Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The 'Stuffing' of Life

This past weekend, my siblings and I had the daunting task of clearing out my mother and father's home since my mother passed away three months ago at age 63 and my father passed away four years ago at age 61 - both from cancer.

Since no who is really living - and my parents were ALIVE - plans on leaving this life at such a young age, unimportant things tended to get put off. The closets had not been cleaned out and the shed was a mess. There was an accumulation of papers and stuff under her bed that would have been a rat's nesting utopia. Her files were outdated and there were even crumbs behind the appliances.

But as we went through the stuff, we also found love letters from my dad to my mom and journal entries written by my mom about how much she had missed and loved him. We found pictures of family gatherings and our prize winning art pieces and papers from school. There were clothes from special occasions and dried flowers that my dad had given her on their first date.

Bottom line, we found a life of memories amongst that stuff in a household that had been a child's haven from the world and a jumping off point for our aspiring dreams and personal growth.

The whole experience made me stop and think about what truly is important and what the definition of stuff actually is.

Webster's first definition defines 'stuff' as the material or substance out of which anything is or can be made. Looking at my mom's 8 drawer collection of ribbons, tissue paper, paper scraps and gift bags, string and yarn, paper punches, glue and pipe cleaners, I decided that this would certainly constitute as stuff. But so would her collection of books that she read to the grandkids and acted out scenes from. Or dad's camping gear that made many a forest site look like the Hilton.

My uncle once said that he's yet to see a hearse followed by a U-Haul filled with stuff on the way to the cemetery but I have to admit, as I went through all of my parents' stuff I learned another one of life's great lessons.It's the 'stuff' that dreams are made of.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caught in the Headlights

Two years olds are fascinating.Many years ago when my oldest son was about two, I watched with a mixture of horror and keen interest as he jumped from our split entry landing onto our basement couch, bounced onto my mini-tramp and then flew across the room and hit the wall.

Undeterred, he adjusted the tramp and tried the whole process over again until he was able to cling to our TV hutch, gain a firm hold and then shimmy up the rest of the way to the top shelf where I had previously kept a jar of butter mints that he didn’t much care for. He said they tasted like toothpaste.

Finding them gone, however, he dejectedly slid down the hutch only to find out that he was eye level w
ith my stash of Hershey’s miniature candy bars I’d set between the side of the hutch and the TV. He’d been so focused on getting the butter mints, he completely missed something that he liked much better and that had been easily within his reach the whole time.
I thought about that experience this week as I read Barry K. Phillips book Caught in the Headlights – 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way. Too bad this book hadn’t been around then. My son could’ve used a lesson or two from it.
Although billed as a self-help book, I would more classify it as a self-evaluation book because it really makes one sit down and take stock of where they are and where they should be going.

He hits tough subjects like the pursuit of everlasting happiness, self-esteem versus self–worth, humility instead of pride, giving up control in order to embrace faith, freedom knowing you obey the rules, tolerance while having opinions, forgiveness for your own sake and peace of mind, obtaining true success, enjoying the day to day journey and the myth of physical ‘perfection’.

He uses humor, cartons, poetry, anecdotes and his own experiences to help his readers understand that the brass ring they’ve previously been chasing is not what brings true happiness.Many of us have been Caught in the Headlights for way too long, and it’s time for a course correction. He then gives the road-map to navigate the ten things we all think we want out of life only to find out that there is something that makes us happier – the butter mint versus chocolate theory.
Being the journalist that I am, I was so intrigued with Phillips insight and thoughtful wisdom, that I could not resist the urge to find out more and ask a few more questions. Here are his responses;

1 - How did you narrow your scope of experience to only 10? Were there other lessons you wanted to write about but chose not to? Why or are we talking sequel?

Well, these 10 were the most common. We all seem to do well the top 10 lists, so it seemed like a good number. There are others, but I thought I'd see how well this book does before I worry about a sequel.

2 - Of all the lessons you wrote about, which one for you was personally the hardest to learn and why?

The lesson about Control took some time, but the one about the Big Event was the hardest. I suppose that's because of my entrepreneurial nature. Big dreams can easily cloud day to day pleasures.

3 - Why the title Caught in the Headlights? Was this the original working title? If not, what was and why was it changed?

The original title of "the book" wasn't real catchy. "Caught in the Headlights" was actually the working title, but I had written a fair amount of the book before I finally came up with it.

