Marriage is Not Hard

Maybe Jenni and I are just weird, and maybe we’re naïve, since we’ve only been married 10 years, but we feel like marriage isn’t hard. WeddingMarriage is not tough. Life is tough. Life stinks sometimes. It can be excruciatingly painful and hard, but marriage is one of the best systems for dealing with the difficulty life presents. Having someone to talk to, to lean on, to reach out to, to serve, to help, to confide in, to love, to cry with, to hold, makes life manageable.

Even the genuine differences of opinion, and different views on various topics aren’t difficult in marriage. Pride and selfishness are hard, and cause problems, but pride isn’t marriage, and selfishness isn’t marriage. Those things hurt marriage, damaging our best system for dealing with the difficulties of life.

Life is hard. Sin is hard. Pride and selfishness are hard, with or without marriage. Marriage is not hard.

What I’m talking about is less intended as a statement of “fact,” and more of a statement of perspective. And while words alone do nothing to dramatically change the day to day experiences of life in an extremely challenging and cruel world, a change in the way we see the world around us can. What I’m promoting is a paradigm shift: an entirely different way of viewing marriage.

I see marriage as a perfect ideal. Marriage is selfless, kind, generous, loving, patient, empowering, binding, synergistic, and even exalting. Marriage is something that goes well beyond the simple addition of two individuals entering a life-long partnership. It’s the essence that takes that initial partnership and turns it into the germinating seeds of divine companionship. Marriage, as an institution, ordained of God, is perfect. It lifts, it deepens, and it expands. It has no flaws, and it always pulls people together.

People, on the other hand, are flawed. People are imperfect. People are emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and physically unstable in countless ways. We’re mortals living on a very, very mortal world. Life on this earth is intended to be hard. It’s intended to be infuriatingly challenging, almost to the point of impossible, for one simple reason. We are the direct offspring of God. No simple life would suffice to teach embryonic deities the essential lessons to become all that our Father intends us to be. Life, in all its stages, was never intended to be easy.

God sends us here because He knows what we have the power to become. He has given us the tools necessary to become like He is. There’s a reason that the family is central to God’s plan. It’s not just a way of keeping us organized. It’s not just a way of saving us from loneliness. Marriage is an exalting organization. It’s an endowment of power, the very seed of exaltation. There’s a reason that the sealing covenant is called the covenant of exaltation. Marriage, most especially temple marriage, actually begins that process.

And yet, in all of this, we’re still imperfect, flawed, mortal beings. But we’re learning. We’re growing. We’re failing (a LOT), and if we’re taking the right approach, we’re learning from our failures and becoming better. That process is hard. It’s really hard. But it’s not the exalting powers and gifts given by God that make it so hard. It’s the imperfect, flawed, mortal parts of ourselves that make it hard.

I don’t deny that life as a married person is hard. Life as an anything is hard. But marriage itself—that ennobling, binding, wondrous blessing that strengthens us as a couple and as a family to endure the crosses of life—is not hard. It’s wonderful, liberating, and joyful.

The problems arrive when I act against my marriage. When I am selfish, when I am prideful, when I forget to exercise the power God has bestowed upon me in order to bless, strengthen, and love my wife, I am being a problem. And at those times, I need to change. I can’t act against what I know is right without hurting my marriage, and marriage is the very embodiment of everything I know to be right.

That’s why I can never blame marriage for any of life’s problems. Marriage lifts. Sin pulls down. Marriage exalts. Pride and selfishness damn.

When I find that I’m not measuring up, I don’t blame my marriage, and I don’t blame my wife. I try hard not to allow myself to get too discouraged with myself, either. And the simple way to avoid discouragement is to change—to humble myself, apologize, and change my behavior. I know I won’t be perfect in this life, but the journey is so empowering and ennobling that I can’t give it up, I can’t stop. And I certainly won’t ever throw away one of the best tools available for making that happen for both me and my wife. We’re in this for the long run. We’re in it forever. It’s not eternity or bust, it’s just eternity.

And we’re going to make it work, together.

When There are No Words, God Still Hears

God Still HearsLet’s face it, there are sometimes when we kneel to pray, and the words don’t come. There are times when someone else is suffering so badly that we can’t begin to know how to help, let alone respond. There are times when despite our best efforts, nothing works, and there is nothing we can do about it.

It’s at those times, I remind myself of this simple principle: when there are no words, God still hears.

I remember once talking to a woman once who was afraid to pray. It seemed that every time she tried, something would go wrong. Her life itself had paralyzed her from the ability to kneel and speak to God.

Though I couldn’t pretend to know what she was going through, I was having a pretty tough time myself at the time. Not knowing what else to say, I told her that I too, have had times when it was difficult to pray. For me it was never out of fear, but out of frustration, anger, guilt, or dismay.

“At those times,” I told her, “all I can seem to do is listen. If I have no words to say, I simply address my Father in Heaven and then listen in my heart. I know that our Father in Heaven can hear the words that we cannot say, and will answer those prayers. But pray to Him, even if all you can do is listen.”

