Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Real Men, Strong Men -- Part 2: My Three Sons

My Three Sons

I admit right now, I don't understand boys. After several years of  tryi
ng to raise little boys, my husband bought me a book entitled Boys Should Be Boys by Dr. Meg Beeker. The book enlightened me and helped me understand that boys grow, learn, and bond through risky behavior. By defying death together, they grow in mental and physical strength, and cement their friendships. I try to keep this in the back of my mind as I watch my boys wrestle, fight, and inevitably slug it out or punch each other in the stomach. I still don't understand it from a personal perspective, but psychologically I know somehow this helps them develop.

Boys learn about strength from watching those around them, especially their fathers and other men in their lives. I pulled into a clinic parking lot a few months ago and saw a physically strong male yelling at a scared woman in the seat next to him. The skeletons and dragons tattooed on his muscles muscles demonstrated that he sought after strength, but his actions and demeanor weakened him. 

Boys need to understand the difference between being strong and having strength. 

All of us have the responsibility to live as examples for our youth. While I try to teach my boys each day, the truth is, my boys teach me every day, and the little lesson lessons are always different.


Trenden is the oldest and therefore the guiena pig of the family. We try out all of our parenting tactics on him, and inevitably end up changing the rules frequently during our grand experiment. At least once a week, I go to Trenden’s room and apologize for something, and Trenden is always loving and understanding. He doesn’t hold a grudge and forgives me (or us) as often as asked. Despite the fact that he is "only a teenager", his capacity for understanding astounds me. And better yet, when he understands a principle in his life, he applies it and lives it.


As soon as the garage door creaks open and I pull the car in the garage, Casen comes running out to help. He is the first to take heavy bags out of my arms or to grab groceries out of the car. He notices others and is always willing to help. He truly lifts and lightens the burdens others carry. Casen possesses a unique gift for helping the helpless. He quickly acts when he sees babies, small children, animals or adults in need. His kind heart shows through the service he gives to those around him. 

For Giveness

A free months ago, Daven had a church lesson about the steps of repentance. When he got to number three, instead of writing "forgiveness", he wrote For Giveness. This little change in the word immediately also change the meaning to me. When we apologize, we are askinfor giveness and a restoration of the relationship, trust and blessings that we lost. My young son is the perfect example of this, as he trusts, loves, and invests in others unconditionally, and is quick to apologize and show a tender heart when he is in the wrong.

I never thought I would be the mother of three boys. Raising strong boys in a time when society balks at the young white male is tougher than I ever imagined. I am grateful my boys keep teaching me how to be a parent!

Strong Boys will become Strong Men.

What ideas have worked in raising your boys?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Real Men, Strong Men -- Part 1: Fathers and Husbands

Real Men, Strong Men

Growing up I saw a change in how society and media valued and imagined the roles of fatherhood. I saw reruns of Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, and the iconic shows of the 50s and 60s. Then came the days of the Brady Bunch, followed by the Cosby Show, and transitioning into Everybody Loves Raymond. After that I stopped watching so I can't say exactly what is on now. But overtime strong fathers and husbands were represented less and less, and the sidekick dad was born. This character is one we have seen over and over again on television and movies, where the incredibly smart and strong woman leads the marriage and family, and the fumbling father and husband is fodder for all of the jokes.

Sometimes it seems we have forgotten what 

Strong Men  really are. 

Strong Men can hold a newborn with just the right gentle touch, while letting the mother sleep nearby. 

Strong Fathers have the courage to send their children into the world, but not before having taught them correct principles and arming them with the courage to choose the right, not the popular, path. 

Strong Men fight battles, not only for freedom, but for a return to values, like faith, virtue, honesty and integrity. 

My Father

Belief in Potential

My family travelled to my parents' out-of-state home a few years ago. Everywhere we went, my parents introduced us to their friends, associates, and coworkers. On one such occasion, a well-respected man approached my dad. My father introduced each of my children, then my husband, and then he said, "And this is my daughter Jodi." This much loved and admired man exclaimed, "Oh Jodi, I know you Jodi. Your father has told me all about you."

