Rules for Having a Bad Day

Photo by sabianmaggy on flickr
Photo by sabianmaggy on flickr

Let’s face it, we all have rough days once in awhile. Sometimes they seem to come more often than not, but either way, we will have bad moods sometimes. Sometimes we allow our bad moods to give us license to be unkind, selfish, or even cruel. So I’ve come up with a list of rules for myself to follow when I’m having a bad day. And let me clarify, this is not a list of ways to get back into a good mood. That’s a different subject entirely. These are rules for coping with a bad day or a bad mood.

  1. Acknowledge your bad mood. It’s a rough day. Perhaps it’s one of many, but there it is. You’re in a bad mood. (This rule will help you come to terms with your state of mind so you can focus on following the rest of the bad day rules.)
  2. Be gracious in your bad mood. It’s okay that you’re not cheerful. It’s even okay that you’re feeling grumpy, but you don’t have to let your bad mood control your actions. Be kind and considerate to other people, knowing you won’t feel warm and fuzzy inside for doing so.
  3. You can still be useful without feeling useful. Since nothing you do will feel positive in much of any way, you may want to do an unpleasant task that needs doing, but that you’ve been avoiding. You may even find it a little therapeutic. Plus it’s been suggested by some experts that getting things done during a bad mood sometimes polishes the project considerably better, since you tend to be critical of the smallest defect.
  4. Bite your tongue. Any time you’re tempted to respond with sarcasm or anger, just stop talking. If something has to be said, such as a conversation with your spouse or a coworker, say, “I can’t think about this right now,” or, “Can we talk about this later?” If it’s something that needs to be dealt with soon, include a specific time. “Do you mind if we continue this conversation after lunch? I need some time to sort through some things first.”
  5. Go easy on others. By that, I mean, be softer with people, especially your spouse and kids. If it’s your kids, and they’re getting away with more trouble today, you can lightly inform them that this will be dealt with, just not today. When you’re in a good mood later (be it an hour or a week later), make sure they get the consequences for their trouble—maybe even a little tougher than usual, so they don’t use your bad moods to step on you. But don’t worry about what that will be now. You’re in a bad mood today. You have a free pass.
  6. Go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over every little thing, as you will be tempted to do. It’s okay to have a bad hair day or a messy house, or whatever, on a bad mood day. Your bad mood pass doesn’t free you from the fulfillment of deeply important habits and resolutions, but it does give you a right to not care while fulfilling them.
  7. This may seem to contradict the last rule, but feel free to put young kids in timeout more today. Not in a spirit of meanness, but in an effort to avoid allowing them to fan the flame too much. Put them in and tell them, “We’ll talk about the reasons later.”
  8. Consider the stress and frustration you’re suffering now as being good for you. Tempers aren’t good for you, and neither is lashing out. But graciously accepted bad moods can help build your stress resilience, including your bad-mood resilience, just by considering it healthy. You don’t have to egg it on by doing things that will make your mood worse. Just graciously put up with your mood, and your psyche will be strengthened for putting up with future bad days.
  9. Regarding the problems that seem to either trigger or exacerbate your bad mood, tell yourself, “My fault, I’ll deal with it later,” often. This will do two things: it will keep you from developing a martyr complex (which is never constructive), and it will keep you thinking in terms of accountability for your actions. If it makes you feel worse to acknowledge that something is your fault or your problem, then put more mental emphasis on the second part: “I’ll deal with it later,” with the addition, “just not today!
  10. Lower your expectations. Cut your to-do list in half. You won’t get as much done, and that’s okay. You’ll do more on your next good day (which will come). If you can take a nap, go for a walk, or otherwise chunk out some time to slow down, do it. It’s my personal observation that it’s not too difficult to become thoughtful and ponderous on bad days. You may even be able to turn your inner grump into a thinker, if you can squeeze in some quiet time. Just don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work. You are, after all, in a bad mood.

Rules for a Bad Day

Howard Taylor on the Power of Practice

Howard Taylor gave a masterful presentation on the power of practice, and I’ve been learning from it ever since I first heard it. He references the article, How Not to Talk to Your Kids, which I also recommend.

He also references this graph:

Three phases of development toward adult expertise

Listen, then tell me your thoughts!

And remember, YOU WORKED HARD ON THIS!