At that time, I discovered the truth of Elder Packer’s words that “In your emotions, the spirit and the body come closest to being one,”* because as I spoke, the Spirit grew very strong, and I wept.

I know now that at those times of struggle, when I felt that there were no words to speak in my prayers, and I simply opened my prayer and then listened—my heart was speaking, even though my mind was silent. Since that conversation I’ve thought about that concept often. Sometimes my heart feels so empty that I feel that there is nothing to say. Sometimes I feel so ashamed that I can’t bare to speak a word—even in my mind. Sometimes I feel so hurt that I can’t find the words to speak.

Through such experiences, I have discovered something about our Father in Heaven. He is the most perfect listener in the universe. He can hear words that are not even spoken in the mind. I wonder sometimes if the spirit of a person communicates in a different way than by language. I wonder if it speaks through feelings and concepts. Whether or not this is the case, I know that our Father in Heaven hears those feelings as clearly as if I’d shouted them out loud.

I wouldn’t suggest that our prayers ought not include words. I believe that these things are necessary to building and strengthening our relationship with God, especially in offering thanks, petitioning for the Lord’s help, and in the repentance process. I believe that prayer should include entire conversations with Heavenly Father. But on those rare moments when we cannot seem to say the words, whatever the reason, if we open our prayer and simply listen for a few minutes, we will hear and learn things that we may have never been able to learn in any other way.

By our becoming acquainted with God’s beautiful power to listen to the words we do not speak, we will learn to listen to the finer, purer, wordless messages that He sends so regularly to our hearts.

(Boyd K. Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Liahona, Jun 1997, 8)

I Am Not a “Manly” Man

I have a confession to make. I’m no manly man. I’m sure this confession is no surprise to those who know me well, but others have Manlya hard time accepting the fact.


Point 1: Ixnay on watching sports.

I hate football (I wouldn’t want to play it, let alone watch it). I would rather sit in a silent room with the lights off than sit in a room with sports playing on a screen. By FAR. Blegh. No thanks. That pretty much goes for all sports, but football is at the top of my never-want-to-watch list. Don’t get me wrong, I love physical activity. Don’t challenge me to a dance-off unless you want to lose. I even enjoy a number of sports. But NOT football, and NOT watching someone else have all the fun.


Point 2: I’m no handyman.

Sure, I’m comfortable with power-drill or hammer, but don’t ask me to use it to fix stuff. I usually make things much worse when I try.

I’m constantly visiting the hardware store, but not for the reason you might think. I try so hard to avoid the associates. Not that I don’t think they can help. No doubt they could point me exactly where I need to go. But they always ask that dreaded, satanic question, “So, what are you working on?” DAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

Don’t get me wrong. I totally get their intent. They’re being nice, and it’s a very nice question to ask a manly man.

Ahem…” I start, “Well, see… it’s a… well, it’s kind of a…” and finally, recognizing I’m cornered, and can only make it worse by drawing out the moment, say, “A Marimba—it’s like an African Xylophone,” or “A three-octave pentatonic Native American pan flute,” or, “A didgeridoo with a rainstick embedded inside it.”

Their eyes glaze over, and while they’re deciding whether my words are something that can responded to, I slip away and purchase my supplies.


Point 3: Asking directions

I will GLADLY ask directions. From. Anyone. Still, I do so love my navigation app. Oh, blessed Android!


Point 4: I’m domestic

I enjoy cooking, I do laundry, dishes, clean the bathroom, and grocery shop. And not because I’m “helping” my wife. It’s my job, and I do it. I chose those tasks, and I do them—usually cheerfully. I would FAR rather do dishes, mop the floor, AND scrub all the counters than even open the hood of a car. Which brings me to the next point.


Point 5: I hate cars

There aren’t many things I hate, really. But I’ve mentioned watching sports, home-repair, and explaining my projects to hardware store assistance, but cars—especially fixing cars, tops the lot. If I had to choose between scrubbing the putrescent floors of a hog farm and fixing a car, hand me the scrubber. I long for the day when transporters are invented so I don’t have to get into those ridiculous driving machines again.

And if you ever get in a conversation with me about cars, don’t be surprised if I offer to talk about a more pleasant topic, such as what I discovered in my child’s vomit.


Point 6: I’m a jabber-mouth

I talk. A lot. Just not about cars, football, and home-improvement projects. Actually, I find women a lot more interesting to talk to than men, because they actually talk about interesting things, like gardening, books, child-psychology, cooking, and relationships. If you’re ever in a conversation with me, and you find me a little quiet, it’s either because I’m being genuinely shy, or you’re trying to talk about manly subjects.


Point 7: I LOVE Kids

I’ve always adored kids. The younger the better. I tried for years to get a job working in a day care, but the most common reason they’d give for turning me down was that, straight and simple, I’m a guy. So I got married and grew my own day care.

The Funnest calling I ever had (and the one I would have most enjoyed doing until the day I died) was teaching the Sunbeams.

And yes, I willingly change my kids’ diapers.