I wondered what exactly my father had said to this man, who is a giant among men. But I knew that whatever he said, it was better than the truth. For Strong Men and Strong Fathers look at their children and see who they can become. They see them through the eyes of one who sees their divine potential. They hope their children will discover who they really are and who they can really become with guidance and help. 

My father is the perfect example of this principle. He demonstrates his belief in me and inspires me to become better. I have always wanted be like my Dad. He is an example of righteousness in all he does. He shows faith in every action and demonstrates unconditional love at all times. Most all that my siblings and I have learned about life has come from the words, actions, works and examples of our father and mother. 

The first man in my life is strong and meek, tough and gentle, indomitable and vulnerable. He showed me the goodness that comes from a righteous, Real Man.  

My Husband


My husband has spent the last 14 winters teaching each of our kids to ski. He gives them personal lessons, signs them up with instructors, guides them, coaches them, pushes them, but never gives up on them.

He teaches them perseverance through patient perseverance himself. Skiing and snowboarding with 4 kids, who have 14 snow gear accessories each, is no small task. Simply arriving at the resort with  all the children and items in tow is a feat.

On Presidents' Day I watched one of our kids frozen in fear at the prospect of skiing down a steep slope. After waiting and encouraging, it became evident our son was not going to conquer that mountain that day. Tolan did what I didn't see anyone else to do on the slopes. He worked his way to the spot where our son stood, scooped him up in his arms, and snowboarded down the hill carrying our son. 

When our son's task seemed simply too big, his father carried him through it. As soon as he was on a hill where Tolan knew he could stand on his own two skis again, Tolan put him back on his feet and pushed him down the hill. 

A Strong Man does what is good for his family. He teaches, lifts, encourages, and carries others through hard times. 

I am grateful for the strong men in my life. They teach me, encourage me, and make me want to be a better person.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Exit Light: Always A Way Out

Have you ever stumbled in darkness? Tripped on a rock you should have seen? Driven past an exit? Missed a step? Read pages of a book without remembering a single word? Spent an evening with "friends" you don't really like? Broken promises to yourself?

For the better part of six months, fear cemented me in a tar pit. Even when I knew what I wanted to do, thoughts of inadequacy prevented me from trying get unstuck. Illness sprouted frustration which germinated self-doubt. I looked at the success of those around me and deemed myself as "not good enough" to achieve. Mired by my own indecision, I nearly allowed the pit to paralyze me.
In short—The devil on my shoulder won too many times.

A loving husband, encouraging parents and caring loved ones gently pulled me to safety. Inspiring books, prayer, motivational talks and clear next-steps advice helped me free my mind from the mud.

I learned:

Imbalance in life results from thoughts or actions being out of sync with morals, values or true desires. Sometimes people lure us away from achieving, laziness trumps activity, complacency overpowers education and following the status quo steals from innovation.

But even in dark places, an Exit Light shines, however dimly, lighting a door away from undesirable patterns, indecision, mediocrity, bad habits, sin, and poor choices. 

Have strength to exit a lifestyle not living up to your potential.

Some of the resources that motivated me to get out to the muck:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Turning Trials into Milestones

Today is the sixth anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with a tumor on my brainstem. Not only is this a I'll-never-forget-that-day day, but it is also the start of a series of what could be painful anniversaries, including the dates of my three brain surgeries and the haunting night I almost died. Those longs days, weeks and months are times my family doesn't want to remember; yet I cannot forget. 

Spring is a time of renewal, growth and blossoming. I don't want to dread this season, or fear dates on the calendar. Instead, I am trying to celebrate my second chance and appreciate the not-so-pretty, but beautiful life I live.

Laugh. Often. 

Today I went to lunch in honor of a friend's birthday. The girls and I shared fun stories, but we also cried a few tears, some even in honor of my anniversary. Afterwards, I walked back to my car and discovered a small gold necklace on the center console. At first, I wondered who the necklace could be from, but when I sat back in the seat to contemplate, I quickly realized the answer. "This is not my car!" I said out loud. Then I hopped out of the twin silver Honda Pilot, looked around me and ran the half a block more to my own car. I laughed about it all the way home, smiling to myself at the thought of what the experience must have looked like to an observer.

