Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Candy Scrounging with Gavin

It was an interesting night for Halloween this evening. We got to see good friends dressed up in humorous/disturbing/geeky/etc. ways and got to consume lots and lots of sugar-based products. Not a bad way to spend an evening. 

I think I'm most grateful for the small events that led to a small joy. Sabrina was acting like quite the little whinny brat in the run-up to heading out for Trick-or-Treating, so she ended up staying home with Marci as a punishment. Marci really didn't want to go out that evening anyway so this wasn't too big of a deal for her. 

Later when we got to Bro. Labor's house for the traditional hamburger/hot dog social that he is so famous for in our neighborhood Caleb met up with Kelly & Rachel and wanted to go candy scrounging with them (his haul ended up being easily 10 lbs. of candy). That left me and Gavin.

So, I got to spend about an hour or so walking around with Gavin and doing Trick-or-Treating by his standards and his methods. It was quite enjoyable and was a very pleasant way to spend some time with him. Anytime I get to observe Gavin and try to understand how his mind works is valuable to me. Tonight I learned that what might be obvious to him, is far from obvious to us and I need to find a way to let him be the one to point out the "obvious" to me as much as I can. 

I'm grateful for little lessons like that.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Home teaching

Tonight I had the pleasure to go home teaching. Due to our current situation of having only one car and by virtue of the fact that we had 3 different places our family needed to be at approximately the same time, this made things a little more difficult than normal.

 My normal companion is suffering from some health issues and was unable to make it, so I knew I was going to need a substitute companion. However, because I would have to go to one visit, then leave and take Caleb to his volleyball practice, then return for the other appointment, I would need two people to go with me as my companion.

I called two people, and two people readily agreed, and I'm absolutely certain they were just two of the many more I could have contacted with equal success.

I'm so very grateful that I know so many worthy priesthood holders who are so willing to serve. It makes life so much easier on a regular basis.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy birthday to me

I am now 42. Yep. If you had known me as a youth and had seen the type of things I did, you would be as surprised as I am. Nevertheless, I remain alive and relatively healthy with no indication that condition will end anytime in the near future.

Today I'm grateful for my family and my friends for making the day special for me. I don't particularly go out of my way to announce my birthday, I don't ask for a big, or even a small, party. Well, unless there is a zero at the end of the birthday - at every decade I expect some small amount of fuss to be made for me. I don't think that is asking too much. 

Anyway, birthdays really aren't my thing. However, my wife took me out to lunch, then we took the family out to dinner, then, without my knowing about it, she invited our good friends over to have cake and ice-cream with us. Not too shabby.

So, today I am grateful for a loving wife and family who made me feel extra special today. I love them dearly.

Now all I need is some sushi.

My man....

Today is Jared's birthday - therefore I will take this day to tell him how much I appreciate him. (Hopefully, he knows this already) I am so grateful that I convinced him to marry me more than 15 years ago! :) You are my best friend and more kind to me than I generally deserve. I am constantly amazed at what you put up with and do for our family! You work not 1, not 2, but 3 jobs to provide for us and so that I can stay home with our kids. You are always there for us and we could not live without you! You have brought so much joy, love and happiness into my life. I can't tell you all of the things you do for me each and every day. I love sharing my life with you. You help me everyday to be a better person. You bring out the best in me. Thank you for being worthy to use your priesthood whenever it is needed. Watching you give our children blessings or giving them to me or dropping all that you are doing to go serve someone else makes me proud to call you my husband. I will never be able to adequately tell you how much you mean to me and how blessed I feel to share my life with you! I LOVE YOU MOSTEST OF ALL - INFINITY - NO ADD ONS!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Good leaders who keep me honest

I posted a few days ago about my excitement that our troop had finally been selected to go to Philmont. I announced it to the ward leaders (bishop, YM president, etc.) and to some stake leaders as well; the reception was not what I had hoped for. After some reflection I have a little better understanding of why, but it is still hard for me to come down from my initial excitement.

I am most grateful, however, to Jared Adams. It was he that reminded me that our youth program is supposed to be run by the youth. The GAs have been emphasizing the importance of having our youth take on as much leadership as possible. With my submitting for Philmont registration I had done it as a somewhat selfish act. Yes, it would be great for the boys, yes, it is a fantastic experience, but also, yes, I was the only one who had any experience with it and I was the only one who was really wanting to go.

So, properly chastised, I had to take it back to the young men and ask them if they wanted to go. I'm not sure any longer if I, or anyone else from the ward, will be going. There may be some people from the stake who will take our slot, but, based on what I was hearing, we may not go. As much as it breaks my heart to see that happen, I also understand why it might happen, and I'm okay with it. 

I may not be happy about it - but I'm okay with it.

So, today I'm grateful for other men who have the courage to tell me when I'm not doing something for the right reasons. It's never easy to hear that your ideas are misplaced - but it definitely helps you learn.

Great friends...

About 3 or so years ago, my best friend moved out of our ward. That was a really hard time for me. I was happy for her and her family to be getting a better job so that they could continue to provide well for their family, but I missed her like crazy!! It is hard to let someone go that you truly connect with and can just talk to about anything! She was my person! After she left, I think I became a little depressed. I jokingly decided that I wasn't going to try and make new friends - I will become attached and then they will just leave me! I said this and went on like this for several months. In my mind I was just saying it and not really living it, but looking back that is what I did. I closed myself off a little bit to everyone around me. I still had lots of friends, but not that one friend I could call at anytime and complain about my life to and she would just know exactly what to say to me to help. Anyway, I gradually came out of that way of thinking and opened myself up again to all my wonderful friends that were still here and the new ones that continued to move in. And now, I have amazing friends that I truly love and know that they are in my life for many reasons. They all have amazing qualities that I can and do learn from everyday. They all are always there for me and would do anything for me and I know they love me. I love getting together with them and just chatting and enjoying their amazing spirits. They all make me want to be a better person. So, last week when I had the opportunity to be at 2 different parties with so many of my friends - I have just reflected on how blessed I truly am with all of my wonderful friends. Thank you all for everything you do for me. You all will never know what you truly mean to me. And, I still really miss my best friend - like crazy. She gets to come visit next weekend and I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thoughtful friends

Today was a pretty good day. It was an especially good day for Caleb. Our good friends, the Reed family, invited him to go motorbike riding at a local dirt track. Caleb could not have been any more excited. I had some other obligations in the morning, but managed to get over to the track to see him ride for about 15 minutes or so before they closed down for the day. Paul and Cindy both were very impressed with how well Caleb rode for his first day out. He was certainly riding better than I would have been able to.

I've been friends with Paul Reed for a long time. Our friendship developed in a rather odd way since we both seemed to dislike each other at our first encounter, but later became very close. He is one of the best and most skilled hiking partners I've ever had and he's a very good friend. What is even more exciting is that he has a son that is also Caleb's age and Caleb and Tanner have become good friends as well.

That friendship for Caleb came along at a very crucial time for him and I will always be grateful that Paul and Cindy decided to move their family back to Arizona and that they were able to fill a small but vital need in my son's life at that time. I am also grateful to have them back in our family's lives as well.

