This is for former flames. I thought it would be appropriate to take a few minutes to thank these ladies because each has had an important influence on my life. I want to be grateful to them for helping me become who I am.

I have to point out that I dated other people and was interested in relationships with some of them, but life took different turns. Which worked out for the very, very best.

The first one will be the longest.

1. Sharon McGhee. Sharon was never my girlfriend. I met her when I was thirteen or fourteen, at Angel Canyon (home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary). I’m still not sure of her family’s relationship with the old Foundation, but Sharon was visiting from Scotland, along with her grandmother, during a summer that all of the Foundation orphans were there from Dallas. I developed an instant and devoted crush on Sharon, who was a year or two my junior. It may have been due to her wonderful accent.

Sharon became close friends with Leonora (Teresa/Shaz). I spent quite a bit of time with Leonora that summer, for one simple reason: I wanted to be around Sharon.

Despite my undying love for her, Sharon and I didn’t interact much that summer. I wanted to be alone with her to get to know her, but that was pretty tough to do since I certainly couldn’t act like I actually LIKED Sharon. I was thirteen, remember.

Over the next four years, that’s right, four years, I longed for summer to roll around so that I could connect with Sharon again. But for the next three years, our yearly visits didn’t ever coincide. Happily, however, I was able to secure Sharon’s address in Scotland and we began to correspond. I think this began when I was about fifteen. We wrote long, very fun letters about life and such. We actually seemed to be mutually falling for each other through those letters.

This sounds a lot like a movie, even a romantic comedy, but wait for the ending.

During a couple of summers while she was in Angel Canyon and I was in Dallas, wishing I could get to Kanab faster, we had a few illicit phone calls. (Foundation kids were not really allowed to socialize in that way. And this was a romance, so it would have been thoroughly frowned on.)

I actually ended up sharing the story of my long-distance crush with a couple of the kids at the Dallas branch of the Foundation. Within a few months, it seemed like everyone around me knew about the ‘love affair.’

Things heated up around Christmas of 1990. I’d been in puppy love with Sharon for over three years. Our letters were regular, but not progressing as I wanted them to. I saved up a bunch of money and had a dozen roses delivered to her on the morning of Christmas Eve. Yes, to Scotland.

I got a letter soon after. Things warmed up. We kept in close touch, but were actively hampered by the workings of several Foundation lackeys that I have no need to name. We had every intention of doing all we could to actually physically see each other during the summer of 1991. I would be seventeen, and I think she would be fifteen.

As 1991 progressed, things in Dallas went from bad to very bad. Disaffection and dissatisfaction were rampant. I was a bit of a troublemaker. Not in the classic sense, but in the sense that I went around finding ways to assert myself and show the adults there that they had zero power over me.

I became such a nuisance, that I was banished to the old Foundation headquarters in Arizona. This place was called Faith Canyon. I went there in June, and the yearly trip to Angel Canyon in Kanab was to have happened in July. And Sharon was supposed to be there in August, when we would have still been around.

Faith Canyon was wonderful, actually. I learned a lot about general ranch husbandry, learned to drive a few different vehicles (tractor, backhoe, etc), learned to use and be confident with power tools, and learned more about myself at that time. However, I was very worried that the circumstances would undo all of my and Sharon’s plans to get together for the first time after a four-year, very long-distance crush. I was also concerned that I hadn’t heard a lot from her for the previous couple of months.

Apparently the absolute boss of the Foundation, Marianne (not sure of her last name), was Sharon’s aunt, or something. Because Sharon somehow convinced the powers that were to have Mark, a cult colleague I mentioned earlier who was at Angel Canyon with me (Isaac was there too), drive to Angel Canyon and bring Sharon down to visit me in Faith Canyon. I was elated and extremely nervous.

We didn’t hit it off very well. She was fun and her accent was very dear, but she had changed somewhat and was interested in a different kind of relationship than what I wanted. Which was strange in my case, since I was a 17 year old boy who had been raised surrounded by ambivalent morality. She wanted to move much faster than I did.

She wrote me off pretty fast. I was disappointed and pretty heartbroken that this epic, four-year thing had just fizzled so thoroughly. Sharon didn’t seem to mind; she and Isaac appeared to have serious chemistry.

I thank Sharon for giving me an epic romance, or at least the set-up for one, and then for showing me that people change and we can’t often do much about that, and that I could get over heartbreak a lot faster than I would have expected, mainly because she simply wasn’t the one. I’d love to get in touch with Sharon and stay friends, but I completely lost touch with her soon after.

2. Claudia Scharf. Claudia was my first girlfriend. I started my senior year of high school a week after Kanab High School began classes. Kanab is a very small town with all of the dynamics you would expect from such a place, with a very small high school. However, to me, the high school was big, crowded, and strange. I was very shy. I cowered through the first month of my only year of public high school.

Claudia was a German exchange student at Kanab High School. She was a senior there, like me, but since US high schools couldn’t keep up with German high schools, she was a junior over in her home town of Siegen, Germany. Anyway, she was very smart, also a newcomer and outsider to Kanab, and was extremely kind.

I began dating Claudia sort of on a dare. A good friend was dating her, but he was also dating several other girls in several towns between Kanab and Salt Lake City. I told him he needed fewer girlfriends and he dared me, if memory serves, to take one. I started dating Claudia while he was out of town.

