“Tell them to Have Faith in Me”

Christ at the Door

Short note: This post is going to be directed more to an LDS specific audience. If you are not LDS, you are more than welcome to read on, but keep in mind all the jargon may or may not make sense to you. And if you’ve got questions, ask. Or, if you disagree, that’s totally cool too.

Maybe I’m still riled up about this whole Ordain Women/Excommunication thing still, but I’ve got a couple of things to say on the matter at hand–which, if I’m reading the tea leaves right, is actually expanding beyond just Ordain Women.

Over the past several days, I’ve read a number of posts (can you see what I do with my spare time?) that call into question certain aspects of the church and often outline a discrepancy between what the church says and what the church does. They point out President Uchdorf’s big-tent Mormonism and the idea that we excommunicate people that we disagree with or that don’t share our view points. Further, they accuse the leadership of the church of doing things that seem wholly worldly with the idea that the LDS church functions more like a corporation than as the literal kingdom of God on the earth. Things like buying up land in Florida, groundbreaking for shopping malls and apartment buildings and a host of other so-called temporal actions that somehow demonstrate the church is more interested in it’s holdings than it is in holding the faith of it’s constituents. All of this, to me, demonstrates a profound lack of faith. Not in the church or it’s leaders, but in God.

I teach gospel doctrine in my ward. Every two weeks, I’m preparing a lesson on this topic or that topic and I do my darndest to ensure that I give a lesson that invites the spirit and nourishes the members of the class with the good word of God. I’m not perfect. I’ve given lousy lessons before. I have much to learn. But I believe in giving lessons that challenge us, make us think, but ultimately, build our faith in God. I’m not interested in building my faith in a man, or a group of men or even an institution. In fact, the church doesn’t ask me to build my faith in the church. It asks me to build my faith in God and Jesus Christ. And so that’s what I try to do and what I try to encourage my class to do. And, as I prepare for my class and while I’m teaching, I’m trying to constantly be aware of what it is that God would want me to say that would help people in their struggles and in their own lives. You know the answer I get almost invariably from God?

Tell them to have faith in Me.

Whenever I get that direction, I always question it. Faith is, after all, the first principle and ordinance of the gospel. Most wouldn’t be in the seats in that classroom unless they had faith in the first place. And so, I do what I always do. I ask, “are you sure?” Always the reply. Yes. Tell them to have faith in Me.

And so I do. And you know what happens? The spirit. Uplift. Comfort. Joy. Happiness. Not only for the class, but I’m sure, most especially for me.

I see so many people out there among the church who have so many questions. Why does the church do this? Why does the church act like this? Why do our leaders seem to contradict themselves at times? Why can’t we just go back to the times of Joseph Smith? Because those things never happened in Joseph’s time either. Honestly, if you look throughout the scriptures, the prophets are CONSTANTLY having to tell the Saints to have more faith. Believe in God. Trust in Him. I just got done teaching much of the Israelites 40-year wanderings in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. You know what seems to happen? They lack faith. They think they had it good in Egypt and they want to go back. Reading Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy is like watching a bad 80s TV show with an obvious formula. Something bad happens. Everyone freaks. They blame Moses. They curse God. Moses pleads with them to have more faith. They get angry and want to overthrow his leadership. God chastens them in some way. Some repent, some fall away. Rinse and repeat. And it all comes back to a lack of faith.

Tell them to have faith in Me.

Guys, God is in control. If you doubt that, then I implore you to ask Him about it. He’s not going to give you specifics as to why the church engages in some of the activities it does. But what He will do is say to you, I’m in control. I know what’s going on. I know what I’m doing. Are there mistakes made at the highest levels? Yes, there are. Does that mean God isn’t in control? Nope. Sure doesn’t. Do General Authorities say things in Conference that I may not agree with? Yep. Does that mean that God isn’t in control? Nope. Is the institution of the church and it’s members and officiators perfect? Nope. Does that mean God will let the institution falter, crumble and disintegrate? Maybe. He has in the past. But if He does, it will be for good reason.

Tell them to have faith in Me.

Faith is an easy concept to understand and hard concept to practice. But, remember, God does not ask us to have faith in the world, it’s people, processes or procedures. He asks us to have faith in Him. He asks us to have faith in a loving God who is in control of the world. He asks us to influence for good in the sphere of influence that we are in and do our best to help those that we can. As Elder Holland has said, don’t lead with your doubts. Lead with your faith. Then you will have peace in this life and an understanding of your place in it. God does not want you to fix all the problems in this world. He knows you can’t. But fix what you can. And do so in a way that will build up others around you. In that way, you’ll gain faith in God, His purposes and His ways.  And then He can come to you and say:

I’ve always had faith in you. Now, tell them to have Faith in Me.

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5 Totally Unnecessary Points of View on Ordain Women

mormon-woman-teaching

Oy vey. I’ve been following the Ordain Women movement which finally came to a head today with the excommunication of their founder, Kate Kelly. It’s such big news that it made the front page of NBC News. And they say the Mormon Moment is over.

I’m writing this post, in many ways, to get my own thoughts on paper and organized. That’s why it’s totally unnecessary. It probably won’t add to the dialogue, it may (or may not) be enlightening and if no one reads it, I’ll be sad, but I’ll get over it. But again, this is mainly for me, so I can have a well-reasoned argument on why I feel the way I feel. Again, not stating that my point of view is correct, just how I feel. And feelings are always valid.

I’ve read a ton of opinion pieces on this subject. Everything from the doctrinal foundation for ordaining women to the outright vitriol spewed by some members of the church who call the Ordain Women movement an affront to everything they hold sacred. Truth be told, there are pieces advocating for peace among all us members, blogs calling the Church a hateful organization run by tyrannical old men and even some bloggers equating the whole movement to a bunch of Mean Girls style memes. The church PR department has inserted itself into the discussion by way of a few statements and videos, attempting to quell the rising tide of public discourse around the validity of the Ordain Women movement. Honestly, I don’t remember this much noise about ANYTHING in the church over the past 20 years. Certainly since I’ve returned from my mission, I’ve not seen something quite like this.

To that point, I have no idea how it was in the 60s and 70s when blacks were refused the priesthood. Certainly social media wasn’t around and everyone didn’t have a voice like they do now, but I imagine there were a number of discussions in a number of meetinghouses about the rights of the blacks to hold the priesthood. I’m sure many felt the church then was “out of touch” and “behind the times” and “run by a bunch of tyrannical old white men.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Which brings me to my first point, and the thing I think that makes the most sense in all of this discussion.

1. The church is not run by the prophets or its leaders. It is run by Jesus Christ.

Now, if you don’t believe in the church or it’s doctrine, you will, no doubt, poo-poo that statement, but that’s just fine. I’ve heard many people say that is a cheap stance and hiding behind the name of the Savior means the leaders of the church are too chicken to do anything about this discussion. If you believe that, fine. But, if you are a member of the church, and you believe, and you’ve made covenants to that end, then you must accept this doctrine. In D&C 1:38, a canonized book of scripture, it reads in part “whether by my voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” That is bold doctrine that states those who are in leadership positions in the church are put there not because they sought the position or “moved up through the ranks,” they are put there because that’s who Jesus Christ wants running the church at this point in time. But, in all matters, it is Christ who directs the affairs of the Church, and not anyone else. To believe otherwise after being baptized and covenanting to keep those commandments, demonstrates a lack of faith in God, Christ and their omnipotence and perfection.

