What she said

It seemed different when I said goodbye today. Maybe because I somehow knew it might never be the same when I returned to this little yellow house on the lake.

It didn’t start out that way as I walked through her tiny kitchen this morning, making that same final run-thru that I’ve always done after each visit here for more than 25 years.

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The birdhouse viewed from the kitchen with the lake in the background.

The whole morning I’ve been pestering my daughter, Micah.

Hurry, we got to make time.

Do we have everything?

We don’t want to get caught in traffic.

Saying goodbyes were always fairly easy because we always knew there would be a next time. We always came back, because of the magic here, the memories and a chance to step back in time.

Mom’s luscious backyard garden in its prime provided healing balm for any worries our troubles. It was that beautiful.

When it rained here, as it so often did, we would climb the old wooden ladder into the attic where my son would experiment with the record player more than 40 years old. Even as the wind howled and the skies would unleash torrents of water, we felt safe. We could stay there for hours.

You felt the same way here in the summertime, watching the leaves dance in the blue sky above you from the comfort of a nearby hammock tied between two trees.

Because something told me I should, I’m in the living room now, filming my oldest daughter and her grandma side-by-side on the couch. Because this is way more important than any schedule.

At one point in the conversation, I can’t help but interrupt.

“Isn’t this where you say something nice about me,” I ask, in almost a teasing manner, because I know her. This is so tough for her to say and has been for years.

She looks down, glances at Micah and out the window toward the lake in front of her. The pause seems to last forever when she finally makes a reference to my bald head.

With the video still recording, I ask one more question.

“Are you sure you don’t want to say anything nice about me,” I ask again.

She looks directly through the large living room window in front of her.

“Nice rain we’re having,” she says.

A few minutes later, mom watches as Micah and I pick up our things and prepare to say goodbye.

“I love you,” she tells Micah.

I look at her with a mischievous smile and ask about me.

“Well I love you too.”

Little did I know that the yellow house overlooking the lake would save its best magic for when I needed it the most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why this isn’t so bad

Not working

Of course I would rather be working.

Give me Door No. 1 – the option with steady employment, the ability meet our financial obligations each month and the one that keeps me out of the most trouble at home.

Nobody wants to be one of the gazillion people filing unemployment claims each week, coming up with new ways to cook pasta and feeling guilty for buying a soda. I’m the point man for dishes, garbage, driving and any other chore out there.

One thing that I forgot to mention. This is the best thing that’s happened to me since I discovered cherry turnovers.

Now that I’ve been sent to timeout from the workforce, it’s a chance to step back and re-examine myself. What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? I have more time to spend in the gym, to increase my spirituality and become a better father and husband.

For months, even years, my family rarely saw me around dinner. Now they probably wish I didn’t spend so much time at home.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, dad, but we like the actor who used to stand in for you. He used to bring us treats and let us stay up late.

I am more mindful of others and seek more opportunities to serve.

Sooner than later, I will return to work with the goal to replace an uncertain future with more stability. But I won’t be surprised if I look back and see that this couldn’t come at a better time.

 

Mr. (Not) Right

Welcome to Team Henneke, where everybody not only wants to be right, but needs to be right.

No way will we give into the other person because that would be — wrong.

We have to be right about everything, it seems. Including the exact date when dad first reached puberty, the number of times he posts on Facebook each day, who did the last load of towels and the proper location for toothpaste on the bathroom counter. mr-right

At our house, folks exercise their right to be right in practically any instance. It could be during a blessing on the food, during a football game or in a room full of VIPs.

As for me, I can’t say here if I am right or not, because somebody might take issue with it. Because it’s my blog, just pretend that I speak the truth for the next 30 seconds.

It doesn’t matter to me as much if I win a debate. I don’t care to defend any allegations that somebody does more housework than me. Or that nobody believes me when I deny any responsibility for using the milk jug as a doorstop.

Actually, it’s quite entertaining to purposely mess with those who have to be right. It shakes them up, makes them question the very reason for their existence.