It is easy to be grateful for good friends.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A quiet evening with the wife

Regardless of everything else that may have gone on today, I'm just grateful that I got to spend a little time with my sweetheart this evening.

Love you babe!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Additional patience is rewarded

We have been trying for a while now, as a family, to try and get out of debt. If you include student loan debt then we are likely to never see the light of day again, but our immediate goal is to eliminate consumer debt. 

It has not been easy. 

One thing we realized fairly quickly is that we don't have the most economical of cars. Our minivan is quite convenient, but gets only average gas mileage - but it is paid for, so that isn't such a terrible expense. My Taurus on the other hand, we have a fairly significant (for us) payment on it, it doesn't get any better gas mileage than the van and, well, I've never really liked it. So we decided some time ago to try and sell it. 

I put an add on Craigslist - but it has been a couple of months and there has only been one person that came to look at it. It wasn't a terribly urgent thing to sell it at first, and it still isn't, but I became more concerned about it and began to feel like we really do need to sell it. So, I made it a matter of prayer. 

This week on Wednesday I got 3 calls within about an hour or two, all wanting to buy the car, and one very nice gentleman who actually bought it. The purchase was finalized today and it was a very pleasant transaction. We didn't get the full amount we wanted for it, but we paid it off and got enough money to help us significantly with our Christmas.

So - patience is a virtue. I wish it didn't need to be a virtue, but apparently if you are willing, the help will come when you need it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Patience is rewarded

Today I had a very good thing happen: I get to go back to Philmont. 

Since I have been called into the bishopric I have applied every year for our troop to go to Philmont. For those that don't know Philmont is a "high adventure" scout ranch where scouts go backpacking. Typically a trek lasts for 10 days on the trail and will cover 50+ miles. It is totally awesome. You have to apply 2 years in advance and it is a lottery-style selection from all the troops that submit applications. I'ts been 4 years of applying every year, and we haven't been selected yet.

A bit of history: I went there twice as a youth and then once as a ranger the summer before my mission. Some of the best and most spiritual experiences I had in my young life occurred in the mountains and trails of that wonderful place. My love of hiking, backpacking and my deep love for the outdoors were all kindled during my experiences there. It is a very sacred place for me.

So, today I was informed that there have been some cancellations from other crews going there this coming summer and our crew was selected from the wait list to go. I could not be more delighted. We have dates set and we are now trying to find out how many young men and leaders will join us for the trek. 

At this point I should say that I am extremely grateful for my wife. I came to her and asked if she was okay if I go (which would be at least a 12 day trip for me). It will involve a not insignificant expense for us as a family and I will be leaving her alone with our kids for 12 days in the middle of summer, not an insignificant trial for Marci. However, despite all that she basically signed and said, "How can I say no? Of course you can go."

I believe I married her for this very moment.

So, I'm extremely grateful that I will have another opportunity to go to Philmont, and I'm grateful I have a wife who is willing to let me go. 

P.S.: As a side note, I would give anything to have this opportunity happen next year so that Caleb could go with me, but the opportunity is now and because of the lottery-style selection prevents us from having any guarantee that we would be selected next year if we chose to pass up this opportunity this year. So, it is a bit of a mixed blessing. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight. It's always fun to have them in our home and our kids absolutely love having them over. For me the interesting part happened on Sunday. After our meeting block Caleb came up to me in the foyer and said, "Dad, we have to invite the missionaries over for dinner this week!" - he didn't say why, just that he wanted them to come over. I tried explaining that our ward only gets the opportunity to feed the missionaries once every few weeks because they have other wards that also want to serve them. I didn't know when our next opportunity would be. He looked a little deflated, but accepted what I had to say.

Right about then, Marci came up and said, "We're having the missionaries over for dinner on Tuesday."  Caleb and the rest of the kids were obviously delighted. 

It was while the missionaries were here for dinner tonight that I heard Caleb tell me that he really liked having the missionaries come over because since he is going to be a missionary he wants to get to know them and learn about what it's like. He was very serious about it and it was pretty cool to hear him say it.

So, today I'm happy that the young men who serve the Lord full time for 2 years are able to come by and show my family a good example of what it takes to be a good servant of the Lord and how to be dedicated in that service. I'm also very grateful that my children have been watching carefully, and that the missionaries that have served in our ward have been good examples for them.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gavin the teacher

Tonight Gavin wanted to teach the lesson for Family Home Evening; it was quite entertaining. As a Cub Scout he has to fulfill several requirements to earn his "Religious Knot" and one of the tasks he needed to complete was to teach a lesson about a story from the scriptures that teaches about faith.

The beginning of the lesson was awesome, Gavin had thought about and prepared the lesson all by himself without even asking us for help. He had selected a story from the Book of Mormon and was going to read the entire thing to us. It was 5 chapters long. Marci and I decided to jump in and we talked him out of that plan, thank goodness. So we helped him out and asked him about what some of his favorite stories are that teach about faith. He was going to read about Nephi returning for the brass plates, so we spoke to him about that story. As we asked questions to help him remember the story I was pretty amazed at how much detail he remembered, and Sabrina as well. Between the two of them there were almost no details that they didn't know.

Anyhow, eventually we got a great lesson out of it and it only took a minimum of questions from Marci and I. Gavin concluded by bearing hist testimony about the need to have faith in God. It was all very sweet and I was so proud of him for taking all the initiative on his own. He's such a good kid.

So, today I am grateful for my son Gavin. I'm grateful that he can turn his considerable strength of will towards the Lord and decide for himself what is right and what he needs to do in order to do what he thinks is right, and that he is constantly willing to learn and try to understand what is right.

Good Day

I am grateful for any day that I do not have to fight with Gavin. By this point, if you have read any of the previous posts, you know that I have struggled with Gavin and always feel he is our hardest child to raise. It is now 5pm and Gavin has been working steadily at his homework, reading, piano practice and cleaning part of the playroom and his room (including putting clothes away). He has not complained about any of it. He has been focused on what he is supposed to do and is getting everything done without me having to sit right by him and watch him and prod him along. This is amazing to me and a miracle in my life. Things have been getting better since we decided to put him on another med to help him focus. I was reluctant to add another medicine in his daily routine because I don't just want a quick fix for him. I want him to learn to cope and learn to work and work things out, but his doctor recommended it to me and I really trust her opinion. We decided to do it on a month trial basis and see how it goes. We are now in the 2nd month and it is like having a new child. He still has hard times sometimes and definitely still gets emotional over things that don't go the way he thinks they should, but this medicine has made such a difference. He has told me that his mind is more quiet and therefore he can focus on what needs to be done more easily. This is all I want for him. I want him to feel like he has more control over his mind and I don't want it to be such a fight between us and in his mind over every little thing he needs to do. I am very grateful that we have seem to have made the right decision with medication for him and it is helping him be more positive and calm and therefore not disrupting our family so much. I can help all the kids a little more now that I don't have to constantly follow Gavin around to accomplish the littlest of tasks. I am grateful for the guidance I have received to help me know that this is the right decision at this time.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A long day of service

Sundays are a weird day. It is a day for worship, and for many people it is also a day of rest. However, there are a number of callings in the church for which Sunday is probably the busiest day of the week. I am a counselor in a bishopric currently and that is definitely the case for me.

