Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fence in fence out


My daughter Hilary is starting to understand the fences that we need in our lives.  She is a child who has always liked fences because they have made her feel safe but now she is understanding them.  (Click here to see her blog: "Looking for a Fence")

What I'm seeing in her blog that brings a lot of joy to this parent is that she now has taken responsibility for her own fences and is learning how to decide where to put them and maintain them.  Placing fences while maintaining plenty of room for growth and learning yet small enough to stay out of trouble and minimize temptations.

Fences not only keep us in but keep other things out.  Fences are necessary to help us determine how to act and respond to situations that come up.  Often the situations are surprises and need a ready made response.  I remember when I was a young man and President Kimball was the President of the Church.  He gave the youth the advice to make decisions about keeping commandments while we were young.  Decide not to break that commandment and then when the situation arises with an opportunity to break it then I am already prepared with my chosen response.  That tact has worked well for me and greatly minimized the pressure and momentary feelings that could have led me down unwanted paths.   

Fences can be comforting and provide a feeling of safety as well as a reality of safety.  If we place them well and they are strong and meaningful fences then we can go up to them and look over and be glad that we are inside where we are comfortable and free. 

There are some fences that can make us feel imprisoned and make us want out.  With those fences things look better on the outside and we don't like being stuck or imprisoned inside.  These fences can be made by others but sometimes are made by ourselves as well.  These kind of fences typically are made at a time in our lives when we are not fully aware of the consequences of our actions.  For example we can make choices that will imprison us literally and those fences would not be particularly comforting but will be stark reminders of our guilt and loss of freedom.  But there are choices we can make that will imprison us mentally, emotionally or even spiritually for a time.  Sometimes even another person can make choices that will imprison us emotionally for a time.  That last group can be especially tough. 

Here is an example from my life of when an emotional fence was built.  The consequences in this case are minor but they never-the-less are real.  In the first year of our marriage I was making a cake.  This was something that I had little experience doing but I was gladly doing it that day.  Maybe it was because Lisa was sick.  She was pregnant with our first child.  Midway through the making of that cake Lisa became more distressed and I postponed the completion of the cake, thinking I would finish later.  Before that day was done we were in the hospital and our first child was stillborn.  There was a lot of anguish and anxiety prior to that and the day seemed long and harrowing.  The result has been, for the last 25 years, that every time I contemplate making a cake the feelings of that day return and I have not even attempted a cake to this day.  I have managed an ice cream cake on a couple of occasions so all was not lost.  :)   

Things can happen in our lives that coincidentally get connected in our minds, maybe for the rest of our lives.  These connections can impact our lives for a long time and connections nor the impact are necessarily conscious.   

Sometimes our fences are not a response to choices but to circumstances.  Another person can impact us so severely emotionally that we build fences to protect us even when we do not need protecting or the situation doesn't warrant the fence.  Our choices can have an equally powerful emotional impact on us such that we can feel and be influenced by a decision, possibly one that seemed small at the time, for years to come.  As one example: choices that some people make to drive impaired whether from alcohol, drugs or texting or even anger can lead to catastrophes that will be a part of us for years. However if no catastrophe occurs we can repeat those dangerous actions maintaining the possibility of great harm. 

Our decisions in life are a type of fence.  Not just what we determine will be our limits and morals, but our daily decisions that lead to our reputation or our work ethic or even what we laugh at or do with our time.  Those habits and actions can fence us in by the perceptions or responses of others.  Nowadays things we put on the Internet can impact us and come back to haunt us.  Decisions we make can build or break down fences whether we want them to or not.

So the moral is, lets choose our fences wisely and find ones that are not just barriers but pleasant reminders of who we are and/or want to be and remind us of our goals.  Let's not inadvertently build fences that cause harm to us or others and become roadblocks in our lives.  If we already have destructive fences, let's dismantle them and move on.  Fences are great protections and can provide comfort and satisfaction.  Let us construct beautiful and helpful fences so we can grow to our potential rather than ugly destructive blockages that shunt us down twisted paths with ruts of regret. 

