|Memorable day at the Duncan's property.|
The Worst of 2016: Paying Tribute to the Calderwood FamilyThis past week our close friends from Virginia, the Calderwoods, lost their youngest son, Connor. He was 25. Words cannot express our grief. It was a long and helpless week as we watched the drama unfold via Facebook and text messaging with mutual friends. We wish we could give Kerry and Pixie a big hug and somehow tell them that we have known and felt their pain. Fortunately we know that they are loved by so many and that there are many arms which are currently enveloping their family.
We love you.
|The last time we saw Connor was at Kirby's wedding.|
2016: A Year Like No Other
Give me a second to wipe the tears out of my eyes. Okay. Even here in Sarajevo it is impossible to avoid how catastrophic most people think 2016 was. As the year ended, I saw hyperbole such as "worst year ever" and "I hate 2016."
For Dionne and I, 2016 was one of the most important and eventful years of our lives. And nearly all of the events were good. It was also a year when we decided to fully trust our Heavenly Father, to fully reconcile our wills with His. And to follow a path which we might not have chosen for ourselves.
Top 10 Most Memorable Events in 2016 (Honorable Mentions)As Dionne and I sat down and tried to compile our top 10 life events from 2016, we soon realized that many important things were going to have to be left off the list. So here are some of our honorable mentions.
- Briel and Mitch Visit the Philippines and Thailand
|Call it a belated honeymoon. Briel and Mitch returned to the homeland.|
- Jace's Baptism
|It was a wonderful day. Jack and June as well as Debbie all traveled far for this day. More on this time period later.|
- Erica and Brayden's Adventures in Cozumel
|Visiting a Mexican hospital is on my list of "worst nightmare" scenarios. Erica had a major scooter accident in Cozumel and had to live through this nightmare. The only good thing is that it was at the end of the cruise rather than the beginning.|
- Denny's 50th State and 30th Half Marathon
|Just before departing on the mission, Denny ran a half marathon in Fargo. It was the only state he had never visited. And his 30th half marathon. He has now given the girls 1 1/2 years to catch-up! Better get running ladies.|
- Britni and Richie Move to Texas
|After nearly 10 years in Northern Virginia, it was time for Britni and Richie to try something different.|
- Visit Fieracavalli, One of Europe's Largest Horse Shows in Verona
|Neither Dionne and I were expecting the size or scale of this show. There were half a million people in attendance on Saturday.|
- Jace's Trip to Disneyworld
|We take each of the grandchildren to Orlando when they turn 8. What a great week with Jace! Can't believe this didn't make the top 10.|
- Finding Our First Humanitarian Project with Mala Sirena
|Little Mermaid is this wonderful organization devoted to serving children with disabilities.|
- Visiting Lake Bled
|Senior Conference this year was in Slovenia. We fell in love with the country, the Julian alps, and specifically Lake Bled.|
- Erica Becomes an Aunt...Twice
|Both Autum and Charlotte had babies this year.|
- Dionne Witnesses a Horse Giving Birth
|Thanks to her friends at Midnight Farms, Dionne was able to check this one off her bucket list.|
- Play.Party.Plan Reaches Almost Two Million Views in a Single Month
|Britni's blog reached some impressive heights with a little assist from her sister. Britni spent most of the year accepting free trips from Disney.|
- All-Inclusives in Mexico
|Bryan and Jami went to an all-inclusive in Mexico and enjoyed it so much that they went again with half the Newton family.|
- Getting a Rental Van Stuck in the Streets of Sarajevo
|Living my driving nightmare in this rental van.|
- New Ninja Cowboy Movie
|How did the world premiere of the Ninja Cowboy movie go?|
All of those honorable mention events would have made a great year! But they don't even break our top 10. As I mentioned, it was an extraordinary year for our family. Here are the Top 10 Most Memorable Events for our Family in 2016.
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #10 GraduationsWe had two college graduations in 2016: Amy and Briel.