2. Ordain Women is less about ordinances and more about power.

Yes, I know. I’m a white, male member of the church who has had the priesthood since I was 12. I get it. I’m privileged. I’ve never felt put upon by leaders of the church or told that I wasn’t good enough or didn’t hold the proper authority or right to do a particular task in the church because I’ve held the priesthood for most of my adult life. How could I possibly know what it feels like to be discriminated against by a man in power in the church, right?

This is the part of the Ordain Women movement that perhaps irks me the most. The idea that in order to change the culture of the church, the doctrine of the church must change. That’s a load of malarkey if I’ve ever heard it. If there are cultural problems in the church (and there are, big ones in many cases) it is not the fault of the doctrine or the organization. It is the fault of the imperfect people who are here officiating the governance of the church. And if you really want to affect change in the church, we should start with the culture, and not the doctrine. The doctrine is God’s domain. And until He relinquishes control over the doctrine (spoiler alert, He won’t) then we must focus on trying to change what we can control instead of making a fuss about what we cannot.

I live in Utah, but I’ve never thought of myself as a Utah Mormon. I don’t believe in the culture created here–one I believe to be based more on the outward appearance more than inward conviction. I think because of that dichotomy, it leads to a disingenuous application of some doctrine that can lead some to believe that those in power are more out for themselves than the benefit of others. And by out for themselves, I mean that they want everyone to view them as righteous and upstanding and as proof of that, they seek, albeit without much fanfare, positions of importance within their ward or branch that validate their upstanding nature. When they receive a position of authority, its as if to say to everyone: “Hey! God thinks I’m righteous! That’s why I have this calling! Isn’t that cool?” But, what invariably happens to those people is what priesthood holders are taught again and again from the moment they get the priesthood. In D&C 121, the Lord states that it is the “nature and disposition of almost all man (speaking generically and specifically here) as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” What does that mean? Essentially, everyone who is called to a calling of leadership or importance has to fight against the natural tendency to make everyone do what they think should be done at all times. Some succeed. Many fail. And to those that fail, the consequences breed groups like Ordain Women. It happened in the early days of the church, it happened when the September Six were excommunicated from the church several years ago and it is happening today. I recognize this as something called the Pride Cycle.

Essentially, the Pride Cycle is this idea that as soon as we see some success, we start to get caught up in how great we are, and eventually, something happens to pull us back to earth and we humble ourselves, then prosper, then think we’re great and then get humbled again. It happens with people, nations, religions, everything. Seriously, go look at the last 100 years of American History and you’ll see it at least 6 or 7 times. Again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

When it happens in the Church, though, the effect is more jarring. For a people that claim to be Saintly, it’s not always the case. We’re not always nice to each other. We disagree, and there is, at times, vehement discord between many members of the church. Why? Because we forget who is in charge. It’s not us. It’s God. And, in my opinion, it’s exactly what Kate Kelly and Ordain Women have forgotten. They are interested in power that they do not have, that has not been conferred upon them by God. They are saying, in effect, “God, we know better than you. We need to be ordained.” That is the central point of pride. It isn’t arrogance. It isn’t haughtiness and it isn’t being a jerk. No, enmity is at the heart of pride, and that’s exactly what Ordain Women has, sadly, succumbed to.

If you’re not familiar with enmity, it doesn’t simply mean standing in opposition to something, it means quite literally, to set oneself above another person or being. Basically, enmity in this case is the idea that “I know better than God” or “God just doesn’t listen to me and I know what’s best” and other such ideas. This is pride. This is what this whole thing with Ordain Women has turned into. And, to be quite honest, it makes me very, very sad. And this is why:

3. Kate Kelly has led people astray.

Ever read the Book of Mormon? In it, in the first chapter of the book of Alma, there is a man, whose name is Nehor, who is brought before the chief judge over all the land. Nehor has been out among the people telling them that God has revealed a new truth of focusing on making yourself happy (Ayn Rand’s rational selfishness comes to mind here) and has flattered the people away with his words. Nehor basically says that everyone should do whatever they want and that nothing bad will happen to them. For this new religion he has established, people give him money, status, and a number of other things, so much so that he begins to hold bigger and bigger meetings and wear more costly clothing. Eventually, he tries to enforce his beliefs by killing someone and is brought before the chief judge and convicted of priestcraft and murder.

Why do I bring this up? Kate Kelly, for all her flattering words, has essentially set up a priestcraft. I know that seems like a harsh way to put it, but it’s true. She has set up a church and a belief system all on her own and encouraged others to follow that cause. That, my friends is priestcraft, no matter how you slice it.

What I’m curious about is what did she think the outcome of this whole thing would be? In an excellent letter written by Maurine Proctor in Meridian Magazine, that question is asked. The whole piece is worth reading, but basically she posits two outcomes. If Ordain Women is given all that they request, what does that do to the faith of people in the Church and more importantly, in their God? Does it mean that we can petition God and if we’re loud enough about it, get enough people to blog about it and share it enough on Facebook that God will just throw up his arms and say, “Ok. Go ahead. You’ve earned it.” I believe in a God who is immovable and unshaken by the things of the world. An anchor in a world of ever shifting values and if Ordain Women were to get it’s way, it throws into question my entire belief system and the faith of countless millions. Talk about straining a gnat but swallowing a camel.

On the flip side, what if the prophet said essentially, we’ve considered the matter and God has said no at this time. We will continue to ask, but that is His answer. Would that be enough for her? Would she take that gracefully and work to find peace with that answer? Nope, she wouldn’t. And here’s how I know. She was essentially given that answer in April at the last General Conference and still continued her crusade. It’s her way or no way. Again, here’s enmity and pride on full display.

What that means is that she’s helped thousands upon thousands of people call into question their own testimony. How is that helpful? How is it helpful to destroy the peace of others in order to get what you want? Even if they had questions about this particular point of doctrine, what’s to say that one of them wouldn’t have come to a peaceful, satisfying, personal resolution that is between God and the individual had they been given the time, freedom and peace to seek such a resolution? More than anything I’ve read, this is what gives me pause and sadness. Kate Kelly has seen to it that thousands of people now question what they once believed in an effort to advance her own agenda. That smacks of selfishness in the worst possible way.

4. There is room for questioning in the Church. There must be. But not like this.

I have my own questions about some doctrinal matters in the church. They are my own private questions and I don’t need to detail them here, but suffice it to say, I have questions about the nature of repentance and it’s true value to me as a human being. But that’s a different discussion for a different time. But, I bring this up to state that my questions are my own. As a moral, upstanding human being (to say nothing of my membership in the church) it is my moral responsibility to answer those questions on my own and learn what God wants me to know. However, because of the way the priesthood and it’s keys are set up, God will not reveal to me the direction of the church at large. Nor will he reveal it to any of the 12. Only the President of the Church, in this case Thomas S. Monson, will be given direction for the church at large. No one else will be given that direction. I can receive direction for my own life, but not for the lives of others–unless I am given specific keys to do so. As of right now, I only hold the keys for the direction of my family–my wife and kids and that’s it. And before you go off and say that my wife doesn’t need my direction, let me tell you that it’s not about whether or not she needs the direction of the priesthood. It’s whether or not she can have access to it.