Here is an example of a mental fence in a quote:

Whether you think that you can,
or that you can't,
you are usually right.
-Henry Ford-

Friday, March 11, 2011

THE KISS that opened some eyes

My oldest daughter got married recently and of course that led to a lot of kisses and pictures of kisses.  I don't recall when I was married that the photographer wanted or expected us to kiss on demand for a picture.  The times are a changing.   

So here is the kiss: 

And here are the reactions: 

Okay not all the eyes were open.

Too Much Excitement!


And finally the whole picture:

Indeed it was scandalous!  That's just what the photographer encouraged us to look like before she took the picture. 

This picture was taken by Danelle Empey click here to go to her website.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Blog: DMV Deep Thoughts

I took our youngest daughter to the DMV this past Monday so she could take the test to get her learner’s permit.  She had taken the test a few months earlier but had walked out of the DMV afterwards not with a learner’s permit, but with disappointment, having missed both one road sign and the opportunity to move on to the next portion of the test. 

On this day Haleigh was fired up, ready to face the test head-on and come out on top.  She called out the meaning of road signs all along our route from her high school to the DMV.  “Divided highway ahead!”  “Speed limit 35 miles per hour!”  “Do not enter!”  She had brought the DMV manual with her, and when we reached our destination, she (somewhat grudgingly) brought it in with her.  (I anticipated a bit of a wait and figured a little extra review couldn’t hurt!) 

We picked up the learner’s permit application along with the ticket which marked our place in the virtual queue.  I say virtual because we didn’t know our position in that queue.  (I think DMV personnel prefer it that way.)   It must have been pretty far back though, because ten minutes stretched into twenty, and twenty into thirty.  Those minutes seemed to go by rather slowly.

Haleigh let me quiz her on the signs, and she knew them cold.  When we finished the traffic signs section, I started quizzing her on the next section in the manual, which included information about right-of-way, changing lanes, and the like.

“I don’t know that stuff,” she said.
“You don’t?” I replied.  “It will be on the test too.”
“It will?” she queried, panic rising in her voice.
“Yes it will,” I responded.  “But luckily you have some time while we’re waiting, so you can study the rest of the manual for information that will be on the test.”

Haleigh got busy studying right away.  All of a sudden, the worry was not how long we’d have to wait, but how soon they would call her number and expect her to take the test!  We waited another thirty minutes, but those minutes went by much more quickly than the first thirty!  The story has a happy ending: she passed the test and got her learner’s permit.  But the afternoon’s events got me thinking about other lessons there to be learned. 

First, the relativity of time.   We had spent thirty minutes waiting for her turn before she realized she was not fully prepared for the test.   Those minutes dragged by and random thoughts that popped into her head were welcome distractions which relieved the boredom and made the time pass by more quickly.  But then she realized she wasn’t ready to face the hurdle she’d have to clear to get what she wanted, and the remaining thirty minutes she had to prepare seemed inadequate, and went by very quickly.  It reminded me that the same amount of time—or even the same event or activity—can seem laborious or monotonous on any given day, while on another day or in another circumstance, it passes  much too quickly, is over too soon, and we wish it back.  

As she prepared to take the test again, I think Haleigh may have been so focused on the portion of the test that tripped her up last time that she forgot there would be other information she would be accountable for.   I think in life we sometimes do the same.  We figuratively beat ourselves up about past mistakes and shortcomings, focusing on our weaknesses to the point where we forget or discount the things we do well, our strengths and abilities.  And I think that kind of thinking is opposite of how God wants us to think.  Of course He wants us to work on improving and turning weaknesses into strengths.  But He also wants us to acknowledge that we have strengths, talents and abilities, and to use them to bless our families and those around us. 

Who’d have thought a trip to the DMV could be so thought-provoking?  All this time I thought DMV stood for Department of Motor Vehicles; maybe it really stands for “Deep Mind Visions”. 

X Drive

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Today at work I received an email from a collegue who said: "Did you know today is International Women’s Day….and it’s the 100th anniversary of it?  Thought you might like to pass this on to your daughters!" 

My response: "Hey, that’s cool.  I’m confused though, I’m pretty sure women have been around a lot longer than that!"

