Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Daily Honky Tonk 204th Edition

The Daily Honky Tonk
204th Edition
January 13, 2015
11:30 PM

The response to the first essay was so enthusiastic that I started writing part 2 almost immediately.  However, it's taken me several revisions to be happy with it.  Enjoy!

See Part 1 at

The Personal Narrative – Part 2
    A year ago this February, the Booher family filled the better part of a chapel to remember the life of my grandmother, Skeeter.  I always wondered how I would handle the death of someone close to me.  I’ve never felt overly emotional about death.  Part of Heavenly Father’s gift to me, I think, is an absolute certainty that I will see people after this life.  And though I haven’t really mourned her departure, I can absolutely say that it has changed my life over the last year. In part, I think, because I can’t get the words from her eulogy out of my head.

“She refused to be defined by the things that happened to her, but chose to define herself, and her life, in her own way.”

    If you spend enough time with any of Skeeter’s 10 children or 50+ grandchildren/great grandchildren, then you will realize many of the narratives we tell of Skeeter make her out to be no less than a superhero.  And we’d be hard pressed to make her out as much less, despite her weaknesses.

    In the past couple months, I’ve wanted to pay tribute to Skeeter in writing.  However, the best tribute I can think of to Skeeter has been to live the best principles and practices that she taught.  She organized and prioritized each day by lists defining what she needed to accomplish.  She planned the task, executed the task in whatever time it required, and then moved to the next one.  She was always teaching.  She taught grandchildren, neighbors, friends from the church and community, how to cook, how to be thrifty, how to coupon, how to grow a garden, how to raise children, how to love books, how to keep a house clean, how to build a stand for a chicken coop, how to collect eggs, pick berries, get up before the sun, and how to work, work, work.

  Long before DIY magazines and HGTV, Skeeter was the queen of Do It Yourself.  I remember in a visit not too long ago I saw a DIY magazine sitting on the table.  I picked it up to look.  She saw what I was reading and expressed her disappointment with the DIY magazine because it didn’t teach ingenuity and resourcefulness (like she practiced) but rather spending money on prefabricated projects.  Skeeter didn’t like to throw things away, she would save things for years with a plan for how each object, seemingly trash to many, could become something greater.  And frequently the projects on the farm we did, were the realization of those plans. If she could do it, then anyone could.  She taught that way, with the full confidence and belief that you would learn it.  She told you what to do, and you did it right.  If you didn’t do it right, she corrected your actions until you learned to do it right.  In short, not unlike the Savior, Skeeter found that special balance of teaching with love and with firmness

     The lessons I could record from her life are numerous.  My goal is to record them in my heart as I weave the narrative of her actions into the narrative of my present and future decisions.

    In Part 1, I referred to the idea that people sometimes make them out to be the epic hero or the embattled victim of life.  And while Part 1 looked at how personal narratives related to jobs, I want to look in Part 2 at how the stories impact other parts of our lives.

    Skeeter was a hero rather than a victim.  She passed on that desire to me, especially through my mom. I hope the following experiences will illustrate what I mean.  I hope you recognize that as important as the individual plot points of our lives are, it is the inner dialogue during those plot points that helps us to define who we are.

Changing the weight narrative:
   An easy way to illustrate the influence of inner dialogue is to tell you about my weight.   Between fourth and fifth grade I started putting on weight.  By middle school, I was a chunky monkey, a “marshmallow puff”, erroneously defining my narrative by the elementary peer poking my belly while making the Pillsbury dough laugh and by the doctor who commented that I could us a little more exercise.  Inside my head, I believed the weight couldn’t go away.

    In middle school, I discovered a growing interest in the opposite sex.  I decided if I was never going to be skinny,  I would need to have great character, despite my weight.  I believed that would best happen if I increased my devotion to Christ.  That decision was one of the best I ever made.  But, I still believed the weight was permanent.

    Sophomore year, my story changed when I joined the soccer team.  I was getting so much exercise, my weight dramatically changed.  And yet, I still believed I was fat.

    Nine years later my weight steadily climbed past the two hundred mark.  So, I tried counting calories, dropped twenty pounds, and then put it back on in six months.  Then, last spring, I finally had a break through when I completed a healthy challenge, dropped thirty pounds in eight weeks, and kept it off.

    Much of decreasing my weight has been altering my narrative.  I love eating great food, sharing great food, and recounting great food experiences.  At night, I read cookbooks in bed.

    For a long time, I thought I might have to abandon those things.  But altering a narrative isn't ignoring it or lying to ourselves, but rather seeing things in a new light.  I changed my mentality- I can enjoy foods in smaller portions.  I can still be fascinated by cooking and learning new techniques. I may dislike counting calories, but increasing exercise and the intake of better foods, reducing sweets, and controlling portions all were internal changes that didn't have to remove my love of food.  I had to remind myself that "Never trust a skinny chef" is just a saying and not an absolute truth.  Instead I adopted a 
P.S.A. poster from the teacher’s lounge - a picture of an athletic girl running with an the overlaying text,  “Healthy by choice, not by chance.” 
    Internal dialogue isn't just what we say to ourselves in thought, but also the images, ideas, and people we let inspire us.  I frequently thought about my parents who have worked hard in the last decade to be more healthy. Also, Michael Symon and an Our Best Bite’s blog author who changed their lifestyles to be at healthy weights while being public food figures.

   Change is possible, especially when we start to change from the inside.

Changing the anxiety narrative 
    For a long time, as many of your remember, I used the DHT to relieve stress and work through the anxieties of my youth.  During that time, I believed that my high anxiety would continue for the duration of my time on earth.  Two things contributed to my anxiety.

    First, in my spiritual narrative, I knew the Lord expected a lot out of me. Because I had been given much, I was expected to give more back (think parable of the talents).  I understood very well that we gain spiritual knowledge:
line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away that which they have.” - 2 Nephi 28:30

    I didn’t want to have that which I had learned taken away. (And when I’ve been slower to act on the right things, the Lord has taken away). I also was the oldest and felt a strong need to be the best example.  I was a perfectionist, but internally I knew I was doing it because I loved the Lord.

    Another part of my anxiety narrative included family history.  In my family, I get anxiety and neurotic tendencies from both sides.  From my dad’s side a highly anxious grandmother and a obsessive compulsive grandpa.  From my mom’s side, a history of stay-up-late-into-the-night thinkers, and anxiety/mild depression issues.   
And, perhaps most interesting to reflect on now, thinking that my family had similar issues made me feel connected to my family in a meaningful way.  We were anxious about life, but at least we were anxious together.
    Of course, personal narrative is also built on the building blocks of experience.  I had countless nights to remember of not being able to sleep, long periods of extended anxiety that didn’t end, and the fact that often my great anxiety could produce enough pressure to get some pretty fantastic results.  It is easy to tell yourself something won't end when you have a lot of experiential evidence to back it up.

    Despite all these things, President Ellsworth helped me reframe my narrative.  I remember sitting in his office for an interview about how things were going as a missionary.  I described some of my anxieties and fears, some of my guilt complexes, and probably more details than most humans share.  The response I got wasn’t expected.  “Elder Tonkinson, you seem to be trying to live your life without Christ’s Atonement.”  All along, my narrative had been that my perfectionist obsession was because I loved Christ (which it was).  But I hadn’t realized that in so doing, I was trying to live such a life in which I did everything so right that I wouldn’t have to rely on Christ for any mistakes.  The great mistake was not trusting Him.  Furthermore, my mission President helped me to see that in some way, I was addicted to my stress.  Their was some sick part of if that I enjoyed.  When I wasn’t stressed, I would go through withdrawal and work myself up again.

    Over time, I started viewing my own spiritual narrative in new ways.  I lived life without as much fear of failure and was willing to allow the chance that mistakes might happen, but that they would come at an even better price, more trust in Christ and greater learning.   Furthermore, I started to change my life narrative.  No matter what my family history was, it didn’t mean that I would always have to be that same stressed out Mark.  No matter how much experience I had being stressed, didn't mean I had to keep doing the same thing.  As I changed those thoughts, I became a more relaxed person and better able to cope with anxiety and stress.  I’m not saying it’s all gone; but I find that if I don’t define my life by my stress that the waves of anxiety are much less significant.  I don’t buy into them or allow them to grow.

My Parent's Narrative    My parents are fairly private about their younger lives.  I know they try and define themselves by who they are now and what they are becoming tomorrow rather than by who they were in the past.  And while their is nothing in their past that was terrible, they weren't the same people they are today.

     Through little pieces of their narratives I've stored away over the years, I’ve come to believe that one of the most defining moments came for them when I was very young.  After I was born, and before Taryn was born, I have a sister named Kelsey Danielle who was stillborn.  And while I know those were hard years for my parents, I also know that they made themselves into the heroes of their narratives rather than victims.  They didn’t say, "this is awful, we will never have any children again" - Taryn was born one year later.  They didn’t curse God and believe he didn’t love them, instead, they increased their commitment and devotion to the Lord so that we could return as a family and be with Kelsey forever.  And while it was certainly sad,  sadness was never the focus of our talks about Kelsey.  We usually talk about her around her April 3rd birthday.  We talk about our decision to continue as a family to keep our covenants so we can be with her.  And we talk about our gratitude for the plan of salvation. 

