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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures - A personal narrative written for my English class

          I’ve had a number of situations I would consider defining moments for me. For many people, a lot of the defining moments are the same types of situations, such as marriage, the birth of one’s first child, divorce, graduation from high school and/or college. The defining moment I share with you now doesn’t fall into any of those categories. What I recall about this time is the difficulty of finding motivation, strength, and value within myself. I was involuntarily unemployed, so I basically had all the time in the world. At the same time, however, I felt like I still didn’t have any time.
            Because I had so much, time lost its value. Because I squandered my time, I lost sight of my own value. My wife and I were renting a basement apartment from her brother and living off her near-minimum-wage part-time job and my unemployment insurance checks. I felt like a useless, worthless piece of nothing. With each payment deposited to our checking account, we struggled to determine which of the bills was most crucial to be paid next. I lived primarily off cold cereal, and I started mixing water with milk powder from our long-term stored food to save the expense of fresh milk.
            To top off this downward spiral of events and emotions, my wife’s car broke down. Without the means to take it to a shop to be fixed, I began to diagnose the problem on my own. I figured it shouldn’t be too much trouble. I had, after all, successfully worked on my dad’s 1976 pickup truck in years gone by. This car, however, proved to be much more difficult very quickly.
Comparing a 2003 coupe to a 1976 full-size pickup truck is like comparing a half-empty gallon-jar of pickles and a can of sardines, with the latter being the coupe. Not only was the working area much smaller, but there were many more parts to deal with too. For some reason, air bags and air conditioning and fuel injectors and sensors of every type caught on over the years and became standard equipment on newer cars. I could barely squeeze my hands into areas under the hood of the coupe where I could nearly fit my whole body in those same areas in the pickup.
The symptoms pointed to a problem with either fuel or ignition. The spark plugs and wires were good. We had replaced them the year prior. The battery was still good. The alternator tested fine. The air filter was still moderately clean, and we had kept up on oil changes. In my mind, there were only two other possibilities. One required a $10 part. The other was an $800 fix at a nearby shop. I crossed my fingers and changed the fuel filter.
I held my breath as I turned the key to try to start the car.
It was no use. The car wouldn’t start.
That meant we had a worst-case scenario. I had to take the car in to be fixed by someone who was qualified to change the fuel pump embedded within the fuel tank; to the tune of $800.
There was only one problem with that. I didn’t have $800 to spend on car repairs. I didn’t have $800 period. That didn’t change the fact, however, that my wife needed the car to get to work and school.
Consequently, I decided to do the bravest, stupidest thing I had ever done. I decided to tackle the job myself.
After borrowing $250 from my father-in-law to buy a replacement fuel pump and a car repair manual, I started pulling that little car apart, with no hope of being able to hire someone to put the thing back together for me at any point in the foreseeable future.
I was pretty proud of myself when I finally got the fuel tank removed and confirmed the part I had bought with borrowed money was the right one for the job – it was a perfect match to the bad fuel pump. I marveled at the cheap plastic construction of the fuel tubes on the pump. “How on Earth did I get that out without breaking those little plastic nipples/tubes?” I wondered to myself. I made a mental note to be sure to reattach the fuel tank with extra caution.
After siphoning the fuel out of the tank to make it easier to lift back into place, I began worming the tank through all the other parts on the car’s undercarriage to get it into the right spot. With a twist here and a turn there, I had it in a position where it needed just a little bit of a boost to be snugly back in place. I gave it a little upward push, and CRACK!
I don’t remember exactly what I did next, but I will never forget the feeling of utter despair and hopelessness I felt in that moment. I was so close to likely having fixed the car on my own and getting things back in order, but instead, I managed to make the situation even worse. I had broken a $250 part I bought with borrowed money. I couldn’t borrow that much money again just to end up breaking another one. I couldn’t borrow the money to have someone else fix the car, and I wouldn’t ever have that much money to spend on car repairs as far as I knew in that moment. My unemployment checks would soon run out. Without a car my wife wouldn’t be able to get to and from work. Without an income, we could become homeless and destitute. In that moment, I felt I had just missed a minor success, and instead, doomed my wife and myself to a terrible fate.
In retrospect, I was making things out to be much worse than they really were – but that’s how depression works.
I did, however, learn that, given an abundance of time, the human mind can come up with brilliant solutions to life’s problems. This is the part of my defining moment I like to focus on, looking back.
With no other options available, I spent a lot of time staring at the broken fuel pump. I cursed the engineers who designed it and the manufacturers who produced it. How could they possibly have been so stupid!?
However, while I stared at their blunder, which was now my problem, I devised a plan that I dared execute only out of sheer desperation. It could be dangerous. If the plan failed, it could potentially end with the car in flames. I was, after all, dealing with the pressurizing and distribution of gasoline from an electrically-operated component.
I carefully measured the broken plastic tubes and headed to the hobby store. I picked up some small brass tubing, super glue, and epoxy. A careful search on the internet informed me that super glue would not likely be dissolved by gasoline.
I inserted the brass tubing inside the cheap plastic tubing, creating a durable internal skeletal sleeve. The fit was perfect, allowing an application of super glue to adhere the parts securely. After giving the super glue time to cure, I drenched the whole top of the component with 2-part epoxy resin, completely enveloping the brass-plastic tubes in the glob of glue, aside from their openings for fuel flow.
After the epoxy cured, it seemed I could probably hit that part of the pump with a hammer without doing any damage. Of course, I wasn’t taking any chances. I reassembled all the car’s parts very carefully, and this time the fuel tank went up into its spot without any obvious signs of damage. I still had to be brisk with it though, so I was wary when I went back to try to start the car again.
To my pleasant surprise, the car started right up. There were no signs of fuel leakage, even with the pump running. No warning lights illuminated on the dash board while the engine ran, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Nothing, of course, except that I had just fixed a $250 critical component of a modern vehicle with less than $10 worth of supplies from the hobby store.
Looking back on this moment, there are two things I learned: First, human ingenuity can be astounding at times, and I’m human - so that includes me. Second, desperation is the polar opposite of fun, but sometimes it can be in those desperate moments we shine our best.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Goodbye, sweet Kiwi.

