Tactile Joy

From Scott Adams review of the iPhone 6

My heart was racing as I removed the phone from its strikingly well-designed packaging. Apple makes the process of opening a box feel as if you are winning a prize. Every color, shape, texture and probably smell has been studied and tweaked to perfection. Simply touching the product or its associated packaging is a tactile joy.

A textbook example of sweating the details.

No Second Chances

“Do you want to play pool? Just you and me.”

“Sure”, replied Luca, trying to play it cool.

Two of her siblings usually tag along when we play, but not today. I wanted to listen to Luca tell me about orchestra and history and student council without distractions.

Of course there’s no guarantee she’ll share any details with me because she’s 13 years-old, and I’m her father who wears a hoodie just to embarass her.

I’ve heard from parents who regret how they raised their first child. They focus on the mistakes, wishing for a second chance to make things right. But nobody gets a second chance, and sharing this sentiment only telegraphs to your child that you don’t like how your son or daughter turned out as an adult.

I’ve made mistakes with Luca, but it’s foolish for that to be my focus when I look across the table and into the eyes of a kind, bright, and joyful teenage girl. That I happened to find a pool hall that serves fry sauce doesn’t hurt either.

As we finished the first game, I think about how my thoughts on fatherhood have changed over the years. I no longer think of our five children as “mine” or “ours”. They are not my possessions to control. For a few short years of their lives, I’m their teacher and provider of basic needs, along with their mother.

More than anything I want them to feel loved and accepted for whom they are. I don’t expect them to follow my path. If I’ve done my job, my children will think critically, blaze their own paths, and live a life of few regrets.

Luca took advantage of my mistakes and won game two.

Which means I’m wearing my hoodie when taking her to school tomorrow.

May the Search Set You Free

Our garage door was acting up today. I know very little about them, but I know how to Google for answers. This lead me to a YouTube video of a man discussing a few popular problems, including how to recalibrate the door sensors. I followed his instructions, and had the door working within 10 minutes.

When I blew a main fuse on our Honda Odyssey, a Google search took me to forum where a Honda owner described the same problem I was having. A mechanic responded on the forum, and mentioned which two fuses to inspect. I had checked one fuse but neglected to check the other. Sure enough, the second fuse was dead. A $4 fuse later, the van was running.

This is the magic of the internet. I don’t have to be a mechanic or electrician to make basic repairs. Knowledge is power, especially when it’s a search away.

When I began researching the early history of the LDS church, I was stunned at the amount of information available to anyone with the curiosity to search and to learn from it. A lot of this information did not sync with what I had been taught by church leaders.

For example, I was aware that Brigham Young practiced polygamy. But I had no idea that the prophet Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and polyandry. Those are details I wish I had known earlier.

This information is available to anyone. It’s not hidden in a mountain cave or behind a firewall. You can choose to disgard it, but you can no longer say it’s impossible to know.

Just as I no longer have to immediately call a mechanic, I no longer have to take the word of ecclesiastical leaders when it comes to church history. Today, I get to determine when I’m ready for the truth rather than allow someone else to determine that for me.

Google is to the LDS church as the Gutenberg printing press and Martin Luther were to Catholicism.

May the truth set you free.

Everything Else Is Secondary

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

                                                                                          Steve Jobs

My Favorite Earbuds

I’ve lost count of the number of earbuds I’ve purchased over the years. I’ve purchased numerous models from Sony, Sennheiser, and Panasonic. Everyone knows the white earbuds that Apple includes with every iPod and iPhone don’t sound very good. 

I found a number of earbuds that sounded fine, but they wouldn’t stay in my ears. That was the case with the Sennheiser earbuds I purchased two years ago. I assumed because they were the “sport” edition they would remain more secure in my ears, but they flopped out like the others. Plus, even when they were in, they were uncomfortable. 

Last year, after reading a Rayz Plus overview, I stopped at the Bose outlet store in Las Vegas and tested a number of their earbuds. I listened to models ranging from $99 to $299, and I was surprised when the model I liked best was also the cheapest: the Bose MIE2. I didn’t want to pay for fancy microphones or noise-canceling technology. The MIE2 are as basic as they come which is exactly what I was after. 