Not every day will have such incidents, but it was a small reminder that even the most painful moments will pass, and joy will return. Laughter makes it return faster.

Celebrate Life.

After some research, thought and more than a bit of inspiration, here are some ideas of positive ways anyone can commemorate the hard days in the past and celebrate the future.
  • Start a new tradition. (It can be something that helps you mark the day, or one that helps distract you from it.)
  • Be grateful for life. Make a gratitude list using a roll of receipt tape, then roll it throughout your home to see all the things you have to be thankful for.
  • Celebrate the strengths you have developed as a result of your trials.
  • Write thank you notes to the people who've helped you along the way.
  • Take the time to tell someone you love them and why.
  • Go to lunch with friend.
  • Hug your children (or spouse or other loved ones).
  •  Go to a park or on a walk to enjoy nature.
  • Visit a place you love and create new memories there.
  •  Play the song, "Eye of the Tiger", and run up some stairs in victory knowing you've made it another year.
  • Laugh out loud. Laugh at yourself.
  •  Have a party or celebration of life, for yourself or for the person you are remembering.
  •  Plant a healing garden.
  • Do service for a charity.
  • Start a project in honor of making it through another year.
  • Finish a project in honor of making it through another year.
  • Make a keepsake or box of things that remind you how far you've come.
  • Search for joy and bask in the little pleasures of life.
  •  Soak up the sun as a reminder that you are loved, most of all, by God.
  • Thank God for every day, even the painful ones.

Happy Spring and happy anniversary to me.
Life is good, even when it's not.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Text that Saved Me: The Story Behind the Heart-Text Idea

*Several weeks ago, I posted the "heart text" idea, a simple way we can show others we care by texting our love to family and friends. Of course, there is more to the story than the short post details. There are personal, painful moments, and even some science behind the theory. The following is the original post I wrote, but then decided not to publish. Call it a change of heart. Here it is.*

Depressed and Hopeless
More than down in the dumps, I was totally depressed. The long winter days had taken a toll on me mentally, and my only-sometimes-functional body had further sent me into a downward spiral. I felt alone, without purpose, overwhelmed—and too embarrassed to admit any of it. So, when the phone rang, I didn't answer, even though what I probably needed most was interaction with someone who cared.

I buried myself under my covers for a few hours, then I tucked myself in a corner chair with a book, anything to avoid the painful feelings I had about life. Several days turned into weeks. Each day after the kids left for school, a similar scenario played out and I was beginning to wonder if the seasonal blahs were something more.

My mind, it seemed, wouldn't allow me to be happy. I wondered if it was hormones, an early mid-life crisis, or even just a bad mood that had become a bad mode. At times, I perked up for hours here and there, especially when my family was around, but for the most part I just didn't know how to get out of the funk I was in.

One particularly bad day, I'd climbed back in bed as soon as the kids were off. Hours passed and I felt again like I was simply not enough. Then my phone beeped and buzzed on the dresser. I had a message. The text was short and sweet, but it represented salvation. In that moment, I knew someone was thinking about me. Someone cared. The sender was a friend who texted just to check in and say hi. That day, she saved me. Not from physical death, but from feelings of hopelessness that threatened to drown my soul.

Never Alone
Everyone wants to belong and to feel accepted. This need is so strong, some people will do just about anything to feel like they are part of something. They will join gangs or start unhealthy habits, such as drinking or smoking, just to have a group to join.

I believe that everyone has their hard, I-don't-want-to-be-in-this-place moments.  I also believe that even a little friendship and love can turn a day around, or even turn a life around.

Research indicates that social support reduces the impact of stress and fosters a sense of meaning and purpose in life. In addition, emotional support from social ties enhances the psychological well-being, which, in turn, may reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviors and poor physical health. (1) Another study showed that "Personal relationships form a safety net around individuals to protect them from too much isolation." (2)  

Often when you are alone, you feel alone, which isn't healthy for anyone. 