Throughout my youth, I figured I knew all I needed to about pets, but my first year of marriage taught me I was sorely mistaken.
I grew up in a pet-free home. I also had very few friends who had pets. After my oldest sister married, she had a cat she called CC, for Crazy Cat; it was a mean cat, and I was highly allergic to it too. My next door neighbors, whom I didn't socialize with much, had pets. The neighbors on one side had an annoyingly yappy little Yorkshire Terrier, and the neighbors on the other side had two yappy dogs and a cat, which preferred my mom's flower bed to its own litter box. 
Conversely, my wife grew up with pets in her home. She had a parakeet, "Puffin," and a cat, "Sadie," who were both her best friends. Sadie, an outside cat, would walk my (many-years-later-to-be) wife, Sharisse, home from elementary school for the last couple blocks, and Sharisse would get squawked at by Puffin until Sharisse opened the bird's cage door so she could hang out on Sharisse's shoulder for the rest of the day. She loved those animals and was heartbroken when they died. 
I never knew either of those pets, but I've heard stories about them from Sharisse and her family.
About the time Sharisse and I got engaged, she got a new feathered friend; a parakeet whose colors reminded us of a blue sky spotted with white clouds.  We later named the bird Cyrus, a name similar to Cirrus clouds. That bird moved into our first apartment with us.
Within our first year of marriage, in that first apartment, we were eager to get to know new people; especially our close neighbors. We had invited our downstairs neighbors up for Sunday dinner one week, to which they obliged. Before that evening was over, Cyrus, the parakeet, began flapping its wings rapidly, spraying blood on the adjacent wall. Obviously this wasn't normal, so we immediately examined the bird. It was bleeding from a wing. We quickly consulted the yellow pages in the phone book to find a veterinarian practice open late on a Sunday night. After several calls, we found one. However, it was about 40 minutes away, the examination fee would be $80, and we still had guests over. Of those three, though, my biggest concern was the cost.
The $80 fee would only cover the exam, and there would likely be additional expenses, not to mention the cost of driving that far. At that time, as is the case for innumerable newlyweds, we were both working full-time-plus and still living paycheck to paycheck. Covering the medical expenses for the bird would be difficult at best. 
With this in mind, I came up with a solution that I thought was both very intelligent and fiscally responsible, without having to give up having a pet in our home. I told my wife, "The bird only cost $20 at the pet store. If this one doesn't make it for some reason, we can just get another one."
As my wife's lips immediately began to quiver, her eyes filled with tears, her face soured, and I knew I had just said the stupidest, most insensitive thing I possibly could have in that moment; in front of our guests, no less. I felt my face turn red with embarrassment, and I very quickly changed my tune to something more along the lines of, "Yes, dear; anything you want."
We made the journey, the vet stopped the bleeding and told us the bird would be fine, and we paid no more than just the exam fee.
Now, 10 years later, it's obvious my heart has opened up much more to household pets. We lost Kiwi, one of our younger parakeets, to a sudden illness yesterday. While Sharisse hasn't had much the same relationship with our birds as she did with her childhood parakeet, Puffin, she was nonetheless very broken up about Kiwi's death. I've been the birds' primary caretaker since we put them up on a shelf hanging in a corner of our living room, safely protected from our cat, who would like nothing more than to eat our little birds. Because the shelf is high up, it's easier for me to refill their food and water dishes than it is for Sharisse to do so. Sadly, though, the birds don't get a lot of attention because it seems they prefer it that way.
Anyway, I find my heart aching as much for my own loss from Kiwi's death, as it aches for Sharisse's loss; and we both feel terrible for the poor, sweet little bird, who helped to keep our home happy with her cute chirping and songs. I spent some time, today, making a box from pine board to serve as a coffin for Kiwi; something past birds didn't receive, as they were buried in cardboard boxes. I think making the box allowed me an opportunity to grieve and to feel like I was somehow making up for being absent in her last moments, in addition to potentially having terrorized the poor bird with the vacuum cleaner as I was cleaning up around her cage as she was sitting on the bottom, too sick to sit up top with the other bird, a safe distance from the vacuum hose. 
As we nailed the pine box closed and buried it in the ground, it became clear to me just how far I've come in caring about our household pets. I used to not care for animals at all, and I never really wanted to have any pets. We've mainly had pets for my wife's sake. However, even though I didn't have a lot of interaction with Kiwi, she was my bird, she lived in my home, she was dependent on me for her sustenance, and it's obvious I cared about her. Perhaps I even loved that little bird. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Q&S Hendriksen - 2012 in Review

