Sunday, December 15, 2013

practice what you preach

last week i was sitting in sunday school and look ahead to the next lesson, which turned out to be "putting on the whole armor of God." and since the teacher that day confessed that she found out about five minutes before class that she was teaching, i suspected that maybe no one was assigned to teach next sunday and later asked the sunday school president if i could. yes.

so, on facebook i commented that i had sat through a year's worth of lessons in the family ward about how we can be better husbands, wives, and parents, but now i'm teaching and we will be learning about darth vader. it got a lot of likes which left me feeling cool, but one of my friends from school messaged me and said that he'd never been to a mormon church before and that my darth vader lesson sounded like the perfect time to visit.

i warned him that our sunday service consists of three hour-long meetings and that it will be our Christmas program as well, so it won't be quite a normal sunday but that he was more than welcome to come. that didn't seem to deter him and he asked for directions to the chapel.
later in the week, though, he said that he remembered a friend had a wedding on sunday and so he wouldn't be able to come after all. i was a little disappointed but it was no big deal.

as we were getting ready to sing the sacrament hymn today, my roommate next to me motioned to invite someone to sit next to us and, when i looked up, i saw that it was my friend. he sat down next to me and said that he couldn't find the time of the wedding and since he was already dressed up, he decided to come to church. there wasn't time to do much welcoming or explaining as the sacrament was being blessed and passed, since i try to make that a very sacred and reverent time, but when it was finished, i tried to give a few basic explanations, such as why 12-year old boys are officiating in sacramental ordinances and the like.

i also kind of regretted not finishing my lesson earlier and felt a little sheepish working on it during the meeting. after the closing prayer was given, several people came up to him and introduced themselves, welcoming him to the ward and earning major points. it was really cool to see, actually, and he seemed to appreciate it.

my lesson in sunday school was "putting on the whole armor of God," and i used darth vader as my example: he is the strongest and toughest guy in the galaxy, pretty much unstoppable. but, as we learn at the end of return of the jedi, outside of his armor, he's weak and frail; he can't survive without it. spiritually speaking, we're about the same. with the armor of God, the protection that comes from living the commandments, we're strong and safe, protected from the ubiquitous fiery darts of the adversary. but if we do things that weaken that protection, that take us outside of the safety of the commandments, we are just as vulnerable as vader.
as the sith lord says in his final battle against luke, "you are unwise to lower your defenses!"

that's really about as far as we got in the lesson. we talked about the different parts of the armor of God, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit of God, the breastplate of righteousness, and the rest, how they can protect and strengthen us and what we need to do to have that protection. the discussion and comments that were generated were so good that i barely got to page three of my eight pages of notes. there were no crazy people in the class (thank you!) and my friend even raised his hand to make a really good comment.

in the last sever or eight minutes, though, i did touch on the remainder of the lesson plan, namely three ways that we need to keep ourself protected: chastity, honesty, and language. as i was preparing it and as i was teaching, i scrutinized myself a little more deeply because my friend was there.

most people at church don't know me outside of church. in fact, i can't think of anyone who does apart from my roommate. so they only see me on sunday, being my sunday self. but my friend from school has seen me at school. at parties. out on the weekends. he was part of our team when we did the back to the future movie in the spring, when i was stressed and tired and wanting to throw myself in front of a speeding delorean at 4 a.m.
now he was visiting my church. as i was writing notes for my lesson, i had to review myself. had i lived
up to what i would be preaching in a few minutes? was there anything in my conduct that would reflect poorly on what a latter-day saint should be? had i acted contrary to what i would be preaching in sunday school?

i couldn't think of anything. i wasn't perfect or entirely without fault, but i couldn't think of anything i had done or said that would undermine what i was preparing to teach.
that was a good feeling and also a good reminder that we never really know when someone is watching us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

always crashing in the same car

there's the story of a man who was caught in a flood and so he prayed to God that He would save him.
soon, a woman in a raft came by and offered to help him out of the water.
"thank you," said the man, "but i am waiting for God to save me."
so the raft went on and the flood waters continued to rise.

after a while, a woman in a motorboat came by and told the man to get in to safety.
"no," said the man. "i am waiting for God to save me."
the boat moved on and the flooding got worse.

eventually, the floodwaters were dangerously high and there seemed to be little hope left. no boats were in sight, but helicopter found the man.
"come with us!" said the pilot, "and we can rescue you!"
"go on without me," said the man. "God will save me."

and soon, the man drowned.

in heaven, he asked God why He didn't help him.
"but I did," said the Lord. "I sent you a raft, a boat, and even a helicopter."