You see, in my house, my wife and I are equal partners. She loads the dishwasher, my job is to unload it. I put the boys to bed, she usually deals with the girl. She buys the groceries, I cook. We are very much equal. In weightier matters, we get each other’s opinions, but ultimately, the choice is up to the individual and then we support each other. As long as no criminal activity is encouraged, even if I disagree with her decision, I don’t stand in her way. She does the same for me. But, when she needs a blessing of comfort or health, I’m right there to provide it for her. As the priesthood holder in my house, I don’t have that luxury. I have to make calls, coordinate schedules and generally get blessings from people I don’t know that well, if at all. My wife has the blessing of receiving a priesthood blessing from someone who loves her and has her best interest at heart. Someone who knows all the details and who can provide a personal and powerful blessing to help in all aspects, not just some. And that activity can bind a husband and wife in a way that few activities can. In this way, she has access to all the blessings of the priesthood far more readily than I ever will.

Now I know some will say that, if women had the priesthood, you could have the same blessing! That is true, but that is not how God has ordained it. Why? I dunno. No one does. In a recent talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12 apostles, he says the following: “When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.” This, to me, is the classic example of the scripture in Isaiah. “My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts, your thoughts.”

What some have failed to remember is that this life is a test and we must all walk by faith. If God, through his ordained servants, says something that we struggle with and gnaws at the very core of our soul, that is our cross to bear. And we must learn to bear it. It is hard. It is difficult. Some people try to find answers and explanations in anyway that they can with the hope of gaining some insight or some perspective that will help them understand better, only to be regularly denied at every turn. Why? Because life is a test and God wants us to prove ourselves and our faith to Him. And that, my friends, is the purpose of life. We are not here to agitate or stir up trouble. We are here to learn and grow through testing and humility, and God will provide that test to us whether we like it or not, in ways that we may not like, but ultimately, if we have faith, will come to understand.

5. Just because someone does something wrong, doesn’t give you license to call them a bad person.

I know that I’ve accused Kate Kelly of priestcraft and other prideful sins in this post. I stand by that. That said, I don’t think she’s a bad person. I think her decisions reflect an extraordinary amount of poor judgement, but she is not bad. No one who believes in Ordain Women is a bad person. Not one. And to think, act or talk that way is to invite discord into your spirit that doesn’t need to be there.

After the incident with Nehor in the Book of Mormon, there was a law established in the church at the time. It read: Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.

Brothers and Sisters, we are all better than this. Ordain Women has pulled us apart, not together. And if that doesn’t tell you who is behind this whole thing, than I don’t know what else will. Changes in this Church are done in love and kindness and with a great deal of patience. The Church will always take the long view (the eternal view) and not the view of the day, week, or even year. Why? Because Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church and He sees the eternal, not just the here and now.

So, be good to those that divide us. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Lastly, the Church is not filled with perfect individuals. It is filled with imperfect individuals trying to be as saintly as possible, for the most part. And while our stumbles and falls may be more public now than they have been before, that doesn’t detract from the collective faith, burning in the hearts of individuals the world over. All are on their own path to God and to deny them that progress is maybe the worst thing we can do. Instead, let us help each other. Let us be kind. Let us be patient. And, perhaps most importantly, let us be led by faith, informed by holy scripture and guided by the Spirit of God. Then, and only then, can we find the growth, happiness and peace that we all seek. Even those with whom we loudly disagree.

Mommy Bloggers, Expectations and a Water Faucet

*Tap tap* *Is this thing on?*

Yep. Apparently, you can not log in to your wordpress blog for approximately three years and it will still be here to greet you. Good to know. Because, after this post, it will probably be another three years before I attempt to write another blog post. Just be forewarned.

mommybloggers

 

So, you should know that I read a lot of mommy blogs. Truth be told, I read probably more mommy blogs than any man in his mid-30s ought to. I call them “articles” when I talk to people, but really, I’m just reading lots and lots of mommy blogs. Oh sure, I read blogs about marketing (for the employment), video games and movies (for the enjoyment) and blogs about politics, television, psychology and marriage. In short, I read a lot of stuff on the web. Some of it is excellent. A fair bit of it is dross. But, all in all, the thing that I regularly come back to when I’m reading is the mommy blogs. And I have two very good reasons why.

1. I feel inadequate as a parent and I want  to improve and 2. Misery loves company.

Let me address the second point first about the whole misery thing.

Tired-dog

Angela and I are working parents. That means that both of us have full-time, very responsible, very all-consuming jobs. I head up the Marketing Department for an organization that has hundreds of employees and she is a middle school choir teacher. Both of these jobs often require a lot of work outside the normal 9-5 and really drill into our time together as husband and wife and as parents. In a given week, I’ll probably pull 50-60 hours and Angela does a bit more. During the summer, it’s a little easier since Angela doesn’t work, but still, there is a lot to do and we have a great deal of responsibility.

Invariably, what happens then when we get home is that we are simply exhausted, too exhausted, to do almost anything with our kids. They spend all day in daycare (and thank heavens for the magnificent Daybreak Academy which treats daycare less like daycare and more like school) and when they get home all they want to do is rest as well. So, as a family, we often spend most of the evening simply catching our breath for the long day ahead of us tomorrow. What that also means is that we’re not out on activities a great deal, we’re not playing in the dandelions together and we’re not always having magical family moments. Most of the time, because everyone is so tired, getting the kids to do anything devolves into a giant mess of emotions and frustration. Oh sure, some days are better than others, but most of the time, I’m at my breaking point when I come home and it takes very little to set me off. And usually, something happens to push my emotional state over the edge and I just…can’t. I just, can’t anymore.

What happens next is either sullenness, loud frustrating cries of pain (aka, the adult temper tantrum) or a mixture of both. Any way you slice it, it’s not a really pretty picture. At least, in my head, it doesn’t seem that way.

So, I read mommy bloggers because, if what I read is true, pretty much everyone feels the same way. Exhausted, worn out, bone-tired and drained beyond the point of reason. And it’s comforting to know that this particular syndrome isn’t applicable simply to dual income families. It happens whether the mom works outside the home, works out of the house or is simply a SAHM. All in all, we are all tired. And I know why. Everyone knows why. It’s the expectations we heap on ourselves.

Which brings me to my first point. I read because I want to improve.

A little background here. I do not come from a large family. I was not brought up in a home where I had to help with a large number of siblings, even though I was the first child. Angela is 5 of 7 in her family so she too, didn’t have a lot of the experience that older children get to help out with the younger children and thereby, learn some parenting techniques. Additionally, just because I was parented as a child doesn’t mean I have any clue about how to actually parent. I mean, I wasn’t taking any notes or anything along the way. I was just interested in doing whatever I had to to get to those video games the end of the day. So, my parenting experience is limited.

parenting

Additionally, when Angela and I got married, I didn’t really want kids. In fact, not only did I not want kids, I was absolutely certain that children would prevent me from being happy. Six years into this thing, I’ve been disabused of that notion, but three kids later, I’ve learned that  having children brings me inexplicable joy, but it also brings with it a paralyzing fear because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING HERE.

Our oldest, Colin, is six. I’m certain that I’ve already inflicted deep psychological wounds on his young mind that will cause him to seek out therapy in his later years. Joshua is our middle child at 3 and he’s crazy. Bees in his head crazy. Love that kid, but with him, I know that I will be called to the hospital one day to find him a body cast after he attempted to jump 30 tractor trailers on his motorcycle for some SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY event. And Christine, who is a year old, is teething and she is NOT handling it well. Which means I am not handling it well.