Christmas 2012
Our dear family and friends,

                We want to wish you a very merry Christmas, and we hope the joy of the season and the love of our Savior will abide with you in your hearts and in your homes. We also hope for a very happy new year for all of you.
                Since we’re not as good at making it to family events (or any events with friends) as we would like to be, and since this has been such a news-filled year for us, we thought we ought to finally join in the tradition of year-end newsletters to let our loved ones know how (and what) we’re doing.

                Sharisse has been attending school at Weber State University, working toward a degree in math. Upon the joyous return of Summer break this year, Sharisse went to work searching for a new job. Her dedication finally paid off in September when she found an enviable position with the University of Utah Medical Center. She now works part time for them as a ‘floating’ Certified Medical Assistant (working at various locations depending on where she’s needed).
                While Quentin was in Arkansas for a couple weeks for some training for his new job, Sharisse went in for an eye exam. We’re grateful she did. She had been having some problems with the vision in her right eye, and the doctor at the eyeglasses store was able to see why. He told her she needed to see a specialist immediately because she had serious lattice degeneration, causing her retinal detachment. This explained why her peripheral vision had been impaired as of late.
                Less than a week from that first appointment, Sharisse had seen the specialist with her dad, Quentin had returned home (as scheduled) and took her in to LDS Hospital, where the specialist, Dr. Alldredge, performed surgery on both her eyes. The left eye was treated with a laser (receiving cryotherapy) to prevent any possible future retinal detachment. The right eye’s surgery was much more involved. With Sharisse under general anesthesia, the doctor placed a scleral buckle around her eye to reshape the eye to reduce stress on the retina. He also performed a vitrectomy (removal of the vitreous fluid) and a pneumatic retinopexy (an air bubble inserted into the eye in place of the vitreous fluid) to allow the retina to reattach without being pressured by the vitreous fluid.
                Sharisse had complications in that first surgery and has had many complications since that time as well. This has afforded her a total of five surgeries on her right eye thus far. Three of them were under general anesthesia and two of them were in-office procedures.
                Sharisse still has very limited vision in her right eye. She received a contact lens which helps her get as good as 20/80 vision out of that eye, but that still leaves most things very blurry. Her depth perception has proved to be nearly nonexistent, and her vision is limited even more at night. Needless to say, she doesn’t do much driving, and when she needs to go in to work she utilizes public transportation and hitches rides with Quentin when possible. She looks forward to her final (fingers crossed) surgery where she’ll receive a new intraocular lens. Assuming she has no further complications between now and then, this is expected to occur in February.

Since 2009, Quentin has been working with the Utah Army National Guard’s Military Funeral Honors team. In September or October 2011 he became the Ogden team leader, and with his promotion to Sergeant in November (2011), he officially became the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the Ogden Military Funeral Honors office.
Just before deploying to Morocco for a few weeks with the 128th MPAD in April this year for training in support of African Lion 2012, one of two full-time positions for the 23rd Army Band opened up, and Quentin submitted an application. His experience in Morocco (his second time to the country, since he had deployed there with the 23rd Army Band for 10 days in 2010) was educational and rewarding. He spent most of his time there in tents on a coastal desert, capturing the training that was occurring between the Marines and the Moroccan military. His unique position as a public affairs sergeant afforded him a lot of opportunity to rub shoulders with high-ranking officials, and he later received a very appreciative letter of praise addressed through his platoon sergeant from the man who was second-highest in command at the Field Training Exercise.
Upon his return from Africa, Quentin boarded (interviewed) for the position with the band and was offered the job. He started May 1st, becoming the first soldier to move up from Active Duty for Operational Support (ADOS) orders with the Military Funeral Honors team to an Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) position within the Utah National Guard in the 5+ year history of that Honor Guard program.