I’ve been using them long enough to tell you they have worked incredibly well. I use them with my iPhone and my MacBook Pro around the house and with my iPhone when I walk around the track at the park. The earpieces are made of quality rubber that doesn’t slip out of my ears. And they sound really nice too. If you’ve only listened to music on earbuds that were included with your iPod or smartphone, you should give even a $30 pair from Sony a try. I still consider these Bose at $100 a bargain give how much I use them each day. 

For a while, I wondered if I’d ever find an earbud that would work well, but these Bose MIE2 earbuds are fantastic. I know some people thumb their nose at Bose because they are marketed to the mainstream, but I don’t care. They sound great, stay in my ears while in use, and are very well made. 

Things To Be Happy About

My posts lately have been a little heavy. Life has been good, but transitions are seldom as simple as planned. But so many good things have happened lately that I wanted to write about that. As I write this, Kim is on the couch with at least three kids getting her butt kicked in Halo. That alone is enough to make me happy. But here are few more reasons.

1. We found a home in Santa Clara that we love.

2. I found a fantastic  and patient editor who has helped me improve my writing. Why didn’t I do this sooner? Even better, I was able to mend a friendship.

3. I reconnected with a friend from college. We spoke on the phone for an hour and it was as if we’d never lost touch.

4. Taran is finally sleeping through the night.

5. My oldest daughter sat next to me on the couch with her head on my shoulder for no reason. I kept expecting her to ask for new shoes, Pho or ice cream but it never came.

6. My mother’s health has improved to the point she can be home for now. My mother-in-law’s health has also gone from poor to good in under a year.

7. I feel as though a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer dread the weekends, and am much happier.

8. I love watching small countries like Costa Rica perform so well in the World Cup. I’m rooting for the US team, but there’s something so exciting about watching a tiny country upset a powerhouse.

Peace

I glanced at my son as he drew his pool stick across the table to line up a shot. His eyes darted back and forth. All he had to do was knock in the 8 ball to win the game.

But the game didn’t matter.

What mattered was the ten bucks I had promised to the first kid who could beat me. I’m not a skilled player, but I’ve played enough over the years to not embarrass myself.

Watching Lincoln made me think of the afternoons I spent in our driveway hoisting up shot after shot on our unforgiving basketball standard. The thought of besting my dad at most sports was unthinkable, but I figured a few lucky bounces would give me the best chance to beat him at HORSE. Most games followed a familiar pattern: I’d be a letter away from winning until my nerves would get the best of me, and I’d choke the game away.

I had two solids on the table. All Lincoln had to do was knock in the 8 ball.

“Remember the $10 you promised?”

“Yep.”

He was thinking about the money instead of the shot.

“You’ll need to put a stop on the ball,” I told him.

“I know. I know.”

I stood back from the table to give him room and thought about how peaceful I have felt lately.  I’ve made a number of small decisions and one large one that could have rocked my life in ways I couldn’t anticipate, and I was expecting fallout after making my intentions public.

Yet all I felt in that moment was peace. Where it comes from I don’t know.

CRACK.

The 8 ball fell into the corner pocket. Followed by the cue ball and the sign of disappointment across my son’s face.

“Maybe next time.”

My ten dollars are safe.

At least for another day.

Bed Frame

Amazon delivered two boxes. After a week spent packing and moving into a new home I wanted nothing to do them because inside were bed frames for Luca and Anna. I didn’t possess the mental capacity to assemble anything with dozens of small parts.

But the girls were excited. So I pushed one box toward their room and began putting pieces together. After a few minutes, Luca joined me. She sat on her mattress and began telling me about school and friends and exactly how much hair she wants trimmed.

It’s not often I get to listen to my daughter tell me about what’s important in her life without a single interruption. She turned 13 a few weeks ago. It doesn’t seem that long since I sat on the floor and watched Harold the Purple Crayon with her, trying to tune out the horrific tragedy of 9/11.

Moments like these are unpredictable and rare. I wonder how many of them I miss because I’m tuned out?