So, I read the mommy bloggers hoping to avoid the hospital, the therapist and even my own therapist at some point, so I can find something new I can try to improve their behavior or encourage them to read, or help them with their music, or, or, or, whatever.

But, what often happens is that I read and I start to get down on myself because I’m not doing this with my kids and not doing that with my kids. I’m not saying anything revelatory here, but as I try to learn how to improve as a parent, I often find that all I do is beat myself up about how I’m not doing “AWESOME THING THAT IS AWESOME” with my kids and how they’re destined for a life of community college and fast food management. And it’s all my fault.

Which brings me to expectations. And let me be blunt about this. I AM DONE WITH EXPECTATIONS. DONE. DONE. DONE.

I suppose every parent comes to this threshold at one point or another in their parenting lives, but mine is today. And let me tell you why.

I left work later than usual today. It was another hectic day filled with too many deadlines, people telling me that their project is priority 1 above all other priorty 1s and on top of that I had to spend a while with the board who came in for a surprise meeting. All in all, a mostly normal day, but hectic and draining, nonetheless. At the end of the day, I got a call from a friend of mine who I do some work for on the side. Nice guy, but he’s working for a company that is bat-crap crazy and his boss is an angry version of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. I spent almost two hours on the phone with him while he complained about his job. Now, I’m all for helping people, but all I could think of during the call was how this was cutting in to my time at home with my kids, which I don’t always enjoy, but feel I need to at least be somewhat physically present for. So, after the call, I drive home worried that I’m damaging my kids psyche because I’m not there and I’m even more on edge when I step through the door.

Fortunately, kids have a way of reminding you why they’re so awesome. The boys came up and hugged me and were excited to tell me about how the behaved well at school and that they got all their rewards. I told them how proud I was. And then, Angela told me a story about what Joshua did today and my heart about melted.

Joshua, because he’s the middle child and the second boy, doesn’t get the same level of attention as Colin. We try not to make it that way, but it sometimes happens. Because of that, he’s been having a lot of discipline problems at school. Not behaving, not following directions and not making very good choices. For weeks on end, Angela and I have been trying to help him improve his behavior with no success. Finally, a few days ago, something changed in him after we had severely limited his privileges for a couple of days and we went through what is now known in family lore as the “two days of tears.” Since then, he’s been good at school and behaving well at home.

Then, today, I learn that at one point during the day, he noticed that one of his little classmates was having a hard time getting to the handle on the sink to turn on the water. Without prompting from the teacher, Joshua noticed it and ran over and turned it on for the little girl and just smiled at her and went back to playing. I was very proud.

What that told me about myself as a parent was not that I was doing a good job, but simply that I was trying to do a good job–and that was enough. It was enough. Yes, I got home from work late today, but I tried to be a good parent by spending 15 minutes around the table together at dinner time. Yes, after dinner was done, I sent the boys up to play video games while I twiddled around on my phone. Yes, I decided Christine needed to go to bed early because I was tired of her constant screaming. Yes, I did all these things that I’m not supposed to do, and I do them everyday, but it doesn’t matter. I try to do the best I can every day and whatever I can do that day, is whatever I can do. Some days it’ll be more. Lots of days it will be less. Some days, I will lock myself in the bathroom just to get away from them. But, I always try. And that’s all that matters. To me and especially to them. Like a popular ad says, you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.

So, that’s all I’m going to do from now on is try. I will fail lots. I will, hopefully, succeed in some ways. But I will try to be a good parent. And that’s all. No more fulfilling of unreasonable and made up expectations and no more beating myself up about it. I will simply parent in the best way I know how, try to improve in reasonable ways and trust that it will be enough. After all, in this life, we must all walk by faith at some point.

Does this mean that I will stop reading mommy blogs? Probably not. But instead, I’ll read them in a different light now, knowing that progress is far more important than perfection. And whatever progress looks like to me is what it looks like to me, and that’s all that matters.

Memories of Colin

I love this picture of Colin. My dad took this with his fancy schmancy camera one day while Colin was out running around in the front yard and generally being a toddler. As a friend of mine often says, if you look too long at this picture, your head might explode from cuteness overload.

I have a number of memories of Colin in his first two years on our little planet. However, I don’t always write them down or even take pictures of the boy because it’s not something I generally do. Taking pictures is not my cup of tea (although my dad and my sister love it) and I don’t journal/blog that much. More than that, Angela and I aren’t “scrapbook-y” people. I find the whole exercise of creating scrapbooks an exercise in tedium. No offense to those who love to do it. If you love it, I say more power to you. But again, not mine (or Angela’s) cup of tea. So, given my predisposition to avoid the aforementioned activities, how exactly do I document more of Colin’s life? Enter blogging.

If your a fan of this program, you’ll know that I like to write. Whether or not I’m any good at it is certainly up for debate, but amazing feats of wordsmithing aren’t really the province of this blog. It’s more a chance for me to spew forth whatever is on my mind. And Colin is on my mind almost constantly. Because of that, I wanted to document a few of the things that I remember about Colin as of right now (he’s 1 year, 9 months, 19 days and 17 hours old) before I get to that age where I can’t remember anything about him. So, here are a few of my favorite memories of Colin over his short life.

  1. Busybody – The kid doesn’t take life sitting down–and I mean that literally. He’s always on the move, always exploring and really, really hates to be limited in his exploration of his surroundings. Even at home, he won’t sit still. I don’t think it’s because he can’t (because he has before) it’s because he’s just so curious.
  2. Self-aware – Colin is surprisingly aware of himself and his surroundings. He especially looks at people and has a knack for knowing what they’re thinking and how to communicate with them. He’s also very aware of the world around him and soaks in everything like he doesn’t want to miss anything.
  3. He’s Got Brains – For someone his age, he knows a ton of words. Plus, he understands what they mean so he’s not just repeating what we say. He actually comprehends the word and it’s meaning. Of course, he doesn’t always speak clearly so we’ve had to learn Colin’s dialect, but honestly, that’s a blast.  Additionally, I love to give him something new and watch him figure it out. Other than drinking from a straw, he’s very perceptive and can usually figure out how to do something very quick.
  4. Here’s a short list of words that mean different things: hawk = sock, hoe = shoe, no = snow  & nose, pana = panda, four = Little Einstiens, baf = bath, nack = snack, moomie = movie, min = medicine, Roggy = Roxie, faffe = giraffe, dipoo = diaper.
  5. Sometimes Obsessive – Colin obsesses over things like balls, turning the light switches on and off, ceiling fans, pandas, babies and pooh bear. He is also an expert at creating a mess and leaving it for me to clean up–diaper or otherwise.
  6. Adventurous – Colin has tried just about every food I can throw at him and I’m amazed with what he’ll put down. He loves Curry, just about anything spicy and even a little bit of sushi. Not bad for a kid his age.
  7. Sweet and Spice, Everything Nice – Beyond everything else, Colin has a very sweet personality. To briefly illustrate, when I was out of work earlier this year, Colin was my only company. He and I hung out every day, all day and I got to experience what it was like to be a full-time caretaker–something I’d never experienced before. And when I had those dark days when it seemed like nothing would ever change, Colin was there to comfort me, smile at me and say “Daddy!” He got me through that rough time in my life (along with no shortage of love and patience from Angela) and it’s something I’ll never forget. When I finally did get a job again, the first thought that went through my head was that I won’t get to spend as much time with Colin and I was surprised by how deeply sad I felt about that. I look at that moment as the moment when I finally realized that being a great husband and father would bring me more joy in my life than anything else I could ever engage in. I can tell you that since that time, I’ve been happier, less sick and less prone to bouts of depression. All because a little boy says “Hi Daddy!” to me everyday.

