It was the toughest week of my life, but perhaps also the best. Here are a few things dad taught me during the final days of his life, even when he could no longer speak: Lessons from Dad’s Last Week
Christopher S. Clark is an award-winning filmmaker who knows that sometimes it is the unexpected twist in the story that makes all the difference.
And an unexpected twist with the recent birth of his son has likewise made a big difference in his life in ways he could not have foreseen.
His son, Max, was born a few months ago with a rare condition, known as blepharophimosis syndrome, affecting the eyes and the surrounding area and that will require several surgeries over the next few years for young Max.
“…the worry began to snuff out much of the joy I had experienced with my daughters at their birth. Joy and celebration were replaced with anxiousness and worry – worried about his eyesight, worried there was something major going on inside him. Finally, I had to just calm my anxieties with faith, and simply love him.”
The months since Max was born has taught Christopher seven important life lessons, including #3:
“Men want to fix things and move on. Some things you can’t FIX as we are not in charge of life’s curriculum, and what really needs fixing is probably you, and the way you see the things.”
Ken Craig recently announced on his blog that he and is wife are expecting their 8th child. They recognize that this is not normal in this day and age. Ken cites comedian Jim Gaffigan, father of 5, who said, “Big families are like waterbed stores. They used to be everywhere, now they’re just weird.”
Despite that, Ken reports that nothing makes him happier than his family. At the same time, he acknowledges that a large family comes with a special set of challenges, like getting somewhere — anywhere — on time:
And if you are supposed to be somewhere at 8:00 a.m., it doesn’t matter if you start getting ready to leave the Tuesday before, you will not make it before 8:12 a.m., as you will get halfway there before you have to turn around and go back because somebody is not wearing shoes, or socks, or pants. And you just pray it is one of the children and not you.
Read more about Ken’s announcement, Here’s to One More, on his blog, The Craig Report.
For those of your friends who may be wondering why you industrious Mormon-types will be spending some 10 hours this weekend watching television, Larry Richman, the Church’s top social media evangelist, has posted on his blog a few different graphics you can use to share with them. He’s posted four graphics. Is there one you’d share?
See Larry’s post, Images to Share.
“I did not ask for this opportunity. I never considered I might someday have an office in a church. I have no professional training for this position. I am not a scriptural scholar. I have not walked through vineyards with robe-wearing monks. And, if you’re wondering about vows of celibacy let me introduce you to my four kids.
“All I did was answer a phone call. Show up for a meeting. And nod when asked if I would serve.”
Read Russ Hill’s candid account of what he’s learned from his calling in his post, Confessions of a Mormon Bishop.
Thoughts on Fatherhood from The Book of Mormon Girl
Joanna Brooks has been busy. You may have caught her a few nights ago on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where she had been invited to talk about her newly released book, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith” (watch her interview here or read her amusing behind-the-scenes account here). Or you may have come across her popular blog, Ask Mormon Girl, where she fields questions that range from the sincere to the hostile and offers an “unorthodox but friendly perspective on Mormon thought and culture.” Or perhaps you came across her name in Politico.com’s “50 Politicos to Watch” list or the Center for American Progress’ “13 Religious Women to Watch” list. All of this while teaching at a Southern California university. A busy Mormon girl indeed.
In the midst of all this, Joanna’s father recently passed away after a long, debilitating illness. As I read on her blog some of her thoughts about what her father has meant to her, I couldn’t help but be moved. Even though Joanna’s “Mormon journey” has been admittedly unconventional, and her choices may not have always been what he had hoped, he was always there for her.
I asked Joanna if, despite her busy schedule, she would be willing to share with our MDB readers any thoughts she had on how his example could help us with our parenting responsibilities, especially those of us who may be blessed with unconventional kids (is there any other kind?). Here’s what she had to say.
The year before I got baptized, my father would sit with me in bed at night, and we’d hold the Book of Mormon on our laps, and read from it together.
He was a busy man: a bishop, with four young children, a long commute to a demanding job, and a hectic travel schedule. But those nights he managed to carve out a few minutes at bedtime to open the Book of Mormon with me—I remember his warmth beside me, and the way he’d take a strand of my hair between his fingers and roll it back and forth, as we read verse by verse through Lehi’s dream, and in his tenderness I gathered a sense of how sweet and beautiful the fruit on the tree of knowledge must have been. So beautiful, especially, against the closing darkness and chaos of the world outside.
