The girl I chose and the wife I got

I thought I chose the pretty girl
with a modest heart
The girl I chose and the wife I got
are indeed worlds apart,

I expected to live in a modest home
Clean enough inside
But every place we’ve lived it’s as if
She makes it come alive

Our home is like a palace
Exuding joy from wall to wall
Pictures, crafts everywhere
Each with memories big and small           

I thought she’d make dinner nightly
And I would get used to my new fare
It ends up I’d rather stay home now
Than dine out any elsewhere

And we’d have a kid or two
And hope they all turn out
Our excellent children are due to no small part
To the mother of all mothers, no doubt

And though, I thought she was pretty then
I now know that it’s more,
Her beauty overflows to her skin
From deep inside her core

And little did I expect
That her greatness would change me.
I hardly recognize myself
Refined by her proximity

I think back to when I chose her
She was a flower ready to bloom
Who knew that she was royalty
Taking on an unsuspecting groom

How I won this lottery
And ended up with my prize
I know not, but I often
Mouth a thank you toward the skies

Happy Birthday to my sweet wife, Tenille
Who continues to get more refined year after year.


Family Scorecard

Since the first year Tenille and I got married, we have set goals.  At first, it started off as an innocent “New Year’s resolutions” exercise that we did together at the beginning of the year.  At the beginning of each new year, we would go over our old goals, and make new ones.  In the first few years, I was a bit frustrated, because there were goals that we could have easily achieved if we were just reminded a few months before the year was out.  What was the point of having goals, if at the end of the year, we just checked off if we did it or not?   Over the years this exercise has evolved, and now we have quarterly reviews of our goals where we grade ourselves, and discuss what course corrections we need to make. 

As we approach another year, I recently reviewed a talk titled “Of Things that Matter Most” given by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd counselor of the First Presidency of our church.   There were several nuggets of wonderful counsel that I will be considering as we refine our goal setting process this year. 

The first piece of advice is around prioritization.

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”  In short …focus on the things that matter most.

When developing goals, it’s easy to stack one on top of each other.  In general, there’s so much that we all want to do.  There’s so much that we want to do with our children.  There are so many vacations we want to take.  There’s so much weight to be lost…  Sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that the more we get done, the better we are…  Our sense of self-worth becomes confused with the length of the checklist.  The problem with this is that sometimes we are mixing quantity with quality, and the things that matter most might get drowned out by the “nice-to-haves.”

The second point is around balance.  When I first heard this section of the talk, I immediately thought of the balanced scorecard.  The balanced scorecard is a performance management tool that monitors not only financial metrics of a company, but recognizes the value of metrics related to Customers, Processes, and Learning/Growth.  The reason for this approach is because if a company focuses purely on financials (or any other category of metrics), there is a danger of neglecting an aspect of the company which could quickly make it unhealthy. 

Similarly, people also require a balance in their lives.  Elder Uchtdorf succinctly suggested a categorization by relationships.

1. Relationship with God (Church)

2. Relationship with Family

3. Relationship with Fellowman (Friends and those we come in contact with).

4. Relationship with Self

It’s important to note that the ordering does not suggest prioritization.  There are core activities within each category, which if neglected, will make our lives feel out of balance.  For example, it’s ok to indulge in recreation for oneself and go sailing, hunting, or play some video games.  However, when these activities are starting to affect our time with our children or spouse, or affect church attendance, eventually our lives will feel unbalanced and likely unfulfilled.

Considering these principles, I think this year we’ll denote what are the core goals that we must achieve, and distinguish them from the nice to have goals which must not be achieved at the expense of the core goals.

For the upcoming year, our goals will likely look something like this (which hasn’t changed too much since 2006):

Core Supplemental
God/Church Daily Scripture Study (15 mins)
Daily Personal Prayer
Daily Family Prayer
Monthly Temple Attendance
Monthly Home Teaching 
Monthly Visiting Teaching 
Be to church 10 mins early
Sit in first 4 pews
4 missionary activities
Family Family Home Evening
(D & T) each spend 6 hours/week of undivided attention with kids
Monthly Budget meeting
Eat one non-starch vegetable at dinner

Date night (bi-monthly)
Family outing (monthly)
Plan weekly menu
Get kids to bed by 8pm
Fellowman 8 total service projects
% of income to charity
Invite 6 new people/families to dinner (Breadth)
Invite existing friends/families for activity (Depth)
Self (D & T) Exercise at least 3 times/week
(Don) Track calories (new)
(Don) Write in journal monthly
(Don) Read 10 books
Participate in 6 musical events
(Don) Take a hunting class(new)
(Don) 2 endurance races
(Tenille’s goals not included)

A few additional points:

1.  For the sake of brevity, this is a summary of our goals, and there is another level of quantitative goals, especially for our financial metrics.  This year, our financial measures will get an overhaul as a result of our listening to the Dave Ramsey Financial University CDs.  Highly recommend.  I wish this course was a high school graduation requirement.

