Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leadership and Self-Deception

My brother Derek gave me this book for Christmas. It's a great book that gives a practical view of the philosophical idea of self-deception. It's a good read for anyone who's hoping to improve themselves, which Derek & I happen to be freaks about. So, good gift-giving on your part, Derek. It's written by a bunch of Mormons ("feelings" and "impressions" aren't fooling anyone, dude. I know you're talking about following the spirit). It's told in a story format, and with businesses in mind, which might explain some of the quotes that follow.

"And through it all we think that all our problems would be solved if Jack wouldn't do this or if Linda wouldn't do that or if XYZ department would just straighten up of if the company would get a clue. But it's a lie. It's a lie even if Jack, Linda, XYZ department, and the company need to improve, which they surely do. Because when I'm blaming them, I'm not doing it because they need to improve; I'm blaming them because their shortcomings justify my failure to improve." p. 110

"Whereas before, he would go to the person he thought was causing the problem and demand the person fix it, the CEO began to consider how he himself might have contributed to the problem." p. 188

This reiterated a Truth I learned about back here. And when things are going wrong, I find I blame people a lot (and if I'm smart about it I don't say those things out loud, at least). In marriage, with my kids, whatever it is. It's always a good reminder that you, yourself, are the cause of all of your problems.

This book is centered around the idea of "the box," or in other words, seeing yourself as a victim and people as objects (not as people with the hopes, fears, needs, and wants that you have).

"There's a fundamental problem with asking 'What do I need to do to get out of the box?' The problem is that anything I tell you to do can be done in or out of the box." p. 142

When you are so self-centered, your checklists are just that, checklists. "Be a good neighbor" means nothing. "Go visiting teaching" bears no fruits. You are so focused on your checklist and your time crunch that the person you are trying to help is not lifted at all. I know this so well, because I am slowly learning how to come out of it. So how do you get out of a place like this? ...

"And that Tom--acting on the sense or feeling I have recovered of what I can do to help another--is the key to staying out of the box." p. 149

Act on the feelings you have to help another person immediately (make that any person you have an impression to help). Even if it's not the relationship or problem area of your life you are trying to fix, doing things for others each time you get the idea to, makes it easier the next time. And the next and the next. Then it no longer becomes a game of "I just can't seem to remember to fix this about myself. I keep putting it on my checklist and keep forgetting!" As soon as you act on one of those impressions to change, in the very moment you get the impression, it will be easier to remember next time. And I promise, if you think you only get one small impression a day in how to change your "problem area," the second you do it more will come.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Behind the Lens

My junior high self. With friend Emily Manny

When I was in junior high I took a photography class. It really wasn't that long ago, but digital cameras were kind of new and digital SLRs were very new, so we used film. I learned photography, the art form. I learned the rules of composition, of lighting and exposure, focus and aperture. There was no "auto" mode. Sepia was a solution to soak film in, not a button. I still dream about the dark room, the excitement of waiting for film to develop or wondering how a picture will turn out.

who said junior high was worthless??

I loved it so much that after the class and I had to return the camera, I bought my own film SLR (single lens reflex camera). But soon thereafter digital cameras became pretty good and inexpensive. And Facebook was invented, which changed picture-sharing and photography altogether. By then I was a poor college student, and didn't have the time or resources to be developing film all the time, and my camera ended up unused at the top of my closet, where I eventually sold it.

When I was dating Ben we talked about our hopes and fears, our likes and dislikes. We talked about hobbies and interests. It's so interesting to me to think back to that time, where Ben says "I like woodworking" but I had no idea what him building a cabinet would look like. He had no tools, no place to build. But I see now that building things is a big part of who he is, and how he finds enjoyment. I told him about one of my interests, of a junior high class and photography and the rules of composition.

After we got married we talked about putting a new digital SLR on our list of financial goals, and there it has sat for nearly five years. Delaying gratification is a big part of "winning" as far as money management goes, and today the day has come.