So, to you Colin, I say cheers! May the next year of your life be as exciting as the last–I know I, for one, can’t wait to see what you grow into.

For no particular reason, my top 8 movies of 2009

You know, I love writing this list. I haven’t done it in a couple of years, and I’m almost certain that no one cares what I think, but I love to write it. And since I’m trying to blog more and write down all the thoughts that spin around in my crazy little (ok, not so little) head, this list is something that comes out of that desire. So, if you’d like to blow past this entry, feel free. If not, enjoy–for whatever it’s worth.

As a point of reference, I saw 31 movies that were released in 2009. That number will probably go up, but only by about three or four more. What does that mean for this list? Essentially, every movie I saw had a one in four chance of making it on to the list. Good odds for the movie, but it does throw my objectivity into question. So, why write the list? Eh, it’s fun.

One more note. 2009 was not a particularly great year for movies. In fact, as I was compiling this list I couldn’t point to one movie and say: “Yep, that movie is the best this year!” That’s also why there are only eight movies instead of the customary ten. To be quite frank, there were far more mediocre movies this year than real standouts and I think I know why. The effects of the writer’s strike is still being felt. The good news is, 2010 looks to be much more promising. So, without further ado, here goes:

  1. Star Trek – J.J. Abrams reboot of my beloved franchise was exactly what this compelling and often flawed franchise needed. This is an action movie for brainy geeks and I loved every second of it.
  2. Up – The geniuses  at Pixar never fail to amaze me every single year. Their brand of emotional storytelling always gets to me on nearly every level. From silly, to joyful, to wistful, to sad, I feel every genuine emotion that most live-action movies only dream of creating.
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Who knew that a movie franchise, headed into it’s sixth iteration, would still carry the power and poignancy that these stories require. On that fact alone, it deserves to be in the top ten. The fact that it’s also a great movie in it’s own right, means it gets into the top five.
  4. Coraline – Weird, wacky and endlessly inventive, I loved this movie for it’s sheer ability to surprise me at nearly every turn. From it’s spectacular design to it’s wonderfully honest story, I couldn’t help but be drawn into this unique world.
  5. Drag Me to Hell – Sam Raimi’s delightfully twisted horror flick is the kind of movie I enjoy. It never takes itself too seriously, delivers some genuine thrills as well as more than few laugh-out-loud moments. And that ending. Wow. Didn’t see that coming.
  6. Sherlock Holmes – The movie gets a little soggy in the middle, but Robert Downey, Jr. is wonderful as the titular character and his rapport with Jude Law’s Dr. Watson is something most movies have forgotten how to create – real, on-screen chemistry. For what it’s worth, I can’t wait for the sequel.
  7. The Princess and the Frog – The third animated movie on this list. Can you tell what kind of films I like? In any case, this is a return to form for Disney. The story is there, the characters are well-drawn (literally and figuratively) and it has all the energy, wit and charm that many of the Disney movies (outside of the Pixar flicks) have lost over the last several years. I just wish the songs were more memorable.
  8. Taken – Who knew that a standard chase/revenge flick could offer so much depth. And where did that depth come from? The performance of one Liam Neeson. The guy’s amazing in this movie and turned what could have been another by-the-numbers flick into something incredibly entertaining.

A few other notable lists:

The Worst Movies of 2009

  1. Transformers 2 – I was really excited for this movie. Then, Sam’s mom ate marijuana infused brownies and acted like an idiot for 20 minutes. Plus, way too many male anatomy jokes–and I use jokes in the loosest sense of the word.
  2. Fame – What a steaming pile of repulsive excrement. When a remake doesn’t even use the iconic theme from the original until the closing credits, that means the filmmakers didn’t understand the original. And that means they made a movie that sucks.
  3. Knowing – I was into this movie until the end. And then the movie took a giant left turn and ended up in a great big pile of crap. In fact, as I write this, I’m still ticked off at the ending.
  4. Push – Egad, I was bored by this movie. For a movie about super-powered people, I’ve never met a flick so overly-serious and tiresome.

My Top 5 TV Shows of 2009:

  1. Glee – For all it’s excess and uneven execution, I can’t help but love this show. Plus, it never ceases to lull me in with it’s wonderful staged and delightful musical numbers.
  2. Supernatural – Entering it’s fifth season, the show is a sparkling reminder of how good television can be so rewarding. Funny, tragic, shocking and emotionally moving all at the same time, this show knows how to create a great week-to-week experience.
  3. Chuck – For a show about a computer geek who turns into a super spy, it’s surprisingly witty, charming and wonderful. Plus, Adam Baldwin plays someone cranky–and no one does cranky better than Adam Baldwin.
  4. Lost – It’s penultimate season was one for the ages. The performances get better and better and the storytelling tighter and more mind-boggling. I can’t wait for the final season.
  5. Fringe – The show started out slowly, but it’s second season has been a remarkably fulfilling and exciting piece of television. Plus, John Noble as Walter Bishop is the best performance on television right now.

Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed reading the list. If not, may I direct you to a real movie critic who, I think, does a fantastic job. Plus, his reviews of bad movies are great entertainment in and of themselves. Enjoy!

In Which I Post My Resolutions for 2010

So, I have a friend-who does something, I think, is rather cool. At the beginning of the year, he posts a list of ten resolutions that he would like to work on for the year to his blog. Then, at the first of each month, he reports his progress on his blog for all to see. It’s an interesting way of trying to stay on top of your goals as everyone who reads the blog will essentially hold him responsible for his actions. Of course, there won’t be any lynchings or mobbings if he doesn’t reach every goal on his list, but it does keep his goals front and center for the year. Best of all, it gives him a way to keep track of his goals and progress for longer than those first two weeks in January.

So, I’m going to try it because, hey, what do I have to lose? Besides, this will all but guarantee at least 12 blog posts this year which is 12 more than I did in the last twelve months, so that’s a good thing.

I’m going to make one major modification, however. My friend does 10 goals. I’m only going to do five. I realize that by some estimations, this may seem like a cop out. But, given all that I have going on in my life outside of these five goals, I think five is more than enough. If you think I ought to do ten, well, then, good for you. I’m doing five and that’s that.