For example, this past Sunday we started the day with a bishopric meeting at 7:00. Other ward meetings kept us going till 10:30-ish. I then went to speak to some members of the ward about a new calling for them. That took me right up until choir practice, which I got to conduct. (As a side note, it takes a lot out of me conducting a choir. I love it and I get very excited and animated - it is a full-body workout for me when I conduct and I put a lot of energy into it. I am pretty tired after I've conducted choir practice for an hour, but I still have an absolute blast.) After choir I got to go home for a little under an hour before I had to get back to church to prepare for our meeting block. During the block I had the pleasure to do 4 different temple recommend interviews - a pleasure to do, but one that takes some focus and can be a bit tiring.

After the block we take care of any immediate needs of the members of the ward and then go into the clerk's office to count the tithes and offerings and then convey them to the bank for deposit. This particular Sunday we then had some additional meetings and visits to attend after that which took us well into the night. I got home a little after 10:30 PM. While it was a bit out of the ordinary to have a day that busy, it was by no means an isolated case. I don't work that hard or that long on any day for my job. At the same time, I'm not complaining. If I had to keep hours like that for my job, I'd quit tomorrow. But for my calling at church, it can actually be a huge blessing to be able to provide so much service.

This Sunday also had some unusual blessings for me: three times I received very subtle promptings about something I needed to do or say, and every time it turned out to be exactly what was needed by those on whose behalf the prompting came. The unusual part was that normally a prompting comes very strong and sure with a very definite feeling. These promptings were much more subtle, and yet I knew them for what they were. They came more as persistent thoughts that wouldn't go away - not accompanied by any strong feeling, just a persistence that felt almost insistent. It was unusual for me, but I'm glad I listened and acted on the thoughts. I learned a great deal.

So, today I'm grateful for Sundays. I'm grateful for my calling and the constant acts of service I'm asked to do. I'm grateful that the Lord has seen fit on occasion to use me as His tool to perform acts of service for others. I'm grateful for a wife who supports me. I'm grateful for the blessing it is to serve the Lord in whatever way I can.

It was just a good day.

Awesome Parents

Can I just say that I have the best parents in the world?!? I really love them. We went to Disneyland last week as Jared already posted and we had a great time. My mom was able to come with us this time (along with Sheri and McKenna). It was so much fun to have them with us. My mom is not really one for theme parks. She has asked me several times over the last few years (as we have had our D-land passes - and have gone about 6 times a year) why we keep going? Aren't we sick of it yet? I always reply that we are not. She doesn't quite understand this. To her, this is not that fun of a vacation over and over again. Maybe once every few years, but not 6 times a year. But, she decided to come along so she could spend some time with Sheri and McKenna (who she doesn't get to see as much as me and my kids). Well, 2 straight days of Disneyland (at last 9 hours a day) is not easy. I am always tired and my legs and feet always ache, but especially hard for a 71 year old great grandma. My mom is in great shape and is very active, but it is just hard to do all the walking that you do at Disneyland. She was such a trooper. She even switched shoes with me when mine we rubbing blisters on my heels. It was so fun to have her with us. Now she understands better why we have spent the money and time and energy to go to Disneyland with our kids. They LOVE it!! It is fun to see everything through their eyes. They still get so excited about so many things there. They love the rides, the atmosphere, the sites and sounds and everything that goes on there. I was happy to have my mom experience that with them. I think it was also nice for her to see Sabrina and McKenna together - just loving being in that magical place and being so excited. At one point, it was just us girls and we had gone over to CA Adventure and as we walked in they were just starting a Pixar parade, so we decided to stop and let the girls watch. It was the most adorable thing of the whole trip. They stood next to each other and whispered to each other about what they were seeing and then they would break into dancing and jumping all around and the smiles on their faces just made everything worth it. I am so grateful that my mom was there to enjoy this time with us! It made it even more special. Even though my dad wasn't with us - we always feel his generosity and love. He always finds a way to do something special. A couple years ago, we had a girls weekend with my mom and sister and sisters-in-law and he made sure that he gave each of us some money to spend on ourselves for the weekend. He is so giving of his time, love and money. This time, as Jared already mentioned, he offered to pay for our hotel. We have been tight on money lately and even though we probably could have made better use of our money by staying home - he never says that, he just offers to help where he can. His kindness this weekend was overwhelming to me. No lectures of needing to use the money more wisely, just understanding that we do these trips to build a bond with our little family and he wanted to help with that. Thank you mom and dad for always being there for us and with us in your different ways and teaching me constantly about sacrifice and love and giving. I love you both!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A safe and satisfying trip

Just as it was easy to find something to be grateful for when we began our little vacation, it is easy to find something to be grateful for at the conclusion of our vacation. We traveled to and from Disneyland in peace and safety, we had two and a half days of fun with family, and everyone had fun and there was a minimum of problems and none of significance. Overall it was a very successful trip and some good memories were built.

I'm pretty sure I would be pretty ungrateful if I didn't recognize all the blessings that we have in our life that allowed us to be able to have all of that happen to us.

Friday, October 19, 2012


The thing that stands out most for me today is the tremendous blessing of sleep. The kids didn't get much last night and they've had a full day today and have had a few issues while tooling about at Disneyland. By virtue of a little gem of a medication known as Ambien, I was able to get a pretty full night's sleep. 

So, here is some much needed gratitude and recognition for the blessing that it is to be able to have a safe and comfortable place where we can sleep and get the rest we need. Even while on vacation.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Children make it so much more fun

As mentioned in the last post, we are at Disneyland right now. We spent all day today, we will spend all day tomorrow, and then possibly a little time on Saturday before we head back home.

There are many things to be grateful for right now, that we enjoy enough prosperity to be able to come, that we have family who came with us, that we and our children are healthy enough to be able to hang out at D-land all day (not an insignificant feat), and so much more.

However, the thing that always stands out to me nearly any time we do anything special with or for our children is how much fun it is to watch them having fun. Honestly, it is the best thing ever. Sabrina is particularly enjoyable this time around as she is with her cousin McKenna and the two of them are like peas in a pod and they both just enjoy the HECK out of everything.

If it is this cool for me, can you imagine how cool it is for our Heavenly Father to watch us as we experience the joys of life and experience? There are always difficult parts, as parents we watch our kids fight, not listen to us, deal with pain or injury, but above all of those things, the stuff we remember and the stuff that brings us the most joy is being able to experience the joy of our children. To have someone who you love so much that your greatest joy is making them happy...what a precious blessing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A generous father-in-law

So - we're at Disneyland. This is our 5th trip this year (we bought a year-long pass) and this time around Grandma Kathy, Aunt Sherri and McKenna are with us. This should be a good time.

We had a little trouble actually getting to the hotel when Google Maps decided to not tell us which way to go a couple of times and ended up sending us about 30 miles out of our way before we finally arrived. Road trips are always SO much fun! Technology is great and we learn to rely on it, then when it fails us we are totally stumped. Good times.

