Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Best of the Decade!

There seem to be a slew of “end-of-decade” remembrance blog posts cropping up, so I thought I’d do my own. But instead of just doing a general overview of each year, I thought I’d categorize each year. First, a general overview of what I did. Second, the best picture from that year. Third, the best song I wrote that year. Fourth, the best blog post from that year (for years that have blog posts for them). And finally, what I learned from that year. Onwards!


To celebrate New Year’s of the new millenium, Kjersti and I were at the Bawden’s house with Lyndee and Carina Jensen. At midnight, to do something memorable, I threw myself headlong into a snowbank in the front yard! Sadly, the snow was quite old and more ice than snow, so I just kind of bounced off and rolled on the ground.

The decade started off with Travels! For me that means skipping every other day of school to orchestrate music! ~Forty songs in two and a half months! It burned me out! But still, even to this day, it is the largest single work I have done, even when you consider that I didn’t actually write the show, just orchestrate it. Soon after that, I graduated! Yay! 2000 is also when I worked for three days at the Utah Fun Dome, quit because it sucked, then spent the rest of the summer and Fridays in the fall working at some filing system installation place with Chuck Fields as the computer guy. I’d do such grand things as jiggle the mouse when the boss’s screen saver would come on and he’d freak out, thinking he lost his work. Both hilarious and sad! Mostly I just got paid to surf the internet. Then finally, in the fall, I started my first semester at BYU. This was back when the people I went to school with were still my age or older, not like now when everyone on campus (undergrads, anyway) is younger.

Best Picture

From Concert Choir Tour 2000 in Disneyland. I look like I’m ten, for some reason.

Best Piece of Music

Hard to decide, since I’ve got all of Travels to pick from. But I think I will go with the orchestrated version of “Lightning” on this one.

Best Blog Post

Where do I go from here? Still kind of my major concern.

Lessons Learned

Even though I have limits, when pushed, I can accomplish quite a bit more than I previously thought possible. I also need a fairly large recharge time, though. Also, don’t live forty minutes away from your college classes.


The first six months of this year found me living in Deseret Towers at BYU. This was the first time since I was an outcast student in middle school that I had a chance to forge my own identity instead of taking the one that my older siblings gave me, and boy, did I choose a geeky one. Eight-player Starcraft matches nearly every night, an ongoing campaign of Dungeons and Dragons which was incredibly fun (I was the only Good-aligned character to survive the entire campaign, and I was a gnomish bard. That’s not supposed to happen, but it did!), Super Smash Bros. tournaments — man, it was a lot of fun. There were, of course, some angsty moments when I was quite lonely, but since that’s been a factor in pretty every year of my life I’ll just mention it right now to get it out of the way and move on. Sadly, during Spring term I ended up contracting shingles and missing the last third of the term, which sucked. The rest of the year was spent at home, prepping for a mission, doing shows in Midvale with Annelise, and generally being really bored. I got so stir-crazy that, during the last three weeks of the year, I burst forth with crazy creativity and produced the Josh Reese Christmas Carol.

Best Picture

It’s-a Halloween!

Best Piece of Music

II – Endurance. Explanation here.

Best Blog Post

Probably my thoughts on 9/11

Lessons Learned

Shingles sucks. Also, when I make my own friends and live my own life instead of the one I think my family would most want for me, I end up generally happier, if only for the fact that it’s my own choice. You know, it’s better to choose to live in your own trailer than be forced to live in someone else’s mansion. And finally, don’t be an art music composer, unless you have a lot of old money, are somewhat insane, or plan to teach. Or a combination of those.


On  January 1st, 2002, I was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, going to the Barcelona Spain mission. This made it quite easy to track my two years as a missionary, since it really was just two calendar years, straight down the line. After spending about five weeks in the Provo MTC, learning Spanish, listening to the Lord’s anointed, and drinking a lot of orange juice, they shipped us off to the MTC in Madrid. There I learned that I sure didn’t know Spanish, and that Spain, like much of Europe, is full of weird juxtapositions between centuries-old architecture and teenage street punks with tight sweaters and nice shoes.

Into the mission field I went next. Trained in Granollers, a small town north of Barcelona known primarily for its obscurity, and windiness. To Lorca I was then shipped, where I spent six months eating fruit, talking to Ecuadorians, and suffering from dysentery. Lorca was also known for being one of the two most southernmost points in the mission. Considering the amount of time I spent both here and in Cartagena (the other most southern point in the mission), I’m convinced that for some reason both President Bowen and Watson wanted to keep me as far away from the mission home as possible. Finally, on my birthday, I moved to Elche, a land of palm trees and shoes.