    The fact that my parents made a decision not to be victims of the incident, but rather to make something better out of it is like the two paths diverging - they chose the one that made all the difference.

Some Closing Thoughts    Recently, I have delved into the writings of and about the movers and shakers of the world.  A heavy dose of Malcolm Gladwell here, a nice dose of Ed Catmull’s “Creativity Inc.”, the story of Google, commencement speeches by Steve Jobs and other heavy hitters, and a book called “The Tastemakers”, a treatment of how food trends move by David Sax.  With each of them, I have come to see that the way they tell the story of their life matters.  And more than that, the way to see how stories define and shape lives is one thing they understand.
    In a world where people have an increased fear to stay in relationships, to face economic hard times with hard work and sacrifice rather than bailouts, and people fighting to stop outside factors (bullying, fatty foods) rather than help people face their inner battles, I think it is critical that we know how to shape our own stories.  It’s also critical that we have enough empathy to first understand people and then begin to assist them in shaping their stories.

   I find myself increasingly grateful for the Savior's sacrifice.  All changes in our narratives are made possible by Him.  If it weren't for the Atonement, we couldn't leave our mistakes in the past and define ourselves by who we are becoming rather than who we were.
     One saying that I added to my internal dialogue in fighting anxiety came from an LDS psychologist who I met with before my missionary service (he was asked to make sure my Tourrette's syndrome wasn't going to be an issue).  Because I was interested in psychology, I asked him what he thought of the profession.  He said he loved being an LDS psychologist because he could focus on the Atonement.  In repairing relationships, or on working through issues he said that "While much of the world of psychology focuses on a person's past, I love how the Gospel allows me to help people by focusing on what they can become tomorrow."  As I have come to greater understand the Savior's sacrifice, I have found the Atonement to be empowering in all aspects of my life (anxiety and weight loss included).

    To bring this back around to Skeeter, I think one of the attributes I want to carry on most is her ability to lovingly build other people up.  In meaningful ways, she impacted the trajectory of other's narratives.  The following is from the closing of the eulogy.

Jeanetta Ann Talley Booher lived her life to the fullest, in the way she wanted to live it. She never traveled the four corners of the globe, but she taught children that did. She never rose to high status in business or government, but she taught children that did. She never changed the course of human history, but she changed the course of many personal histories through her tireless and stubborn efforts to see justice done, see children taught, and see the truth conquer. She never allowed the past to define her life, but constantly looked forward to defining herself anew everyday. 
I’m sure she will continue that quest in the eternities.
Jeanetta Ann Talley Booher was indeed a defining woman.

I can and you can be a defining person as well.

The Editor,

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Daily Honky Tonk 203rd Edition

The Daily Honky Tonk
203rd Edition
June 6, 2014
7:30 AM

The Personal Narrative- Part 1

    If you ever watch one of those reality show competitions (The Voice, Chopped, The Next Iron Chef), you always get several personalities who are scripted to say something like, “I know my whole life has led up to this moment, and if I win, I will know I was doing the right thing.  It will really validate to others that what I have been doing is right.”  Somehow, their life is defined by the moment.  They were always preparing for this competition that didn’t exist when they were little kids.

    Despite my incredulity towards reality shows, I do think the stories we tell about ourselves matter.  A couple of months ago, I was listening to an episode of This American Life in which a rather successful man tells Ira Glass how he progressed.  He credits all his life’s highest points to plagiarizing a paper as an elementary student.  His English teacher was so impressed she used it to recommend him to a private school, away from the problems of the public school.  His whole life hinged on this moment.  Without the private school, he believed he would never have gotten anywhere.  Curious about the teacher, Ira had a private investigator searching six months until the lady was found.  She recalled the student, but viewed the story differently.  She couldn’t remember one particular paper, she just recalls the young man being on track for success in general – based on that she recommended him. But her recollection was that the school wasn’t that bad and he would have succeeded anyway.  The two narratives of the young man’s life differ significantly.  When Ira asked whether this new knowledge changed how the man felt about himself, he explained that he preferred his version of the story.

    This really got me thinking about the stories we tell about ourselves.  Many people believe life has some kind of purpose and that they are meant to fulfill some sort of mission during their time on earth.  It is only natural that people would look for that guidance and connect the pieces of their lives to explain where they are.  Some see themselves as the epic hero in their story, while others see themselves as the embattled victim of defeat after defeat, and most fall somewhere in between the two extremes.  In any case, people tend to see their life as a narrative of connected events.

    I started to consider the personal narratives I tell myself.

    Here is the personal narrative that explains why I became a teacher.  When I was little, I would stay up late at night reading books in bed.  I would wait until the house was quiet, and then turn on the light, hoping the click of the lamp wouldn’t wake my parents.  If I heard any stirring in my parent’s room next door, I would turn off the light quickly and pretend to be asleep.  Over time, this love of reading turned to a love of writing and creating stories.  I started writing stories on my own and began writing a newsletter to family and friends through email.  The newsletter gave me hours of writing experience that contributed to my ability to not only use English, but to communicate more clearly.  When I got out of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to do something that was of benefit to other people.  After being a missionary, I knew that I loved teaching.  I also remembered the admiration I had for teachers and how much impact I felt they had in my life.  Furthermore, I felt that teaching wouldn’t be a boring office job, because teaching requires constant adaptation and innovation.  My lack of expertise in math, my less than totally enthusiastic feelings towards science, and my lack of confidence in memorizing important details for history (unfounded I see now), and my personal connections to reading and writing led me straight to teaching English.  Furthermore, skills learned through theater and leadership experiences had prepared me to engage students and to work a classroom like I would a crowd.  I had been prepared to make a difference through a life of teaching.

    Of course, you know my current situation.  Despite my personal narrative, I am not going to be teaching next year.  While personal narratives can certainly be empowering, they are in the end a construct that we build to explain our lives rather than a predetermined destiny of some sort.  Let me illustrate this by writing a few more personal narratives that could explain my life.

   1) I grew up in a home that taught and fostered the hard working values of corporate America.  My dad is the Chief Financial Officer in a health system. My mom learned hard work growing up on a farm and managing a sandwich shop in college.  They both have strong leadership abilities and work ethics.  Their life experiences informed how they raised their children.  In the home, I learned leadership, hard work, financial stability, a desire to work through challenges and failure, an ability to work with people towards common goals, punctuality, and accountability to name a few.  I was challenged to think and develop my own ideas and opinions.  I learned how to budget, how to interact with others in meaningful ways, and how to understand the connections in the world around me.  As a child, I enjoyed creative endeavors and was allowed/encouraged to follow my passions.  I also strived to be my best self at school and in the community, knowing that who I became would make a difference.  Throughout my life, I obsessively read books about everything, expanding my knowledge in any way possible.  We discussed the news, political trends, and business trends around the dinner table.  I was encouraged to consider any path I wanted to, and encouraged to try out the ones that I was passionate about.  I was bred not only for success, but also to make a difference.  Throughout my church life and work life, I’ve been afforded opportunities to train others and to understand how organizations work.  Due to all these life experiences and more than I have time to share, I know that I have the skills to act as an entrepreneur or leader in a company.

    2) Despite the fact that my mom and dad are not particular fans of the screen, I grew up loving storytelling that took place in video games and movies.  As a boy I was fascinated by Pixar.  I watched every single behind the scenes features on the DVDs and read everything I could get my hands on. I started teaching myself animation in hopes I could join Pixar’s ranks.  As I got older, I would sometimes go to the movie store (no Redbox or Netflix back then) to rent a movie.  I was content to spend an evening watching a movie by myself, pondering the story and techniques of the film.  My love of such productions was enhanced because I participated in drama and wrote stories myself.  Furthermore, I love creating music and seeing how music and images combine to create meaning.  At school, my favorite subject was English because it was about how we use stories to describe and explain life.  In time, I have realized that people specialize towards one specific part of movie making- but I’m interested in the big picture.  Because I understand a little about animation, a little about lighting, music, storytelling, acting, and so forth, I know that working as a writer/director/producer is my calling.  I know how the pieces connect and can put them together.