Anyway, we got here not feeling terribly happy. Shortly after we got somewhat settled Grandma Kathy handed us an envelope from Grandpa Sherl. He had written a short note to us expressing his gratitude for us and then told us that he would be paying for the hotel - to the tune of $500. That is a HUGE boost for us. We have been really having some struggles financially recently, and this helps relieve a bit of a burden.

You might question, if you are having struggles financially, why are you going to Disneyland. I don't have a great answer, I can only say that we made a decision as a family to take money that would have been spent on other things (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) and instead spend the money on the annual passes for Disneyland and spend more time building experiences instead of buying stuff. It has been a great success for our family, and we've done all we can to make sure that we don't stretch ourselves too much financially.

All that being said - having Marci's dad offer to pay for the largest expense for this trip really helps us in our attempts to meet other financial goals. So, today I am grateful for my father-in-law and for his generosity and willingness to help us just because he wants to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My wife keeps it together

You may or may not be aware of how much I love my wife, but just in case you are allow me to put your curiosity to rest, I love her a whole bunch.

As with most people and families we have our ups and our downs. We are really good about things for a while, then we slack off for a bit, then we get better, then something else goes down the's cyclical. However, one of the constants in all of that is that it is usually Marci that is the first one to pull up and make the changes necessary to get us back on track.

She does so much for our family. Most of the time I can only marvel at how much she accomplishes in a single day. So, today, I am exceedingly grateful for a wife who is sensitive enough to make changes in our lives when we need them, and does it in a way that is never harsh, difficult or divisive. She keeps us all together.

Surprise wake up...

So, this morning I could hear Gavin opening his bedroom door (about 6:10am). A month or so ago, he broke his door when he was mad and so it does not open or close right. The screws on the top hinge are coming out of the wall and so it is hard to open. It is also loud and so it wakes me up when someone tries to get in or out. I assumed when I heard the door opening so early that Gavin wants to go into the playroom to play some Wii. He has done this many times where he wakes up super early and sneaks into the playroom and starts playing Wii. There have been times when he has been playing the Wii for at least an hour before anyone else is awake. So, it was close to the time I get them up for school so I got up to tell him that he couldn't play the Wii this morning and I notice the light just over his bed is on. I peek into his room and he is sitting on his bed reading his new scriptures. It was so sweet and just melted my heart and then I had to repent for thinking the worst of him. I have to repent often. He is such a good-hearted child. So, this morning I am grateful to Gavin for teaching me that I must first think the good in him and others because they are good. Thank you Gavin for starting your day off right by reading the scriptures and for especially reminding me of your goodness. I sure do love you Bubba!! Keep surprising me and teaching me!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Family Home Evening

I have to admit it: I'm not a fan of FHE. We didn't have it very often as a child and when we did it led to one or two of the most traumatic events of my childhood. That is not in any way an exaggeration. So, I know we should have it, and I know it shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. I'm so pathetic about it that even when Marci's family has any kind of "meeting" (which usually involves her parents presenting some kind of spiritual message) I can barely stay in the same room.

That is beginning to change finally, at least where our family is concerned.

Our kids love FHE. They all clamor over each other to be the one to "lead" and they will almost fight over who gets to pick the song and who gets to say the prayer. They listen as well as can be expected for children of their respective ages and they even answer questions pretty readily (the standard "Sunday School" answers are pretty prominent, but, hey, it's all good).

I've mentioned before that we have found immense success in making sure we have FHE by inviting friends over. It's a great method to ensure that you actually do something when someone else is now expecting results as well. Maybe I'll start inviting people over and invite them to bring the lesson too!

Anyway, for others it may seem like a small thing, but for me it is HUGE. I am so grateful that my family makes it so easy for me to enjoy FHE, and I"m grateful for friends who willingly put up with us and come and help make it easy for me as well. It is a small but very meaningful miracle for me.

Ditto; and a little more

So, my husband got to blogging about ward choir before I did and as I read it I knew that I would not be able to say it better than he did. So, because I don't want to say almost the exact same thing in my post, I am just going to say ditto to everything he wrote last night! Maybe except for the part about me being a decent singer. That is him just being nice. I know it seems like a silly thing to be grateful that my daughter will wear pants, but it made me SO happy this morning that she put on her new pair of jeans! She has not worn pants for a really long time and there have been so many times that I have wanted her to wear pants. So many times that it would have been warmer and just easier. But, she is her own person and wants to do things her way and it had to be her decision to finally get a pair of pants. She still told me that she doesn't like brown pants - so we can only get jeans at this point, but I will take it. She looks so cute and grown up and really tall in her jeans. It has been hard to find skirts that are long enough and she didn't like to wear the little biker shorts under her skirts that I always made her wear. But, we can't go around showing our underwear to everyone. That is the price you pay by wearing a skirt everywhere. Camping, hiking, to the park, riding bikes, and everywhere else that it would have been easier to wear pants. So, the range of things I can now buy her is so much bigger and for that I am grateful!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Worshiping through music as a family

Today I had a particularly enjoyable experience: my wife came to choir. This was doubly exciting for me because I was going to be substituting for the normal director. I should point out that I was the choir director for this ward and our prior ward for a total of nearly 7 years. I LOVE being a choir director and I would trade my current calling in a heartbeat to be able to do that calling again. There are really only two callings that I want: gospel doctrine instructor and choir director. However, knowing how things usually work out, I'll probably never get to be called to either of those positions ever again. [sigh]

Anyway, Marci has been feeling for about a month or so that she wanted to come to choir. Now, Marci isn't a talented singer, mostly because she hasn't spent the time trying to be a talented singer. She has an excellent voice, but she doesn't know how to read music well and hasn't trained her ear to be able to follow the harmony parts. All that being said...I could care less. Seeing her smiling face and knowing that she was there just for the purpose of worshiping Heavenly Father is all I care about. I was absolutely delighted that she came.

However, the problem was what to do with Gavin and Sabrina. Caleb has been singing with me in choir for some time now, and we didn't want to stop that just so he could babysit while Marci and I were singing. Essentially our whole family was going to be at choir. We were both concerned with how Sabrina and Gavin would behave. If they get bored it is quite easy for them to be a pretty disruptive force. Imagine our delight when both of them were perfectly quiet and didn't disturb anything and simply read or colored while sitting on the stairs. It was amazing and I was very proud of them. A little later after we got home Sabrina came to me and said, "Daddy, when we were at choir today I could really feel the spirit." - she said it so matter-of-fact that it as almost humorous if it wasn't so touching.

Today I am grateful for a family that is able to worship with me through music. I'm grateful for a wife who loves music enough to come out of her comfort zone, a son who is working on his musical skills, and for two children who love music and are able to feel the spirit as they listen to the music of worship. I'm also grateful to my Heavenly Father for blessing our two youngest with a calming spirit.

I'm one blessed dude.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wonderful friends

Much like my wife's post, today's post is ridiculously easy. I had the great pleasure of being able to attend the wedding of some of our favorite people: Ryan Dixon and Nichole Carney. What a fantastic day.

