Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Say I'm Sorry

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"I'm sorry"—an "I'm sorry" that you really mean—are two of the sweetest words you can say or hear in marriage. Here is a little lesson on regret and how to say those words and mean it. Thank you, Taylor Swift.

Here are the lyrics:

I'm so glad you made time to see me.
How's life? Tell me, how's your family?
I haven't seen them in a while.

You've been good, busier than ever.
We small talk, work and the weather.
Your guard is up, and I know why.

Because the last time you saw me
Is still burned in the back of your mind.
You gave me roses, and I left them there to die.

So this is me swallowing my pride,
Standing in front of you, saying I'm sorry for that night.
And I go back to December all the time.

It turns out freedom ain't nothing but missing you,
Wishing I'd realized what I had when you were mine.
I go back to December, turn around and make it all right.
I go back to December all the time.

These days, I haven't been sleeping.
Staying up, playing back myself leaving.
When your birthday passed, and I didn't call.

Then I think about summer, all the beautiful times,
I watched you laughing from the passenger side.
And realized I loved you in the fall.

And then the cold came, the dark days.
When fear crept into my mind.
You gave me all your love, and all I gave you was goodbye.

So this is me swallowing my pride,
Standing in front of you, saying I'm sorry for that night.
And I go back to December all the time.

It turns out freedom ain't nothing but missing you,
Wishing I'd realized what I had when you were mine.
I go back to December, turn around and change my own mind.
I go back to December all the time.

I miss your tan skin, your sweet smile.
So good to me, so right.
And how you held me in your arms that September night,
The first time you ever saw me cry.

Maybe this is wishful thinking,
Probably mindless dreaming,
But if we loved again, I swear I'd love you right.

I'd go back in time and change it, but I can't.
So if the chain is on your door, I understand.

This is me swallowing my pride,
Standing in front of you, saying I'm sorry for that night.
And I go back to December.

It turns out freedom ain't nothing but missing you,
Wishing I'd realized what I had when you were mine.
I go back to December, turn around and make it all right.
I go back to December, turn around and change my own mind.
I go back to December all the time, all the time.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Invincible Love by Albert Camus

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"In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.

"In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.

"In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.

"I realized, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

"And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger—something better, pushing right back."

Albert Camus

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Feeling Better, Doing Better

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It's been almost a year since my illness. I'm doing much better. I wanted to do another status report.

So in mid-April 2011, I came home from work and I felt like the carpet had been pulled out from under me. A few days later, friends carried me out of the house so I could go to the doctor's office. I didn't walk for 4 or 5 days. I could hardly move. I was in so much pain, I wondered if I had reached my expiration date.

I missed three weeks of work. That was especially hard because I had no sick leave. Finally, my rheumatologist convinced me to take Prednisone, a steroid. That night, after taking the first dose, I broke out in a sweat and when I woke up, the whole bed was wet, as if someone had poured a bucket of water over me. I was able to return to work that day.

I was on Prednisone for about 10 months, off and on, mostly on. It is a scary drug but I depended on it just to get along, just to function, just to keep my face from looking like something you'd see in a morgue. About six weeks ago, I started coming off of the drug, slowly decreasing the dosage by a half pill a week. I have been off of it since last week without major side effects.

But there are some minor side effects that I think have been suppressed for months. Like my skin. I itch all over, not from a rash but from what seems like something excreting from my skin. I use a skin brush when I shower. It helps a lot, I think, to open pores and to get the debris off my skin. A skin brush takes some getting used to. But it really helps.

I have put back on about half the weight I lost (I originally lost 30 pounds when I was sick). I am still on a diet of mostly vegetables, nuts, berries and seeds. But I do eat a little chicken from time to time, and some sweets. For example, on Valentine's Day, I had a raspberry truffle and a few other delicious non-essentials. But I have to be very careful what I eat. For the rest of my life.

Physical exercise is also a big help. I work out regularly (except for this week; we have had all the grandkids here with us). The more I sweat at the gym, the better I feel—and sleep! After I have a good aerobic exercise, I will sleep through the night for two or three nights in a row. 

One more thing: I just changed jobs this week, too, which restored us to the income level we were at 11 years ago when my wife had a serious illness. I feel like we are getting back on track after a pretty stressful decade.