We fell in teenage love, Claudia and I. We spent lots of time talking, seeing movies, making out and playing games. She had a good set of morals that tempered my teenage randiness, so I thank her for keeping me on the straight and narrow. I thank her for the confidence she gave me. I thank her for sweet memories and for intelligent conversation. I also thank her for going home halfway through the school year. Once again, I was able to learn, through her departure, that love is real and good and strong, and that heartbreak is also real and strong. I was also able to gain a perspective on what true, real, and lasting love should be like.

And I was able to know that she wasn’t the one.

3. Susan Wilson. I believe that Susan was that same friend’s next Kanab girlfriend and I believe that I stole her from him on another dare. That is the only reason that I would date her. She was younger than me during a time where that mattered, had very different goals and values from mine, and appealed to me on only a few levels. However, I gave her my heart; she gave me hers; and we we had a fun few months.

Susan taught me that two very, very different people can get along pretty well. She also taught me that unless there’s mutual respect and a mutual commitment to a relationship, that relationship wouldn’t last. Neither of us wanted the relationship to last, really, so it fizzled and we ended it pretty amicably, as far as I recall.

Honestly, Susan also taught me that not all Mormons were the same and that I really respected people who lived their values and beliefs.

4. Melissa Teeples. I didn’t so much date Melissa as flirt with her endlessly at the events we both attended, share a mutual crush, and wish I was good enough for her. We met and hung out at SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) events. She lived in Orem and I lived in Kanab. I thought she was indescribably cute, and she probably thought the same of me.

However, we thought and lived in two totally different worlds. I thought her eyes and smile were lovely, but there was nothing else really that appealed to me about her. Not because she wasn’t a wonderful person, but because, again, our goals and values and priorities were so completely different. Circumstances never really allowed Melissa and I to really connect, and that was for the best.

This interesting relationship taught me the value of taking things slow and being chill about relationships. It taught me to not fret about game playing and to mostly just do what I could to really get to know the other person. She was obviously, from the beginning, not the one, but she was a lot of fun.

5. Alysse. I don’t know her last name, honestly. We met at an SCA event, hit it off really well, spent three days together just having a grand old time, and then never kept in touch. She was older than me by a year or three, but her sense of fun was vivid and exciting.

I learned to have fun, to throw caution to the wind and not worry about getting hurt, and that the world often has all kinds of unseen opportunities waiting for us. I knew Alysse wasn’t the one from the get-go, but she was a good friend for three days.

6. Kathy Martin. I met Kathy, who was the sister of a flame of Byron’s, when she and her sister came to my apartment in Kanab for some kind of event. Maybe RPG-ing or something similar. I was maybe two weeks away from being baptized a member of the LDS church. When I met Kathy, I asked her if she was LDS.

She said no. But she was. She was the precisely wrong person for me to start dating at that time in my life. She was fun, exciting, dangerous, generous, very kind, easily angered, somewhat unhinged due to her family life, really sweet, very lovely, and I fell very hard for her.

In my heart, I knew, however, that she was not the one. No matter my protests or my poetry, I knew from early on that this was serious, but it was a serious fling. We dated for I think seven months.

Through my relationship with Kathy, I learned to be very careful about where I put my heart. I learned to listen closer to my heart and brain as well. I learned that lasting and good love is built on feelings of the heart combined with careful thinking and self-honesty.

We had some fun, had some rough times, and when the time came for things to end, I learned that I had it in me to be very cruel. I did not let Kathy off easily. She rebounded fast, but I owed her more compassion.

7. Erin Cram. Erin is Nathan Cram’s older sister, and she was my classmate at Kanab High School. I don’t remember how she and I first started dating. I have a feeling that it might have been through me visiting her while she worked at the gas station just down from The Junction, but I’m not sure.

Our relationship was a good one. We played games, went to a concert, saw movies, hung out, had long conversations, and really had a meeting of the minds. I have nothing bad to say about her. I was in a strong form of puppy love.

Despite being very serious about her, looking back, I think I knew that our relationship wouldn’t last the first week of my being on a mission. We shared values and general life principles, but I was very ambitious with the kinds of things I would do in my life– on an international scale, and Erin had a pretty firm map of her career. Plus, our overall tastes were just so fundamentally different.

It was clear that we were not destined to be together for a long time. But we had a good time and I’m grateful for Erin’s goodness, and for the memories. I heard more country music, saw more sappy movies, and went on more double dates than I really deserved. I loved her, but that faded almost immediately after I started the mission. And that was fine.

8. Bronwyn McMillan. I dated Bronwyn starting soon after my mission. She was from the town across the Arizona border (3 miles away) and she worked at Stampin’ Up in Kanab. I resumed my work there within a week of returning from Brazil, and she was a shining light in that great place. She worked hard, was determined about her goals, was very cute, and was fun to spend time with. We had six months of fun, and then we both headed off to college. We kept in sporadic contact for the first month of college, but it was clear we both weren’t interested in anything long term.

I thank her for a kind and gentle relationship that eased me back into the world outside the mission. I thank her parents for not freaking out when they’re much younger daughter started dating a returned missionary. I thank Brownwyn for her great name and for being an example of a smart, determined, woman of faith and values.

My next serious relationship was with Annemarie Hintze. Something fundamental clicked between us very early, something that had never clicked – or even come close to clicking – with anyone ever before. Eternity was so clear in her eyes. I don’t need to say anything else about her in this post, because it’s for former flames, and Annemarie is and will always be my current flame. Our story is so much cooler than any of these preceding ones and she is such a source of extraordinary joy, passion, warmth, happiness, and all other good things.