Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Constructive Thoughts: What Matters Most

This morning my Facebook page blew up. I am sure your page did as well.

The vitriol I have seen since the concession and victory speeches last night has been staggering.

Actually, no. Saddening is a much better description.

I could weep and wail and gnash teeth about things that happened in various races in various places. I would suspect that any 50% of the people in the country could do the same thing. Some of what happened actually makes me a bit less proud to be an American. Honestly.

But what makes me really regret being an American is the vitriol. Being lumped in with that crowd is embarrassing. Truly. As I have pondered my situation and the situation of my fellow countrymen and women, I was prompted to re-read something. When I did, I felt both hope and humility enter my heart and mind.

I want to share with you the following words, said stronger and more eloquently than I could say them.

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. . . .

Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows. . . . Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings. . . .

“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33)

 . . .

Despite the changes which come into our lives and with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days—as much as we can—with those things which matter most. May we cherish those we hold dear and express our love to them in word and in deed.

In closing, I pray that all of us will reflect gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where does my spirit go when I die?

He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to serve. He taught us how to live. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.

The time came when He stood alone. Some Apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from Golgotha’s hill His compassionate words, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.) . . . Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His word. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.

Brothers and sisters, my sincere prayer is that we may adapt to the changes in our lives, that we may realize what is most important, that we may express our gratitude always and thus find joy in the journey. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

~Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy In The Journey, Ensign, Nov. 2008. (Emphasis added.)

That would be my prayer as well, for all of my friends and readers... not just today, but every day, let us pause and consider what matters most in each of our lives and let us express gratitude to He who has given us what we have.

I wish to express my humble gratitude to my Father in Heaven for the many blessings that I have and continue to receive from His hands. I also wish to say "thank you" to my friends, family, and readers for all you have brought and continue to bring to my life.

God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Constructive Thoughts: Songs of the Heart

Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;~Ephesians 5:18-20

Today’s post came as many often do, due to a random occurrence or experience while trekking through the city.  

As I was heading from the office to the neighboring convenience store, I happened to look up and over at the crosswalk. There, standing and waiting to cross, was a cowgirl. Yep, decked out in fringe jacket, boots, and hat: she had the complete outfit. 

And she was dancing. 

Line dancing. 

By herself. No music was apparent; no headphones to be seen. 

The music was in her head and in her heart. 

 I love seeing that. It just makes me happy. I remember years ago, before law school, the LW and I went on a quick vacation to San Francisco, just to get away. One afternoon after we had walked the wharf and were trying to find lunch we came across a man on a random corner who (the locals said) was a regular there. He was dancing; I mean, he was really getting down. The only music he had was in his own head–in his own heart–and he was singing to it as he was dancing. 

Sadly, there were those that crossed the street to pass by. Others gave him a wide berth and looked askance at him as they hurried past. My LW and I just stood and watched, and smiled. I remember wishing I’d had some change in my pocket to drop into the hat at his feet, because I wanted to pay him for the little bit of happiness and joy he’d brought into my own day, if even for a brief minute or two. 

I love music and often carry a song in my heart and head; I have done this since I was a child. Unfortunately, I am not a dancer–I never have been and never will be. That avenue of expressing my inner song is closed to me. But I have been known to belt out a song or two while walking to the Courthouse. 

The spiritual, mental, and emotional uplift that comes from the music within can be incredible. There is a joy that comes when you express yourself in such a way. It is similar, I believe, to the joy an artist gets from sketching, painting, or taking photographs, for example. One could definitely make an argument that it is a form of worship--it certainly can bring one closer to God; the Lord has said, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” ~Doctrine and Covenants 25:12. It purges negativity and negative thoughts from the heart and mind. I could go on and on.

 In short, having a song in one’s heart? To use the words of the immortal Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” I truly do. 

You’d be surprised at what it can do for you.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Four Types

I came to the realization today that there are four types of toilet-paper people in the world.
And no, I don't mean 1-ply, 2-ply, quilted, and "industrial sandpaper." Arguably that would require the inclusion into the discussion of—and expansion of the sample group to—a fifth type of person, the "I will take whatever is available at the moment of crisis" type.

No, as I sat and thought, pondering the issue, I decided that are clearly four distinct types; namely:

  • The "over and down" type.
  • The "behind and down" type.
  • The "any which way but loose" type.
  • The "I refuse to touch the old, empty roll and will just leave the new roll on whatever (preferably horizontal) surface is available" type.

For those who are confused, allow me to elaborate:

First, the "over and down" type. This is the camp that my parents fall into. I was always taught that the paper should come over the top and hang down. I have never been sure why; perhaps it allows for optimum roll-speed and tearability? To this day, I remain unsure. I have to admit, there is something aesthetically pleasing about this roll-hanging method.