About a year ago, some weeks after the above-described incident, I embarked, not on an experiment, but a personal quest to help a friend. The Heart-Text campaign came to me in a moment of inspiration one night, but at first I was too afraid of being thought foolish to try it. When my friend was in need, love for my her trumped my fear and I told her my inspiration. The idea was simple, I thought about her all the time, I figured if I texted her, even a fraction of the times she was on my mind, she would feel my concern and know she was never alone.

Lessons Learned
What we learned together, over the course of the next months changed both of us.

* We all need to feel loved and remembered. Even the smallest indication that we were remembered, that someone cared, lifted our spirits and brightened our days.
* We all need a safe place to cry for help. A frown text or crying face emoji expressed a simple plea for help, the need for a shoulder to cry on, an encouraging friend, or just a listening ear. Knowing we always had someone to lean on made the hard days more manageable.
* Helping others provides a boost for yourself. Serving and loving others is a great way to deal with personal issues of sadness, depression, loss and pain. The more we threw ourselves into each other, the less we focused on our own problems.

Relationships and Networks
If you know someone well enough to have their contact info in your phone, you know them well enough to show them you care. (Okay, you don't have to text smiley faces to all your professional clients and vendors, but then again, maybe, on occasion, it wouldn't hurt.)

Showing support for a friend can strengthen your relationship and help ensure you will have your own support group, when you need it. Make sure it always goes both ways.

The Experiment
It's simple, just text a heart, smiley face, or "Just thinking about you" message to friends or family whenever they pop into your mind. If you know someone is having a particularly difficult time, increase the frequency of the texts or include offers to help. 

That's it! Let the Social Improvement Experiment begin and discover for yourself whether or not a text can change a life. Be sure to report back on your results.

(Disclaimer: Don't act like a stalker and bombard them with hundreds of messages a day, just let them know you care.)

Some of the Research:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Just a Little Heart

I’d just returned home from a Friday-night date with my husband when my phone buzzed. I glanced and saw my friend's name and an emoji of a crying face. Immediately I sent a message back and asked what was wrong. I wanted her to know that no matter what she was facing, she was not alone.

That small interaction sparked a moment of inspiration that changed my daily routine forever. The concept was simple, I thought about my friend all the time. I figured if I texted her, even a fraction of the times she was on my mind, she would feel my concern and know she was loved.

Now whenever friends or family pop into my mind, I text a heart, smiley face, or "Just thinking about you" message to let them know they are in my thoughts.  There is no expectation or pressure for them to reply, it is just a simple way to say I care.
It has been almost a year since then and I don't know about anyone else, but I know that my life has been changed for the better, all because of a little heart.

So if you ever get a wordless text from me, know it is my way of saying I care and I am thinking about YOU.  

Wanna join in the fun? Send a little love and let me know if your heart changes! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Information Overload and Brain Freeze: The Science of Agency and Decision Making, part II

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of menu options? How do you make a selection when perusing a 30-page menu? With decision-making, as well as with dining, more options and information do not necessarily make for better choices.

Today, the process of making choices is becoming ever more complicated. According to neurological research, when making decisions, not only does the brain "replay" our past personal experiences, but also attempts to process all the information we view in social media. If not kept in check, the brain can go into information overload from constant tweets, status updates, breaking news and live streaming content. 

A brain in information overload actually freezes up when trying to make trying to make decisions. It turns out that information is good, but too much information can actually keep a brain from making critical connections related to decision making. In fact, in research studies, the more information participants were flooded with, the less sense their final decisions made. When in information overload, study participants made stupid mistakes and increasingly poor decisions, because their brains stopped relaying properly, much like a blown fuse or overloaded circuit. [1]

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why the First Time is So Important: The Science of Agency and Decision-Making

Photo from:
As part of my personal recovery from my brain tumor, I've spent hours researching the brain, how it functions, regulates our processes and controls our bodies. The more I've learned, the more convinced I am that 

We Are More Powerful Than We Know. 

The brain is nothing short of miraculous. If it were a robot, we would say it has artificial intelligence, that it learns, changes and develops on its own. But even better than artificial intelligence, WE have control and can help determine the vast reaches of our learning and understanding. The brain can turn our daily actions into habits, help re-train paralyzed nerves to perform their tasks in the body, and it can change the body's heart-rate, just by the thoughts we think.