Best Picture

In Lorca we lived above a dollar store (or a Euro store, I guess, although then it was a 100 peseta store) called “Zarahemla.” This was obviously owned by a member (the elders’ quorum president, in fact).

Best Piece of Music

I didn’t write any music during this time. although I did make a wacky tape with Elder Linford when I was sick for a month. Probably the best of that was “After Dark,” which was the name of one of the demo songs on the keyboard they used for church in the Orihuela branch.

Best Blog Post

I was on a mission; I didn’t have a blog.

Lessons Learned

Where to start? Besides the wonderful spiritual lessons I learned, which were many and awesome, I learned that, although countries are different, cultures are different, and people have different customs, under it all people are people no matter where you go, and we have way more in common than we have differences.


Still on my mission. The year started still in Elche, still a land of palm trees and not much success, although my companion and I were featured in a short film entitled “Lies.” Don’t worry: the lies weren’t about the gospel or anything, it was us saying “We don’t want to take much of your time!” Then it was off to Palma, which, speaking from an objective viewpoint about the area, was the best area of my mission. It was on the island of Mallorca (or Majorca for you English speakers), off the coast in the Mediterranean sea, and it was absolutely beautiful. This also meant we just ran into a lot of tourists (especially the area my companion and I covered, which was the old part of town with all the cathedrals and forts and touristy stuff) and the work progressed slowly. Still, what a wonderful place. If I had enough money, I would totally go there for my honeymoon. This is also the period of time in which my father passed away, but being so far away from it all and still having to continue the work, coupled with a lot of ambivalence over my dad’s and my relationship, made that event far less traumatic than maybe it would’ve been.

I then got moved to Cartagena in May, where I would spend almost the rest of my mission. Even though it came fairly late in my mission, Cartagena was probably the defining moment of my mission, and speaking from a subjective viewpoint, my absolute favorite area. This was mainly because I grew quite close to the people we worked with, specifically the Sanchez and Nadal families. If I were to go back to Spain just to visit people, I would spend most of my time here.

The year ended in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a suburb of Barcelona and the first time since Granollers that I was anywhere near Barcelona itself. I celebrated New Year’s by eating 12 grapes at midnight, which is the tradition over there.

Best Picture

This doesn’t do justice to the beauty of Palma, but it’s one of the best pics I have (I didn’t take a lot of pictures on my mission, as it was in the age before ubiquitous digital cameras). One day I’ll convince Nate Winder to go there, and then you can see a lot of wonderful pictures.

Best Piece of Music

Once again, being on my mission, I didn’t write any music. So instead I’ll give you a piece of music that some other missionaries made up about the mission that year, full of inside references.

Best Blog Post

No blog this year either!

Lessons Learned

Oh, heavens! This was when my testimony of the gospel solidified. Whenever I have doubts, I think about Cartagena and the miracles I saw there (which were nothing flashy, just mostly changes of heart), and I know that the gospel is true. Also, Alfonso Sanchez once told me, as we were in a hospital emergency room waiting for doctors to treat one of our investigators, that I had a certain capacity to love people that he had rarely seen in missionaries, which is one of the kindest things I have ever had said to me, and one of the reasons I love Cartagena and its people so much. After pondering out what exactly it means to me, I think it means that, instead of loving a lot of people broadly, I love a few people very, very deeply.


This year started off with a triumphant return home from Spain, and an immediate dive into BYU-Idaho. I chose to go here mainly because Ben and Kjersti were already there, which really turned out to be both a really good decision and a really bad one, as will be explored in the “Lesson Learned” section. I started being the piano man for the improv troupe “Comic Frenzy,” which was a lot of fun, and then worked on the running crew as a “tree-pusher” for Into the Woods, a position which was portrayed in a documentary.

During the summer I moved back to Riverton. Most of the summer was spent spinning my wheels, but I did spend a lot of time with Nick Greer, of all people, working on the Pimp Lando DVD as well as a DVD of stuff I’d done in high school. He was very generous and supportive, letting me use his equipment and so on with no expectation of recompense. Good guy, that Nick.

In the fall it was back to BYU-I, where a lot of time was spent getting ready for Fiddler on the Roof, which was performed in 2005. I played the Russian constable who drives everyone out of town. Also, I did sound for nearly every other show done that semester (well, OK, just one show: Over the River), but it was fun!

Best Picture

Striking the set of Into the Woods. I am a sweaty, sweaty man.