Second, the "behind and down" type. This could also be called the "under" type. There's something secretive and hidden about this method. My parents would always insist upon changing the direction of the roll if they found the "under" method used. I will note that I tend to find this method most commonly used by janitorial staffs of large public restrooms. These are the restrooms with the industrial multi-roll dispensers. I am sure you know the type: the ones where you have to use both hands to turn the roll, and where perforation separation occurs at the slightest gust of wind.

The third type, by now, is likely obvious. It is the person that does not seem to notice or care which direction the paper flow takes. Over or under—it does not matter so long as there is a square to utilize.

(Aside: Apparently I am not the first to pontificate about the direction of toilet paper flow. This outfit supposedly performed a scientific (although seemingly tongue-in-cheek) study to prove which direction is more ecologically friendly.

I am not kidding. 

At the very least, some individual spent far too much time and energy pondering toilet paper rolls and the proper interwall configuration thereof. Oh...wait... Ahem. End aside. )

Then there's the fourth type. More likely than not, this image is what you see when you enter the facility after the fourth type has been there. This invariably leads to a frantic mid- or post-process search for the new roll. Usually it can be found on the back of the toilet tank or on the edge of the sink/countertop. Some enterprising individuals have been known to even balance the new roll (both vertically and—impressively—horizontally) atop the old, empty tube. On occasion there is nothing to be found, no replacement at all.

Note: these are the times when you should be aware enough to use some protective object on your hand when traversing the space between the toilet and the exit, including opening the door or stall to leave. Trust me.

So...after all is said and done, what does this mean? Yes, there are four distinct types of people in this world. Every person (at least in the Western world) can be easily placed into one of these groups.

(Aside: Please do not come to me with other examples, such as the people in Taiwan who use flat sheets of paper that come packaged in what can only be described to a Westerner as a package of paper dinner napkins, or those who use leaves, magazine pages, or other materials. Not only do these not apply because of the lack of the presence of a toilet paper roll, it defeats my thesis and thus I shall not consider these examples at this time. After all, it is my potty and I will apply if I want to. End aside.)

Again, what does this system of toilet paper replacement (or lack thereof) tell us about people? Is it education? Social? Economic background? Marital status? Laziness? Anal retentiveness?

Honestly, I do not know. That is a discussion for the sociologists and psychologists to make and for pundits to debate. It was just an observation I made while I was, shall we say, "pondering life."

Thank you for listening. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Evil, Redux

My heart goes out today to the victims of the horrible shooting over in Aurora this morning. By "victims" I am including the families of all those involved.

The news is reporting that most of the people in the theater were between the ages of 14 and 49 (depending on the report) with the vast majority being teenagers. I have two teenagers myself and cannot fathom what it would be like to have sent them off to see a movie, a late-night showing, only to learn that they would not be coming home again.

I have been near tears today with that very thought.

There are families today who are without their children, without their parents. Families who wait at the hospital, anxious, for their infants, toddlers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, even mothers and fathers. They are all victims.

Strike that: WE are all victims of this act of terror.

"What?" I hear you say. "How dare you presume to take away from their grief!" To the contrary, I want to make sure we remain focused on their grief.

Because of this event, calls for gun control and gun laws are going to increase.

Blame will assigned and fingers will be pointed, all with screeds and strident rhetoric.

Assumptions will be made about the alleged shooter: his lifestyle, his hobbies, his religion, and his politics.

Guilt will be assumed before he ever gets a day in court.

Calls will go out for stricter guidelines on violence in movies. Calls will be made to install metal detectors in every theater. Calls will go out to restrict the wearing of costumes to fantasy and sci-fi movies. Calls will be made to throw away more of our personal freedoms.

In short, there will be hysteria and a lack of reasoned response.

We will all suffer for this, and for this reason I label us all "victims" of the tragedy.

And because of the hysteria, the outrage, the rhetoric, and the hate, I am afraid that the real victims--those from the theaters, and their families--I am afraid that the suffering, pain, and grief that these individuals, these human beings are going through will be whitewashed and/or forgotten.

Instead, let us be adults about this. Do not give in to the impulses of the Natural Man.

Keep the real victims in your thoughts today and in the coming days and weeks as the backstory unfolds. Keep them in your prayers. Pray for comfort and for peace for these, our brothers and sisters. Pray that their burdens will be lightened.

Pray also for the alleged shooter.

And take a little time to pray for all of us, that we can make it through the Chaos that is, unfortunately, likely to follow. That we can make it through unscathed. Heck, pray that the Chaos will not come.

But whatever you do, pray.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

In Memorium: Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

"The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along." --Ray Bradbury

Sam Weller, Bradbury's biographer, quoted Bradbury as saying he would sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.

"I sit there and cry because I haven't done any of this," he told Weller. "It's a God-given thing, and I'm so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, 'At play in the fields of the Lord.' "

Me again: What an amazing outlook. Can you imagine if we all had this kind of perspective on our work?

Farenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, "The Fog Horn": all works that have influenced my thinking and have stuck with me since I first read them. ("The Fog Horn" was adapted into the movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.) He even penned the screenplay for John Huston's version of Moby Dick and wrote for The Twilight Zone.

I can still remember, for example, how I felt the first time I read The Martian Chronicles and came across the "twist" that threw the astronauts for a loop--if you've read it, you'll know what I mean. Only later did I read the book again and realize the deeper social issues that Bradbury was trying to convey. Obviously, as a book-lover, you can imagine what Farenheit 451 has always done for me.

His biographer was quoted today on the news that "a star has gone out of the Universe." The sky is certainly a bit darker today.

I would like to think that he's on Venus right now, riding his way across the face of the Sun (from our perspective).

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for everything.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Orrin Hatch: Beneath the Cowl

"With experience comes strength...There's a crisis of leadership in Washington."

"I want to see the...end of the need for a Sagebrush Rebellion during my last term in the Senate."
--Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah

"It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!"

"From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end of your insignificant rebellion."
--Senator Palpatine, Naboo

I am Senator Palpa...err...Hatch...and I approve this message.

Note: technically speaking, Orrin has been in office longer than Palpatine. Orrin was elected to his position in 1976, before Star Wars was first released. The Emperor made his first appearance on screen in 1980 in The Empire Strikes Back.

Note²: Try as I might, I could not find a single quote from Senator Hatch expressing his love of either Democracy or the Republic. Hmm.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Constructive Thoughts: Hope

My apologies for the delays in posting. I believe that I have been suffering from a form of depression for the past several months. It has steadily getting worse and I have been finding myself with seemingly less to say and less desire to say it. I am working on breaking through, however. Slowly but surely.

That brings me to these thoughts I have been having lately.

We are living in a world where, perhaps more than at any other time, we face daily uncertainty and unrest in every area of our lives. We have brothers and sisters who wake each day filled with despair over finances, employment, their lives, or the lives of loved ones. To these, life seems truly hopeless. The adversary’s influence is rampant and seems unstoppable.

Remember, however, that God is a God of Hope.

True hope is not to be found in the policies or philosophies of Man, no matter how well-meaning they appear. True hope comes, not as the world giveth, but as He giveth: it comes from the doctrines of the Gospel, such as faith in the Lord and obedience to the Commandments.

What better place to find hope than in the House of the Lord? Temple attendance brings many blessings; one such is the glimpse we have of the Eternities that brings us Peace and bolsters our faith and hope. This gift of hope is a sacred gift which is ours for the taking. Through obedience, faith, and temple service, may each of us remember the source of true hope and strive to receive this into our lives.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012


I am reposting--with permission--the words of a good friend of mine, a buddy living over in Utah. He says it better that I could; my emotions right now are running too high to write coherently about the issue. I have slightly edited his words to fit my own circumstances:

I was all ready for a string of new posts today....

Then I turned on the news and was reminded that Evil exists on this earth. The black image here is my black armband, mourning the loss of two innocents: Charlie and Braden Powell.

A piece of trash father sperm donor decided to take his life and that of his two young sons by blowing up his house.

I'm referring, of course, to the late Josh Powell. He was the sole "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance in December 2009. He steadfastly maintained his innocence while acting in bizarre ways. His boys were living with his in-laws under court order; the Judge in the case said that Josh's home was an "unsafe" environment for the boys. Josh was granted limited supervised visitation.

Oh yeah, we should probably mention that Josh's own father is sitting in prison awaiting trial on charges including but not limited to posession of child pornography. We should also mention that the pictures and videos also included voyeuristic materials of his missing daughter-in-law, Susan Cox Powell.

Josh himself was ordered just last week by a Judge to undergo psychosexual evaluation and a polygraph test regarding what he knew about his father's "activities."

Shortly after noon today, the piece of trash pulled his boys inside the house and locked the door -- they ran ahead of the social worker that was delivering them for visitation. She smelled gas and called her supervisor. While she was on the phone, the house exploded.

...A little Evil has leaked out today to touch the Real World.

Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- except pure Evil would consider the intentional, pre-meditated murder of a seven-year-old boy and his five-year-old brother. The darkness of a Soul who would carry this kind of thing off -- especially a man against his own children -- the darkness is incomprehensible. There is no excuse for it, no explanation, except UTTER, COMPLETE DARKNESS.

As a father of sons myself, may I express my heartfelt condolences to both families. My prayers go out to them in this time of loss and tragedy. Madness. Senseless madness.

I'm sure the boy are finally once again in the loving arms of their mother with the loving arms of their Savior wrapped around the three of them.

Rest in peace, Charlie and Braden.

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