Sunday, December 21, 2008

The coat off his back

Would you give someone the coat off your back?

I've stopped on the side of the road and spent a few minutes to help someone who ran out of gas, but I have never given someone anything like the coat I was using in the middle of a Utah winter.

I heard about this story through a short Twitter post, and I had to ask to get more of the story from the observer, so he gave me a summary. My first thought was: I've got to get more details! But the truth is that I don't need to know any more; in fact, more details would actually detract from the telling. After reading it, I had to read it over again from the start. And that's the strength of this man's act: it's simply stated, but it's powerful because it seems like such a sacrifice and it's so spontaneous.

Along with those details, the observer wrote: "I think the leader was particularly pleased that nobody really noticed or made a big deal out of it." That's another subtle point to this story: such actions are so grand that it would almost be demeaning for someone to offer the giver a compliment and recognize what he did. That type of recognition is fine for some things, but in this case I think it would be a cause of embarrassment; this was done to help someone else in a big way, and this bit of heaven that he brought transcends any kind of recognition we could offer.


After a scouting function, one of the leaders stayed and talked for a while with one of the families. Finally, he took off his coat and gave it to the man, who said, "But what will you wear?"

"I have other coats at home."

"What about on your way home?"

"It's OK. I'm used to the cold."

The recipient expressed his thanks, and they each went their own way.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

a husband's loving example, years later

This past week was my parents' anniversary, and today is my dad's birthday. Dad died a few years ago; Mom now lives here in Salt Lake, and she decided to go back to Missouri where he is buried to memorialize him this week. I drove her to the airport, and we ended up discussing some of the issues (AKA problems) of the family out here in Utah, and she talked a bit about Dad's example to her.

Dad was more patient and hard-working than most, and although things rarely worked out the way he planned, he always focused on the blessings in his life; he always trusted that things would work out, and he continually kept up a cheery attitude. This was remarkable to us while he was alive, and we respect it even more now that he's passed on. Mom is no exception: she admits that she sometimes took a grim view of things when they didn't have much money or stability in their lives, and she admires Dad all the more now because he was steady even when she was not.

So she mentioned some of the things that are difficult for her now. It wasn't an expression of self-pity, and there was no sense of complaint; there are some things that she is enduring, but even more than that she's trying to make situations better even where there's almost no hope for things to get better. That's the type of attitude that's inspiring: rather than harboring resentment or giving up, you attempt different things and push doggedly through the never-ending problems until you find something that helps. That's Dad's attitude. She cried as she explained how good he was when they first moved to Missouri and didn't have anything; he was good even though he had frustrations and he felt her frustrations. That example keeps her striving to be better and kinder in whatever tough personal issue comes up.

That's how loving-kindness changes lives, even years after the fact.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Repeat Customers

A friend of mine creates quilts by hand and sells them at a show in Las Vegas. They're very original, created with swatches of whatever she likes: Tinkerbell, camouflage, and even a Christmas-themed Elvis one. She got back from her most recent show the other day and was talking about her adventures, and she mentioned how some of her customers had returned to buy another quilt. What a rush! The fact that someone likes your work enough to pay money in the first place has its non-monetary benefits, but to have someone come back a year later and seek you out so they can again get something you have created... that must be a great feeling.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

a gift of decorations

Last weekend was Olivia's birthday, and the older neighbor girls decided to give her a surprise: they crepe-papered our house, forked our lawn with balloons attached, and they dropped off some edible gifts (Olivia's favorite).

What a fantastic, fun gift! They spent valuable late-night time and energy to secretly leave something that we'd stumble upon in the morning. I daresay it's not everyone who has friends that make such a creative effort to celebrate their birthday. That is loving kindness.

And you can tell it was appreciated!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A day of abundance in a musician's life

Benjamin Zander did this little workshop with the audience and a young performer, talking about the world of abundance and training a young musician as you watch. Not only does it make you smile as he does it, but he brings out a great attitude in the young man, and at the end you can finally see a bit of light in his eyes. What a wonderful, fun experience!

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Forever Strong" - What a legacy!