it wouldn't be sheep go to heaven without an angsty post now, would it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

in the meantime

He locked the gates and vanished completely. And then suddenly, about [nine months] later, the most amazing thing happened. The factory started working again, full blast! And more delicious candies were coming out than ever before.

i didn't mean to be gone so long but i can't tell you how good it feels to be writing again.

last winter was a very busy time for me at school. by the time the semester slowed down at the start of may, i felt like i couldn't just start writing again out of the blue; i felt like i needed to have a "reason" to start writing again, and so i told myself that i wouldn't write until i'd designed a new header and look for  sheep go to heaven.

that sounded simple but took longer than i expected. in the end, the new lettering was done not by me but by the editor-in-chief at warm fuzzies & hand snuggleez. if not for her, our in house design team would probably still be messing with the fonts up above there.

so, let me tell you a bit of what i've been up to since february 21st...

the spring 2013 semester was supposed to be one in which i could spend a lot of time working on the animation project that i had in mind as my m.f.a. work. i also had one more required class, the one in which we put on the department's annual public art show. we had to either take that class or have an internship, and since i didn't have that, i had to take the dang class.

i wasn't looking forward to this, since i had already done film festivals at byu as well as working at sundance for a few years (actually, i never really helped plan byu's film festival, but in this instance i liked to think that i had.) one of the major aspects of this class was the creation of what are known as the "interstitials," videos that help break up the show, since some of the technical demonstration videos can get a little dry, especially to outsiders.

despite my inclination to avoid them, i ended up being the director of the interstitial team after suggesting we do a "back to the future" video since this was our 20th "viz-a-gogo" show. it took over my life for the rest of the semester, had me frustrated for various reasons throughout, although i learned a ton about producing and directing, even though it was a silly video from a crew of non-film students. (learning to lower my standards and expectations was extremely difficult.)

we did manage to get an actual delorean car for the shoot, which was actually much easier than i ever expected when i posited the idea in class. i even got to drive it back home when we were done filming early in the morning. (letting someone drive it also proved to be a great motivation for tired crew members.)
they don't have power steering so they're kind of a bugger to control and the speedometer only went up to 85 mph. go figure.

but they really attract a crowd and i quickly learned that owners are willing to share them. which seemed odd to me at first, since i figured they'd be viewed as a precious luxury. but i think the truth is that, if you have a delorean, you want to show it off, especially for "back to the future"-related stuff.

as if that wasn't enough work, we also made this cake. it's 2 feet by 3 feet, took about 15 cake mixes (if i remember correctly) and 11 pounds of powdered sugar in the frosting alone. not to mention baking for two nights straight.

that semester i also took the advanced scuba class and got certified as an advanced open water diver. some friends from school were getting married in florida so we took that as an excuse to go on a diving trip in the gulf of mexico.

while i was filming "viz to the future", i got an internship with adobe in san jose, california (literally while i was filming: the crew had to wait while i stepped out to get the details of my offer.) so, a few days after i got back from florida, i left on a four-day car trip to northern california.

it was the best road trip i've ever been on. we saw the alamo, carlsbad caverns, and the san diego zoo. we ate great food and found excellent hotels, fancy and creepy.

oh, yeah, and the full house house. which, despite me hating the show growing up while my sister watched it, was perhaps my favorite thing on the san francisco tour.

a few weeks after being at adobe, we had a week off for the fourth of july. and since i was on the coast, my brother and his wife were two hours north of me, and my sister & co. were in seattle, my parents came out and we got together at a beach house it oregon. good times were had by all.

being at adobe was exciting. my first few days were petrifying, as i was sure i was out of my league there. but it soon became normal, my day job, and there was something really cool about how natural it all felt. although i tried to always appreciate how cool it was that i was working on the twelfth floor of the corporate headquarters for adobe.

i'm the one holding Sg (for speedgrade)
the intern community there was pretty active, too. and while i kind of got tired of hanging around kids ten years younger than me, it was where i was at and we had fun together.

at falafel's drive-in, the best falafel you'll ever have
while i was out there i met a cute hair stylist who cut my hair for me. i'd kind of planned to get it cut at the end of my internship there, but she certainly sped up the process.

i loved living in the bay area. apple was about fiften minutes from where i lived. google was a few exits from adobe. facebook was a little further. and pixar was on the other side of the bay from san francisco.

on my way back to texas, we went through albuquerque and did a little sight-seeing.

