We don’t have to be the same to be together

Please, everyone, read this excellent blog post. I’m disheartened at the contentious world we are creating to live in. It doesn’t matter if it relates to politics, religion, race. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the public arena or in our homes, with family members.

I would love us all to listen to each other and then say (or respond to social media posts) these words: “I understand.” or “I see where you are coming from.” Period. No rebuttals, no one-upmanship, no “I’m right/You’re wrong” on whatever political, social, or religious issue is in question.

Even those who are seeking to live Christ-centered lives can see things very differently. “While the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. … We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God.” -Dieter Uchtdorf

[About an Armenian family] “It was interesting to get to know what they believe and understand each other better. I liked that they were open-minded and tried to understand what we believed as we tried to understand what they believe.”-From my daughter, Rachel Nelson, in her letter home this week from Russia.

Differences Among Us: What an Opportunity to Teach Children Compassion.

There’s a lot going on since the presidential election and installment of our new President.  A lot of talk, a lot of debate, even hostility between people who should be friends. Conflict brings out the best (and worst) in people.

But conflict shouldn’t be seen as something to avoid or to divide us. It should be viewed as a natural part of life, an opportunity for maturity and growth as individuals, friends, communities and nations. Difference is what makes us stronger and gives us an opportunity to teach children compassion.

Brene Brown is a women who has a strong message about diversity and kindness. I wish there was more kindness going on right now. Respect for one another. Believing the good in others. Understanding another’s point of view rather than proving how I am right and you are wrong. Parents owe this to their kids and to themselves.

Here is a link to her message about how to teach children about compassion with all the political rhetoric.

The Secret Sauce for Apologizing

Imagine this: Your spouse ate the rest of the lasagna you had planned to serve for leftovers tonight. Now there’s no dinner and everyone is hungry and crabby. When you fume about it, he says dismissively, “My bad.”

How’s that for an apology? Do you feel any better?

Probably not.

It wasn’t sincere and it certainly didn’t own up to his carelessness. And it doesn’t put dinner on the table.

Saying “My bad” or a simple ” I’m sorry” may be fine for small, inconsequential mistakes if delivered with sincerity. However, these superficial expressions can easily get the offender off the hook and not feeling the full effect of how their actions hurt others.

Real apologies and sincere contrition involves much more than a few casual words. Apologies signal change and should be accepted by those who were hurt. Happy couples and family members are not free of mistakes, but they know how to treat one another when they let someone down. They use the “secret sauce” of apologizing liberally, every day.

These are the 4 ingredients in the secret sauce:

Be sincere. This is where you look the person in the eye, and with real intent say, “I’m sorry.” Don’t look away until they believe you are sincere. The level of hurt you caused should be matched with the sincerity of the apology.

Accept responsibility. “I should never have said those mean words and yelled at you.” Period. One of the biggest mistakes at this step is when a person begins to apologize and then inserts his big “BUT.” This sounds something like, “I’m sorry I ate the lasagna but I bought it in the first place so I should be able to eat whatever I want.” You can see how the “sorry” part of this was obliterated by every thing stated after the “but.” When we qualify, deflect, or excuse our behavior, it completely wipes out, or negates, the apology.

Acknowledge the result of your mistake. “I really hurt your feelings and I feel terrible about that. I made a mess of things.” State the impact of what you did so you can truly begin a change. This opens up the other person to accept your apology because their feelings are validated. You understand what you did. You are humble and brave enough to see through your loved one’s eyes.

It would be natural right about here to ask, “Will you forgive me?” True, if you have followed the steps to this point, you could expect the other person to show mercy. Asking for forgiveness is a way to have closure and start the reconciliation process. That being said, apologizing should not be conditional. It should be offered with an open heart, free of any expectations that the other person will accept it.

Address change.  Jesus said to forgive the offender seventy times seven times. I’m all for that but I believe He also wanted the offender to learn from his mistakes and make progress toward improvement. I doubt He was asking husbands to excuse their wives day after day for overspending just because she says, “I’m sorry” every time.

If you are truly sorry, that means you truly don’t want to cause pain and problems again. Part of a real apology should be an action plan for how you will make an effort to do better. “I am going to work on this by…. Will you help me?” If you were the thoughtless person who ate the leftover lasagna, this is where you would say, “To show you how sorry I am, I am going to whip up some burritos right now. You just relax and I’ll take care of it.”

Enjoy eating your burrito, lasagna, or whatever you’re having for dinner tonight with your spouse. Be sure to keep plenty of secret sauce on hand to cover the mistakes we all make in families.

Raising well-behaved children

We usually wait until something annoys us before we pay attention.

It’s the “Squeaky Wheel” syndrome.

For example, if we sailed through all green lights this morning to work, we probably didn’t give it much thought or paid attention to our amazing luck and good timing.

But if we hit EVERY red light, we are super annoyed. The universe is against us! We notice more when things go wrong.

It’s the same with children. They may sit behind you in the car quietly, but the minute they kick the back of your seat…BAM! You suddenly come to life in the form of Cruela de Vil.

