Saturday, December 29, 2018

Better Late Than Never: Images of 2018

I think once upon a time this thing started out as my creative/lazy alternative to sending out an annual Christmas letter. So for those of you who just want the basics, here's my summary take on 2018:

Dear friends, family, and "other,"

In 2018, I graded a lot of papers, reviewed a lot of movies, and took a lot of pictures. I also got some dental work done. Best wishes in 2019!


OK, with that out of the way, you now have a couple of options. If you just want to see some pictures, I've compiled a comprehensive, high-resolution "Best of 2018" gallery on my website here. If you want to see low-res versions of many of the same pictures, along with a vague running commentary that somehow finds its way to a moderately uplifting message by the end, then get comfortable, fire up a little Hall and Oates, and read on...

* * * 

2017 was a hard year to top, what with all the travel and the weight loss and the general sense of self-improvement. For 2018, I was mostly hoping to build on what I'd already started. I rolled into January with most of my routine intact, albeit with a few modifications. In addition to reviewing movies every week, I started writing periodic columns for the Deseret News, and while I continued to teach for Weber State University, for Spring Semester I relocated to the Davis Campus. I still covered a few films for Sundance, per January tradition, but I didn't actually pull out my camera until March.

As it turned out, my two-month rest was just the calm before a 10-month storm. I kicked things off with a spring break road trip that took me to Moab, where I visited Corona Arch for the first time and caught my first sunrise at Mesa Arch since 2010, and then down to Monument Valley, where by staying in the tribal park hotel, I was able to photograph the iconic landscape at sunset, then again in the morning at sunrise.

Corona Arch, Moab

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Monument Valley, Sunset

Monument Valley, Sunrise

As a bonus, I swung over to Cortez, Colorado, for my first visit to Mesa Verde National Park. Thanks to the off-season timing (the Weber State spring break is scheduled quite early in March), I had plenty of privacy as I visited Mesa Verde's Pueblo ruins, walked among fields of dead trees, and caught a nice sunset at the top of Park Point. But to be honest, my favorite memory from that particular phase of the trip might have been the ceviche I enjoyed at La Casita de Cortez.

If I had to nominate a personal Food Obsession of 2018, ceviche would take an easy title. In addition to hounding options around Salt Lake (personal favorite: the ceviche at Park City's Tarahumara), I made a point of seeking out the item wherever I could over the course of my travels. By the end of the year, I'd eaten ceviche in Cortez, Chicago, San Diego, and even Vernal, Utah. And by December, I even learned how to make the stuff myself:

Ceviche is basically pico de gallo with fish and lime juice.

When I wasn't eating, like many fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was buzzing about the events of the April General Conference, where newly ordained President Russell M. Nelson laid out some major administrative changes. I was actually attending the Saturday night Priesthood Session in the Conference Center with my longtime friend BretO and his son when President Nelson announced the quorum merger for the Elders and High Priests, effectively releasing me from my calling in the Elder's Quorum Presidency. Being in the Conference Center for that Priesthood Session was a choice experience I will never forget. Not so much because of the administrative changes, but the sense that the future was going to be dynamic, exciting, and...big.

Excitement was also in the air for Utah Jazz fans, thanks to the arrival of rookie Donovan Mitchell. In addition to some fun spring shoots out at Bountiful Pond and on I-15 (where I parked in the back of the Cheetahman's Toyota Tundra and photographed the North Salt Lake refineries at sunset), I took my camera downtown one evening before Game Four of the opening round Jazz-Thunder series to try and capture the pre-game energy.

Bountiful Pond

North Salt Lake Refineries (from I-15)

I blended about a half-dozen different shots to create this image.

As a shy person, it's always a challenge for me to step out of my comfort zone and engage complete strangers, but I've noticed that when I do, the experience usually leads to my most rewarding shoots. This was the case as I finally took the initiative on a project I'd been filing away for years. I wanted to do a tribute to the drive-in theaters I loved so much as a kid, and try to re-create one of my all-time favorite LIFE magazine photographs, taken in a since-defunct Utah drive-in back in the late 1950s. In May I finally got up the nerve to contact the management of the Redwood Drive-In in West Valley, and the resulting effort led to two memorable shoots, a feature article for the Deseret News, and the chance to get to know some really great people.

Southwest screen at the Redwood Drive-In, showing "Avengers: Infinity War" back in May.

Shot this one at the northwest screen, which was showing the latest "Hotel Transylvania" movie.