Now, without further ado, here are the five goals:

  1. Lose 20 Pounds – Ok, ok. Everyone has this resolution, I know. But I’ve recently become aware that my body isn’t going to last with the way I currently take care of it. No, I haven’t been to the doctor and no, I haven’t had any major medical scares or procedures. I’m just getting wiser with age–I hope–and my wisdom tells me that I need to start taking better care of myself–hence the goal to lose 20 pounds. The truth is, I could probably stand to lose about 60 or 70, but that seems insurmountable to me, so I’m going to start with 20 this year and see how that goes. Hopefully, a little bit will go a long way and I can start losing some more.
  2. Make a significant dent in my student loans – For those of you who don’t know, I have very little consumer debt. It’s so low in fact, that I expect all of it to be gone within the first month of 2010. To get my debt to that level has taken a great deal of sacrifice and work and I’m enjoying not having to make credit card payments every month. However, I have a great deal of student loan debt to pay down and that’s not going to be easy. Without getting too specific, my student loan payments are a lot like having a second mortgage to pay each and every month. Now, I don’t regret getting my education and neither does Angela, but we do have to pay for it and that starts now. So, to make the process faster and smoother, we are committing to pay above and beyond our monthly payment to one of our loans so that we can, hopefully, have it paid down by the end of 2010. That way, it will leave us with a much more manageable 2011 in terms of student loan payments and a lot less stress on my part.
  3. Get my start-up business to a state where it starts making money – Didn’t know I had a start up, didya? It’s true! The name of my business is called Open Book Audio and I opened it with a friend of mine from college. You really should check it out. What do we do? Well, in short, we record audiobooks. What kind of audiobooks? Well, that depends on who you ask. We serve two different audiences. First, we serve the self-published author and offer them an inexpensive way to record an audio version of their book and then give them an audience to distribute that book to. Second, we serve small publishing houses where we record their catalog of books and offer to do it inexpensively and efficiently. We do all of this through special agreements with our readers and engineers and harnessing the power of the internet. It’s a great business and something I enjoy very much. The problem is, we haven’t made any money yet. So, it is my goal this year to make us some money. How? Well, that’s yet to be determined, but I think we can make it.
  4. Improve my attitude about church through service – I don’t think it’s any secret, but I’m not a huge fan of Sunday services. Oh, don’t get me wrong–I have a testimony of the church (we’re talking LDS or Mormon here, for those who didn’t know) and it’s teachings, doctrine and practices. I believe in the tenants it teaches and what it stands for. Moreover, I firmly believe that this is the only church that truly understands the nature of God and Christ and how I, as an insignificant man, relate to Deity. Because of that, I offer this statement without equivocation: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth. That said, the Sunday services in my ward (or congregation) are so boring that I’d rather have any number of surgical or dental procedures done to me for several days at a time than sit through a three-hour block of church meetings. At least the doctors give you some type of anesthetic to deal with the pain. At church, you’re simply expected to endure the pain and to say that I don’t endure well is a bit of an understatement. So, in order to combat all this negativity surrounding Sunday services, I’m going to try and find some way to serve while I’m at church. To be honest, what I’m really looking for is a way to feel the spirit and feel close to God–something I don’t get from regular, boring church services. And since I’m not going to be able to change church services any time soon (or ever, for that matter) I figure I’m going to have to do the changing. Hence, service. I know that if I can help one person or do some small act of kindness while I’m at church, I’ll feel the spirit and I can start to get rid of my negativity towards Sunday services. This one won’t be easy, but it needs to be done.
  5. Beat at least five video games this year – This may seem like an inconsequential goal, but here me out. In 2009, I bought or had given to me approximately 20 video games. Of those, I’ve played all of them for maybe 10 minutes each. Better yet, I’ve beat only one video game in all of 2009 and it was a game I bought in 2007. Pa.the.tic. So, if I’m going to hang on to these games, I need to start playing the heck out of them and breaking through the pack so that I can justify my purchases. Now, this does have another element to it. As most of you know, I don’t have a great deal of free-time. I spend much of my time with the choir (of the MoTab variety) at work or doing stuff with the family. I rarely get time to sit down and relax just by myself and I need a little bit of that time to help take the edge off my frantic life. Enter video games. I can play for half an hour a day and feel satisfied, rested and like I had some time to myself that day. It’s amazing how good that makes me feel about my life in general. Now, that’s to take nothing away from my family, who I love dearly enjoy spending time with. They are always my first priority. But, the goal this year is to relax a little bit more and not take myself so seriously. Video games will help me do that because, in many ways, there is nothing more childish than a grown man playing games of virtual swordplay and sorcery.

Well that will do it for the introduction. I’ll keep everyone posted on the progress and hopefully, there will be something good to report in February. Until then, enjoy the new year.

The 2009 Christmas Letter

Greetings all!

Let me begin by saying yes. I know. I have not blogged in about a year but there are good reasons for it. Additionally, I’m not much of a blogger (it’s not that I don’t have anything to say–heaven knows I can’t shut up most of the time–or that I don’t like blogging, because I do) it’s just that I’m, well, busy. And blogging falls a little lower on the ol’ totem pole of priorities. That said, I will try to be better at it, because I do like it (and I do love to write) I just can’t make any promises. Mmm…k?

So, to get back into the blogging world, I thought I would start with a Christmas letter. This is like those letters you get from family, friends and acquaintances in your annual Christmas card where they detail how successful/attractive/spiritual/loving/amazing they and their family are. To those types of letters, I say a deep and profound YEESH. Oh sure,  I’ve run across a few clever ones in my day, but honestly, most of them tend to be pedestrian examples of how “awesome” the year was and the “amazing” vacation they went on as a family. Now, I hear my “mom” voice chiming in saying: “some people like to read those letters–it helps them feel connected to people they wouldn’t otherwise see.” That may be true, but I do not fall into that category. As such, my 2009 Christmas Letter will, hopefully, be well written and entertaining and not, well, boring. If it is boring, my apologies. You can send your refund requests to my email address. Let’s get started shall we?

An update on Andrew and his journeyings in the wilderness: 2009 was an interesting year for me. Most of you know, I lost my job in late 2008 and spent the two and half months between jobs in a state of excess depression and utter despair. Think Bella in Twilight after Edward leaves her. Parenthetically: did I just make a Twilight reference? Yeesh. Anyway, after much searching and many, many interviews, I landed a job as the Director of Marketing and Communications for an Orem-based corporate training and development firm called Zenger Folkman. It’s a FABULOUS job with great benefits, a terrific boss, fun people to work with and, best of all, I get to direct the marketing efforts of the entire company–which means I’m putting my degrees to work. I can’t tell you what a blessing this job has been in my life. For the first time, I feel like the work I do actually matters to people and I don’t worry about coming into work. Best of all, I work hard and feel satisfied at the end of the day. It’s amazing what a good job will do for your self-esteem–especially after you haven’t had one for a while.

I’m still singing with the choir (yes, this choir) and enjoying my time there. This past year has been a roller-coaster of performances, concerts and recordings. In fact, other than the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, many are saying this is the busiest year in the choir’s history. All I can say that if it isn’t, it certainly FEELS that way. The last four months of the year saw three different concerts, two album recordings and at least three different mini-concerts on top of the weekly broadcast. I was gone so much that Colin now refuses to let me feed him because he’s so used to his mom doing it. Sad, right? But, overall the experience is one I treasure. There are few times when I’m sitting in the loft singing that I don’t take a moment to reflect on how blessed I am to be there. Hopefully, it will slow down a bit, but I know it probably won’t.

