Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wife Rule #166: Things Change

2013 has been a year of many changes for our family.  Most of them were good.  For example, Rachel began middle school, and Charity began Kindergarten.  Andrew was baptized, and Dawn and Rachel got their first church callings, Dawn as president of the Beehive class (about 20 of them!), and Rachel as first counselor to Dawn's replacement.  Summer found her courage to talk to grownups in our neighborhood, and Scott began enjoying piano lessons.  I was released after seven years of service in the elders quorum presidency, and my wife taught herself to play the accordion (a little).  Perhaps happiest of all, our little Lily was born and delights us all with a constant barrage of smiles and coos and her intense gaze with those bright, wide-open eyes.  Our home has never felt fuller and our lives have never felt busier.

Some changes are not so good.  For example, we no longer fit into our minivan; we've been shopping for larger vehicles and so far have found nothing that we like, so we've been driving two cars a lot.  Certain things are starting, of necessity, to drop out of our lives; we all find ourselves having to choose which of our many interests are most important to pursue, for lack of time to do everything.  Scott broke his arm for the first time.  And far more significantly than these other things, my father passed away early this year.  My wife and I have lost all of our grandparents, and my kids have now lost their grandpas on both sides.  I'm the living patriarch of my little family, as are my brothers in their respective families.  It's all too much, much too soon.

Then there are those things, some good and some not so good, that remain constant: the laundry, for one.  Dishes to be washed.  Gas tanks to be filled.  The bustling from place to place.  My job (thankfully) at a great company, working with great people.  The struggle to balance ever-present priorities, perpetually pulling us all in too many different directions.  Faithful friends.  Weekly date nights (gotta have 'em).  Our wonderful mothers.  The way our kids surprise us with what they learn and the talents they develop.  Many holiday traditions.  The comfort we receive from the scriptures.  The power of prayer.  The increasingly vital roles that family dinners, family scripture reading, family prayer, weekly family home evenings, and family church attendance play in keeping balance in our lives.  Most of all--definitely most of all--the staying power of the Savior in our lives.

He lives. His atonement is real.  The constancy of His love is vital to survive the ever changing world around us.  The principles of His gospel do not change.  His commandments are as true today as they were two thousand years ago, when he said "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, love one another" (John 13:34).  He is still "the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death" (Mosiah 16:9).

At Christmastime, we celebrate the birth of a baby boy.  He arrived pure and innocent, as all babies do.  But in stark contrast to the rest of us, He remained pure and innocent until His last breath, when He gave his life as a ransom for us all.  He truly carried the weight of the world on His able shoulders.  He gave all and conquered all.  He did it for us, to provide a means for us to escape the consequences of both our own sins, and the effects of the fallen world around us.  His grace is sufficient for us--for all of us.

It is because He is the Savior that we celebrate His birth.  As the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley so beautifully stated, "There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection." (see

My wife and I testify of His reality, and the power of His atonement.  Without Him there would be no light, no hope, no life in this world.  Because of Him, we'll see our dads again, in the flesh, and embrace them warmly.  Because of Him, our precious little ones will always be ours.  Because of Him, we are a forever family.  Because of Him, we'll rejoice in those good things that never change; and we'll survive the many changes that come, both good and bad. Because of Him, we have a vibrant hope for that greatest of all changes: to be lifted from our fallen, mortal states into perfected, immortal glory.

And that's the kind of change we can live for.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Short Story

Okay, so I sort of became obsessed with the idea of writing my own spooky short story at Halloween time, and I've had an idea rattling around in my skull for a couple of years now.  As a kid I loved reading Edgar Allen Poe's stories, and have more recently discovered the works of Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft.  There is something really fun about the elegant way these old writers weave a spooky tale together.

So, foolishly, I attempted to do the same thing myself.  Though it's certainly not a masterpiece, I am pleased with the way it turned out.  I would love for you to read it and give me feedback.

Keep in mind (this is for you Mom), this is not my normal style of writing.  This is not a feel-good, funny, or spiritual story in any way.  It's a horror story--or at least my attempt at a horror story.  Read it being forewarned.  It's also rather long for a short story--think of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," or Blackwood's "The Wendigo."  You will need some time and the proper setting to get into it.

You can find my story, The Maze, on my other blog, Matt's Scratch Pad. I'd love to know if you like it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Favorite Photos Exhibit

I've had my nature photography blog,, for a while now.  Recently I began the process of collecting my personal favorites from the hundreds I have posted there.  I picked out about 50 of my favorite pictures on my photo blog and added them to the following post:

Matt's Favorites

I've posted these in significantly higher resolution than normal--especially if you click on the pictures.  I've also included a paragraph explaining what I love about each picture, which could make the exhibit more engaging to the interested reader.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wife Rule #165: Cuteness Prevails

My wife and I have minions.

You've seen minions if you've ever watched one of the Despicable Me movies.  Our minions aren't amorphous yellow blobs wearing blue overalls and glasses, but they are cute, wonderful little people who often speak in incomprehensible babbles, provide a steady stream of slapstick comedy, brighten our days, put smiles on our faces, and ultimately enrich our lives.

