Original article posted by Greg:

An old lady opened the door to her house wearing a nice grandma-ish outfit, and a vest embroidered with “Fashion Dragon.”

I have a new goal in life. And that goal is to be a Fashion Dragon.

I always heard people say that they would love to go back to their missions. And while on the mission I have always heard elders talking
about how they don’t ever want to go home.

I have always assumed these to be lies.

A few nights ago I was lying awake in bed, thinking about whatever it is that everybody thinks about while lying awake in bed. I thought about where I would be in 4 or 5 years. Suddenly I found myself in a panic, worrying about debt, school, career, family, insurance, age, co-workers, marriage, kids, dreams, goals, etc…

It was at that point that I understood more about why some people may not want to ever leave the mission. I love the fact that right now all I have to worry about is the gospel and loving others. And I don’t want to ever have to go back to the real world.

The panic did fade, but remained as a background buzz the past few days, until a well-timed letter from Kayeleen unintentionally reassured me that life will be okay, despite what it might end up doing to me.

In a matter of minutes I will be going to the church to have our missionary christmas dinner. I am quite excited. The thanksgiving dinner was so excellent here, but it made all the chinese food just seem like blech for the following week.

We just hit another semi-slump in the work over here. It makes for not a lot of time teaching, and a whole lot of time out trying to find people to teach. Most of whom say “NO!! NO!! AAAAHHH!!” or something similar.

But maybe that’s just because we’re getting blessed personally instead
of the work being blessed? Who knows.

I look forward to recieving your letters and thoughts on the subject.
By which I mean any subject. And also your pictures. by which I mean
of any subject, including you. For those of you who know Luke Millhouse, he sends the following greeting: “Figgy Puddin?” To which I can only agree wholeheartedly.

This is your brain on wassail,
-Elder Hamblin, Fashion Gecko in Training

Orginal comments:

Nickname: Stephanie
Re: If you were hoping for anything from me for christmas, hope for something else.
Hello, Oreo. this is kella. I borrowed Steph’s log-in to say hi. She’s coming to visit me tomorrow and help me finish up some presents for Scott that I need her help with. I may also rope her into helping me in my classroom. I teach fifth grade; against all reason I can conjur up it appears to be what God has in mind. I keep arguing for a stay-at-home-and-do-nothing-while-reading-Nibley approach, but school marm suits me better and better each day. And it helps one get used to their new last name in a hurry, too. Scott loves being at the Y, which is promising since it appears we will be there for years to come. (aagh) I’ll probably teach for 2-3 years before we can have a kid, but having 30 of my own keeps the baby-hunger from being overwheling.

We’re the gospel doctrine teachers in our ward (with, like, 15 other couples – no, I’m not kidding) but Scott doesn’t like public speaking and has a track record of having already fainted twice in his life while at the pulpit. We have to teach every fast Sunday; having not eaten does not work in his favor; so I tend to do more of the teaching than him. This is surprisingly difficult for me. I like to talk, and I like the church, but it’s not like I know any more about it than anybody else, let alone RMs, so what position am I in to have anything to teach? Yeah. That’s what I thought. I spend a lot of time quoting other people, but with cute toddlers running around fortunately nobody pays too much attention anyhow.

Teaching consumes my life and leaves very little of me left for making new friends. Plus, I’m shy around women. And all the women I work with are post-menopausal. So all my friends (Scott excepting) are ten years old. In some respects they’re nicer than adults.

Tera got married yesterday. That was weird. (I think her marriage was what sparked the “help-I-have-no-friends” cry I had yesterday) She married some third-year law student who graduates in May. But she still has 2 1/2 years of law schol herself.

Marriage is very fun. I highly recomend it. I’m a calmer, kinder person. (but don’t get your hopes up — not by much, yet.) Your letters are very greg-ish. I guess you must really be writing them instead of paying off your companion to do it. I’m afraid we’re off to a Christmas party so this (entirely random) note must end without much time to give you the encouragement that missionaries deserve in their letters. I’ll do better next time.


Nickname: Stephanie
Re: If you were hoping for anything from me for christmas, hope for something else.
Hi Greg, this is actually me. You remember me? Stephanie? I haven’t written in a while so you may have forgotten so I forgive you.
Blaine wants to know Luke’s address. And me too. We will write him AND you. So would you include it in an email so we can all see and barrage Luke (and YOU) with letters.
love ya