A week ago we saw Forever Strong, about a rugby player in trouble who found a place on his rival team Highland High. It's based on a true story, and the Highland rugby team really has won 17 national championships with their 367 wins and only 9 losses in the last 30 years. It's fascinating! I have never heard of this before watching the movie, and it's hard to believe I have such a triumphant organization here in my state that I've never known about. And it's an interesting individual story depicted in the move; I've searched around for more details, to no avail.

But with Larry Gelwix's sustained focus and integrity over the course of 30 years, there must be at least 30 other stories just as interesting. I'm sure everyone who has been through those teams must have been inspired, not to mention proud of such accomplishments. This kind of legacy, quietly but steadily built, is the grandest: it'll endure through many lives and possibly even generations.

The following is from a newspaper article:


"It's not about rugby," he says. "It's about helping young men grow up with their feet on the ground and hopefully avoiding a lot of the junk of life. Rugby is just a vehicle. It's infinitely easier to turn out championship teams than championship boys."

Gelwix has one primary rule: Don't do anything that would embarrass you, your family or the team. "Everything is covered by that," he said. More specifically, alcohol and drugs are forbidden. Lying or dishonesty of any sort is the gravest sin on the team and results in suspension.


After reading that, you must read the rest on the last page of the article. This is exactly the way to lead a life of greatness.

The movie was decent, but I was impressed and moved as I watched it knowing it is reality.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How a biker aids medical workers in Africa

Andrea Coleman is a biker, and she describes in this podcast how she applied her skills to improve the conditions of medical workers in Africa. She points out a few specific examples:
  • One of their early technicians has progressed to the point where he helps manage their whole African organization.
  • Their workers have been able to travel out, do their work, and return home and have a life, rather than their old way of walking out, sleeping over, and walking somewhere else on another day. One of them was pleased to have gained "a stone" of weight since using the bikes (though she's still thin).
  • They have shown how they have enabled medical workers get "five fold increase in the number of patients seen, and five times more visits for each patient".
I've realized that these podcasts are inspiring to me only partly because of the stories of helping people out; it's been awesome to hear how these entrepreneurs are pursuing their passions and really being creative in solving problems to make the world a better place for others. It's fantastic to hear about.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Raw Nature, in a movie and under a moonlit sky

Tonight we saw "Into The Wild", the movie about Christopher McCandless, the 20-something who left his family and life behind to travel on the road and went to Alaska and died in the wild there. It was very intriguing for me because I've always enjoyed the outdoors, but I appreciate it more and more as I age. This year's camping trips with my family have been some of the highlights of my whole life; I wish that I'd taken the time to write about them. So the movie brought to mind what it might be like to live a less structured lifestyle in a more wild environment. I don't aspire to do anything like that, but it was an interesting feeling, and the movie was well-done.

One thought from the movie was that you don't always need other people around to enjoy the best parts of life. That struck me. I've been very focused on the rewards of life that come while doing things with people, but I think there's some validity to that idea as well. (Later, he says that happiness comes from sharing with others.)

Afterward, I went out into my backyard where it was chilly; I was wrapped up in my coat, and I lay down on our padded bench and simply enjoyed the chill and the dark sky with a bright full moon and a few scattered stars. I only spent a few minutes out there, and I dozed off a bit... and I enjoyed every second.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Helping parents and kids with "Scream Free" Parenting

I rarely listen to popular music stations for long, but this morning I was hooked by 97.1 at 8:30 because they had Hal Runkel on, who runs "Scream Free Parenting". I've never heard of it before, and he was fascinating: he talked about issues with a high-school relationship class, and then he took calls and answered emails and talked with the hosts. I found myself still listening when he signed off at 9. (You can hear it in their podcast for this morning; you'll want to skip halfway through the segment for the start of the interview.)

Now there's work that really makes a difference in people's lives! For example, they read an email from a previous caller from a few weeks ago who says that homework is going so much better with her teenage daughter now. He talked about the issues in specific, and he did it very clearly such that I could relate and recall things that I should be doing better in my own life. As host "Danger Boy" (?) said, we've got to be reminded about these things hundreds of times, just like our children.