If You Knew Who You Really Are…

If you knew who you really are…

You’d forgive.
You’d love life.
You’d smile more.
You’d stop hesitating.
You’d give more freely.
You’d never doubt again.
You’d never fear the future.
You’d be willing to make the hard choices.
You’d recognize others for who they really are.
You’d be content with the reflection in the mirror.
You’d turn every day into something worth remembering.

If you knew who God really is…

You’d make every day something for the world to remember.
You’d be confident with the reflection in the mirror.
You’d see Christ in the face of everyone you meet.
You’d make the hard choices without question.
You’d be excited about the future.
Your faith would move mountains.
You’d give Him your everything.
You’d forever move forward.
You’d make people happy.
You’d radiate love.
You’d forgive all.

If you don’t know who you are, ask God, and He will show you to you. Do what He says, and He will show Himself to you.

And you’ll never be the same again.

The Creative Power of Limitation

I think one of the greatest ways to promote creativity is to have limitations that seem to hamper the progress you are able to make. Think about it. If material is lacking, you learn to be creative with what you’ve got. If money is an issue, you get creative with the money and resources you already have. If you don’t have much space, you either turn a bedroom into a studio or find a way to do your work outdoors, where the atmosphere is better anyway. Limitations and roadblocks promote greater creativity.

If you think your limitation is hampering your creativity, maybe you just need to think more creatively about your creativity.

It rarely does any good to put off an aspiration until you have the money or means to do something about it. Whatever it is that you want to do, start doing it, with whatever time, money, and resources you DO have.

For example, let’s say you want to take up sculpture, but have no clay, and no money. That is an issue – but not enough of an issue to justify waiting until you have money or clay before moving forward. Start with home-made playdough. Does that sound too cheap?

Have you ever heard of Don Marco? He’s a crayola crayon artist, and he’s AMAZING. It’s not the fact that he uses crayons for art that’s amazing – your kids do that, (though yes, they are amazing in their own way, but you know what I mean). It’s the fact that he makes incredible art with crayons.

Use what you have to do what you want to do. Then when the resources are available, you can move up – and still have a unique portfolio.

What if time is your limitation? Become a five strokes a day artist, or perhaps “The Five Minute Painting” artist, or whatever. You don’t have to base your career on your limitation, but turn your limitation into an asset by trying something creative with your creativity.

Creativity is spawned where limitations prevail.

I’ve been publishing CD’s for years, and though it would be awesome and ideal to record with a real grand piano in a real studio, that’s never been an option to me, because it’s so dang expensive. But instead of complaining or waiting until I had the funds, I record with a professional program that allows me to fix minor mistakes that would be untouchable in a studio recording. That made my first CD better than it would have been if I’d had a studio to record in. Limitations aren’t roadblocks, limitations promote synergy.

If something goes wrong and you suddenly find yourself lacking what you once had, turn your disability into a superpower. Only you can figure out how to do it. That’s the beauty of creativity.

Progress never comes from maintaining the status quo, but from running into problems and coming up with solutions that were better than the initial plan.

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.

You Like This:How Facebook and Social Media are Taking Over the World

The present population of the United States is just over 300 million. The “population” of Facebook is over 500 million. According to their own press room, that’s just the number of active users. If it were a country, Facebook would be the third largest on earth (China and India being the first).


About a year ago, Facebook passed up Google as the most viewed website in the U.S.


How long has Facebook existed? Seven years. It was launched in 2004 by 19 year old Mark Zuckerberg as a networking site for college students at Harvard, and by the time it was fully opened to the public in 2006, it was the seventh most popular site on the Internet.


Earth’s population is growing at a rate of about 357,000 babies born per day, and Facebook is growing at about double that number of new users per day.


One of the big questions that people have is, why? Why is Facebook growing so fast? What’s the big deal?


Perhaps the answer lies less in Facebook itself as in the timing that the website appeared. The first few years of the new century brought in a generation equipped with tools of empowerment, the likes of which had never been known in the history of the world. These tools were invented by the previous generation, who like a curious scientist struggling to decide how to introduce his discoveries, laid them out for people to discover, just to see what would happen. Slowly people started taking notice, and by the time the millennial generation came along, those tools were both a normal and necessary part of daily life.


Growing up with instruments that facilitate every person with a voice and a platform to share that voice, the millennial generation restructured the foundation of global human communication in less than ten years.


The result? The economy changed; the workforce changed; school systems changed; and people changed. It became normal for anyone anywhere to be able to contact anyone anywhere. Groups surrounding a hobby, interest, or cause could gather instantly and without need of authorization or location. The term conversation was given an additional definition: an overarching worldwide discussion taking place at all times by virtually everyone. Whether the definition was ever authorized or not was irrelevant, because even the scholarly dictionaries were replaced by those created by the combined voice of the masses.


Quickly content became a thing as casual as the spoken word. A 30 second video of a friend at the zoo became more interesting than a 30 minute sit-com on TV. People stopped carrying family wallet pictures because it was faster and cheaper to send hundreds of photos to 250 friends across the country. And why give Aunt Joan a call to update her on the kids when you can carry an ongoing conversation with the whole family (and include your friends) using a blog, with photos, stories, and video clips of your kids doing the very things you would have told her about?