Dr. Amy Newton graduated from Drake with a doctorate in Pharmacy. She was able to get through the program in 6 years despite being a 4-year starter on the Drake Women's Softball team. Amy was a little disappointed at graduation because they were not able to say where she would be employed upon graduation. That disappointment, however, became excitement a month later when she found the ideal job in Kansas City.
|Amy and her parents in Des Moines.|
|"I am so glad to be out of Rexburg"|
|Kellan meets his great grandparents for the first time!|
|Erica and Brayden were on their way to Maryland. So we met up and spent the day in Jackson Hole.|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #9 Selling Our HouseIn the Spring of 2015, when we first considered going on a mission, we decided to put our house up for sale. We had been in the house for over 10 years. We absolutely loved it. But it was too big. And it would be too expensive to pay the mortgage, taxes, and insurance while we were gone.
A year later the house was still on the market. We had come down on price. We had cleaned furiously every time that we had a showing. But we had not had a single second showing. Lots of compliments on the house but no serious interest for over a year. We were getting tired of all of our friends asking "how is the house sale going?"
|The kitchen and eating area in our old house.|
|At one point Dionne and I took 24 bags of clothes to Goodwill. This is a picture of clothes that we brought to give away at the Kaw River ward one Sunday. There was just so much stuff!|
|We were quite happy when the pool table sold. I was not excited about the prospect of moving it to a new home.|
|Prepping the house to be vacated.|
|As our deadline loomed, Joanne and Dionne worked day and night. I slept on the floor the last two nights. Dionne did not sleep at all the night before we headed for the MTC.|
|I am sure the garbage man was not too happy with us on our final day.|
|The house when we first bought it back in 2005. The kids were drawn to it because they thought it looked like a "castle."|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #8 Riders of HopeDionne and I only felt like strangers here in Sarajevo for about two weeks. The moment we walked onto the Riders of Hope facility we felt like we were part of a family. Senada, Emin, Tanya, John, and Nejra all welcomed us warmly. Fortunately, they all spoke English because we still cannot speak much Bosnian (malo govorimo Bosonski).
|In the office discussing Riders of Hope.|
|Working the horses is just one of many things Dionne gets to do while on the mission. It is more fun that setting up Salesforce, I am certain.|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #7 Opening the Mission CallThe week of Jace's baptism was quite memorable. Jack and June were in town and we decided to go to movie. Although I, Bryan, and Brennen had already seen it during the traditional midnight showing, we took Jack, June, and all the kids to Captain America: Civil War.
|You have not lived until you attend a superhero movie with the Newton family in costume! However, one of the characters does not belong. Which one?|
|Jack holding Brazen's Iron Man heart. He had to spend the night in the hospital. But it turned out to be just a minor issue.|
|Neither of us could have pinpointed Croatia on a map prior to opening the call. And who knew how to pronounce Zagreb?|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #6 Making a Big CircleBefore we left for Bosnia, we decided that we should visit some friends who we had not seen for many years. It seemed simple enough to drive from KC to DC and stop off at St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Alabama along the way, right? Just make a big circle? Dionne talked me out of that plan. So we flew into Maryland and then made our circle from there.
We started with Erica and Brayden. They were in Maryland doing a second summer stint of pest control sales. It is really tough work for a student. It is hard on a marriage. But it also pays unbelievably well. So we were impressed that they had signed up for another year of the pest control torture.
|At King's Dominion for the day. I am not sure if Tanner or Kellan is more excited.|
|Dionne and Anita|
|Grace's confident smile is before Lightning Rod.|
|Don't leave grandma!|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #5 REACH at Wood's EdgeDionne helped her friend, Katy Harcsar, start a therapeutic riding program at Katy's barn, Rider's Edge Ability Centered Horsemanship (REACH). They became a PATH member center as well as obtained 501(c)3 status so the program could be a non-profit organization. They had a great first session and a horsemanship camp before we left on the mission.
|Dionne and Katy designed the Wood's Edge and REACH logos.|
Zoie came out for a week in the summer and participated in the horse camp. It was hard to say goodbye knowing that we would not see Zoie for a few years.