Very inspiring.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Comforting a Frightened Child

Tonight Ellie was fighting Olivia about having the light on; she said she was scared of the dark, and she started balling at the thought of having it all dark. After while, she finally said, "I'm scared because of something inside, but I can't tell anyone or it'll get worse." That's a bit scary to hear from your child. So I sat by her and talked about how it's the opposite: the only way to make it better is to let it out, and if you just leave it inside it gets worse and worse. So she told me that she saw a game where a robot cut off a guy's head, and now she imagines it's coming after her. (That was sure a relief!)

I held her, and we talked a bit about when I was scared when I was little, and we talked about fighting it with fun thoughts, possibly by reading a book. Then I said something about reality, and said, "There's not really any robot coming after you." Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped and she started sobbing; she dropped down to her pillow and pulled the cover over her head, so all I could see were her eyes, looking out at me in terror.

I remember thinking during the move "The Sixth Sense" how I cannot think of anything more horrible than for a child to be subjected to scary and nasty things. And now here was Ellie, terrified by an idea that something is coming for her; I don't think I'll ever forget the look in those eyes, pleading for help while fear gripped her deep down.

I rubbed her back a minute, and I talked about good thoughts that might replace the evil ones. She talked with me, and finally came out of the covers and showed me the book she's reading, and she lit up as she described what was going on in it. She really turned around quickly, and she actually seemed content as I left her reading her book, so the bad thoughts must have been far gone.

It's a good feeling to help with something like that.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Road Trip

This past week I went on a road trip to Minnesota with Jason and Amy Buchanan. I don't have any specific stories to tell (because I just don't have time to discuss the Tuba of Liberty, the terrible Happy Chef restaurant, the awesome Perkins family restaurant that was so good we went to two others when we saw them, the bomb scare, the high-kick soreness, the sickness, and the states we weren't supposed to visit), but I laughed a lot, was uncomfortable a lot, and got to know two good people a lot better. I guess I had no choice, spending 36 hours together on the road! I will always have fond memories of this week.

Energized by caring

Kids impose on your time and sap your energy. Every day, almost every time you interact, they ask for some help or they don't ask for help but are in a mess where you have to help to preserve your sanity. This can be extremely draining.

For some reason, last night was different for me. We all sat down and watched "Newsies" before bed. Tolman and Thomas wanted me to rub their backs, and so I alternated between them and Lynnette, and they were happy with that (whereas they have been known to complain the moment you take your hand off).

Then Ellie started throwing up. Thankfully, she is mature enough to keep it contained in the bathroom or in a bowl. But Lynnette didn't want her to sleep in her bed in case she throws up there, so I got out our inflatable bed and blew it up and put on a sheet and got her into a comfortable place that would be easy to clean.

This was all way past my ideal bedtime of 9 PM. But this time was different because I was satisfied that I had made life a bit more comfortable for everyone. I wish I knew what was different about the whole situation that made it rewarding rather than draining. When I find out, I'll make sure to bottle it and share with everyone.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A new swimmer

We went to a pool yesterday for Ellie's family birthday party. I'm not much for swimming, but the kids all wanted me to get in. OK. Well, this time something fantastic happened.

You see, Thomas, like his brother before him, has been very reluctant to get in the water very much. This year he finally put his face in the water, but he has still just stood in one place and not gone any further, no matter how much we prodded. Last time he did go a step further: he would jump to me from the side of the pool. He liked to have me carry him around on the top of the water, acting like Superman.

But this time, as he jumped toward me from the steps, I went out further, and he jumped all the way in the water and kept his head down and kicked to make it all the way to me! I couldn't believe it. He did it over and over, calmly keeping his head down and holding his breath until he was ready to grab my hands and pull himself up. So I told him to keep kicking his legs (and he made sure by asking later "I kick my legs?"), and sure enough he'd jump in and kick himself forward to me. I even had him jump from me toward the steps; one of those times he didn't quite make it and came up coughing and sputtering and he didn't want to do that for a while, but he did it again before we left. It was awesome, and he really had a great time doing it, over and over. He's going to end up being a good swimmer.