Over the past few years I've gotten to know Nichole and she has become practically a member of our family. The number of ways that she has blessed our lives simply cannot be measured. She got to meet and fall in love with an equally great guy in Ryan Dixon. Although, following in the footsteps of many men before him, Ryan has clearly married above his pay grade. (Don't worry Ryan - that's the way it should work! I married WAY over my pay grade, so you're in good company.)

I'm so grateful that Nichole feels strongly enough about the bond our family has formed with her that she invited us to attend the sealing in the Mesa Temple. That was a real treat for us. To see how happy she was to be getting married to Ryan and to see how happy Ryan was to be marrying Nichole - they both had the biggest smiles on their faces throughout the process - was just an incredible blessing for both Marci and myself.

My happiness is even more complete because at the wedding I also got to see two more of my favorite people: Miya Crocket and Alison Linford. I had already known about major events happening in their lives, but to speak to them personally about Miya getting engaged and to hear of Alison's plans to serve a mission - well, it was just a really pleasing day.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about Miya and Alison later, but for today I am so grateful for Nichole and the love she has shown to my family. We are so blessed to have her as a friend and we are so happy for her at the start of such a wonderful new time in her life.

Love is in the air...

Today has been a great day! I am exhausted, but that is okay. Jared and I were able to spend most of our day attending the wedding of good friends - Nichole and Ryan Dixon. Nichole was Sabrina's hab worker for awhile and we became great friends with her. She is an amazing young woman and I feel so blessed to have her as a role model for my daughter. She is also the only member of the church in her family. Therefore, she was not able to have any family in the temple for the sealing. We felt blessed that she would choose to invite us to be a part of that. It was very special and sealings are always wonderful reminders of when Jared and I got married - the feelings and excitement of starting our family together and knowing it will be for time and all eternity. Because Nichole is the only member of her family, they chose to have a ring ceremony in the afternoon. Sabrina was able to attend that with us - she was SO excited to go and be a part of the wedding. She really does idolize Nichole - and she adores Ryan. And they seem to truly love to have her around, which makes my heart joyful. Again, we felt blessed to have been invited to the ring ceremony. Not many people, other than family were in attendance. It is such a blessing to have wonderful people in my life. I gain so much happiness, strength, testimony, love from these people. They enrich my life so much. I have often wondered if I had not been born into the church, if I would have the strength to join the church; to change my whole life, go against my parents and be the only member - to essentially stand up for truth and righteousness. I truly admire those strong souls that do this. And Nichole is one of those that I have learned from and been blessed to know. Thank you Nichole and Ryan for allowing us to be part of your special day. To make us feel like part of your family. I so enjoyed spending our day with you and will always be grateful for how you treat my daughter! Best of luck to you in your new life together!

On a completely different note - but easily just as important in my life.  Today was a big day in our household.  Sabrina and I went shopping and for the first time in 3, almost 4 years, we bought her not 1 but 2 pairs of jeans.  For those of you that know Sabrina, you know that she has not put on a pair of pants in a really long time.  She may wear leggings, as long as she has a skirt or dress over them.  She goes camping, hiking, to the park, and whatever in a skirt or dress.  So, a few days ago she came to me and said she thought she was ready to buy a pair of jeans.  She thinks she will be able to handle the "itchiness" now.  Now, we will see how long it takes her to wear them out of the house!  She may be quirky, but I sure do love her!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hiking season is upon us!

Today I went hiking with my son Caleb. What a wonderful week when I can go hiking with all of my family at different times. The weather was perfect, the time was available, and we were able to take advantage of the opportunities.

For Caleb and I it is a particularly special time. We get to get out and just talk. He is more open with me on our hikes and we can talk about anything - and it is tremendous fun for both of us. Today for our hike we didn't even really have a serious goal in mind. Usually we hike to get to a peak or to reach the end of a trail, but today I knew we didn't have the time to do anything fancy like that, so we just went out on a trail and started talking. We saw a few things that looked interesting along the way, so we took detours and just sort of explored the area. It was relaxing and really quite fun. We ended up hiking about 3 miles or so in total and I barely even broke a sweat.

I really hope that as Gavin grows stronger we will be able to enjoy going on hikes together as much as Caleb and I do. I cherish the time that we spend together and I know he enjoys it too. I'm so grateful that I have found something that we both can enjoy together. I hope to be able to find something equally rewarding activity that each of my children and I can enjoy together.

Today, I suppose, like my wife, I'm grateful for the arrival (at last!) of beautiful weather so that I can enjoy my favorite activity and that my joy is further enhanced knowing that my children like to do it with me.

Beautiful weather

So, today was 75 degrees - ALL DAY!! It was beautiful!! This is when I am so happy that I live in Arizona! We go through at least 5 months out of the year trying to get from one place to the other as quickly as possible so we don't have to be outside very long. We blast the air conditioning in the car, at home and love all the stores that blast theirs so we don't melt from the heat. People that live in other places of the US always wonder why we live in AZ when it is so hot for so many months - and to be honest, so do I when it is September or most of October as it is still in the 90's; but days like today remind me why I live here. I would rather melt in the summer than freeze in the winter. So, even though I didn't spend most of my day outside today, I had my door open all day and that is just heaven!! So, as silly as it may sound, today I am grateful for this absolutely perfect weather. It just makes me smile and reminds me that I live in the best state!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Tonight at one of my choirs our director (Glenn Bennett) handed us new music for our Christmas program. I believe the total music was something like 10 or 12 different pieces. I had seen roughly half of them before in previous years. So, Glenn decides to run us through most of them in one 2 hour practice.

Yep - it was sight-reading time!

Normally this can be a particularly painful experience, and tonight was not really any different. However, and here is the part I'm thankful for, it wasn't impossible. That might sound strange, but it really was very satisfying to be able to go and read a bunch of new music with a group of like-minded (at least musically) individuals and pull together some pretty darned impressive music considering the circumstances.

How wonderful it is to have a talent and not just have the "talent" but also to have been afforded the time and expertise of others to teach you how to use that talent, and further to be provided with the opportunities to be able to work at refining those talents. A friend of mine recently mentioned how much she misses having the opportunity to sing in her small(ish) town, of not having a good choir around to sing with. It made me realize how I am truly blessed to be able to have those opportunities.

Yes, I love music. Yes, I love singing. You'll hear about it a lot on this blog.

I hope that I never forget to be grateful for the gift of music in my life and for the gift of talented musicians around me that make it so rewarding to put that gift to use so frequently.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Aging with partial grace

I am getting older. It is unavoidably true. As such, I am slowly beginning to fall apart. Listing the various specifics of body parts that no longer are as resilient as they used to be, or to list the various aches and pains that afflict my rapidly decomposing carcass would be too long and, frankly, too depressing. 

However, amid all that there is one thing I am intensely grateful for on a daily basis. I learned a long time ago to enjoy physical exercise. In the past it didn't matter what the activity was, so long as I worked up a good sweat and had to put in significant physical effort. Today I have to be much more careful and precise with what type of exercise I participate in, but I nevertheless still feel a significant internal drive to maintain a reasonably fit and healthy body.

