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, June 4, 2011

Mindful or mindless?

Sometimes we do a lot of talking but it seems like the talking we do isn't meaningful or important.  I ran across this quote many years ago that got me thinking about what we talk about and what it may say about our thoughts and ourselves. 
Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people. --Eleanor Roosevelt

 I really like this quote as it helps us to see what things are of most value to talk about.  If we are talking about people, it is very often in the manner of gossip and character assassination.  If we talk about events it is often just going over what has happened but not adding anything of value or even indicating how it has changed us for the better.  Talking about ideas, however, seems to indicate that we are thinking and putting our thoughts into words and discussing them with a friend, now that shows some real effort, and a desire to learn and grow by taking the time to express them. 

I have fond memories of many times when I was in college talking with friends about ideas based on what I had learned recently in class or through my own study.  Again as I served as a missionary with lots of time with companions we often discussed ideas of importance.  It is true that many, maybe most of those ideas didn't turn out to be correct or all that great, but they were the beginnings of some of my best efforts in thinking.  Many of the posts I write started out from discussions in years gone by with close friends including my wife.  Sharing those times with people whose opinions I value has really been a blessing in my life. 

I don't think I am any mighty example of greatness, but I have learned that the power of discussing thoughts and ideas have a great influence on us as we gain confidence in ourselves.  Not so much confidence that we are right but rather that we are well on the road to what is right.  Maybe that is the model of greatness, being on the right road and headed in the right direction. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Marriage 101: We Understand Each Other

I guess my thoughts are still on marriage as evidenced by posts earlier this week.  Marriage is such a highlight of life.  I don't mean THE wedding but rather the potential for a marriage to become hugely meaningful in our lives.  I remember early in marraige with my wife.  We were students in college and despite all the work that is required in school and the jobs we had, we seemed to have lots of time to talk about things that were important: experiences from our life that made us who we are, opinions and family history, and our dreams for the future. 

Those were good times.  Times before the careers.  Times before elevated responsibilities in work and life.  Times before all the questions and learning and trusting of parenthood.  Those were days that I highly prize because it is through those many talks and gentle and sometimes tense conversations that I learned the beginnings of understanding my wife.  If truth be told, I also learned a lot about understanding myself.  There is something about putting things in words that can help us recognize, realize and understand things (including ourselves) in new ways. 
We do manage to have those conversations from time to time now, but not as compacted and as revelatory as in times past.  Now 27 years later we have learned a lot about each other.  Much of our experience is common between us.  We have raised years of children together.  Even though we of course were not together every minute or even most minutes we saw how each other think, react, and how we have each grown over the years.  We understand each other way better than ever before.
Oh, don't ge me wrong there is still the surprise when we learn something new that we never knew about the other, or when we react in a way unexpected.  Mostly though things are very comfortable.  Few egg shells to walk on, no bombs to maneuver around, just comfortable understanding. 

Those early times of self revelation and questions answered were like Christmas morning, opening presents and not sure what to expect.  Now, they are like opening presents of shared experience and expected appreciation for each other.  Very comfortable and valued times.

I guess I should admit that life is not bliss, entirely.  There is still much to learn, and hopefully lots of experiences to share.  We still have our weaknesses and foibles.  Even some new ones we didn't know about back then.  But we also have compensitory new strengths that have been developed through struggle and practical application.  We have gained appreciation for each other and are confident that we are valued by each other.  Our trust has greatly deapened.  And the fact that we are trusted and have confidence in each other has helped each one of us have increased confidence and trust in our own selves, individually and as a couple. 

We feel loved and that enables us to love others all the more.  Of course to love our children but also to love beyond our family, friends, even sometimes strangers and some people we have adopted into our family and they feel like parts of our family. 
This post was brought forward in my thinking as a result of a song I ran across by Lou Rawls.  When I thought back to my youth I forgot his music and just recently ran across it and this song (which by the way I do not remember from years gone by) reminded me of how this closeness and peace has come to our lives over the years. 

I look at that early time in our marriage as a time of revealing ourselves to each other and building the foundation of our marriage and our family.  We still add to that foundation from time to time, but the heaviest work was done in those early months and has allowed us to rest on that foundation frequently and as needed.  Sometimes we laid heavily on that foundation and other times lightly but always we have depended on it as it gave us the beginnings of understanding each other.  Listen to the song and see what it reminds you of.

Lou Rawls -- We Understand Each Other

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Belle of the ball

At Sean and Kristen's wedding there was one who was the Belle of the Ball.  She had the prettiest dress, the most pleasing attitude and was a great example to the younger children.  That would be Skylar!  Here are some pictures (although not my best photography I'm afraid). 