As I said, Tolman took a long time to really get in the water and swim, but he really takes to the water now; someone yesterday called him a fish. I see Thomas turing out the same way.

At night, Lynnette and I watched the Olympics and saw Michael Phelps win the 4x100 race, breaking a world record by a full body-length. They did a story on him, telling how his coach talked to his mother about aiming for the Olympics when he was 11 years old. The best part was when his mother told what happened after he won his first gold medal: he was walking toward her, genuinely excited and happy about winning, and he reminded her of when he was a little boy, peanut butter sandwich in had, so excited about something that his eyes just shone.

Who knows what accomplishments I'll see in my kids' futures? All I know is that I've had a taste of what it's like when they do better, and I smile as I anticipate more of it in the future.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dancing and Skating Together

Tonight we all went to the street dancing at Bountiful's Summerfest, where we have dancers from around the world perform and allow us to dance with them in the street. We saw some square dancing by people from Denver, some Russian dancing by Cossack youths, and some other group dancing by Greeks. Fun stuff!

What was awesome was that everyone enjoyed something: Lynnette enjoyed my dancing (maybe because I'm so adept at embarrassing myself); Olivia got to dance flamboyantly in the street with other people; Ellie and Tolman skated down some sloping streets on their Wave skateboards; and Thomas caught serious air because I'd pull him up by the arm as he jumped. I enjoyed it all!

What's particularly rewarding is that there was a lot of whining and anger before we left, but everyone has a much better attitude after just a few minutes at the event. Physical fun is good for the soul.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I appreciate what I have.

Expressing gratitude for other people is a great way to build ties and bring a little more intensity of feeling to your day. But this morning I've seen around me a ton wonderful things that I have that make my life easier or more fun.

  • We're growing corn and tomatoes, and there's just something cool about seeing these things thrive and emerge into something fantastic with very little prodding. (Well, in my case, "thrive" isn't the right word, but they're cool anyway.) I just noticed that my tallest corn stalk is taller than I am. Yessss!
  • We are so lucky to have air conditioning, as well as all the other goodies in our house: running water, a stove, a microwave, comfortable furniture, and on and on. There are so many things that add up to make life much more pleasant.
  • Computers are incredible machines. I work on them every day, but I still appreciate how much they can do: I remember my first "Aha!" moment when I made a picture by printing out a bunch of text in the shape of a tree; I love how you can make ideas come to life with programming. But even without that education, there is so much more that we can do nowadays on these things, and it can be a lot of fun.
It's good to be alive. There has been a lot of effort put in by other people that brings us tangible benefits today, no matter where we live. Realizing that makes some genuine appreciation to life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Menial Labor

Yesterday I spent 30 minutes on whatever individual children wanted to do (which is something I aim to do each week, with varying success). First, I went roller-blading down the street with Tolman, then Thomas wanted me to push him on his swing. As I was pushing Thomas, I suddenly realized that I was doing the same thing, over and over, and there was nothing else going on: it was quiet, and Thomas didn't even feel the need to talk. It was repetitive work, there was little intelligent interaction... and it was nice.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A morning goodbye

This morning, I did something right. Thomas was a bit reluctant to go to day-care this morning, and when we got there he said he wanted to go home. This was a bit frustrating, because I struggled with him a bit getting his shoes as we left and I was already somewhat late for work. But I sat and hugged him for a minute. I held him tight. He was a bit limp at first, so I made him put both his arms all the way around me. He does know how to hold on when he wants! After a minute, his friends started calling him, and he wanted to look around at them, but I kept holding him and I turned him into me so that he would not be distracted from our hug. A little later, he started pushing me away playfully; he punched me softly and bumped my head with his, obviously feeling better. So I let him go, and he stood there, probably waiting to feel more comfortable about running to his friends. (He tends to react to new situations very slowly.) I left at that point, feeling extremely warm from holding him and leaving knowing that we were parting in good spirits.

