Friday, December 28, 2012

Can Somebody Cry For Me?

I've had this image in my mind for days. I keep seeing this sweet little Iraqi girl sailing into heaven after being killed. This is what she is saying to me, and I don't know how to answer her.

I sail away into the sky
As I stare down below
My home destroyed and family dead
Now to heaven I go

But none will talk of how I died
No cameras are at the scene
No weeping eyes or mourning hearts
Why don’t they cry for me?

Because I'm in a far away land?
My skin is different, I guess
Is that why no one thinks of me
Does this make me any less?

Today I died – a stray bullet they said
My body resting by a tree
I’m just as precious, just as sweet
Why does no one cry for me?

-with liberty and justice for all?

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Now Is The Time To Kill Santa Claus

It's the moment I always knew would come, and it's the moment I've always been dreading. It's time to tell the kids the truth about Santa Claus. There are a myriad of reasons we're doing it and a bundle of worries as well, but the pot is boiling over and it's time to pull the plug on the greatest parental deception of all.

I must first say that I love Santa Claus and I always have - ever since I was a wee babe. I believed in him when nobody else did. I was such a believer that it came to the point where my mother had to tell me as a 14-year old that he wasn't real. That was a devastating experience for a few reasons. One, Santa was suddenly dead, and two, my mother had lied to me for so many years. :)

I can understand why she did what she did, and the magic I felt as a youngster was something I don't know if I would want to give up, but, would I truly be giving anything up? Or would I have been able to feel an even greater sense of joy and anticipation during the Christmas season without Santa?

I have five children, the oldest of which is a 10-year old, followed by a very inquisitive and enthusiastic 8-year old who has asked forty-seven Santa Claus related questions in the last two weeks. My wife and I generally respond in one of two ways: 1) We ignore the question or 2) We say we don't know. In the past, we would lie quite a bit as well.

This snowy Christmas morning the kids ran giddily upstairs to survey the plate of cookies, the glitter-covered carrots for the reindeer, and the note they had left Santa. They had specifically requested that he write back. He didn't. They wondered why, and I wondered how I forgot, but maybe it was a good thing. Perhaps this will make it easier for dad to break the awful news.

Why does this need to be done? Recently I've discovered that people have been lying to me, for a long time, about a lot of things. It has rattled me quite a bit and I think I want to be 100% honest with my kids. Secondly, since I'm a Mormon, we are Christians and we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ, but as hard as we try, Christ will always take a back seat when Santa is involved. I'm hoping that Christ can bring some magic to the Holiday in an even more beautiful way than Santa Claus could as we attempt to put more of  a focus on his birth and life and the gifts he can bring to our lives. To be honest, I also worry if lying to my kids about Santa will have an impact on how they believe what I say to them about God, Christ, miracles, prayer, or any other matter of faith. That's why within the next week all five of my children will be pulled off Santa life support.

Many who read this column may shake your heads and disagree. Others won't make it all the way through the post, and a few will smile as they have already come to a similar decision in their families. Just understand that this is not something I do in the spur of the moment, it is a decision that has been weighed heavily and one that is made with a great degree of sadness and uncertainty on my part.

Christmas for me as a child was great. It was filled with awe and amazement and wonder. I'm hoping that as we decide to focus more fully on the Savior Jesus Christ that he will open a door of magic that we haven't yet experienced.

Now my biggest worry will be finding a way to prevent my kids from spoiling Christmas/Santa for all the other kids/cousins. Please chime in if you have any feedback on how to deal with this. Oh, and wish me luck!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Unexpected Gift

This video clip is amazing. We all experience hardships in our lives: death, divorce, fear, loneliness, etc. There is peace that can come, and that is beautifully reflected in this short message.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Suicide Story - Part One

I've seen the amazing things social media can do. It connects, informs, motivates, and infuriates. I've been part of some pretty incredible experiences thanks to the miracle of technology. How many people can say they've saved a life because of Facebook? Probably not many, but I can.

The details of that experience are too sensitive to share, but that and other experiences keep bringing me back onto this electronic highway of human experience. My goal online? I want to save another life.

A story states there was once a man who was so down on life that he wanted his to end. Past abuses, a life of uncertainty, and failed dreams all led him to a dark place from which he could not escape. He decided he only had one option, and that was to give up. The emotional pain, the haunting memories, the recurring failures all showered down on his burdened shoulders.

He wrote a note and placed it on his nightstand. Opening his cabinet, he carefully removed a pistol and loaded a single bullet in the chamber. Lying down on his mattress he nervously and hopelessly pressed the barrel against his temple and pulled the trigger. As the hot smoke rose to the ceiling, his warm blood flowed onto the ground. Suicide had claimed yet another victim.

Tales of suicide are all around us. We hear of bullied teenagers who've had enough. We see parents mourning the loss of their children. Fathers, who are unemployed and over-stressed take the lives of their families, and then seal the act by taking their own. We hear of women who never obtained the body image they want, men who never got the girl, and elderly who succumb to loneliness and prefer death. Yes, we hear all of these stories of suicide and the pain of those that remain and remember, but what of those who've gone? If they could speak to us, what would they say? Did their act of helplessness provide the relief they were so desperately seeking? Are they now better off?

I think I have the answer, at least I know the answer that one man gave.

So, what of this lifeless body that now lay cold on the bed? It turns out he had a roommate who was due home in just minutes. Little did the roommate know he would be coming home to a bloody scene of horror that, when witnessed, would be etched in his memory so vividly that even fifteen years could not erase. He approached the door to his apartment, placed his key in the lock, and opened the door. Immediately he was thrown back outside by some force that no eye could see, and he landed painfully on the pavement. He heard the unearthly, pain-riddled screams of “GET OUT. I DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE THIS”.  Though the traumatized voice was in some way different and disturbing, he recognized it instantly. It was the true, living, and very real voice of his roommate.