Part one in this series of posts on the brain is on the role of memory on the process of making decisions.

Final Answer

Accompanying every choice is a process of selecting between at least two options, with different potential outcomes. Long before any action is chosen, the brain has gone through a complex process of decision making in order to choose the Who Wants to be a Millionaire “final answer” from the available options. Though scientists and neurologists still have much to learn about the way our brains process information in the course of making a decision, there is enough research for us to understand some of how the brain works. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Intersecting Vines and Lives

Gardening is therapeutic. I love to dig in the dirt, plant, prune and eventually reap a bountiful harvest. This year the pumpkin vines grew long and took over much of the planting bed. I watched throughout the season as blossoms turned into green balls and then into colorful pumpkins.

The vines twisted, stretched and crisscrossed back and forth, wound around other plants, in bushes, down window wells and up small trees. If laid out end to end, the vines would have strewn for hundreds of feet, all contained in a little 20-foot garden.

These vines have a thousand different touch points, sometimes barely intersecting, other times intertwining and twisting together.

Life is like a pumpkin vine. Each touch point can be a meaningful interaction, a lesson learned, a life touched. At times we just brush past each other, while other times we branch out, twist or grow together. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Five Years Later: A Beautiful Messy Life and a First Draft

From living the brain tumor story...
This week marks five years since my first brain surgery and the beginning of my 35-day hospitalization. For years, when I thought about this day, I pictured a day of remembering and celebrating life. The five-year anniversary seemed BIG and noteworthy.

So what did we do when the big day came? Nothing.  
Living life took the place of recalling my brush with death. 
Now that is a wonderful celebration!

We went to the kids' baseball games, end-of-year programs at school, celebrated birthdays and cleaned out the garage. It was a perfectly normal, wonderful week. In a way, it was the perfect celebration of my "new" life. I am not the same person I used to be, nor is my life the same, but even after all the surgeries, side effects, pain and hard days, I wouldn't change a thing.
To sharing it, 5 years later!

This week is special for another reason: I finished the first draft of my book manuscript!! Five years later and I am telling the story instead of living it! I still have much work to do, but I sent it off to the first group of beta readers to begin the next round of the project. Hooray!

Some days in the last five years felt unconquerable. I spent months in bed and added a half dozen more surgeries to the ever-growing list. It seemed if something could go wrong, with a procedure, medication, therapy or treatment—it did. Some hours I thought I could not possibly go on, that my body could take no more, but those moments passed, with the help of loving family, neighbors, friends and an all-knowing God.

Now five years have passed, and I Am Still Here!


If ever I need reminders to be grateful for my messy life, I go to my "brain tumor" blog, ( and remember just how far I've come.

Thank you, from me and my family, for helping us reach this milestone!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Make It Count!

Spring is almost here! The month of March has never been so welcome in our home as it is this year. The end of January and most of February were full of unexpected health challenges, including out-of-state emergency surgery, for complications from my brain tumor. 

I could tally a long list of all the things that went wrong, the things I didn’t plan for, the frustrations, the tears, the medical expenses and the missed opportunities.  However, I could never count all the amazing blessings and realizations that came from these experiences. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned:

The things that can't be counted count more than the things that can be counted. – Boyd Packer

Sunday, January 26, 2014

If at First You Don't Succeed, Join the Club: Wipeouts Required

It is fun to celebrate the successes  of life. But lets be honest, none of the celebrations could take place without the wipeouts that came first. Every basket scored, test passed and jump landed first required practice, hard work—and wipeouts. 


You can see video after video of Epic Fails that seem to indicate fails indicate failure, but the opposite is true. It is only those who have failed, crashed, fallen, wiped out or hit a wrong note that eventually succeed.

The difference between failure and success is simply when you stop trying. 

Here's to the wipeouts, not the failures, simply the "I think I can, I think I can" moments that precede the finish lines of life.  

If a first you don't succeed, join the club.

Enjoy this little Wipeout video that has become one of our family favorites. Thanks to Brandon for teaching us this valuable lesson, and making us laugh.