2.  There is a set of quarterly goals we make for our children.  Because they change and develop so quickly, we found it impractical to set annual goals for them.  With that said, some goals for the kids:

    • (Caleb) multiplication Thumbs up
    • (Caleb) play piano with both handsThumbs up
    • (Andrew) Say ABCsThumbs up
    • (Andrew) Count to 10Thumbs up
    • (Andrew) Potty TrainedThumbs down

3.  Some interesting goals that were either not achieved, or eventually fell off:

  • Places to go on vacation (We found we didn’t need a goal to make this happen.)
  • Don – publish something. 
  • Don and Tenille – 1 activity independent of each other.  (We both had plenty of activities without a goal forcing us.)
  • Don 2007 weight Goal 169 lbs (Thumbs down), 2008 weight Goal – 160 lbs (Thumbs down), 2009 weight Goal – 170 lbs (Thumbs down). 2010 weight Goal – none.

Razor Clamming 2010

This year, we wanted to make a day trip out to Ocean Shores rather than staying over night.  By “we”, I mean me and the kids.  I had lost Tenille by the time I uttered the words “clamming”.  She decided she had more important things to do, so it was just me and the kids.  Just me and the kids…. This is how most disaster stories start…. but this time it’d be different… This time, we’ll have a grand old time, and Tenille will regret she didn’t come with us….

Low tide was at 5:30pm, so I wanted to get out of the house about noon.  So, about 11:30am, I took a shower.  Tenille had left to attend a baptism by the time I got out…. so I was on my own at this point…   Before we left, I thought we should probably eat, so we don’t have go buy some junk food on the way down, so I heated up some left overs.  While the kids ate, I looked for my waders, which I use precisely once a year for this very occasion… But, to my dismay, it was not in the particular corner of the garage where I’ve always seen it.   (I would have said, where I “leave it”… but in general, I don’t really know what happens to it once I take it off at the ocean…  Tenille usually takes it from there…)

It’s ok, I console myself.  I spend about 15 minutes corralling the kids into the mini-van… making 5 or 6 trips back into the house because I keep remember one more thing I need to get just as I start backing out of the garage… In the end, there’s a movie playing for the kids… there’s one for the ride home…. shovel – check… buckets – check… shellfish license – check… that’s probably good enough…. It was almost 1 pm, and we were backing out of the driveway! 

It’s about a 2 hour drive to Ocean Shores.  It was actually quite a bit shorter than I thought.  I made the kids wear headphones while they watched cars, and I finished up my Dave Ramsey Financial Peace CDs that Tenille assigned me.  Andrew didn’t understand that he could just let the headphones rest on the top of his head so he held them on his head until he fell asleep.  Probably got tired from holding the headphones on his head.  Caleb didn’t want to watch Cars anymore, so I turned off my CDs, and we chatted about how school was going for him for a bit.  When Andrew woke up, it was as if he didn’t miss a bit.  “Hey, I want to watch Cars!”  So, we turned Cars back on, and pulled into Ocean Shores as it was ending.

I got out and it was FREEZING!  The wind was blowing pretty hard.  My wife, anticipating this, had packed warm clothes for all the kids (including me).  I dressed myself, then put the big puffy jackets on both of the kids.  Each with a pail in hand, we started walking toward the beach.  It’s really tough to know exactly where the razor clams are going to be.  Last year, I thought the trick was to go where people were not…. after a long time of not finding anything, we eventually found ourselves among the crowd… There’s a crowd there, because there’s a lot of razor clams.  So, this year, I just pulled up to where I saw the most people….