That's what this is all about.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

July 4th with the family

Yesterday was West Bountiful's Independence Day Celebration. Yes, it is still June, but our city does our stuff on a weekend far from the national celebration so as to avoid conflicting with everything else that happens. We're a small town in the middle of a large urban area (we still have horse property all around us!), so we have the feeling of a smaller community. I really enjoyed our little parade, carnival, and then time afterward as a family. The whole day was kind of up-and-down; there was a lot of complaining and crying and disappointment and outright boredom, but there were also a ton of smiles and mingled in our myriad of activities. I was pondering life issues this morning and I realized that it was truly a memorable day, and a fond memory at that, so it is worth recording here.

It began with our city parade. Ella and Tolman sang in the school choir, so they got to ride and sing in a float.

Thomas and Olivia seemed to really enjoy it. Olivia was up and around, cheering for the floats, and waving enthusiasticallythe whole time; between that and chasing after all the candy thrown out, it was quite the interactive event.

Then we went to the park where the first performance was the school choir. Naturally, Ella sang with all her might; Tolman sang some things, though I don't have a picture to prove it. The kids did well... for kids. But it seems to be more fun to watch what they do on stage that isn't part of the performance, especially when they're supposed to be performing.

Of course, the kids had to go on the blow-up slides and obstacle courses; anyone who knows Olivia, Tolman, and Ellie will recognize a bit of their personalities in each of their styles.

And this is where I have to give a hand to Lynnette, because she took every one of these pictures; Thomas went down a slide, too, but we don't have a picture of it because I took him to the different one that he wanted to go on, and I don't typically take pictures. Sorry about that.

So then the cousins invited us over for swimming, just to make the day perfect. (That last picture is of Ella's legs: she's doing a handstand underwater.)

Yes, I'm skipping over the part where Thomas threw screaming fits at the park, and where I was disappointed at going swimming because I wanted a peaceful afternoon at home. But for some reason it's easy for me to forget about those parts as I consider what yesterday meant to my family. And I didn't even mention how the kids got to stay up late at the neighbor's house (yes, all the kids), or how I helped take down at the park, or how Lynnette and I put together a few bookshelves, and how we quietly watched the city's fireworks from afar on our porch.

Hm. Yep. A heck of a summer day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Poetic Performance

Here is a Pop!Tech performance by "slam poet" Vanessa German who impressed me with her imagery and topic and fantastic energy as well as her word-smithing. It's worth 5 minutes of your time; I listened to it on my iPod while doing something else, and it energized me.

"If my hands were anything other than hands!" Her words have illuminated brilliant videos in my mind's eye. Thanks, Vanessa!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A better life for a Honduran woman in many ways

I post most of the cool, socially-innovative things I find in my "Effective Society" blog. But this interview contained a story about how a group of dedicated friends really improved the life of a woman and her entire family, in not just one way but in many remarkable ways. What a gift! (FYI, that link will play only the 4 minutes of that story, so you don't have to listen to the whole podcast.)


Do I know any of my neighbors well enough to offer this kind of encouragement and help? I'm afraid I don't interact with many of them long enough to hear their stories. Maybe I have a chance with the people at work. Hopefully I'll be listening and attentive if someone close by ever needs support from a dedicated friend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tender-hearted Children

A couple nights ago, a bird in our yard got injured by a dog. The kids were fascinated and tried to help it, and Tolman brought it home in a glove (because we've told them how dead animals can carry diseases). Unfortunately it was unable to move very well; it just sat, breathing, rarely opening it's eyes. I put it in the garage and put the kids to bed; I told them that I might have to put it down, but I would look one more time to see if it might survive. It was pretty broken up, and it seemed that it's legs were not going to work any more. I put it out of it's misery. (That was a horrible task that I hope I never, ever have to do again.)

I almost put it in the garbage, but I felt like it deserved more respect, so I buried it in the field in the back.

I went inside and told Tolman first. He was upset and started crying. He asked why, with a little bit of anger; I tried to explain about the bird being in pain and dying anyway, though I don't feel like I explained it very well. I spent a few minutes with him because he was very, very sad. He asked how I did it, and I told him.

The whole time I was talking with him, I was touched: he was extremely distraught over the loss of a small animal, one he had only known for a few moments. He valued that little life, and he deeply mourned it's passing with all his heart, even if only for a few minutes.