Where once upon a time you would connect with your heros by buying their posters and accessories, now you could communicate directly with the hero on their Facebook page. You could tell them personally how much you liked their concert or their game, and even get a response.


Facebook didn’t start these trends, and it’s not the only platform for social networking and media, but Facebook came along at a moment when there was a critical mass of demand for social networking platforms. Other sites such as Myspace, twitter, and the whole blogosphere have all been major players in this new approach to communication and connection. Some have been around much longer than Facebook. Facebook is just the biggest at the moment. The tools and platforms employed matter very little compared with the overall snowballing of Internet social networking itself.


The media we once consumed, we can now create – with laptops, phones, and various handheld devices. And while the quality of a two minute home video might not match up with a monstrous multi-million dollar Hollywood film, the two compete well, since the home-made social media can be created and starred by friends and family. Of course there will always be a place for good solid entertainment, but it now has to share a seat with the rising tide of social media – and not just because of the time used in consuming media, but also from the time spent in creating them.


Never in the history of the world has it been so possible for anyone – anyone, to publish content to the world. We throw the word “revolution” around in our common language so much that it’s lost a great deal of its power, but even by it’s heaviest definitions (such as a revolt or fundamental change in society), social networking has placed worldwide communication in such a state. The world has never seen such a influx of voices being broadcast by so many, to so many, worldwide, as it is today.


Some are troubled by these changes. Others are curious, frightened, or excited by them, but none of us can ignore them. The Internet, with it’s media and networking platforms, is as big a revolution as was the invention of the printing press – perhaps even bigger. The printing press made it possible for books to be printed in large numbers. Suddenly there was a way to share information with masses. It was difficult and costly to get a message out, but it was possible, and those with enough power or money were able to do it.


Now, with the platforms available to us on the Web, there is no way to prevent someone from being able to broadcast their voice to the world, in virtually any format, at no cost at all. Governments have been trying since the introduction of the Internet to curtail these voices, but quickly all blockages are breaking away. Not only are the governments unable to stop this flow of communication, but the voices coming through are uprooting the entire infrastructure of monarchies and top-down systems that attempt to silence their own people. Since content and information sharing is changing from a consumer model to a social/sharing model, groups congregating via Internet have much greater influence than even the most powerful corporations and governments.


Not only has this change provided for anyone anywhere to become a producer and broadcaster, but it is introducing new motivations and new reasons for broadcasting that have never been seen before. People are sharing personal, private information with the entire world. They’re producing amazing products and asking nothing in return. They are spending hundreds of hours creating ridiculously silly videos with the knowledge that they will never go to Hollywood or earn a single dollar from it.


But it’s not about the tools. Marshall Mcluhan said, “We shape the tools, and thereafter, our tools shape us.” While new tools are created by the technologically savvy and employed first by those who closely follow the trends, the technology employed by sites like Facebook and Twitter are really quite old compared to the newer tools mounting all over the Web. It’s the fact that they are old tools used regularly by a lot of people that make them socially powerful. Facebook’s basic setup is so simple that any new user can handle it. Scott Burkun said, “Technology is not an end unto itself. It is a facilitator. It enables us.”


This revolution is not about Facebook. It’s about the social networking trends that are shaping new tools of communication. As a society, this power is so new to us that we really haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. Accordingly, there are a lot of crazy conversations, bizarre businesses, and ridiculous rants happening everywhere, all mingled together with good, useful, powerful information.


Over the past few hundred years, mankind has developed a pretty effective method of sorting information that comes to us in the form of printing presses and books. Unfortunately, the information that we are now being flooded with via the Web does not have such an organized system. Yet the barrage of information and communication continues to flow in at an increasing rate. Much of the organization that must take place for media and communication will be social – by means of sharing, using increasingly effective tools.


Given the present trends, it’s quite likely that there will be a number of decades ahead that contain some measure of uncontrollable pandemonium in terms of what we do with these new tools. Even now, all over the world, people are either embracing or shunning new tools that come into society. Surrounding all of this is a wide range of excitement, frustration, and confusion. Some even demonstrate an almost laughable ambivalence. Thomas de Zengotita reflected the feelings of many when he said, “In the midst of a fabulous array of historically unprecedented and utterly mind-boggling stimuli… whatever.”


In some ways, it’s like we’re living in our wildest science fiction stories – the excitement and liberation we are experiencing keeps us going, much like the old 1980 atari games consumed hours of our attention in the past. But the tools aren’t leaving. They’re here to stay, but like the the Atari, they’ll get bigger, better, more efficient, more meaningful, and more interesting. It will be awhile before life with social media and networking become “manageable” again. But it will be what we do with these new tools now that will shape the direction of the changes that are coming.


And it won’t be the silencing of voices that will finally get things under control again – rather it will be when everyone chooses to take part and speak out – and they’re comfortable doing so.


Wow, that last sentence was rather profound… I think I’ll put it as my status update.