I take my father as sort of an anti-role model. He is a very good man in many ways, but from a physical health perspective, not so much. Oh, he has some very definite genetic problems that have not helped in the slightest, and I have inherited in the same genetic way many of those problems. However, my father was never much for staying physically fit in any time that I've ever known him. I understand he was quite the athlete when he was younger, but it was never something he showed to his children.

I look at him now in his 70's and I see how much difficulty he has even getting out of a chair....and I do not want to be like that. My wife would joke that I also have difficulty getting out of a chair, and she would be absolutely correct. However, I can also still hike with my children, I can swim and play with them, I can, at least a little, keep up with them. This is a blessing beyond measure. It takes dedication and work on my part. Because of other physical problems I have to work constantly to keep those problems from becoming disabilities - but I don't mind putting in the work and I've learned from an early age to enjoy putting in the work.

So, today I'm grateful for having been taught and having effectively learned how to remain physically fit and active. I hope my children will also follow after and find ways to keep themselves active and fit throughout their lives.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

This is on behalf of kids

Today, Caleb had darned well be grateful he has a good mom. I know I'm grateful for what she does for our kids and I know how much I appreciate her - I'm not sure our kids have any clue yet how blessed they are.

For the last year or so Marci has been experiencing some health issues. Nothing life-threatening, she has simply developed a late-onset allergy to Gluten (everything wheat based), Corn (so the "things she's allergic to" includes nearly everything at your local Mexican restaurant) and potatoes (and now the list includes everything starchy and yummy). She has also had some thyroid issues which leave her completely devoid of energy all day, every day. It is very frustrating for her, and clearly difficult for her.

Yet, somehow she hasn't missed a beat when it comes to the kids. Everyone is still off to school on time, picked up on time, taken to lessons, or practices, or play dates, or church activities, all successfully and at the required times. Everything that she has always done as a mother and the undisputed organizer and manager of our home and family still gets done. It is quite amazing to me.

Her latest project is our son Caleb. His grades recently in a couple of classes aren't what they could or should be. He simply hasn't been putting in the work. So, Marci has worked closely with Caleb on multiple projects and has been tracking his progress carefully to help him improve his grades; she has sat down with me to make plans for how the two of us can work together to help him learn how to work effectively on his school work - all because she loves him and wants him to succeed.

I'm not saying Marci is any better at being a mom than anyone else, or that she does any more than any mom should. What I am saying is that I'm terribly, deliriously happy that she is the mother of my children, and I couldn't begin to do what she does, nor, in fact, do I have any illusions that I could.

So, today, on behalf of my children, I am grateful they have an awesome mom.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A little, yet irrepressible girl

Today I had a LOT of fun. I got to take my two youngest children and my wife on a short hike. We drove out to Usury mountain and did the peak trail - it's not a terribly long or trail, but that was kind of the point. Gavin has been on the trail before and he made it all the way to the top and back without any difficulty at all. He is an eager and willing participant in hiking with me and I simply need to provide him with more opportunities to go out with me. This is something I hope to accomplish in abundance this hiking season.

Sabrina, however, presented a bit of a challenge. Sabrina has some kind of neuro-muscular problems. We're not sure exactly what it is, but it has been labeled as Cerebral Palsy - which we have learned is a kind of catch-all term for "there is something wrong most likely with her neural system but we're not really sure about what exactly it is." But, it is a term people tend to understand to a certain degree, so we use it to describe her problems. A detailed description of all of the complications is not necessary - but for the purposes of this story it is enough to know that she has problems with strength and endurance in her legs and with coordination in her movement and  balance. Nothing really major, just enough to occasionally terrify the life out of you when she is walking or (especially) when she is running. She falls regularly and her poor knees are almost always covered in scabs and scars of various stages of repair.

So, as you might imagine, hiking in the desert is more than just a little terrifying for us as her parents. One fall at the wrong time would result in, at best, more skin being removed from her knees or hands or, at worst....well, we don't like to think about that too much. However, here is the hard part: she LOVES to hike with her daddy. She asks me all the time when we will go hiking again - and we've only taken her hiking a half dozen times in her life. She is utterly without fear. Which all by itself the most terrifying thing about it. She somehow has not yet grasped that she would be, quite literally, in mortal danger if she were to accompany me on any number of my favorite hiking trails.

So, there we were: hiking on a mountain side with lots of loose gravel and plenty of cactus around for her to fall into. A father's worst nightmare for a child who can only walk as well as your average toddler. Yet somehow, I knew it would be okay. My biggest concern of the day was not the fear of her falling, but rather concern for her strength and stamina. The biggest problem of the day was that she didn't want to give up! She wanted to go all the way to the top. It was really only my warning to her that the top of Usury mountain had a couple of hives of wild desert honey-bees (which is true) that kept her from insisting to go on. We actually had to convince her that we needed to turn around and go back. It turned out that we were correct as she was really starting to get fatigued by the time we got back to the car.

I'm not sure if I can communicate what a miracle this event was for me. Not that she made it, that was no surprise at all; she's a trooper and she simply refuses to accept that she is any different from her brothers or anyone else for that matter, so her competitive spirit was going to keep her going. The miracle was that my mind was freed from being hyper protective of my little girl and letting her complete the hike on her own without any help from me. There was also another miracle that I didn't really recognize so much at the time but in retrospect was actually pretty amazing: on a trail that provided her with ample ways and means of falling, she only fell once, in the most innocuous of ways (tripping over a small rock) and in probably what was the safest place along the trail (a small flat space free of cactus).

Today I am grateful for two blessings: for the assistance that I'm absolutely certain Sabrina got from her Heavenly Father in staying upright and staying out of danger, and, what was possibly an even greater miracle, being given a calming spirit that helped me to let my daughter do something that was important for her to complete on her own without my help or interference.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Trusting in higher goals

It has been mentioned before that we have some difficulty with our son Gavin. It seems Gavin has falls on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and this creates the majority of our problems. His mental processes are simply different from what Marci and I experience. It is pointless to try and list out all of the specific issues we have, suffice it to say that the differences are sometimes very subtle, but just different enough so that it takes a considerable amount of time and experience for us to begin to understand the background reasoning behind his actions, and other times his behavior will trend a specific direction and we simply have to accept it because darned if we can't figure it out.

This is not to say Gavin is a bad kid, or to provide excuses for occasional bad behavior. Gavin is a very caring and loving boy who loves to learn and be helpful and he is very creative. It is simply an acknowledgement that of our 3 children, we understand Gavin the least and that lack of understanding is very frustrating to us as parents.

One of the more difficult problems is Gavin's propensity for lying. It's frustrating more because of the lack of any reason for it. He has actually lied to us when there was absolutely no reason at all - as in there was zero benefit for him to lie to us, and yet he persisted. His lying is occasionally accompanied by stealing as well, and that too seems to follow no real sensible pattern either. When he is caught in his lie he will not give in and admit to it. He will persist in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The unusual thing is that if you then leave him alone for a little while, sometimes as little as 5 minutes, he then will freely acknowledge that he has lied and it seems as though it was just another fact of life. He will even acknowledge it was wrong and admit that he knows he shouldn't do it - and somehow repeat the entire pattern, occasionally even within minutes of being caught the first time. The even bigger part of the problem is that it isn't consistent. He is actually a pretty honest kid most of the time. If he lied all the time then we could call it a pathological problem and begin treatment, but it isn't consistent, and that's what drives us crazy - the sheer randomness of it all.