Nickname: gandhi2
a few things reminded me of you
To Elder Greg Hamblin,

I have stated in a previous/only other letter that I don’t not write(that is type up a letter, print, stamp, address, an mail) very often. I share Ryan’s affiliation with modern technology, and email/im is too quick for me to consider other alternatives. I hope this gets to you by the appropriate channels(I believe that your mother is printing out responses and mailing them). When I do write, however,….boy, do I write. This was illustrated by Cube yesterday when he pulled out the 16 page letter written by me detailing a year of changes in my life. This by the way, is the first thing to remind me of you.
The second thing to remind me of you was an encounter, and 15 minute conversation.
First some back story. I have been challenging my mental facilities of late in the employment field. I have come to the realization that my previously tried-and-true method of finances does not work with a wife and child. I can no longer subsist from part-time jobs wherein I work only as long as I want, make enough to eat ramen, and spend 80% of my net income on entertainment. I believe as of the last letter, I had managed to weasel my way into a position with a programming company in Hurricane. That ended, whether for better or worse in this fashion(imagine this in comic format): Brian(HR Director/Tech Director/My Supervisor/Project Leader for 5 of our 8 projects):”Abe, don’t go out to eat just yet. You have lunch with me and Matt(CEO/Founder/Client Management/Primary Investor) today!” Later, at lunch…. Matt: How is school? Me: Fine, I am doing well. Brian: How is work with the USF. Me: Also fine. Matt: Well…enough of this small talk. Abe, remember how we hired you to do everything we didn’t have time to do or didn’t WANT to do? Me: ….Yeeeeees…. Brian: Remember how we never allowed you to move to a more challenging position, despite your continual proof that you could handle it, because we wanted somebody expendable? Me: ….Yeeeeees…. Matt: Well we hired a new chief financial officer. He says your position is the most expendable. Your job will not exist tomorrow. We would like you to find clients for us, kinda like sales, and be paid on comission. How does it sound to support a family on an unstable income? We need an answer. Now. The End. This may have worked, but I’ll never know, because although I was kinda backed into a corner on this, they never replied to my “yes” answer.
I ended up doing the USF job for the rest of the summer and the fall season, which was ok, but it ended. Although I was working for Publications still, the hours were incredibly sporadic and November/December were looking pretty rocky. I could avoid it no longer….the inevitable pull of the crappy fast food job was sucking me in. It just so happens that Cube’s wife is a shift manager at Wendy’s, and I am currently working there part time until I can find something more suitable for a valedictorian, technophile, and talented(albeit humble πŸ˜‰ ) artist.
Ok, circular logic in play here. One of the employees who works there happened to overhear a conversation I was having about computers, and he found out that I was a CS major interested in a career in game development. He just happens to be developing a video game, has a (small) team of people currently working on it, and has some training in the business end of game development. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while(remember “The Fourth Race”, the HalfLife mod that never was? I guess that this is sort of the 2.5nd thing that reminded me of you) but some people just have the required dedication to get it done. I’ve been making time to do some programming work for the project, which has been quite fun.
Oh, yeah. His roommate is Taiwanese. His “English” name is Robin, he’s a CS major who, at the time, was somewhat stressed by finals, gettting into gen-ed courses, and frustrated by the beaurocracy surrounding college. He speaks Mandarin, and (…sorry…) laughed at the plight of my friend serving a mission in Taiwan, explaining that the majority of the population was not very religious, practicing a mainly non-spiritual version of Buddhism.
I have just posted the third thing that made think of you, the Sumatra tsunami that hit really hard in Thailand. The first thing I did was check the damage in Bangkok and Patanni, both areas where I have close friends/psuedofamily. Then I fired off an email to Australia to make sure my buddy Prem was OK, and to see if his family was OK. Then, I checked to see the locality of Taiwan to the center of the quake. Looks like you weren’t that close to it, but I’d still like to hear some confirmation that you are alive.
Well, that is essentially the history of the last time I sent you a letter. Since then, not much has happened that isn’t just the everyday everydayness of life. My daughter is growing up VERY quickly. She has shown some affiliation towards gaming, computers, and technology. Granted, at this point, these are interpretted by me rather loosely, and I am often more frustrated by than proud of her continually upsetting of the neat stacking of my games, DVDs, and CDs. She also has a habit of yanking on power cords, ethernet, and RCA cables, and I pull her out from her small cave under the computer desk more than three times every day, ending her blissful pounding/music-making atop my computer case. Its also somewhat embarassing when I have to explain to my fellow FFXI-ers after the string “aasdfsssssssssssssaf” is outputted on the screen. Perhaps if I was not too lazy to punctuate, the much repeated phrase “sorry baby” wouldn’t be misinterpreted so often… Despite my financial complaints and the additional stresses, I have never really known what happiness felt like until now.
