Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Moving the Blog

Hello Friends,

Just a quick note that I am moving this blog to a WordPress Site... don't ask me why... Nettie - my PR pro - told me that it was a great idea. So I'm doing it.

Really it is an effort to create more buzz and publicity around my new project, "The Home Feeling Community".  Come check it out.

The new blog is:  www.thehomefeeling.wordpress.com  Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Parenting In The Trenches

Technically, the little farm of our friend is not within Spanish Fork’s city limits. But we weren’t thinking of that on Friday afternoon as we got out of the car and walked down the steep hill to the lower garage.

I was the first one down and warmly greeted Nancy and Gerald who were using the tractor to move a 1 ton bale of grass hay off the massive haystack they had, just to the north of the garage. I chuckled as I thought how that haystack was wider, deeper, and taller than the first 3 houses Margie and I lived it. Well, with 15 horses and 4 cows, I guess she needed all that hay for the winter.

Looking back over my shoulder, I saw a chain of children making their way down the old railroad ties serving as steps down the hill. One had a rake. One had a pick ax. One had a shovel. The others were trailing along and laughing or talking. The image of Snow White’s seven dwarfs popped into my mind and deepened the joy I was feeling in that moment. And of course, the very vision of beauty and rapture herself came at the end of this long line of children.

“So, where do you want it?” I asked.

“Right across the road leading down to the barns… and I need it 18 inches deep. Sorry.” Nancy said.

“No problem! We’ll have it done in a jiffy.”

Well, as a matter of fact, it was a problem and certainly wasn’t done in a jiffy. But all the better for my purposes. Of course, we were not there to have a jolly visit. We were there to work. Both Nancy and Gerald are in their 70’s (maybe 80’s for all I know) and with no farm-hands, they manage all their projects by themselves… and some things they simply cannot do… like digging 18 inch ditches.

At first glance the road seemed to be a dirt road. But, actually, it was 2 inches of dirt covering 10 inches of old asphalt. And that is where the trouble started. As my pick ax slammed into the blacktop, my muscles groaned and my face split into a grin – this was going to be a lot of work for my boys. Over the next 2 hours, I swung the pick ax and they manned the shovels, clearing large chunks of asphalt, rocks, dirt, and gravel.

On their faces I could see the strain of physical labor and in their hearts I could see the transforming power of serving others without compensation or promised rewards.

Stopping for a break and a drink of water I saw Margie, Esther and Hyrum running down the hill. They had been up at the house raking leaves out of the yards. With a burst of excitement, Hyrum announced that they had already raked and scooped up more than 20 large black bags of leaves.

The signs of service were unmistakable on their faces as well.

Three weeks earlier before, we went down to Nancy’s farm to dig the trench and rake up leaves, we had a Family Council. The topic was giving of ourselves in service. The Council had decided that once a week – usually every Thursday – we would find a project to do for someone, and secretly if we could manage it.

Walking back up the hill that afternoon, I saw each of the children helping their buddy into the car. They talked pleasantly with each other, some holding hands, others with their arms around each other. No fighting, no bickering, no contention. There it was again… the home feeling.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Excitement Grows...

This post has virtually nothing to do with parenting or families… or maybe, it has everything to do with it!

You see, this blog is actually just one element in a grand scheme that I have in my mind to serve and help parents and families.

Over the past years I have been designing, scheming, dreaming, thinking, and planning a tool that will empower parents and bless families in a way that has never been seen before. It uses a unique blend of old school personal relationships and all the best technology tools available today.

A few days ago I sent an introduction letter to a handful of my most trusted and close friends and family members. The letter outlined this new powerful tool for parents and families and invited them to participate. The response has been very, very exciting! What is more resources to expand, develop, and launch this project have been coming out of the woodwork.

For example Hank and Daryl Hoole have agreed to join me for a family chat and give their wisdom and insights into family matters. As renowned family and parenting authors and speakers, I’m honored to have their support.