Speaking of getting out of your comfort zone, my break from church callings lasted all of about six weeks, as the end of May brought my first ever appointment as a Primary teacher. For the rest of the year I team taught a small crew of 4-5 year olds, and quickly learned that sometimes it's nice to get away from deep fried doctrine and just focus on the basics of the Gospel. I'm also starting to wonder if I should start bringing Goldfish crackers for my students at Weber.

May might have marked my first calling to the Primary, but the arrival of summer ushered in a run of notable anniversaries. The beginning of July marked a full year of tracking calories (apparently I'm in "maintain" mode now), and just a couple of weeks before that, I celebrated ten years of SLR photography with a special "100 Images" album that brought back all kinds of memories. Best of all, at the end of June I hit 20 years of consecutive daily journal entries, which is just crazy to think about.

But rather than get too lost in nostalgia, in July I photographed the traditional fireworks display up at the Eaglewood Golf Course from a now-favorite viewpoint, as well as a more intimate production at my sister's place in Kaysville. My longtime neighbors Milo and Georgia Paskett were also kind enough to take me along for a day trip to the San Rafael Swell, where I photographed a number of off-road spots I never would have reached in my Volkswagen GTI.

At the beginning of the display, I was still able to get a little blue in the sky.

I've never been all that interested in neighborhood fireworks shows, but they are fun to photograph.

Abandoned truck cab near The Hondu in Southern Utah

Thanks to an early block class that started a week after the close of spring semester, it felt like summer started late this year. Once again, the theme seemed to be, "better late than never." Rather than take a road trip in the May-June window, as is the usual plan, I had to wait until late July to get out of town in any extended sense. I decided to make the most of the opportunity, though, devising an elaborate eastern states road trip whereby I flew to Chicago, rented a car, drove to Washington DC via Cleveland, then returned to Chicago via Louisville. (Handy travel tip: one of the reasons I designed the trip this way is because you save a lot of money on car rentals when you drop off the car at the same location where you picked it up.)

The 10-day swing saw me shooting sunsets in Chicago and over Lake Erie, getting up early to shoot the sunrise over the National Mall in DC, and on the capstone of the trip, shooting the Louisville skyline at sunset from my cousin Jim's boat on the Ohio River. I could probably fill this entire post with images from that trip (and yes, back when I was more diligent with this blog, it would have likely yielded a multi-post series on its own), but as time moves forward, I'll remember the experience just as fondly for all the quality time I spent with friends and family along the way.

Chicago skyline at sunset, photographed from outside the Alder Planetarium.

Sunset over Lake Erie, photographed from Lakewood Park outside Cleveland, Ohio.

There are lots of joggers on the National Mall around sunrise.

View of downtown Louisville (and its bridges) from on the Ohio River.

Soon after getting back from the east coast, I swung up into Idaho to join my longtime friend Brian and his family at their traditional Willow Flats campsite. I only stayed one night, but in addition to photographing the night sky--and getting my first solid star trails shot of 2018--I also got to indulge in a new passion: off-roading.

A little hazy thanks to late summer forest fires, but I'll still take it.

The trees were lit from our campfire, which was nice.

Shot this at sunset while Brian drove in loops with his kids.

The off-roading passion was inspired earlier in the year when my former singles ward friend/current family ward friend Aaron Pack took me for a night cruise along Davis County's firebreak road in his four-seat RZR. The follow-up ride in Willow Flats had me thinking hard about off-road options in August when, after four and a half years, I decided to trade in my Volkswagen GTI and get a new car. Since there wasn't anything technically wrong with the GTI, I was a little apprehensive about the preemptive break-up, but without a warranty, I was increasingly nervous about fixing whatever was coming down the road. I started my search at a Mercedes dealer in Farmington (here's to misguided ambition!), and came pretty close to picking up a Toyota Tacoma in Salt Lake. But the journey eventually led to a Honda dealer in Riverdale, where the lure of a black Accord with a manual transmission and a turbocharged engine got me behind the wheel of a Sport 2.0T. Top Gear Josh may have won this round against the up-and-comer, but I fully expect to do battle with Off Road Josh in the years to come.

No, my license plate doesn't actually read 888-888.

As a final send-off to what was a great run with the GTI, I took the Volkswagen on one last mini-road trip to photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower out at Dinosaur National Monument. As a strange footnote to the tale, my GTI wound up getting bought by one of the employees at my favorite local butcher shop. So I still see my ex all the time.