Clay Shirky (WhippleHill Conference), author of Here Comes Everybody:

Youtube Project – An anthropological introduction to YouTube, The Machine is (Changing) Us: Youtube and the Politics of Authenticity

Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University:


Ben Jones (WhippleHill Conference), Feb 16, 2010, Oberlin College Vice President for Communications and former Director of Communications for the MIT Office of Admissions:

Scott Burkun, WordPress in 2020, Wordcamp 2010 in San Francisco


Why Do You Blog?

Recently I was asked the question, “Why do you blog?”

I’ve thought a lot about that.

For me, blogging is a tool to do what I’ve already been doing, better. For most of my life I’ve been doing stuff like keeping a journal, recording piano and flute improv pieces, making funny tape recordings, drawing cartoons, writing articles and stories. Now I have a place I can put it all. Not only that, but I now have a means to share it, and organize it, and broadcast it.

I suppose I’m a bit of a mutt blogger. I don’t have one subject. I’m an author, musician, dad, (wannabe) comedian, photographer, (hobby) cook, and religious fanatic. I can’t, CAN’T keep to one topic. If I had time to keep 5 or 6 blogs I would (tried it – what a joke).

I’ve fought myself on this. Everything I read says keep a FOCUS. I’ve tried and failed over and over and over. So I’ve finally given up and decided: you know what? This is me. I want my blog to be the real me. I love doing so many things. If that ruins my SEO, so be it. I didn’t start blogging for search engines. I have websites that can deal with those. My blog is me.

My hope is that I can use my blog to connect with you.

So how about you? If you have a blog, why do you do it? What’s your motivation?

Connecting with Your Teenager

Teen comes out of bedroom. Parent asks, “How’s everything going?”


“How’s school?”


“Is something wrong?”


“Where are you going?”

“Hang out with friends.”

“Be back by eleven.”

No response. Door closes.


Shortly after 12:00, the child comes in the door.


“Where have you been?”

“Hanging out with friends.”

“I asked you to be home by eleven.”

“I lost track of the time.”

“What were you doing?”


“Why didn’t you call?”

“I don’t know.”

“You need to remember when I tell you things.”

“Can I go to bed now? I’m tired.”

Teen goes off to room.


Whether teenagers act like it or not, they want to connect with their parents. They want to feel their love and acceptance, and they want to share their life with them.

Some parents get along great with their teens. But for many, there seems to be an impenetrable wall of disconnect. Some may feel like there is nothing they can do to break the wall of silence and estrangement that stands constantly between them and their son or daughter.

If you find yourself in this situation, recognize that you are not alone. Not only do other parents struggle with this, but your teen is suffering from the lack as well. In a way, you can empathize with what they are going through. They don’t like the wall any more than you do.

When your son or daughter is struggling, it may seem easy to recognize what they are doing wrong, and it’s even easier to tell them what they are doing wrong. But often, rather than fixing the problem, parents damage their relationship with their teen in the attempt to help.

Your ability to help your teen depends on the quality of your relationship. If that relationship is damaged, the teen may run into more trouble than they would have otherwise.

There is a golden key – a one word answer that can solve the problem.


The first step is to recognize your role in repairing the relationship. You cannot expect your son or daughter to start talking more openly or contributing more time to the family – in fact, you can’t count on your teen to do anything different than they have done before. But you can change your attitude, and your behavior. Don’t blame yourself, but take on the responsibility of changing. And if you’re diligent, and your efforts sincere, your teen will likely change their behavior, too.

It’s not that young people can’t repair the relationship they have with their parents. It’s that whoever recognizes the need and feels the desire for change has to take on the full responsibility for change. You must focus on what you can control, and the only person you can completely control is yourself.


What’s Missing?

If your relationship with your teen is in a rut, consider this acronym for what may be missing:

RUT: Respect, Understanding, and Trust. Chances are, one or all of these are lacking between you and your son or daughter. As you begin demonstrating these three things toward your teenager, you may find these attributes reciprocated.



Chances are, both you and your teen have struggled with demonstrating respect toward each other. Your teen might not respect you, but remember, you have to be the one to make the move.

Your son or daughter wants to be treated like an adult, and will respond much more favorably if you talk to them the way you would talk to another adult. Obviously you have to teach them right from wrong, and the consequences of their choices, but don’t preach to them. Share your feelings about what is going on. Share your concerns and help them discover where their choices are taking them, but don’t preach. There is a difference. Share your thoughts, your fears, your needs, and communicate an understanding of theirs.

Remember that no matter what your teen is doing to make things worse, this is not about their problems. It’s about restoring or improving the relationship. Respect doesn’t mean you have to agree. In fact, if your son or daughter’s choices are wrong, you must make sure not to agree, but it also means that you need to validate their views and feelings.



To borrow an analogy from Stephen R. Covey, understanding is like emotional air. Consider your hopes and dreams. Think about what matters most to you – perhaps your family, loved ones, your health and happiness. Now, imagine that while you are thinking about those things, suddenly the air in the room vanishes, and you can’t breath. What do you do?

Obviously, with the air out of the room, you would instantly forget about your hopes, dreams, and happiness. Suddenly all your thoughts focus irrationally around, “I NEED AIR!!!”