I am very grateful for our blessings. We can tell that we are being watched over. We always have been, even in the midst of our deepest trials.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Does Your Wife Feel Loved?

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Last night, after dinner (we had heart-shaped pizza), I said to two of my daughters, "I have a theory. When a woman or girl truly feels loved, that's when she is happiest." They both enthusiastically agreed. (One is married, one is in her late teens.)

This is something I learned later in life. At least that's when it came clear to me. When I was bishop and in a position to counsel with couples on a regular basis, that's when this realization solidified in my mind. A woman is happiest when she feels loved. And she is really happy when she is loved in the way she wants to be loved.

A man or husband who understands, and does something about it, will be happier himself.

To love your wife, you have to live outside of the moment. You have to see beyond the day. You have to see her with spiritual eyes. You have to see the truth.

I think so many men get caught on the coat hook of their wives' snarlieness, but the secret to overcoming that is to show your wife the love she deserves in the way she can understand.

A man who understands his wife's love language will know how to love her in the way she needs to be loved.

Gary Chapman's five love languages are:
  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
There are probably more love languages than this, but this list covers most cases.

I know what my wife's love language is. Do you know what your wife's is? Finding out and doing something positive about it will bring a lot of peace to your home.

My wife needs quality time. I know that and I know the particular flavors of quality time she needs. She knows my love language—words of affirmation. And she knows how to keep my love bucket full. We have a very happy, successful marriage. 

My advice is simple and it is this: find out what makes your wife tick, how she really feels loved, and then love that way. Serve her. Quit hanging onto your pride and just love her with all your heart. Don't wait for her to change or for your desires to be requited.

If you do this, it will change everything for the good.

P.S. If your wife has some deeply held emotional or hidden issues, it may not be as simple as this. See my disclaimer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Your Husband Really Wants for Valentine's Day

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Last time, I talked about what wives really want for Valentine's Day. Now, I'll turn my attention to husbands. I am no world authority, and I don't know what every man wants, but I have a good idea of what most of men want.

Your husband is often painfully aware of his weaknesses and mistakes, his failures and slip ups, but even though he has not succeeded in overcoming them, he desperately and quietly wants you to believe in him, to respect him and trust him. (Again.)

You are his last, best hope against all he struggles with in this world.

If he feels like you are there for him, that you truly believe in him, even though he has stumbled, that means everything to him, even if he can't (or won't) say it out loud.

For you to be truly pleased with him, and, best of all, to look up to him, that is what he hopes for most.

What if your husband is a Darth Vader, brutish and surly? Or a John Wayne, quiet and withdrawn when it comes to words of love? Those things are hard to look up to, I know. But that is his shell, the shell he uses to protect his pain.

But you know or can know who and what he really is, what is in his heart of hearts. You are the one that can see that and draw that out. Very few can see what you can see.

One other thing he would like is for you not to be hard on him, to focus more on the positive than the negative, to see the good in him more than anything else.

Criticism and negativity are force, or attempts at it. Patience, kindness, and positive words are persuasion. He can't be forced, but he can be persuaded. And no one can persuade him like you can. He wants to be persuaded that you still believe in him.

That's what he wants most. It will mean so much to him.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What Your Wife Really Wants for Valentine's Day

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I think I know what your wife wants for Valentine's Day. I offer my opinion and welcome yours as well (in the comments). What I say won't apply to all women, but it will apply to most.

Very simply, she wants you. That's it. You.

She would like your undistracted attention. She wants you to be with her in the full sense, meaning that you will lend her your time, your ears, your eyes and your heart. That also means that when you are home on Valentine's, she would appreciate it if your cell phone, laptop, video games and TV were off.

She wants you to patiently listen to her, without your eyes or attention wandering elsewhere. She doesn't want you to solve her problems and difficulties for her. All she needs is for you to listen to her explain those problems, and not to jump in with solutions. The solutions will be evident after she has had a chance to express her feelings; and if the solutions are not immediately evident, even so, she will feel a lot better.