The haze at the bottom is the lingering effect of summer forest fires.

Before summer had a chance to slip away, my buddy Tyler and I decided to take a quick trip to San Diego, where we photographed surfers at sunset in La Jolla, saw all kinds of animals in the San Diego Zoo, and took in a car show in Escondido with my mission friends the Thompsons, who relocated to California from Illinois several years ago. Thanks to my strange work schedule and even stranger travel habits--let's get up at 4:30am and photograph the Milky Way!--it's kind of rare that I actually travel with someone anymore, so it was nice in this case to have a friend along for what was a very fun SoCal ride.

Even with my telephoto, it was hard to get close shots of the surfers.

This was probably the most laid-back lizard in the San Diego Zoo.

Not sure I've ever come across a better example of someone who was so totally at one with his vehicle.

As summer faded into fall, I started a promising new semester at Weber State and promptly hit a metaphoric wall. My classes were great, but almost out of nowhere I started fighting a series of illnesses, and from September through October it felt like I spent more time sick than well. This amplified other frustrations, and the cumulative effect felt like trying to fight my way through a wood chipper. There were still highlights, but like the little island in the picture below, the moments of sunshine in Fall 2018 just felt like brief respites in the midst of the storm.

Pineview Reservoir

Fortunately illness didn't hold me back from taking a nice road trip in mid-October during Weber State's fall break. For this run--my first real trip in the new car--I headed past the flooded Bonneville Salt Flats into Nevada, then down into California for my first visit to Death Valley National Park before looping east to Vegas and up into Valley of Fire State Park. From there I drove north to Cedar City in time to attend my cousin's wedding, which put me in just good enough of a mood to avoid a total meltdown during the crowded nightmare commute back up I-15 at the close of the holiday weekend. Seriously, any future fall break trip must avoid a Sunday afternoon return north on I-15.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

The Fire Wave in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Not a bad backdrop for wedding photos, I'd say.

At the end of my fall break trip I had hoped to spend some time photographing the Cedar City Temple, since it wasn't completed the last time I had passed through town. But the morning I drove by, I arrived just before a nasty rain storm that prevented anything but a handful of hasty so-so shots. While I was agitated with the results, I soon realized that while it's nice to take pretty pictures of temples, it's all for naught if I don't take the time to actually go inside them from time to time. From that perspective, the storm outside actually made a lot of sense.

Got this shot from my car while the rain came in my open window.

Of course, I did manage a number of successful temple shoots throughout the year. I took pictures at the Bountiful Temple several times, and returned to Salt Lake in November once the Christmas lights were on to try out a new angle or two. I was also able to visit some new temples along the way as well, like Indianapolis, Louisville, and Vernal, and I had a fun night in the spring shooting the re-dedicated Jordan River Temple. Before the year was out, I crossed the Provo City Center and Mount Timpanogos temples off my list, which means technically I've now photographed every operating temple in Utah.

Bountiful, Utah Temple

Indianapolis, Indiana Temple

Louisville is one of those long, flat temples like Monticello. Kind of challenging to shoot.

Also hard to shoot: temples behind walls (Vernal).

Jordan River Temple

The Provo City Center Temple was closed when I dropped by, so I had to get a little creative.

I put off shooting the Mount Timpanogos Temple for a long time, since it shares the same design as the Bountiful Temple.

A slightly different angle on the Salt Lake Temple at Christmastime.

The most famous "red" tree on Temple Square wasn't lit up this year, but a different red tree still did the trick.

November fell victim to some of the same cold symptom malaise that marred September and October, though it didn't stop me from enjoying a great Turkey Bowl with my ward friends the morning of Thanksgiving. I even emerged from my social cave a little bit and started to put more energy into dating again (thought technically, just typing the words, "put more energy into dating" constitutes putting more energy into dating than my efforts over the last couple of years).

Anyway, as the semester wound down and the Christmas season wound up, I determined to approach the annual madness with a firm sense of balance. Rather than compartmentalize the final grading, the movie reviews, and the obligatory Christmas to-do list to the point that I missed out on actually enjoying the season, I focused on enjoying the ride along the way, while trying to be proactive enough to get those to-do items off my plate as quickly as possible.