i may or may not have made a giddy yelp when we came down the street
and while i've been doing all of this, my parents bought a house in oregon and then unexpectedly sold our house in minnesota. so, tomorrow morning, my mom and dad will be leaving moorhead, mn, permanently. we will be celebrating the holidays in a new house, probably without any snow.


a lot has happened in the last nine months. the irony is, because so much was happening, i didn't have time to write about it. and that's kind of a shame.

it's meant a lot to me how many people have told me that they miss my blog, or have told me that other people (whom i don't even know!) have told them that they miss my blog.

and it's good to be back.

jeff gustafson
sheep go to heaven

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

blue skies by noah and the whale

dear blog::

i've noticed something about relationships. you can say that even though i don't write here anymore, things are still the same. but that's not true. our bodies need constant nourishment. our souls need constant nourishment. and so do our relationships. if i stop writing with you, things are different, even if i don't want them to be.

i've spent the last half hour reading through old posts and rereading comments whilst discovering new ones (thanks, lj.) i love this blog. i really do. and i miss writing in it. but i'm busy with school and work and life and don't have the same unquenchable need to write that i used to have. and that was part of why i loved this blog so much; i wrote here because i had to.

honestly, it even feels a little different writing now, just because, well, we haven't written in a while. and i don't like that. i don't even think i realized things had gotten like this.

i'll try to talk more. you're still my blog.

-->jeff *

Monday, February 04, 2013

my 2012

for last four years or so, i've filled out this list of questions looking back at the previous year. i'm about a month later than i'd like, but i'm still doing it.

What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before? 
shot a commercial in washington, d.c., went on a date to watch a building implode, participated in a couple of different art shows, improved my ballroom dancing, learned judo and scuba, went to the houston space museum with my parents, toured the blue bell ice cream factory (twice) and also the cotton gin museum (neve did get around to blogging about those; shame), called 911 (twice-ish), went to boston in the fall, saw nick warren in concert (he was cool, concert was lame), got to practice riding horses, and made a dog vomit up an avocado pit.

Did you keep your new years' resolutions? 
not really.

What are some of your resolutions for 2013?
i have three areas that i'm trying to focus on:
  • school/thesis/career
  • financial planning and saving, even small steps while i'm still living on student worker pay
  • physical activity and health, which my kickboxing class is helping immensely

Did anyone close to you get married? 
brooke, rocio, and mark.
(not to each other)

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
my sister how has a little daughter and i have a niece.

Did anyone close to you die? 
i think the closest was when mca of the beastie boys past away.

What countries did you visit? 
i ventured outside of texas a few times.

What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? 
a "do anything or nothing with" friend within a reasonable distance.
preferably a girl.
but i'd be ok with another guy friend.
or a monkey.

What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
december 9, because it was a rough day and i was reminded that i have great friends across the country who know and love me despite my crazinesses.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
mark's bachelor party.

What was your biggest failure? 
my new year's eve out on the town in minneapolis.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
i got mono. that was one for the books.

What was the best thing you bought? 
my ipad.
i make sure that i use it for as much as possible so that i'm getting my money's worth.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 
i've got one friend (that none of you know) that's earning this.

Where did most of your money go? 
let's be honest: tuition and rent.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
singing rock band with the gang again. : )

What song will always remind you of 2012? 
i hate to admit it, but i know all the words to taylor swift's "we are never ever getting back together."
my total guilty pleasure.

Compared to this time last year, are you: much happier, richer, nicer? 
not richer, probably happier and at least nicer, i hope.

What do you wish you'd done more of? 
thesis work.

What do you wish you'd done less of? 
trying to think of something more creative yet still valid than "waste time"...

How did you spend Christmas? 
joyfully, with my whole extended family in minnesota.
and scanning a lot of pictures.

Did you fall in love in 2012?
no, but i really tried.

What was your favorite TV program? 
breaking bad.
best show ever.
(and speaking of my taylor swift comment a few lines ago... thanks, 786)

What was the best book you read this year? 
um, i ended up reading the steve jobs biography again, since it was on my ipad and so dang fascinating.

What did you want and get? 
a new red ipod nano. i love it and use it every day.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
i haven't seen very much at all, unfortunately, but i really loved moonrise kingdom, and am still ok calling that my favorite of the year.

and, of course, paperman.
if that doesn't win best short at the oscars, there are problems. big problems.

What were your least favorite films of this year? 
again, i can't think of much that i saw, but i was expecting a lot more from brave.