Air is to the body as understanding is to a relationship. If there is no understanding, then the emotions lose all sense of reason, and cry out for that one thing above all others. If your teenager thinks you don’t understand them, there is nothing you can do for them. They need understanding before they will listen to anything else you say. You need to rebuild in your teen the confidence that you understand them. That might not be easy, but it is crucial. If they can’t find understanding with you, they will seek it in friends, many of whom will not be the best influence on them.

When you speak to your son or daughter, don’t interrupt. This can be especially hard when your teen is being irrational. You would be irrational too if there was no air the room. They are reaching out for understanding like you would reach out for air. Let them be irrational, just listen. When they do give you a chance to speak, don’t fill it with your thoughts, rather use the opportunity to confirm that you do understand. Say something like, “So you feel that…” and repeat in your own words what they just told you. Then wait for their response. If you understood wrong, let them clarify, and when you get another chance to speak, use it again to make sure you are understanding – completely. If you stay calm and keep all forms of sarcasm out of your words, it might just open the lines of communication between the two of you. Your willingness to listen patiently, even if their words involve criticism or hurtful language, will show your son or daughter that you really do want to understand. Try to discover why they feel the way they do. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Once you get the communication lines open, keep them open. Make opportunities to talk often. Don’t be afraid to talk about the struggles you experienced as a teenager (besides walking uphill to school in -23 Fahrenheit weather), and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in front of your teen. Saying you’re sorry or asking forgiveness can go a long way in securing understanding between the two of you. You will know the lines of communication are remaining open when your son or daughter begins coming to you to talk.

Making time for talking and playing together can provide a good opportunity for building understanding. This is important whether your teenager is having problems or not, because if they see you as the most understanding person in their life, they will come to you before problems start, and they will talk to you before their friends.

If your teen has a particularly difficult time speaking to you directly about problems they are having, start a letterbox. Any time they have a question, concern, or problem that they need to ask you about, they can write a letter and put it in a letter box. When you read it later, you respond back in a letter. Make it clear when you introduce this idea that you will not speak about issues discussed in letters unless the teen brings it up in conversation. That way they don’t have to worry about your initial reaction. They can take the time to express their thoughts in a way they are comfortable with, and you can respond in a way that they will be comfortable receiving. Just make sure you never break your rule of not confronting them face to face about what they wrote in a letter, or that method of communication is shot forever.



Trust is the glue of any relationship. Without it, even love can’t keep the relationship in tact.

Everything we do either builds or breaks trust.

If your teenager has tuned you out, then whether for good or bad there is more going on in their life than you know about. In the best case, this may just mean you don’t know what’s happening in their school work. In a worse case, there may be drugs, sex, or crime in their life that has been taking place without you knowing it. Obviously in the latter case, there can be some major trust issues to deal with. Yet without trust, your teen will never open up and tell you what’s happening.

Don’t assume trust. You can’t just suddenly pretend your son or daughter is totally trustworthy. You have to rebuild trust. Take the time and energy necessary to rebuild the trust you have in them. If your teen has proven completely untrustworthy, communicate your desire to trust them, and your willingness to work with them to rebuild trust between you.

This doesn’t mean softening or getting rid of rules (unless the rules are unnecessary or unrealistic), but it does mean you need to help your teen understand why the rules are what they are. If they understand that – truly understand it, they will live by the principles whether there are rules or not. Don’t get rid of your rules, just communicate them with love, respect, and understanding. Depending on the situation, you may even have to make more or stricter rules. Just keep the respect, love, and understanding at the forefront of your discussions. If possible, have your teen help you decide on rules, so they will want to be personally committed to them. If they feel that some rules are unfair or unnecessary, negotiate until you come up with some that you are both willing to stand by. Also, have your son or daughter help you come up with appropriate consequences for the violation of the rules. Make sure the rules you decide on serve their intended purpose – to protect the teen, strengthen the family, and work toward the goals of both. Having the teen help decide the rules and consequences of their violation can help the teen take ownership of their actions, which can begin the restoration of trust in the relationship.

As your son or daughter demonstrates trustworthiness, communicate that in everything you do, and give them opportunities to exercise the trust you have in them. Allow them privileges that match their level of trustworthiness. If your teen feels respected and understood in the relationship, they will work to gain your trust.


The Emotional Bank Account

To borrow another Covey analogy, relationships are like bank accounts. When you are kind to someone, keep your word, or do something that they appreciate, it is like you are making a deposit into their emotional bank account. When you do something that they find hurtful, you make a withdrawal.

Just as with a real bank account, if you make too many withdrawals, then the account goes into the negative, and you may build up so much debt that it will take a long time, and a lot of deposits to get back into the positive. If your son or daughter feels that you are deeply in the negative in their emotional bank account, it will take a lot of deposits, a lot of sincerity testing, and a lot of patience to get that account back into the positive. Once it does get back in the positive, understanding can return, and the relationship can be salvaged.