It’s this story of Mormon fatherhood I tried to tell in the first chapter of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith, just released by the Free Press (available on-line and at bookstores and major retailers). I wrote this book after a New York City editor told me Mormons were too “weird” for people to want to read about us. Ridiculous, I thought. And all the more reason to keep telling our stories. Until the world sees the beauty and humanity in our faith.
My father plays a tremendous role in my Mormon story. He was a man who always took his faith seriously and was a dedicated local church leader, but he also had a tenderness that came, I think, from being raised by a single widowed mother. His example reminds me of the verses from Isaiah that read “kings shall be your nursing fathers.” I love that seemingly contradictory image of the “nursing father.” I think it points to an ancient wisdom that nurturing and affection can come naturally from both parents.
Just about a month before The Book of Mormon Girl came out, my father died after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a debilitating neurological illness. I’ve thought so much since his death about his legacy to his children—a legacy of hard work, service to others, thoughtful parenting, and careful planning. We laughed, his children, as we remembered how he would plan and spreadsheet out his goals for himself, his family, his church responsibilities. He was, by education, a chemical engineer, and his career was in finance, so he was a man who loved a solid spreadsheet the way other men might love a thick steak or a fast car.
Let them govern themselves
But you can’t spreadsheet your children into a seamless Mormon future. You can try! But learning to make independent choices is a part of Heavenly Father’s plan, even when it’s painful for earthly parents to witness. Over the years, I certainly made some choices that diverged from my father’s plans for me. I wrestled with my faith. Really wrestled. And there were difficult moments between us—moments when he was trying to grasp who I was becoming, and moments I wanted to be free from both his expectations and his disappointment. He did not force me to righteousness, because he simply couldn’t. Still, I found my way through, in large part because of how he raised me.
I imagine him, now, sitting up late nights in his home office, the kids asleep, the house quiet, the scriptures open on his desk, diligently plotting out goals and priorities, but reminding himself always of the fundamentals of faith–something to hold onto as he tried to guide his family through the mists of the chaotic world and to its tender sweetness. Here are the three fundamentals I learned from my dad: nurture, plan, and then—let go.
Since starting this blog a year and a half ago, the MDB inbox has been inundated with press releases pitching story ideas from all corners of this odd little planet of ours.
The vast majority of pitches I ignore. I figure MDB readers probably aren’t that interested in the amazing tortilla, Alec Baldwin’s summer book reading suggestions, Ketel One Vodka, IHOP’s new trio of signature pancakes, pork buying basics, Connect Poker, or what’s new with Scientology (just a few of the pitches received this month so far).
But one pitch hit my inbox this month that caught my eye. Katherine Nelson’s long-awaited new album, “Born Brave,” is coming out Aug. 1. I’ve been a fan of Katherine’s since I had the opportunity to work with her on a couple of projects over the past few years. Talented actress with leading lady looks, gorgeous singing voice, yet very gracious and down-to-earth. You get the impression that there are very few doors that would be closed to her if she simply chose to knock. Yet she chooses her projects very carefully, and they are always about something that is important and good.
Not to put down an era when Lady Gaga and Madonna are going at it trying to out-crass each other, or where stars are being made with music delving into the deeper aspects of whether to be crazy and give the shirtless lawn-mowing guy a number and inviting him to call maybe (164 million YouTube views and counting), but it sure is refreshing to witness a talented artist dig deep inside to find something noble to share with and uplift us.
I’ve been listening to an advance copy of “Born Brave.” I’m not giving it back. It’s got a Nashville vibe, and I confess I’ve never been much of a country guy, but Katherine hits that groove where people on either side of the pop-rock/country aisle can come together and tap toes. Her rich, velvety voice coats track after well-produced track, each a heartfelt celebration of a different aspect of the album’s theme of women of courage. There are powerful anthems that will inspire women and girls as well as ballads that will tug at the heartstrings of even our manliest of MDB readers.
Now I know that our focus at MDB is typically on blogs by Mormon dads, I would suspect that many of our bloggers are who they are because they are blessed with an abundance of courageous women around them — their mothers, their wives, and their daughters facing the prospect of growing up in these challenging times.
Kudos to Katherine and her team for their work in bringing this project to life at such a time as this. It’s an album you’ll want to share with all the main women in your life.