Did I mention it was frustrating?

This morning before conference, we had caught him lying about something (during conference actually - the details are unimportant) and the subject was on my mind. How do I get through to Gavin about this? How can we get him to understand? What can we do? While pondering this I was listening to President Eyring and a thought came to me: "Use the temple." It was suddenly very clear to me that I should take Gavin to the temple and talk to him more directly about the temple, specifically to talk with him about one of the temple recommend questions: "Do you deal honestly with your fellow man?" I knew that helping Gavin make a connection between the temple and his behavior would help. I needed to give him a higher goal to reach for that had a tangible, visible result. He needed something to strive for that meant something to him.

As soon as the thought occurred to me I announced to my family that as soon as the session was over we were going to get ready and go to the temple. Everyone responded favorably, and we did. My trust in the Lord was repaid even before we left. Gavin didn't just get ready, he got dressed for church, even though nobody else was. He had on his church shirt, pants and a tie. I knew then that what I was doing was the right thing. The temple did mean something to Gavin and getting him to understand the association would help.

One thing that we have really tried to do in our family is emphasize the importance of the temple. We take our children there often and talk to them about the importance of the temple as a part of how we worship God. Our children seem to feel very strongly about the temple and love going there and talking about it. The success of these efforts was manifested very plainly in Gavin's extra preparations at that moment, and I was very proud of him for his actions.

After we arrived I sat down privately on a bench near the temple and talked to Gavin about what goes on in there and what is required to enter the temple. I then spoke to him about some of the basic questions of a temple recommend interview: Do you believe in God? Do you understand what Jesus Christ did for us? Do you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet? Do you believe Thomas S. Monson is a prophet? Do you pay your tithing? Do you keep the word of wisdom? And finally: Do you know what honesty means? Are you honest? We talked about each question and why each one was so important to being worthy to enter the temple. I saw understanding in his eyes, I heard him as he explained what he understood (and he seemed to fully understand) and I saw that he was grateful to know about it. I asked him what we could do that would help him remember to be honest and he suggested that we put a picture of the temple in his room. This will absolutely happen tomorrow.

I know this is not a magic bullet, and I know this will not immediately solve the problems we have with him, but I do know that it will help. I will continue to pray for understanding on my part of how to understand Gavin, and pray for Gavin to be able to help us understand who he is.

For now, I am simply grateful that a loving Heavenly Father heard the desire of my heart and answered me in a small and simple way. It has given me hope. Hope that bit by bit I will be provided with the inspiration I need to be able to understand my son.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'll give you one guess...

How on earth could I keep an account of the blessings I've received in my life without acknowledging the tremendous outpouring of blessings that come from a weekend of listening to General Conference? Listening to the words of men sustained as prophets, seers and revelators is always a blessing. Being able to also hear the words of any other sustained general authorities of the church that get chosen to address us at this time is equally wonderful.

I will not try and recount all of the specific things I have learned or felt today, I will only leave a small testimony that I know that the gospel is restored on the earth today. I know we have a living prophet in Thomas S. Monson. I know the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles are prophets, seers and revelators. I know this is Christ's church. I know this, and I am grateful to the Lord for the great blessing it is to have that knowledge.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Forgetfulness can be a blessing

I'm not sure, but I think I'm grateful today that I am an idiot. I'll let you be the judge.

I don't earn a lot of money. I earn enough to meet our needs and to be able to live fairly comfortably, but not much more than that. I have no complaints whatsoever. I know and am aware of many families that struggle far more than we do. However, there are still times when it's difficult to meet all of our financial obligations and still have enough money to see us through to the next paycheck. It's also fairly difficult when you know that it was poor financial discipline that created a the great majority of problems that have put us in our current financial state. Don't even mention all of my student loans that we are as yet still unable to address.

So, that is where we find ourselves for the next couple of weeks: hopefully enough to get by, but we're not quite sure. It was upon hearing that news that I offered up some money I had been carefully saving away for the last few months so that we would be in better shape (sadly, it was only $100 - which gives a better sense of how closely we budget our money than anything else I could say). My good wife refused to use the money knowing that I was saving up for some new camera equipment I've been wanting for a couple of years now.

As I was thinking about where I could find some surplus money it occurred to me, recent company policy has dictated that we pay for our internet service we use in our home office with our own money and the bank would reimburse us. Prior policy let me charge it off on my corporate card so I never even noticed that I was paying the bill. Anyhow, I was thinking: hey, I got charged last month and didn't submit the reimbursement, so that would be a nice $100 to have right now! So, I went in and started to pull my billing statement and went over to the corporate expense reimbursement site to submit the bill. I looked at the last time I submitted a reimbursement for my corporate card and it was for the month of June. I had been charged 3 months (at $100 per month) for my internet service and hadn't submitted a single invoice.

This is the part where I realize two things: 1) I'm and idiot; and 2) No, really, I'm an idiot.

However, the silver lining is thus: I'm really grateful that I was prompted to remember of the charge which I had completely forgotten about (remember, it was on a corporate card before and I didn't have to remember until a reminder from the company told me I needed to submit an invoice), and I'm grateful of the timing as it gives us some much needed financial relief at a very opportune time.

Yes, I see the hand of the Lord in all of this, but's just more fun to say that I am grateful that I am able to find new and interesting ways of being an idiot.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The gift of music

Ever since I can remember I've always had a love of music. My sisters and I would put records on the stereo and just dance around the house to all the different kinds of music we had. When we were smaller we only had our parent's music: Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton John, John Denver, a few soundtracks like The Sound of Music, Camelot and My Fair Lady. It was delightful fun. Later, as our musical tastes matured we began buying our own music and other than a very few pop-music must-haves of the early 80's (Thriller for example) my older sister and I began to grow an appreciation for classical music and that was the primary genre that we spent our money on (I had a LOT of cassette tapes).

I remember taking piano lessons at a young age, and promptly quitting as soon as it required actual work. And, like most children who went through that kind of an experience, I'm kicking myself now for not sticking with it. Later I played clarinet and bass clarinet in the band through Jr. High School and up till my freshman year of high school. I hadn't realized it then, but those early music experiences colored my life with a love of music that never really abated, but unfortunately lay dormant for nearly a decade.

Despite loving music and listening to it (especially my beloved classical music cassettes) all the time, I never really had much to do with music. It wasn't till after my mission when I really started college that I really began to develop my talent for music into something I could really take pride in. It is hard to describe the sense of loss that I feel knowing how much more I could have done with my talent if I had only been less lazy and rebellious as a youth. But, at least I did something with it before it was too late.

As I've mentioned before I sing in two different choirs these days. They both meet on Thursday night, one at 5:00 and the other at 7:00, with the 2nd choir ending at 9:30. It is truly a great experience to be able to take the talent and love I have for singing and express it in a fun and challenging environment. I've worked very long and hard to develop my talent and it is fantastic to find outlets that let me continue to grow and develop.

