Friday, May 12, 2017

Kids are like a Garden

In some ways, tending a garden is like raising kids. You simply can't toss a few seeds out into the garden and then expect some results with out preparing the soil (teaching good principles), watering it as needed (giving constant love and attention), pulling out weeds (correcting our children and protecting them from negative and unhealthy influences, when and where possible), and channeling their energy to grow tall.

In our garden as you see here, we grow our melons vertically using different supports. Melons have the energy to grow just about anywhere, but you have to direct their energy and give them the right support to reach their potential.

Over the years, we have had a good harvest by using this method, but we have to give it proper attention. Kids, in like manner, will flourish with the right amount of teaching, correction, support, and love.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Crossing the Finish Line

A week ago, I completed my first 100-mile race called the Salt Flats 100, which took place on and around the Bonneville Salt Flats in western, Utah.

It was exhausting!

The race started in mostly sunny, but chilly weather on Friday, and it took me 34 hours to complete it. I must say there were moments . . . . many of them starting around mile 10 . . . that I really questioned whether I could do it. Exhaustion, blisters, pains here and there, and time kept trying to remind me of how inadequate I was to the task. Then, when I reached mile 74 at 4:00 a.m., I had been stumbling, almost sleep walking in the frigid air, when I arrived at the aid station, and I really thought I would just accept the fact that I couldn't go any farther.

I entered the aid station tent, and I plopped down in a chair and rested for an hour, and I could hear whispers that I was too weary to continue. These voices came from inside my head and from the aid workers who were assisting runners there. "Hey, watch that guy. He really looks beat up."

However, I knew that I couldn't and shouldn't give up quite yet because time and reflection have a way of helping people regroup, mentally and physically. Finally, as I arose from my chair and stepped outside the tent to reevaluate my condition, I was greeted with dawn slowly breaking in the eastern sky. The day, awakening from its dark slumber, greeted me with new hope. I changed my socks and quickly downed some pancakes, and continued on until the finish line.

So, what things did I learn from the experience? Wow, I just can't count them. The main thought that comes to me today is that we shouldn't quickly give up on dreams and hopes, even when we are getting beat up in the process. Small baby steps forward into the unknown and darkness can lead to brighter times ahead. I would say this of friendships and raising a family. Pressing forward, showering love and kindness on others, and catching people when they stumble are vital keys to our growth and happiness. There is always hope.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Balancing Your Priorities

People don't care how much you know
until they know how much you care.

As young parents (which I am NOT at this point in my life), people often spend much of their focus on expanding and developing their careers with the philosophy that their new employment opportunities and salary will benefit their children in the years to come.

Futhermore, we sometimes live with the false impression that young kids require more time than teenagers or adult children; however, my experience has been quite the opposite in that my older and adult children have needed just as much and even more attention than the did when they were little.

Earlier in my career as a teacher, I spent a great deal of time presenting and traveling with the idea that this exposure and experience would get me ahead in my field. (Hey, who wouldn't accept invitations to be a keynote speaker at conferences around the world?) I tried to justify the sacrifice of being away from family as a stepping stone to something greater for them. However, kids will never remember the awards and recognition that you received beyond the walls of your home. In fact, although teenagers might not readily admit it, they need your time, your ear, just as much or even more than they didn when they were crawling on your knee.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with plenty of adversity (and happy for it----after the fact), for it is the one thing that always seems to truly introduce man to himself. In a way, I'm glad I didn't realize how hard life would get over the years in raising a family, for in fact, if any young couple had any idea of the plethora of unfortunate events that generally come to all of us, fewer couples would probably get married. Personally, I saw my weaknesses and tried to make myself better.

Going back to balancing priorities, kids need to know how much you care about them, and such can be accomplished by the simpliest things (things I have done with my family): playing a game of chess, snowing camping in the mountains, running together in a race, gritting your teeth and daring to take your new driver on the freeway for driving practice, sitting up all night to watch a meteor shower.

Someone once said that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul (moving) truck, and in the same way, the only things that I believe that you can take with you after you die are your personal character and your family.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

"As parents, we guide by our unspoken example.  
It is only when we're talking to them that our kids aren't listening."  
 - Attributed to Robert Brault

 There are times in our lives when we as parents seem to be dishing out some form a sermonette to our children on some lost value or virtue that has seemed to have escaped them. My kids often remind me that I have given this or that one before ("Oh, yeah, dad. Isn't that sermonette number 234? Got it.") At some point, even my Reader's Digest version of my lectures don't appear to fly either. 
Unless you are talking about allowance or how much you plan on letting them use the car (or you just want to hear your own voice rehashing the lecture for the 10,000th time), you will probably be talking on deaf ears. And rightly so in many cases.
While we tend to administer instruction from the pulpit looking down, we probably should be spending more time in the pews ourselves. Personally, I have found that that I can't expect my children to rise to any higher standard than to the one I reach myself. Can you expect your children to be honest if you try to sneak food and drink into a movie theater when clearly posted signs say it is prohibited? You can try to justify certain behaviors by saying the policy doesn't make sense or that the movie theater makes tons of money off refreshments (which they do), but so will your children. We honor policies out of respect. We might be able to outsmart children when they are little, but they quickly see the shallowness of our words.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Growth and Change

Over the last few weeks, I've been over to my daughter and son-in-law's house to help fix up a few things, including ripping out old  carpet painting, and doing some yard work, among other things. My wife has done the same, and my daughter's in-laws and their family are great, hardworking people.

Like most of our lives, the house needs a little fixing here and there, but it has charm and character. 

One of the books I have been reading recently is called Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser. In one section, she explains that "we are chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked  open. Our errors and failings are chinks in the heart's armor through which our true colors shine."

Sometimes, we might be afraid to peel back one more layer of old flooring of an old house to discover what imperfection might be hiding there, but like our own lives, peeling back the layers allows us to share our stories and flourish. Remaining in the dark provides no room to thrive and grow.

As a parent, I want my kids to see my humanity, my flaws, and my uncertainties, for that is who we are. We are able to understand and validate each other's joys and fears. This is what makes us human.