I then went into Ellie's room and told her. She sobbed, hard; seriously, it was like she put all her might into crying. She asked why as well, and I tried explaining again. She also asked me if I buried it; I'm so glad I was able to tell her that I did. She, too, asked how I did it; I didn't want to tell her, so I asked if she really wanted to know, and she said "no". I was surprised, but I'm so glad she had the presence of mind to say that. I would have told her if she really wanted, though I don't think it would have been good for her; I think that's something Tolman can handle better.

I spent a while with her as well; she cries over quite a few things, but it's rare that she'll cry so hard for so long. Again, I felt so gratified that the bird's life meant something to this child. I don't want too many experiences like this, but I'm so glad I went through it with them; it's so encouraging that they felt such concern for something meaningful.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A good dinner

Our youngest, 3-year-old Thomas, is our most difficult child because he is very willful and has an extremely short fuse; my sister-in-law has 6 children, and even she says that he's the hardest she's dealt with, so I know he's a special case. In every activity with us, he has at least one fit where he screams or throws a tantrum or actually throws something. He is getting much better with us (or vice versa) because there are times that we can pay direct attention to him and go through the steps of "please..." and then "I need you to..." and then a time-out, and he'll often come around. But it is incredibly frustrating to deal with someone who is constantly contrary.

So it was very surprising and rewarding last night that he came and sat down with us for dinner, and furthermore he didn't complain one time as we ate! When I asked him to move over to make room for someone, he said "OK" and did it right then. He talked to us calmly and said "only a little" as we gave him his salad, and he didn't yell or push away his plate when I put on the second fork-full. He ate all his dinner; he's an interesting one because he usually likes all his vegetables (and prefers them to meat), but he doesn't often eat everything like that.

I found myself pleasantly surprised that we had such a nice time together, and even now it is so gratifying that dinner last night was so... normal. Many good memories are emotional moments in unique situations; this one will be a treasure not because it was so remarkable but because it was such a departure from all our previous experience.


I realize that I did not praise Thomas for his behavior. How many times do we have a normal interaction with someone and fail to recognize that blessing in the moment, much less fail to express appreciation for it? Yesterday at work, Gordon was remarking on how much pain we've had in the past when making large-scale improvements to our product, and now we reap the benefits and consider our current situation as normal but we hardly recall how much work it took to get to this point. Yes, I feel lucky right now to have the everyday life that I do.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Changing Lives by Teaching Children to Save

I am so impressed by Jeroo Billimoria's work! I heard about her on this podcast; one of her great accomplishments is the organization Aflatoun that successfully teaches children financial skills, especially in poor countries where nobody said it would work. Here are two impressive stories she told at the end of her interview:

"Let me start with a country like Zimbabwe, where everyone said you will never be able to get a single child to save because saving means that it's ... the money you save today is gone tomorrow with 1000% inflation. You know? So we said 'OK' but our pilot, and this came from the children in Zimbabwe, is they would save money and buy a pen. So they bought a lot of pens so that the money got invested in pens and when they wanted it back the pens got sold. Now that is really creative thinking of children, thinking, countering inflation, and still being able to get the money back to be able to pay for their school fees because otherwise they would have dropped out."

"We had a young girl, and we were doing this longitudinal study for 5 years, so she was in the program when we started, which was in 2001, and then we interviewed her in last year September and she said that, 'The best thing that happened to me was Aflatoun because it taught me about saving.' She was the first of 6 siblings, all of whom were girls. So her parents had sent her to school, but she was going to have to drop out because there were so many other children and the whole thing. So she started saving, and then those school fees were free she was able to pay for the little extra stuff from her savings. Today she is in 'standard 12'. All her sisters are saving and all of them have gone to school and she said this would never have happened if I had not managed to have Aflatoun because we would never have saved and that means we would never have had the bandwidth to afford this. So it's not just a child, it's been a whole family that has looked at it."

Thanks, Jeroo!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A blessing for a baby in pain

A good friend and neighbor of mine wrote the following article. I appreciate how he put these words together for us; whenever you can do anything to help relieve a child's suffering, it is a magnificent experience.

