Tag Archives: inspiration

What the boy said about me

One of these days, it will sink in. Especially when the words come from my own son.

He’s said it before multiple times and I’ve blown it off. That’s nice, I would smile. Now go clean your room. Get to bed. We’ve got more important things to do.

But last night, he said it again, from his bed, shortly before drifting off to sleep.  I was ready to walk out of the room when he called me over one more time. The room was dark and I knelt close to him so I could hear him, my head inches from his face while he talked in quiet tones.

I just got through telling him what I loved about him. Wasn’t expecting him to respond in kind. Wasn’t expecting the level of sincerity, and how the words would hit me hard.

His message? You don’t know how good you are, dad.

You’re more than just a blogger, he said.

You’re more than a columnist, he said. You could have an audience that reaches the whole world. You make people laugh. You make them cry. You have a way with details.

“You’re a legend,” he said.

My first thought: This 14-year-old speaks fluent hyperbole. I need him to run my dad PR firm whenever I get in trouble with mom. What teen tells something like that to their parent?

Wonder what would happen if I saw myself the way he sees me. I bet things would be different. Bet I wouldn’t flounder as much as I feel I do.

After he was done, I thanked him. I told him I needed his help to never settle for mediocrity, to always reach for the stars.

And if he already feels that way about me, then in a way, I’ve already succeeded.

Dear Journal: I guess I did need you

She held up the beautiful brand new journal and asked if I wanted it.

My first thought was to say no, because journals take too much work. Honestly journals are pretty useless, seeing how I hardly write on paper anymore. If you’re hankering to know, you can find my legacy on Facebook and Twitter.

Journals are so yesterday. They’re for presidents to make up material for their memoirs. Sisters battle over them, lawyers subpoena them or they gather dust under a bed.

But I looked at the pristine, embossed brown cover with detailed stitching and was touched by her generosity. I gratefully accepted her gift.

The next morning, I was exercising while listening to a church talk from Richard G. Scott. Figured it would do me more good than an “Everybody Loves Raymond” rerun. That’s something else my good friend and boss taught me.

Elder Scott spoke on how spiritual guidance can help us solve life challenges.

While I ran on the treadmill, Elder Scott described attending a church lesson from a member in Mexico who was struggling to teach. Suddenly, some very clear spiritual impressions came to Elder Scott’s mind. The following excerpt describes what he did next.

As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. (Emphasis added.)

 

Tears came to my eyes and I paused the treadmill. This was meant specifically for me. I knew that I needed to write down the impressions that came to me.

I texted my friend and reminded her about the journal. “Coincidence? I think not,” I concluded.

About 30 seconds later, this was her reply:

Haha!! I was gong to send it to Taylor (serving an LDS church mission) but felt to take it out of my bag and ask you. You are so watched over.

I was stunned by her sacrifice and knew without a doubt that I was watched over. I vowed to treasure the journal, to not let her gift be given for naught.

Except that’s not the end of the story.

This Sunday morning, I read about Gideon from the Old Testament, how the Lord asked him to go save Israel from the Midianites. He doubted himself and needed reassurance from the Lord.

I was reading one of the verses in Judges, when I felt a strong feeling of warmth and peace. A definite impression came to my head that I knew was from God to me.

I waited to compose myself and looked at the brown journal sitting next to my laptop.

Thankfully I knew just where to write it down.

 

When the gringo had to learn Spanish

Giving up girls for two years I could do. Missing out on on a few seasons of Cheers or Family Ties I could handle,

Learning Spanish in order to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? That was asking the impossible.

I flunked Spanish in high school. I could barely string coherent phrases in English on most days.

Yet a church leader I believed to be a prophet of God sent me a letter in a large, white envelope from Salt Lake City. It said you will serve for two years in Puerto Rico and learn gospel lessons in Spanish.

Within eight weeks. No Rosetta Stone to bail me out.

Two months later, I stood in the San Juan airport in Puerto Rico, soaked in sweat from the humidity, noticing the stares and not understanding a single word.

Charlie Brown’s teacher made more sense than what I was hearing.