We finished assembling the bed frame. With the mattress in place, my work was done. I kissed Luca on the forehead, and headed up bed, happier than any father has a right to be.

The Best Days

I watched Beavis and Butthead with my sons.

I know, my kids are too young to be watching Beavis and Butthead, but I couldn’t resist watching the episode where the boys try to get a bag of sour cream and salsa pork rinds from the vending machine, but the bag gets stuck and Butthead calls Beavis a “fart-knocker” and it goes downhill from there. It’s up there with the one where Beavis photocopies his butt as my favorite episode.

It’s not like I made them listen to AC/DC’s “Back in Black” CD on the way to school, although I’ve done that as well. I listened to “Shook Me All Night Long” as a kid and I turned out just fine. Mostly.

Now that I work from home, I’m more likely to take part in their everyday activities instead of turn into Wonder Dad on Saturdays to make up for lost time. Not that those times weren’t fun, but I wasn’t around much to see them doing the mundane like…being kids.

On my son’s birthday two days ago, I spent the morning playing Skylanders with him while his three older siblings were at school. He turned 6 years old, and he’s full of opinions about the world. I sat on the couch while he stood next to me jumping up and down because his body couldn’t fully contain the excitement of the game.

That same afternoon my oldest son asked me to help him with math homework. He’s finally getting used to seeing me around the house before 7 pm. These and a number of similar experiences have convinced me that these are the moments I’ll look back on one day and proclaim they were the best years of my life.

I’m sure it’s wonderful to have grown children to be proud of as they head off to college, return from a mission, and eventually start a life with the person they love.  I look forward to those days, and there’s no shortage of parents with kids heading into adulthood who witness a worn-out father lugging a boisterous 1-year old son around the grocery store who say, “Just wait, the best years are ahead of you!”

I know they mean well, but they are wrong.

The best days of my life are happening right now on three interrupted hours of sleep. They are happening in the van on the way to school only to realize one child forgot her lunch and another his homework packet. They happen raking leaves together only to watch as many abandon the branches above as we fill the last bag. They happen while watching Cake Boss with the kids and not understanding even one of their inside jokes.

There’s plenty of time for them to grow into adults. I have no doubt those years will bring much joy as well.

But when my son crawls up on my lap, steals my hat and crawls away giggling with the hat pulled over his eyes— you can’t tell me life gets better than that.

We Make the Rules

I was a first-year college student at the University of Utah when an art teacher introduced me to Jackson Pollock. My teacher explained that the process Pollock used for bringing paint and canvas together was shocking to the established artists of his time.

Pollock would take paint and toss and flick it onto a massive canvas, often walking around it to get the best angle.

His paintings mesmerized and intrigued me. A number of my fellow students found his painting uninspiring and sloppy. But for several months, I found myself in the library searching for every Pollock painting I could find tucked away in the school’s small art book section.

As much as I enjoyed Pollock’s finished works it was his process I was drawn to. The fact that he was doing something that hadn’t been done before, on his terms was fascinating. I suspect at least one person told him he was going about painting the wrong way and he ignored it.

How do we assess greatness without a comparative work?

As I watch my children participate in school and church, I wonder if they are being taught to a standard determined by committee? Class grades provide a clear way to determine how well my children conform.  A certain reverence, behavior, and speech are expected at church. Memorization is expected in both places.

At school, one son is penalized because the teacher can’t reach his spelling although each word is spelled correctly. Another son is asked to memorize an Article of Faith in exchange for a treat but is denied such when the teacher can’t understand a word or two.

We make the rules and you will conform. ‘Do things our way or you will be penalized’ comes through loud and clear. Don’t draw outside the lines and absolutely, no flicking paint around our canvas.

As a parent, I add another layer of expectations on each of my children. My son mows the lawn the way I was taught to mow the lawn 30 years ago. That’s how I was taught so it must be the best and only way to do it right.

To this day the way I act around my parents and siblings is more closely aligned with how they expect me to act than how I actually am.

Is it possible there’s a little Pollock in everyone, but few possess the guts to act on it?