    3) The name Tonkinson and the word food are practically synonymous.  If you know a Tonkinson, you likely know how much they love eating yummy food.  There is a picture of little me, in a chef’s hat and apron going to town on some kind of dough, delighted .  Learning to cook foods was an adventure.  As a young child, I learned how to make breakfast, pick and prepare strawberries for jam, peel apples for applesauce, and make grilled cheese sandwiches before soccer games.  As I got older, I was required to make dinner a couple times a month for the family.  When I got together with friends we baked cinnamon rolls, had cooking competitions, and enjoyed food together.  As a family, we enjoyed all sorts of food.  I was encouraged to try everything, and to this day I like nearly all foods and I’m willing to try anything.  The passion for food wasn’t just in my immediate family, but also my extended family.  On my dad’s side, I remember lavish dinners beautifully set out on the table- sweet potato casserole, fish, asparagus, my grandfather always drinking a glass of wine.  And on my mom’s side, we ate food from the farm made with fresh ingredients- cornbread, green beans, sweet corn, berry cobblers, and eggs plucked from beneath the chickens while watching out for snakes.  From my mother, I learned that serving food was an extension of the heart.  If anyone came over, my mom made sure I offered them something to drink and munch on.  Around holidays and birthdays, meals were carefully planned and presented in beautiful dishware.  Cooking was more than just eating, it was about serving others.  This love of food led me to work in restaurants and in catering where my love for food grew deeper.  The year I got married I immersed myself in restaurant business books, looking to fulfill my childhood dream of opening the greatest buffet ever (darn you Bacchanal!).  To this day, one of my favorite things to do at night (and the one my wife likes to tease me about) is to prop up some pillows and read a cookbook until my eyes can no longer stay open.  The studying of cookbooks allows me to invent and modify recipes on the fly because I understand methods, techniques and flavor combinations.  Wonderful food fills our home.  My life has prepared me to make others happy by bring them great food through a restaurant or catering business.

    I can easily think of many other life narratives that could define why I should work in fields like marketing, writing, business consulting, counseling, social work, etc.  But, personal narratives don’t in and of themselves define which path I should take.

    Personal narratives can inspire and help individuals make meaning in their lives.  And we don’t just use narratives to describe our work life, but rather many aspects of our lives.  I believe that our personal narratives can be guided by revelation and directives from the Lord.  However, if we aren’t careful these narratives can be a destructive power in our lives rather than a benefit.  As the Lord expects us to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness" I think He would like us to be aware of the narratives that we write for ourselves.  In so doing we can recognize this promise- “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.  And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”

    In Part 2, I’ll explore how the personal narrative can empower or destroy individuals.

The Editor,

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Daily Honky Tonk 202nd Edition

The Daily Honky Tonk
202nd Edition
June 1, 2014
9:47 PM

I was looking at job postings on craigslist when I found this title “Write Research Papers for College Students”.  Curious to see if it was as shady as I assumed, I clicked on the link.  Sure enough, it was exactly what it purported to be.  I was surprised by the apparent hypocrisy in the professional expectations:

      “Please keep in mind that plagiarism and the theft of intellectual property is not tolerated and all work is scanned with anti-plagiarism software. ”

Seems like a double standard to me.

I’ve really enjoyed a number of essays that I’ve read online recently.

    An essay about “privilege” and receiving the fruits of our labors.  The title assigned by the website unfortunately undermines the intelligence of the writer.
    This also reminds me of one writer commenting on the economics of those who are asking for the raising of minimum wage.  The price of goods goes up if you bring up the base pay, meaning that those who are on minimum wage just find themselves the same amount of poor at a higher price point.

    I have to say that I was disappointed by the number of grammatical errors in this article – having seen my writing, you should know that I’m not a grammar nazi.  However, considering that it a national news affiliate, I would have liked to see some more polish.
   That being said, I really feel like he nails something I’ve been worried about . . . The witch hunt to destroy politically incorrect opinions.  The author makes a comparison to the McCarthy era, one that I had previously thought of- I was glad to see it wasn’t just in my head.
   In the spirit of the article, I feel the need to continue to assert that I believe in traditional marriage.  I’m tired of seeing people who state their beliefs being bullied as if they have done something wrong.  Following God has rarely been popular, but I’m sad to see an increased disregard for and desire to shut people of faith down when they have politically unpopular views.  I think this is because many felt that religion was a “controlling” or “manipulating” force in America.  If it ever was “controlling”, it clearly isn’t that way now.

    This is a biting critique of my generation . . . And I love it.  It is a fascinating commentary on the break down of honest living in our society.

“Take, for example, an ad that calls itself an ad, makes fun of its own format, and attempts to lure its target market to laugh at and with it. It pre-emptively acknowledges its own failure to accomplish anything meaningful. No attack can be set against it, as it has already conquered itself. The ironic frame functions as a shield against criticism. The same goes for ironic living. Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.”

In my search for a different job, it is important to be reminded that work is honorable in and of itself.

And finally, I listened to this one on Caleb’s recommendation: The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever- an interesting observation about learning and the adventure of life from a cultural anthropologist who came and spoke at a BYU Forum.  You can listen to that at

Thoughts on Thinking Outside the Box

    On occasion, we can get the feeling that we are trapped in a box.  Problems exist for which there doesn’t seem to be a solution.  Circumstances seemingly limit our capacity to take action with respect to the problem.  And, the box can feel suffocating if we spend a lot of time in it.  Boxes are not, in fact, impossible to get out of; however, they may require some outside the box thinking.

    The phrase “thinking outside the box” is not particularly new.  It’s use in our modern vernacular is attributed to management consultants from the 1970s and 80s (Wikipedia), who used the nine dots puzzle to illustrate their point.  At times, I’ve come to view the box as an enemy. However, new insights lead me to believe that the same mental/emotional constructs that form the box - circumstances, conditions, lack of confidence, or ability - are an absolute necessity and predecessor to our success.  

   In order to get out of the proverbial box, there has to be one in the first place.  Problems arise out of the circumstances and constructs in which we already exist.  To respond proactively, it behooves us to prepare ourselves through exploration of box prior to any difficulty.  Each part of life contains necessary limits and restraints, whether at home, among friends, at work, or church.  There are rules, guidelines, and principles that guide each facet of life.  These positive attributes are part of the box also.  To fully understand our capacity in each situation necessitates jumping into the box and playing around in it as a child does.
    Give a young child a refrigerator box, and it has for them much potential. It can be a house, a ship, a prison, a special suit of protective armor, a time machine, or a life form transformation device if you are Calvin and Hobbes. This seeming freedom doesn’t mean there are no rules or principles that guide their play.  Young children would not appreciate if midgame an adult declared that their spaceship was a submarine (Technically, there is the off chance they might delight in your declaration depending on the fluidity of the moment, but you get the picture). And without cardboard walls, it might be a little harder to imagine the box as a ship, house, or prison.  Like children, we need to appreciate that boxes already have potential. The open space inside leaves us free to experience much. Without this space in the box, or the awareness of it, we couldn’t possibly start to think outside of it.

   After recognizing that the box is not only there, but is also significant, we need the ability to look outside the box. Though we could turn to many examples to learn outside the box thinking, I like taking a closer look at what comedians do.

    To be comical, a comedian uses what people “know” about life to guide anticipation towards one thing and then suddenly do a U-turn.  In other words, a comedian is doing outside the box thinking about life – which requires careful observation of life’s boxes. Comedy is often a commentary on the idiosyncrasies of humanity.  As an example, I present comedian, Jim Gaffigan:

“Some people get so into Christmas they decorate their yards. That seems completely backwards, "Alright, chop down that tree, bring it in here... Take all these lights, put 'em out there...” 

   Gaffigan picks up a plate of what is normal and then flips it over so we see something irrational about our accepted holiday traditions “box”. This kind of out of the box comedy appears in music as well.  In Jaron and the Long Road’s “I Pray for You”, the singer goes to church after a painful heartbreak.  He appeals to the preacher for help with his difficult feelings.  The preacher tells him,

“ . . . You can’t go hatin’ others who have done wrong to you,
Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn.
Let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them.”

    What the preacher advises is what we would expect from a preacher.  The box is unhampered with.  Then a nice musical pause gives us time to anticipate how this man might change through prayer.  The disruption of our expectations in the box creates the comedy:

I pray your brakes go out runnin' down a hill
I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I'd like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you're flyin' high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are honey, I pray for you
   Similarly, a pause is used for comedic (and meaningful impact) in John Mayer’s “My Stupid Mouth”.  The song iterates the problems of saying dumb things on a date.  Having provided examples of why he should keep his mouth closed, John Mayer closes the song- “I’m never speaking up again, starting now”.  His words and the music fade off into silence.  And then, “One more thing.” A final verse starts. The irony - he can’t keep his mouth closed.  Getting outside the box requires us to anticipate what people think the box is and then creatively flip it around.

    If we want to imitate the comedians, we have to think outside of the boxes that we live in.  This requires us to turn the boxes in our heads like we might a precious diamond in our hands.  We need to look at it from all the angles - beyond what we’ve established as the norm.  Because we get comfortable when we understand the box, new problems can be like disrupting a child’s play by telling them their spaceship is a submarine.  Adults also struggle when their concept of the world is frustrated.  But when we reach that moment, that is the most crucial time to take what we know and let go of it.  We have to be fluid and start thinking outside of what we know exists.  But as you may well have concluded, if we haven’t taken time before this point to know what exists, it’s hard to pinpoint where we could go outside of the problem.