An update on Angela’s life and times: 2009 was an interesting year for Angela. As most of you know, Angela teaches music and started the year at the-school-that-shall-not-be-named. While she was there, she directed their musical, The Wizard of Oz, to great success. She also took her choirs and bands to California where they competed in the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim. Her choirs competed against other several other schools and won first place out of about 20 groups who competed. Pretty dog gone cool, if you ask me. Her band took third place (out of about seven groups) so they represented quite well. For Angela and I, it was a highlight to take the kids to California, have them compete and have them do so well. Seeing Angela accept the awards was a highlight of my (and I’m sure hers as well) year.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep her job. The-school-that-shall-not-be-named dismissed Angela only three weeks after returning from competition. There was a massive outcry from the students and the parents (and rightly so) but the board of that school could not be dissuaded. Moreover, they gave no reason for her dismissal citing “their own privilege.” But, as is the case with these things, the Lord had things in hand. Only two weeks after leaving the-school-that-shall-not-be-named, Angela landed a job teaching music part-time at Summit Academy in Draper. The school is a SIGNIFICANT upgrade from the last one. Her Principal is wonderful, the parents are kind and helpful and she is having a great time. It’s amazing for me that she comes home happy at the end of the day, rather than upset at having to deal with so much drama. It’s been a blessing for all involved.

In her spare time, Angela continues to be the glue that holds us all (read: me) together. She joined the Salt Lake Choral Artists this year and has enjoyed that tremendously. She’s also had time to spend arranging music for her classes and being all creative and stuff. The amount of stuff that girl does, even with just a part-time job, is truly amazing. I wish I had that much energy.

Colin, This is Your Life: Colin is approaching two-years-old (March 14, for those keeping track) and is still our sparkling star. Honestly, the kid has amazing powers of deduction, memory and retention. He remembers almost anything we tell him and he’s always game for an audience. If it wasn’t already written in stone, it is now–the kid’s a performer. He knows when he has an audience and he knows how to work the crowd. In fact, if he knows that people are watching him, he’ll do things he won’t do for us at home. For example, Colin did not start walking until Mother’s Day when we were over at Pat’s house for a family get together. With tons of people around watching, he promptly got to his feet and proceeded to run around the house while everyone around him cheered. At that moment, a star was born.

He’s an unusually happy child with a great deal of energy and happiness. He brings and enormous amount of joy into our lives and I couldn’t ask for a better kid. Besides that, he’s quite the looker–wouldn’t you agree?

Miscellaneous tidbits: We did go on vacation this year–a two-week excursion to France and Italy. It’s ok, you can be jealous. We also visited Disneyland (twice) and NYC on our annual trips. We made a couple of jaunts down to St. George and there’s still one more visit to the south to go this year… I did beat one video game this year, but only one. Conversely, Angela read about 40 books… We still love the movies, although we go less. My favorite movie of the year? Yeah, it’s Star Trek. What? Like you were surprised?… Roxie is still clingy and needy as ever, but she does love us all… I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. for a convention and got to see my sis! Wahoo! … I finally sprung for lawn care because I hate mowing the lawn. Paying someone else to do it–best decision ever… Colin was Batman from Batman: The Brave and the Bold this year for Halloween. When he learned there was candy at every house, he began running indiscriminately up and down the street screaming “candy, candy!” It was hysterical… In NYC, I ate at Bobby Flay’s steakhouse. It was the greatest steak I’ve ever eaten. In fact, I’m craving it right now… Speaking of food, I tried a number of new recipes and am adding to my repertoire of dishes. I do love to cook. Thanks Dad for instilling in me the desire to do so… Last, but not least, Angela is PREGNANT with our second child–due June 25!

Looking ahead: 2010 should, hopefully, be a little less life-changing than 2009. But, hopefully, just as fun. We’re planning a trip to England and a few other things around the house to get ready for the baby. Other than that, it should be a quiet year…for once.

To all of you who read, Merry Christmas! And may the new year bring you good tidings of great joy. And lots of good food.

Tales of the Unemployed – The Bishop’s Storehouse

NOTE: This post is a little heavy on the depression and also a little judgmental. I say that not to pique your interest, but rather to warn you about how you might feel after you read this post. If you choose not to read, that’s just fine, but know that this post doesn’t really have a happy ending. One post in the future will have that happy ending, just not this one.

HERE BEGINS THE REAL POST.

It’s been two months now since I lost my job. Hard to believe, I know, but the shock of it has finally worn off, the exuberance of hope has dulled and the hard truth of reality has set in. Now, the hard truth just kind of presses on my spirit constantly, ready at any moment to simply press me into oblivion. As my dad calls it, I’ve reached “the slogging phase.” Slogging seems like an appropriate word.

Oh sure, this story will have a happy ending, where I summon the remainder of my strength and push back on the hard truth, just in time to save myself and everyone with me. But, just like in all good stories, the hero is trapped, with seemingly no way out and it appears that evil is about to triumph. That’s the stage that I’m in right now and I can tell you exactly where I hit rock bottom. That place is The Bishop’s Storehouse.

For those of you who don’t know (or who aren’t LDS) the Bishop’s Storehouse is a wonderful (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word) place where people who are down on their luck can come and get food, clothing, and other essentials, completely for free and with no obligation towards joining the church, listening to the missionaries or paying it back. It’s true Christian welfare at it’s finest and it’s available to all, regardless of religious affiliation or persuasion. It’s helped countless numbers of people and, in many ways, is the perfect example of what our Savior would do.

With all that said, I decided to take up the offer given to me by my Bishop to go to the storehouse and get whatever we needed. He wanted, genuinely, to help us and my pride, which has been beaten to a pulp, could not refuse a true offer of kindness from someone who wanted to help. So, the wheels were set in motion for our visit to the storehouse.

The way it works is that a member of the Relief Society (that’s the women’s organization of the church) comes to our house and helps fill out a food order. On the food order, there are a number of items available–everything from canned veggies to frozen meat–and you can have as much of it as you want. So, we ordered a ton of stuff, mostly canned and dry goods, to help us stretch the little money we do have left a little further. The order was approved and on Saturday, we went to the Bishop’s Storehouse.

Upon entering the Bishop’s storehouse, I was struck by how small, yet how efficient it was. It’s much like a grocery store, with about five isles of stuff, but there are no frivolous or high-end items. It’s just the essentials, and nothing else. Truth be told, that’s what it should be, but I was still amazed by the efficiency of the operation. And, at first, things were just fine. But as we made our way through the isles and I found that they didn’t have many of the things that we had put on our form, and even less variety, I started to bottom out a little. When we got to the fresh vegetables and found only onions and green peppers, my heart started to sink even more and when I saw that the frozen meat was a little dicey, I really started to freak out.

At that point, I looked up and took a good look at the people that were in the storehouse. This is when I lost it. (And here comes the judgmental part.) These people were not what you would call of high caliber. You could tell by their tattered clothes and general manner that these were people who were used to struggling. For them, a difficult lifestyle was all they had ever known, and I’m certain that many of their choices had only exacerbated their problems. For example, I remember one gentleman in a black hoodie with a lip ring who smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap beer looking directly at me. He had an odd expression on his face that seemed to betray the fact he was surprised to see someone like me there. We locked eyes for a moment and then he moved on, but at that point, I realized that, just like in the story, the wall was closing in and evil was about to triumph. So, I had a choice–I could give up and succumb to depression, or, as my facebook status says, I could try harder to spring hope from the prison of depression. I decided that I had to try the latter.

It’s Monday now, and I’ve tried to keep my spirits up over the last two days, and more specifically, I’ve tried hard to banish the thoughts of “woe is me” and “the world is out to get me” and, even worse “God is punishing me.” It’s not easy to banish these thoughts and I really wish it were as easy as casting a spell, or drawing a sword to slay a few enemies. But I think where the truth in those stories lie is in the fact that many of those demons and bad guys represent real demons in our own lives (forgive the cliche) and the reason we respond the stories (or the reason I do anyway) is because on some level, I believe I can conquer those demons. And even though everything seems bleak right now, I have no choice but to try. Besides, my mom keeps telling me that “life rewards effort” and unless I make that effort and try, of course evil will win.