So I went on the internet to learn a little bit about it and came across a bunch of pictures and illustrations for the celebrating of it, so thought I would include a few below:


I had never heard of this day so looked it up on Wikipedia (click here to see).
In different countries it is celebrated in a variety of ways.  In some places it seems to be very political while in other places it is more like mother's day or valentines day. 

My take on it is that any day is good to celebrate the women in our lives.  In my case that includes my mother who brought me into this world and taught me the foundation of life.  My Sister who cared for me a lot when I was a child and then helped and supported me much through my adolescence.   My wife who trained me to be the man that she hoped for (I'm getting there) and my daughters who have taught me to be the father that they needed and wanted.  Thanks to all of them for helping me be who I am today and to all women who make this world a much better place than it would otherwise be. 

What I've been reading 2

I've been continuing to read some good books that are a mix of entertainment and inspiration (they are not mutually exclusive).  I find reading not only a good way to relax but also a way to be a part of things that I would not ordinarily be able to experience, or in many cases with Science fiction etc. would be impossible to be a part of.  The first book is

Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt.

Product Details
Silent Tears

Kay Bratt has done an excellent job of sharing how difficult it is to go to another country that is so different from our own and then to learn to feel comfortable not just with the country but with the people and their sometimes inexplicable ways.  I have lived in an Asian country (Thailand) and recognized many of the the experiences that she relates.  I have even visited an orphanage in Thailand where I ran across conditions similar to what she describes here.  My experience was not with young children but with the older children around ages 6-12 that she mentions a little in the book.  Her main experience is with the younger ones.  Trying to learn to suspend our own Western judgment and best practice to try and accept and work with the traditions of the country are hard.  Just like she pointed out in her book I found the orphanage staff ready to judge us poorly as we were indeed tempted to do with them.  The children really are the ones that are easy to love and care about.  There were times in this book when I found myself near tears as I read her experiences and her love of the children and it reminded me of experiences that were close to my heart in Thailand.  I recommend this book for anyone who either already knows how to love children who needs a course on how to love them (that should cover about everybody). 

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Product Details

Orson Scott Card never seems to rest on his laurels and he has come out with the first book of a new series.  Now in his case he may say it is projected to be three books but you never know with him.  Some series go onward for many books and some haven't ended yet.  At any rate this is an enjoyable book that is written for the YA audience that is about Rigg, This appears to be a fantasy series with promises of science fiction.  If you read it you will see what I mean.  Rigg grows up trapping in the woods.  But after his father disappears he has to use the skills he has been taught that take him on a fine adventure and tells him who he really is and what their planet really is.  Enjoyable!

Road to Heaven by Coke Newell

Product Details

This is another book about a young man serving a mission.  This young man comes from a background of a nature lover who was on the verge of being a hippie.  His girlfriend turns out to be a Mormon who is trying to run away from what she experiences as pressure in her family and the church to be good.  Consequently his first impressions of the church are negative.  Things change though as he seeks for answers beyond what religion and mysticism were able to provide him.  Of course he finds the answers in the gospel and that leads him surprisingly to serve a mission.  It is very enjoyable to see the young man change as he seeks truth and then his surprise at where he finds it.  This book is inspiring and surprisingly honest in a positive way. 

Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card created the short story and then the novel called Ender's Game.  That led off on a series of books which I enjoyed a lot many years ago.  In more recent years he has returned to that story and created a companion novel called Ender's Shadow.  This book is in that line of sequels.  As in some of his books this has political intrigue and human trickery as well as human kindness and love among the characters of Ender's Game.  This is a series of his that I had gotten behind on and am trying to catch up. 

I love to read and find good stories that help me see things a little different.  I think it is a good thing to be able to "live" other lives so you can see the value in your life and determine the importance of the values you live by.  Seeing through fictional character's eyes or real people's experiences give us experience of a sort that we would not have without reading.  (I would have said "without books" there but now that I have a Kindle, I am learning not all reading is done with books.) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

I think I'm not a rich man

Yes as I wrote the title of this blog I was imagining singing it to the tune of "I wish I were a rich man" from the movie Fiddler on the Roof.  Just a warning, this blog is a follow-up to Romantica by David Lanz. Click here to read it.