What were your favorite albums of this year? 
i remember a few years ago realizing that i was watching a lot of movies but that my exposure to music, especially new music, had kind of stagnated.
now, being at a computer for much of the day, i have plenty of time to explore music (spotify, i love you) yet don't have the time to watch movies very much.

of monsters and men's "my head is an animal" is certainly influenced by the hipster bands that i love right now (arcade fire, the decembrists, et al) and is a great album.
but i think i'm going to vote for regina spektor's "what we saw from the cheap seats" just because i want to.
ne me quitte pas

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 
took the chance and had a birthday party with friends here in texas.
it was a great success and we had some good rounds of rock band into the night.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 
to find my other half, someone who "fits."
i feel like i talk about it a lot, and i probably do.
i'm trying to live my life and enjoy all that i have, because i do have a lot and i do enjoy it. but there's still a part of me that feels incomplete, and i'm still searching for that.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? 
getting better. i've realized i like girls who look nice and am trying to do likewise.

What kept you sane? 
getting to give creative input on this was a lot of fun.
but the punching bag at the rec center helped a lot, too.

Who did you miss? 
all those good friends who are 1,000+ miles away.
especially sariah, jess, and katy.
i miss jaime, too.

Who was the best new person (people) you met? 
if you told me a year ago that kylee would be one of my closest friends in college station, i wouldn't've believed you.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012. 
as the rolling stones said,
"you can't always get what you want
you can't always get what you want"

What are you most excited for in 2013? 
for the second half of the chorus:
"but if you try sometimes
you just might find you get what you need"

What are you least excited for in 2013? 
i'll theoretically be graduating this year, and while i am dearly ready to be done with school, there's a lot to be done before then.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

someday we'll find it

the lovers
the dreamers
and me
fan art by lookgreatbegood from Tumblr
via facebook

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

it gets better

there wasn't even digital color
correction back then...
 on Christmas morning, my mom unwrapped a small box labeled as a photo negative scanner.
"oh, well, we all know how much i love technology," she said wryly.
after all these years, we have learned that.
"no, that's not your present," i quickly said.
"oh! is there something different inside the box?"
being that my mom has employed many varied and creative methods of wrapping and disguising presents over the years, this was a very reasonable question.
"um, no," i began. "the scanner isn't exactly your present. your present is that i'm going to go through all of our old family photos and scan them so that we can have them digitally."
thankfully, she was actually quite happy about this being her present.

and so, each night after the nephews were tucked in, i sat at the kitchen table and scanned hundreds and hundreds of old strips of film while my brother-in-law and i went through the lord of the rings trilogy. by the time i had to come back to texas, i had done the bulk of 1978-1995 and seen a lot of pictures i hadn't seen in years, if ever.

no, a lot of the photos aren't that good, and when you're shooting on film, you can't check to make sure it was a good shot of someone, nor can you take a lot and just keep your favorite. most years would have a dozen pictures from Christmas, compared to this year where i think i took 87 on Christmas morning and then edited down to the best ones on my mac.

but looking back on me and my family in the 80s and 90s was interesting. as i've gotten burned out and tired of and even a little annoyed at my nephews after only a few hours, i've developed new respect for my sister and all mothers and parents who do that all the time. and so i looked at those family moments in a new perspective, since i am now probably closer to my parents' age in those pictures than i am to myself at that time.

it was hard sometimes. kids are annoying. obnoxious. ungrateful. i can say that because i know i was. me and my brother and sister fought with each other. me taking advantage of my little brother or bugged by my sister. things got broken or the dog ran off because no one was keeping an eye on her and huskies are born to explore. and life is just hard and unglamorous most of the time. in a very real sense, looking over these pictures left me very grateful that my parents didn't give up in any number of ways that they could have.

my family is now spread out in four part all over the united states, all with individual lives. but everyone was able to come home for Christmas this year, something i took for granted only a few years ago. there were ten different stockings hung by the fireplace and the house was a home, warm and full. there are no estranged siblings and there were no fights. i daresay that everyone would agree that this was one of the best Christmases we've had (in part because i didn't screw it up.)

and i wish i could step back into one of those kodak negatives and show that family a few of the pictures from last month. not only would they be amazed with digital photography, but i'd want them to know to not give up, because they will make it. the trials will pass, the stresses lighten, and the questions will be answered. it'll work out. really well, actually.

i can't do that. but i can remind myself of that. that as i'm fighting through grad school, wanting to do well in a competitive industry, and wondering if we'll ever have to make room for a new stocking next to mine on the fireplace, yes, things don't stay the same forever.
and if you stick with it, it does get better.