Angela tells me all the time that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. No one could have seen it coming and sometimes bad things happen. The only thing we have control over is how we react. For me, I think I reacted badly and even a bit naively. Now, I’m going to try acting a little wiser and a little more positively. After all, the hero does have to win the day at some point.

Tales of the Unemployed – Lessons

Sorry for wimping out on my “every day I’m unemployed, I’ll blog about it” idea, but the truth is that shortly after I started that, I started getting lots and lots of interviews. In the last two weeks, I think I’ve been on about 15 interviews and all of them have gone very well. So well, in fact, that I have two companies that are looking at me for a job. Sadly, neither has made an offer yet (a fact I’m all too keenly aware of right now) but I’m sure one of them will pop. The real question here is when.

So, while I’m waiting to announce my new job (and who knows when that will be) I thought I’d write down the five lessons I’ve learned from being unemployed. Oh, there are more, lots more, but these five lessons in particular have been reinforced, seemingly every day, over the course of my unemployment, so I thought I’d share. Besides, it helps me keep my thoughts on the positive while we wait for offers to roll in. So, here goes, in no particular order:

1. Throughout most of my life I’ve been enamored with the entertainments of the world. I guess you could call me a “show junkie.” The latest movies, the hottest TV shows, the coolest video games, I had the information about the popular culture of the day at my fingertips. In fact, I used to read movie credits just so I could be in the know about what was going on in the industry. 

The truth is, when you’re unemployed, all that stuff goes away. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been to the grocery store a few times to pick up the essentials, and I see magazines touting the latest celebrity romances and new fangled movies and music to dazzle the eye and delight the senses and it all seems so shallow to me now. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy movies or music, or entertainment at all. I just understand what it’s purpose is and I’m not so enamored with it as I once was.

What’s replaced it? A healthy sense of what is really important in life. I know that may sound hokey, but it’s true. I find myself more concerned these days with the health of Colin and Angela’s happiness and fulfillment than in my own need to be the fount of all pop-culture knowledge. Even more than that, I’m realizing that my calling and responsibilities in the church and my relationship with God and Jesus Christ are becoming a more vital and important part of my life. Of course, I’ll never be one of those overly-pious types (it’s just not in my nature) but I am deepening my desire to focus on the eternal rather than on the here and now, and it’s made me a much more patient and broad-minded person.

2. Trials suck, but I understand now why people say they are grateful for them. For a long time in my life, I’ve often wondered how you could be grateful for a trial. After all, they’re hard to deal with, painful and can last for a very, very long time. Why would anyone be grateful for the suffering? To me, it smacked of piety gone bad and self-aggrandizement. And while that may be true for some, it’s not that way for all. If there is one thing I’ve learned about trials, is that they can be great learning experiences and that often times, something really good always comes out of a trial, both in a spiritual and a physical sense. So even though trials suck, I’ve learned now that having faith in the midst of that trial will help you learn the lessons you need to learn and give you hope that something better is just around that corner, and that’s a very comforting thought.

3. Work is not a right, it’s a privilege. This one was a bit tougher to learn. After all, I’ve paid my dues in school, it’s my right to be successful as an adult. The truth is, all that schooling I got, while valuable and absolutely necessary, failed to teach me anything about what it meant to be in the real world. I always figured that if you were well schooled and well liked, you’d never have to worry about finding a job. That, of course, proved unfounded and I’ve found myself being grateful for past jobs that I had. Additionally, when I do land my new job, I’ll be grateful for it. Not in a kiss the carpet, thank goodness kind of way, but in a more I recognize the opportunity and will do everything I can to make the most of it kind of way. In that way, I understand that it isn’t my right to work, it’s a privilege and it’s up to me to make it into something that is meaningful and fulfilling.

4. Trusting in the Lord is hard. This one is particularly sensitive to me right now since I’m still waiting on an offer and there is nothing I can do to get the offer faster or prove how much better I am than the other candidate. That’s all in the past and I have to now trust the Lord that I he presented me with the opportunity I requested, or he is going to deny me and I’m going to have to learn a few more lessons. Either way, I know that the Lord is guiding my paths for good and I’m choosing to trust that He will continue to do so.

5. Kindness is a viable commodity, especially in business. As I’ve networked with friends from school and past jobs, many have shown me a great deal of kindness and warmth. I hope that they have extended that to me because I’ve extended that to them. I’ve always tried to be gracious and gentlemanly in doing business, but I find now that genuine kindness is something that will get you into doors and keep you in people’s minds far longer than just about anything I can think of. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do your job, but by extending kindness to others, I’ll always have a reserve of kindness to come back to when I need it most.

That’s it for now, but those are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from this unemployment gig. Hopefully, it won’t last too much longer.

Tales of the Unemployed – Day 3

Resumes Sent Out: 9
Networking Phone Calls/Emails: 13
Interviews: 0
Feelings of Inadequacy: 2
Feelings of Hope: 2
Meetings: 1

I started today by meeting with an employment specialist at the LDS employment agency. She’s a nice gal and had a number of things to tell me that helped. Apparently, the church as a regular networking meeting every Monday morning at LDS Business College downtown. I will be attending that. Apparently, nearly 100 people show up every week and it’s a great way to meet people, get introduced and network like crazy.

Speaking of networking like crazy, I’ve gone through everyone I know on Linked In and Facebook and added them to my list of people. My hope is that when they come to my profile and see that I’m job hunting, they’ll get in contact with me if they know of anything. If not, that just means I get to call them later and ask (read: harrass) until I get a possible lead on a job. Networking isn’t pretty (it feels a lot like cold calling) but it’s something that has to be done. And that’s tough for me because I hate cold calling. Ah, well. No time like the present to get over one’s fears.

One of the good things about being unemployed is you can ask for recommendations from old colleagues. Assuming they give you a good one, the recommendations are a nice little ego trip and a reminder that you’re not completely incompetent. After all, being unemployed means a certain level of self-deprecation, and the recommendations help to mitigate the feeling.

If you’d like, you can read a few of my recommendations online at my Linked In profile. Of course, you’ll have to click on the button marked “View Full Profile” to read the recommendations, but it’s not too hard to find.

On a more personal note, I find that being unemployed gives me a great deal of time for self-reflection and evaluation. I try not to let it overwhelm me (if I did, heaven knows how far down the self-deprecating road I could go) but I am trying to, as my dad says, learn a few lessons. Here is one I’ve learned so far.

Since I’ve never been unemployed before in my life, I’ve had time to evaluate what really matters. I find myself clinging to my wife, my son and my family in ways that I never thought I would have to. While I know that probably seems obvious to some, I’ve never been one to rely on others for this level of support. I’ve always been happy to give support to friends and family, but I hate asking for help. I always feel a little weaker and a little less self-sufficient if I have to. What I’m finding is that I should rely on my family and friends in every aspect of my life, just like they rely on me. In that way, I’m more engaged with their lives and they more with me. The lesson I’ve learned here is that, essentially, no man is an island, no matter how stubbornly they cling to being one.

Hopefully, things will start to pick up here soon for interviews. Heaven knows they have to soon.

See you tomorrow!