The key is to calmly state any of the retorts listed below and walk away.

1. The sun won’t come up tomorrow.

2. I don’t owe you any money. If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

3. Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m not at my best under general anesthesia.

4. I firmly believe Congress will do the right thing.

5. Nobody has shown any conclusive evidence that leaving mayo out for six hours can be harmful to you.

6. That Billy character on Family Circus should do stand-up. He’s that funny.

Now that I know my place, I don’t always need to have the last word. Unless you disagree with me, then I will have speak up.

Because, let’s be honest. It’s the right thing to do.

My last conversation with Joe

It’s been a year now and I still think about him.

The rulebook says Joe is my step-father but I don’t listen. Even though I only knew him for about six years, this is my dad.

He is my dad because he forgave me for my ineptitude with tools. It didn’t matter to him that I drove nails like a first-grader. Or that I couldn’t spot the difference between a 5/8 wrench and a 3/16.

He is my dad because he let me drive the purple ski boat one day, even though mom thought for sure I would drive it into a boathouse. Joe showed faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself.IMAGE1

He is my dad because he reminded me how to treat mom, or any lady for that matter. No matter how tired he was, she came first. He got her the water, the extra piece of pie or a warmer coat. Because that’s what dads do for their wives, no matter how tough it might be.

Joe taught me to shun indolence and embrace service. He never stopped moving in his trademark suspenders, always creating, learning, thinking or helping. In the twilight of his life, nothing could stop him. There’s no doubt my dad could take Superman in a fair fight.

He didn’t talk too me much for most our time together, leaving me wondering if I measured up enough.

Dad almost always answered the phone when I called home.

“How’s Michael?” he would ask.

Joe would listen while I carried the bulk of the conversation. Then it usually ended with him saying, “let me give the phone to your mother.”

I still remember the day when they told me about the cancer, how serious it was. They were going to beat it, they promised. But somehow I knew.

The pain he endured over the next few years would make a grizzly bear cry. Not my dad. He didn’t want anybody to worry so he kept it to himself as long as he could. Until even he couldn’t bear it anymore. Because that’s what dads do.

In the end, I got the call.

If you want to say good-bye, you better come now, my mom said. It won’t be long.

As I drove the six hours home, I wondered what I would say to him. Was I worthy of his respect? I still wasn’t completely sure.

While I was there that week, I watched as the Hospice nurse came to the home for the first time, I was in the room when the doctor told him he he had two weeks to two months to live. Dad spent most of his time on the couch because he was too weak to get up anymore, the cancer reducing him to a shell of his former self.

Two days before I was to return to Oregon, he started eating again. He stood up, even taking short walks down the driveway again. Maybe my good-bye visit was premature.

Looking back, I wonder if his resurgence came so we could have that final drive one afternoon, just the two of us. He sat in the passenger seat and talked while I listened. He talked about his love for family, for me and what lay ahead. Joe told me things I wanted to hear for a long time.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of his death. But thanks to that last conversation during that sun-drenched afternoon, I know that he loves me.

Because that’s what dads do.

202 words

It’s been awhile. Like a really long time.

Contrary to popular belief, I do have a blog. See, it’s right here in front of you.

It would be so easy to disconnect this sucker, pull the plug, turn out the lights and walk away forever. Paper airplane

It would be easy to look at the warehouses full of blogs on the Internets and wonder what else I might add.

It would be so easy to blame those distractions. Man, how they plague me. It’s so easy to feel less like a laser-guided missile in life, and more like a paper airplane.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, one of my most favorite heroes and thinkers, totally got how hard it is to go through the “mighty change.” I thought about this statement long after I heard it while on the treadmill last night.

“‘Mighty’ changing, however, is mighty hard work, a labor made more difficult by heeding the unflattering urges of the natural man. Too often our possibilities have been muted by the mundane.”

The more I think about it. I can see it happening right now, very imperceptibly at times.