That is what I learned from Whole Foods on our date Friday night.  I learned that if you go to a grocery store that has the option of tiny little carts, well, that means that things are expensive and you may not be buying much.  So I pushed around the tiny little cart and I kept noticing the difference between the 4 or 5 items that we were buying compared to the items that other people were buying.  Poor, yup, I think I'm not a rich man. 

We ate at their cafe (which may be elevating it a bit) and the choice of foods was very nice but I felt like I was eating rich foods without atmosphere.  Oh well, I guess I can be equally unhappy as a poor man as I could as a rich man.  If that is true than surely the opposite is true as well, I can be equally happy -- that's what I choose! 

So we handled it by simply going to Trader Joe's; less choice, similar foods, more fun.  By the way I bought some cookies there that are really tasty.  They are called Lemon Heart Cookies and did I mention they are VERY tasty, I recommend we buy some more! 


So to sum up, I say if you are poor, skip Whole Foods and go directly to Trader Joe's.  Needless to say the company was great at both.  Hey, even the cashier at Trader Joe's thought we should skip Whole Foods in the future! 

My wife liked Trader Joe's better as well and that is double bonus!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manly Man Training #3: Rise Up

A few years ago we had a man in our ward that was very musically inclined.  His wife was a beautiful singer and played the organ and he was a great singer as well.  They had both sang for one of the BYU choirs when they were students there.  He and the Bishop worked out that he would train the Priesthood to sing a hymn that we would sing in Sacrament meeting one Sunday.  So in Priesthood he started teaching us this hymn.  It was one I personally hadn't heard before, but as I learned it I really liked it.  It was a song that encouraged us as men to be better than we were.  Now you know the ladies were going to love this song when we sang it in Sacrament meeting.  The legacy of that song is that we have sang it many times now in various meetings including stake meetings and because of that friend who taught it to us we know it and can sing it with strength.  But more importantly it has helped to teach us to work on being better men and hopefully we have. 

Here is the song performed by The BYUI men's choir.

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of Kings.

That first verse immediately grabs us and tells us what is needed.  Get rid of the lesser stuff and move on to the more important things of serving the King of Kings.  In our world as a whole, but particularly in our American society, Satan has had great success in directing us elsewhere and having us put our interest and time, "our heart and soul and mind and strength" in things that are not lasting.  

Elder Oaks started a classic talk (Good, Better, Best) in October 7, 2007 conference with these words of reminder.  "We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives."

So sometimes we have to put aside even good things to have time or rather in the process of prioritizing the things that are better than good.  Sometimes as men we tell ourselves that things are 'good' and so worth doing.  But in reality good things can equally be a distraction as bad or crude things.  That is not to raise bad things to a higher level but is rather to warn that anything can distract us from the critical or best things. 

Rise up, O men of God!
In one united throng
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

The song points out something that we like to forget or ignore as men, and of course when we ignore a truth it is always to our detriment.  Men often joke about women.  How they need other women as friends to feel good about things and to support each other.  Part of the meaning of these kind of comments is that as men can stand alone and we do not need help or support.  In truth men need that help and support in order to do the right things.  Oh we can stay in the "night of wrong" on our own without any help.  But to "rise up" we are greatly benefited by the help and example of other brethren that we love and trust in addition to the love and support of a great wife. 

Over the years I have noticed that there are few men that maintain strength in the gospel when they are not supported by their wife.  In particular I have noticed two.  Both men had wives who wrestled with major medical and psychological problems such that the women were not only not present at church with their husband but found it difficult to support his participation even in the home.  These men greatly benefited from the support of their quorums.  We as men need support as well as the ladies.

Rise up, O men of God!
Tread where his feet have trod
As brothers of the Son of Man
Rise up, O men of God!

Let us remember our relationship to the Savior and allow that relationship to motivate us to follow his example as we raise ourselves closer to his level of commitment as shown through our actions, thoughts and choices. 

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