Remember that a basic human need is to be recognized.  If children don’t receive a healthy dose of positive reinforcement (8:1) per day, they will resort to any kind of recognition, even negative, or give up.

This is a sign of a discouraged child.

Rather than wait until they misbehave, “catch” your child being good. It’s the difference between raging at red lights or being grateful for the greens.  It takes more effort because you have to pay attention to the good and put energy into recognizing what is going right. But it pays off in the long run with well behaved children.

It’s a universal law: we get more of what we focus on. And it’s universally practiced in raising good kids and kids who want to be good.

To catch your children being good, I’ve listed the first letter of the word in an acronym.

Call kids by their name (and I mean by good names!). Not their full name you use when they’re in trouble: “Andrew Scott McFarland!” but use their name to recognize who they are. I love to use endearing pet names. “Muffin Cakes” “Tiger” or “Lovey Dovey” can turn a child to putty in your hands. What pet nicknames did your parents use that made you feel loved?

Ask questions about what they are doing/feeling. Open ended questions that invite longer conversations. Don’t give up if your child just mumbles. Ask at different times of day and in different ways. “What was your best and worst part of today?” “If your day was a movie, what would the title be?” My kids tend to clam up right after school but right as I tuck them into bed, they are bubbling with information. But don’t force or interrogate. If they don’t want to talk, respect that.

Thank them. Thank them for what they have done, are doing, or will do. In other words, “Thank you for picking up your socks,” you might note, and if they haven’t done so yet, say the same thing.  They might respond, “I didn’t pick them up.” And you get to smile and say with delight, “But I know you were going to so I wanted to thank you in advance.” This really works. It’s shaping behavior through what you expect with positives. People respond much better with positives and the potential you see in them.

Compliment them. In private and in public. In most cases, children swell with pride to hear adults sing their praises in public. Compliment what they have done, but also who they are…the lasting characteristics. And compliment what they are working towards, not just accomplished. This uses encouragement and praise, the dynamic duo.

Help. Offer to give them support when they are floundering. But don’t do it all for them. Show your confidence in their ability. Just support or scaffold what they need help with and let them do what they can.

So catch your child being good at least 8 times for every 1 correction. Start counting today to see how much you notice the good over the bad. The more you focus on the good, you’ll be amazed at how many green lights you and your child will sail through in life.

12 Mistakes We Make at Christmas

One of the favorite Nelson children Christmas traditions is to lay the bed mattresses on the basement family room floor and have a sleepover on Christmas Eve. They lay side-by-side, eat who-knows-what-kinds of sugary junk and watch Christmas movies until sugar plums dance in their heads. Their favorite movies are “Elf,” “Home Alone,” and “Christmas With the Kranks.” 

If you haven’t seen “Christmas With the Kranks,” it’s one of Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen’s more endearing movies. It’s about family, and what extreme, half-brained ordeals we’ll endure for our kids, especially around the holidays. Go watch it if you haven’t yet.

This year, we are known as the “Kranks,” not the Nelsons. We were inspired by this movie, based on John Grisham’s book, “Skipping Christmas” and decided to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional way for the first time ever. The week before Christmas Day, our family will be going to California. While my husband and I, along with the other Nelson siblings and spouses, celebrate with my in-laws on their 60th wedding anniversary on a Baja Cruise, our kids will spend the week at amusement parks. It’s our Christmas present to them.

In anticipation of being gone, I did the unthinkable. The most anti-holiday thing ever. Call my Grinch (or Mrs. Krank), but I didn’t put up a tree, a decoration, or lights. Not having to buy and wrap a single present, decorate with a single ornament, or hang a single stocking gives me a tingle of relief for the first Christmas ever. I want to break out in a Holly Jolly cheer.

I’ve driven around town filled with peppermint glee as I pass by cars filling the mall parking lot and lines of people at the stores.  I don’t have to join the throngs and fight the crowds. Suckers! It’s been the most stress-free holiday ever. Shopping is a major cause of stress followed by the post-holidays blues of overspending. I’d like to share some of the major mistakes parents make over the holidays. It’s easier to see from my perch on Mount Crumpit.

