROI contracts. I was one of a handful that were told that I was a very excellent customer service representative, but they didn't have any other assigned campaign that would fit my unique circumstances. I was told privately by my supervisor that my fate with ROI had been weighed, and, while they appreciated the delicacy and unpredictability of my health situation, I simply had not been in attendance enough to make them confident in my ability to fit with another campaign there.

I met with the Kelly Services rep that had got me the job at ROI in the first place. He promised to find a good fit for me that paid well but would allow the degree of flexibility and understanding that I would need in view of my health situation. For a while, they called me weekly with job offers. Trouble is, I thought I had made my physical capabilities clear, and the offers were mostly for jobs that I physically was not able to handle.

And it's just as well I couldn't have taken any of those jobs. My health has declined in a lot of ways lately. While I would love nothing more than to work again for our maintenance, with all that is going on with just my health, it is just not practical or possible right now.

To Amy's credit, and as a testament to her excellent character and the depth of her love for and commitment to me, she has willingly accepted and dealt with all that being my wife has entailed. She endures our situation because there is no choice in the matter. And despite my many faults and failings, to say nothing of the multitude of stupid things I have done over the years, she constantly goes out of her way to love and serve me and make my life easier. She gave so much even before we met in care of her mother from the time she was about 10. With never a thought for herself or her own well being, she has given and given until she has nothing left. I am constantly humbled and grateful for the fact that she loves me, even if most of the time that love has not been reciprocated well by me. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful, amazing, or beautiful companion. I know it will take me an eternity to repay her for all she has done and is now doing for me, regardless of how much her continued kindness, compassion, and love has been in spite of me and my stupidity. I will be eternally grateful to the Lord for bringing Amy Nuttall  into my life. If I can somehow someday manage to be even 2% as good for her as she has been for me, I will count myself most content. And so, massive and long though this post has been, it is nonetheless a very meager thank you to this amazing woman who, in spite of it all, is still even more devoted and loving to me than she has ever been. I'm sure the main reason the Lord brought us together is because He knew how much I would need her. I know she can't say the same of me right now, but I hope she will be able to someday. Thanks for wading through this. Let me just end this by saying that, even though I have a very rotten way of showing it, I love you, my beloved eternal sweetheart, now and forever~!

Birthday post

Hello, all. I want to briefly bring you all up to speed on the latest developments in our lives. On Friday, I turned 30. Aside from my wife, oddly the first person to wish me happy birthday was the main pharmacist from Orem Family Pharmacy. His birthday greeting came in the form of an automated message. But I was very grateful to have even been remembered by my pharmacy on my special day. Interspersed within the happenings of the rest of the day came an overwhelming flood of birthday greetings. It was so nice to know that so many remembered. Perhaps the greatest surprises of all of these greetings came from my older sister and her husband, who, as previously mentioned, returned home unexpectedly early enough to be here for my mom's birthday on the 14th. Even while attempting to make Christmas as normal as possible for their three children in the midst of their preparation to depart shortly after the holidays for Maine, where my brother-in-law will continue to pursue his lifelong goal of being a doctor by completing his medical schooling and residency there, they took time to let me know what their new phone numbers would be and to wish me the best on my special day. I also was pleased to get a text from my former TL at ROI Solutions, wishing me well. Add that to the many people who reached out to me on Facebook, and you can imagine how I felt being the recipient of such an outpouring of love.

Aside from my birthday celebrations, such as they were, the main portion of our day was spent going to and from Salt Lake for my appointment with Dr. Weinstein (my neurologist). As we headed out, a massive snow storm hit. We had, true to form, been running much later than we had originally planned. When we were almost to Salt Lake, we realized that, because of the distance remaining and the weather conditions, we were going to be about half an hour late. As per usual protocol, I called Primary Children's Neurosurgery Department to let them know we were going to be late. Instead of just telling me that was fine and to get there as quickly and safely as possible, they instructed me to call Dr. Weinstein's assistant. I did so. She said she understood our situation and would relay the message to Dr. Weinstein, and that we should try and get there as quickly but as safely as we could. Then, a few minutes later, she called me back. She said Dr. Weinstein didn't want me to risk anything unnecessary just to keep our appointment and that we should just turn back and go home. By this time, however, we were close enough that it would have rendered the trip useless. It also didn't help that the assistant, whatever her reasons, didn't bother to explain that Dr. Weinstein had had cancellations of all her other appointments because of the bad weather, and that, had we turned back, she would have done a phone visit later on in the day. From what she did tell us, the implication was that we would simply be out of luck and out of the necessary prescriptions for a month, not to mention not having her input on the issues I wanted to discuss. So, I insisted that we were close enough that we were not turning back, and that I would do whatever was needed to ensure I could see Dr. Weinstein this month. Because I was so persistent, she relented and said she would relay to Dr. Weinstein that we were en route and almost there.