|Our niece, Zoie, at REACH horse camp.|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #4 Reporting to the MTCWe reported to the Missionary Training Center in Provo on August 8th. Prior to reporting, we did a short 3-day language immersion in Provo. Depending on their assignment, seniors generally spend 1 to 2 weeks at the MTC. We were in Provo for the full two weeks. And we entertained many visitors while we were in Provo. How many seniors missionaries are blessed to be visited by their grandparents in the MTC? We were. How many missionaries get to attend a Coaster Preservation Event at Lagoon? We did. How many get to ride the bobsled at Olympic Park? Yep. And how many missionaries get to watch coverage of the Summer Olympics in their room at night? Us, of course. And every Wednesday we were served BYU Creamery ice cream just like the regular missionaries.
|ACE Preservation Conference at Lagoon. Cannibal is a great coaster.|
|Briel, Mitch, and I prep for a bobsled run.|
|We ate at Jetsen's favorite little Korean in a Cup place. Somehow he snuck out before it was picture time.|
|Playing in the Senior Missionary Open.|
|Dionne and Hannah|
|In the MTC with Nefi.|
|Our class of ANM missionaries at the MTC. We have now served with three of these missionaries; Crapo, Isom, and Leach. We met Hatch and his family at a Bosnian restaurant a few days before they were due to report.|
|Volunteers who work at the bread making facility at Welfare Square.|
|Waiting to be seated for the Nashville Tribute Band.|
|Dionne takes a selfie with Carney.|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #3 Nephi's Change of HeartDuring September 2015, Denny walked and ran the 237-mile KATY trail across the state of Missouri. Why? This was his personal incentive to force him to finalize a paper that he intended to submit to a Mormon journal, The Interpreter. He told himself that he could not go on this run until he finished the paper. He finished the paper about midnight the night before the 7-day run.
|It is all downhill from here!|
Fortunately they did not disregard the ideas out of hand. Since I had already produced a paper, they agreed to peruse it. If it had value, they would send it through the review process. But I was not left with much hope. Maybe I should have pursued that PhD if really wanted to get into academia!
I have had a look. I made 'stream of consciousness' notes as I went. I think there is some great material here, but it needs to be separated out and made into a number of separate articles. I suggest some titles at the end of my attached note, but the author will be able to identify the separate threads better than I can.I really liked the author's idea that the text of 1 & 2 Nephi reveal Nephi's character development (softening?) over time. That resonates with my own perception after many readings. But I don't think you need all the science to do that. The 'science', if that is what it is, is distracting to that purpose. I think a simpler article using the analogy of his daughter's journal, can do that now if the author is patient enough to leave out all the science.
Taking their suggestions, it took about a month to produce my first paper. As the reviewer had suggested, I took much of the "science" out of my first paper. I simply presented the idea. This revised paper was accepted for publication by Interpreter. It seemed to take forever for it to be published (I later realized I should have asked about the publication date). We were in Northern Virginia at the Redd's house the day it was published. Earlier, I had asked almost everyone I knew if they would read my paper and give me feedback (including several friends who are qualified to give me some feedback on the "science" portion of the paper. While many asked me to send them the paper, almost everyone I asked did not actually give me feedback. Outside of the Advanced Studies group who provided me with direction and encouragement (and my sister, Downi), I had not actually gotten any knowledge feedback about my paper. I had the feedback from the anonymous reviewers and nothing else. So I was quite nervous about the reception to my paper, basically I was flying blind; publishing a unique opinion about the Book of Mormon to the world that differs from traditional scholarship. I had no idea how the world would respond.Bottom line? Split this up into a number of shorter more focused single theme articles. The author is trying to tell us everything he knows in one meal. We can afford to dine with him a few times.....his individual thought and effort his writing this all up separately and succinctly will bless us all.
So I was quite thrilled as I excitedly read, out loud for the Redds and Dionne, this first comment on my paper from Louis Midgley.
I was, I admit, a bit annoyed by this essay was launched. But as I got into it, I was charmed. Dennis Newton’s essay is learned, subtle, aware of the relevant literature and insightful in his approach to the text he is reading. I must now put aside for a while my own endeavors and spend some real effort with what Dennis has written.