As part of that effort, I found myself back in Moab about ten days before Christmas. I'd been wanting to get back to Delicate Arch for a while, and since I opted to hike to Corona Arch back in March, I decided to head back down in December. To help justify the excursion (though to be honest, $59 hotel rooms in Moab are a pretty easy justification on their own), I also stopped at Goblin Valley on the way down. In addition to my return hike to Delicate Arch, I also got some of my best star trails of the year during an early morning shoot at Balanced Rock. (See...there's that balance thing again.)

Goblin Valley hoodoo at sunset.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

About 30 minutes worth of star trails at Balanced Rock in Arches National Park. Also some meteors.

Altogether, my quest for balance worked out pretty well. I got all the final grading and the Christmas reviews out of the way, and actually managed to take care of the shopping and the obligatory to-do items done quite early. But in the midst of that stuff, I was attending Christmas parties, spending time with friends and family, going to the temple, and a couple of days after Christmas, I got together with the Thunderlips crew for dinner and a surprisingly good jam session. December still felt like it came and went in the blink of an eye, but at least I could feel better about the way I spent it.

Christmas Eve dinner with the family at Tepanyaki...always a good photo op.

A slightly more disorganized family photo compared to the studio shot on the wall behind us.

Thunderlips reunion photo...and rumors of a comeback show in April?

As the year started to draw to a close, I wanted to finish strong, with something worth writing about in a post like this. Part of that stemmed from watching inspirational movies like "Free Solo" and "First Man" earlier in the year, movies that focused on what we can achieve when we dedicate ourselves to lofty goals. Thanks in part to my photo siesta during January and February, 2018's theme seemed to be "better late than never," and as I mulled over moves that would close the year with an appropriate nod toward the future, I decided to do something I'd been putting off for a very long time. That's how on a cold morning a few days before Christmas, I finally marched into the local post office with a birth certificate and an ugly $15 portrait from Walgreens to apply for my first passport.

* * *

Looking back, I don't know that I can name another year that was as prolific in terms of travel and pictures than 2018. Even with two months of the year missing, I scroll through this thing and shake my head at such a sprawling, incoherent mess. I left a lot of stuff out, too...good and bad. Still, for all the pretty places and all the great food and all the mileage, 2018's best moments were almost always connected to family and friends and people I met along the way. I've always been a bit of a loner, and I'm only half kidding when I tell people my most sincere desire in life is to be left alone. But even I have to admit that life is better with good people around, and whether it was hanging out with my nieces, having lunch with an old friend, or meeting kindred spirits in an open field in Arches National Park, 2018 was always better with company. It may have taken me a while to figure that out, but hey...better late than never.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Life in '17

This past November I was editing a few images from my annual family photo shoot when I came across a shot that seemed to capture the entire year. I caught it while I was getting the rest of my family situated on a picnic table off the Lagoon Trail in Farmington. Everyone is kind of fidgeting around, getting settled in, and up on the right, my sister is just kind of gazing off in the half-distance, with this curious grimace-smile on her face. As I stared at my monitor, I realized I was staring into the face of 2017.

Looking back at the last twelve months, I remember moments that felt exhilarating, and plenty of others that felt exhausting. There was ample good to go with the bad, like every year, yet 2017 was different somehow. It's too soon to get enough perspective to really understand everything that's happened in the last year, let alone how it will impact us moving forward, but combing through 2017's aftermath makes it clear that we've just finished a year to remember.

Of course, as I collected the images I felt would best tell my story of the last year, I realized that I was only taking pictures during the good bits. I also realize that a lot of the bad bits didn't happen to me so much as around me, even thousands of miles away from me, which somehow still felt very draining. So what follows feels like only part of the story of 2017. Such is life, I suppose. Like last year, you can also click this link (preferably on something other than your phone) to see a slideshow of these and other related images as I really want you to see them.


Things were different right away. For one, I wasn't marking another anniversary on the KJZZ Movie Show, because it had been canceled the previous summer. For another, I had a new suit for the first time in 13 years. So I took some pictures of myself in it.

Other traditions held up. I followed up 2016's run to glory at Sundance with a parade of misery and mediocrity in 2017. I can only see so many movies at the festival every year, and somehow I missed out on all the really good ones this time around. I did take my camera along to get a few shots on historic Main Street one afternoon, so that was nice, and on another night I almost drove headlong into an anti-Trump protest, recovering in just enough time to get a few shots of everyone marching away from me.

But even if Sundance was a drag, my second semester teaching for Weber State University was fantastic. Somehow my Spring '17 English 0955 course managed to achieve a level of chemistry by about two weeks in that most of my courses never achieve after an entire semester.


