Friday, May 31, 2013


While still a young man, I had the dream that I would one day become a successful singer.  My athletic abilities were mediocre at best and I never felt I was anything to look at, nor did I have the confidence to think I was very smart,  but (probably because my parents encouraged me) in my mind there was the impression that I could sing pretty well.

Sadly, I never could focus enough to learn to “read” music but all my choir and band experience helped me at least understand the concepts of following a written song.  While in high school I joined with a couple of friends to create a band (two guitars and me singing) that performed a couple of places and accidentally won a talent show. We tried to emulate some of the popular groups but after a while we all went our own ways and my dream of a career crept off into the sunset.

So, if I was to be a performer, who would I be???
From my growing up days I list the following as singers I really enjoyed:

He doesn't look like this anymore --
too many struggles.
1.    James Taylor – except for a couple of songs he was one of those I really enjoyed.  His voice is not great but it is distinctive and the songs were usually well-written.

My favorite song from his playlist
2.  Carlos Santana – good loud rock music with Spanish flavor (and I secretly wanted to speak the language fluently).

Disco Days -- not the good stuff
3.  The Bee Gees -- what a great sound they made when they were at their best.  Not the disco years but the music that they started with (New York Mining Disaster, I Started a Joke, etc.).   And I could sing the falsetto stuff right along with them.

BTW, I never could figure out how Neil Diamond became so popular.  He must have some pictures or something that he could use as leverage for his career.  He had no range and sounded like he was speaking instead of singing all his music.

And from the people available today, these are a few that I have grown to appreciate and think I could emulate:

Sometimes a very strange man but
he has some fun songs
1.    Jason Mraz – you have to be careful with some of his stuff but he is unique enough that I have made some allowances for his work.
Smooth and easy to listen to

2.  Jack Johnson – I know, he and Jason Mraz are really similar but I still like Jack and his “surfer” style music.

Great talent for a young guy
3.  Josh Groban – I will not give up my man-card for this!!  He is excellent and I love to fake like I can sing his songs.  Maybe in the next life after my voice has been resurrected!!

OK, that’s my thoughts on musicians for today.  Maybe next time I take this topic I will look at instrumental musicians (though I KNEW that I would never be good at that so it was not in my window of consideration).

 Note: just noticed that all three of the modern guys have names that start with the letter J.  Wonder if that has some psychological explanation???

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Several years ago (15-20) we were looking for a tree to provide some shade in our front yard.  Most nurseries we visited took us to flowering fruit or maple type trees but we wanted something that was a little unusual.  At one place they showed us a lovely tree called a Hawthorn.  This was in the days before the Internet was ubiquitous so we trusted the folks at the nursery when they said we would be happy with this choice.

The first few years of growth were very slow – as we had been told – but finally the tree started to make some progress.  Alas, with growth we discovered a secret or two!!
Bigger and more mature than ours

First of all, this was a HawTHORN tree so why were we surprised when these little spiky things started appearing all through the tree branches?!!  It just never dawned on us that this would be part of the package.
That's about the size of it.

But that was only the first gift from our new Crataegus (the official name of the tree).

Beautiful white flowers from the Hawthorn Tree
Early one spring morning I happened to be outside working and there was this horrible odor that smelled like rotting flesh.  I looked all over the yard for a dead cat or bird or something but there was nothing.   Then I happened to walk by the Hawthorn tree and nearly keeled over.  IT WAS THE TREE!!  I drew closer and discovered that the beautiful white blooms that had just started appearing on the tree were exuding the nasty, disgusting smell.  Yes, this lovely, prickly, slow growing but tremendously strong tree was also a real stinker (to quote Samwise Gamgee).

I looked on the Internet (enough years had passed and we were up-to-date in that regard) only to find that this is a common occurrence for Crataegus trees.  So we had a decision to make – do we keep the smelly, thorny tree or do we chop it down and start over.

Actually, after so many years the decision was pretty easy because we had grown to love a number of things about our tree.  We just couldn’t part with it.

For instance, when the flowers were finished with their stinking (usually two weeks or so after appearing) little fruits started to form.  They start out with a light orange color and then progress to a deep red that looks so regal against the background of green in the leaves.  It’s almost like having our own large Christmas tree in the front yard every year.  And the leaves stay on the tree much longer than all the others so the effect is really amazing.  How could we cut down such a special tree simply because it had a couple of problems?

Sort of gives the image -- But Better in real life
I think sometimes we are all like our Hawthorn tree and its progress in life.  People generally start out cute and small and easy to endure (OK, not me but most everyone else) but as they grow, others start to see the thorns and odors that come with existence (this is meant figuratively, not literally so no comments on men’s behavior).  When our acquaintances try to become more in our lives it is often the thorns of personality or habit that poke at them and make them wary of deeper intimacy.

It’s not like we don’t want to be close but our own insecurities and actions create barriers that suppress friendship and good relationships.
Looking for beauty can be difficult, even when we are anxious to find it.  Just because a new friend has idiosyncrasies that seem odd, we might be wise to remember we have that same.

There is always a part of anyone that can be found and nurtured to bring out the beauty of the individual – we just have to be patient and look.