I tried every day, oh how I tried. If we were teaching in somebody’s home, I would speak for two minutes, feeling very proud of myself.

At the end of my short monologue in Spanish, perplexed family members smiled and glanced at my companion, the other missionary who had been on the island much longer than me. He patiently repeated everything I just said, only this time in Spanish that they could understand.

Weeks turned to months and the words came, slowly at first. I could say simple phrases.

If people spoke slowly enough, I could understand.

It was a few months before I went home when it hit me. No longer am I thinking of the words in English, coming up with the Spanish equivalent in my head and then speaking the phrase out loud.

Suddenly I was automatically thinking in Spanish in my head. I could speak much more clearly and people could understand me. Suddenly I had a different understanding of the gift of tongues.

Now I’m in another hard spot, learning new writing skills that seem almost as foreign as learning Spanish. It’s hard and I struggle each day, even as I work with very good, patient people.

Whenever I think it will never come, that I might not ever get this, I remember how I was able to learn Spanish, little by little, until one day when the fog lifted and I could speak.

It will happen here as well. So on that day, you’ll have to excuse me if I look up and say, “es muy bien.”

 

 

Why I don’t care if you read this (for now)

You 10 readers used to keep me up at night.

I used to pour over the blog stats fretting about who showed up on my blog and how they got there. What if I added the wrong keywords or (heaven forbid) give enough back links?

For a long time, you came to the blog in droves, and it was fun living my alter ego as a two-bit blog celebrity. I tried to act nonchalant when my kids reported more comments to them about my blog.

Now I’ve reached a point where I hope to write more and care less. It’s taken a long time, but I think I’m finally there. I’ll still share on Facebook and Twitter, and still be grateful when you visit. But letting go of the numbers, a process many months in the making, has been extremely therapeutic.

If you still come to visit me here, glad to have you.

Who knows what you’ll find when you get here. The writing most likely won’t be gooder than other writers. But it will have honesty, maybe make you smile or identify with a lesson that I learned. And like always, I never write longer than my attention span. These days, that’s usually not longer than success as a GOP frontrunner.

This whole discovering who I am is taking longer than I thought. Some day, I’ll finish the idea I had for a children’s book. I might even compile of these essays into book form. I’ll keep reading powerful writing, such as this this eulogy on Steve Jobs.

But for now, I’ll just keep writing. Judging by how often I look at these pics on my desk, I’ll have plenty of inspiration.

Lacey, Lindsey and the dog inspire me just as well. You're just on the opposite side of the desk.

 

7 tips from the Facebook Dad

No time for moping when there's dad stuff to be done.

I think all my tools from home are gone. That’s probably for the best. I didn’t know how to use most of them.

I imagine that most loose items in the home have been sold or given away. Bedtimes could be blown out of the water, there could be olives in the house or much disrespect directed toward the Vizio.

See what happens when I’m not there? See the chaos that can ensue, the destruction of the space time continuum and new black holes on a daily basis?

You can’t? You’re probably right. Even without the dad, life continues as normal. The dog still smells, the car still works, food still gets devoured and the house hasn’t caved in.

It’s tempting to imagine them saying, “It’s become necessary to outsource you, dad. We’ll see you on the other side. Whenever that is.”

But come to find out, I am still very much needed. We’ve had to rewrite the playbook for these few months while we’re apart. (Click here to catch up on why jobs are forcing us to temporarily be apart.)

So we do the best we can until we can be together again. Here’s 7 ways we work to keep the family unit intact.

1. We try to pray once a night as a family. As often as I can, I participate through Facebook video chat.

2. We talk almost every day by phone. I never let a conversation go by when I don’t tell my wife that I love her.

3. Letters home. I nearly forgot how to print, but that was one of the best Sundays I ever spent, writing handwritten letters to my boys. I need to do that again.

4. Still live the values that I believe, even though there’s nobody in this tiny apartment to check to see if i’m watching the right movie or engaging in other debauchery. I’m still accountable to my family and my God.

5. Let them be surprised when I see them again, that only 1 in 5 socks end up under my side of the bed. Don’t want to shock them too bad.