Sacred Words, by Edwin F Smith

My daughter Olivia gets seizures. I hope I can comfort her like this someday.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oprah's Big Give: Eric & Stephen's first challenge

You've probably heard of Oprah's Big Give series; I recommend the whole thing. I must spotlight one effort: Eric and Stephen did an incredible job on their first challenge. After they met the widow they were to help, I thought, "I hope the contestants on this include some kind of personal touch in their gift." Sure enough, these two came through, both in the kinds of gifts and in their presentation. They gave the kids a shopping spree, they got the whole neighborhood together for the presentation, they got a local parish to set up the scholarship... it was impressive. Then came something incredibly thoughtful: they had the family members write a note to their Dad and send them up in balloons.


In addition to all that, I believe the donations they gathered far eclipsed every other project; it was all the above plus mortgage money. Impressive. Thanks, guys.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Give blood to strangers

I gave blood today. That in itself isn't particularly special; what was cool was the conversation I had with the girl who dd my work. She is majoring in piano performance; she works this job 10 hours a day with about 15 minutes for a break; she still has 2 years left at school. We simply had a fun little conversation.

Sometimes you can go for weeks (or months or longer) without making a connection with someone, especially with a total stranger. What a great treat it is when you can share a small moment like that.

If it's been a while, give blood.

Need more motivation? Read some stories from recipients.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

There's some growing goin' on!

Every morning, my kids love to play around before they're ready to go to school. Nobody does this more than Tolman: he might talk, walk, or even just sit doing nothing rather than simply get dressed and get all ready to walk out the door. So I every time they talk to me, I tell them, "Sorry, we can't talk about that until you're all finished getting ready."

This morning, Tolman came to me and said, "Dad? Oh, nevermind. You won't like it until I'm ready for school."

Wow. After dozens of repetitions, there's a glimmer that something good is happening.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Creating a small logo

It's a small thing, but I took about 30 minutes and finished a graphic I've been envisioning. It's such a small thing, but I'm happy to have completed this little creation; I guess it's been a while since I've felt that kind of satisfaction creating something.

(If you're curious about it's meaning, you can find it with a bit of searching through my stuff. Cheers!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guidance in 2 Friends' Lives

I had dinner last night with two long-time friends. It was marvellously entertaining, and part of what made it great was that they spent a minute talking about gifts from God. They are each convinced of His divine intervention in their lives, and they shared a few stories. One was a small thing, being directed to look for an item while at the store, but it was a notable blessing because she was not well and it saved her a trip to another store; I could tell it was a huge help. Another experience happened while organizing a long camping activity for young people: the leadership was stuck trying to determine some assignments, but as soon as they replaced the assignees in question everything came together nicely. There were other experiences, involving having children and creating presentations and selling homes and organizing a charter school.

Now, I don't see God doing much for us; if He does, he certainly isn't looking for recognition by the vast majority of us, so we make our way without looking for Him to help. But I do believe we all have perceptions beyond the five senses; at very least, you have to admit there are parts of our humanity that we continue to learn about all our lives. So we all get these kinds of messages that are felt in our "soul", and it's important to learn and listen to the ones that direct us for the good.

So that's why I'm telling of our little discussion: my friends are touching examples of looking for and following inspiration, so this was a great reminder for me. In addition, it was fun to feel their gratitude and share in their wonder about some of the special incidents in their lives.

I'm so grateful for fabulous friends.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Small Moment: Crayon Physics

This morning I experienced a real treat: I planned to play some games with the kids, and they didn't exactly want to do what I expected, but it provided a few pleasant moments. Then a few minutes later I sat down at the computer for a minute to play Crayon Physics; this is a marvelous little game where you draw shapes and they fall, roll, and bounce off each other as if they were physical objects. You should try it out.

Well, the last screen gives you a flat area without any objective, so I decided to try a few things like balancing blocks and seeing how high I could stack them. So I called Ella over and challenged her to a contest: let's see who can stack the most blocks on a teeter-totter. We stacked them, balanced them, drew tiny ones, made mounds of the tiny ones, exploded mounds of tiny ones (by drawing large items in the middle of the ground, which pops them up rapidly)... It was a good time. She even tried to make a house, which is hard when there's almost no friction!