Your teen may have a different idea of what constitutes a deposit than you do. That’s why you have to strive continuously to build understanding with your son or daughter. Also, some deposits and withdrawals are larger than others. If your teen’s emotional bank account is in the positive, and you make a major withdrawal, such as by betraying their trust, then you may go from positive to deep in debt in one quick move. If, however, you are in the positive, and make a small withdrawal, the offense might be easily forgiven.

If you find that you are deeply in debt in your teenager’s emotional bank account, it is going to take a lot of time and work to pull out, and every withdrawal you make is going to severely hinder your efforts to get out of debt. You need to focus your effort on making deposits. Show respect. Show understanding. Be kind. Be gentle. Sincerely compliment, and always, always keep your word. Find out out what love language your teen speaks, and speak it often. If communication is important to your teen, talk to the a lot. If they need hugs, offer them often. If they need compliments and affirmation, give it to them regularly. Don’t assume that your teen communicates love in the same way you do. Find out what means the most to them and pour it on them.


Keep it Real

Your efforts to respect, understand, and trust your son or daughter can’t be considered a technique. We’re not talking about a method to change your teen’s behavior. We’re talking about changing yourself to connect with your son or daughter so you can deeply connect with them, because you love them. Young people are extremely perceptive. If you are trying to improve the relationship in order to save your own reputation or to come across to others as a good parent, your kid will know. If you don’t have a true, deep empathy (not sympathy) for your child, and all they are going through, they will sense your insincerity. Check and double check your motives often. You need to keep working at it until you deeply sense the worth and potential of your teenager as a human being and as an irreplaceable member of your family. The idea is to communicate that worth so clearly that your son or daughter comes to see it too.

If all your efforts backfire, then your teen is probably testing your sincerity. If they feel like you have betrayed them at some point (whether or not you really did) in the past, it’s going to take a lot of deposits, such as patience, empathy, and understanding before they know that you’re for real. What you need to decide is that you will reach out to your son or daughter and be there no matter how much they reject you.

You will probably not have to sacrifice your rank in society in order to reconnect with your teen, but you need to be willing to do so. You probably won’t lose friends while trying to prove your love to your teen, but you need to be willing to if that’s what it takes. Your efforts to reconnect with and understand your teen will probably not hurt your reputation or business, but if you are willing to give those things up, they will sense your true sincerity, and will respond positively. When your teenager realizes how much they mean to you, you may be pleasantly surprised at the things they will be willing to do, like talk, hug, cry, and laugh with you. They want that. They just have to know how badly you want it, too.


Take Interest in Their Interests

One of the quickest ways to connect with someone is to take interest in the things they are interested in. You might not like football, but if your son does, learning to like it might open doors and give you the opportunity to get to know your son in ways you couldn’t have otherwise.

Find out what’s really important to your teen – not just what you want them to consider most important. Again, you don’t have to agree with what you discover, but finding out your teen’s true priorities will help you understand and relate to them better.

To many teens, friends are very important. If your teenager values spending time with friends, then make an effort to get to know their friends – carefully, of course. You don’t want to turn your teen into “the one with the weird parents.” But seek opportunities to get to know your teen’s friends. Consider inviting them over for a pizza party or taking them to ice cream with your son or daughter. Doing so will help you understand the influences that your teen is facing, and will communicate to your teen that you value their friends. When their friends are around, make a special effort to treat your teen with respect. Be sensitive to your teen’s reaction – if they are embarrassed by your presence, tone it down a bit. If they like having you involved in what they’re doing with their friends, then you know you’ve come a long way in connecting with your teen.


Try New Things

If you find that some of your efforts to connect with your teen don’t work or make things worse, try new things. If something is working, keep it up, and if not, try something different. If they are active on the Internet, find out what social networks they are using. Sign up for a Facebook account and become their friend. Try texting positive messages to them on their phone. Try taking them to dinner once in a while. Be creative, be patient, and most of all, never give up. If you are persistent, understanding, respectful, and sincere, you will be amazed at the depth of your relationship with your son or daughter. That friendship is likely to last the rest of your life, and the influence you have will last generations.

The Gift of Music

by Leola Jex Freshwater Curtis

I knew the old pump organ had just been loaned to us. Someday the owner would want it back. But in those Depression days it seemed so wonderful to have music in our home that I didn’t even want to think of the future. I just wanted to enjoy it.

Each morning as I dusted the curves and edges of the organ I marveled at the beauty of the wood. I liked to let my hand move along the curved part that covered the keys. I liked it best when this part was forlded back, when I could see fingers on the keyboard, and listen to the deep mellow tones. It was then I’d do my dreaming of the time when I’d be all grown up. It was then I’d see myself sitting there playing.

I’d watch Papa pump the big pedals with his feet to get the music started. He’d keep pumping steadily as he played, and the room would be filled with his music.
“I’ve just got to learn how,” I told Papa.

Papa stopped long enough to nod towards the other end of the bench, “Then sit down here,” he said, waiting for me, “and let’s get started.”

He told me about low C, and hight C, had me sound the notes over and over. Then I played them while he did the pumping. It was hard to reach from the low note to the high note with my small hand, but it was fun to let my fingers run up and down the keys. It was like running up and down a hill. Papa always made learning fun.