6. Online grade reports allow to check and see if we need to hold an accountability session with one or both of the boys.

7. It’s fun thinking of all the ways I can tell my wife how much I love her from two states away.

Come to think of it I haven’t sent her flowers in awhile.

That gives me an idea.

What other ideas do you have for us?

 

 

 

 

The magic chair

I love this chair.

It doesn’t look like a magic chair when you see it at first.

It’s the one with the comfortable cushion seat, a high back complete with the buttons and rust-colored fabric straight from Goodwill central casting.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing to be associated with Goodwill. That’s where my wife gets her best inspiration, revelations from on high about that hidden soap carving of Tom Selleck’s 70s mustache, waiting to purchased.

I have nothing but love for my chair right next to my nightstand, consisting of two gray Rubbermaid containers. On top of the two plastic bins sits a borrowed black desk lamp.This is the night stand that Home & Shack wants a cover story on.

At this moment, a laundry basket sits in the middle of the narrow living room with dingy white walls. Four (clean) black socks hang on the side of the basket where they’ve rested for at least a week.

I’m grateful for my borrowed chair because it’s so comfortable. It brings some life to a colorless place filled mostly with silence.

But that’s not entirely the reason for magic chair status. The real reason is that I’ve nearly read a complete book in that chair.

A book with pages.

It didn’t come with an app or a request to put it on my Google reader. Nor was it downloaded.

It was just me in the chair, illuminated by the light of a 60-watt bulb, learning about faith.

I can’t tell the last time I read a real book. Probably more than a year since it happened. There always something to watch, brainless websites to scan, Netflix shows to watch.

I can’t say for sure if I would have started to read again without the chair. But I know it felt good sitting there, turning real pages like the old days. I forgot what an escape it was to read with no TV or any other sound.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

In the chair. Depending on the book, I bet it might even be magical.

Don’t tell mom


I wish my Swiffer mop looked this nice, but you get the idea.

Listen up, boys.

The following is Top Secret, Eyes Only, Guy Clearance. Under no circumstances is this to be divulged to mom or your pants will self-destruct during a school assembly. Not even Ethan Hunt will save you.

Don’t tell mom that I’ve vacuumed faithfully every Saturday since I’ve been here or it will blow her mind.

Don’t tell her that I’ve swept (and mopped) the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom floor on my hands and knees, kept the counters cleaned of any debris and the garbage emptied. Her head will explode.

If the police raided my apartment right now, the dishes would be done, all the lights would be off and there would be no naughty movies anywhere. Lab tests on the van would reveal no sign of Taco Bell crumbs. Or any food particles from my time here in Billings.

On second thought, let’s tell her a few things so it won’t mess her up too bad. Tell her that I probably should wipe out the fridge at some point. And I’m making liberal use of paper products to minimize the dirty dishes.

That’s all she knows. Don’t tell her that I washed and dried all my sheets and have only a tiny bit of laundry left to fold. I cook as well in places other than the microwave, say my prayers and get to bed long before the sun rises in the morning.

One more thing. Do tell her that I love her and miss her. That, I do want her to hear.

Read my about page to know we are operating two households for the next few months.

 

Will the real Mike please stand up?

Before I left home for this new job, my wife gave me some advice.

“This will be a great chance to recreate yourself,” she said.

Fun-loving Mike? Good.

Goof-off Mike? Not-so-good.

Be gone with you, demon spirits of the orange Tic Tacs. Be healed of the old Mike and bring on Mike 2.0. Make him Peter Brady with his new-and-improved persona.

Now that I am separated temporarily in another timezone, I’m going to do something very daring. I’m going to respectively disagree with her, to a point.

I don’t want to be new with extra cleaning power, I want to be the best person I was designed to be on this Earth. This came from a quote while watching a broadcast on Dell Parsons. It came from a BYU professor and has stuck with me ever since. More or less, it says this:

Be the person you were designed to be.

That means I am a person of divine potential, capable of greatness here on this Earth.