I put the science back into the second paper. I thought it might take a week to finish. Instead it took two months. If you read it, the basic idea is quite simple. But the technical details are very imposing. For example, I was forced to run a number of large Monte Carlo simulations by hand to get the proper statistics. And my reviewers were more critical of my second paper than my first. All of this drastically improved the second paper and made it more defensible. But it was a painful process to go through.
|Dionne with Hugh and Cindy Redd|
I like two things about the article. One is that scholars are developing rules and some type of statistical methodology in an attempt to determine whether the inverted parallelism in a passage was intentional and it is being applied to the Book of Mormon.
The second is how the passages highlight Nephi's own spiritual growth. Now, he has always been one of my spiritual heroes and his declaration that "I will go and do the things that the Lord has commanded...." has been an inspiration to me over the years. But Nephi is shown as going from a person who (almost) unquestionably is obedient to the Lord's commands and advocates such obedience, to one of understanding the relationship between obedience, the Law, and the Atonement.
So what is the gist of the two papers? Jeff Lindsay hit the nail on the head when he said that my paper "greatly weakens the theory that Joseph was the author of 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi." After years of bearing my testimony of the Book of Mormon to my family, to my friends, and to ward members, I have now published a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon to the world. That is the gist of the two papers. I am telling the world Joseph Smith was not the author of 1 and 2 Nephi. Period. Millenials like to Google their name to find out what comes up. Whenever you Google my name, if you are able to find me, I will be forever linked to my studies confirming the words of Nephi.
|A screenshot of the second paper.|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #2 Deciding to GoIn mid-January, Bishop Scott Miller asked Dionne and I if we were ready to turn in our papers. We had been publicly talking about serving a mission and so this was a logical question. But Dionne answered with an emphatic "not right now." So he moved on.
Dionne and I are in our early 50s. Very early 50s. These are our peak earning years. But for some reason I had had this feeling for several years that we should drop everything and go serve a mission in a foreign land. Dionne did not have this same nagging feeling, however.
This is understandable. She was excelling in a career that she loved. Unlike my job at the time where I struggled to embrace the ethics of our core product, Dionne was working daily miracles through therapeutic riding. She also had her children and grandchildren. She had her dog. She had her horses. Going on a mission would require that she leave all of that.
|Dionne and Brumby have a special relationship.|
|Dionne at Heartland.|
When we got together again, Dionne had taken the lead and had already begun to fill out our paperwork. Individually and in our own ways, we had both learned from our Heavenly Father that we needed to make the sacrifice and serve now. All of our concerns, all our loose ends, they would all be taken care of. And rather than suffer, our children and grandchildren would be better because of our service.
|I was hard not being there to make ginger bread houses this Christmas. But we know they are safe.|
And so Dionne pulled Bishop Miller aside the next week. And said that we were ready to put our papers in. Just in time because the humanitarian couple assigned to Bosnia were soon to have health issues and our photo would appear just when the church started looking for a replacement couple.
|Ready to serve...only God knows where.|
Most Memorable Events in 2016 - #1 Meet Mr. & Mrs. UsevitchTo go on our mission, we had to wrap up a few aforementioned loose ends. One was the house. A second was finances (we had enough money to go but most of the money was not "liquid"). And then there was the small matter of our youngest daughter, Briel Arlene.
|Briel Arlene Newton...from one of Britni's photoshoots.|
|Briel and Mitch|
|Will you marry me?|
|Jace and Brazen had so much fun falling off the paddle board and getting back on again.|
|Mr. and Mrs. Usevitch|
They have known each other most of the time they have been in Rexburg. They are both part of a group that has been playing serious volleyball in Rexburg. Briel is a few months older than Mitch, so she returned from her mission (Iloilo) nearly a year before he returned from his mission (Canada). In retrospect, they realize that their individual paths had led them to this point of merger where they become one road.
|Hip Hip Hooray!|
In Gilbert, our family was together for the first time since Amy and Brennen's wedding. It was wonderful to have everyone staying in the same rental home. And it was wonderful to welcome the final piece of our Newton family puzzle...the Usevitch piece. Our complete family is now comprised of Newtons, Newtons, Vigils, Newtons, Clarks, and Usevitchs.
|Meet the Newtons, Vigils, Clarks, and Usevitchs.|
|It was a very good year.|