There were times (even before we discovered the smell and thorns) that I wanted to cut down the Hawthorn.  The growth was so painfully slow that I wondered if we would ever have shade on the front door.  But patience (with trees and people) has helped reap a reward well worth the wait.

I love our tree!!  But I love people even more and I hope that my choices can bear that out as a truth in my interactions.  I know God and Christ love me and they keep pruning and fertilizing me so I can be a glorious tree in the garden of eternity.  May you be also.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


When my sweet wife became pregnant with our fourth child, we were certain the time had come to have our next little girl.  So certain that we spent little time considering names for a boy!

Kevin and Tanner
Not surprisingly, when a new male-type person came to be in the family, we had nothing in the name department ready for his arrival.  (BTW, this was before most people were “peeking” to determine what the gender of children would be.  We just trusted that things would work out how we expected.)

We eventually settled on Kevin (because we liked the name) and Ray (in honor of Teresa’s dad) for the little fellow (though it was two days after his birth before we could agree).

Not an auspicious start for such a determined young man. 

Maybe determined is a little too mild for the personality we received.  This was a soul, sent from God, who knew what he wanted and was bound to get it despite the obstacles placed in his way. 

Kevin's family at East Canyon
And what has this determination wrought?  Well, he is now the father of two plus (#3 due in July) boys who show the same fire he had as a youth.  He has completed course work and is a chef and currently studies business at the U of U (I know, but we still let him come watch the BYU games with us) with the intention of becoming a manager in his company (currently asst. mgr. of the bakery)

Not bad for someone whose parents had trouble naming him.  He’s turned out to be a wonderful and patient father and a faithful husband.  Who could ask for more from a son? – Not me.  We love you Kevin.

Monday, May 20, 2013


One of the blogs (Middle-aged Mormon Man) I follow is having "Hug A Convert Day" on June 2nd.  I have added a link on the right side so you can participate if you like.  If you have a good story of your conversion or someone you helped bring into the gospel, trundle on over there and share your experiences.  Have fun reading.  MW

Friday, May 10, 2013


The other night Teresa and Joel watched one of the X-Men movies – I think it was called the Last Stand.  In it, a scientist had developed an injection that would remove whatever powers the mutants had and make them like normal people.

We have often commented that some of our family’s quirks might be similar to a mutant power.  For instance, most of us have real issues with talking on the phone (hurray for text-messaging).  We also have several who seem to have food phobias for no apparent reason – if you haven’t tried the food, why should it hold terror (There are more but I don’t wish to expose all our laundry at this particular time).

Anyways, after the movie, Joel asked his Mom if she would want to have the shot that removed all her “mutant” powers or would she want to keep them.  It seems like a simple question – after all, aren't these things the source of many of our daily struggles?  Interestingly enough, both Teresa and Joel decided that there was some value in keeping the challenges and learning to work through the difficulties they caused.  When they asked my opinion, I answered in the same manner – these are MY quirks/mutations and I want them to stay with ME!!!

A few days later I was reading the book of 1 Peter in preparation for a lesson when I came across the following verse:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  (1 Peter 1:7)

Peter felt much the same way about the challenges life presents to us in our mortal form.  We have been sent here to prove who and what we will become and the weakness of our mortal existence is paramount to our progression and improvement.  Moroni, speaking for the Savior, stated it this way:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)

Notice that Moroni only mentioned weakness in the singular.  I believe that is because mortal life is the weakness we all enjoy together.  The various deficiencies that we encounter are the personal part of our adventure.

The whole Plan ofHappiness/Salvation is predicated on us becoming something more than we were when we arrived on this little ball of dirt.  One of Father’s ways to improve our chances is to allow us to have mortal failings that increase the likelihood of our effecting change (BTW, I’m not saying we choose or are chosen to have certain weaknesses – I believe nature, chance and environment have sway in those things).

Here’s an example from my own life.  

I have always struggled with controlling my anger when things don’t go the way I think they should.  Generally I am not a confrontational person so the anger isn't expressed verbally but most people can recognize when I’m a little ‘off.’  If a serum was invented that took away that part of my character, more folks might be inclined to enjoy my presence and the gentle nature of my soul (huge sarcasm here).  But that is not what that challenge is to accomplish.  My work is to learn how to keep those feelings in check, as best as possible, in order to invite others to like being in my presence (not factoring in all the OTHER reasons they might want to flee my personal space).

Why does a Father allow His children to go through all this? 

Because He loves us and wants what is best for our Eternal happiness.  None of these things are permanent – we will be resurrected in a perfect form – but they are here for our benefit and growth.  Being a mutant is part of what Heavenly Father determined would give all of us the best chance to grow and be strong.

While some things we suffer are difficult and even debilitating, every challenge is allowed by God because He knows we will be better for the experience.  It’s letting the weak things of our lives become our strength that gives us hope for a glorious life after this one.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

WHAT A BOY!! (Sons again)

 Joel came to us as a delightful Christmas gift one year.  The hospital even put him in a little Santa stocking when we took him home.  

A recent fishing trip with Joel
He was also the caboose of our children!!