I could see it even more after writing these 202 words.

That could be a sign.

 

Coping with the rest of you — one Facebook post at a time

Connecticut School Shooting

On most days, Facebook is my playground, my personal sandbox to create, joke, poke, like or simply watch from a street corner of my virtual neighborhood.

It changed today, once we heard the news. Instantly, the virtual world became a group therapy session for us all.

When we learned of the unspeakable horror from Newtown, Conn., I saw you express your shock, your disbelief on how this could happen. Jokes, games, “bored” status updates and political debates didn’t matter anymore.

It’s been awhile since something stopped me like this. Because I’m a cynical, jaded journalist who’s numb to these alarmingly more frequent displays of evil. When the recent mall shooting happened in Oregon, I expressed my shock and horror before quickly diving back into the bologna of life.

Today was different. This one punched me in the gut, stopped me cold. Several times through out the day, I fought back the tears as I saw the images from Sandy Hook Elementary. Suddenly, the joking ceased in the newsroom. Nobody wanted to talk.

“Nothing to say today. I just keep thinking of those children in Connecticut … and crying,” one of you said on Facebook. I imagined most of us nodded our heads in agreement.

My friend and former colleague wrote this wonderful piece that moved quickly around the Internet. Her words comforted me, offered me some peace as I struggled just like you to make sense of this.

Others of you shared news tidbits as they poured in real-time.

“Our hearts go out,” more than one of you said.

Some revived the gun control debate and we watched as our president fought back tears as he spoke to the nation. At that point, I could care less about his political ideology. All I knew is that was a dad just like me. (A dad with more financial assets and a much bigger house.)

Others shared pictures of Jesus Christ holding little children on your Facebook walls.

When you talked of hugging your own children, fearing for their safety and never letting them go, it made me think of my own boys. About all those times I shoved them out the door in the morning with a rushed attitude and words with more gruff than love.

Today reminded me again that they could be like those little children in Newtown. If I got that call from a police officer or a school official, could I live with my last words.

I watched as more than one of you asked the question: Now what? How do we go on?

Grabbing our loved ones and barricading ourselves in a secure room seemed very appealing at first. Until I read this quote from my friend Dezi on Facebook.

“Many tragedies occur in this world. We can allow those events to consume us to the point where hide inside our homes, segregate our families, and just generally live in fear. But those tragedies will still inevitably occur. And although we could probably save ourselves and our children from some of those tragedies simply by secluding ourselves from the world, we will ultimately lose our lives in a different way, which would take much longer and be even more tragic. For we would fail to live.”

 

The virtual world that links us together across the world served its purpose today. But it will all be for naught if we don’t look up from our phones and gadgets and look around the real world.

Not with fear or sense of foreboding. But with the resolve to reach a little higher, be a little nicer to those around us and live the best we can each day.

Sadly, it probably won’t make despicable acts evil like we saw today disappear. But it could give us just a little more trust and faith during these turbulent times.

With all the good examples of humanity I saw today, I like our chances.

 

 

 

Resistance training

Nobody makes fun of the mouse in the gym.

It’s amazing that with my advanced age (it feels like it after this cinnamon roll) that I still try to cheat and look for shortcuts.

Take the Path of Least Resistance, for nothing tough will happen.

It’s such a happy place this road, full of stops with late-night TV, mindless Facebook and falling asleep on the couch. So hard to focus on what’s important, and we want to get there with the least amount of effort as possible.

Get me a pill to lose weight, a remote to get my work done during the day and somebody to stand in for me in church.

Speaking of church, I recently sat in the back of the chapel and watched a little kid sit and play with an iPad. On the surface level, it worked like a charm. He didn’t utter a peep. Mom and dad didn’t have to take him out or warn him at all.

Later after the Sacrament, I watched as he and his sister enjoyed large juice packets and a box of chips.

Genius.