Best Piece of Music

I didn’t really write much music while at BYU-I, since I was living the theatre life that Ben and Kjersti were living. So I’ll pick this song from Pimp Lando 7: Don’t Cry For Me, Pennsylvania, sung by a vampire.

Best Blog Post

I’ve only got one entry from 2004, so I guess I’ll pick it.

Lessons Learned

While being a younger brother to Kjersti automatically earns a person a bit of prestige no matter what (since if there’s one thing Kjersti knows, it’s how to promote people), life in Rexburg felt like a regression from the lessons I learned in 2001. BYU-Idaho was certainly someone else’s mansion: I was somewhat well-known, at least among the drama crowd, and I got a lot of good experiences out of it, especially on the tech theater end. But it all felt like a sham, especially since none of the people that Ben and Kjersti were friends with felt like my good friends too (with the possible exception of JD Taylor, but that’s mostly because JD is pure awesomeness in a can). As a result, I wasn’t very happy, much to the befuddlement of Ben and Kjersti (well, OK, mostly Kjersti). I guess the main thing I learned this year was just a reinforcement of what I learned in 2001: I need to live my own life!


Still at BYU-Idaho, I performed in Fiddler on the Roof and also did sound for Our Town. It was also at this point where I got within a hairsbreadth of having my first girlfriend, but that’s a complicated subject that I’m still not willing to discuss on an open blog. It was also at this point where I knew that I needed to get out of the shadow of my brother and sister and become my own person, so at the end of winter semester I left Rexburg for good. I decided to go back to BYU and apply for the Media Music program, but in the interim period I got a job with my brother-in-law Mickey Murphy working for Title One, a title insurance company. I was once again living at home with my parents in Riverton, but since I was working full-time instead of just waiting for my mission it was much more bearable than it was in 2001. In the fall of 2005 I took a few token classes at BYU, but mainly I was just working and saving up money to be able to survive in Provo until I was eligible for pell grants.

This was also when I attended the singles’ ward in Riverton, which at the time encompassed most of Riverton and Bluffdale and all of Herriman, so it was basically the entire southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley. This also marks the first time I actually pursued one of my famed one-sided crushes when I dated Holly Fuellenbach, but it didn’t end well, as she wasn’t really interested. Oh, well. I have not purchased flowers for anyone since then.

Best Picture

Part of a photo scavenger hunt I did with Casey and Holly and some other people from the singles’ ward. What kind of name is Vanderkooi?

Best Piece of Music

This is when I wrote what is arguably my most famous song: Mr. Jones, Where Are You?

Best Blog Post

This is the year I actually started this blog (as opposed to just entries in my journal), so there’s more to pick from. Probably most important for me was the story of Kim Isom.

Lessons Learned

When I played the Russian constable in Fiddler, I tried to play him as a sympathetic character, hoping to get some depth out of an otherwise one-note personality. I hope I succeeded, but this is also when I learned that I’m actually not that good of an actor. Oh, sure, I can be pretty funny sometimes, but that doesn’t really mean I can act. That’s why I haven’t really been in any shows since 2005. I instead turned my focus to music instead of drama, and I’ve found I like it more, although I still enjoy doing the odd improv show here and there.

Also this year I learned of the glory of financial independence, something I haven’t much tasted since. Cooooolleeeeeege!!! *shakes fist*


The first eight months of 2006 found me doing a job that I adored: pulling old house deeds from various county courthouses in Northern Utah. I liked this for a few reasons: 1)a lot of my coworkers back at the office were pregnant and kind of um, witchy, 2) I love driving in the mountains, especially if I’m getting paid for it, and 3) I didn’t have to deal with customers. Sadly, the position doesn’t exist anymore, due to counties getting their records online, or I would go back in a heartbeat. Oh, well. I also got involved again with Hunt Murder Mysteries, doing sound for them. Although working with the Hunts themselves is an, um, interesting experience, I had a good time doing some of the shows, especially More Mystery on the Moors. I convinced Casey to try out for that show, and not only did he make it, but went on to do a lot more work for the Hunts and even met his future wife! How about that!

In early 2006 I was accepted into the Media Music program at BYU and made preparations to move back to Provo in the fall. I had also secured my friend Steve Porter a job at Title One, so we made plans to live together. He had already graduated, but needed to get married before he could continue doing what he was trained for and wanted to do: teach seminary. So in the fall we moved to Bountiful Court, an apartment complex in which we stayed together for nearly three years, where Steve even met his future wife! How about that!