Skylar is a great example of how we all hope that our youth will develop.  Way to go Skylar! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wedding time of life

Edgar Allen Poe Museum Gardens
I had never thought much about it before but it seems that there is a  time for many things in life and this last year must be the wedding time in our life.  This past weekend we went to the wedding of my nephew Sean and his wife Kristen.  They had a unique wedding in the garden of the Edgar Allen Poe Museum.  Their reception was in a working train station which must have been interesting and a surprise to all the passengers going through.  Surely they enjoyed the band that was there playing. 
Lisa reminded me that it had been exactly a year since we were in Portland with Anny and Dane's wedding which was mentioned in yesterdays post. 

Then last October we were enjoying Jaime and Mikes wedding.

Now in two and a half weeks we will be enjoying Megan and Josh's wedding. 
I can't foresee that we will be attending this many weddings of family members again in our life time, so compacted.  I realize that life can certainly surprise regularly but it would be hard to imagine. 

At Sean and Kristen's reception as at other ones we have attended they have a dance for married folks and then count up the number of years married until one couple, married the longest, is left on the floor.  I've experienced that a couple of times at previous receptions but I note that we are getting closer and closer to the end.  We may have been in the top five or six yesterday. 

Needless to say all these weddings have brought back fond memories of our wedding.  Lisa mentioned at Sean and Kristen's wedding that Sean was just a little boy when we were married and we have pictures of him kissing Lisa's cheek at the reception.  Now he is kissing his wife's cheek.  Time does move on, doesn't it? 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mom's big love

My Mom has been a good example to me over the years.  My Mother made sure I knew she loved me.  That was one of her strengths: that not only did love me but was able to deduce how I felt love and she loved me in a way that I felt she loved me.  (Some other time maybe I'll have to blog about the difference between being loved and feeling loved).  I felt loved. 

It is certainly possible, since I am the youngest, that I benefitted from her experience with my siblings.  My Mom is good at loving other people, beyond the family, too.  Oh, don't get me wrong, she sometimes gets irritated, she sometimes says the wrong thing, she can be stubborn whether for good or ill, but if we look past those few occasions then I think we can easily see that her ability to love and care for others is one of her greatest strengths.  About four years ago she made a decision that would end up changing several people's lives, some of them drastically. 

I'll take credit for getting things started like this: my family had over the previous 3 years had a couple of foreign exchange students, one from Russia and another from Mexico.  We really enjoyed each of those young ladies and had positive experiences with few difficulties along the way.  So I suggested to my Mom that she consider having an exchange student.  I could tell the idea appealed to her but she was concerned that a young teenager (ages 16-18) wouldn't want to live with such an old person with no exciting teenagers to hang out with.  I think secretly she wondered if she could handle having a teenager to be responsible for again.  These two concerns were not so easily worked out because they were in her head and would take some actual time working with the student to get over.

She chose a young woman from Russia, she went by the American name of Anny despite her name being Anya.  She was popular in Russia, with a boyfriend, a brother and parents and grandparents that were all very close.  Anny of course knew nothing of the Gospel and my Mom had told her some about it prior to her coming, but needless to say it was hard to comprehend hearing it in English and she didn't understanding much of the impact it would have on her life. Mom told me later that she chose Anny because she had a feeling that she should choose her.

Anny came and soon was learning the various ways that the gospel impacts our lives on a daily basis.  Things such as modesty, daily observance of activities to turn our thoughts and hearts to Christ, several times weekly church attendance, and caring for others.  Despite the foreign situation both culturally, religiously and family, Anny adjusted.  Because my Mother loved her so easily and willingly Anny was able to adjust very smoothly and learn the lessons of "why" instead of just doing what she had to in a new place. 

Mom loved her and taught her, calmly (okay, the occasional frustration), and in as much detail as she needed.  As a matter-of-fact, Anny ended up getting just what she needed from an elderly lady and Mom had another opportunity to do just was God made her best at.  I think God using Mom this way helped her to realize that she still had value in this life. 

Over time Anny loved going to church, made friends with teens and adults alike.  Anny participated willingly in scripture reading and study in the home.  Anny attended not only Sunday services and Wednesday services but also early morning seminary services as well. 

As time was growing to an end, Anny expressed some interest in being baptized.  Mom and I felt like she needed to return home to her family and decide if baptism was what she wanted.  After all the church wasn't even available in her town.  It seemed to Mom that she would appreciate the same consideration if it was her child in a foreign country.  So Anny returned to Russia.  In a few months Annie returned back to Mom's to attend college locally and requested to be baptized.  I agreed to do that baptism for her. 

She was happy.  She loved the gospel because she had been loved by a master (if I got the benefit of my Mom's learning from my siblings then Anny got even more because of what my Mom had learned from me).  Anny decided she wanted to go to BYU and eventually was accepted there.  Anny embraced the gospel and the gospel embraced her.  Her family was supportive all along the way.

One big day for Mom was when Anny went to the DC temple to receive her endowment in preparation for getting married in the Portland temple.  Anny with her family from Russia, was here along with Dane and some ward members.  That was a big day for Mom. 