    More often than not, to find a solution, part of getting out of the box means rethinking how I envision the solution.  Sometimes we limit ourselves to seeing a solution coming about through very specific means.  The actual solution, though providing similar results, may look very different than we expected.  In “Creativity Inc.” Ed Catmull describes how at Pixar there was a table in a planning room where the intention was that everyone would feel free to speak up.  However, because of the long table design, the head producers at Pixar were assigned seats at the middle of the table to be in the middle of the action where they could hear all the ideas.  Other seats were assigned by the secretaries as well.  Without the management’s intention, this indicated to other staff members that where you sat at the table indicated the importance of your input.  After a number of years, the leadership team noticed the lack of unity between their purpose and the action of the employees.  They corrected this by replacing the table with a large square table better suited to incorporate more people.  They also stopped the practice of setting out placement cards.  People started speaking up.

    While serving as a missionary, President Ellsworth frequently used the analogy of outside the box thinking in trainings.  He taught us to see that we build boxes of excuses around ourselves.  “President, I could do better if not for my lack of  ____________,  or if not for my companion, or if the ward members were a little more excited, or if I wasn’t so __________________, etc.”  He taught us a simple way to work around these things.  “Elder, tell me what you would be doing if none of those things were true.”  You would then describe your idealized version of how you would do things.  His simple response, “So, do that.”

 Suddenly the light would click; the excuses would melt away for one of two reasons-

  1. The realization that the excuse was all based on concerns about what other people were doing- you refocus on what is in your power.
  2. The realization that it was only the fear in our heads that got in the way.

    Example of a dialogue:
“President, if I just knew the scriptures better, I would be more confident as a teacher.”
“So Elder, if you knew all the scriptures, what would you do?”
 “I would use them as I taught each lesson, I would speak up more frequently, and I’d feel more confident.”
“So, do that.”

     Suddenly the vision of what was possible would come.  You could start picking a few scriptures to use, you could speak up more frequently, and you could be more confident in yourself.   And sometimes there were things one couldn’t change- but thinking outside the box, meant looking at what you could change.

    Now, thinking outside the box can’t just be to change things.  In education, I’ve noticed that progress is sometimes measured by whether you changed something, not always whether that change produces great results.  In some instances, I’ve seen people make changes just for the sake of being innovative.  I felt fortunate to work in a place where I didn’t feel that was the case.  Because what often happens when people desire to just make a change happen is that they ignore reason and the forget the emotional motivators behind why people do things the way they do.

    Without appreciating what others have accomplished in the box, people will probably not celebrate the forward thinking disturbances caused by others  “outward” thinking.  I don’t know that people who want to be innovative can get people on their team without understanding and appreciating what already existed in the box.  However, if you start with respect for what’s already discovered, it’s more likely people will reciprocate respect for your new ideas.

    For example, I don’t mind that President Obama had a desire to take a new look at healthcare laws.  However, the legislation went through with such a push to get it passed and then “discover” its consequences that I think he shot himself in the foot.  Good ideas can speak for themselves over time, if that time is given.  If people have time to adjust to a different vision of what the box can be, then they can get on board and celebrate change.  If not, there may be so much resistance to the change, that who will know if it really does any good.  

**As an aside, I accept that sometimes taking steps quickly is important, even without the acceptance of others, but I think generally we should strive for the support of others.

    In reflecting on some of my current frustrations about life, I found myself in a box.  The exercise taught by President Ellsworth is easy to replicate on my own.  What do I feel is limiting me?  I don’t enjoy all aspects of teaching.  Why has my life has felt out of balance?  I’m felt I was either working or trying to escape.  I wasn’t enjoying school and I wasn’t particularly enjoying my time at home.  I started to ask myself what I would do if I enjoyed my job. The answer- I would come home, I would use my time productively and accomplish the things I wanted to do and needed to do.  This simple exercise helped me to refocus.  I worked harder to finish school work at school, to accomplish important tasks rather than just trying to escape through distractions.  While writing this article over the past month, I did find balance that brought the joy needed to get through the rest of the school year and to accomplish the things I really want to do – like write this DHT.

The Editor,

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Daily Honky Tonk 201st Edition

The Daily Honky Tonk
201st Edition
March 17, 2014
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
9:10 p.m.

   I continue to study out what I should do with my life.  I’m trying not to let the stress get to me.  A few weeks ago Caleb recommended a video that talks about the metaphor of daily bread or manna.  In the video Elder Christofferson talks about trusting the Lord and becoming content with taking a daily help from the Lord.   Those who were in the wilderness with Moses had to be content with a portion of manna received each day.  He gave the Israelites what they needed to eat and told them that they needed to trust Him to provide it the next day.  If they collected the manna, they learned quickly that it didn’t last.  While sometimes eating manna everyday may have been less than they wanted, it was what the Lord wanted them to have at the time – it was enough.  I have had to focus on seeking after the daily spiritual sustenance, trusting that I will ultimately leave my personal wilderness.  I’ve probably watched this video ten times in the last month as I seek to focus on receiving what I am allotted from the Lord and being content with that.

   I have also been grateful for the insights of Dallan Moody in a devotional I heard at BYU almost exactly two years ago.  His talk was meaningful for both it’s content and for it’s timing.  I listen to this devotional every few months to put into perspective how small the difficulties I am asked to pass through really are.  His talk is titled, “What Happens When Life Gets One Degree Colder” and can be found in the link below.

I decided to go back and look at some of the drafts I wrote over the past year  . . .

   I wish that this edition meant something more monumental to me.  At this point in my life, the DHT represents a past part of my life that helped me to learn to write, to communicate, to think, and to start to understand people.  Boy did I think I knew something when I was a teenager.  Being a missionary humbled me and changed me in drastic ways.  I grew a deeper understanding of Christ’s sacrifice for me and how to apply it.  I began to see with greater clarity how God loves each of His children.   As bad as things were for some people, I knew God was aware.  I came to a greater understanding that life isn’t fair and that the only solace for that in the long run is that Christ’s sacrifice will make up for the greatest injustices that exist.
   I had a wonderful mission President who helped me to see that the world wasn’t black and white.  I started to see how certain ideals I had got in the way of living with the even greater joy available to me of trusting the Savior, and of interacting with people in ways that were more productive.
    As mature as I thought I was- I was just as wrong about so many things.   Less than wrong, perhaps, my understanding was incomplete, and needed a lot of work.
    It’s been 8 years since I graduated high school, 6 years since returning from being a missionary, and more than 2 years since I married my wonderful wife Whitney.   So much of what I wrote about- going on a mission, getting married, and graduating have all happened.  In your youth, those goals seem so important, perhaps because they are benchmarks.  They are things that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.  Goals like having a great family, career, and living as a faithful disciple of Christ are not goals that we “accomplish” in a certain amount of time- but rather life styles and behaviors that must be continually developed.
    But, I hope, that in all this, I might develop myself by writing and sharing and thinking and most importantly, trusting in the Lord.

On the subject of bullies

    If you were to drop in on a conversation between Whitney and I in the past year and a half, you can pretty much guarantee school would come up.  And while I have wanted to write about school, I’ve also wanted to be careful.  These days it seems like there is so much negative media directed at schools, that perhaps I feel the need to protect my workplace and my community.  And, I, like all teachers recognize there is nothing perfect about the education system; and truth be told, we have just as many concerns as the outside world.   Yet, I also know that the negative attention compounds problems.
    I’ll use testing as an example.  There is much to be said for and against testing.  But, any good that could come of testing, is often negated by the continual attacks made upon testing.  Students, teachers, parents, and many others share such negative perceptions about testing that it makes it difficult to know if the testing could do us any good.  If students hate it so much that they don’t they don’t give it there best efforts, or believe so much in it that they do worse because of stress, then we can’t measure the effectiveness of the test.  How does this relate to bullying?  Bullying is a buzz topic that can also be compounded with too much talking.  I hope to write about it to add something meaningful, without compounding the problems.
    I remember vividly some rough moments grades 6-10.  I got slapped, knocked down from behind, treated like scum, and was subject to flying foods in the cafeteria.  And while my bullying was not as extreme as some, it was present and memorable to me.  I was fortunate to have parents who taught me that bullies were bullies because they had their own problems that were unassociated with me – and I was fortunate to trust their council.  My experiences contribute to my sensitivity to bullying, but that doesn’t make me some exception to the rule among teachers.  I’ve never met a teacher who is interested in encouraging bullying.  But the way I hear some people talk about it would make it seem that bullying is an epidemic highly ignored in schools.
    If that were the case, then I would have to ignore all the anti-bullying signs, the multiplicity of assemblies, classroom lessons, the efforts of the HOPE squad, and the continual efforts of teachers and staff to prevent and proactively stop bullying.  And despite all the good intentions, bullying happens.
    What I want to present to those outside of the education world is some of the problems I notice in the school community that we don’t have good answers to:

He said/She said-
    As much as I wish that all students were honest and virtuous and true, that is just not the case.  It is not uncommon for precious middle schoolers to come forward with heated, “he said, she said” battles.  The main interest of a “he said, she said” battle is to get the other student in as much trouble as possible while protecting yourself from the consequences.  Knowing that neither side is completely honest or dishonest, there is often no way to tell what has really happened.  And much of school is this way . . . Its not like the bullies are standing there picking on students while the teacher stands behind them patting them on the back.  Real bullies are smart enough to do it in subversive ways.  However, because bullying is such a buzzword in education and in the community, students use it as ammunition to try and get other students in trouble.  When enough kids are crying “wolf”, it’s hard to know when and what the problems really are.