4 - You use an almost conversational tone throughout the book - like friend talking to another friend. Is this how you always write or was that just the style of this book? What would you say is your normal style of writing and your normal genre?

I've written everything from marketing hype to training courses to contracts. The conversational style I used for this is probably my favorite style. It's more true to my personality than any other style, but I'm comfortable in writing in nearly any style. By far, my favorite type of writing is humor based, no matter the style.

5 - You do not shy away from your religious beliefs. Is this because those convictions are such an integral part of the lessons you've learned. For someone who does not have the same religious beliefs, how can this book help them?

I don't think you need to share my beliefs to gain perspective from the book. But you do need to come to terms with what your core beliefs are. Too many people try to replace religious belief with other things. It just never works. Faith is key to being fulfilled in your life.

6 - Who are the three people you'd most like to meet here on earth? In heaven?

On earth, I'll pick one from three categories: Religious: Henry B. Eyring a top leader in my Faith. In business, Chip Foose (leading car designer) and in sports, Tiger Woods. No longer on the earth (in different categories), Joseph Smith, George Washington and Leonardo DaVinci.

7 - If there was one trait about yourself that you could market knowing people would buy and that it would help the world, what would it be and why? (And don't tell me your wife - we already would love to have that saint in our lives...;-))

Wow! I've never even thought of this concept before. Probably perspective on priorities. I've struggled with that a lot, but I finally think I'm starting to get it. Relationships are top on that list, my relationship with God, my family, and with many others. If everyone cared more about that, most things would take care of themselves.

Although this book is only 104 pages, it contains a lifetime of wisdom and lessons learned that we all should take to heart.

I would highly recommend it to anyone who is proverbially flinging themselves against a wall for butter mints that taste like toothpaste instead of going after eye-level Hershey’s chocolate! You’ll save yourself scads of pain, a less than sweet taste in your mouth and the mortification of having your mother tell embarrassing stories about you on her blog years later…..

If you’d like your own copy, you can order the book here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Learning the art of Now and Later...

I was given a bloggers award by Tristi Pinkston for the last blog I did called "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World". A deep and humble thank you, Tristi....

This past week I had a friend ask me the question, “Why do you sacrifice so much of the good stuff now for the hope of something later?”

I couldn’t help but think of a lesson I’d given a class almost a decade earlier and a discussion I’d had with my sons more recently than that.

Church at that time was 1-4 so, half-way through the block, rumbling stomachs were a frequent part of the auditory backdrop in our classroom.

Using this to my advantage, I brought in a pan of small, dry, unfrosted cupcakes that I’d also ‘forgotten’ to put all of the required sugar in. I set them on a table and noted with interest that many of the members of the class were so drawn to the cupcakes that they did not notice the unobtrusive box sitting on the table behind them. The others, however, were drawn to the box and waited to see what it housed.

I asked those particular students if they were hungry and lured them into accepting a cupcake. When they were done and still left wanting, I then pulled out of my bag plates, cups, forks, glasses, a jug of milk and the most decadent looking chocolate cake I could find. I set the table in front of the chalk board with a portrait of Christ and invited the students who had refrained to come sit at the table and enjoy a big piece of that cake.

The others sat on looking miserable wishing that they too had had the sense to see beyond the first offering of sad cupcakes.

I explained that our Savior has personally invited each and everyone of us to dine with Him and partake of His feast. It means giving up a bit of pleasure here in this world for that hope of something better.

This is true of so many things in our lives whether it be morality, honesty, tithing, service or any other thing that can bring us eternal joy.

After explaining this lesson to my friend and talking more in depth about the subject, she had another question, “What ever happened to the kids in that class?”

I told her proudly, “Every single one of them is on track, made it through high school and is on missions or married in the temple. They have told me that that lesson made an impression on them they will not soon forget and then added with a big smile, "And I can honestly say that to this day, I know for a fact none of them are starving.” ;-)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One of the most beautiful women in the world....

Take a good long look at this face. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever had the fortune to come across....
Her name is Yvette Cade and she currently is about 34 years old. She has a small pixie voice with words that are deliberate and a high pitched giggle that perfectly matches her small pixie stature. She has one daughter and an ex-husband who is in jail for setting her on fire in 2005.

When she was 31, Yvette married Roger Hargrave falling in love with his wit and the gentle manners in which he treated his son from a previous marriage. Soon after their wedding, he began drinking a lot and became volatile, demanding, possessive, suspicious and abusive.