As you know, all good true stories must have multiple new beginnings, and this is true with my Mom and Anny's story.  Anny met Dane, who coincidentally has served a mission in Russia so he spoke the language that her parents know and can communicate well with them.  Anny and Dane were married in the Portland Temple last summer.  We traveled there and experienced the excitement along with them.  Dane's family is quite large with several children (I never was able to count them all but I am thinking 13).  So Anny is getting accustomed to such a large family when she had no experience with any family larger than two children in Russia.  Anny's family of her Mom and Dad and brother were able to come for her wedding. 

Dane's family loved her brother Anton who stayed for a couple months with Dane's family and joined the church.  Anny's parents understand the gospel more than ever and who knows that when the time is right and missionaries finally move into their town in Russia but...
Anton, Anny's Dad, Dane, Anny, Mom, Anny's Mom

Anny's family took to Mom and responded to her love as easily as did Anny.  They expressed appreciation and honored Mom during their stay here.  Anny's parents paid my Mom a huge complement when they said, "We raised her for sixteen years but you are the one who helped her become the person she is today."

This story continues on and hasn't stopped and I don't expect that it will.  You see, Anny has two families now, well I guess even three.  She has her parents and brother, my Mom and the rest of us, and now of course Dane's family as well.  So a Russian girl who had a desire to learn English well, ends up a die hard Mormon with American roots dug deep into both ends of the country and ever deeper in the gospel soil.

A Mom's love can work miracles.  My Mom's love has done so more than once.   

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Music #9: Cantoma: Essarai

Phil Mison the genius behind Cantoma
Cantoma is actually British DJ Phil Mison making music that is called "chill out" music.  It is largely instrumental with some etherial singing whose focus is not on the words being sung but rather the interplay with the music.  This particular song comes from his first album entitled "Cantoma".

Tanja Thulau soloist in Essarai by Cantoma.

This video is just a picture of the album cover, enjoy the music.

Cantoma: Essarai:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Manly Man Training #15: Courageous Fatherhood

The world needs courageous fathers!  Somewhere along the way many fathers have gotten the impression that they do not have many or even any responsibilities with the kids, or that they can pick and choose the duties that they will fulfill for their children.  As a result of this our role as fathers has been made into slapstick and played for laughs in movies and other media.  That continues the downward spiral by giving new generations of men the idea that they are not capable or needed as a father in the home. As it stands 43% of American children live without a father in the home. 
A new movie is coming out later this summer called Courageous that deals with the importance of fathers stepping up and being an integral part of the family.  I applaud this movie and it's attempt.  Below you can look at the trailer for the movie.  I saw it when I was in the theater watching Soul Surfer.  One scene I remember was a man talking to some of his buddies saying something like, "I have been half of a father to my children and I want to be better."  "Don't be so rough on yourself" says one of his friends.  Then he determines he is going to do a better job and be a part of his children's life.  His wife is disbelieving but begins to trust him when she sees some of his efforts. 
Courageous movie trailer
That is what we need to do as Manly Men.  We need to be willing to do the hard as well as the simple things with and for our children.  We need to do better at sharing the duties of parenting with our wife. As we do this we will feel a greater part of our children's lives and see and feel the benefits of becoming a father. 

Elder Packer tells us some of the benefit of being more involved: "To you who are young, this experience of loving someone more than you love yourself can come, insofar as I  know, only through the exercise of the power of creation.  Through it you become really Christian." (Boyd K. Packer address to CES personnel at BYU, 15 July 1958)  I understand that to mean not just the act of procreation, but inclusive of the daily actions of protecting, raising, teaching, and loving that child is what helps us "become really Christian". 

Click here if you want to see a bunch of statistics that help tell the story of how important a father can be in a child's life.  The truth is that father's are as indispensable as are mothers.  Our society has grown away from that belief but the truth, as usual, hasn't changed. 

Naturally we can't change nor help and protect every child.  We can however do what is needed with our own children.  Those of you who haven't had any children yet need to commit yourself to this.  It will not be easy nor convenient, but if you put your priorities in a more Godly order then you will recognize that your "creations" need the same attention and caring and preparing and teaching and so forth that our God gives to us.  In my mind, being a father and parent in general, is training to help us be more like our Heavenly Father.  So while our children need us, in reality we need them too. 

As we recognize things that our children need to be taught, we find that we have a greater desire to be that good example too them.  Now, all of a sudden, when you have that child in your arms and in your life you have stronger reasons to be the person you always knew you could be and wanted to be.  With that child everything is multiplied because your example will now last generations and not just die with you. Tens and hundreds, even thousands of lives will be blessed, or cursed by your choices

Here's some beginning things to teach your children from David O' McKay"We should ...awaken in the minds of the youth a realization that to be honest, to be dependable, to be a loyal citizen of the country, to be true to the standards of the gospel are the noblest ideals of life" (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, p. 264).

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