It was also at the BC that I realized that I was now older than the average college student (turning 24 that November), a feeling that’s just gotten worse. Oh, well. The car I’d been driving since I knew how to drive finally died, so I got my grandma’s old car, which I’m still driving today.

Best Picture

I apparently didn’t really take many pictures in 2006. So here’s me dressed as some sort of professor in my bathroom hallway.

Best Piece of Music

Although I did write Phrustration this year, I didn’t actually turn it into its awesome version until ’08, so for this year I’m going to have to go with Magic Trick for a Vase.

Best Blog Post

I think the Marc Chagall post sums up a lot about me, although the Distant Stars post is a close second.

Lessons Learned

Staying at home working is fun, for a time, but there comes a moment when a person has got to get out of his comfortable rut and work on his dreams. That’s what going back to college was for me. I think I finally learned how to better get along with Kjersti this year. She moved home to do her student teaching, and so this was the first time she entered into a social environment where I’d already established myself (the singles’ ward) and not the other way around, so I didn’t have that feeling of “they just think I’m cool because Kjersti talks me up, but wouldn’t give me the time of day otherwise” that I did at BYU-I. Also, college sucks the money right out of your wallet.


2007 set the pattern for the next two years. In January I got my job at BYU Vending, where I’ve spent nearly every weekday afternoon since. I was still plugging along in school, but getting fairly burnt out, and not doing as well as I should have been. The bright spot in this was my involvement in the BYU Men’s Chorus, which was a lot of fun and also meaningful and if I had the time and health I’d do it again. This was also the first summer (besides my mission) that I didn’t spend at home in Riverton, electing instead to continue my job in Provo. I also took a trip to Vegas with Billy and Casey, which was a ton of fun, and a trip to Walt Disney World with Kjersti and Ben, which oddly enough, wasn’t nearly as fun, but more on that later.

Living at the BC was fun, and Steve made a lot of friends.

2007 is also when I started to feel confident about my professional music-making abilities, and my music output greatly increased, getting close to high school years (well, not counting Travels) in terms of pieces produced. Also, this is the year that our improv troupe, Absoludicrous, really started taking off, even facing off against some sort of Happy Pirates in December.

Also, Billy got married.

Best Picture

This was taken during the Vegas trip. I don’t think I need to say why it’s the best picture of the year.

Best Piece of Music

The piece I’m most proud of is “Can You Find It?”, but since that’s just a clone of a They Might Be Giants song, I guess I’ll go with “Never Had a Girl.” Oddly enough, the song mentions that I was 25, and it was the week before I turned 26 that I finally got a girlfriend. Eerie!

Best Blog Post

A lot of good ones to choose from, but I’m going to have to go with The Meaning of Tarantella, which was my own personal interpretation of a song we sang in Men’s Chorus that year. A close second would be The Visitor, where I finally figure out how I felt about my father and some other issues that I’d been having. (Odd that all these “close seconds” seem to revolve around DS9.)

Lessons Learned

Going on trips with Kjersti and Ben aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially with the previous issues I’ve outlined regarding those two. I think it would be funner if I went with a different group. Well, OK, it still would be fun to hang out with Ben, too, but not to be tied to hanging out with him. By the way, I think the moment that crystallized the way that I feel about hanging out with Kjersti’s friends occurred on this trip. It was Saturday night, and I had been horrendously sunburned at the beach earlier that day. I was in a lot of pain. Kjersti and Ben had to run inside to some store for about half an hour, leaving me in the car with Amy Harper, Kjersti’s best friend. Who completely ignored me. The whole time. Except once when she asked if I was OK because I was making painful noises, and I said, “No,” and she didn’t say another word.

Please let me make my own friends. Your friends are your friends. I don’t make you hang out with those D&D geeks I was friends with in 2001, so don’t bring me across the country so I can spend time with people who pretend I don’t exist. Thank you.

Moving on, I also learned that the Lord calls who He sees fit to be the elders’ quorum president, even if said person is a quirky redhead who certainly didn’t fit the stereotype.


More of the same. School, vending, yadda yadda. But hey, Ben got married in May, which was pretty neat! I also put on my Junior Recital in April, which is the performance I am most proud of. It was a ton of fun to do, everybody there enjoyed themselves, and Casey damaged some school property by smashing glass against a desk! What’s not to like?

I also became fairly good friends with Amanda Knight that summer, then promptly destroyed that friendship by trying to take it a step beyond. D’oh! However, later that year, I finally did have success when I started dating Suzie! That lasted a month! But it was certainly a whirlwind of a month!