Papa said it was a good idea to learn to play music by ear, too. That way, he said, you didn’t need to worry if someone asked you to play, and you hadn’t brought your music along, or if you didn’t happen to have the money to buy it. Papa could play really well. He could just listen to a song and then sit down and play it. Even if I just sang a school song once, Papa could play it. It was like magic.

One day I was hurrying home from school, humming a song we had learned, so I could remember it long enough for him to play it on the organ. I was almost home when I noticed the Mover’s Truck at our front door. I couldn’t believe it would stop at our house. We weren’t moving anywhere. But there it was, right against the door.
Then I knew. There could only be one reason. The time was up. It was like I’d been hit in the gut. It was hard to breathe, and all I could do was stand and stare as they carried out the organ. I watched Papa helping them. Then I knew I couldn’t stand it yet, going in that big bare room with all the beauty gone.

I cut across the fields, past the pear tree, back to where the wild plums were, into my secret hiding place. I felt the shaking in my body and the hurting in my throat, but it didn’t matter. I remember thinking, “It isn’t fair. Not when I was just learning. Why couldn’t they leave it just a little longer?”

Now I knew I’d never learn. Papa wouldn’t ever get enough money to buy us an organ. He was lucky to just get enough work to get food on our table. It wasn’t his fault. There just wasn’t any work to get.

Papa found me there a little later. He didn’t say anything. He just dropped down beside me on the grass. I felt a tear rolling down my cheek. I’d decided to ignore it, but papa took out his big red handkerchief and wiped the tear away. I’d never seen Papa look so sad. His tanned face looked thinner, older somehow. I noticed lines on his forehead, and by his lips that tried not to tremble. His blue eyes didn’t have any twinkle today. They were just red-edged and filled with water. A tear slipped down his own cheek but he just brushed it quickly away with the back of his hand, as if he didn’t want me to see it.

It was nice to sit with Papa. You didn’t have to worry about talking. You could both look at the green leaves dancing there over your head in the gentle breeze. You could look at the patterns of shadows they made all around you. It was nice hearing the humming of the bees and the chirping of the birds. Both of you, not talking, just sitting there listening.
Then quite suddenly, from further away there came the clear sweet tone of a Meadow Lark’s song. I turned to look at Papa, and his face had brightened. His eyes looked almost happy again and I thought he was going to smile. Instead, his lips puckered and formed into a whistling shape. I wondered why Papa would stop to whistle at a time like this. Then I heard the clear tone, the perfect imitation of the bird’s call.

I knew what would happen now. The bird answered him. They always did. So Papa whistled again to the bird, and thi time the answer was closer – close enough so we could see him. The bird hopped a few steps, tipped his head as if to listen. Then quite suddenly he flipped his wings and took off high into the blue sky.

“Isn’t it amazing,” Papa said softly, “that such a small creature could carry in his tiny throat the most magical musical instrument of all?”

“It’s all right for a bird,” I said, still remembering the lost organ. “Anyhow I couldn’t ever be a very good singer, if that’s what you’re getting at. Teacher told me to sing Alto, cause my voice is too low.”

“Is that what you’re thinking?” he asked, “She probably just wanted more harmony. Singing in harmony, now that is a gift. Not everybody can do that.”

“I know. That’s what teacher told me too, and she said if only the best singers were the singers, it’d be a quieter place. How’s that supposed to make me feel?”

I could see a puzzled look in Papa’s eyes, and I felt like a traitor. I knew I should feel thankful for my voice, and I was, but right now it didn’t seem like anything too special, not like being able to play an organ, anyway.

“Well, it’s true,” Papa said, “there are people that sing better, maybe, than others, and if you don’t feel like singing, that’s up to you. But tell me, how many people have you heard whistle – I mean really whistle?”

Suddenly a new hope flooded through me. If Papa could just teach me to whistle the way he did, so even the birds answered and came to him…

“How?” I asked, almost afraid to hope.

He was smiling again now but his voice turned serious as he spoke, “You have to learn to hold your lips just right. They have muscles in them too, you know, just like anywhere else in your body. Then you shape the sound just right. That comes with practice. You learn to ease it out, just so, shaping, holding, and letting it go to grab another.”

As he talked, I watched his lips. I felt my own taking shape, puckering. It was a strange feeling. I listened as he demonstrated the sounds. He urged me to try it once.

Cautiously I did try, puckering my lips, and feeling the vibrations across my lips as a buzzing blurred sound fell from my mouth. I felt like crying, I was so disappointed.
“You’ve got a sound,” Papa said joyfully, “Now all you have to do is to practice on it and improve on it. You’ll be surprised how well you can do.”

Papa looked around, at the plum bushes, the grass, of my secret hiding place, and said, “Seems to me you have a pretty good place right here to do your practicing.”

The shadows were growing longer as we walked toward the house that day. I remember the sun shining through the tree branches was low in the west. I remember too, the long hours of practice until I too, could whistle the way I wanted to. But most of all I remember the Papa who knew how to comfort a broken-hearted little girl, and how he gave her once again, the gift of music.