She wants you to romance her the way she wants to be romanced. This means you have to ask her a question soon, before the big day is here. You need to give a her a chance to be perfectly honest. Ask "What would make you feel special on Valentine's Day?" Then be open to the answer. Don't mold her answer to your own. Listen carefully and then thank her for telling you.

Some like dinner out, others love flowers and chocolates, while yet others want acts of service or a gift card with your encouragement to buy clothes. Some want you to help her solve a puzzle at home, often with the kids. Some will want time alone to just think or read or even sleep.

She would like some real affection from you. Hugs and kisses with real meaning behind them. She would like you to hold her hand, in public, in front of other people. She wants you to not only tell her that you love her, but to show it with an outward display of affection.

She wants you to forgive her for her weaknesses and to see past them to who she really is. 

She wants to know that she is the most special, most important person in the world to you. Nothing takes the grumpies away like knowing that.

Romance is wonderful, but there is something better. I love this quote from President Hinckley that was mentioned in an article in last month's Ensign, but was originally from a conference talk he gave in 1991:
I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.
If you will give her these things, her trust will grow and trust is the most important foundation for love.

I conclude with this quote, a recent message from Music and the Spoken Word:
Recently, a team of researchers surveyed thousands of married men and women and discovered something that most couples already know: spouses who are emotionally generous with each other are happier. That common-sense finding gets at the heart of marital happiness—what changes hearts and homes and families is generosity of spirit, which the researchers define as "the virtue of giving good things to [one’s spouse] freely and abundantly.” And what does that look like in a marriage? It includes small acts of service, hugs and kisses, forgiveness, patience, and a willingness to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to look past annoyances and into each other’s heart.
If you do these things, you will find that the tension and negativity that has arisen in your relationship will be lessened, maybe even erased, if you patiently listen, try to understand, give affection backed by genuine love, forgive her and willingly give her the time, attention and respect she deserves from you.

Don't wait for her to change or be perfect to give her fully of yourself. God doesn't wait for that from you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pick Up Lines in Time for Valentine's Day

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My wife sent me these last year. I don't know the original source because they are all over the Internet. If you know the source, please comment.

I hope you can use a few of them on your sweetheart next week!

Do you have a Band-aid? I scraped my knee falling for you.

I hope you know CPR because you just took my breath away.

Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?

I seem to have lost my telephone number, may I borrow yours?

Wouldn’t we look cute together on a wedding cake?

I must be a snowflake because I’ve fallen for you.

Be unique and different: just say yes.

Do you have any Visine so I can get a clear view of our future together?

I'm out of good raisins. How about a date?

Do you know how much a polar bear weighs? Enough to break the ice. Hi, I'm _____________

You must be an astronomer because I see stars in your eyes.

Did you get a parking ticket cause you have "fine" written all over you.

Excuse me, you just dropped something . . . . my jaw!

Life without you is like a broken pencil, pointless.

Can you give me directions... to your heart?

You look so sweet you’re giving me a toothache.

You've got to be tired, because you've been running through my mind all day.

Was that an earthquake or did you just rock my world?

I just got off my mission and I'm looking for my next companion.

My Liahona pointed to you.

If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together.

I wish I was a Facebook status so you could like me.

Is there an airport nearby or is that my heart taking off?

I don’t know how you got through security cause you’re the bomb.

If you were words on a page, you’d be what they call fine print.

If beauty were time, you’d be eternity.

Were you just smiling at me or do I have my contacts in wrong?

You make me so nervous, I’ve forgotten all my other pick-up lines.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dealing with Criticism

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I have experienced a lot of criticism in my life. You probably have too.

Most of that criticism has come in my professional life, in my daily work and my work as a writer. And when I was a bishop I likewise received much criticism, from surprising sources. I've come to realize it is just part of living in a sick and fallen world.  I think I receive far less criticism at home than some do, and I must say that my family is respectful of each other, for the most part. But I know that next to tension over money, one of the greatest contributors to family break ups is negativity and criticism.

I want to share with you how I look at criticism.

First, here is a scripture that has been a favorite for many years (D&C 11:12):
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
When we were criticized as children, as all of us were, we tended to "trust" the source of the criticism. It was our nature as children to believe those around us, especially family and authority figures like teachers or friends. We accepted their criticism as legitimate and it hurt us a great deal.

