Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet

A few years ago, I texted my grandma during conference, "I'm singing 'We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet' and thinking of you!"

My grandma texted back, "My favorite song! I'm so thankful for a prophet!"

She's a convert to the Church and has told me that prophets were one of the main reasons she decided to be baptized. It didn't make sense to her that there would be prophets in ancient times but not modern times. Why would God speak to people then but not now?

It seems like a testimony of a prophet has been under attack a lot lately. Maybe it's just that I'm older now and more aware of it, but it seems like every few months I get on Facebook and discover yet another reason the Church is being scrutinized or attacked for something some General Authority, past or present, said or did.

It seems like so many people are finding more and more reasons to say, "They were wrong about that, and they're wrong about this, and they're wrong about this, and now I'm not sure I can believe anything they say. And I have a testimony of some things, but I don't want to follow the prophet. And I want to be a Mormon, but I want to do it my way, not theirs."

I find this such a hard line to walk because for me, it boils down to this: Either there are prophets, or there is nothing. Either God speaks to people now just as he did then, or he doesn't exist at all. Either God has a plan for me, a purpose beyond this life, and has prepared a way for me to receive direction and understanding about that plan, or none of it is true.

I have had too many sacred experiences that confirm for me the existence of God. And so I believe in prophets.

And yet, I don't believe that prophets are perfect men. I don't believe in papal infallibility. I think mistakes have been made in the past. And once you admit that mistakes have been made, it opens up the flood gates of doubt...If they were wrong about that, what else are they wrong about?

This week, I have been mourning with those that mourn. For some reason, today has been especially hard to the point that I have been slightly on the verge of tears all morning. I think it may be because I went to a Relief Society meeting last night where several women opened up about the struggles they've had to endure and continue to endure with their mental health, and I left the meeting wondering, as I've often wondered before, why has my life been so easy?

Why have I had to struggle so little when so many people have lifelong challenges to endure? Why do some of us get off so easy? Shouldn't the challenges and struggles be more evenly distributed? It isn't fair.

I think often about the challenges that my children may have to face in the future. I wonder what burdens they will have to bear in their lives. I worry about this line in the sand that has been drawn: Do you follow the prophet? And I am sad for the sacrifices they may have to make if the answer is yes.

I mourn this line in the sand.

And so I have been mourning with those that mourn, walking around on the verge of tears, reminding myself...God speaks to prophets now just as he did then. And also, we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My favorite holiday!*

*As Cole would say, that is verbal irony.

Here are this year's trick-or-treaters:

Halloween 2015

The Mormon Missionary

Halloween 2015

The Zombie

Halloween 2015

The 10th Doctor

Halloween 2015

While we were out trick-or-treating, the 10th Doctor found his Tardis.

Halloween 2015

The boys got their first taste of suburban trick-or-treating (which I guess makes us terrible parents since this is likely Cole's last year going trick-or-treating). Some friends invited us down to Holly Springs to trick or treat in their neighborhood. By the time we were done, the boys' pumpkins were overflowing, and they were so tired that we actually passed a bunch of candy-giving houses on the way back to our friends' house.

Several of the houses went all out on the decorating, and some had these cool screens in their windows. I could almost be sold on Halloween decorating if I had one of these screens.

Halloween 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


We left the Grand Canyon in the evening and headed toward Utah, thinking we'd get a few hours of driving in, stay at a hotel, and have less to drive the next day. Apparently, southern Utah is a really happening place because we drove and drove and could not find any vacant hotels. Finally past midnight, after five hours of driving, we found a Comfort Inn in the middle of nowhere.

The next day, we stopped for lunch in Bryce Canyon on our way to my grandparents' house.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

The first thing we did with my grandparents was go to a rodeo. My grandparents are so funny at the rodeo - they know a bunch of facts about the competitors and they keep track of all the scores.


This picture cracks me up because my grandma would NOT let me get a picture of her, and this was the closest I could get.


Michael flew home on Saturday night, and the next day, the boys and I had Sunday dinner with Grandma Alley and a house full of my Alley cousins, aunts, and uncles. Love them all!

The boys and I filled up our last few days in Utah by doing some sightseeing. First we went to Temple Square, where I took a bunch of pictures of flowers. Temple Square always has the best flowers.



The boys mostly seemed bored with Temple Square, but this was a fun shot of them posing for their "wedding photos."


We also spent an afternoon floating in the Great Salt Lake at Antelope Island. 



The following pictures make it look pretty nice, but the Great Salt Lake is actually a really disgusting lake where I've been told the locals never go.



As see that black, curved line in the sand in the picture below? Those are tiny flying bugs that fill up the whole beach and scatter every time you take a step. Cole would jokingly stomp around the beach saying, "Look how powerful I am!"

It's been 7 years since my last visit to Utah, and it will probably be another 7 until my next visit, but we loved the time we were there and the wonderful family we got to visit with!

Concert: Hum and Failure

Post by Michael...

A few months ago I was sitting at my desk at work when I got an email (from that said that the band Failure would be going on tour and that Hum would be going with them for part of that tour. I'm not joking when I say that I literally had to restrain myself to keep from leaping from my seat and squealing with joy. I have a hard time picking favorites, but if I were to pick 3 bands that I love more than any others, it would be Hum, Failure and Sunny Day Real Estate.