With Quentin’s new job in West Jordan, we became serious once again about finding our first home to purchase and started working with a real estate agent  in May or June. With Sharisse’s new job in Salt Lake City, it was confirmed that the home would need to be in Salt Lake County or a Southern portion of Davis County. In November we found the home that felt right and that fit what we were looking for and we put an offer in just before Thanksgiving. After receiving a counter offer and responding with our own counter offer, we went under contract the week after Thanksgiving, and the deal closed on the 20th of December.
Sadly, Sharisse’s Grandma Uhrey, who was very excited for us to find a house, won’t have the opportunity to see the place in this life. Donna Lou Longfellow Uhrey returned to her Father in Heaven after a pleasant Thanksgiving Day with her family and after saying goodnight and goodbye to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Not realizing it at the time, we witnessed the ambulance and fire trucks leaving the station, heading for Sharisse’s parents’ home from where we had just left. Upon arriving home and hearing the news from Sharisse’s brother Torrey (whose basement apartment we’ve been happily renting for the last 4.75 years), the three of us headed back to Mom and Dad’s house to find Grandma being recalled by the paramedics, but not willing or able to return to us.
This Christmas will be a little less bright without Grandma Uhrey, but we still look forward to the opportunity to spend time with family and to celebrate the birth of our Savior, who has made it possible for us to have the opportunity to live with our loved ones in the eternities.
We hope this letter finds all in good health and in good spirits, and we wish for you a very merry Christmas and a very happy new year. May our Father’s love abide in your homes and in your hearts as we celebrate the birth of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lots of love,
Quentin & Sharisse Hendriksen

Friday, May 04, 2012

Photo 2 of 2

Waxing Nostalgic

                He looked around the room one last time. All his stuff was out. He was really leaving, and it was finally hitting him. He decided he couldn't leave without taking two pictures with his phone - one from each end of the room.  Then he calmly and quietly locked and closed the door behind him as he slowly walked away.
                This office hadn't been his favorite building to work in of the four he'd been assigned in the course of the job, but it was where his time was spent as the noncommissioned officer in charge and where he was able to, in a small way, make a difference by making sure no appointments were missed, everything was kept clean and orderly, and everything that was to be done was finished correctly and timely. His record wasn't perfect, but he knew the program had been better off because of his dedication to the job.
                On his way out of the building he checked each door he went through, as it closed behind him, to ensure it was secured.  The personnel gate outside was locked, but the vehicle gate had been left open, as it had been just a couple other times during his tenure. He had already turned in his keys, so he only had two options. Rather than climbing over the fence, he took the longer walk through the vehicle gate - out and around to the employee parking lot. He put the few items he was carrying into his car and drove back to the vehicle gate to courteously close and lock it, as a good team member would, covering for his buddy, - one last time.
                He reflected on his time with the job. It had been about two and a half years since he began - starting as a part-timer. The hundreds of funerals he had worked flashed through his mind in a big blur. He thought of the people with whom he had worked, the families of the departed servicemen, the things he had done and learned, and the sacrifices he had made - even torturously missing his grandmother's funeral while he was away at a leaders' course for the job. He waxed nostalgic as he drove home.
                It reminded him of when he had left a schoolhouse back East for the last time not too long ago - the place where he had learned so many things and fell more and more in love with a new field of work and study. The place was filled with memories of so many lessons learned, some weaknesses found, and more success than he would have guessed. The memories were sweet, as the mind tends to block out the negative on its own, and for a moment he decided to simply reflect on what he had accomplished, rather than stressing about what was ahead and all he had to do.
                The job to come would bring much more to learn and much more stress. It would be more complicated simply by the nature of the work. It didn't really matter though. He knew he could do it. He had proved to himself that he could do hard things and take responsibility seriously. The job he was leaving had prepared him for the new one.
                He pondered on the possibility of continuing to work the old job whenever he could. He could devote his newly won weekends to working more funerals. This would allow him to continue wearing the tab on his uniform that he was so proud of. The tab meant a lot to him. He had worked hard for it. It was tempting to prolong the separation from the old job this way, but he realized he couldn't do it. The weekends the new job provided would have to be dedicated to excelling in his new position. There was work to be done, and he couldn't afford to live in the past. The separation had to be clean. He had known this already, but finally realized it and admitted it to himself.
                Besides, he was leaving the office in capable hands. The new NCOIC was present in the infancy of the program and hadn't really ever left since that beginning. Another soldier served as the resident expert on matters pertaining to the geographic area of responsibility and the veterans' groups the team worked with.  The replacement soldier was a good fit for the job too. He could play 'Taps' live, he had been well trained, and he had been the runner up for the new job being taken by the first.
                The program would go on without him, although that wasn't really ever a question. He was just realizing that he'd be able to go on without the program - even if he didn't really want to.
                No, everything would be fine. There were new stresses and challenges ahead. There would be times he'd feel like banging his head against a wall and times he'd wonder, again, what he had gotten himself into, but everything would be fine. It was time to move on - and he realized he was okay with it.