post script: in case anyone out there has been thinking that they should get around to scanning their old pictures, here's the one i used. it's $30 and i've done over 3,000 pictures without any problem.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


there's a song called "thirty-three"
and another called "1979." that's
kind of my album right now, i guess
a few months ago i wrote about how i still act like i'm 25 and, for all intents and purposes, i may as well be.
the truth of it is that i am thirty-three years old. and my self-described "by the book" bishop felt it was time that i "transition" into a family ward. i smiled a little when he cited how the age gap gets bigger and it can make some of the younger girls feel a little uncomfortable, since cassidy is arguably my best friend at church and i think she'll be 20 this year. so i managed to talk myself in to amnesty until the end of the year. today, after twelve years, seven wards, and a whole lot of sunday school lessons, i went to a family ward.

i knew half a dozen couples from the ysa ward and after sacrament meeting i leaned forward and said hi to a couple.
"jeff! what are you doing here?"
"i'm in the ward now."
"not quite."
"you're engaged??"
"kicked out."

if getting married is referred to as "graduating" from a singles ward, i think of myself as having my g.e.d.

still, it's a friendly ward. in addition to the people i knew already, i had three or four people, generally in the borderline-overly-friendly-elderly-person group, introduce themselves to me before the service even started. that was nice and i think it'll be fine here. i did smile a little when one friend from church texted that she missed me and that i should still come to institute (which was my plan, anyway.) the sunday school president texted me also, saying that he missed me.

but, like i said, i'm 33 now. one of my friends that i grew up with in fargo was just called into the bishopric there and another is a high counsellor in the stake. time goes on, we grow up.

and while i'll always be me, i'm trying to grow up in some ways. elder christofferson's talk from last october's priesthood session was my favorite of the conference, a whole talk around the idea of "arise from the dust my sons, and be men." this line stuck with me:
In an observation that is too often accurate, one university professor remarked, “The men come into class with their backward baseball caps and [their lame] the ‘word processor ate my homework’ excuses. Meanwhile, the women are checking their day planners and asking for recommendations for law school.”
and it just prodded me to straighten up a bit and take my last (hopefully) year of school a little more seriously. i spent yesterday looking at my finances and am working to keep better track of where my money goes. i'm putting more thought into what i eat and going running every couple of nights (and loving my new ipod.)

there's a part of me that will always be 25 (or 17) at heart.
i like that about me.
but i'm growing up as well. and i like that part, too.

Friday, January 11, 2013


i originally intended to post this on Christmas eve.
i'm just now getting to it.

december 24, 2012 3:34 a.m. (so technically it's Christmas day)

everyone is home.

i used to find it a little odd when friends would talk about how their whole family would be coming home for Christmas that year. that's what you do at Christmas. why wouldn't your whole family come home?

but then life went on. my sister got married but brady came home and the family was a little bigger, not smaller (which was nice, since i remember the three of us getting home the year before and it seeming a little... stale?) then there was a little nephew to join the year after. but growing families mean stretching a young family budget and becky and brady weren't able to come home one year.

last year tim and lyndsie came home, but becky and her family celebrated out in seattle. me and tim and lynds had a good time and made the most of it, but still wasn't the same. it's how life goes. and soon it was a year and a half since i had seen my sister and her family. i used to see them every week.

but tonight becky and brady and caleb and isaac and annie flew into salt lake. i hadn't seen caleb for about a third of his life, yet my time with him for the first two years of his life imprinted me well, because he was thrilled to see uncle jeff again. and his younger brother, as with everything else, did the same.

a few hours later my dad and i were back at the small fargo airport, hugging my brother and his wife. and every room in the house was again full.

once the little kids were in bed, the big kids were up for a several more hours, talking and laughing and wrapping presents. i revealed that mom and i had bought four nerf(-like) dart guns for us to unwrap and  play with tomorrow morning and, in our own "gift the magi" way, becky said that she'd bought little dart guns for her boys. so that should be a good time.

now, everyone is asleep. i've wrapped my dad's present to my mom and helped my mom set out my her present to my dad. we've helped santa fill ten stocking hung by the fireplace and becky has promised that she'll hold the boys from waking me until 8:00 if she can.

this fall i took an institute class on the writings of isaiah. we spent a lot of time on chapters 52-53, probably the most well-known sections of the book. isaiah 52:7 begins with
how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace;
my teacher told us that the hebrew word for "beautiful" in that verse is the word nauvoo. it means not only "beautiful" but "suitable." the root connotes "properly to be at home, to be pleasant or suitable," and carries the idea of being at home, being satisfied.

tonight, with my whole family together for Christmas, that is how i feel.
at home.