To be continued...

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Four Foods That Save Lives

Everybody turns to food at times. Sometimes there is just nothing else to do, sometimes your body craves it, and sometimes it's just lying around. These are the four foods that I want close by in times of need.

1. KFC's cole slaw - Colonel Sanders got it right on this one. Cole slaw is one of those things that is hit or miss. Kentucky Fried Chicken's version is a definite hit.

2. Hershey's chocolate bar - Sometimes you just need chocolate, you know what I mean? My kids sang "Chocolate In My Stocking" for the school's concert last week, all about only needing chocolate for Christmas. I think I would be content with a Costco-sized box of Hershey's in my stocking.

3. Fluffernutter - I've talked about this delicious meal before on my blog. Check it out here. Yes, I realize I said meal, and perhaps it wouldn't be the healthiest thing in the world, but it sure is satisfying. This has become my midnight snack of choice over the last month. Add peanut butter and marshmallow fluff onto Grandma Sycamore's bread, and you have the comfort food of the century.

4. Chocolate Chip Cookies - My wife makes cookies that men have literally died for. That's right, I said literally. I might have the used the word incorrectly, but that's what I said. Her recipe is so good that I feel bad for people when they eat cookies made my someone else. I was sitting on my van pool last month, and a guy was eating a crunchy, thin, chocolate chip cookie and I felt like giving the man a hug and saying, "It's going to be ok." My wife's are soft and not airy and loaded with chocolate chips.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Most Influential Mormon Missionary

Many have declared this era the "Mormon Moment", a time when people are starting to understand a little more about who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for. Most attribute this to the candidacy of Mitt Romney, who's presidential bid ended last month. However, there is one man who's influence upon the "Mormon Moment" might also be characterized as significant, perhaps even incredible. Incredible for a few reasons. One, because of his humble nature, two, because he's spreading his influence at a Catholic school.

As captain of the Notre Dame football team, Hawaii native Manti Te'o has become many things: a leader, a motivator, and an example. Maybe the most important thing he's been on the campus of Notre Dame? He's been an emissary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Te'o was heavily recruited out of Honolulu where he starred as a middle linebacker at Punahoa School. BYU, USC, Notre Dame, and others all vied for his attention, and Te'o eventually decided to attend USC. However, Te'o had a change of heart one night after watching Dead Poet's Society. He decided to pray about his decision and something told him to go to Notre Dame. Tom Coyne, an AP reporter, wrote "He prayed again following his freshman season about whether to return or go on a Mormon mission. He did the same thing again a year ago when he was deciding whether to enter the NFL draft or return for his senior season. He believes what has happened to him this season shows the power or prayer."

For those not as familiar with the emergence of Te'o, he won the Maxwell Award for the nation’s most outstanding player, the Walter Camp national player of the year award, and the Bednarik Award, given to the most outstanding defensive player in college football. He is also one of three finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award given to the most outstanding player in college football. Not only has Te'o proven himself individually, he has led his team to an undefeated 12-0 record and a shot at Notre Dame's first National Championship since 1988.

While the accolades and success of Te'o are catapulting him into stardom, his willingness to share his convictions and testimony is what makes him influence most far-reaching. "I think for anybody who's questioning if God lives, he lives, and I'm an example of that. For those who don't know if he answers your prayers, he does, because he answered mine. If he didn't answer prayers, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have come here. I definitely wouldn't have come back for my senior year. And I wouldn't have done a lot of things that I've done."

Even more incredible is his ability to put a loving and humble face to Mormonism, especially in South Bend. The Mormon vs. Catholic rivalry is oft reported, especially when the two schools, Brigham Young University and Notre Dame, face off - as they did in September. However, Te'o influence has broken down many walls of contempt and animosity between the alumni of the two schools.

In a recent interview for, Teo said "I don't know to what extreme I've had an impact on people, but I just try to have as positive an impact on as many people as I can. That's what I try to do. What I've learned is that people may not necessarily know your name or remember where you're from, but they'll definitely know how you made them feel. If I can make somebody feel important, make somebody feel included, I've always been like that since I was young. Make people feel that they're a part of something instead of excluded."

Don't think for a moment that Te'o is all about football, because from his words we've just read, it's clear to see he has a bigger mission."Once I leave here, I hope that the impact I've made not only on the football field but in people's lives will forever be remembered."

Manti, I think it's safe to say, "mission accomplished."

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Friday, December 7, 2012

TNT - They Know Drama

Who's the guy that had the idea for this little advertising ploy? I wish I had his job. If you haven't seen this video clip, see what happens when this biker presses the red button!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why Are You So Annoying, Why?

One of the more well documented annoyances of being a parent is dealing with the cursed "whys". Some experts say that between the ages of 2-4, children are most likely to grill their parents into submission. From my experience, it's more like 2-infinity. At times it is extremely cute, but after a while it becomes insanely annoying.

Why this?
Why that?
Why do this?
Why do that?
Why not this?
Why not that?

Read more »

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Slow Death of a Magical Christmas

Christmas as a youngster was nothing short of magical, and Christmas Eve was easily the greatest day of the year. My childhood imagination running wild, snow falling softly on the frozen ground, family braving the cold temperatures to share the holidays, and the comfy living room lit solely with the brilliant glow of the lights from the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

I loved it all!

On Christmas Eve, I went to bed dutifully every year, knowing that had I not, Santa would skip our house. I was in bed by 9 PM on the dot, but out of bed by 2 AM and down in the living room admiring the glowing, towering Christmas tree. The tree seemed enormous to me, a constant reminder that Christmas was much bigger than I was. It was surrounded by mounds of presents just waiting for my siblings and I to open.

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