Maybe I won’t change the world as much as visionary Steve Jobs. I won’t be known for any inventions or the right sequence for removing all the tags on new shirts.

But maybe I can make somebody smile. I can be happy, positive and enthusiastic.

And if that’s enough to brighten the day of somebody around me, especially my family, then that’s the right Mike for me.

In a strange land

It didn’t take long for the homesickness to hit, the kind that twists your stomach into 400 knots.

It was in the Wal-Mart parking lot, late at night with a hint of a warm Montana breeze. To my right, a small group of teens were huddled around a truck.

While my wife was talking, I thought back a few minutes earlier driving down Grand Avenue, one of the main streets here. The road was packed with students, packed in numerous vehicles following a football game that just finished.

I drove slower than I should down Grand Avenue, searching for a particular road I needed. One car filled with students ripped around me on my left. Evidently I wasn’t going fast enough, because one of them leaned out the window and shouted something that appeared kinda rude.

Back in the parking lot, my wife was talking. After 30 seconds or so, she paused.

“Are you there?” she asked. “Why aren’t you talking?”

A short pause before I could keep my voice steady enough.

“I was afraid if I spoke I might start crying.”

Even now, I’m disgusted with myself that I allowed myself to mope. The people are so nice here. Employees at work were kind enough to send my wife a bouquet of flowers and stole into my apartment with some groceries and supplies I needed.

I don’t think it was by accident, but a thought flashed into my mind. It was my young college-age friend back home. He just found out he has a brain tumor.

When I talked to him on Facebook later that night, he was surprisingly upbeat. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “You play the cards you were dealt.”

Hmmm. I’ll wondered if I would be so faithful facing that trial. If I couldn’t even handle this trivial change, how would I ever cope with something that grand.

This is where I need to be. No question in my mind. Doesn’t mean there won’t be a breaking-in period though. It’s happened with other moves before and will probably happen again.

Finally I hung up and walked into Wal-Mart. Before I went home, I set my GPS for another building. Surprisingly I found it in less than five minutes, with no additional insults hurled from students.

I pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to the familiar tan building. Lights lit up the parking lot and most of the facade of the building.

My eyes settled on a sign on the outside of the building. Some of the words on the sign jumped out more than others:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I paused and smiled. I was home.

Chasing the perfect ending

I wanted my last Saturday as the Sunday editor for the Democrat-Herald to be picture perfect, something that would make filmmaker Ken Burns beg me to tell my story.

It certainly started out that way, before the night imploded. Two co-workers brought pie, I finished my final column for the Sunday paper and we got word of a great story involving a 60-year-old surfer dude saving the day near a Newport jetty.

Tracking him down for an interview usually takes an old priest and a young priest, a rabid guinea pig and 20 phone calls to friends on Facebook.

Not this time. He actually called me back in less than 10 minutes. It was so easy, Publisher Mike McInally advised me to embellish how I reached him. So as far as you know, I called in a favor to my soothsayer bookie in Tibet.

Not only did we land a very good story with a great photo by Jesse Skoubo, I would still had pie left to eat out of the carton after everybody else left for the night.

Maybe they would make a statue of me for the front of the paper. Future tours would include stops at Mike Henneke’s desk and bow down in reverence where they tiny toilet used to sit. This means I better make time for Matt Lauer.

What’s this? Have to remake a page before deadline because a story was three days old. There’s two more blunders in the Lifestyles section that needs to be fixed. And there’s a glaring error by me on the top of A1.

Suddenly my picturesque little woodland scenario has turned into the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.”

My Walt Disney ending turned into something like this.

What a way to go. Suddenly I can picture myself getting escorted from the building and the company tearing up my last paycheck.

Today I came home I came home to find my wife and youngest son reading my column at the kitchen table. I walked back into the bedroom, in preparation for my traditional Sunday nap.

Before I went to sleep, Spencer walked into the room, carrying the section with my column on the front. He had it folded over where I could see my picture on the front.

“Could I keep this?” he asked. “I want to show it to my teacher.”

I looked at him and smiled big. Maybe I found my perfect ending after all.