Fortunately, you don’t really sound like you need alot of spiritual uplifting. If this is so, tuck this section away for a rainy day. Refer back to it as often as you need. I have recently done some amount of meditation about my personal spirituality, due to a couple encounters with some more “mainstream” friends. They have expressed some concern for my soul, mostly because(although I personally feel that I have a strong spirituality) I have currently conciously chosen to stay away from any organized religion. This in addition to some conversations with my family, have resparked old questions, and I’ve had to reassess what exactly it is I believe in. I hope these thoughts can serve to confirm your own convictions about God, belief, and your personal spirtual mission over there. I’m really a very logical creature, and have placed alot of faith in observation and the observable. With somethings that may not be observable(God, faith, etc) I have to rely on the effects or the results that myself and others have had. I have had perhaps a bit more diverse of a spiritual experience than alot of people in this area. The one thing that seems to be constant in every faith is that people who have a solid spirituality and a strong belief in WHATEVER, have led full, joyous lives. The first Buddha was a prince, who gave up all his riches, because of a strong BELIEF that he had. Writings tell that he was always calm, lived a very long and happy life. Joseph Smith, in his final hours, sang a song as the mobs closed on the prison. He was also known as a very calm man, who led a happy life. In all the stories of Jesus, and several other religious leaders in other religions, anger was met with laughter, hate with love, and violence with submission and forgiveness. From my studies, I have come up with a theory that there is a POWER in belief. Science states that a sound theory is easily disprovable. I know that this area is kind of a fuzzy area of observation, but I have observed countless instances where somebody’s profound belief in something could have potentially affected both the outcome of the situation and their sense of well-being about it. I guess the advice from this belief is to KNOW what it is you believe in, to believe in it strongly, and to maintain these beliefs as yours PERSONALLY.
The second major faith I have is in progression. Some of my religous philosophies border on kind of mathematical fetishes; if you heard me talk about fractals, infinity, or the ideal, you’d catch a sense of reverie in my voice. There are SO many sources in science and math that(to me, at least) provide proof of a workable model for an infinitely progressing model of the universe, that I personally believe is reflected in an intelligence beings level of perfection/spirituality/godliness. One of the core beliefs that I have, that resonates within the very consciousness that makes up myself, is that the entity/consciousness/being that is God is an artist. A creator has to have a spark of the desire to create, which is the definition of the artist. To me, there is no more asthetic model of creation than one that has infinite potential for greatness. If you find yourself discouraged by your personal stage of development, consider the implications of the above theory: nobody is perfect, perhaps you will never become perfect, but it is your duty/privilege to take the time required to become MORE perfect.
The third major belief that I have is in balance and order. This comes more from scientific observations, what little understanding I have in math, and just looking out at the world than philosophical speculation. So often I see proofs of an intelligent “hand” behind the workings of the universe. In my personal life, this has translated more as keeping an open mind and avoiding a slide towards one end of the spectrum, where more often than not, somebody else ends up making the choices for you. I don’t believe that I have enough information, and I hope I wouldn’t be so egotistical, to assume that my path is the only path to happiness. The Buddhists have a very interesting belief about the path to nirvana. They say that all Buddhas have traveled the same path, reached the same conclusions, in the same order. When I first heard this, I thought back to something else that I remembered from Mormon teachings about spirit prison and cardinal sin. What I speculated then was that the only way to have a just God with an all-forgiving Savior was that salvation didn’t depend on an ultimate decision made by God. It was a PERSONAL decision, but that certain choices in life put your conciousness in such a state that it made it very difficult to progress to the next step. I don’t quite know what I’m saying there, but I hope that you can see with an open mind in your dealings with people both in and out of the Mormon church. If I were asked to do what you are doing in Taiwan, my introduction would be pretty simple…just two questions, followed by a monologue. 1)Are you happy in life? 2)Would you like to hear how I became MORE happy in MY life?
Some of the reason I originally decided not to stay in the Mormon church was that I was really confused about how I could have personal spirituality amidst an organized religion, kind of mass spirituality. I think I’ve come to a few conclusions now that reveal that this is possible. Brigham Young talked about three levels of religion: (and I’m paraphrasing here) principle, law, and ordnance. I call them by different names, but I think that its essentially the same: ideal, principle, and ritual. Most of the time, ordnance/ritual is used as a vessel for understanding principle/ideal. If you can look beyond the ordnance of serving a mission, and come to understand the principle thereof, you’ll have no problem dealing with the down times, the homesickness, the disappointment, the doubt, the slammed doors and angry Chinese oaths… πŸ™‚
Ok, that ends that section…enough of the sappy and profound. Seriously, I think that you are doing this for all the right reasons, and am rooting for you. Hope you find the answers you are looking for.
This ends my quota of required letters. Cube got the most, which was two. Don’t expect any more! The theory is that volume/quality vs. quantity will keep you sustained. Besides, it always pays to be pessimistic. That way, you can be pleasantly suprised when things turn out right.

Your friend, and spiritual cheerleader(GOOOOOO GREG!! Gimme a G….um. Can’t do it. Sorry.)