And then there are people like Nettie Hartsock – an “A” level PR and online buzz creator extrordinare – have given me great feedback and agreed to help me push this project out to as many parents as humanly possible. (With Nettie, it will actually be to as many parents as in-humanly possible… she’s a miracle worker!) She does it with little tips like, “Did you register with Technorati yet?” (Technorati Profile) And of course I hadn’t!

Then there are the services of my two brothers – two of the most ingenius and exceptional computer programmers and system administrators that can be found anywhere. They’ll be helping with all the back-end magic that will make the project possible.

So, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, the excitement is growing. The project is growing… the dream is waking out of its slumber and just beginning to shine its light on the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Great Pumpkin Caper

Looking in the rear-view mirror, I could see the grin splitting his face underneath eyes that were firm, determined, and dancing with excitement all at the same time.

Our big brown van – a 15 passenger Ford Clubwagon – is hardly what you would call “inconspicuous”, but that only added to the fun challenge that we had given ourselves. My son Joshua had the “package” – a orange, jack-o-lantern shaped goodie bag filled with licorice and bags of popcorn – in his hand and was standing by the double-wide side door, with one hand on the handle, ready to leap out at a moment’s notice.

Driving casually, as if nothing was happening, we passed right by the house. Giggles erupted from the back seats as I said, “We’ll just drive right by, like nothing is happening… they’ll never even notice us!” “Never notice us! Right dad!” I could hear Esther saying. That made everyone laugh all the more.

Once past the house, I stopped and looked back… only to see the lady of the house looking out the big, massive windows on the south side of the house. Hehe.. Sure, they’d never see us or suspect us. After all, we were the only ones in the neighborhood that had a big brown 15 passenger van! Humm, maybe I should have pulled forward out of eye sight of those windows!

And Margie told me as much, “Pull forward, honey – at least TRY to be secretive about this!” More laughter – except from Joshua. He’d been given a mission and was determined to fulfill it.

Of course it would be Joshua – my 9-year-old. Everyone knew it. He is by far the fasted runner of our children. Plus, he is clever about things and would know just how and where to put the secret package so as to get away the fastest.

I pulled forward out of line of sight. Turning around, I gave Joshua the “signal.” In a flash he was out of the car, running low along the fence line, creeping along side our victim’s car, pausing to assess the situation. “Hum – front door or back door? Dog at the front door – he’s sure to bark and blow my cover. Back door is only a few feet from their car – the car will be good cover for me on the get-away.”

With cat-like stealth he was gone, passing like a shadow from the car to the backdoor, always keeping a tight grip on the large treat bag – the “package” – that he held in his hands. Victory was in sight.. .here came the drop… now the doorbell… reaching, reaching… and then… CRISIS! RED ALERT! RETREAT!

Just at that moment, the lady of the house had decided to come to the back hallway to hang up a sweater. With a shock of thrill, Joshua realized that if he rang that bell, she would be sure to look straight at him. The better part of reason took over and his hand withdrew – they’d find it when they came out to the car… no bell needed.

The small shadow crossed down the stairs again and with the speed of lighting he shot across the driveway, back behind the car and then retraced his steps down the fence line where the get-away car waited with door open, ready to flee into the night!

As we sped away and rounded the corner, the entire interior of the car erupted with screams of glee and cries of laughter! The feeling of pure thrill and excitement filled each heart as we thought of the little deed of secret service we had just pulled off. To think of the happiness that goodie bag would bring the children in that home and the fun they would have guessing, “Who dunit??!!” was more than we could bear!

In the 90 seconds it took to get home and out of the car, I realizee something… there it was again – that feeling. The feeling of family. The feeling of unrestrained joy. The feeling of happiness and excitement. The feeling of enthusiasm. The feeling of unity and love with everyone in the family.

It was the “Home Feeling.”

Oh! How I LOVE that feeling. It just sends tingles up and down my spine. It melts away all the stress and struggle and turmoil of life. It brings out the sunshine and dispels clouds of doom. It makes life worth-while. It makes everything OK.