Photo 1 of 2

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ode to Larry

My former college choir director, UVU's Professor Gene Lawrence (Larry) Johnson, passed away on July 8, 2011, due to complications following a liver transplant.

Preferring his students to address him simply as "Larry," he was an easy-going guy with a good sense of humor. On a particularly rowdy day in class among the choiristers, Larry became very frustrated with the choir's inability to remain quiet and listen to instruction. His voice cut through the no...ise with "DANG IT ALL TO HECK!" - The room fell silent. As everyone attentively stared at him, he began to laugh at himself over his outburst. He offered a brief explaination/apology, and we all moved on with class, better behaved.

He truly LOVED the music and had an INCREDIBLE ear for it. I'll never forget the rehearsal when I was the only one who was actually able to hit the "low C" written in the bass line of the Russian piece we were working on. Obviously I wasn't able to project the note loudly, but HE HEARD IT! Right after he cut us off at the end of the piece he excitedly asked, "Who was that?" I doubt many other people heard the note, but Larry did, and that made me feel like a million dollars that day. :) Thank you, Larry, for sharing your talents and your passion with me and so many others.

Larry's Tribute Page on Facebook can be found here.

Larry's obituary can be read here.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

I'm now on YouTube!

I've just uploaded my latest video slide show to YouTube! :) This is the first time I've uploaded there.

Check it out by clicking HERE

or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyWo2WavSjw

Friday, July 08, 2011

Sunrise After Early-Morning Physical Training

This drinking fountain is in the plaza of the Freedom Center bachelor housing on Fort Meade, Md. The sun rises red on a purple horizon most mornings. I'll try to capture this shot again soon with better color accuracy.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My "About Me" Video


This link forwards to a video I created in an attempt to showcase my work for the Utah National Guard's 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment to accompany my application for transfer into the unit. I guess it worked. :) I'm now in school at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. to learn the art of Public Affairs and Photojournalism within the realm of the Department of Defense.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Farewell, Grandma. I love you forever!

04 April 2011, Salt Lake City - A wonderful, beautiful, sweet, and loving woman slipped from this life into the next last night due to ailments incident to old age and memory-loss. This woman was my dear grandmother, Dorothy Hendriksen. Born on 25 NOV 1928, she was raised by a public school music teacher and his second wife, her step-mother. Her birth mother had died by the time Dorothy was 3 years old. Her family was a very large and loving group. She was the third of thirteen children. They learned faith in God and love of country in their home. They were taught the value of hard work and all became upstanding citizens within their communities (and some have become very well known).

She met the love of her life, Oscar Hendriksen, in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and they served there together for decades. They raised eight wonderful children, all of whom are accomplished musicians. A couple of them have been music teachers in public schools for years, many of them teach private music lessons, and two of them currently serve in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. All of her children have made her proud and all have fond memories of her strict expression of love and method of teaching.

She generously shared her love with those around her through word and deed and taught hard work through example. Her grandchildren were always thrilled to visit at her house and were always given food or treats. Her love of and service through music extended beyond her retirement from the Tabernacle Choir. She spent many years as a Ward Choir Director and would often lead her family in songs at campouts, reunions, and holiday parties. Even as her mind slowly slipped away from her in her last several years on this earth (as had also happened to her father) and she eventually couldn't speak or take care of her own essential needs, she knew, recognized, and loved music and could often still "direct" her family as they sang songs with her and for her.

She left a lasting impact on the lives of her siblings, her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, as well as all others who had the opportunity to get to know her. She will be remembered for her kind ways, for her loving nature, for her generosity, for her great example to others, and for her infectious love of music. She will be missed by all who knew her.

Farewell, Grandma. I love you forever!

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