I was introduced to Hum in high school by the drummer of my band. I immediately fell in love and listened to their album "You'd Prefer an Astronaut" more times than is probably healthy. It was the perfect mix of loud, spacey, nerdy, layered, heavy, geeky music and was very different from anything else I'd ever heard. Who knew you could have heavy music without anger?

In college they came out with another album ("Downward is Heavenward") that I also put on heavy rotation. One day someone was walking through the hall of my dorm when they heard it playing and knocked on my door. Matt and I started talking about Hum and some other bands we liked in common and we're still friends to this day (he runs a recording studio in Baltimore).

Later on during my freshman year Hum went on tour and was going to be in Atlanta on a weekend. Four of us bought tickets and made it a road trip. Matt and I even brought some of our recording equipment along for the ride just in case. A few hours before the show started, we loaded up our arms with that equipment and knocked on the back door of the club. "We're here to record the show" we said when they opened the door. "Sure, come on in. There's a booth in the back you can use". Long story short, it was amazing. We got to meet the band after the show and they even signed my pocket protector (did I mention I'm a nerd?). Later that year when they were touring in Nashville I saw them again and talked with them after the show and they remembered me and my pocket protector.

Anyway, Hum broke up several years ago and then have gotten back together in the last few years mostly to play local shows in the Chicago area or one-off festivals. This was the first tour they've done since. I really, really enjoyed watching them play again but I can't say Erin felt the same way. She's never liked Hum and this concert did not change her mind. But as a loving husband I've learned to forgive her for her failings.


I also started to listen to Failure in high school, but unlike Hum, I've never seen them perform. Shortly after their biggest album "Fantastic Planet" came out they broke up and disappeared. Sure the individual members had solo albums and produced and recorded other bands, it's not the same. Failure is another layered, spacey, guitar rock band from the 90's and most people have probably never even heard one of their songs. Erin calls them a "band's band" meaning they influenced a ton of other musicians but never made it popular themselves. While I enjoy their previous albums "Magnified" and "Comfort" I will never grow tired of "Fantastic Planet". When Erin and I first started dating we made mix-tapes for each other and included a few Failure songs on those. As a result, Erin likes Failure, which is the only reason she agreed to drive all the way out to Charlotte for this show.

Failure recently got back together and recorded a new album "The Heart is a Monster". It's quite good and looks like it will be my favorite new album this year. It does a good job of mixing their earlier sound with the style of "Fantastic Planet" while also adding some new interesting things. And I have to say that they are the "fullest" sounding 3 piece band I've ever seen live. Listening to all the different layers they have on their recordings I was worried that it would sound thin live, but they definitely pulled it off.

The crowd was really into both bands, (singing along, banging heads at the appropriate time, etc) which made the show that much better. And since both of these bands were originally from the 90s, this was one of the few concerts Erin and I have been to recently were we didn't feel like old folks.

I highly encourage everyone to spend your hard earned money on music from both of these bands, if you don't have it all already.

U.S. Domination Eating

I read an article about the most iconic fast food restaurants in each state, so we tried to hit as many as we, some other fun eateries.
Slim Chickens
(Arkansas' Iconic Fast Food)
Slim Chickens

(Texas' Iconic Fast Food)Whataburger

Blake's Lotaburger
(New Mexico's Iconic Fast Food)
Voted best burger we ate on this trip by 100% of Peters EatersBlake's Lotaburger

El Charro Cafe
(Arizona's Most Iconic Regular Restaurant)Charro's

In N Out
(California's Iconic Fast Food)
The fries were so disgusting that 3 out of 4 Peters Eaters threw them away. Can you imagine???!!! Throwing away french fries!In N Out

Serendipity 3
(Famous Frozen Hot Chocolate)
We ate this for brunch. It was delicious. Don't judge.

Arctic Circle
(Utah's Iconic Fast Food)

Nielsen's Frozen Custard
(To taunt my dad)


Buffalo Burgers
(at Antelope Island)
They are only slightly different tasting from a beef burger.
Buffalo Burgers

Sweet Cow
(ice cream with Tom and Val)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back to Arkansas

In my mind, when people talked about the Grand Canyon, they were hyping it up and over-exaggerating. It's a big hole in the ground, I thought. It can't be all that.

Apparently, my expectations were so low that when I actually saw it in person, I was blown away. It was bigger and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

Looking back through my photos, I feel mildly let down at how poorly my camera captured this amazing place. You'll have to go see it for yourself.

Grand CanyonGrand CanyonGrand Canyon Grand CanyonGrand CanyonGrand Canyon


If you are offended by Michael's poker hobby, think that poker is of the devil, or worry that Michael is going to develop a gambling addiction and bankrupt us, you should not read this post (Mom). Because poker is the sum and total reason we stopped in Vegas on the way to Utah, and Michael competed in not one, not two, but three poker tournaments. (And made us proud.)

Meanwhile, the boys and I walked at least five miles in flipflops at tourist pace over the two days we stayed in Vegas, and when we left, my ankles were so angry, they took a full 24 hours to recover. Also, I took a lot of phone photos.

Coke around the world: Why, Italy, why?!!

Statue of Twizzlers

Cole and Eli look like they're practicing for a career in modeling
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