No Tolerance Policy-
         Now, you might suggest that I prevent all rude comments from ever happening in my presence.  However, that can quickly backfire.  If students know it upsets you some will try to say rude things to get a reaction, some middle schoolers will say rude things because they aren’t fully cognitively developed, some students will say rude things to their friends because that is how they relate to each other, and some have bullies as parents.  If I were to respond to all incidents of rudeness as if they were the end of the world, my students would see me as a Nazi (breaking down their trust and sense of a stable environment).  We would get parent calls insisting that their child must have been wronged and that we were unfair, and maybe if it was too extreme it would go to the news and public opinion would run rampant.  . . .

** Looking back on what I wrote, I think most of what I wrote here was a reaction to the news- which is a source of information that tries to gain viewership by stirring controversy rather than reflecting what people really think.   To be completely honest, I don’t think bullying is any different from what it was years ago.  I recently read a blog from a professor I had at BYU who is in his 50s (I think?) who spoke about getting a swastika carved into his arm with a pocket knife.  Bullies are nothing new- being overly sensitive to them is.  I’ve appreciated that some have taken time to write more about taking care of the victims rather than focusing on the bullies- sociopaths aren’t really the type to change anyway.

The Editor,

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Daily Honky Tonk 200th Edition

**Note to blog readers- I am aware that 94-99 are not on here.  I don't really feel like going back and adding them.  If you would like to receive them and other future blogs by email, contact me.

The Daily Honky
200th Edition
March 2, 2014
8:40 PM

   Per normal, I have several drafts of the DHT sitting in the drafts section of Gmail.  That’s fine.  I think if I had been writing more often, then perhaps I would feel that this one needed a fanfare.  But it doesn’t.  There isn’t anything special about it.  I just happen to have made time to sit down, to write, and to try and finish something.
A brief update on life-
    -I’m teaching 7th Grade English at a middle school.
    -We still live in Provo in a decent sized studio apartment.
    -Skeeter (my grandmother) finally was able to slip from this life to the next after a long cancerous journey a couple weeks ago.  We were fortunate to be able to attend the funeral and see so much of family that I love.  I would like to pay tribute in words- but I haven’t found the words yet.
   Though the 200th DHT is without fanfare, it is perhaps in the spirit of many DHTs past that I come pondering some of life’s current conundrums.  If you had talked to us in the fall of 2012, Whitney and I would have told you we were looking forward to finishing school and moving away from Provo.  We imagined ourselves in the East/Midwest area, me teaching English, her being a new mother.  We were a little saddened at the thought of leaving friends, but excited for new adventures.  Come spring, things started to change.  We knew we wouldn’t have a baby as soon as hoped, Whitney was offered a job and we felt like it was the right thing for her to take it, and so we would not be leaving Utah for the foreseeable future.  Despite positive interview experiences, I did not find a job over the summer and found myself in a Behavior Unit at the middle school where I was as an intern.  I was fortunate enough to be able to work there and in a restaurant until I found fulltime employment at another middle school.

    By all means, the new job offered me what I wanted.  Supportive staff, 7th graders who still had some fire for learning in their eyes, and some fun electives to teach.  In reality, the Lord provided the job I needed at the right time for me.  I couldn’t have asked for a better job situation.  But the truth is, I don’t love it.

    I knew that teaching would be difficult.  Last year was no picnic by any means.  I also knew the salary and the sacrifice required going into it.  I was told that I shouldn’t do a Master’s first because many teachers find out this is not what they want to do in the first couple years.  I tried to go into it with as realistic a view I could.  And I haven’t been surprised at anything about my job except for the feeling that I don’t really want to do it.

    It’s odd to me, because I’m pretty good at teaching.  I feel valued and recognized for my efforts by colleagues and administration.  I feel like I have success with a variety of students.   I’m very reflective and willing to change, which means I adapt to the new things that I continue to experience.  I don’t expect my teaching experience to be “Freedom Writers” or “Dead Poet’s Society”- because those are false ideals.  Though, I do come home sometimes feeling that the day was inspiring, meaningful, and even fun for my students.

    Despite the positives, I spend a fair amount of days coming home and thinking to myself- Why am I doing this?  I get anxious before going to school.  I don’t like certain politics related to schools.  I’m not convinced that I’m the best for my students (I’ve really had to simplify myself to be accessible to middle school students).  I like one-on-one interactions with students, but I really don’t like managing the class – even though I feel a lot more confident about my ability to do so.  And, though money isn’t a huge motivator, I don’t really find my job satisfaction to be high enough to replace the sacrifices and energy we would have to put in as a family to make the teacher salary work.  Writing that seems quite selfish to me – almost like I’ve lost a part of my ideals about life.  But, we’ve had to pay some bills, and we’ve looked at life costs, and we think, well, we could make the salary work, but do we want to?

    Now, the decision to teach for at least one more year should be fairly easy.  After all, most people say things stabilize around the 3rd year of teaching.  But, we are at the same place as last spring.  Like last year, my contract was through the end of the year, with no guarantee of a job being available for next year.  After trying the competitive market here once, I’m not as keen to search it again when I’m not so excited about teaching.  Also, Whitney will soon have to decide whether to sign on to teach next year at a job she loves- and so far, no pregnancy (i.e. This decision would be really easy if we were going to be having a kid).  If I do get hired next year, it is likely I’ll have to build from the ground up again- no easy feat.  I could stick it out, but I don’t want to become the teacher a few years down the road who is “sticking it out”, that wouldn’t be fair to the students or the other teachers.  That type teacher brings a bad name to the teachers who are working hard, and a poor experience for the students.  I would work to not become that person, but I don’t want to just tolerate teaching.

    Part of my problem is that I have no clue what else I would do.   And, I worry that my problems with this job may just turn out to be problems I would have with any job.  The fact is no job is always going to be desirable- though our society is filled with messages otherwise.   “Find the thing you love and you will never work a day in your life.”  I read lots of articles talking about people increasingly looking for jobs which not only make money, but give them purpose.  Certainly, I’ve believed these ideas.  Teaching, in my mind, encapsulated my interests and is filled with the purpose of lifting others.  So, why don’t I love it?
    In analyzing this question, I think it comes down to the fact that I feel like the parts I enjoy most about my job, are the parts I get to do the least.  I like planning curriculum, but more often I spend time on grading and working on discipline issues.  I like teaching- but I enjoy teaching smaller groups where I can interact more on the individual basis or large groups that I only have to entertain for a certain amount of time.  Teaching every day isn’t like that.  Capturing their hearts and minds doesn’t happen everyday.  I try and get there most days for some of the day; but there are a lot of things that are just not interesting to the middle school mind, but still need to be taught- which is life.  I like collaborating with others on great ideas, but most collaboration time gets spent on bureaucratic issues that are less than inspiring, but still necessary.

    So, I find myself pondering new job possibilities.  Caleb and I are brainstorming business ideas.  I’m looking into other fields related to writing, collaboration, management, and people skills.  Writing content for web pages (SEO Optimization).  Maybe human resources?  Corporate training might be an interesting way to teach.  I even have some ideas for manufacturing a food product – thanks dad.  Or even creating resources that make teachers lives easier- though I don’t know where I’d get the start up resources and continued income.  And if any of these things, the question remains, where do I start?  And how will I convince a company of the qualifications I have, despite my schooling being so different.  Lots to ponder.

    I’m open to advice, ideas, experience, etc.