Preparing for General Conference

 If you want a great pattern for preparing for LDS General Conference, re-read Mosiah 2. This is the chapter where King Benjamin is about to present his son as the new king and give his last sermon. But the first part of the chapter talks about how the people prepared for his talk. Check out what they did, and notice how it can apply to us as we prepare for conference:

1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.

The first thing they did? Show up! They came! We’ll read later that the words were written down for those who couldn’t hear, but the people didn’t wait for it to come out in the Ensign. They were present. That doesn’t mean you have to be at the conference center, but it will help a lot if you are at your TV or radio at the time it’s taking place.

3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

Obviously we don’t do animal sacrifices, but do you remember what Jesus said replaced burnt offerings? A broken heart and a contrite spirit. Approach general conference in a spirit of humility, repentance, and sacrifice, and not only will the experience be awesomer, but you’ll change what the Lord asks you during conference to change, and you’ll be what the Lord asks you to be.

4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Carry a spirit of gratitude. If you’re struggling to feel spiritually motivated, either about the gospel or the things taught in the gospel, take a half hour and go for a walk, or find a quiet place to kneel. Pray to your Father in Heaven and just list off to Him the things you’re grateful for. “I thank thee for…” “I thank thee that…” “I’m so grateful that…”

At first it may feel forced, but keep it up until you are filled with gratitude. You’ll be amazed how powerful gratitude is in increasing spiritual desire. Approach general conference with a spirit of gratitude, and you’ll see a huge difference.

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.


Involve the family. If possible, watch together, and don’t shoosh people when they interrupt to say something relevant to the talk. They are likening the words to you and your loved ones–that’s what you’re supposed to do. Experiencing conference together builds the family up, and reminds all how much the Savior is a part of your family. And, yes, conference bingo is good, too.

6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;

However you are watching, face the speaker. Face the TV, radio, or computer, where the talk is happening. Not only will it send a message to your own brain that this is important (thus helping you pay attention), but it will help others see how much you want to be involved. They are less likely to ask you to come help them clean up the garage, because they will see that doing so would interrupt. If you’re listening passively to the background radio, your likely to get distracted and/or interrupted.


8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.

Don’t just suck in the words and expect them to stay. Take notes! Bring a notebook, portable device, or computer to write down things that catch your attention. Even more important, write down thoughts that the Spirit gives you while you listen. That is God’s revelation to you personally. You can trust that the guidance will come, but if you have no way to record it when it happens, you’ll forget. Believe me, no matter how powerful the experience, if you don’t record it, you will forget.

If for whatever reason you can’t be present for conference, take advantage of the many means the church has provided to review it. The Internet archives are available immediately, so you don’t have to wait for the Ensign. The video is up within minutes after the session ends. The audio will be available within a day or so, and the text will be up within a week. Don’t miss conference. If you can’t attend, make sure a week doesn’t pass before you’ve watched or read the entire four sessions (or five, if you’re a guy).

Never in the history of the world has there been such remarkable tools for reviewing the words of God. Even after you do watch the whole program, either live or afterward, go back through and read more carefully. The first time through is a marathon. The second time through, go through carefully, deliberately, taking the time necessary to learn all that you can from the talks. If you have a portable device or laptop, download the audio and listen to it often. Read the words, cross-referencing with the given links.

Do these things, and this may be the best conference you’ve ever participated in.

Getting Past Genealogist’s Block

Most of you have probably heard of writer’s block: it’s the point where a writer suddenly doesn’t want to write, and would rather use a pen to initiate the gag reflex than write. Well, family historians sometimes get genealogist’s block. So what do you do if this is you?

Jenni and I (and Lunch Bucket, Tootles, and Squeaker) attended a family history fair this last week. I also just finished the 12 week family history course in church. I am therefore… an expert.

Yeah, whatever.

But there was one thing that stuck out to me from both that I think is a good lesson, especially to those who want to do family history work but get terribly confused, frustrated, or just keep hitting brick walls. It’s simply this: find a niche.

Find one aspect of doing family history that really excites you. If you love writing the names on pedigree charts, do that, and do it well. If you love researching the places, focus on that. If you love doing the temple work, focus on that. Chances are, if you really work hard on your niche, it will get you working hard enough at it that you will find the other aspects of family history creeping in anyway.