I pull out the camera from the box and attach the lens with a familiar "click." I hand it to Ben to inspect. Ben beams at me, happy to fulfill my dream. He looks over the camera, examining the buttons trying to discover the ins and outs of it. "It's called a hotshoe," I smile as I tell him. After a full inspection, he is satisfied and hands it back to me.

I put my eye up to the viewfinder and hear the shutter clack. I'm behind the lens again.

Outside my front window

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ephraim's Baby Blessing

Ephraim's wearing the same blessing outfit his Uncle Dillon wore when he was blessed. AND they have the same birthday. Twins!

Delaney's blessing (and more about baby blessings) here
Cheyenne's blessing here

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Newest Panama Missionaries

My parents successfully made it to Panama today to begin their long-anticipated missionary work. Follow their blog here. If all goes as planned, I won't see them again until July 2015.

As one of 11 children, out of necessity we have learned to be independent. Emails have always been a great source of strength for us all (and with good internet connection that should not change in Panama). But I will still feel the sting of their absence, maybe more so than other siblings since I live relatively close. However it brings me a lot of comfort to know how excited they are to be there. They've been hoping, praying, dreaming about this day for many, many years. I hope it is everything they've wished for and more. After so many years of focusing on their own chicks, they finally get to fly the coop and give their all to a different cause.

You've taught us chicks by example for all of our lives, so know that this example is not wasted on us. We will someday follow in your footsteps.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A visit from Uncle Derek

I'm so glad to have my two little brothers live close (and I mean literally, close...just around the corner from us).

This particular day Derek came by himself to do laundry. It's nice to break up the day and have some adult conversation, especially since we're hibernating.

Thanks Uncle Derek!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Be Happy

I've been feeling like I need to work on being happy. I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy, necessarily, just that most days are just average. If I let my days swing one day it’s in the “bad day” category. So I would say 30% of the time I have a “bad day” and 70% of the time I allow myself to have a “blah” day.

Revelations 3:15-16 "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."

It’s something all people have to sort through, not just stay-at-home moms who have screaming kids. This is how the majority of people live their lives, every day is just average.

I have subconsciously assigned “happy” days with activities, “fun things” that happen or we create. It’s the perfect day I’ve been concentrating so hard on. I’ve been so busy learning, trying to give meaning to everything, that my life as a whole is pretty serious.

So. Fun or happiness is not an activity. It’s a state of being.

I’ve been trying to smile more. Just the act of trying to smile more has made me realize that I don’t do it that often. I’m not talking about while I am interacting with my children, playing with them, etc., it’s easy and natural to smile then. I’m talking about while I’m doing the dishes, cleaning up the toys, wiping down a toilet. Everyone would agree those aren’t fun tasks, but that’s no reason not to smile.

I don’t think I need to ‘look for’ the joy in my life. I know exactly what I have to be happy about, it’s written all over this blog, it’s not like I don’t know what I have or I think my life is horrible. I have the “joy” part figured out, for now.

What I want to add to my life is a constant state of being happy.

Happy: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment

Joy: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires

There is a time and a place for sorrow. Sin causes sorrow, trials are hard to deal with. But what should the rest of life be filled with? Happiness. God commands us to “Be happy.”

I am going to resolve to be happy. Not happiness in retrospect (“today was a good day”), not happiness in events, but happiness in my day-to-day activities. Happiness in work. Happiness in drudgery. Happiness not as a part of each day, but as a whole. Happiness not in looking for little things, but happiness as WHO. I. AM.

I will be happy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uninteresting and Ordinary

Some of these pictures might be uninteresting to someone who is not living in our house. Many of them are taken by Cheyenne, from her perspective. But many of these pictures are so ordinary it's worth recording to me.

boxes make the greatest houses, don't they?

Going to see "Frozen" with daddy on her date

"Playing" with brother

homemade playdough snake

Ephraim does the same thing with his hands that Cheyenne did. He throws them up in the air and then just leaves them there.