The Editor,

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Daily Honky Tonk 193rd Edition

The Daily Honky Tonk
193rd Edition
Sunday, February 27, 2011
4:32 PM

Yep, you guessed it Kori, I haven’t been writing because I’ve been dating a girl. Her name is Whitney Boesch and as of a week and a half ago we are engaged!!!!!!!!!!!!
She is busy with church responsibilities so I thought I would do a little writing.
Engagement Story

Engagement Story

So, Whitney and I have talked about getting married for a while. So, when we were both finally certain about getting engaged it was time for me to go find a ring and make things official. Whitney allowed me to pick it out myself. I did a bit of research and after three weeks I finally had the ring.
I ordered the ring online and FedEx said they delivered it to my apartment on Valentine’s Morning. When I left school to check at my apartment, it wasn’t there. I started panicking. Did it get stolen? I called the company and they sent a new one. However, that evening a neighbor at a nearby complex delivered the box to its correct location. Thank goodness.
Now, I did not plan to propose on Valentine’s Day (and the fact that I found the ring finally near Valentine’s day kind of bugged me) as I think that it would be way too corny and cliche. So I set up a date for a nice dinner on Saturday (I did this when I thought I wasn’t going to have a ring). I wanted a nice dinner to be an affirmation that things were still going well since I didn’t think I would have the ring for another week. When I got the ring later that afternoon I suggested that after classes on Wednesday Whitney come over and I would make her her favorite meal- Lasagna.
So, Whitney did think I was going to propose on Valentine’s Day. And then she believed that I was using Wednesday to throw her off from Saturday (which ended up being our celebration dinner). Which in the end, allowed me to keep the element of surprise that I wanted.
After I got out of class on Wednesday I went to Caleb’s apartment and made the lasagna, breadsticks, and salad while his roommates helped build a magnificent blanket fort in which to have a candlelit dinner. (Don’t worry, we built it with couches stood on end with a mattress laying across so that it was tall and sturdy enough not to get knocked down-funny, nobody actually considers that detail when I tell the story). I got home just in time to change into a nice shirt and freshen up a little. When Whitney arrived at my apartment, I told her we were actually going somewhere else to eat. I blindfolded her with the only thing that I had convenient, a pair of pajama pants I got for Christmas. I carefully led her down to my car and took her to Caleb’s apartment. I helped her into the blanket fort and then took off the “blindfold”.
We proceeded to have a nice candlelit dinner. After eating, I pulled out my guitar and played her a song which I had written for her, at which point she started to cry, not because my song was incredible, though I think it’s good, but because she realized I was proposing. So, after the song I moved the guitar out of the way and went from sitting to one knee- which isn’t as big a change as going from standing to being on one knee by the way. And proposed and she said “Yes!!”.
We celebrated, called families, drank virgin pina coladas and then went to the library so she could take a religion test before midnight.
And I am joyous!!! Now if we can just work out a date.


While growing up I knew at least one thing about leaving home- my parent’s children were not going to be helpless bums in college. It was absolutely unacceptable to lack the basic skills for cleaning, laundry, and following a recipe. There was to be no complaining about these tasks when we did them as children else we would get a reminder of the coming of future times in which we would have to do it on our own when we not embarrass our mother by being helpless. For this I am very grateful.
However, knowing how to cook at home, for a group larger than one, with a house full of ingredients and cooking resources is a lot different than being in college. While I knew how to cook, I did not know how to meal plan for a week. And while my parents had explained the principles- plan your meal around what is on sale, eat a variety of foods, and don’t diet on just cereal- actually making everything happen was harder than I realized.
Some of things that I had to adjust to were times required to cook. Its a lot easier to eat a bowl of cereal in five minutes and then go play or get back to homework than it is to take an extra hour to cook. Also, having fresh fruits and vegetables on hand seemed pointless when I found them going bad before I could use them (and without the confidence of knowing exactly when they would). I also didn’t like the fact that cooking for one was never as satisfactory as letting others enjoy the food with you. I never felt like I was worth the time to cook for- things have since changed.
Sometime near the end of summer I decided that cooking was going to be a larger priority. If I wanted to know how to cook well, if I wanted to be able to meal plan, and if I wanted to be efficient at cooking it was going to take some extra practice. I was also worried about the extra expense of veggies, fruits, and meats I wasn’t buying. After taking a deep breath, I realized that if I just let go and was less thrifty for a time I would learn the skills necessary by having the experience. With more shopping and cooking experience I would eventually gain the skills I wanted. The short term cost would be expensive- the long term cost was an investment. Sure enough. It has been. I’m a better cook and I understand how to shop and budget for food a lot better than I did before- which leads me to this conclusion.
I love cooking. I enjoy it so much. Mostly I enjoy looking over recipes and using the ideas to guide experimenting with what I have. It’s a new form of art and exploration for me and Whitney and I benefit from eating better meals more often and having leftovers to pack and share for lunch. This saves money, time, and allows me to eat well :)

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope my DHT finds you all well in whatever circumstance you find yourself at the moment. I’ll let you know more about the wedding as we figure out more details.

The Editor,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Daily Honky Tonk 192nd Edition

The Daily Honky Tonk
192nd Edition
August 3, 2010
4:15 AM

I’m not sure why I am not sleepy. I’m just not. I’m not stressed. I’m not worried. I’ve been thinking a lot but the good productive type of thinking that I enjoy. So, while my ideas seem to be coming together I’ll get them out. There are only two things in this DHT. The Letters to the Editor I am sure make up a good five or six pages printed out. I have no clue how long it will take me to get what I what in my Independence Rethought article.

Independence Rethought
I hope that I can come at this topic now with a better angle seeing that I’m not so upset anymore. I’ve taken time to try and get at the root of what really bothered me about this topic rather than trying to attack at any and every random angle. I am not putting individual replies to each of the Letters to the Editor, I am hoping to rather reply to all in the form of a new rethought article about independence.
If you’ve read the DHT then you know that I agree with each of these fine women who say it is important to be equal. Being equal intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, etc. is very important. My favorite article on that was an essay by Marry Wollstonecraft before the feminist movement even began.
I found that most of the women who quote the article refer to two different parts. The ice queen quote, and the I don’t know that you could protect me part. The most important agreeing line was that girls want the opportunity to be treated as an equal.

Briana said “I don't want a servant, nor do I want a tyrant. I want a partner. I want someone who can be my equal intellectually, mentally, spiritually, etc.

Ada said- “women don't necessarily want to be equal to men they just want the opportunity to be equal.”

Nikki said- “A woman who is or wants to be independent isn't someone to be angry at, but rather someone to love and respect the same as anyone else.”

I think what most set me off was the frustration that I want girls who I can feel equal to in intellectually, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, I’ll even throw in physically here and that list could go on. However, I’m going to take two words from the article that I think the independent women here have identified with that seems to go against that and those words are “Ice Queen”.
I think what set me off is that an Ice Queen in my mind is not independent. Ice Queen by my definition is a female beginning to embody the weak part of the male- the inability to be sensitive to others emotions and to recognize when their own are out of control. I don’t consider that independent. I consider that selfish and immature. I wish the term Ice Queen wouldn’t be associated with Independence. I think Ice Queen is a closed person, not an independent person. Maybe my issue isn’t with independence, but with the closed nature that some people associate with independence.
What do I mean closed? Well, I look for independent women because I think they can keep up with me. They know how to deal with their own issues, they have strong opinions, and they know how to get things done. If someone is opinionated and can get things done then I suspect them to understand very well emotions, things intellectual, and things spiritual. But when a person is closed to expressing those things- when someone is an ice queen they keep things inside and then they can’t prove to me that they are really equal. I can’t feel someone is equal if they close themselves off. If you can’t articulate opinions, feelings, things intellectual, things spiritual then I can’t expect someone who is independent to keep up with me because I articulate, a lot. If I am asked to find a girl who is equal with me in those things then she can’t keep them in. Nor could the girl discover if the guy is equal to her if he keeps it in. Being an Ice Queen seems to me a wall that prevents the girl from proving what she has to offer. If a girl is ambitious and assertive I think I should hear it in her talk. Two people suggest reasons in their comments to me why independent girls seem to close up and be ice queens.
1) Cara said- “Being independent is safer- then no one can hurt you. It takes a lot of trust and self confidence to let someone else not only see your weaknesses, but to let them see that you need them. Something that I've learned about myself recently is that I am not good at needing people. It scares me to need others, to rely on someone other than myself. And it's hard to make the transition from relying mostly on myself to letting myself rely on someone else. It takes time- and practice- to learn to let myself have that trust in others. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to need others. It just means that I'm still learning how. And maybe that's just me, but I think a lot of 'independent' people are just people who aren't ready to rely on others, don't realize that they're shutting others out, or aren't quite sure how to need others.”
In response to this, I see no problem with revealing my weaknesses and my struggles to people and still feeling independent. People can share their opinions, can offer suggestions how to deal with something, they can offer their help, but I still feel completely free to make my own decision. I don’t feel letting people in limits me from doing things my own way. It just helps me to become informed as to whether I would like to independently change my way. Ice Queen has this association to me of not being able to open up and rely on somebody else. Reliance is in my mind a show of someone’s real independence, a real show that they have grown up and can do things on their own. Someone who is independent can open themselves up without feeling like they will be changed or that they lose any part of themselves by revealing what’s on the inside. Opening up all the time doesn’t take away from my ability to make my choices all the time. And, I really liked the comment here that we all need others. We can need others without being dependent on them. Dependent would indicate that most of the time we can’t do things for ourselves. Independent people should in my mind be able to do things for themselves but recognize at the same time that they aren’t above having needs and need others. The idea of ice queen in my head is someone who says “Screw the world, I don’t need other people”.
Samuel and I were talking about a scene in Finding Neverland when Johnny Depp makes the comment that the oldest son who is supposed to be somewhere between 9 and 11 has changed from a boy to a man. Why? Because its the first time he starts to see and care about things outside himself (specifically his mother’s condition). He starts to realize that he isn’t just responsible for himself, but that he is also responsible for being aware of the feelings and experiences of others and that those can and should influence how he acts. The idea of Ice Queen, at least my perspective of it, is that it promotes a girl, if only in rhetoric, a girl who during the day doesn’t have to care or be influenced by what others experience. It is important that we aren’t always reacting to people. But the Ice Queen seems to be the other extreme . . . Which is the part that I consider a weakness in guys. When I talked about women becoming like men, I think sometimes independent women start thinking they have to lean towards this Ice Queen who is like that stoic man who doesn’t seem to care about other people.
Granted, there are leaders and business people who go very far by pushing people out of the way and ignoring them and how they feel. And some of them go far without as much work. However, as I talked about last time, I think really great people and leaders are independent people who can still take into account what those around them feel and experience. That takes a lot of work to include other people in our lives. It requires someone who is a lot stronger and more confident in their own values and beliefs. They don’t always get things as fast as some who would do it the other way. But if they should ever fall from their height, they aren’t mocked on the way back down the ladder of life . .. They are respected while those who got there through their icy steel determination seem to get what they deserve.

