10 Rules for Valentine’s Day

Mickey and Minnie

Let’s be honest, this is the perfect couple.

For some reason, you people turn this holiday into this demonic, soul draining ritual. I know we’re not five years old anymore and the days of cards sealed by little heart stickers are over. But the way most people talk about it, you’d think that Valentine’s Day is a day reserved for sucking the joy out of puppies.

So, some rules. I’m even giving you a few days’ notice so you can take notes before this weekend.

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Wedding Bells, Love, and Indescribable Joy

There are many kinds of happiness. There’s the happiness that comes with success—the feeling of accomplishment. There’s the feeling that comes after receiving a gift. There’s a high that comes from a night out with friends. Good books, TV shows and music create another kind of happiness. As does service.

But there are three kinds of happiness that are superior to all others. The first is the peace found in religion. The second is the indescribable feeling someone has when they’ve met their spouse, their companion, their partner in life and death. And the third is the happiness you feel when watching someone you love very much experience pure joy.

Yesterday, I had the incredible pleasure of watching Melanie Wilhelm and Scott Wood celebrate their marriage. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life.

Melanie is hands-down the kindest, most considerate person I’ve ever met. If her soul were a color, it would be the pure white of a person who lives her life for others. She is always there with an open heart and an open mind. I can’t be unhappy around her. And I know where she gets it from; she has a wonderful family, with sisters and parents who have acted as beacons of light to me for years.

I do not know Scott that well; like most people on this side of the country, I only actually met him a week ago. But I don’t need to interrogate him to know that he is a good man with a good heart.

We all know people like this. We all have those friends that are so perfect, for lack of better term. You love them so much and you don’t ever feel like you deserve to be in their presence. And to see them so gloriously happy, married in the eyes of God and the community, is something that puts a light in your soul. The sparkle in their eyes as they look at the one they love is bright enough to break any darkness.

Cherish your friends. Be there for the bad times, because they need you. But be there for the happy times, too. It’s a feeling of ecstasy more powerful than anything you could do for yourself. Rejoice in their happiness.

Mel, I love you more than I know how to put into words. Scott, I look forward to getting to know you and I’m sure I’ll love you just as much. Congratulations and best wishes. Look to God for guidance and put Him first; lean on each other; and know that I—and a whole bunch of people that love you just as much—are always here for you.



“My Family Calls Me Joshy”



This handsome young man is my cousin. He goes by many names. His given name is David; he goes most often by his middle name, Joshua (usually shortened to Josh); some in our family call him Joshy. But starting on Tuesday night, he gains a new name: Elder Fallin. He will go exclusively by this name for two years as a full-time missionary for the Church.

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My Noodles, My JJ, My Best Friend


A few weeks ago, I joked to my family that I’d have to write the dog an obituary when she died. We’ve been doing the whole “she’s getting old and it could be one of these days” thing for more than a year now. At this point, death is probably what’s best for Noodles. But as we say that phrase again – this time, with a more serious tone – I figured that it was time to write about my JJ. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it with any level of skill once she does pass, and I don’t want to do a bad job. I’m already emotionally compromised as it is. So, here it goes.

Noodles has been a member of our family for over a decade – I want to say about twelve years, but I could be wrong. We got her as a puppy from a yard sale, as many families do. We sat with her on the deck, trying to come up with a name suitable for our new half-beagle, half-basset hound family member. Sara wanted to name her “Skip” like the dog in the Frankie Muniz movie, but someone (mom, maybe?) came up with Noodles. The first night she was with us, she howled and barked all night and didn’t stop for, oh, about eight years.

At first, we didn’t exactly know what to do with Noodles. She was a very active little puppy, for lack of a better word. She bit my mom’s nose on the second day. She used to take socks off of our feet and chew on them behind the couch. She once chased a boy up a tree. She was afraid of cats, so much so that when we’d go to the farm they’d chase her around in a reverse of the old stereotype (this should partially explain my dislike for cats). I don’t think everyone liked Noodles at first glance. Or second. Or third. Whenever anyone would ring the doorbell, she’d bark until the walls came tumbling down. She’d dig holes under the fence and run away as often as she could. And it was no fun chasing her down.

She’s mellowed out over the years. These days, the only way she knows that someone is in the house is if they basically stand right in front of her. If she gets out the door, she either tires out before she leaves our sight or she circles back home. When our family friend Rob brought his new puppy around a few months ago, Noodles nearly had a heart attack chasing the little puffball around.

But some things haven’t changed with her age. She still loves dog treats (bi-quees) and will literally jump through hoops to get one; seriously, you can’t even say the word “treat” without driving her up a wall. She likes to sleep on the couch. She loves to be pet, especially on the stomach and under her collar. She still worships dad like a deity. Whenever we eat, she hangs around begging for scraps – even the scratching of a fork on a plate will catch her attention.

Noodles suffers from an identity crisis. She’s had fourteen nicknames over the years. I’ve changed what I call her, and most recently I have called her JJ. No, I don’t know where that came from. I started to call her by that name because my friends mocked me for having a dog named “Noodles”. But you know what? I’m proud of my dog, and I love her. She has the capacity to be the sweetest animal under the sun. She’ll hang around a family member if they’re not feeling well, almost as if she can sense that he or she is down. All she’s ever known is our little house in libertytown. She’s had four human family members and two rabbit friends. We’re all she has. I really hope we’ve made her life a happy one.

When I come home for a weekend visit, I’ll go and play with her before I even say hello to my parents (I can talk to them on the phone!). My favorite part of coming home is having “special time” with Noodles, which isn’t as weird as it sounds. I like to get up early in the morning and cuddle with her as she lies on the couch, before she has the chance to beg for treats. I ask her to kiss me (“licky-licky!”) and on the off-chance that she does, I say “thank you for the kisses!” Even when she doesn’t, I coo at her. She’s old; she deserves to be coddled.

Words don’t exist that describe how I feel for Noodles. She’s one of my oldest friends, and I wish I could die for her. I don’t want to be around when Noodles dies. I can’t deal with seeing her… body. I’m all for ending an animal’s suffering when it’s suffering, but it’s hard to support that when thinking about my best friend of over a decade. Right now, as always, we don’t know when she’ll pass; it could be tonight, could be next week, could be next year. It’s a painful truth, painful in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. But I don’t want to remember her when she does die. I want to remember her as she lives.

I get to go home on Friday, and Noodles and I gonna have some special time.