I suppose that it could become a recurring theme for my posts on Thursdays to be about music, but I can't help myself. It is the day that I get to express my love of music in a very physical and practical way. It is physically and mentally exhausting to sing in two choirs back-to-back - and I love it.

I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father for giving me such a wonderful talent, and for having provided me with the opportunities to expand that talent and help others grow theirs as well.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Freedom is a beautiful thing

I have a problem. I have a love/hate relationship with politics. I love thinking about politics. I try and follow as much as I can current trends and happenings in the political world. However, I HATE listening to political pundits. I especially cannot abide listening to people who are so soaked in their respective ideology that they simply CANNOT find a single good thing to say about ANYTHING that originates from an opposing party.

The enormous echo chamber we call the Internet only makes it worse. The ability to hide behind anonymity can make normal people into absolute caricatures of humanity. It is irritating, obnoxious and mind-numbing to listen to partisan hacks swinging contrived slabs of opinionated vitriol at each other. 

Yep. I have a problem.

However - I was taught a valuable and simple lesson today. The first presidential debate of this election was aired tonight. I had no intention of watching it and was looking forward to ignoring it in every way possible. I did essentially that and was trying to skim through all the Facebook messages about it when one caught my eye. Austin Call pointed out something that I needed to be reminded of. Are you ready for it? We have presidential debates!!! As much as we might be annoyed at the current state of political discourse, we still live in a country where we get to have discourse. How wonderful is that? We live in an open society where we actually have a healthy (if not necessarily enjoyable) debate over politics and policy. It's a pretty amazing deal.

So, as much as we might be annoyed, we should still put our shoulder to the wheel and push along. We should be active participants in the discourse. We should be active participants in the process. We should not just enjoy our freedoms, but fight for them and for the dictates of our conscience as much as we can.

Thank you Austin for reminding me of that tremendous blessing. It is good to have people remind me of how much an idiot I am sometimes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Experiences with your children

I'm having trouble today. Nothing really specific, I just don't seem on my game. It's been like this for a week or so, just a general lack of focus. Not anything physical like a fuzziness in the brain or anything like that, just an inability to bring my full focus to anything that matters. This is, of course, a problem. In fact, it is causing a considerable stupor of thought as I try and write this.

However, that doesn't prevent me from knowing and seeing the many, many blessings I enjoy in my life on a daily basis. While I may not be able to see (or perhaps not have noticed) a specific example of the hand of the Lord affecting my life through some remarkable experience, that doesn't prevent me from counting all the blessings that I occasionally take for granted.

Today I am grateful for my children. They give my life a special joy that grows and changes each day and grows more powerful as I learn more about them.

We have a lot of young couples in our ward; many of them are having their first children. I love listening to them when they finally have the chance to give their children a a name and a blessing. It is such a wonderful time as a priesthood holder and as a father to perform an ordinance for a member of your family - for a child that is a outgrowth of the union you have with your beloved wife. The emotions are powerful when you bless your children and the Spirit can be very strong. It is a choice experience.

What I have learned, however, is that kind of experience is just the beginning! Later, when your children have grown and developed and you know them so much better, you get to baptize them, then confirm them. Nothing you've experienced before then can compare. Then later, if you have a son, you get to give him the priesthood. Unless you've had the experience you cannot imagine how wonderful a blessing it is to again be involved on such a personal and spiritual level in such a momentous event in the life of your child.

I can only imagine what it will be like to ordain my sons as Elders or to watch them become sealed to their wives, or to stand in as a grandfather as my grand-child is blessed, or baptized, many things to look forward to, and so many memories to cherish.

Today I am grateful for the ever growing joy I feel for the blessing my children are in my life. I am grateful that the joy I feel will continue to grow as I continue to strive to know my children better, and that the joy can continue to grow for as long as I can possibly foresee.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yet another reason to love my wife

Marci and I have been married for a little over 15 years now. That is a pretty decent span of time. Other than family, I can easily count on my fingers the number of friends I have that I've known longer that I am still in contact with. She is the most important person in my life, and I couldn't be happier that we are together.

However, and Marci will immediately agree with me, we have very little in common as far as our likes and dislikes. Allow me to list just a few examples: I love hiking and camping and generally being outdoors as much and in as remote a place as I can get. Marci's idea of camping is staying at a Motel 6. I love trying new and unusual foods, I love fixing it, eating it, and especially exploring new foods from different cultures. Marci's current idea of a good meal is a steak and a salad, and if it ever lived in the water she won't touch it with a 10 ft pole. I'm a techno-nerd, she's more craft-centric. I love science fiction and fantasy, she couldn't care less. She loves Grey's Anatomy, I think it is among the worst shows on television.

That's just the beginning - it's an extensive list.

We really have very little in common when it comes to many of the things that others would consider crucial to a successful relationship. However, we do share things in common that are so much more important than any of that superficial stuff: our love for each other, our love for our children and our love for Heavenly Father. None of the rest of it matters one little bit. As for our differences, we derive quite a bit of joy and humor from our them and I love her all the more because of them.

But that's not what I'm specifically grateful for today. I wanted to share something very special:

I love photography. I've been pursuing it as an active hobby for some time and some of my greatest laments are my lack of funds to buy the cool equipment I'd like to have - photography is not a hobby for the faint of wallet. However, I am very happy with the gear I have and I make the most of it. I've been working recently on starting a side business of doing portrait photography. I haven't really been marketing myself or anything, just offering to do photos for friends. It's been a lot of fun and I've gotten some results that I'm really happy with.

Not too terribly long ago Marci helped me with a photo shoot for some friends of ours. They had a number of kids and I figured I could use some help managing everything. It was a total blast. Having her with me was really fun for me. She was sharing in a hobby that I enjoyed and she really did help me and some of the best shots of the day were due to her suggestions.

For the last week or so we have been talking about Marci possibly finding some kind of activity that would allow her to start her own business. It's something that she'd finally be able to do now that the kids are in school and it's something she's wanted to do for a long time, she just wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to do. I'm not sure how it came up, but on Sunday we were just chatting and somehow, I honestly don't remember who started the idea, we began talking about her learning about shooting photography and the two of us working together on a portrait photography business. I was very excited at the prospect and we began making plans on how to make it happen.

Tonight we went out to do a photo shoot of our kids. She would be behind the camera and I would be working with her to teach her what I could about photography and how to handle the camera. I could not have been happier. My wife was now participating WITH me in one of my favorite hobbies! She has an interest not just in watching me do it, but actually learning how to do it and participating and partnering with me. I could be wrong, but it also seems that she is interested for her own reasons as well as because it's something I'm interested in. I don't feel like she's doing it to humor me but that she really wants to become a photographer. It's a very important distinction for me. We have a genuine common interest. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't make me love her any more (how could I?), but it is genuinely exciting and fun to think that we could have a common hobby. It only took us 15 years to find it!

So, today I am grateful for my lovely wife. I'm grateful that we love each other in spite of and often because of our differences. I'm grateful that we enjoy spending time together no matter what we're doing. I'm grateful that we share the most important things together. And I'm grateful that I have been given yet one more reason to look forward to spending time with her.

As if I needed any more reasons......