Also, Casey got married.

Best Picture

A whole slew of redheads. We’re not going extinct!

Best Piece of Music

A ton of really good ones to pick from here, due to my junior recital happening this year. Since I already mentioned Phrustration, I guess I’ll go with a tie between Junior Recital and Backseat Driver.

Best Blog Post

This is when my blog transitioned from “personal posts about my life” to “random stuff that I want to post” due to it gaining more readership. Still, there are a few gems in there, so I think I’ll go with “Embrace the Impossible,” although probably more people would be interested in my tryout for American Idol.

Lessons Learned

Given the opportunity, I can put on a damn fine show. It’s getting the opportunities that is not my strong suit, or even my weak suit. It’s just not really a suit I hold. Also, I can have successful relationships! Successful in the fact that they happen at all, not that they continue for any long period of time. Also, the physical parts of relationships suck without a good social/emotional/personal foundation. Hey, my church leaders were right this whole time! Who knew?


Still more of the same, although the ending was now in sight. Still going to school, still working at vending, still not able to get out of the cycle! I did date Sarah in February, but it was a wash, since she found out that she didn’t really like me as more than a friend. For some reason we tried it again in May, but surprise, surprise, it still didn’t work! There was no chemistry whatsoever! Which means I still haven’t been able to hold on to a girl for more than a month!

2009 was also the year that Poison Ivy Mysteries, Annelise’s murder mystery company, started up, and I spent a lot of my free time writing songs and doing sound for her. This is, of course, still going on. In fact, today I wrote part of a disco for the new show opening in January!

Having lived in the BC for three years now, I decided it was time for a change, since all the people moving in were fresh out of high school. So I took my good friend Johnathan’s advice and moved into Alta Apartments, where I’m still living today. Turns out there are a lot of 18-year-olds here too, but there is also a higher percentage of older people. I kind of gave up on the social scene in the fall, but this winter I’m determined to make up for that!

Also, Steve got married.

Best Picture

Yes, I did grow a mustache. No, you didn’t see this.

Best Piece of Music

Besides the year of Travels, I have produced more music this year than any other in my life. Therefore, there are a lot of good ones to choose from. I’ll have to go with my top three, for very different reasons: Miss Me, Testin’ the Mic, and Misfile, which is what I finally decided to name that Factor X song, although I still haven’t come up with lyrics.

Best Blog Post

Slim pickings, actually, since I didn’t write a whole ton of stuff, posting instead some random stuff that I thought was cool (including the 52 Weeks posts). So I guess I’ll go with “Why do people listen to the music they listen to?”

Lessons Learned

There needs to be some physical chemistry as well as a good emotional/social/personal foundation in order for a relationship to work. Hey, all those pop songs were right this whole time! Who knew?

It’s also become increasingly clear that it’s time for a change. I have lived in the collegiate environment, more or less, for this entire decade! That’s a long time to be stuck in one phase in life, especially without a family of my own. I don’t know what’s waiting around the corner. My goals in life have changed more times than I can count (other than “get married and have a family,” of course) and it’s crunch time. So I guess the lesson I learned is that I need to learn some sort of lesson about this, and quickly.


Well, that’s it for this decade. Ups and downs, lefts and rights. I think the main theme of the decade is figuring out my identity, and while that’s not entirely solved, I think some good progress has been made. What wonders does the next decade hold? Hopefully all the things I hoped for this decade but didn’t quite achieve (marriage, graduation, etc.). I guess we’ll find out.



3 responses

  1. Marné

    Haha, the first thing I thought when I saw the picture for 2000 was “He looks like he’s ten!”

    Also, I can’t believe I never knew you went to try out for American Idol. That must have been during some drama I was having and was too self-absorbed to notice the cool things going on in other people’s lives.

    All in all, I think you should be pleased with this last decade. It looks like it’s been pretty decent to you, and you’ve grown a lot as well (you now look like you could pass for at least an RM).

    Cheers, and best of luck to you for this year.

    January 6, 2010 at 12:38 am

  2. Interesting. Didn’t know I had that much of an influence on you. For whatever it’s worth, I always wanted you to hang around because I think you’re a great guy, not because you were some charity case or something. Why do you think I enjoy hanging out with you and your friends? Because of you, that’s why I wanted you to feel included. Oh well, lesson learned.

    January 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  3. Yeah, seems every time I express my opinion about us you get offended, which is why I don’t do it much. Oh well, lesson learned.

    January 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm

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