Because her assistant hadn't bothered to mention that every other appointment Dr. Weinstein had that day had been cancelled, Dr. Weinstein was ready and waiting for us. She listened carefully to my concerns, even patiently waiting while I had a meltdown right then and there about the neurological symptoms I was having. Dr. Weinstein looked me right in the eye and told me exactly what the problem was: One of the medications she had recently put me on for my nausea did work in most cases, but a select few, like me, had the same slew and litany of neurological side effects. Her recommendation was that we discontinue the use of that medication. She said she had no regrets that we had tried it, but that she was sorry to hear that it had resulted in the symptoms I had been having.

She said it was no wonder I had believed there was a problem with my shunt. The side effects from the medication I had been on were just similar enough to the indications of a shunt malfunction that it was next to impossible for me to differentiate. Amy said nothing about this during the visit, but she gave me her famous "I-told-you-so" look that she does so well for quite a while after the appointment. You see, Amy, being the inspired person that she was, found it hard to believe or accept that I was having shunt problems. She has believed all along that something that had recently changed with my medications was to blame, and, (why am I not surprised?) she was dead right in this case. My one consolation is that she thought my symptoms might have been caused by one of the many homeopathic remedies I had been using. But we both were gratified to hear that it was a prescription causing the problem. By the time I met with Dr. Weinstein, I had been without that medication for about a week, and, in retrospect, I should have internalized the fact that I had had a slight decrease in my symptoms since I was unable to get my insurance to approve the quantity and dosage of that medication.

Dr. Weinstein also indicated that it might take an additional month or two before the medication was out of my system and no longer was having an effect on me. As I was still worried about the nausea I've been having, she authorized an increase of another medication that, by comparison, made a lot more sense and will be a lot safer with much fewer possible side effects. She did say that she was not sure my insurance would give the authorization for the doubled amount of the medication she was authorizing, but said that if it became a problem, it was something that could easily be worked around.

Having been listened to and now having some resolution to the reason I've been feeling the way I had, Dr. Weinstein further told me that she understood how depressing it can be at times for us to deal with everything we have on our plates. But she said that we should not be too hard on ourselves for where we may be falling short and that we should always make sure we are only taking on as much as we can handle in life. Right now, that's not a lot. But she said that she anticipated that the changes we made would be a great help on the path to restoring my good health.

I left the clinic feeling very grateful that she was willing to even see me that day when everyone else on her schedule had cancelled. And since we had gotten some things resolved that have been amiss for far too long, I felt as though a great weight had been taken off me. At least for the remainder of the time we were at Primary's, my appetite was restored enough to allow me to fully enjoy a wonderful birthday lunch.

We then headed home, stopping off to get my weekly testosterone injection done. I received more well-wishes from the staff there. We also stopped at the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions I had received. When the staff was reminded by looking at my file that it was my birthday, they offered me a present of balloons. It was my sad duty to thank them for the kind gesture, but to let them know I was allergic. But it's the thought that counts. They gave me what they could of the one prescription they could fill that day, saying they would have the rest by Monday. Of the second prescription, they said it could be filled and delivered the next day (which was yesterday, and I was able to have that delivered then no problem). The final prescription was the one for which Dr. Weinstein had done the dosage increase. I was told two things about that one: that the insurance would not cover it until nearly the end of the month, and that they would cover 1 more tablet per day than I was previously taking, but not the doubled quantity from the prior prescription. They let me know that they thought they would be able to negotiate with the insurance and get the script filled for the quantity for which the insurance would pay without needing a new script, but they also said that it would help them if I could call in to Dr. Weinstein's assistant about this problem, just in case they needed a new script for any reason.

After all that adventure, we settled down to a quiet evening at home. As the evening wore on, I contemplated how far I've come in life. One of my earliest doctors told my parents, "Take him home, and simply love him. He will never be anything more than a limp noodle on the sofa." It has always inspired me that my parents did not listen to that advice. At various times and for various reasons, my life expectancy has been adjusted, and now my doctors are of the opinion that I am as likely to live as long as anyone else who doesn't have my same conditions might. It has also constantly and consistently sobered me to realize that, compared with most other people who have even a small part of what I have on my plate, I am one of the highest functioning individuals. I will forever be grateful to my parents for not taking that first doctor's advice. While we may have had our differences over the years, as do any parent and child, I owe a large portion of any success I've had in any undertaking I have been involved with to their support and encouragement. I know I have appreciated that fact a lot more at some times than at others.

Well, sorry for droning on about my special day, but turning 30 is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I will be following this post up right away with a look back on today milestone mark, the 6th anniversary of my marriage to Amy. In the meantime, thanks for reading this post. Any comments are welcome and appreciated.