My niche is the stories. I LOVE finding the stories. That may seem like a cop-out, like I’m neglecting the important stuff, but here’s how my nichefication came about. I’ve loved family history and have been doing research for about fifteen years now. I took the Family History on Computers Institute course shortly before my mission, and became familiar with the big chunk of IGI disks and other databases that were being used at the time. I became proficient in PAF and explored my ancestral lines up and down often.

Up until about two years ago, I would always, without fail, run into every brick wall imaginable. It was as though there was some invisible barrier that made every ounce of effort I put into family history completely futile. It was about two years ago that I reached a crossroads. I was terrible frustrated with all my efforts, and having nothing – NOTHING to show for all the work I had ever done. I was close to throwing in the towel and resolving to wait until retirement. But as a last desperate attempt to save my interest in family history (which by then was waning, of course), I decided to bag all the dates, charts, and “boring” stuff and focus entirely on the one thing about family history that I absolutely loved: the stories.

That opened a new universe for me. Suddenly I was bombarded with story after story, journal after journal, history after history, of the lives of my ancestors. Already I have a 300 page document of stories I’ve collected from Internet sources, library books, and various sources all over. In studying the stories, I found people I never knew existed, and have even found entire lines of family history that go many generations beyond what’s on the new familysearch site or even my own PAF files.

I’m not suggesting everyone change your work to searching for the stories. What I’m saying is find a niche that works for you. Jenni loves organizing. Some people love finding photos. Find the aspect of family history that works for you – that really gets you excited, and work hard at it. In doing it, you’ll find things that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Sure beats P90X

Every time my extended family starts getting into something, I start taking interest in it, too. For example, a couple years ago my brother started a blog, and before long, we all jumped on the bandwagon. Singing was the same way. My dad started taking singing lessons years ago, and we all started singing around the house. Soon we were all singing in talent shows and anywhere we could.

Now it’s exercise. Everyone’s got a different kind, but we’re all exercising.

But I’m not sure most people understand mine.

Of course, if I wasn’t doing it, I’m sure I wouldn’t take it seriously either. Come to think of it, I don’t take it very serious now – one things for sure, it’s a good work out.

So what’s my exercise?

Line dancing! That’s right – the Boot Scootin’ Boogie, Electric Slide, Macarena – you name it! Remember the good old days when it was actually kind of cool, say in jr. high, for example, to know all the moves when Cotton-Eyed Joe comes on? And remember how there were always those dorky kids that could never seem to get the moves down before the song was over? Yeah, see that was me.

No longer.

Now, I’m like king of the… well… living room floor. I can flawlessly bust out the Tush Push, Macarena (we found a Spanish only version of the song), Achy-Breaky Heart, Celtic Slide, Electric Slide, Boot Scoot, Charleston, Cotton-Eyed Joe, Slappin’ Leather, and the newest addition, the Heian Shodan – which, I should add, is not actually a line dance, but a martial art exercise that works great with “Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting.” (I saw a random video of some guys doing it at a wedding dance, and knew I had to learn it for that very purpose) And those don’t include our original choreographed line dance for Foot Loose, and the improvised dances we do with The River Sings (Enya) and Fireflies. Actually, Jenni and I have been doing it together, and learning and coming up with dances together. With Fireflies, we tear up grocery bags into big long streamers and dance around swinging them everywhere trying to keep them from touching the ground. With the Enya one, we do a simple running around dance that’s simple enough for the kids to do with us.

My favorite, and the one that’s a horribly painful workout is the Charleston – though I’m not sure our Charleston is the real Charleston, since it doesn’t look like the one in the Youtube videos. Someone suggested it might be the Lindy Hop, but those videos looked as different as the Charleston, so I don’t know what our dance really is.

Anyway, I never realized how incredibly FUN line dances are! I always enjoyed them as a teenager, but I didn’t know how to do them. Of course, they didn’t have Youtube to teach you back then. Now you can learn aaaaannnnyyything on Youtube. Plus you can find all the tunes on Playlist.com.

So if you ever drive by our place on a random evening, and the lights are on, listen carefully, you might hear, “Heeeey, Macarena!”

You CAN Write Your Personal History!

If you are like me, you’ve spent a lot of time considering writing your life story. And, if you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time putting it off because either you don’t have time or you don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you can’t think of anything about your life that Is worth writing about. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer and don’t feel confident in your literary skills.