As I have grown older, I've learned to question the authority or legitimacy of those who criticize me.

It's not that I don't need correction, or that I don't need help seeing my weaknesses or where I can do better. I certainly do. Our weaknesses are often our best kept secrets—from ourselves. I strive to accept correction and to overcome my defensive reflexes.

But I do reject criticism from untrustworthy sources. If the criticism comes from a source that doesn't lead to do good or to walk humbly or to judge righteously, then I consider that it arises from an impure motivation, and if the motivation is impure, then, to me, it is not legitimate. 

When I was a bishop, I received criticism regularly from ward members. At first it was hard. Bishops sacrifice so much and give so much of their time and then to hear, at the point of exhaustion, criticism from ward members, either directly or indirectly, well, that is a very hard thing and takes some getting used to. (I think some would be shocked at how much gets back to a bishop. People feel a need to inform their bishops of what they see and hear, and inform they do.)

But bishops have keys of revelation and I was surprised at how quickly the Spirit would whisper to me the real reason why someone was being critical, and it often had less to do with me than with their relationship with Heavenly Father. That Spirit would also encourage me to forgive immediately and to move forward with positive purpose, no matter what anyone said or did. 

Also, as a writer, you have to take it in the teeth every day. That is just the nature of the business. If you have had success as a published writer, you find you become a target. It is the nature of people. But I have also found that the books I have written that have received the most criticism have also been my bestselling books, the ones that have brought the most royalties in over the years. What is up with that?

As Hemingway said, "There is nothing that has been written that couldn't have been written better." That's for sure. I have lots to learn about writing, and I regret my errors and mistakes that remain in print, but I don't beat myself up over it. I laugh, forgive, express thanks, if only in my heart, and move on. 

I think one of the things that holds writers back is the fear of criticism. I think there would be more good books, even great books, in the world, if budding writers did not fear or regard criticism so much.

In conclusion, here are my recommendations for dealing with criticism:
  • Consider the spirit of the source. Does the source seek to lead to do good, to do justly, and to walk humbly, or does it seek to tear down, discourage or even destroy. If the latter is true, leave it on the trail, and keep climbing the mountain.
  • Correct with love and patience, but don't use criticism yourself. It is usually a defensive strategy used to deflect personal responsibility.
  • Criticism borne of negativity or anger is rarely accurate or motivated by love. It is not of God. "That which doth not edify is not of God and is darkness." (D&C 50:23.) Only correction that comes from love and genuine concern is worthy of your consideration. Defensiveness indicates that you believe that darkness and negativity are legitimate. They are not. Don't give them credence. 
  • Learn to laugh at your mistakes and weaknesses. Our mistakes are rather valuable learning experiences and our weaknesses are not to be protected but rather exposed. The sooner they are exposed to ourselves, the sooner we can overcome them.
  • Don't mistake correction for criticism. Recognize correction and receive it well. Don't run from it but embrace it as you would a close friend. We all need correction and chastening and the repentance that flows from it. Without it, we're sunk.
  • Where you receive the most criticism and opposition is often a signal as to what direction you should go. Satan, your keenest adversary, knows you well and wants to block you from realizing your greatest potential. I find that the greatest criticism usually comes in the place where you can also do the most good. Face it. Use it as a compass point.
  • Be grateful for anyone who helps you see your road to improvement. The devil is permitted to walk to and fro in the earth because, though he is the father of lies, he has a purpose. Whenever we respond positively to the negative, we defeat him and also the worst part of ourselves. Without that opposition, as ugly and unwelcome as it can sometimes be, we would all be misguided weaklings. If God did not see the value of the devil's opposition in our lives, he and his dark angels would not be permitted to be here. (I am not grateful for the devil, but I am grateful for God's plan which permits us to grow.)
  • See the humor in the situation, laugh and move on. Don't let criticism stop you or even slow you down. If you examine the lives of great men and women, this is often the strategy they take. They don't waste time defending mistakes; they apologize and keep moving forward.
The truth is, you are wonderful. You are amazing. You are more powerful than you imagine. You can overcome any obstacle, even if that obstacle is you. The truth is, depending on how you look at criticism, it can be rather helpful.

Let criticism be, and let it be a blessing.