2)Belen said - “It's not always "the inability to express ourselves" - we often know what we want to say, but we (at least, how it often is with me) aren't so sure you want to hear it, or even care at all. Women are emotional (to varying degrees, depending on the woman) and nobody likes feeling hurt. And when we feel that our emotions/feelings are disregarded, it hurts - that's why communication is so important.”
A short simple comment. If the person doesn’t want to hear it or doesn’t care about what you think or feel or experience or have opinions about, then I don’t think they are equal to you. Nobody likes to be hurt . . . True. But if you keep it inside you can’t find whether they are equal to you. You can’t find out whether they care as much as you, or will be as sensitive as you would, or whether they would fight with the same vigor and vim as you would.

So, I’m going to close giving my ideal definition of the person male or female who is independent:
You are an independent person if you can stand alone intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. This doesn’t not mean that you have everything together, but that in general you can spend more of your life taking care of what you have to without turning to others. When you really need something you are independent enough to recognize and decide of your own free will to turn to others and you rely on them. Reliance is an act you do on your own. Relying on another person requires the other person to be their, but it depends mostly on you. Independent people are aware of other peoples thoughts and emotions and can factor them into what they are doing (and even help the other person succeed at what they want) while still doing what is ultimately right for their life. Independent people are assertive and ambitious. They do whatever it takes, including relying on other people and trusting them to get what they want. One of my favorite leadership quotes says “Nobody has enough time or resources to get everything they want done .. .to be a good leader you have to learn to let other people do things for you even imperfectly”. You limit your potential when you can’t include other people. Independent people take time to think about things, they form opinions, and they can express them. Your opinion, thoughts, feelings mean little if it can’t be articulated to others. Nor can you be fully assertive and get what you want if you can’t effectively communicate them. Independent people prepare themselves for all possibilities and have plans. Independent people get an education and value it and use it in many ways to bless other people. Independent people know how to manage a house, to be organized in their life, they control their budget, and avoid debt and they can articulately explain how they do that to benefit others who struggle to do the same. Independent people can handle their emotions without letting them get in the way of normal life. Ice Queens also says someone to me that puts off a poor attitude- Independent can have a good attitude and treat others kindly even when they are angry, upset, stressed, or experiencing whatever emotional trauma. Independent people are people who are so strong that they can focus on others and care about and bless their lives no matter what is going on in theirs. That is in my mind the number one strength. People become independent as they arrive at the point that they forget themselves and focus on others. Thus comes the common and very wise phrase that a good relationship is made up of two whole people rather than two halves.
These are my ideals for independence. They are what I expect out of myself. They are what I expect out of other people who claim to be independent male or female. But they are ideals, principles and goals worked for, not necessarily applied perfectly.
P.s. If you know some nice female who can keep up with my personal definition of independence then please send her my way, I haven’t found a girl who fits this definition. Or if you can articulate to me what I am looking at wrong so I would recognize that girl instead of wondering if one actually exists.
P.p.s. I value independent girls who will fight for what they want and what they believe because that’s what I do in the DHT. I know they will let me go toe to toe with them. I’ve been told that I seem like the type who would want a quiet really nice girl . me when I say they wouldn’t be good for me. They are sweet and good, but when someone is quiet and won’t go toe to toe with me I worry that one day I will really hurt them. . .because I do fight for what I want and what I believe. If people don’t match it .. .well, I’m rather frank with them and will fight for it. Independent people can take that. The really sweet quiet type, well, it may be a wrong judgment, but I worry about hurting them or destroying their sweet nature with my skepticism of life and people. Secondly, quiet is never a good idea for me. That’s why I consider being articulate so important. If someone is quiet, I don’t know if there is any depth to them. I often fight people to open up to prove they have the depth of person equal to mine. When people don’t open up I’m left wondering whether it’s because they don’t trust me or whether there just isn’t any more depth to them than what I am getting. Independent people I hope aren’t shallow, but if they don’t open up then I am left to wonder what wall do I need to break or is there nothing more to this person.

Letters to the Editor

The whole bit about wanting to "be the ice queen by day, and put on fuzzy pink slippers and cuddle by night" is SO me.

For me, the whole, "If you see us as independent, get ready to step it up and be more of a man. If you're not willing to do that, then find someone else. We can protect ourselves during the day. It's at night when we just want to be our vulnerable damsels in distress. There's nothing worse than a man who is afraid to infringe upon our "independence" and be firm and commanding and protecting because he's scarred he'll offend us. When he does this ( and trust me, we can always tell) we're usually thinking "you're not strong enough to keep up with me. I don't feel like you could provide for or protect me so you better find someone a little more insecure with themselves who you won't be intimidated by." thing is dead on. I like it when a guy challenges my thoughts or feelings, but I also like it when he is sweet and chivalrous.

The way I see it, I don't want a servant, nor do I want a tyrant. I want a partner. I want someone who can be my equal intellectually, mentally, spiritually, etc. Seriously though, when I'm with a guy who will back off in a fight because I'm "independent" I'm like, "well, you can't hold your own against me, so you can't hold your own against the world, therefore, you can't defend me when I need you. Goodbye."

Do I still need someone to hold me at night? Yes. Do I still need someone to send me roses for no reason at all? Yes. But I also need a man who can fight for what he believes in, even if that means fighting me. Don't disable me because I'm a woman, but don't empower me because I'm a woman.

Does this help? I don't know...I'm tired myself. :)


whoa whoa whoa
"An independent woman complains that she feels like a male? You’ve stepped into the shoes of a male, now you get treated like a male, its completely logical to a male(but women are emotional and that would be illogical to them :) )"

Because we tend to be assertive and ambitious and independent we've stepped into the shoes of a male? You want to think about YOUR logic right there? Apparently I can't be assertive and ambitious without becoming a male, because no real woman would be assertive and ambitious because that's a mans job. We'll just sit quietly in our parlor in pink frilly dresses thinking about laundry detergent and garden parties.


I wanted to put this as a comment to your blog, but you took the link down, so I guess I'll send it this way.
I think a big part of independence in realtionships comes from a lack of trust. Being independent is safer- then no one can hurt you. It takes a lot of trust and self confidence to let someone else not only see your weaknesses, but to let them see that you need them. Something that I've learned about myself recently is that I am not good at needing people. It scares me to need others, to rely on someone other than myself. And it's hard to make the transition from relying mostly on myself to letting myself rely on someone else. It takes time- and practice- to learn to let myself have that trust in others. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to need others. It just means that I'm still learning how. And maybe that's just me, but I think a lot of 'independent' people are just people who aren't ready to rely on others, don't realize that they're shutting others out, or aren't quite sure how to need others.