Yep… we had the “Home Feeling” something strong that night… the night of the great pumpkin caper.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Crooked Hair and a Great Marriage

The gentle Puget Sound sun was streaming through a crystal clear sky that Saturday afternoon in early May of 1998. The sound of razor sharp metal edges slicing against each other as they effortlessly cut is still ringing in my ears.

I was sitting on the back patio of our Kirkland, WA condo. Before me was a rich, lush green belt that was more like an ancient rain forest ravine. The ravine dropped down immediately off our patio and went down some 120 feet to the bottom where a small spring fed the massive trees, the bed of thick ferns, and heavy undergrowth (not that any help was needed). The regular – almost constant – Northwest rainfall gave all the moisture any plant would ever need.

The scene was peaceful enough to calm down a ranting warrior heading into battle, but it had little effect on my arrogant and immature 25-year-old mind. The tension in the air was thick enough to be consumed with a spoon… I felt it and, worst of all, Margie felt it.

For the past 3 years of our marriage, I had absolutely refused to let her cut my hair. I preferred, in stead, to pay a “professional” $15 to $25 to provide me with a slick and stylish ‘do. Plus, I wanted my wife to be above “that” kind of demeaning work. After all, she was the queen of my universe… right? (A thing I should have remembered in actions and not simply in haircuts.)

But, the Lord has a way of humbling you. Since our move to Washington, we had hit on hard (dare I say extremely hard) financial times. The stress and strain of our circumstances was weighing heavily on both of us… and on our marriage. The simple fact is, we just did not have $20 to spring for a haircut. But we did have scissors and clippers – a Christmas gift from one of Margie’s sisters. Plus, over the years, I had had enough rotten haircuts to realize that even “professionals” can botch a snip job.

So it was, that I found myself in one of our wooden chairs on the back patio, wrapped in a black plastic cape, cringing at every “snip, snip” of the scissors.

But as nerve wracking as it was for me, it was 100 times worse for my dear and patient wife. She had been the receiver of more than one ugly blunt remark from my lips and knew the heat of my bitter, snide comments. In those days, I’m ashamed to say, that they came frequently and were heated with the flames of financial pressure and my own miserably low self-image.

Rising from the 30-minute torture chamber, I went into the bathroom to review my first home-delivered salon experience. Looking back, I have no doubts that no one in the world would have noticed the few crooked lines or uneven cuts… but I did. And worse of all, I made sure to tell Margie all about it, painfully pointing out each and every one with snide precision.

This painful encounter continued month after month, and, yes, even year after year.

Someone should have whipped me that first day – but they didn’t. So it continued… but not forever.

After a few years of this agony, I began to see myself as the selfish, ugly tyrant that I really was. For heaven’s sake, my poor sweetheart was doing the very best she could. Not only that, but she was saving us hundreds of dollars a month by giving me and our boys haircuts, relieving a bit of the financial burden for our family. And, she was putting herself humbly and patiently in the line of fire each time I sat in that chair. On top of all that, she was getting good at haircuts. Everyone could see it… except me.

One day while standing in front of the mirror, that still, small voice that has done more to impact the affairs of men and change history, snuck inside my heart and said, “So, how much comfort has that hair of yours been to you through all the years of struggle? And, while we’re on the subject, is the praise of a good hair cut worth the tears of your eternal companion and best friend?”

It was a sharp blow. It ran deep and pierced my heart

Of course my wife and her feelings were WAY more important than my hair and how I looked. Of course, the comments and opinions of others were infinitely less important than the joy of my wife.

So, I decided to change – even if, I said smugly to myself, her haircuts didn’t ever get better.

From that day on, every haircut I have received from my dear wife has been “The best haircut I have ever gotten.” “Man, you really out-did yourself this time, sweetheart. That looks awesome!” “Wowww! Look how even and perfect that line is! Nice job!” “I think I’m the luckiest man in the world to have a wife like you. Thank you so much for taking the time to cut my hair!”