After it was over, I realized that we had just shared a small, special moment where we both played at something, we each enjoyed it, and it even included some eye-opening discoveries for both of us.

How cool is that?

PS: If you can't find the game, try this link.

Exercises to try:

- Plan your next time to play on someone else's schedule, doing their interests (for at least 30 minutes).
- What kind of open-ended play do you have available around the house/yard/workplace?

Friday, January 18, 2008

More on Jason McElwain's Amazing Game

Last week I linked to a Jason McElwain video about his amazing game on Feb 15, 2006. Here are two more videos (~6 minutes each) that give more of the story.

- This one points out that he was the high scorer of the game.

- This one spends the last 3 minutes about other people who have been inspired, including a family whose son has autism; Jason comments about how their story touched him.

It's nice to see a story that keeps on giving. They say there will even be a movie based on it. Fun.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

They just might surprise you!

You've got to watch this video (~3 minutes) of a young man with autism who surprised everyone in a basketball game. What an awesome story!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Great Christmas Gifts

Christmas is a grand time of goodwill and an unavoidable reminder to pay attention to one another. The best gifts are the happy surprises: they demonstrate that someone really was paying attention and cares, and that's one of those indescribable feelings that are the reason for the season. Unfortunately, this is rare; it seems like every company under the sun is telling you that their product will make "the perfect gift!". It's good any time we make an effort to show we're thinking of someone; it's great when those small gifts are things that take time, effort, and thoughtful consideration.

Here are seven of the gifts from this past holiday that left an impression on me.

  • A cookbook, containing the giver's favorite recipes. Many of them are family recipes, and her family probably appreciated them most. But she's well known as a cook in our neighborhood, and it's a very personal gift.
  • A lesson book for family nights. This one must have taken some time: she put in a lesson for every week of the year (in plastic inserts for every page, with a recipe index and a table of contents); each lesson looks like it will keep the attention of our kids for at least a few minutes. And it has our family's picture on the cover, nicely done.
  • A homemade DVD containing a religious song with pictures and video. It's not as personal, but I know how much time it takes to create one of these, so I definitely appreciate this.
  • A tiny nativity scene. My wife mentioned off-handedly to someone how she collects nativity scenes, and so this person gave her one. That is one of those pleasant surprises.
  • Cookie dough! OK, so this is our neighbor gift to others, but it's my personal favorite. You can give it as a lump of dough, or you can spoon it out into balls that they can cook immediately or freeze and use later. (It's very cool: you can pop frozen cookies into the oven and follow the same instructions!) Just remember that instructions are a nice touch (oops). What can I say? Warm, home-baked cookies turn me on. And it seems like there's a bit more love involved when you know someone put it together in their own kitchen.
  • Holiday cards, especially newsletters. These are small things that take time to put together, but they're nice; and although I don't remember many of the details from the newsletters, I do recall who sends them with special fondness.
  • Almost four days' worth of meals cooked by my father-in-law when we visited them in Arizona! He's an executive chef, so you can imagine how we enjoyed them. But you'll always appreciate any effort that a host makes to make your visit enjoyable.
What were your especially enjoyable gifts?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Youth LINC for local AND international projects

I just stumbled on Youth LINC (, based in Salt Lake City, where youth can get into projects here locally and then participate in international projects; it's always a challenge to earn money for trips, but after doing some number of local service they earn credit toward their international trip. Very nice.

What drew me to learn more is The Young Humanitarian Award.

Go there to see what I mean, because there are pictures of young people who are obviously putting their lives to good use. Isn't it great to see such faces? Then click on the "Current Programs" for the local and international efforts and see the pictures for each country's program. Doesn't it make you want to go out tomorrow and pound a nail for someone who could use some help?

But be sure to take a minute to read each of the amazing things that the Young Humanitarian winner and runners up have done with their time. You can see what your work might turn into if you start spending some time with an organization like this.

"My goal in life is to help spread the fragrance of love everywhere I go." - Kimberly Gallegos


What is my intent for this blog?