Some might think that would make him spoiled …… and I suppose he was/is to some extent.  But all our children have had their share of being pampered so I don’t think ----

------ Wait, I hear Melissa reminding me that Joel never had to endure the curfew rules she lived. 

Hold on, Josh just texted saying that he had to work at that dumb video factory so he could have spending money and Joel just got an allowance. 

Oh, Brian & Kevin said----

Well, you get the picture:  In the eyes of his siblings, Joel may have received a little more attention than they felt he merited.  But they were also complicit in whatever extra benefits he received because they loved him so much themselves.  So let’s forget about that part.
Pre-Mission, chubby cheeks

When our youngest came to live with us I was in the ‘death thralls’ of my time with a job I had worked for several years.  The company was downsizing and my position was eliminated with very little notice.  It was devastating to me and my ego (two different entities with lots of puffed-up-ness) and I struggled to find my place in life and in another job.

Lounging on our trip
Our baby son became my release for the stress I was enduring.  He and I would walk the neighborhood, go for rides in the car and run errands for mom so I could stay busy.  As he got older, Joel helped me with my work around the house, in the yard and on the car: he reaped the benefits of more patience for youthful mistakes (sorry you older kids)

Now this young man has grown into --- well, a fine young man.  His parents are pleased with who he is becoming and we know he will be, in many ways, like his older siblings – a righteous, humble child of God. 

Thanks, Joel, for coming to live with our family.  We love having you here and hope you love being with us.


Recently, our good friend Mitt Romney was the commencement speaker at Southern Virginia University.  His message, addressed to young people preparing to enter the world, was one of hope and counsel for the things they should do to make their lives exceptional.  Not surprisingly, many people of a more worldly persuasion took umbrage at his remarks.

The biggest stink came from advice he gave concerning marriage and the benefits therein.  And wouldn’t you know it; the strongest complaint came when Mitt had the audacity to encourage the graduates to not put off marriage while they pursued other activities of life (see here, here, and here and be sure to read comments at each).

(Sarcasm alert)It is, after all, much more responsible to seek after the pleasures of life while young and they settle down and begin to consider the more ‘adult’ activities that might be available – including creating a family. (Sarcasm complete)

Way back in 1999 the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a proclamation concerning the family that has become one of the hallmarks of our religion.  A person who reads this document has no difficulty understanding what the Church believes when it comes to family and the relationships that are part of that great institution.  Those who follow the teachings of this document are promised peace, happiness and the power to overcome the evils of the world – pretty exceptional promises for such a simple message.

Mitt Romney, speaking to like-minded folks, outlined what he has found to be true because he has practiced the principles taught in the proclamation.  I agree with him because they have worked for me.  Those who disagree generally have no frame of reference to know whether or not the teachings work because they have chosen another path.  They are not necessarily bad people but they ARE people who do not understand because they have not tested the methods.  I think Jesus said it this way:

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17

Pretty simple, actually!!  If you don’t understand or believe what is said, try it and look at the results.  The promise is made throughout the scriptures and has been one of the ways mankind has learned the truths of God and Christ.

I applaud Brother Romney for being frank and honest with young people who are still seeking after what they want to do in life.  Imagine how our country might be different if there was someone at the head who looked at more than the polls to determine what was right or wrong.  Kinda makes you think doesn’t it!!

Monday, May 6, 2013


Last week my beautiful wife and I took a trip to California to visit her sister’s family.  They had a daughter going on a mission and we wanted to be there to wish her well.

It’s a long drive to Turlock, CA, but we had things planned out very well and budgeted to the penny (Teresa’s good that way).  Our first stop was to be in Winnemucca, NV but we got there early and decided to go one more town before we stopped.

If you have been to Lovelock, NV you will never forget the experience.  A small town with little to offer, they pride themselves on being the love capital of Nevada (or something like that)

There was only one motel that was open (several were boarded up) so we took a room and …………… welllllllllll, it was interesting.  Not the best accommodations – and the proprietor kept asking if there was anything he could get us.  I was afraid to ask what he had to offer because he looked like one of those guys from the scary banjo music movie – can’t remember the name cause I’ve never seen it (ETA:Just remembered – Deliverance).

When it was time to retire for the night the following conversation ensued:

        Teresa: Would you go get the suitcase for us?
       Mike: Sure thing sweety?
Mike: (returning a few moments later) Where did you pack the suitcase?
       Teresa: I didn’t pack it, that’s your job.
Mike: Well, I had everything laid out on our bed, but I thought you were going to get it.
Teresa: I never take the suitcase out – I can’t get it down the stairs.
Mike: Oh, right, I knew that.  I think I messed up.
       Teresa: Are you saying we have no clothes or stuff?
       Mike: YEP!!

In another lifetime there would have been much abuse heaped upon me by me for making such a dumb move.   Time and experience have allowed me to take things like this in stride and find the humor in the events.  And Teresa was VERY forgiving!!!  We had a good laugh and chalked it up to experiences we will always remember.  It was hilarious except it totally ruined the budget. 

The trip was memorable and the company was grand (I love travelling with my favorite girl) so I hope we get to do it again real soon – without the forgotten baggage.