Things stayed pretty quiet on the photography front until March, when I set out for my first big trip of the year. My Spring Break road trip took me to Moab, where I photographed the Milky Way in Arches National Park, down to Monument Valley, where I spent half a day on a solo tour with a Navajo Indian guide named Henry, and back up through Kanab and Zion and Cedar City to complete my four day loop. I had fantastic fish and chips at a remote spot in Bluff, Utah, took pictures of Angel's Landing from the safety of the ground, and probably got my most interesting shot of the trip while hiking the trail to the Horseshoe Bend overlook.

Later that spring I made a long-awaited creative purchase--a Canon macro lens--and a less long-awaited and highly agitating purchase--buying my Volkswagen GTI at the conclusion of my three-year lease. The macro lens allowed me to see tiny things from a new perspective. The GTI reinforced my long-held perspective that all car dealerships are cheats.

After parting ways with my 0955 class and signing off on my first full school year at Weber, it was time to plan my traditional tax-deductible between-semesters photo trip. After a lot of deliberation and an exhaustive amount of time pitching ideas to, I decided to spend a few days in San Francisco, where I did some extensive photography of the Golden Gate Bridge, and spent the better part of a day in the Mission District with my old friend Jordy from grad school. But the most vivid experience of the trip was my first trolley ride, hanging off the side of the car taking pictures while chatting with a giddy group of middle-aged Australian tourists.

It was around this time that I decided to take a break from social media. For the previous several months I'd been posting to Instagram on a daily basis, and sharing regular content to Facebook as well. But halfway through May I got a little burned out on the process, and was embarrassed to note how often I would come back and check on how many likes or comments a specific post had picked up. I started questioning why I was posting photographs, and even wondered why I was taking pictures at all. It wasn't intended to be a final decision, but even though I continued to view and "like" other posts on social media, and continued to head out and take pictures as often as I could, I didn't post anything of my own for the rest of 2017...until now, I guess.


As spring worked its way into summer, I frequently found myself out under the stars, staring up into the night sky. My spring break trip had yielded some of my best Milky Way photography to date, and that enthusiasm continued on camping trips to Farmington Canyon and Willow Flats, up in southeastern Idaho. The last night in Willow Flats, I followed my longtime friend Brian and his oldest daughter out to the Cub River around sunset, and got some images that seemed built for Father's Day.

The original plan was to start teaching again partway through June, but my class was canceled due to low enrollment. I was still staying busy--after getting a new editor in the spring, I started covering about twice as many films for the Deseret News as usual, and I was still taping YouTube reviews with my buddy Chidsey as often as possible. I tried to get out and shoot whenever I could, and I especially enjoyed hiking up above Eaglewood Golf Course with my old friend/roommate Paul to watch the annual 4th of July fireworks show, where I grabbed some gorgeous sunset views while waiting for the celebration to begin.

Around the midpoint of 2017, the Cheetahman asked me if I would join him for a 90-day calorie counting challenge. At first I bristled at the notion--counting calories didn't seem like a very manly thing to do--but I knew that I needed to lose weight. I was still going to the gym regularly, and lifting more than ever, but bad eating habits had put me over a weight threshold I'd never crossed, even beyond the startling weigh-in that inspired me to lose 20 pounds back in 2011. I told Cheetahman I was in, and 183 days later, I've lost about 25 pounds and counting.

Not long after starting my calorie challenge, I set out on a road trip up into the Pacific Northwest. My sister and her family were heading up in that direction to visit some friends and extended family, and I decided to put together a kind of concurrent route that would cross paths with them periodically along the way. While they went straight up I-84 through Boise, I went west to Crater Lake National Park, then continued north to meet up with them in the Portland area, where we all stayed with my Aunt Barbara before further into Washington for a couple of days in the Seattle area. Besides my aunt, I was able to spend time with some of my cousins in Vancouver, and see my old friend Shane and his family in nearby Camas. Then up in Seattle I was able to reconnect with my longtime friend Scott, who if memory serves, was the guy who got me started on this blog over ten years ago. Along the way, I made my first visits to places like Multnomah Falls, Cannon Beach, and Mount Rainier National Park.

It was only a couple of weeks later I was headed back north, this time with my mom up to Island Park for my first visit to the family cabin in two years. Wild land fires had covered the area in a deep haze, but I was still able to get some cool images in (and around) Yellowstone.