Have you ever considered that the biggest thing holding you back is you? I suspect that you really do want to write your life history, but you’ve just procrastinated it so long that you’ve collected a lifetime supply of excuses.

Here are a few thoughts that might help you get the motivation you need to just start writing!

“I’m not a good writer.”

One of the differences between an average writer and a great writer is that the great writer doesn’t try to make their writing great. While you are reading a great book, do you think to yourself, “Wow, what a great paragraph – this wording is amazing, and look how smoothly these sentences flow”? Probably not. Most likely you are mesmerized by the story or situation taking place in the book. How did the writer do that? Of course there are a few rules and tricks, but the main thing they did was this: the first time they wrote the words, they didn’t even think about making their writing great. They just concentrated on the story they were trying to tell.

What I’m really trying to say is don’t worry about your “style” or your grammatical correctness. Just tell your stories. If you really feel that you need to get your wording right, do it after you’ve written the whole thing – that’s what authors do all the time. They write a rough-draft, and then go through and clean it up over and over until they feel semi-comfortable with it. If you are just writing for children and posterity, you probably don’t need to do much redrafting, but just remember that the first time you write, you don’t have to worry about any of that. And if you are successful at ignoring everything in your writing except the story, it will come out pretty great.

“I don’t know where to start.”

The obvious place to start is the beginning, but the moment you try to start at the beginning, you may find yourself struggling to decide which beginning to start with. Your first memory? Your birth? You’re parents’ first date? Your ancestry?

If you don’t struggle with this excuse, don’t worry about it – start at the beginning, or wherever you want. But if you don’t know how to write a beginning, don’t. No, really, don’t bother writing a beginning. Start by writing something that will come later in the history, such as a favorite memory or some thoughts on an incident that you will fill in later. You will find that as you just start writing, the thoughts, ideas, and structure of your history will slowly come together. As soon as you feel comfortable writing the beginning, or start, of your history, do it. But it’s fine to write your whole history without a beginning. You can write that later.

In other words, if you struggle with writing a beginning to your history, just start somewhere in the middle. That way you don’t have to worry about first impressions. Writing is one of the few places where first impressions can be the last thing you work on. Once you have most of your history written, the beginning will come much easier.

“My life is boring. Why should I write about the boring nothing that’s happened to me?”

Writing is an interesting activity. Most people consider nonfiction writing to be simply a laying down of ideas – basically a bunch of facts grouped together into a book or article. But that assumption overlooks all that takes place in the mind of the writer. Writing is an proactive, interactive, self-propelling activity that draws meaning out of nowhere. Just the act of sitting down and penciling down (or typing up) words opens a conduit into the subconscious creative mind. By simply writing down a memory, your mind begins formulating thoughts about that activity, which churn and mix until something unique is formed that wasn’t there before.

Let me put it in a different way: when you bake a cake, you take a bunch of seemingly random foods – none of which taste good alone, mix them together, and put them in the oven. Then, as if by magic, when you take the concoction out of the oven, it has become a delicious treat. All the random ingredients have blended so beautifully and completely that without knowing the process that made the finished product, you would guess that the cake was a single element straight out of nature. And the taste is far better than the combined flavors of all the ingredients.

Writing is the same way, especially with writing your own life history. Your school memories, your dating years, your fears and failures, are ingredients in your history. As you write them, your mind will reflect on the meaning behind each incident. You will find humor in the oddest places, you will find life lessons where they weren’t originally intended, and you will find that your ordinary experiences weave into a heartwarming life story. That process doesn’t take much conscious effort, either. As you write, it will just happen automatically, just like the stirring and baking turns ingredients into cake.

Besides, your boring life is more interesting than you think. Your only context is the society you live in, and all your experiences are common to everyone you meet. Being in that one-dimensional context, it’s easy to forget that your children, grandchildren, and all the posterity after them won’t have that context. Their experiences will be vastly different than yours, because the world will be a completely different place by the time they read your history. Those differences will make your history both unique and fascinating – whether it means anything to you, some in the future will be excited to read the experiences of those who were around during the rise of the Internet and the turn of the century. While they may have access to news and magazines from our era, most people will be more interested in the life of a common person living from this very uncommon period of world history.