  1. Shopping without a budget. Before you make any purchases, figure out how much you can afford to spend, stick to your budget and track your spending. Don’t make purchases you haven’t budgeted for.
  2. Not sharing the cost of entertaining. While it is tempting to just cover all of the costs yourself, share your entertaining costs by assigning such things as food and game supplies with guests.
  3. Shopping at the last minute. Buying “little” gifts for too many people. In fact, consider an alternative to gift exchanges, neighbor gifts, and expensive stocking stuffers. Stocking stuffers used to be things like candy, nuts and oranges (or in our case, flavored dental floss and nail clippers, yes we are THAT practical). Now they have to be season tickets to Lagoon and expensive non-essential toys. Rather than friend gifts, perhaps ask if they’d like to donate money or service to charity and share with them what you did.  Buying last minute is a problem because everything is picked over, the crowds will suck the cheer out of the merriest of persons, and you end up buying more than you planned on.
  4. Buying new decorations and clothes every year. Besides, that ugly Christmas sweater just keeps on getting better with every new year. Use a black dress and accessorize with something less expensive to buy, or get one new tie to go with a suit or sweater.
  5. Not taking advantage of free activities. We overspend going to way too many holiday activities that have a large fee, and when we take kids, the costs increase.
  6. Not shopping a year in advance, which is where you get the best deals. If you haven’t already, learn how to shop after-holiday sales instead of before-holiday rip offs.
  7. Buying overpriced wrapping paper and greeting cards just to make your gifts look extra special. The kids are going to rip them open anyway to get to the present inside and throw away the paper. They get the gift nonetheless but your wrapping may add dollars to the total price of that gift. Instead of fancy store-bought cards, consider going to e-cards or buy on clearance. I bought mine for 50 cents a box at the ReStore last year. Score!
  8. Splurging on meals away from home. You don’t need to eat out to celebrate the Christ child’s birth. Also, see #2.
  9. Paying for warranties on appliances and electronics. Odds are that you won’t need the extra coverage because most major appliances don’t break down during the extended-warranty period. Or you might already be covered. The four major credit card networks — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — provide up to a year of extended warranty protection for some cardholders, according to credit card comparison site cardhub.com.
  10. Not clearly planning your charitable contributions. We all want to help out those in need during the holidays, but we usually either go overboard, don’t plan a set amount or get carried away with everyone who approaches your help. This can add up quickly
  11. Going overboard for your kids. It is an easy thing to do, out of desire to make the season magical and a desire to grant their every wish, but be careful. Stay the course on your predetermined amount of money available for gifts, and live within the reality of your budget. Tell them the budget you have and the price point. We do that with the car salesman, why not with kids?
  12. Buying for yourself. I had a friend post on facebook last week, “How many times have I started a sentence with: As an early Christmas present to myself…”? Unless that early Christmas present to yourself means taking a nap, reading a good book, or playing a board game with your kids, you should be wise how you justify buying things. While you may be worth it, no matter how good the deal, pass it up.  On average we spend about $130 on ourselves during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. So be careful…that is a lot of money.

Remember that “Christ” should be at the center of “Christmas” and that the spirit of the season can’t be bought from a store. Dr. Seuss got it right after all.


These ideas are taken from an article written by Teresa Hunsaker in Live Well Utah.

A Tale of a Tree

When we bought our house, it came with a beautiful, old cherry tree that had been left over from an orchard. It was a connection to the “good old days” of farming, before suburban sprawl took over. I loved it.

It stood in the middle of our backyard, in front of our big picture window, and was a centerpiece for 20+ years of backyard family activities.


(Emily in 1997)

My children climbed the tree in summers and we checked yearly for the robin who would lay her eggs in the nest perched on the same favorable branch.


A toddler swing gave my 5 children, and other children, hours of delight.The tree was a harbinger of spring with its early pink blossoms and the cherries that grew later in the year were abundant. A wind chime let the tree sing music.

Sadly, the old cherry tree became diseased a few years ago and my husband began hinting that it needed to go. I always resisted because I couldn’t bear to let so many memories get chopped down and disappear. Finally, my new son-in-law picked a Saturday that he and my husband would take it down.


I couldn’t watch (My daughter took these photos. I was hiding behind the couch).


It was like having a child die.


The lawn felt barren and alone when they were done.

And then…the new sod was laid and I ventured out. Yes, it was different. But my first impression was, “Wow. Our yard looks so big now! It’s like breathing new air for the first time. There’s so much room. And look! There’s a view of the mountains I never knew existed because the tree had blocked our view.”

I was stunned at this panorama that opened up to me.


I finally rejoiced in the change.

The tree represents so many things in my life that I have a hard time letting go of. Pride, guilt, control, the need to prove I’m right (and of course, you’re wrong!), sins and misdeeds, bad habits. These are all diseases that corrupt the tree.

Every day I go outside in the backyard, I am reminded of the old tree and how fiercely I held on, way after it was no good. I was suffocated by its presence even as I fought to breathe. Old things, dying things we don’t let go of will block our view.

When I now look at the glorious view of the mountains I never knew I had all those years, I wonder what else I’m missing because I won’t let go of things that are no good for me. What vistas are blocked? What panoramas are unknown? What fresh air am I not breathing? How am I limiting my view?

C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity,” said it this way:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Cutting down the tree hurt.

I had to let go.

I finally recognized it was time.

It’s time for me to let go and possibly even rebuild many things in my life, with God’s help. The roots may be deep and the trunk and branches are hardened by years.

But it’s time to start digging.



The Power of Smells

This interview was really fun and interesting.

The sense of smell is the sense most tied to emotion and memory.
What memory or emotion do these smells evoke for you?

Freshly baked bread
Horse Manure

On the Matt Townsend Show (BYU Radio) we discuss how smells literally change behavior. Depending on the ambient smells, we can influence employee behavior, public behavior, or behavior in our children to be kinder, more fair and ethical, more charitable, less deviant, and harder working.

Here is the link to the program.