Win a Copy
Share in the comments below a little bit about a woman in your life whose courage has inspired you. We’ll randomly pick one comment on Aug. 1, the “Born Brave” release day, and send you a copy of Katherine’s CD that you can share with her. We’ll also randomly pick one commenter on the “Born Brave” post in our facebook group. Our third winner will be randomly selected from those who belong to our facebook group.
I first met Corbin Allred in 2003 when a World War II movie he was in, “Saints and Soldiers,” was making the film festival rounds. He played the lead role of Deacon, a decent man trying to escape against all odds back to Allied lines.
He continues to act (that’s him with the spiffy ‘do in the follow-up, Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed, coming soon to a theater near you), but now he has the added responsibilities of being a husband and father.
Recently, Corbin and his wife, McKenzie, learned that the baby they were expecting had spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the spine.
Their blog, Meet Me in the Apricot Tree, follows their experience from diagnosis. It’s a riveting account. Here’s an excerpt from “Our Lives Are Split in Two.”
The doctor walked in…shook my hand firmly…and sat down. He let out a big sigh and spoke words that I will foerever wish he could take back. “Well, I’m really worried about your baby girl.”
The world stopped turning. In that moment, there was nothing else in the world that mattered. The triviality of current challenges caused them to fade from existence and suddenly…everything we ever knew…changed. It was like this doctor took a sword and split the timeline of our lives in two. When it comes to the words he spoke…there will forever be…before we heard them…and after.
Lily was born a few days ago. As you can imagine, it was an ordeal for all involved, involving surgery almost immediately after birth. Through it all, I was moved to read Corbin’s account of his daughter’s arrival in Lily Norine Allred is Here:
Lily joined the world at 4:33pm on 6/29/12. She was so tiny and beautiful. 4lbs 11oz and 18.5in. Sadly…they took Lily for assessment before Kenz even got to see her. Kenz had to go to recovery and wait almost 3 hours before even getting to touch her. Let me just say…Lily is perfect in every way that matters!!! Seriously…just perfect and gorgeous and everything we could ever want in a little girl and more. I got to spend a lot of time alone with her during the first few hours of her life as she was already so strong…never needed oxygen…just calm…and content…and sweet as can be. Lily told me that I was her favorite and that she’ll always be a daddy’s girl…but Kenz doesn’t believe me.
Follow Corbin and his family in their blog, Meet Me in the Apricot Tree.
As might be expected, there are many expenses involved in raising a child with spina bifida. A fund has been set up through Give Forward. You can find out more about The Little Allred Girl Spina Bifida Fund here.
There are all kinds of blogs out there, financial blogs, family blogs, photography blogs. Brady picked an unusual topic to follow…something that happens to ALL of us…that song–annoying or otherwise–that gets stuck in our heads. Brady’s blog is simple. If there’s a song is stuck in his head when he wakes up, he blogs about it, be it awesome or embarrassing–it doesn’t matter.
Brady is the father of four and, husband of one, and occasionally shares his talents on the stage entertaining the masses. Check out his blog (The Songs Stuck In My Head). Maybe the song you have in your head is one Brady has had in yours.
Image by JD Hancock. Creative commons license. Some rights reserved.
A new blog, Bedhead Moms, encourages women to accept themselves for everything they are, a terrific and much-needed message that we whole-heartedly agree with. But what does it have to do with a blog about Mormon dads? Well, as it turns out, this week they’ve turned their attention to us. (This sort of thing happens a lot around this time every year. No idea why, but we think it is pretty great.)
In their “Bedhead Dad” series, Bedhead Moms introduces us via a collection of photo essays to a wide range of dads who share two things in common: their faith and their complete devotion to their families.
- There’s The Cool Dad, who just welcomed a baby into his home after years of struggle, including an adoption that fell through.
- There’s the Part Time SAHD (Stay at Home Dad), a photographer who also helps feed his family by turning nearly every square inch of the lot of his Southern California home into something his family can consume in Providing More Than Money.
- There’s the distribution manager for a major motion picture studio who loves those small, unforgettable occasions with his children in Enjoying the Moment.
Bedhead Moms has capped their Bedhead Dads week with a beautifully produced video tribute to fathers that is both funny and warm, Dear Dad.
Bedhead Moms was created by Wendy Santiano, who is married to Rod Santiano, whose terrific cinematography blog we’ve featured many times on MDB. We welcome Bedhead Moms to the blogging community and wish them every success.