Yvette eventually had the courage to walk away wanting safety for her daughter but Hargrave was not willing to let her go. On the day Yvette's life was thrown into chaos, Hargrave had called her about 14 times in order to tell her he loved her. When he finally did get through to her, he told her, "he wanted to fry her like Crisco".

Six hours later, he showed up at her place of employment - a T-mobile store in Clinton, Maryland - and poured gasoline from a two liter bottle all over her and then chased her until she fell down. While she was down, he lit a match, dropped it on her and then walked away while 60% of her body sizzled.

He later told the judge that what he did was insane and he was sorry that he'd behaved that way. To date, he has never apologized or shown any remorse to his wife for the pain and suffering he has caused her .

One month before this happened, she had been to court to plead with a judge to enforce and injunction against Hargrave. After telling the judge that she was afraid for herself and her daughter and wanted an immediate divorce, the judge callously said, "Well I'd like to be 6'5" but I don't get that either. You'll have to go to divorce court for that" and then dismissed Yvette and the injunction with a bang of his gavel.

Later on the judge said that it was a clerical error that caused her injunction to be dismissed. Yeah, right...

Yvette has been through close to 20 surgeries, has had to wear a pressure suit and masks up to 23 hours a day to minimize scar tissue and do excruciating exercises and slather down in creams to keep her skin as supple as she can. She wears bandages on the back of her head where her hair was burnt into her scalp. She works her hands so she can maintain a bit of mobility to take care of her daughter, and hopefully one day, some grandchildren.

Hers is not a beauty regimen - but a life saving one. And yet, the struggle she goes through every day has made her more beautiful than most people I know.

Why? Because as part of that regimen, she also recites all of her blessings and the things that she is grateful for everyday.

And when she finally did have the courage to go out in public, although many were struck by awe at her appearance, that beauty came out at she said that she was there to plead with women in abusive situations to GET OUT and SEEK HELP. She put her own pride aside to encourage others to get help before it was too late.

(Yvette's five signs that you are in an abusive situation and should seek help are;
  1. Jealousy and possessiveness
  2. Controlling behavior
  3. Verbal abuse
  4. Threats to harm you, your family or your pet
  5. Isolation from friends and family)
And on Oprah, when she was asked by the talk show queen what her thoughts were about Roger Hargrave, Yvette pursed her scarred lips, remained silent for a moment and then smiled slightly as she said, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all."

The world may disagree with me thinking that Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta Jones, or Angelina Jolie define beauty but I will proudly stand and hail that it's people like Yvette Cade who are some of the most beautiful people in the world.
I hope I can aspire to be that pretty one day....

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Republic's Legacy and Oath

This time of year always inspires me as I think about what I am truly grateful for and the liberties which I cherish. But I do also recognize that liberty is not free - it has always had a high price tag.

To that means, I wrote this poem putting into prose the feelings of my heart. I hope you enjoy it...

From the birth of our nation
Til the final show of pride.
I thank Thee, the Almighty
For the sacrifices of those who’ve died.
The brave hearts and courage of those
Who knew not how to fight
But marched to a Nation’s glory
Through cloaking darkness or day’s light.
Praise the young and the old
Who have carried little more
Than the burning faith and desire
To fight their freedom’s war.

A march throughout the centuries
Upon the shoulders of a few,
We owe a reverent gratitude
For the blood that was their due.
For the men with ages of youth
Who carried the dreams of a Nation
And women and children at home
Awaiting any words with patience.
There are but a few names listed
Within our books of learning
But let us not forget the masses
Who gave life for unity burning.

Alas, may they not regret
The benefit of one nation under God
And may we, their benefactors
Remember for which they fought.
There is a picturesque struggle
To raise our banner once more
After a defeat of freedom’s enemy
Upon a beach’s quiet shore.
There are numerous green acres
That bear far as the eye can see
Masses of alabaster white crosses
Of those who gave life for you and me.

We shall preserve this Nation!
This is now our cross to bear!
So that we in truth and glory
May our ensign proudly wear!
To keep our heritage of independence
This land we shall not disgrace
But preserve our freedom, their legacy
Of every soldier’s watchful face.
We shall raise high Liberty’s Title
“In memory”, we hail most sacredly
“For beliefs in God, freedom, family, peace
That built a Nation for their posterity.”

Happy 4th of July everyone!