At some point the older kids seem to graduate from being minions to being apprentices, or something like that.  We have three who seem to fit this description.  But with the arrival of our newest addition, our minion count is still at four.  Here is a sample of some of the smiles they have recently provided:

Example 1: Seven-year-old Andrew recently came home from school, and was shocked and appalled to find out that his younger sisters had finished the leftover bag of Cheetos while he was away at school all day long.  His righteous indignation flared as he petitioned my good wife: "This is why I want to be home schooled!"  Point taken. 

Example 2: We wanted to make five-year-old Charity's first day of kindergarten extra special so that she would head out the door with a smile on her face.  We let her sleep in longer than normal, then my wife asked her what she would like for a special breakfast, suggesting waffles, pancakes, or cheesy eggs.  Charity's response?  "I would like a piece of bread with butter and a glass of water.  With a pink flower in a vase.  On a silver platter."  Request granted. 

Example 3: We spent much of our ten-day vacation at the beach trying to convince three-year-old Summer to "go potty in the water."  This is because walking back to the beach house across the hot sand is not only a big bother, but once at the house, she must be stripped down and hosed off before entering to avoid making a grand mess with all the sand that accumulates in her swimsuit.  So we put a lot of effort and emphasis on wading into the big, scary ocean far enough to cover her legs and letting go in the cold water.  She put in a valiant effort, but as far as we know, never succeeded the whole time we were there.

Well, on the way back we stayed overnight at a hotel, and took a swim in the pool.  As I was shepherding the kids out of the water to return to our room, I heard Summer saying over and over again "It was amazing!  It was amazing!"  I asked her what was amazing, and she said, "Daddy, I went potty in the water!  It was amazing!"  Yup.  Amazing.

Example 4: In our church, most fathers of families hold the priesthood, so we can administer blessings and other sacraments and ordinances to our family members.  It's really a wonderful part of the gospel--the privilege of using God's authority to bless those we love the most is distributed far and wide among church members.

Today in church I had the privilege of giving a name and a blessing to our newest daughter Lily.  I tried to prepare for the experience, and petitioned the Lord that Lily, despite being a mere infant, would sense something special about the day.  Well, when the time came, all went well, and Lily seemed very happy.  As I held her in my lap after the blessing, cushioning her head so that we were looking directly at each other, she stared with bright eyes and a smile up into my face.  A congregational hymn began, and as I sang, I continued looking at her.  She maintained eye contact, and with a joyful, but earnest look on her face, joined in the song with a steady stream of loud cooing for as long as the hymn lasted.

Together Lily and I sang: "For Jesus died on Calvary that all through Him might ransomed be.  Then sing Hosanna's to his name; let heaven and earth his love proclaim."  In some ways, interacting with her in such a personal way, in such a special setting, felt just as sacred as the blessing ordinance we had shared prior to the hymn.  Once again, Lily utterly, completely melted my heart.

So you see, just like the minions in Despicable Me, what started out in our family as a kind of cute sideshow to the plot ends up stealing all the attention and becoming the main attraction.  And like the script writers, who gave the minions an even more prominent role in the second movie, I now realize that's just how it should be.

Cuteness prevails.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wife Rule #164: Appreciate Leftovers


Looks like leftovers are the menu again
Even though I vowed it would never so be.
When we were first married, when we first began
I hoped only to serve you the best of me.

But years have passed, and things have come
That complicate what once was simple bliss.
Pining for more, we added first one,
Then two, three, and four, then five, then six.

Now we live among whirlwinds that give us a mess;
Stuff clutters our floors, our rooms, and our days.
It’s mostly good stuff: but like all excess
Even good things sometimes can quench the sun’s rays.

Is the simple life found in lessons, in teams?
In recitals and concerts, in seeing them grow?
In a calendar stuffed full and bursting at seams?
In careers, volunteering, and serving them? No!

Not simple; but life--even if barely so.
To help us keep balance we cherish our dates;
We talk late at night; and we plow and we hoe
Side by side if we can; we’re still perfect mates.

And leftovers seem to be all that is left
So often when darkness has stolen the day
And we find ourselves breathless, collapsed and bereft,
In a heap on the bed, barely able to lay,

And you look at me, tired, but with a soft smile
And you whisper sweet words and a few “I love you’s”
And I reach out for you, while you reach for a pen
To add something to tomorrow’s unending TODO’s.

So we get leftovers: You get leftover me.
I get leftover you. But one thing is still sure.
Amidst all we give, where the well runs most deep,
New water flows in; we give, yet we get more:

For in serving the Master who truly gave all,
He gives us this promise: “Thy gold I’ll refine.
And when all the dirt, and the dross, and the gall
Are burned up and away, the leftovers are mine.”

So we’ll work, and we’ll serve, and we’ll grow closer yet,
Handing Him all we have: run the race, delay rest;
And when wrinkles and wheezing seem all that we get
We'll look forward to leftovers--He'll give back the best!