About a week after getting home, the news was all about something that wasn't hugely divisive for a change: the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017. We were only at 90% coverage down in Davis County, so rather than get photos of the eclipse, I got pictures of the people looking at the eclipse, which turned out to be pretty fun, too.


Things got very busy once the school year started, thanks to a section of English 2010 I picked up in addition to my 0955 course a couple of weeks before the start of the new semester. Altogether I wound up commuting to Ogden Monday through Friday, then doubling back into Salt Lake for press screenings several days a week, since I was still covering so many movies (about 200 total by Christmas). Any mileage I'd conserved during my lease was eaten up pretty quickly, but I enjoyed teaching English 2010 again.

The busy schedule left me determined to make good on Fall Break, so a few days before my birthday, I drove south to Joshua Tree National Park (It seemed like an appropriate destination). On the way back, I stopped at the #vegasstrong memorial that had sprung up on the south end of The Strip following the tragic shooting earlier in the month, and enjoyed one of my most peaceful and spiritual moments of 2017 at the doorstep of Sin City.

Things stayed busy as the holiday season approached, and after my Joshua Tree trip, I found less and less opportunity to get out and shoot. I handled my aforementioned family shoot, which yielded a great shot of my sister and niece #3, and as the fall semester mercifully came to a close, I forced myself out in the cold to shoot another Bountiful area icon.

December is a pretty crazy month for me, with the end of fall semester running headlong into the Christmas release calendar, all while juggling the pomp and circumstance of the holidays. Every year I try to remind myself to enjoy the little things along the way, rather than tell myself that I'll do the fun Christmas stuff once the last papers are graded, the last reviews are written, and my Christmas shopping is finally taken care of. You can guess how well that works out.

Once I'd turned in my "Last Jedi" review, finished grading papers, and at least started my Christmas shopping, I flew back down to Las Vegas to help the Cheetahman with the Cowboy Christmas trade show, where he was promoting his Rockagator waterproof backpacks. One of my prime motivations was to eat at the new Giordano's franchise, and it was great to have some of my favorite Chicago deep dish pizza again. Sadly, I also got word that the #vegasstrong memorial had already been removed, and the headliner show at our hotel--which used to be the Hilton where Elvis played--suggested that things were largely back to business as usual in Sin City.

For all the craziness, though, Christmas 2017 actually turned out alright. Once I ground out the to-do stuff, I finally was able to get down to the stuff I really wanted to do. I spent time with friends, with family, and even set up my drum kit for the first time in over 18 months (unexpected discovery: playing the drums along to old school rap tracks from the late '80s/early '90s is very fun). Rather than go on another routine Temple Square photo shoot, I brought my camera along to my family's return trip to Tepanyaki two days before Christmas.

The downside of losing weight is that your clothes don't fit anymore. It's not much of a downside, but twelve months after getting my first new suit in 13 years, I had to get another one, justifying it as a congratulations gift to myself for losing the weight. One night a few days after Christmas, before heading over to take a few pictures at Station Park, my buddy Tyler and I teamed up for a "Suit Shoot," since he'd recently picked up a new suit, too. It was the last shoot of what turned out to be a fairly prolific year, in spite of my lack of social media activity.

*   *   *

Throughout the year, the Bountiful Temple has been under construction, and for a long time one of my hometown's most iconic buildings was headless. Apparently the temple has had a leak issue for years, and this year church leadership finally decided to just rebuild the building's spire and fix the problem for good. One night last summer my inner photojournalist got the best of me again, and I drove up to document the transition.

Staring up there night after night at a building that has looked out over Bountiful for the better part of 25 years, topped with scaffolding and missing its head, I felt like I was looking at an architectural metaphor for everything going on in my own life for the last few years. I don't know that I've ever felt like I had everything figured out in life, at least in terms of a career, and certainly in terms of dating, but a lot of the things I did have in place have been moved around, if not scrapped altogether. Yet, looking at that temple, it's comforting to note that the foundation is still in place, and inside everything is business as usual. And if that's the case, it's probably OK to endure a facelift now and then.

Looking back at 2017, I couldn't even begin to guess what we've got coming next year. But every December when I sit down to put this post together, I start out thinking about all the craziness, then have to admit that I've seen some pretty generous blessings, mostly in the form of friends and family, and of course in the peaceful reassurance of the gospel. I imagine 2018 will bring more of the same, as long as we keep the foundation in place. The temple spire is back in place now, and maybe that means something, too.