The truth is, I stopped looking at my hair – though, lately even barbers and beauticians have remarked at how well my hair is cut. Instead, I started looking at my wife’s heart and accepting the tremendous gift of love, patience, respect, support, and courage that she was giving to me.

Actually, she had been giving it to me all along – it was just that I was only now starting to notice it.

But more than a better cut, the change in my words has given us something much better. It has given us an awesome marriage. You see, while I was noticing the bad haircut, I was noticing a lot of other things too. And you can be sure, I was quick to bring up those things as well.

It was a wedge between us.

My critical eye and lightning tongue was creating a dam that stopped up our love, our affection, our respect, and our friendship. Once I let go of my petty selfishness, the dam burst open, the floodgates flung wide, spilling joy, peace, harmony and happiness into our lives like we never could have imagined.

Once upon a time, I had crooked lines in my hair and a choppy marriage… today, I’ve got a smooth hairline and sweet marriage. But you know what? Seeing how good it can be, I’d take crooked hair and a sweet marriage any day.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"We Could Fill the Whole House With Little Babies!"

It wish… with all my heart, I wish I would have been there.

Aren’t there times like that in our life? Magical family moments that you would give anything to go back and be a part of. Times when the flood gates of happiness and joy seem to burst open and run all over your heart.

And you know… usually, those times are just simple things. Not the so-called great and glorious events of life or even the major milestones. Nope. More often than not, they are just the simple quiet moments of life that spark something eternal in your heart and ignite a flame of pure happiness, joy, and peace.

This time, it was the sound of tiny 5 year old feet pitter-pattering softly on the hall carpet. Those little feet made their way across the living room floor and up on to the couch beside my dear and wonderful wife.

It was early – not even 6:00 am yet. The rest of the house was quiet and sleepy. Everyone that is except for Sariah, Margie and me (I was already up in my office reading scriptures). Sariah, being only 3 weeks old, already had Margie out of bed, crying for a morning snack. It was Isaac that came and snuggled on the couch next to these two wonderful girls.

He began quietly caressing Sariah’s head and playing with her miniature feet and hands. “Mom, look at these feet. They’re so cute! And Mom, I’m going to tell you this… look at her pretty little fingers. Aren’t they soooo cute Mom? And mom, I’m going to tell you this… I think we should have more babies. Yeah, lots more because they are so sweet and cute. Mom, you know what? We could fill this whole house with more and more babies! And you know what Mom? I love little Sariah… she is soooo cute.”

Margie later told me that he was definitely in earnest as he spoke. His face was serious, sincere and full of infinite love for his little sister.

Oh! How I wish I would have been there to see those shining eyes and to hear his happy voice, expressing a deep longing in his heart.

In a way, his 5-year-old logic was true to the mark. You see, he figured that if this one darling little girl brought so much joy and happiness into our home, then surely, a whole home full of the little angels would bring exponentially more happiness and joy. Of course, his timing is off, but his idea is right.

One day, though it may be long, long into the future, every parent will likely have a whole house full of little babies – at least of their children.

It made me think of my wife’s grandmother. She is now almost 97 years old. In her younger days, she gave birth to 12 children. In turn, through time, those children have multiplied, bringing grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren. In all her posterity is well over 500 today, and more than that if you count in-law spouses.

And it just keeps growing. Imagine, in less than 100 years she has over 500 children filling her house and bringing her joy.

I have often though, “How much good has that woman brought into the world?” She established traditions and attitudes and perspectives that have immediately influenced hundreds of people and touched the lives of thousands and thousands. And, given another 100 years, how much more power and influence will this one woman have had? It is almost incomprehensible to consider.

Now, regardless if you are a mother of 12 or of 1, your power for good is the same. Over time, your family will grow and multiply, expanding over time.

The traditions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and perspectives that you hold today will multiply right along with your family. It will grow and spread and expand and touch thousands and thousands of lives – for good or bad.

So, what are you doing today with your life? With your parenting?

One thing is sure and certain… one day, you will have a house full of children – thousands of them. What kind of future are you giving them by how you are living today?