We started meandering along the water’s edge.  It was cold and the wind was blowing pretty hard.   The clamming was pretty slow.  It was about 4pm, and the water was still going out.  When the wave would wash out, we would walk out toward the ocean and look for divots to form.  Caleb was pretty good and spotting, but in about 30 minutes, we had only found about 5 clams.  My hopes for catching the limit for all three of us was fading fast.  We were desperately scanning the beach for clam divots.  As we were contemplating a divot in the sand, I saw an enormous wave coming up the beach.  But, by the time I could react, it was WAY too late.  We were way too far in the water, and the wave washed by us in a blink of an eye.  It took all of us by surprise, and the water rushed by at about my knee level.  It was about up to Caleb’s thighs.  Andrew was struggling… He was fighting to walk toward dry land against the wave washing back out, but it was too much for him.  As he turned around toward me, he fell backwards into the water.  His whole body was in the freezing water, and only his head poked out.  When I hear Caleb tell the story, he says that I grabbed Andrew as he was being washed out to sea.  I don’t think it was quite that dramatic, but it was definitely not a good situation because of the temperature.  Clamming was over.  I helped Andrew out of the water, and he was soaked from his neck down.  Andrew had a look of complete shock like “What just happened here?”

I picked him up, grabbed his bucket and our shovels, and started hustling for the van.   Caleb trailed behind with his bucket.  Andrew was getting quite heavy, and I asked Caleb if he could help me by carrying Andrew’s bucket for him also.  He agreed and doubled his load.  I could tell that carrying the two buckets was a little bit too much for him, but I think he sensed an emergency, too.  He lagged a bit further behind, but didn’t complain.  It seemed like half a mile back to the van.  It was probably more like a 1/4 mile.  It’s shocking how far you can just meander down a beach without thinking about it.  When we got to the van, I was reminded of Tenille’s strict orders NOT TO GET ANY SAND IN THE VAN.  Hoping she would understand the emergency situation, I put Andrew inside, then grabbed the change of clothes (that Tenille also packed.)  I took off Andrew’s coat, and his shirt inside was completely soaked and covered in sand.  The wind was still relentless.  By the time I stripped him down, his teeth were chattering and his whole body was shaking.  I was quite concerned.  As quickly as I could, I put on the fresh set of clothes and put a new jacket on him.  I had turned on the car, which also turned on the movie, “Horton hears a Who”.  What made me feel a bit better, was that Andrew seemed completely absorbed by the movie, as his whole body was chattering as I was putting his clothes on.  I put him in his seat, closed his door, and finally made my way around to Caleb, who had been waiting patiently as I was taking care of Andrew.  I changed all of his clothes and got him in his seat as well.  

After the kids were situated in the van, and it was starting to warm back up, I looked in the bucket at our 5 clams.  A bit of a sad trip… I asked Caleb if he would be ok, if I looked a bit more and maybe I can catch a few more clams while he and Andrew watched TV.  He said that sounds fine, and I was back off toward the beach.  I didn’t want to stray too far from the van, so I pretty much stuck around in one area of the beach.  There were no divots to be found.  Disheartened, I walked back to the van.  I decided maybe we’ll take one more look in a different spot.  We drove down about half a mile back toward the beach entrance and stopped where I saw a lot of sand piled up.  Caleb was encouraging, and Andrew was completely absorbed in the movie.  I told them I’d be right back, and headed back out toward the beach.  As I was about 3/4 of the way to the water, I noticed divots.  They were actually all over the place.  I saw a ton of people messing around at the water’s edge, but it seemed like there was plenty of divots right here to get my limit.  So, I got to work, and within about 15 minutes, I had my limit.  I brought dishwashing glove this time, and this helped tremendously with the digging.  The worst part about digging for clams is all the sand that gets under your fingernails.  It’s almost impossible to get it all out.  The gloves kept out all the sand. 

However, this year, my arm fatigued much more quicker than in years previous.  I’m not sure why.  By my 15th clam, my right arm was shaking.  And it was all I could do to plunge my hand in the sand groping around for the clam… I was thinking of giving up, when I saw the clam laying in the pile of sand that I dug up with my shovel to start the hole.  I was so relieved.  My right hand could barely hold on to my shovel as I made my way back to the van.  The kids were still enjoying their movie.  I changed into my dry clothes, and started the long drive back home. 

Not the best year in terms of clam, but I suppose we got a good story out of it.  I’ve heard Caleb tell the story twice now.  It seems like it gets a little more exciting every time…