The unique things they read will be both fascinating and fun to read. The things you mention that they can relate to (relationships, spirituality, hopes, fears, and dreams) will give them encouragement and strength.

“I don’t have time to write my history.”

Guess what? No one does. I have never known anyone who has time to write their life history. Even authors don’t have time to write their histories – especially if they are writing full-time. Why? Because all their writing time has to be devoted to their profession. Most publishers aren’t interested in life histories – unless you’re Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. But even Nelson Mandela didn’t have time to write his history, and he wrote his twice.

But if no one has time time to write their life history, then how do they do it? Well, basically, they just do it. They just do it! They don’t have time, they make time. Time isn’t something that you can create out of the air, and it’s not something you manage. Time is just… well, it’s just time. It passes. It’s always there, and it goes as fast as it comes.

Every person on earth, be it Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, or the homeless man on the street – every person has twenty-four hours in their day, and every person has a choice what they do with their twenty-four hours. You may feel tied to a schedule, but that is because you choose that schedule. You choose! The way to make time to write your history is to choose to use your time to write your history. And fortunately (or unfortunately), you have no deadline – but if you will make time, that is, choose to take the time to write your history, you’ll find that you can use time to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be your enemy. Time can be your friend, because it will help you write your history. You’ve just got to choose to use time for that purpose.

Date Ideas for Breaking the Ice

Breaking-the-ice

Jenni and I are writing a book together about dating, and one of the chapters discusses various types of dating ideas.  I thought it might be fun to share some of those categories of date ideas on this blog, such as creative date ideas, funny date ideas, educational date ideas, etc.  This is the section (so far) about date ideas to help break the ice.  Sometimes the hardest part of going out with someone is just penetrating the shell of awkwardness that is inherent in first (and sometimes second) dates. Here are some ideas that might help both of you feel more relaxed and have a great time.

  1. Do a group date. They’re not just for teenagers, and it’s easier to keep conversation alive in a group. If you really want to help your date feel comfortable, plan a double date and have a friend of yours ask out your date’s friend, and then go do something as a group. With their friend there, your date will be more likely to act natural and have fun. If you don’t want to line people up, just plan a group date of three or four couples. If you get enough good people together for a fun activity, everyone is likely to have a great time.

  2. Go to a mall, museum, zoo, or gallery. If you walk around a mall or gallery together, there is a lot to see, and a lot to spark conversation. Zoos and Museums have a lot to see, hear, and explore. Anywhere where there are many kinds of displays of different kinds will provide dozens of avenues for conversation. If conversation starts, don’t rush through it to get to the next display, but use the opportunity to learn about your date and to help them get comfortable talking with you. The conversations that you have will do more for nurturing a potential relationship than anything else.

  3. Do something athletic such as a sport together. Even something as simple as Frisbee can be a lot of fun on a date. If you are both decent at a certain sport, play it together. Sometimes doing something physically active can help both of you get your mind off the fact that you are on a date. When your body or mind is active and focused, your emotions are generally positive, and your experience together will likely be uplifting and fun.

  4. Anything you can do that will get both of you laughing; a funny movie, a clean comedy show – whatever it may be.  Humor breaks ice faster than almost anything.

Do you know of other date ideas that might help a dating couple get past that initial awkwardness?

A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

Here’s a crazy idea – though it’s not exactly a whim, since I’ve had the idea floating around in my head for about eight years now. I’ve always been fascinated with the capacity music has to communicate feelings and convey messages in a way that is often more powerful and effective than written or verbal communication. What if we were to come up with a language that was spoken through music? A system that actually uses notes to communicate detailed information. It would have to be detailed enough that someone could translate the Bible into the language, and yet simple enough that it wouldn’t take years of training to get it. Not a code, exactly, but something between a code and a language.

In a sense, what I’d like to see is someone pipe a tune, and someone else understand the detailed message.

Some ideas have been explored along these lines. Probably the biggest is Solresol, invented by François Sudre in the 1800s, which is simply a language that uses words spelled with different combinations of notes in the basic piano scale. It has its own dictionary and grammar, too.

But I would like to see a language that is more than a code that uses notes for letters. Ultimately, the ending product has to be both beautiful music and a clear message. It has to be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing as it it literary.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and make its written form as beautiful artistically as its sound is musically. So in other words, Continue reading A Musical Language: Speaking through Music