Family Night Makes Family Might

The room was so richly and exquisitely decorated that you almost had to make a conscious effort to not focus on it.

Rich tapestries, ornately carved oak mantle piece, fine leather and upholstered furniture, gorgeous armoire, rich family photos, fine paintings, costly vases and a myriad of other things reached out and grabbed for my attention.

But, their attempts were in vain. Despite my love of fine things, this night the artifacts and decorations were powerless to rob my energies or divert my gaze. No, tonight there was a different kind of magic in the room that was far more appealing, far more enticing, far more compelling.

My eyes were riveted to a nine-year-old boy standing shyly, but straight and tall and confidently in front of the mantle piece. Compared to the this stripling boy, the finery of the mantle and walls around were like dross – plain and wholly unremarkable.

The boy, of course, was my son Joshua. “I’d like to welcome all of you to family home evening,” he began. It was family night – just like every Monday night is set aside as a family night. We gather together, almost always with just our family, but, on rare occasions, with friends, as we did tonight.

The program, as he announced it, included an opening song, a prayer, a lesson to be given by yours truly, and then an activity and root beer floats to wash it all down.

For my lesson that night, I decided to discuss the ideas of war – not the physical wars that we are and have been engaged in with various nations around the globe – but a much more dangerous and impacting war that each of us wages each day. It is a war that demand strong and powerful soldiers. It is a war of wills and choices... choices that will lead to happiness, prosperity, and joy on the one hand, and choices that lead to misery, slavery, and frustrations on the other.

It was the solider aspect of the battle that I focused on during this lesson. In front of me there were 13 children ranging from 12-years-old down to 2 weeks old. My wife and our friend (an early widow that lost her husband in a tragic airplane accident), both women of immense valor, unmovable values, impenetrable armor, and tireless strength in fighting this battle.

And good thing, it is their strength – the strength of a mother – that has always and will always be the very deciding factor in this merciless battle. It is their hand that rocks the cradle. It is their hand that feeds the nations. It is their hand that nurtures the soul. It is their hand that fashions the attitudes and opinions of man. It is their hand that passes on traditions and ideals. And so, it is their hand that, in the end, almost exclusively defines the courses and paths of nations.

Nothing truer was ever said than this, “If the mother fails in the home, the world fails in all its noble pursuits.”

Than night, as we discussed the battle before us, I could not help but think of the enormous power for good that sat in that room. Among those 13 children five of them are women – or at least one day would be. These sweet daughters of God would grow up, marry, and try their own hand at defining nations and writing history. And those boys in the room, the men-to-be, would become fathers, providers and protectors.

In short, it is today that we, as parents, must fashion the armor and weave the cloth of their lives. Those of us with young children in our homes are not just parents of today, we are the makers of tomorrow. And, perhaps more importantly, we do not just fashion the society tomorrow with the homes we build today, but we enable the present and future joys of our little ones.

Looking around, I suspect that there never has been a time in history that more fully hinged on the competence and passion and determination of young parents. We stand on the brink of catastrophic change and wrestle with the most complex questions of all the ages. So, like it or not, the burden of raising these children to greatness and winning the victory lays squarely on our shoulders.

It is for each of us to question, “Am I up to the task?” Of one thing I am more sure of than anything else in my life: We have the capacity. But of another thing I am still wondering: Do we have the commitment?

Actually, that is what this habitual family night is all about. It is as much for Margie and I, as it is for our children. By coming together each week and setting aside the hustle and bustle of the world around us, we can refocus on our role as parents. It energizes us and renews our commitment as we look into our children’s eyes and feel of their immeasurable trust and love. The experience is not always roses and buttercups, but it always serves as a strong reminder that we hold present day happiness and future progress in our hands. The strength we receive is wonderful and vitally needed.

So, if you are not currently doing it, why not give it a try? Once a week for a couple of hours, just set everything aside and spend nice quality time with your family.

I’m sure you’ll find, as we have, that family night makes family might.