Hey Mark,

My boys are asleep so I'm taking a chance to at least attempt an email. I read the latest DHT and have been thinking about it, hopefully enough to give a coherent response. It's very true that most women struggle to communicate effectively with men, especially in personal relationships. Many times I've become frustrated or been the source of frustration because of my own lack of effective communication. Ah, if we could just read each others minds and intents, then we'd be spared so many arguments. I've found in my marriage that there are instances when I had assumed that John understood me, when he had no idea. For example, there have been times when I'm struggling to get the boys ready for church and I've wanted some help, but got none because I didn't ask specifically for help. In the meantime I'd be getting angrier by the minute because I'd think that he's being deliberately lazy, when he was simply not aware of what was going on. But I wouldn't discover this until after I'd started yelling at him over something unrelated later on. Dumb. I will also say that when dating, I always let a guy know when the time came that I was happy for him to open doors, get chairs, etc. for me if he felt so inspired. If I had been on a date with a particular guy a few times, then I'd usually tell him that he was not required to do those things anymore. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever let John get my car door, mostly because I'd get sick of waiting in the car while he walked around to get the door :]. I had a professor who relayed to us, something his wife said to him, something like -- women don't necessarily want to be equal to men they just want the opportunity to be equal.

It also occurs to me that sometimes communication problems arise when we have certain expectations about how a certain situation should play out, or how another person should behave. These expectations can come from prior experiences, media, or from others experiences. For example, a young woman might expect for her date to open doors, etc. because her father always did that for her mother, but he doesn't because he never seen his father do that for his mother, or he's afraid offending her somehow if she doesn't expect him to do that. I've found that I have to tell John my expectations, so I can have the outcome I desire. Sometimes either he or I have had expectations that we didn't realize we had until after we've argued/discussed heatedly :]. I'd say more, but I've got two crying boys that need my attention.


PS -- The book, First Comes Love by David (?) Brinley has a great chapter about communication.

For me, a lot (maybe even most) of the guys I have met seem to be intimidated by the very fact that I do know what I want and am not afraid to say so - I am not always outspoken, but can be and they seem to be offended by it (which is why I'm not always outspoken). I have met a few guys that respect that and are my friends because I am more independent, but the rest are put off and keep their distance.
One thing I've noticed pretty consistently in the ones that are "put off" is that they want girls that will flirt and carry on because they aren't so sure about themselves, being mostly ego with little to no confidence - occasionally, they're just shy and/or socially awkward, but are usually the former.
As for the "not being able to keep up with me" - I am harder to keep up with, I've set a higher standard for myself and want/expect others to do the same. I ask more of people. However, people in general (guys and girls) prefer the path of least resistance, relationships that are easy, someone they don't have to "keep up with".
I know what I want, I set my sights high and go for it - but I'm not a loner, I want friends (and eventually a man) that will keep up with me. I say will because, in reality, everyone does have the potential, everyone could keep up with me, they simply don't want to - they prefer the easy stroll or the short jog to the hard, long run. But when we get to where we're going, I (and my man ;) will be the ones in top form (hehehe!).
What needs to be kept in mind is that while we can be masculine to varying degrees, we can never be completely masculine - we are missing the Y chromosome, after all. We wear our "man boots" for most of the day, but we still want a pair of strong, caring arms to wrap around us when we're at home, and no matter what anyone may say, do, or act like, we're still females - yeah, we're confusing, we're frustrating, and we drive you insane trying to "figure us out", but we don't mean to (at least, most of us don't, though occasionally we may play hob when we've had a bad day or a particularly bad [and recent] experience with those of the male species and we gnash our teeth at every one in sight).
Understanding is crucial - cultivate it! When you're baffled and/or irritated it is often best to remain quiet and hope it will make sense later (not that it always will, but hey, guys don't always make sense to us either :P )

Being interested in psychology, it seems to me that (at least a part) of the reason you're irritated is that you feel that you do step it up and that you are strong enough, and so someone implying that you aren't... well, it sets you off.
My experience is that a lot of guys nowadays (being unsure of what to think of the independent female) aren't so sure about taking the lead. I've seen it in conversation, dancing, working, etc., and those are the ones that need to "step it up."
I also think that whoever was writing about being "on a date with a guy who observes my ambition and assertiveness, gives me the title of 'independent woman' and then proceeds to treat me like some powerhouse CEO who's only interested in business and a very businesslike relationship" should consider the fact that maybe she's misinterpreting something - maybe the guy is showing respect. After all (from what I understand), isn't that how guys show respect for each other? If she only goes on one date with the guy, labels him as "stupid, ignorant, and not worth my time", how can she ever know what he really thinks of her?
As for those princesses that give off an "I don't need your help" vibe, they are often frustrated and often feel like men think they are weak and inferior, so they then refuse help because they feel a need to prove that they are just as strong, thus proving (to themselves as well as the men) that they are not weak and inferior. We want to be respected as equals, not disregarded or coddled as inferiors.
However, it is in our nature to curl up next to someone, (kind of like how a cat, after being aloof, distant and off on its own all day jumps into your lap, purring and looking forward to curling up and relaxing for a while) and when we don't have that, it tends put us out of balance (often resulting in more of the "I don't need you" vibe).
Lastly (wow, this keeps on getting longer and longer...) I think you've hit upon a point that a lot of people overlook in relationships: "If you want to tell your girlfriends how annoying it is that your guy doesn’t give you what you want. ..then you’re stupid because you are complaining to the people who can’t give you what you want." Girls (from people I just met to people I've known for years) talk to me all the time about how some guy isn't shaping up, or something about the guy is bothering them, but they don't tell the guy, and if the guy doesn't know, how is he supposed to do anything about it? I may have done it without realizing it, but I try to let the guy know (not having done any dating to speak of, I still let my guyfriends know what I think of them, both negative and positive).
But guys have also discussed how much they like me, would like to go on a date with me, etc. with my best friends, which drives me up the wall because they refuse to talk to me about furthering a relationship with me - it's not as if telling my friend all about it will change anything. If they want anything to do with me they need to talk to me! And every guy that has tried to talk to me about how much they like some other girl, would like to date her, etc., I have told to talk to that girl about it - I know they're worried, but telling me won't change a thing.

I feel like I'm not quite getting across everything I mean, but hopefully some of it makes sense,
Belen (:

PS. It's not always "the inability to express ourselves" - we often know what we want to say, but we (at least, how it often is with me) aren't so sure you want to hear it, or even care at all. Women are emotional (to varying degrees, depending on the woman) and nobody likes feeling hurt. And when we feel that our emotions/feelings are disregarded, it hurts - that's why communication is so important.
Just keep communicating!
And don't forget the positive when frustrated with the negative ;)

I'd like to give you my personal opinion on what being an independent woman means to me. First, a little background: When I first got married, I was 19. I had graduated high school a year earlier, hadn't been to college, and was barely scraping by with a minimum wage job. I already had one daughter, and after I got married, my husband and I soon had another daughter. Daycare was too expensive for me, only having a high school diploma hindered my ability to get a higher paying job, and I didn't like the idea of other people taking care of my children (I knew what I wanted for them, and wasn't confident a daycare could provide that), so I stayed at home while my husband worked. Our family relied totally on my husband financially. If I wanted to buy something for myself or my children that was out of the normal range of paying bills or buying groceries, I had to ask for the money to do it. When my husband became emotionally and eventually physically abusive toward me, I felt helpless to change the situation. If I left, how was I supposed to provide for myself and my children? We were completely dependent on my husband. Eventually I felt it was too dangerous for myself and my children to stay with him, and so I moved to another state with my mom. She helped me get on my feet- taking care of my children while I worked, and giving us a place to stay. Eventually I met someone else who cared deeply for myself and my children, and we moved in with him. We love each other very much, and while he is more than willing and able to provide for us, I still felt dependent on him. So I made the decision to become more self-sufficient, and I went back to school. I know now that I will never feel like I am "stuck" or helpless again in the way that I did before. My partner is more than happy with my decision- my confidence has gone up considerably, and it makes me very happy to be efficient in my OWN field of specialty! I feel like we are on more equal footing now, and that has improved our relationship in its own way. He still treats me and my children the same way, with love, respect, and kindness (and he's more than happy to play the role of a "man" and say, change the oil in my car- even though I know how to, and I'm more than happy to LET him). Some things I would rather do myself, but we always consult one another and bounce ideas back and forth, and we are constantly communicating our needs and wants to one another. I am confident that I won't NEED to provide for myself and my children in the future, but knowing that I COULD helps me to be a happier more confident person. I don't feel like I'm the lesser half, and I don't know if I can express how good it feels to not have to ask for money to buy a book or some new clothes (even though he's more than willing to give it to me, and often gives me things he knows I want). So for me, being an independent woman doesn't mean I want to be a "man", and I certainly don't complain when he offers to wash my car for me or changes the lightbulbs I can't reach! I'm glad to be a woman, glad to be a mother, glad to be loved and doted on, but I make sure that my partner and children are also loved and doted on. As far as being put on a pedestal, count me out! I'm only human like everyone else. I hold those I love to high standards because I know they can live up to them, and they do the same for me, but we should all be careful not to make them so high that when the pedestal topples, we can't catch ourselves and the ones we love.
So that's my tangent, hopefully that gives you more insight into another point of view. A woman who is or wants to be independent isn't someone to be angry at, but rather someone to love and respect the same as anyone else. We all need to feel important, and we all want to be loved.


The Editor,