But look where we were at. We were sitting at the Well of Living Water, provided for all those who thirst. We are told to bring our jugs to soak in what’s given to us, but most of the time, I still find myself guilty of sneaking onto my phone.

Hopefully I can summon up enough focus to sit still for an hour.

I remember speaking with a professional coach about learning discipline to accomplish my goals and how tough that was.

She looked at me directly from across the table and told me something I will never forget.

If it’s important to you, you’ll do what it takes to accomplish it. Period. End of story.

Oh.

Suddenly this cinnamon roll doesn’t taste so good anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

What can you do?

What can you do when you screw up so bad that the Dad Ratings Board slaps a PG-13 rating on your morning for Excessive Ineptitude and High Levels of Jerkness.

What can you do  when you come out of the other side of that scene wondering what just happened. Did I really act like that? Did I really just say that? Not once, but twice.

What can you do? You move forward.

You see the woman next to you in line, unable to find her debit card to pay for her refreshments. An idea comes to your head and you wait until she steps aside. 

You see the kid hiding behind his mom in the office. The look on his face tells you he’s had a rough day as well. You hold out the candy jar to him and don’t give up until you see the slightest hint of a smile on his face.

You watch your youngest son get out at school and immediately begin talking with the kid next to him. You’re not sure what is said, but it reminds of that final scene in “Searching For Bobby Fischer,” The one where the two boys are walking off in the distance. You remember back to junior high and how friends were a scarce commodity. It’s a scene you won’t forget.

You see the arrangement of “O Come, Emmanuel” just released by The Piano Guys and the LDS Church. You watch it silence with headphones, not caring if another co-worker sees the tear trickle down your cheek. Your heart fills with peace again.

That’s what you do. You move forward.

Gratitude Smatitude

From Bryce Christiansen

1. I am thankful for a unique name, one that I have to spell each time on the phone and is often confused with beer.

2. I’m thankful for living in a place with so many polite, good people. I haven’t been sworn at or given the middle finger in so long, I’m developing a complex.

3. I’m grateful for the words that come to me when having a private conversation with my son. It’s hard not to feel guilty for getting extra help from above.

4. I’m thankful for Mountain Dew. If I get in trouble for saying this, I’ll just blame it on Middle-aged Mormon Man.

5. I’m thankful for the knowledge that I am not the slob I used to be. I’m in danger of not getting invited back for the slob rechartering.

6. I’m thankful for vehicles that work, even with strange noises that would cause much fear with lesser souls.

7. I’m thankful for not getting irritated as much as I used to. Must have been when I stopped caring.

8. I’m grateful for a wife who plans events with the precision of a drill sergeant, cares for people enough that she makes Mother Theresa seem like a slacker and lets me hold her hand on Saturdays.

9. I’m thankful for people who make me laugh or think differently.

10. I’m thankful for missionary letters, full of riches of eternity.

11. I’m thankful for people who share my disdain for yams and sweet potatoes. I think there’s six of you now.

12. I’m thankful for people who make it a point not to name drop about famous people they’ve met. Steve Young told me to say this.

13. I’m thankful for having my life prolonged more than once. Makes it harder to justify watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns when there’s work to be done.

14. I’m thankful for my right to rationalize. I can explain practically anything that way, except what happened to all those cherry turnovers last night.

15. I’m thankful for the ability to tell stories. Some of them might even be true.

 

 

So what if you didn’t conquer the world

So what if you didn’t conquer the world. You got out of bed this morning.

So what if you didn’t write the great American novel. Your Facebook post made somebody smile.

So what if you stayed up too late watching a movie you’ve seen 32 times in your life. At least you’re home with the rest of your family.

So what if your ship didn’t come in. At least your rowboat is paid for.

So what if you let a questionable word slip out. At least you remembered to compliment your wife earlier for a fantastic meal.

So what if you only managed baby steps the entire day today. At least you’re moving forward.

As for conquering the world? Eat some ice cream and enjoy some peaceful moments for yourself.

You can try and do better tomorrow.